Cook in the Moment: Grilled Plum Salad with Purple Basil, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette

Grilled Plum Salad with Purple Basil, Blue Cheese, and Balsamic Vinaigrette (c)2012 La Domestique

I seem to be going through a purple period. I just can’t get enough of plummy colors. Last week there was the Grilled Mission Fig Salad, followed by that post on aubergines, and today I’m grilling plums and placing them on a bed of purple lettuces and purple basil dressed in winey balsamic vinaigrette. Do you ever find yourself attracted to a certain hue which inspires the food you prepare in your kitchen? Figs, eggplant, plums- and I’ve got to warn you that next week it will be Concord grapes and purple potatoes! Now I’m realizing I may be out of control here with the purple.

Cooking with seasonal ingredients found at the farmer’s market brings awareness to the colors of each season. In spring it’s all green- asparagus, broccoli, spinach. Summer is fiery red and orange with peaches, berries, tomatoes, and peppers. As summer fades into fall the purples come out- cabbage, eggplant, kale, and glorious plums. It’s been a stellar year for plums here in Colorado. I’ve never thought too much about this stone fruit – peaches always seem to steal the show – but this year I bit into a ripe and juicy Santa Rosa plum from the farmer’s market and it was like tasting the fruit for the first time. I was blown away by the tart flavor matched with just the right amount of sweetness. Never one to eat plums out of hand (before this I mostly baked with them) I was surprised and delighted by this discovery.

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Cook in the Moment: Grilled Fig Salad with Blue Cheese, Thyme, and Walnuts

Grilled Fig Salad with Blue Cheese, Thyme, and Walnuts (c)2012 La Domestique

Here at La Domestique I celebrated Labor Day by taking a rest. Though there’s no ingredient of the week, I wanted to share a recipe for cooking with figs before their season comes to an end. Sweet and juicy black mission figs caramelized on a hot grill make for a delicious late summer/early autumn salad with tender greens, thyme leaves, crunchy walnuts, and tangy blue cheese. Use mixed salad greens or a crisp head of lettuce for this dish. Walnut oil adds depth of flavor to the vinaigrette, but feel free to vary the ingredients based on what you’ve got in the pantry, as even a simple red wine vinegar and vegetable dressing would be just fine.

I hope you have a fantastic week, and plan to return Monday, September 10th with a new ingredient of the week. Thanks for reading La Domestique!

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Cook in the Moment: Spiced Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Okra

Spiced Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Okra (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

I’ve spent a lot of time with okra during the past couple of weeks. At this point, we know each other pretty well. After stewing, roasting, and frying it I can say with full confidence my favorite way to cook okra is to slice the pods in half and sear them in hot olive oil till caramelized and crispy. I could eat a plate of crispy okra simply seasoned with sea salt as an appetizer, and to be honest it’s tempting to pluck the hot pods from the skillet and gobble them up before they reach the plate. Crispy okra lends a nice texture to rice dishes, and this earthy vegetable pairs well with fragrant jasmine rice. Reading the September issue of Food and Wine Magazine, I came across a genius recipe for Butternut Squash Basmati Rice in the article, “A Lesson in Indian Flavors.” Asha Gomez tosses diced squash into her rice, killing two birds with one stone by cooking the rice and steaming the squash in one pot. This was a revelation for me, a new way to make my rice dishes more interesting and flavorful. I used the technique with diced sweet potato for a creamier, richer, sweeter flavor to pair with the fluffy popcorn-scented rice. The Spiced Rice with Sweet Potatoes and Crispy Okra recipe was developed for The Louisiana Project, so I reached for Creole spices to toss in the pot, but you could use a teaspoon (or more) or your favorite Curry, Moroccan spice blend, or Za’atar seasoning.

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Cook in the Moment: Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Shrimp, and Chili-Lime Vinaigrette

Tomato Salad with Grilled Corn, Shrimp, and Chili-Lime Vinaigrette (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

In Boulder, Colorado, the farmer’s market is at its peak for summer. I can’t believe my eyes – such a variety of produce! Our short growing season means it takes us awhile to catch up with the bounty everyone else is enjoying across the country. Up until August it’s all kale and swiss chard, salad greens and beets. For the few weeks in August when I can find every kind of chili pepper imaginable, beans (green, yellow, and purple!), tomatoes, corn, peaches, plums, okra, carrots, apples, and melons, I think, “This must be what it’s like to live in California.” Seeing all the colors, shapes, and textures is a major boost to my mood and I greedily fill my basket. At home, the challenge is to carefully store everything in the fridge and make plans for enjoying the glut before it starts to deteriorate. Salads are easy and satisfying, cherished during these last days of summer. Like Cinderella, I know the clock is ticking and soon the party will be over.

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Cook in the Moment: Watermelon Granita with Mint and Lime

Watermelon Granita with Mint and Lime (c)2012 LaDomestique.com

Recently, I took on a project for a client needing recipes and photography centered around the Cajun cuisine of Louisiana. Today, I live in Colorado, but I was born and raised in Arkansas, and made many trips through New Orleans en route to our family beach vacations on the shores of the Gulf of Mexico. As a child, I was spellbound by New Orleans. Growing up in the bible belt, I found the culture of New Orleans so different from my own. I sometimes felt like the black sheep of my family, with a tendency to be moody and rebellious. Sarcastic humor was (and still is) my favorite coping mechanism. I appreciated the way New Orleanians embraced both the light and the dark sides of life with their jazz funerals, magical thinking, and revelrous parades. Though they would probably be described as “characters,” I loved Louisiana because the people seemed so real – honest, straightforward, and true to themselves. Years have gone by since my childhood visits to New Orleans, and we’ve both been through a lot. While the city recovered from Hurricane Katrina, I recovered from leukemia. I like to think the ability to laugh when things couldn’t get any worse is what got each of us through.

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