doing s’more grilling

Happy Memorial Day! Happy start to all things summery finally popping up around here! I nearly shed tears of joy when I found myself breaking a sweat while laying outside and needing to run into the shade to protect my bare feet from scorching on my friend’s sun-soaked balcony, which is where I found myself this afternoon for a lovely BYO cookout hosted by my grillmastering friend Sarah.

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We were encouraged to BYO-anything that would be made more delicious by a stint atop her grill. Naturally, my sugarcured mind went the dessert route, inspired by this decadent recipe for Grilled Banana S’mores that I came across over the weekend. Nothing screams summer and cookouts more than s’mores, but stuffing graham crackers, marshmallows, and chocolate into an ooey gooey banana shell… now that just screamed “Joanna, you must make me now!”

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The process was incredibly easy: take back a thin strip of peel, scoop out about 1/3 of the banana (freeze the extra for smoothies!), and pile the banana shell with mini marshmallows, chocolate chips, and bits of graham cracker. Wrap the masterpiece in foil, throw it on the grill for a few minutes, and open it up to find yourself a soft, melty, and decadent dessert. Although unnecessary, a scoop of vanilla ice cream and a dollop of whipped cream sent these Grilled Banana S’mores to even greater heights.

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This technique is endlessly adaptable to different fillings: chocolate+hazelnuts, peanut butter+marshmallow, brown sugar+cinnamon+walnuts. I can envision laying out a bunch of toppings and hosting an interactive make-your-own-grilled-stuffed-banana party, and I’d venture to guess this would be a real hit with kids too! Thankfully, we have a whole summer ahead of us to make these visions come to life…

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Grilled Banana S’mores (from Neighbor Food blog)

Recipe for 1 banana. Depending on how hungry your guests are, plan on 1/2 to 1 banana per person.

1 banana

1 tbsp marshmallows

1/2 tbsp chocolate chips

1 graham cracker, broken into small bits

Other topping ideas: peanut butter, hazelnuts, jam, chocolate candy bars, toffee bits, butterscotch, dulce de leche, cinnamon, brown sugar… go wild!

Heat grill.* Peel back a thin strip of the banana peel without removing it completely. Scoop out about 1/3 of the banana and set aside to save for a later day. Fill the cavity you’ve created with marshmallows, chocolate chips, and graham cracker bits. Place strip of peel back over banana. Wrap the entire banana tightly in foil. Place on the hot grill for 12 minutes, turning occasionally, until marshmallows and chocolate are melty. Unwrap and enjoy on it’s own or a la mode!

*Although I haven’t tried this yet, if it wasn’t grilling weather, this could easily be done over a gas stove or roasted in the oven at 350 for 12-15 minutes!

doctored up

I was never a ketchup kid. Nope, for little me, it was all about the honey mustard. It was the tried and true companion to my childhood favorites: Chili’s Chicken Crispers, Hungry Bear subs (shout out to my Kendall peeps!), and my mom’s chef’s salads. Creamy, tangy, and sweet, honey mustard is hard not to love. But much as I love it, I’ve also come to realize that it isn’t the healthiest of condiments, often mayo-based and with a hefty load of sugar. Sorry kid-self, but your quasi-adult self was in need of a more nutritious, but just as delicious, honey mustard remix.

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Enter my doctored up and future-doctor-approved version, which uses the almighty power of Greek yogurt to impart all the creaminess and tanginess that makes honey mustard so delectable, with a fraction of the fat and calories, and a whopping serving of protein to boot. This would be great as a dip for veggies or baked fries, as a salad dressing, atop grilled chicken or seafood, or heck, just right off the spoon! Last week, I incorporated it into a filling lunch salad featuring kale, roasted sweet potatoes, pistachios, and avocados (recipe below). I hope you find lots of ways to dip into this delicious dressing!

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Honey Mustard Dressing

1 cup Greek yogurt

2 tbsp mustard (dijon or coarse grain)

1 tbsp honey

1 lemon, juiced

2 tsp orange or apricot marmalade (optional, but might add an extra tsp of honey if you leave it out)

Mix all ingredients together. Use as desired.

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Honey Mustard Kale and Sweet Potato Salad

2 medium sweet potatoes, diced

1 tbsp olive oil

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

1 bunch kale, washed, stemmed, and leaves torn into bite size pieces

1 large or 2 small carrots, peeled into ribbons

1 medium seedless cucumber

¼ cup pistachios

Honey Mustard Dressing (recipe above)

2 avocados, diced

Preheat oven to 450. Toss diced sweet potatoes with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Arrange in single layer on a baking sheet and roast for 30-35 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and slightly golden in some spots.

Wash kale, remove stems, and tear leaves into bite sized pieces. Place them into a large bowl. When sweet potatoes are done, pour the hot potatoes over the kale and toss so that the leaves wilt a bit. Add carrots cucumber, pistachios, and honey mustard dressing and toss until well combined. If serving immediately, toss in diced avocado. If planning to store, add diced avocado fresh to each portion.

 

recreation

When I go out to eat, I generally seek food that I wouldn’t cook myself, either due to lack of expertise, hard-to-find ingredients, or knowledge that I would balk at the idea of actually putting the right amount of butter into that cinnamon roll I had for brunch this Sunday… But sometimes, a restaurant dish so fresh and delicious graces my palate that I am flooded with the desire to recreate it. This happened a few weeks ago in New York City. I was there with my family celebrating the wedding of a dear family friend. On Sunday night, after the wedding festivities had come to a close and before I boarded the plane to head back west, my parents and I dined at Kefi, a Greek restaurant in the Upper West Side that we had been to on prior visits, and that never disappointed. On their specials menu that night was the Cypriot Salad: a melange of bulgur wheat, lentils, dried apricots, dates, pistachios, red onion, red pepper, pistachios, and smoked almonds. Although I’m usually guilty of indecisiveness when it comes to ordering, I knew in a heartbeat that this salad had to be a part of our meal.
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When it arrived at our table, a generous portion piled high in the center of a plate, I dug in and swooned. This salad was something special. Hearty yet light, fruity yet smoky, rustic yet elegant. I loved it so much that my parents, recognizing the gusto with which I was enjoying it, ordered a second Cypriot Salad to-go for me to take back to Chicago. Quite the parting gift!
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Back in Chicago, I donned my finest food detective hat and dissected apart this salad, meticulously deciphering what herb each of the little green flecks represented and writing out a list of suspected ingredients. This weekend I finally came around to bringing it to life. In spite of my sleuth work, I ended up using the exact ingredient makeup from Kefi as a springboard, combining it with some always-welcome inspiration from Ottolenghi’s green couscous recipe, and adding a bit of my own flair to create a twist on the Cypriot Salad that I am eager to share.
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Don’t be deterred by the long ingredient list! I promise you, it’s worth it. Each grain, fruit, nut, and spice adds a unique layer of flavor and texture that make this salad so complex and delicious. Perhaps the best part of all is that bringing this to life in my kitchen afforded me the opportunity to relive that wonderful trip and to relish, cherish, and recreate the beautiful moments spent with family, friends, and good food.
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A Twist on Kefi’s Cypriot Salad (with inspiration from Ottolenghi)
Lentils:
1 cup lentils
2 1/2 cups water
Bulgur and Dried Fruit: 
3/4 cup bulgur wheat

1/3 cup dried apricots, chopped
1/3 cup pitted dates, chopped
2 cups nearly boiling water
Caramelized Shallots: 
1 tbsp olive oil
3 large shallots, sliced
1 jalapeno, finely diced
2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp smoked paprika
Remaining ingredients:
3-4 oz arugula
1 lemon, zest and juice
3 green onions, thinly sliced
1/4 cup mint, chopped
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
2 tbsp tarragon, chopped
2 tbsp dill, chopped
1/2 cup pistachios, chopped
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
3 tbsp olive oil
drizzle of honey
salt and pepper to taste
Bring lentils and 2 1/2 cups of water to a boil and cook, covered, for 40 minutes, until lentils are tender but not mushy. Remove from heat when done.
While lentils are cooking, place bulgur wheat, dates, and apricots into a glass bowl. Heat 2 cups of water until almost boiling (on stove or in microwave). Pour hot water over the bulgur and fruit and cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap.  Allow to absorb the water for 20-30 minutes, until bulgur wheat is tender and most of the water is absorbed. Drain any excess water.
As bulgur soaks, prepare the caramelized shallots and jalapeno. Heat 1 tsbp olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Saute shallots in oil for 7-10 minutes, until caramelized and beginning to brown. Add jalapeno, sugar, and smoked paprika, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.

To assemble, place arugula and lemon zest in a large bowl. Pour warm lentils, bulgur and dried fruit mixture, shallot and jalapeno mixture, and remaining ingredients over the arugula. Toss until well combined. Taste and adjust seasonings as needed (I ended up adding in a dash more of smoked paprika and red wine vinegar, but tweak as you wish!)