Watermelon, Feta and Mint Salad with Honey Balsamic Glaze

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I’m kind of weird with mint. I think I associate it too closely with toothpaste so I’m super picky about when I use it. I really, really don’t like it anywhere near my ice cream, chocolate or potatoes. It’s perfect with watermelon and feta though. I decided to make a glaze with honey and balsamic vinegar to brighten the sweet and tart flavors. I left the shallots out this time (because I was tired and forgot them). It was still good but a touch of sharp shallot helps bring it over to the savory side. This is so summery and incredibly quick to make. 
 
I must be on a sweet/salty kick because when I bought this watermelon, I couldn’t wait to chop it up and throw some feta and mint on that bad boy (Sorry, not sure why I’m talking like Guy Fieri all of a sudden. Shudder.). This is a classic combination which just really works in a “greater than the sum of it’s parts” sort of way.
 
Don’t forget to buy a seedless watermelon. I got a seeded one by accident and it made it slightly annoying to eat. While I do enjoy spitting watermelon seeds like a trucker spitting dip, it’s less hilarious when it’s in my living room and I’ve got to clean it up. 
 

Sweet Corn Ice Cream

Sweet corn ice cream
Sweet corn ice cream

Like most fancy-pants wanna-be’s, I often read recipes in the New York Times dining section and think “Yes! I am SO going to make that!”. Then I get distracted by work or something sparkly out of the corner of my eye and forget all about it. Not this time! I saw Melissa Clark’s recipe for corn ice cream and knew I wanted to try it. I also knew that Matt would be totally game because A) he’s always up for a challenge and B) he loves both corn and ice cream.

We had a a few ears of (not that great) corn that we bought in Long Island, so we decided to give this a try. It’s really good! It’s a tiny little bit under-sweetened to my taste (unusual for me) but that could be because the corn we used was not that sweet to begin with. If I make it again (with under-whelming corn), I would add a touch more sugar. Maybe just a tablespoon or so. Or, even better, I’ll leave it as-is and pour a bit of this (elixir of the gods) Salted Caramel Sauce on top.

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Salted Caramel Sauce

Salted caramel sauce
Salted caramel sauce

You’ll never buy jarred Salted Caramel Sauce again once you realize how easy it is to make at home. Plus it tastes so much better without all the additives. It has a million uses, one of which is to be eaten straight out of the jar with a spoon while no one is looking. 

Is salted caramel the best thing ever? “Bah”, you’re thinking. “Best? No way.” Is it better than fluffy kittens in a basket? Is it better than Tyrion Lannister looking at you like this? Is it better than doggie derp face? Who’s to say. Well, I am and the answer is yes. It is better than all those things.

Okay, so now we know that salted caramel sauce is the one true god, I’m not going to insult your intelligence by telling you it’s the easiest thing to make. I mean, it’s simple enough. There’s only 4 ingredients. The thing about caramel though is that there is a very fine line between deliciously dark and acridly burned. You have to be brave when browning the sugar but not foolhardy. The best caramel teeters right on that line between sweet and bitter.

It definitely helps to have the right tools (I found this link to a tumblr that’s just people posing with giant spoons and had to include it here. Thank you for understanding). Seriously though, you’ll need a good, heavy saucepan. It should be larger than you’d think, 2 or 3 quarts is perfect. A rounded bottom is ideal but not required. An instant-read thermometer would also be extremely useful. It will help in that panicky moment between perfect and ruined.

Salted caramel sauce

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Arugula, Tomato and Mozzarella Salad

imageMatt and I used to live just around the corner from one of the best Italian specialty stores in Brooklyn. Caputo’s. Oh dio, this place is fantastic. They import the best stuff from Italy and make their own sausages and fresh pastas. They also make mozzarella and ricotta several times a day so it’s always extremely fresh. Needless to say, we were there a lot.

Note: This story gets a little sad… It was actually the owner’s elderly father who made the mozzarella and he liked to pick out the perfect ball for each person, dip it in the salty brine and hand it to you himself. It was very sweet. So one day Matt and I go in and order a bunch of stuff and as we’re chatting with the old man, he asks us how long we’ve been married. We tell him and he tears up, grabs my hand and tells me that his wife died. So of course, I tear up as he says how much he misses her. Now the old man and I are creating quite an awkward spectacle. Not what people expect to see as they’re buying their gnocchi. The owner comes out from the back and calms his dad and explains that his mom actually passed away a few years ago but his dad forgets this. Then he kindly hands me a tissue as I am no longer at all sanitary.

After that day, for some reason, every time the old man saw me, he would burst into tears. I felt so bad that I was triggering this reaction that I would lurk outside to see if the old man was there, and if he was, I would get the counter guys to sneak a mozzarella ball into my order while I would duck behind the counter. He stopped working eventually but mozzarella now has this bitter-sweet association for me. Maybe now it will for you too! You’re welcome.

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Linguine with leftover mussels and clams

Linguini with leftover mussels and clams
Using up leftover mussels and clams is a snap with this linguini dish.

Steamed mussels and clams are perfect for a crowd. Compared to a lot of seafood, they’re cheap, they’re a cinch to make and best of all, tasty. I also really like informal dinner parties and you can’t get more casual than everyone digging and dunking out of a big bowl in the middle of the table. Slurping broth from a clam shell is a great equalizer.

Over the weekend, we had our friends, Karen and Tom, over for dinner and we made a big pot of Garlicky Mussels and Clams along with a Corn, Tomato and Basil salad. With some good bread, a decent bottle of wine (or 3), it was a good night.

We did end up with a lot left over since someone couldn’t make it (‘sup Eric! You were expecting a leftover delivery, huh?). Well, we selfishly kept the leftovers to make this the next night. The best part is, it only takes as long as the pasta takes to cook.

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Garlicky Mussels and Clams

I hated fish so much as a kid that I would fake allergies, stomach aches, symptoms of the plague to keep from having to eat anything from the sea (except seaweed which I loved, oddly enough). Every so often, my parents would take my brother, Nick, and I fishing off of Sheepshead Bay in Brooklyn. We would have to wake up at 4:30am to get to the charter boat on time, which (in my memory) was always filled with cranky old Brooklyn mobsters.

Being on the water was exhilarating though, and I loved the excited chatter that went around the boat when anyone felt a nibble on the line.  At least once, I was the only person who caught anything which would fill me with dread because that meant, at some point, we would be expected to eat it.

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