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israeli couscous caprese salad

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Give me ANYTHING caprese-style and I will devour it!  This is a take on The Market Couscous that can be found HERE on my blog – I punched up the garlic, limited the number of ingredients, switched out the feta for fresh mozzarella, and added grape tomatoes and plenty of herbs.  The result is a delicious combination of summer flavors that make a great side dish or just a salad on its own.

While not a huge fan of African couscous, I LOVE Israeli (or “pearl”) couscous which is a pasta.  These little pops of pasta hold up great in so many dishes whereas another pasta shape or type may not necessarily.  In this recipe, the Israeli couscous is cooked ahead and cooled, using a couple of tablespoons of the garlicky vinaigrette to prevent it from sticking together before the dish is completed.

I used grape tomatoes, but feel free to substitute fresh, chopped tomatoes if you have them.  I don’t here in Florida so grape tomatoes were a better choice…..and I like the way they look in the salad and balance the shapes of the other ingredients.

It’s summer!  Enjoy and enjoy good food.

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black pepper parmesan tuiles with heirloom tomato salad

Black Pepper Parmesan Tuiles with Heirloom Tomato Salad The name of this appetizer may sound fancy, but tuiles are honestly the easiest thing to make and would be a perfect addition to your summer entertaining menu and will wow your guests.  What is a tuile?  It’s nothing more than a thin crisp or wafer of cheese for a savory version, or from a dough which is seen more often in sweet, dessert-style recipes.  These are SO good paired with the tomato salad using baby heirloom tomatoes and fresh herbs; the flavor combination is out of this world….salty from the cheese, the bite from the black pepper, and the freshness from the tomatoes and herbs.   Totally addictive!!  And I really feel that an important key to successful recipes – especially ones with few ingredients - is to source out the best ingredients you can find and afford.  There are two ingredients I never ever scrimp on – Parmesan cheese and extra-virgin olive oil – and I’m usually reduced to tears when I find I’m running out of one or both because I do spend a pretty penny on them (and go through them quickly).  I only buy Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and for extra-virgin olive oil I use the  Colavita brand which is actually very reasonably priced, available in your grocery store, and my hands-down favorite for everyday use. California Olive Ranch is another good brand that won’t break the bank.   And, on occasion, I’ll seek out a special extra-virgin olive oil for drizzling.  Just not often…… I bought a 1-pound bag of baby heirloom tomatoes from my local The Fresh Market….you can use regular heirloom tomatoes or on-the-vine red tomatoes.  My bag contained Plum Lemon, Green Zebra, June Flame, Black Plum, Red Zebra, and Lemon Drop varieties – love the names.  Shop your local farmer’s market or farm stand – our growing season kind of fades away here in Florida this time of the year and doesn’t really resume again until October so I’m super jealous of you guys up north and out west.  Enjoy what you eat……and eat what you enjoy. heirloom_tomatoes_kitchen_serendipity_blog parmesan_tuiles_kitchen_serendipity_blog    

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mediterranean ribs

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This was actually one of the very first recipes that I put on my blog – and now is a good time to update both the recipe format and pictures in honor of the July 4th holiday because these would make the perfect dish! (And because that post did indeed look like a first-time experience – yikes!!)

This dish has a history behind it that local friends know and you may as seen my references to it on Facebook from time to time. I threw a party for my son’s sixth birthday back in 2005 for a number of his friends (and parents) and invited “Mad Science” to basically host it with fun tricks and activities to keep the kids busy. I am sort of smart that way.

The kids had, well, kid food – pizza….ice cream……cake. For the adults, I decided to make my Mediterranean Ribs along with adult beverages and two or three sides. Well, Mike Walter, husband of my friend Beck Walter, loved them so much that he asked for the recipe. I wrote it down, he brought it home, and Becky made them. They were, at that point, forever coined “Stacey’s Ribs.” (Thanks Becky!)

On kind of a weird and personal note……this was a dish I made practically every weekend when I was married. When we got divorced last year, I just stopped making these ribs. It just seemed to be a dish that really represented our family as a complete unit and to make it under different circumstances was something I guess I couldn’t bring myself to do. Plus it makes a nice quantity….who the hell do I feed?!? It’s just Alex and I.

So I had a moment a few weeks ago. The ex, Alex, and I had plans to eat dinner at my house (my ex and are are great friends thank goodness) – and you know what? I made them. Along with the usual side of oil and vinegar coleslaw from the Bradenton Chop Shop. It really hit me that I hadn’t made this dish in over a year and kind of makes me cry because as a food photographer and a foodie in general, there is really a story attached to what you eat and why. That’s what I try to capture behind my lens.

So this July 4th holiday weekend? Enjoy these!! I know grilled meats are all the rave this time of the year, but here in Florida it’s just too damn hot. And I don’t have a grill anymore.   And I love these better anyway. Would love your comments if you make these……now off to delete the old post now (shudder).  ;)

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And….this post wouldn’t be complete without a glimpse of the Mad Science birthday party back in 2005!

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dinner: the playbook | chicken thighs with artichokes and creamy mustard sauce

IMG_8369_edit_web_dinner_playbook_kitchen_serendipity_chicken_thighs If you’ve didn’t have a chance to catch my previous posts, I was one of the bloggers selected by blogger and cookbook author Jenny Rosenstrach (Dinner:  A Love Story) to cook three recipes from her upcoming second book, Dinner:  The Playbook.  Although a terrific read with lots of great recipes for anyone that comes across it, it is especially useful for busy parents as Jenny unveils a 30-day master plan to get a good meal on the table each night. This recipe – once the ingredients were assembled – came together nicely.  I really liked the heat that the red pepper flakes gave to the sauce – a nice little kick to offset the bit of richness.  And overall, the layering of flavors in this dish really worked.  I still failed at getting my son to try the artichokes, though. But what really stands out in my mind after cooking these recipes is just how much we “eat” with our eyes.  For those of us who participated in this week-long challenge, we all received an advance copy of Dinner:  The Playbook which interestingly enough does not resemble the final edition and all of the photos are in black and white.  So as I selected the three recipes to make, there was really no visual “draw” to any particular recipe and instead I merely relied upon ingredient appeal and to best visualize how the dish would translate to a color image.  Now I know there are some stunning black and white food photos out there, but there is a reason you rarely see black and white food images in mainstream magazines – it doesn’t sell.  People clearly eat with their eyes first – and I love being behind the camera to capture that image. Again, unfortunately I can’t post the recipe at this time per the author, but hopefully the photos and summary of the recipes I made will interest you in her new book Dinner:  The Playbook which is available for pre-order on Amazon.com.  And, if you are on Instagram, please enter the hashtag #DinnerPlaybook to see many of the photographed dishes.  I would appreciate your follows as well!  You can find me HERE. Thanks for following along for this challenge……back to my recipes this week.  :) blog_boartd_chicken_thighs_resize

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dinner: the playbook | zucchini fritters with sour cream and chives

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Hey friends…..just completed the second recipe from Jenny Rosenstach’s upcoming second cookbook, Dinner:  The Playbook which will be out late this summer.  And in case you missed my first post, I was one of the bloggers selected to preview and cook from her new book – very exciting!!

So…….Zucchini Fritters with Sour Cream and Chives….ahhhhhhh zucchini has been a dreaded word in our house.  My ex and son’s dad despised any type of squash, with zucchini being at the top of the hit list.  And so our son, I swear strictly by genetic predisposition or let’s maybe just call it taking a good look at “the tree from which the apple fell,” to explain why my teenager still thinks zucchini is the worst vegetable in the world.

So I chose this recipe from Jenny’s new book on purpose.  It was easy to make – you just need to grab your box grater or a food processor with the grating attachment – and get to work shredding three medium-size zucchini.  I had all of the other ingredients on hand – including salty, yummy Parmigiano Reggiano, scallions, and fresh chives from my little container garden.  I had a moment of panic when I wasn’t sure if I had cornstarch in my pantry or not – but I did.  Just haven’t used it in a while and wasn’t sure if it had made the move off of Longboat Key with me last year.

The resulting dish is delicious – I love the cool tang of the sour cream with chives with the warm fritters.  To get this recipe, please pre-order Jenny Rosenstach’s new book HERE.

And – are you wondering if my zucchini-hater son liked this?  Well, I had him try it.  He asked what was in it and I rattled off the ingredients EXCEPT for the zucchini.  I know, bad mom.  He took a little bite and said, “okay, not bad.”  It was a little cold since I had been shooting the plate for this blog post, so I warmed it up, and brought it back to him for another bite.  Oh, he also reminded me that he dislikes sour cream (but to my knowledge has never tasted sour cream) but took another bite of the fritter – with the tiniest amount of sour cream known to man.  I finally had to ‘fess up and let him know that zucchini was like the main ingredient, at which point he did what I would call a respectable “pretend” gag.

So…….I love you zucchini.  I tried.

Stay tuned for recipe three from Jenny’s new book later this week!

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