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How to make a good fruit salad, à la tango-mango
People around here will pick up a banana or an apple as they’re headed out the door, or add strawberries to their Greek yogurt. In the early summer months we harvest so many raspberries from our garden we have a hard time keeping up. However, I rarely go to the trouble of putting together a fruit salad. Why? For one thing, a good fruit salad is not a low-budget affair.
Over the years I have come up with a few guidelines when I make a fruit salad. As you read through them I totally expect some disagreement, because what I think look and tastes good is probably different than what you like. It’s a totally subjective subject. 
Use at least five different fruits and use only fresh fruit if possible.
Try to add at least one type of berry. Blueberries, strawberries or raspberries – use what is fresh and in season.
Go for a variety of colors. I love the beautiful green color of kiwi.
Add texture. Nuts, such as macadamia nuts or pecans add crunch. Golden raisins or dried cranberries add a bit of chew.
If you add grapes, slice them in half first.
Sliced bananas are mandatory, but add them at the last minute.
Include one exotic fruit, such as dragon fruit. People seem to either love or hate star fruit, but slices of it in a fruit salad add a beautiful shape and color.
I don’t add apple to a fruit salad — the texture doesn’t seem right.
I rarely add oranges unless I’m going for something tropical that would include coconut and pineapple. That’s a different type of fruit salad.
Serve your fruit salad in a pretty bowl, preferable a clear glass or crystal bowl.
If your fruit salad is being served for brunch, breakfast, or lunch, a bowl of Greek yogurt along side is a nice addition.
Our fruit salad the other day included strawberries, mango, kiwi, dragon fruit, macadamia nuts, sliced banana and red grapes. 

How to make a good fruit salad, à la tango-mango

People around here will pick up a banana or an apple as they’re headed out the door, or add strawberries to their Greek yogurt. In the early summer months we harvest so many raspberries from our garden we have a hard time keeping up. However, I rarely go to the trouble of putting together a fruit salad. Why? For one thing, a good fruit salad is not a low-budget affair.

Over the years I have come up with a few guidelines when I make a fruit salad. As you read through them I totally expect some disagreement, because what I think look and tastes good is probably different than what you like. It’s a totally subjective subject. 

  • Use at least five different fruits and use only fresh fruit if possible.
  • Try to add at least one type of berry. Blueberries, strawberries or raspberries – use what is fresh and in season.
  • Go for a variety of colors. I love the beautiful green color of kiwi.
  • Add texture. Nuts, such as macadamia nuts or pecans add crunch. Golden raisins or dried cranberries add a bit of chew.
  • If you add grapes, slice them in half first.
  • Sliced bananas are mandatory, but add them at the last minute.
  • Include one exotic fruit, such as dragon fruit. People seem to either love or hate star fruit, but slices of it in a fruit salad add a beautiful shape and color.
  • I don’t add apple to a fruit salad — the texture doesn’t seem right.
  • I rarely add oranges unless I’m going for something tropical that would include coconut and pineapple. That’s a different type of fruit salad.
  • Serve your fruit salad in a pretty bowl, preferable a clear glass or crystal bowl.
  • If your fruit salad is being served for brunch, breakfast, or lunch, a bowl of Greek yogurt along side is a nice addition.

Our fruit salad the other day included strawberries, mango, kiwi, dragon fruit, macadamia nuts, sliced banana and red grapes. 

Garden update

Three weeks ago we spent a day fashioning little pots out of recycled newspaper. We planted seeds in the pots, which were then labeled, organized, and put into the cold frame. We watched and doted over them and were happy to see the seeds turn into seedlings. They thrived in their warm and humid environment.

On Sunday, we replanted most of them into their appropriate raised beds, which are also covered. It’s fun to see healthy tomato plants that are only 2-inches high, a bed of little lettuces and spinach, and radishes that already are showing their red roots plumping up. The basil, thyme, coriander and parsley are sprouting. The sunflowers are 7-inches tall and the cotyledon leaves of the summer squash are the size of large dates.

I am already thinking of all of the ways I will be using the peas this season. Again, we have two long beds filled with climbing plants which will grow 8-feet tall.

Just like all of the years before this one, what we grow will influence what we eat this spring and summer. I can hardly wait.

Shrimp and skewers

Cold beer and a platter of spicy shrimp right off the grill — that’s how we celebrated last night’s perfect weather here in Portland, Oregon.

The recipe for marinated grilled shrimp has appeared here before. I make it frequently during the warmer months when it’s easy to pull out the grill. They’re almost as good leftover, straight from the frig with a nice squeeze of fresh lemon.

Tulip fields

Photographers seem to find the tulip fields before the crowds arrive. Cameras slung over our shoulders and camera bags on our backs are one of the giveaways. The other is that our jeans are dirty and wet at the knees and oftentimes the backs of our shirts are dusty from lying on the ground, looking up at the flowers.

It’s quiet here when it’s early. The click-clack of the waxy blossoms hitting each other and the birds in the nearby orchard are the only sounds you hear. You get so engrossed in what you’re doing you’re surprised to see that by 10am huge volumes of people are arriving; families with small children and happy senior citizens wearing nametags and hats. The light is getting harsh and the magic is gone.

Way back in the day when this blog was still a baby, I posted a recipe for some crispy seed and nut crackers with rosemary (Rebecca’s crisps). I don’t very often cover the same subject more than once, but I thought that if any of you missed it before (of course you did), it wouldn’t hurt to shine a little light on this gem of a snack again.

The recipe comes from a good friend who claims she’s not a baker, a claim that I choose to disbelieve. However, her point was that even if you throw it together with any seeds and nuts you happen to have on hand it always turns out. This time I really packed the recipe with lots of nuts and added about a quarter of a cup of millet, which gave it a nice crunch. Golden raisins add a bit of chew and sweetness.

Last night, which was the warmest evening so far this year, we ate these in our outdoor room with French Brie and Cambozola cheese, fresh spinach leaves and slices of apple. The birds were singing in the blooming cherry tree above us and UConn was beating Kentucky on T.V. Tonight I may slice and toast some more for a repeat performance, this time watching the women play.

Bon appétit.

Baking peanut butter cookies with Spinosaurus

The other day Spinosaurus dropped by for a visit. It was a great surprise to see him because he’s usually so busy, he doesn’t have time to hang out here the way he used to. I was just about to make some peanut butter cookies and he asked if he could help. As you can see, he was a great assistant! Hopefully he will come by more often and help with other projects in the kitchen and garden.

These peanut butter cookies are slightly chewy and coated in a thin layer of sugar, perfect for dunking in a glass of milk or your morning espresso. I’ve been baking them forever, but yesterday I realized it is more fun to make them with a friend. A recipe from Better Homes and Gardens.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 1/2 cup butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Directions:

Beat peanut butter and butter with electric mixer on medium to high speed for 30 seconds. Add granulated sugar and brown sugar, baking soda, and salt. Beat until combined, scraping sides of bowl occasionally. Beat in egg and vanilla until combined. Beat in as much of the flour as you can with the mixer. Stir in any remaining flour. Cover and refrigerate dough about 1 hour or until easy to handle.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Shape dough in 1-inch balls. Place balls 2 inches apart on an ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten the cookies by making crisscross marks with fork tines or dinosaur footprint, dipping utensil in sugar between flattening each cookie. Bake about 8 minutes or until edges are lightly browned. Transfer to wire racks. Cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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City chicken update

I just got off the phone with my mother. We had a long conversation about city chicken – how she used to make it and how her mother made it. She got so excited talking about it she said she can’t wait to make it again!

Her recollection is that she seasoned and breaded the pork (egg and breadcrumbs) and then pan-fried it until crispy. A little water was added to the pan. It was covered and cooked on the stovetop until tender. Then the lid was removed and she let it crisp again.

The upside to this version is that you end up with some nice frond in the pan for gravy, a necessary component to the meal. 

Yay for leftovers! 

By the way, I think I have heard from the two percent!

Making city chicken

Let’s straighten this out right off the bat. City chicken isn’t “chicken” at all. Rather, it’s pieces of pork skewered onto a stick, breaded, fried and then baked. My guess is that possibly two percent of this readership has ever heard of city chicken. It’s an old, money saving recipe that was inspired before the Great Depression.

Supposedly, back around 1908, chicken was a food that the working class couldn’t afford. So some genius came up with the clever, alternate idea of creating a drumstick-like, meaty food that could be fried and eaten off a stick. As a kid, city chicken was one of my all-time favorite meals. The fact that it wasn’t chicken made it even better! If I remember correctly, my mom would also make gravy and serve it with mashed potatoes.

It was the request earlier in the week for fried cornmeal mush (another favorite food from my childhood) that got me thinking about city chicken. I did some checking and it wasn’t hard to locate recipes. I don’t recall that my mom did the two-step procedure of frying then baking, but this method got high marks from reviewers.

As you can see from the picture, I didn’t have the required, raised rack to set my city chickens on. I jerry rigged a workable substitute by taking the rack out of my toaster oven and setting it on a few kitchen implements that I placed in the pan. It worked perfectly.

City chicken is just as good as I remembered. I apologize for not giving you the plated photograph, but things got a little crazy around here last night as we were sitting down to eat.

A recipe modified from allrecipes.com. This recipe made 5 city chickens.

  • 1 1/3 pounds pork, cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes
  • Seasonings – salt, pepper and Lawry’s Seasoning Salt
  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten, and poured into a wide bowl
  • 2 cups cracker crumbs or Panko bread crumbs, pour onto a plate or shallow container
  • Oil for frying
  • Water or chicken broth for baking
  • Special equipment – 5-inch wooden skewers, a candy thermometer, and a raised rack to place in a pan.

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Set a smallish-sized rack in a 13x9-inch pan. Pour water or chicken broth in the pan.

Heat an inch of oil over medium-high heat to 350 degrees F. While oil is heating, thread 3 or 4 pieces of pork onto each skewer. Liberally season all sides with seasonings. Dunk the skewered meat into the egg and then roll around in the crumbs, to coat. Repeat the procedure of dunking in the egg and then rolling in crumbs.

Fry city chickens for several minutes on each side, until a deep, golden brown.

Place city chickens on prepared rack and cover with foil. Carefully place covered pan in the oven and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake 10 more minutes.

Update! See the conversation I had with my mother after posting this. She gave me a different method of making city chicken.