From Jane Alonso. Her passion for food and spirits leads her on frequent excursions into Borderstan’s land of bars and restaurants. Email her at jane[AT]borderstan.com
Memorial Day weekend officially marks the beginning of the season of backyard BBQs and rooftop dining, for those of us who live in city high rises. I have to admit I look forward to these events as an excuse to chow on foods that don’t make my usual daily menu. Juicy grilled hot dogs, sweet corn on the cob and tangy coleslaw are at the top of my summer feasting list.
But for those times I want to go a bit healthier (or just want to avoid getting in line at the grill), I make dishes in my kitchen and carry them to my roof. Below are several recipes I turn to for easy al fresco dining. Measurements and serving temperatures are forgiving, so you don’t have to worry about keeping the dish hot or cold on its way to your chosen location.
Sweet Ginger Salmon
Combine in a bowl:
- About ½ cup jam/preserves
- 1½ tablespoons lime juice
- 1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1½ teaspoons grated (or chopped) ginger
- About 1 clove of garlic, minced
- ½ tablespoon of low-sodium soy sauce
Amounts are approximate. You don’t have to follow these measurements exactly — it will come out well in just about any combination.
Mix well and pour over the salmon — bake at 375 degrees F for about 15 minutes or until fish flakes easily.
Carrot Ginger Soup
- 1-2 tablespoons of vegetable oil
- 1 pound of carrots, chopped
- 1 medium sized onion, chopped
- 2 stalks of celery, chopped
- 1 medium sized potato, peeled and chopped
- 1 box (about 4 cups) of chicken broth or stock
- 2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, diced
- ½ teaspoon of white sugar (or 1 tablespoon of maple syrup)
- ½ teaspoon of ground cloves (can also use ground cinnamon or ground allspice)
- ground pepper
- sea salt
- 1 cup of orange juice
- In your soup pot, heat the oil, and add the onion. Saute until translucent, then add the celery and carrots. Add a pinch of salt and pepper, mix well.
- This is the flavoring base of the soup — let the mix “sweat” on low-medium heat for about 10 to 12 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add the ground cloves and ginger and cook for another minute or so.
- Add the chicken broth/stock, bring to a boil. Add potatoes. Add a bit more salt (to taste — be careful not to over salt). Turn down the heat and simmer (covered) for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Allow to cool for about 10 minutes, then puree soup in batches in a blender or food processor (be careful about blending hot foods — it can cause an explosion in your blender! You can also use a hand blender and blend right in the pot).
- After soup is pureed, slowly swirl in orange juice with a spoon until flavors are mixed.
- Serve hot or cold.
- One tip — the soup tastes better if you let the flavors meld overnight. So make a batch ahead of time and keep on hand for your next dinner party.
This time of year, the city clears-out as District residents scatter to area beaches, bays and, if you’re like me, pool decks! But just because your out-of-office email message reads that you’re unavailable does not mean that you should slack on the culinary aspects of your mental vacation. After all, ’tis the season to savor some of the summer’s freshest produce.
Here are a few quick, easy and seasonal recipes that you can whip-up for your next trip… Be it 500 miles or 500 feet from your apartment.
The Ginger Beer Mojito
What’s a summer day by the pool (or the beach) without a refreshing cocktail on-hand? This ginger beer mojito is the answer to any summer drink dilemma. Like a traditional mojito, it’s incredibly light, minty and refreshing, while also packing a spicy and flavorful ginger punch. Think of this cocktail as a summery twist on a dark and stormy.
Tip: Don’t use cheap rum for this drink, trust me! While the cheaper rums are easier to mask in sugar-laden daiquiris, they are harder to sip in more simple cocktails, like a mojito.
- Muddle torn fresh mint leaves (a small handful – about 5-7 leaves) in a glass. Here’s a trick: I use the butt of a knife, since I don’t have the fancy mojito tool!
- Top the muddled mint with about 4-5 ice cubes
- Pour about 1-1 ½ ounces of fresh lime over the ice
- Add about 2 ounces of rum (not dark rum!)
- Fill the rest of the glass with a good quality ginger beer (about 3 ounces)
- Garnish with mint leaves and lime wedge
Fresh Pesto and Roasted Veggie Sandwiches
Perfect for wrapping-up and tossing in a picnic basket, these veggie sandwiches pack a pesto-ie punch that just scream summer. So grab some crusty bread, grind up some basil, roast some seasonal vegetables and layer it all together in this no-frills beach picnic favorite.
- 2 ½ cups of tightly packed basil leaves
- 2 cloves of garlic
- ½ cup of shredded Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
- ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor, blend the basil, the garlic and the cheese for a few seconds (10 to 15). Scrape down the sides and start the machine back up. While the mixture is blending, slowly drizzle in about ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil until it all starts to come together. Stop the blade again and scrape down the sides – add salt and pepper to taste. (Be careful with the salt! Parmigiano-Reggiano is a salty cheese and already provides a lot of salt to the pesto.) Continue to mix until the pesto has reached its desired taste and consistency.
Roasted Vegetable and Pesto Sandwiches:
- 1 small eggplant
- 2 small zucchinis
- ½ of a white onion
- 1 jar of roasted red peppers
- Olive oil and salt
On a baking sheet, layout thinly sliced pieces of eggplant, zucchini and onion. Brush each piece with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with coarse sea salt. Roast in a 375 degree oven for about one hour or until the veggies have reached the desired “roasted” color.
Halve a fresh ciabatta loaf length-wise and spread the two sides with the pesto. Layer on the oven roasted veggies, as well as the jarred roasted red peppers. Cut and enjoy!
This recipe is so simple (literally – just put everything into a food processor for a few seconds and blend!), but it tastes like spent hours in the kitchen! The watermelon adds a unique flavor component to the cold soup, and makes this traditionally savory and spicy dish a bit sweet. For a picnic, fill small mason jars with the soup for individual servings! Or fill a large mason jar and pack it in a cooler to dish-out at a party.
- ½ of a large white onion, roughly chopped
- 2 large red tomatoes (roughly 1.5 pounds), roughly chopped
- ½ a jalapeno, roughly chopped (to cut out some spice, remove the seeds before adding the jalapeno to the soup)
- About 2 cups of seedless watermelon chunks (make sure to remove all of the seeds from the watermelon – including the white seeds!)
- 3 cloves of garlic
- ¼ cup of extra virgin olive oil
- A few splashes of fresh lime juice
- Salt and pepper to taste
In a food processor, combine the white onion, red tomatoes, the jalapeno, the watermelon and the garlic in a food processor. Chop/pulse the ingredients until everything is diced. Add in the extra virgin olive oil and the lime juice and continue to pulse until everything is mixed and diced just a bit smaller. Add salt and pepper to taste. Be careful not to over-blend — you don’t want the soup to be a puree; I like mine better with a few small chunks (but not like a salsa, either)! Pour the soup into a jar and chill. Serve cold.