Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Great melon summer salad!

    Back in my younger days in Louisville, we often went to a buffet brunch after church services on Sunday.  Inevitably one of us kids would take more on our plate than we could eat.  My mom would always say "Your eyes were bigger than your stomach."
    That’s kind of how I am when I go to summer farmers’ markets.  I want it all.  And I almost always buy it all.
    I stopped into the Agricenter market last week, just one day before we were leaving for a long weekend away.  I got too many tomatoes (wait—is that even possible?) and veggies for dinner that night and headed out the door.  And right beside the door was a display of large, enormously fragrant cantaloupes. I just had to have one. 
    I knew it had to be eaten before we left, and that evening a friend was joining us for dinner.  I had already planned the menu, but with the aroma of the melon wafting through the kitchen, I knew I had to use it.  How about a salad?
    I foraged in the fridge and found the makings of an extremely delicious salad.  I put it together and let it set for an hour or so at room temperature and then served it on a bed of arugula.  It was absolutely delicious.
    This could certainly be made ahead and stored in the fridge until you’re almost ready to serve it.  Just be sure to let it come closer to room temperature before serving for the best flavor. I used all cantaloupe, but a mixture of cantaloupe and honeydew melons would also be tasty. 
    I just cut the melon into nice bite-sized chunks.  If you want to be totally chi-chi about it, use that melon baller contraption that you got for a shower gift.  There's one good side benefit: it leaves a lot of little bits and pieces unusable in your salad...but that means you have to eat those bits yourself.  Well, I mean, you can't just toss them into the disposal, right?
    This salad, best when ripe summer melons are available, makes a great side dish for just about any kind of meal.


4 cups melon, cut into chunks
Juice and finely grated zest of one large lime
½ cup crumbled feta cheese
2 tbsp. fresh mint leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
2 tbsp. good fruity olive oil
4 to 6 cups salad greens of choice
Additional mint for garnish

Put the melon chunks into a bowl.  Add the lime juice and zest, feta cheese and chopped mint.  Let set at room temperature for about an hour, tossing occasionally.
Taste and add salt if necessary. Some feta cheeses are saltier than others, so you may not need it.  Sprinkle lightly with coarsely ground black pepper.  Add the olive oil and toss again.
Serve on a bed of greens, drizzling any juices from the bowl over the top, garnish with mint sprigs and serve immediately.  Serves 4 to 6.

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Sunday, August 14, 2011

Dinner at Marketplace Restaurant Louisville

Back a few years ago, first my father, and then my mother, became ill in Louisville. My sister and I made many trips up to see them, and always tried to work in a trip to Volare Restaurant.   We even made a special trip to go to one of their special dinners, one with an Umbrian theme.

What made the food so special was Chef Dallas McGarity, and when he left, we had no idea where to find him, and nobody at Volare seemed to want to tell us.  Imagine how pleased I was, as we return to Louisville for a meetingn that Tom has, to pick up a copy of the local what's-happening paper and see a review for his new place, Market Place Restaurant in downtown Louisville. 

Tom and I wandered that way yesterday and had to admire the extensive and quite lovely outside dining and bar area.  Unfortunately I didn't take a picture, but I'm hoping we'll get back before we leave.

I ordered an appetizer, "bacon & scallop, sweet corn puree, marketplace greens, balsamic reduction."  The bacon was crispy pork belly, and the scallop could not have been more perfectly cooked.  It was absolutely delicious.

Tom got an entrée portion of "scallops & shrimp, sweet potato-gingered onion-bacon hash, marketplace greens, sambal-lime vinaigrette."  Oh golly, I could have eaten my weight in the sweet potato hash.  Tom found it a little spicy for his taste, which is odd because usually he has a higher tolerance for heat than I do.  Again, the scallops were perfectly cooked, but he found the shrimp a little overdone.

Looking at the menu, there are other things I would have loved to have tried. I don't think we'll be getting back there for dinner before we leave but maybe we can go for a pre-dinner beverage in that lovely terrace.  Hopefully my sister and I will be making a trip back later in the fall, and we can both come and enjoy Chef Dallas' great cooking again!
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Friday, August 12, 2011

Lovely tomatoes!

Heirloom tomatoes from the Agricenter Farmers' Market...YUM! I just don't know anything else I can add!
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Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Great Burgers from the Grill!

One of the great pleasures of the summer, in my opinion, is hamburgers on the grill. We always start out the summer with regular hamburgers, maybe brushed with a little soy sauce mixed with finely minced garlic. Lettuce, tomato, pickles…you know what I mean. But after a bit I start thinking of ways to make a more amusing burger.

Recently I got an email from a former Mantia’s guest who asked about our "Bombay Burger." Each week we had a special burger of the week, and this was one of the more popular. We used pre-formed high quality angus beef burgers, so all the flavor went on the outside. We would blend chopped garlic, grated ginger and Thai sweet chili sauce with olive oil and let it rest in the fridge overnight. Then at cooking time, we would paint the burger with the infused oil.

But working at home gives a little more latitude than when you're feeding a hundred or more for lunch each day, so I mixed all the goodies right into the ground beef.  All the guests agreed that the results were even more delicious!

When I’m going to do my burgers on the grill I like at least a 20% fat content in the ground beef. That keeps the burgers moist, especially for those who like their burgers a little more well done. Don’t overwork the meat. Start with cold ground beef, and just sort of crumble it. Sprinkle the ingredients over the top and toss to combine.  And don't squish it down too much as you form the burgers.  Pat them together just enough to make sure they don't come apart and fall down into the coals.  I hate it when that happens!

You could do this, too, with ground turkey, but be sure to use the mixed ground white and dark meat. I’ve never found a way to keep all-white ground turkey moist and juicy on the grill.  And I’ve had more success with grilled turkey burgers if I brush the outside with a bit of olive oil.

The aioli starts with store-bought mayonnaise, but if you'd rather make your own, be my guest.  This spread is also particularly good on roast beef or roast turkey sandwiches, too.  And I bet it would be equally successful with crab cakes.

To accompany this, I made potato salad with an olive oil and white wine vinegar dressing, with roasted poblano chiles, chopped cilantro and minced red onion. You could just as easily use canned green chiles instead of the poblanos. I bet if you bought carry-out potato salad and added the canned chilies it would still be quite tasty. Slice some farmers’ market tomatoes onto a platter and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and you have the perfect outdoor grill dinner.


1 ½ lb ground beef
3 cloves garlic, pressed or very finely minced
1 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 tbsp. Thai sweet chili sauce
4 green onions, with some of the green top, finely minced
2 tsp. salt
Curry Chutney Aioli:
½ cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp. Dijon mustard
1 clove garlic, pressed or very finely minced
¼ cup Major Grey mango chutney
2 tsp. curry powder
To finish:
4 crusty buns or ciabatta rolls
Sliced tomato

Mix all the burger ingredients together and form four burgers. Put them in a single layer on a plate, cover and chill until ready to cook.

In a small bowl, whisk together all the aioli ingredients. Some chutneys have big chunks. If yours does, chop them into smaller pieces. Cover and chill at least an hour for flavors to meld.

When ready to serve, grill burgers to your desired level of doneness. Alternatively, cook in a hot skillet, or under a broiler, until done as desired.

Place each on a bun or ciabatta roll, spread with prepared aioli and sprinkle with cilantro. Top with arugula and tomato. Serve at once. Makes four burgers.
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Thursday, August 04, 2011

A Great Sounding Road Trip!

One of the blogs I read often is Bunky Cooks. Based in Atlanta Gwen Pratesi writes about lifestyle, travel and food. She also heads up a non-profit enterprise meant to get adventurous gourmands up close and personal with America’s new generation of farmers, vintners and distillers.

Their next trip is to Kentucky. I am a native of Louisville, and if there were anyway I could work this into my schedule, I would love to do it, but we'll be in Key West at the time.

Pratesi wrangles for her intimate tours – the Kentucky trip is limited to 20 people – access to the best chefs,  farms, vineyards, distilleries and other destinations.

The Kentucky tour runs from Sunday, Sept. 18 through Tuesday, Sept. 20 focusing on the region’s farm-to-table culture in the Louisville and Lexington areas.

For the schedule and more information check out On the Road Culinary Adventures.