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Colorado Melon Caprese

It just wouldn't be Summer without a little caprese in my life, but who says you have to make it with tomatoes?  The Italians?  Well, probably...  but I think this version, using some of those sweet, late-summer Colorado melons that are widely available this time of year, is a delicious and beautiful alternative!

This version, pictured, was made as little hors d'oeuvres on lovely metal cocktail skewers (*see note below for skewer directions).  You can also just combine all the ingredients in a big bowl and serve it family style, just don't use all of your oil and balsamic.  I used a marvelous Etnia Spanish olive oil with merquen (a Spanish smoked chile and cumin spice mix) to make this dish more interesting and flavorful, but a basil-infused olive oil, garlic oil, or even just regular olive oil with work fine.


Colorado Melon Caprese

1 medium (or 2 small) heirloom melon, washed
1/2 a lemon, juiced
1 bunch green basil
1 bunch purple basil
1 8-oz. container fresh mozzarella ciliegine (the small, bite-sized balls)
about 1/4 cup olive oil with merquen (or your favorite infused olive oil)
about 1/4 cup white balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper, to taste

Cut the melon in half and scoop out the seeds with a spoon.  Using a melon baller, scoop out little bite-sized balls of melon until no more flesh remains.  Place melon balls in a bowl and gently toss with lemon juice.  Tear the larger basil leaves into small, 1" pieces and leave smaller leaves whole.  Add mozzarella and basil and toss ingredients to mix.  Drizzle with oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper, to taste.  Gently toss and serve immediately.

*To assemble skewers:  make individual caprese bites using reusable metal cocktail skewers.  First, spear a melon ball, followed by a purple basil leaf and then a green basil leaf.  Follow with a piece of mozarella, then drizzle each skewer with oil and balsamic and lightly season with salt and pepper, to taste. 

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Zucchini and Corn Pancakes with Brown Butter Yellow Tomato Sauce

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to have for dinner was breakfast.  Every now and then my dad would make a huge mess of waffles or pancakes with jam-sweetened sour cream (it's a Scandinavian thing) and usually some bacon or sausage.  The prospect of a sweet, doughy treat in the evening was somehow even more exciting than when he made them for breakfast!

As an adult I still enjoy breakfast for dinner, or "brinner" as we like to call it.  This dish is a bit of a departure from your average breakfast but a simple meal of hot pancakes topped with sauce is still decidedly brinner-esque.  These gluten-free pancakes are crisp on the outside thanks to the brown rice flour and soft, toothsome and packed with vegetables on the inside.  You can make these with any ol' flour you have on hand, but I highly recommend giving the rice flour a try.  It's nutritious and it tastes great!

The tomato sauce in this recipe is a great way to use up all those late-summer tomatoes you may have on hand that are starting to get soft.  I used smallish yellow ones to yield a beautiful golden, buttery sauce but any kind of tomato will work well.  Just use a sharp knife to make an "X" on the bottom of the tomato, toss it in boiling water for a minute or two, then plunge into ice water immediately.  Once the tomato is cool it's a cinch to peel and you'll be moments away from this luxurious sauce.


Zucchini and Corn Pancakes with Brown Butter Yellow Tomato Sauce
makes about 8 large pancakes

Pancakes:
1 medium zucchini, grated
1 medium yellow squash, grated
3 ears of fresh corn
2 large eggs
3/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Tomato Sauce:
3 T salted butter
1/2 a yellow onion, diced
5 medium yellow tomatoes, shocked and peeled
salt and pepper, to taste

First, prep your vegetables.  Toss the grated zucchini and squash with about a teaspoon of salt and allow to drain in a colander for at least 20 minutes, periodically giving the squash a gentle squeeze to release the excess liquid.  Cut the corn kernels from the cob and toss with the squash.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, flour and milk until smooth.  Heat a large, flat-bottomed pan over medium-high and add about 3 T of the olive oil (enough to coat the bottom thoroughly).  Add veggies to the pancake batter just before you are ready to fry the pancakes, season with salt and pepper, and mix well to combine.  Spoon the batter directly into the pan and fry each pancake until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.  Add more olive oil to the pan as necessary and keep the pancakes warm in a 250-degree oven.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high.  As soon as butter has melted, reduce heat to between medium and medium-high and cook until the butter is browned, stirring often, about 8 minutes.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes to the pot and crush with a wooden spoon until a chunky sauce results.  Cook another 5 minutes (longer, if you like) and season with salt and pepper.  Serve pancakes with tomato sauce on top and garnish with chopped parsley.


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Eggplant, Zucchini and Potato Moussaka

Ah, September...my favorite month of the year!  It is in these late summer days that all the good stuff is in season - eggplant, zucchini, potatoes, and especially tomatoes!  I have a real passion for fresh tomatoes and often enjoy them best in their simple, raw state.  This time of year, however, when they're so abundant that you can't always eat them fast enough, I love a good tomato sauce!  You can always use canned tomatoes in a pinch, but really it's a shame not to enjoy the fruits of the season at their peak.  The taste is something wholly different and completely wonderful!



This tomato sauce for the Moussaka is simple and crazy-delicious.  The fresh tomatoes become rich and sweet when they simmer with the onions and butter.  The sauce gets a subtle hint of spice from the cinnamon stick which adds a wonderful depth of flavor to the Moussaka.  Roasted vegetables are layered with the sauce and some breadcrumbs to create this delicious summer casserole.  The whole thing is covered with a velvety topping that is part bechamel part custard and turns this all-vegetable dish into something rather luxurious! 

When I make this Moussaka, I like to leave all the skins on the vegetables.  It gives the dish a more rustic, colorful look and also saves time, but if you prefer you can peel the potatoes and eggplant before slicing. 

Eggplant, Zucchini and Potato Moussaka
9 small servings

1 medium eggplant
2 medium zucchini
2 large Yukon Gold potatoes
1/4 cup olive oil
1/2 cup Panko breadcrumbs
salt and pepper
6 T butter
6 T flour
3 cups whole milk
pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
salt and pepper, to taste
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Tomato Sauce:
about 10 small tomatoes, blanched and peeled (or 1 28oz can whole tomatoes)
2 T salted butter
2 T olive oil
1 large yellow onion, diced
1 cinnamon stick
salt and pepper, to taste

First, make the tomato sauce.  In a medium saucepan, heat butter and oil over medium-high until butter is melted and bubbling.  Add onions and saute until lightly browned, about 7 minutes.  Add tomatoes and their juices and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and add cinnamon stick.  Simmer the sauce until the tomatoes can easily be crushed apart with a wooden spoon.  Continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until sauce thickens and the cinnamon stick is soft, at least 30 minutes.  Remove cinnamon stick just before using the sauce.

Meanwhile, prepare your vegetables.  Heat the oven to 350.  Using a mandoline, slice the eggplant lengthwise about 1/8 of an inch thick.  Arrange on a wire rack and sprinkle salt on both sides.  Allow to sit for at least 20 minutes, then blot the eggplant dry with a towel.  Slice the zucchini and potatoes lengthwise, the same thickness.  Toss sliced vegetables with olive oil and arrange on baking sheets in single layers.  Roast for about 15 minutes, then flip the slices over.  Continue to roast until the edges become lightly golden (a little longer for the potatoes so they become lightly crispy).  Remove from oven and allow vegetables to cool.

Next, make your bechamel topping.  In a medium saucepan, melt butter over medium heat.  Whisk in the flour and cook for about 4 minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.  Switch back to the whisk and slowly pour in the milk.  Turn the head up slightly and whisk until sauce is smooth.  Stir with the wooden spoon until the sauce starts to bubble.  Cook for 3-5 minutes until the bechamel is thick and creamy.  Remove from oven and allow to cool.  Whisk the eggs and egg yolk in a small bowl until blended.  Add to bechamel once it is only warm to the touch and whisk vigorously until well blended.  Set aside.

Turn oven up to 400 degrees.  In a 9x13 lasagne pan, add about 1/2 cup tomato sauce and spread evenly along the bottom of the pan.  Arrange half the eggplant and follow with a layer of potatoes.  Add all the zucchini, then top with half the remaining sauce.  Sprinkle with half the bread crumbs, then layer with remaining vegetables.  Top with remaining sauce and breadcrumbs, then pour the bechamel sauce on the top of the casserole.  Sprinkle with grated cheese and bake in the oven until the bechamel is lightly golden and set, about 45-50 minutes.  Allow to cool for at least 10 minutes, then slice into 9 equal portions. 


 

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Simple Peach Salsa

There's something about summertime that makes me want to eat lots of salsa.  Maybe it's because the magical condiment is such a quick and easy way to assemble lots of fresh, ripe summer ingredients into a wholesome, raw sauce that adds tons of flavor to seemingly endless ingredients.  This peach salsa is so easy to put together and so tasty that I've already made it twice this week!  Now is the time to stock up on all those perfectly beautiful Colorado peaches that are in adundance this time of year. 

This version is more on the spicy side and is wonderful in savory applications such as black bean and grilled vegetable tacos, served atop grilled fish, steak or pork chops, or just simply used as a dip for a good, salty tortilla chip.  However you decide to use the salsa, you might want to think about doubling the recipe.  You'll want to have leftovers! 



Simple Peach Salsa
makes about 3 cups

6 firm but ripe peaches, peeled and diced (3 cups)
1/4 cup lime juice (3-4 limes)
2 T jalapeno, minced (1 large pepper)
1 T garlic, minced
1/3 cup cilantro leaves, chopped
large pinch of cayenne
1 tsp. ancho chile powder
salt and pepper, to taste


In a medium bowl, combine all the ingredients and toss well.  Serve immediately or store in the refrigerator for up to a week.

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Purple Sunrise Cocktail

I love a good brunch cocktail.  This one reminds me of a Tequila Sunrise (hence, the name!) but perhaps a little more elegant.  I added lots of pretty little fresh plum slices and used a good-quality agave tequila.  Any type of soda that uses some real fruit juice will do the trick here.  I used an organic Italian blood orange soda made with real juice and cane sugar.  This cocktail tastes ripe, sweet and refreshing and is a fun way to put to use the beautiful, juicy plums that are perfectly in season in Colorado right now. 





Cheers!

Purple Sunrise
makes 1 drink

1 part 100% Agave Tequila
2 parts blood orange soda
1 plum, sliced

Pour tequila and soda over ice and stir.  Add plum slices

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