Tomato panzanella

panzanella2In case you weren’t aware–and I know that no one was aware– this week was supposed to be a tomato extravaganza. Extravaganza is a bit of an overstatement since I only post twice a week, but I wanted to share a couple of great recipes that show off one of my two favorite parts of the summer bounty. (Tomatoes v. berries is a tough decision, and one I surely cannot make.)

Shakshuka is a lesser known way to take advantage of tomatoes, plus it’s new and different, so it was nice to kick off the festivities with it. To close, though, I’m going to share my absolute favorite way to eat tomatoes: tomato panzanella. It’s cool, quick and easy, and the flavors go together so well in such a fantastic way that you’ll want to fix it at least once a week.

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Shakshuka

shakshuka8Not surprisingly, I read a lot of food blogs. I don’t just read new posts, though. I’ll go into archives, hitting the “older” button at the bottom of the page until I’ve pressed it so many times I’m frustrated.

Something I’ve discovered from this almost obsessive reading is this dish called shakshuka. Shakshuka is from Israel, Tunisia, the Middle East and/or North Africa– those are all of the places from which I’ve read it originates. Wikipedia says it’s originally Tunisian, and I guess that’s perhaps the most reliable source for me right now.

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Zucchini bread

zucbread1My grandma has a story that she loves to tell whenever she makes zucchini bread. Once, she made zucchini bread and gave some to my granddaddy. He refused to eat it. She made zucchini bread another day, but this time when she served him a slice, she said that it was spice cake. He said it was great. She called it spice cake from that day on.

together

I don’t know anyone other than my granddaddy who has ever been so turned off by the thought of zucchini being in bread to refuse it, but I have found a few who can’t believe that there is zucchini in the bread. The secret is that zucchini makes a super moist snack cake.

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Three bean salad

on spoon 

We’re coming upon the eve of the Fourth of July, and if you haven’t already gone to the grocery store to stock up patriotic groceries and libations, you might be thinking about going. July is hot, though, and if you’re like me and don’t have a grill, you’re also probably looking for ways to avoid turning on the oven. Even if you have access to a grill, it’s likely that you seek reprieve from the heat outside, too, and hope to spend as little time as possible in the kitchen, even without the oven on. Filling your belly with watermelon is a good solution, but one can’t survive on watermelon alone. Let me introduce you to the solution to  your problems: three bean salad.

ingredients

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Summer berry pie

square whole

For me, summer is berry season– not pool season, not beach season, and certainly not summer camp season. I load up on the biggest container of blueberries at the grocery store every week and then make the tough decision to buy or not to buy raspberries in addition to the blueberries. I always eat at least a cup of berries every day, and when they disappear from my fridge, there must be a trip store immediately the next day to stock up once again.

just washed berries twoSummer is my favorite food season, and clearly the aforementioned berries are a big part of the reason. However, not only do I heartily take advantage of the berries, but I also devour watermelons, cherries and peaches, as well as homegrown tomatoes and other yummy super fresh veggies that I don’t feel like listing because nothing compares to the greatness of these summer fruits. (I think I’ve been eating more fruit than anything this past week.)

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Stir-fried okra

upclose raw

I don’t really consider myself a Southerner, although I live in Durham, North Carolina. Actually, the Triangle (Raleigh, Durham and Chapel Hill) appears to be much less Southern than much of the Old North State because there are so many transplants here from the rest of the country; however, there’s no denying the Southern charm, sweet tea and plethora of brightly colored pants on men and women.

Why do I not consider myself a Southerner, even though I have a rainbow of pants in my closet? I’m not too fond of sweet tea, I hate driving (a hard necessity I’ve had to embrace for my Southern living), and I really don’t eat that much Southern food. However, I’ve found one thing that pulls me closer to the South–I like okra. Although I’m from Kentucky, which I’ve come to think is more Midwestern than it likes to believe, I’m not sure that I tried okra until I moved to North Carolina, where fried okra is served at least weekly in the cafeterias at UNC.

ingredients

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Tomato and cucumber couscous

salad on side

My dad recently bought something online, and you know how sometimes you get special deals for things you don’t need when you purchase something online? Well, he fell for them and now has subscriptions to three travel magazines and two cooking magazines. He said they were only two dollars each for a year’s subscription, but I told him to be sure to unsubscribe after a year. Needless to say, my new-found cooking magazine subscriptions have brought me some inspiration.

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Veggie tacos

sideways

I’m a bit of a picky eater*, but I’m pretty good at limiting my pickiness to when I’m preparing food or when my family is preparing food for me. Actually, that’s wrong. My mom and my boyfriend are the only people from whom I will flat out refuse to eat something, and my excuse is that they should know what I will and will not eat because I’ve voiced my opinions loud and clear to them multiple times. It drives them up the wall.

Every time I visit my mom, she asks me a week beforehand what I’d like to eat because she says it’s so difficult to please me. I’m not usually much help (mostly because one of the great things about visiting your mom is that she’ll plan meals, grocery shop and cook for you!), but she knows what I like. One of the times I visited my mom last year, she made this. I’ve been addicted to it since. She told me she found this recipe while flipping through Oprah’s magazine, and she automatically knew I’d like it. She was right. It’s fresh, wholesome and spicy, and it’s easy.

onions-veggies

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Strawberry Shortcake

strawberry-panier

I love food. I love cooking. I love baking. I even sometimes love grocery shopping. I love learning about new foods, and I’m game to try anything once. I often try new recipes, and sometimes they turn out great, but sometimes I don’t do something quite right. Sometimes, though, the recipe is just disappointing– it isn’t worth my time, effort or the money spent on the ingredients.

Not only do I plan to share my cooking and baking adventures here, but I’m going to share my honest, not so sugar-coated opinion of the results. Is this food worth it? We’re busy people, and making something lackluster that was supposed to be great is one of the biggest letdowns in life. Sometimes you know when a meal you make just isn’t going to be so good, but I hope to help you avoid the letdowns and find the successes in your kitchen.

This recipe is a success: I don’t think there is any way it could ever fail. It’s a summer staple in my family; no one can resist my grandmother’s strawberry shortcakes. A lightly sweetened biscuit, syrupy strawberries and ice cream. I don’t think there’s anything better than sitting on a porch, eating those three things piled on top of each other.

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