We had to institute a new tradition around here: the 4:00 Pick-Me-Up. Summer days are long and hot and packed with exercise. Lunch is taken on the run in the summer, and dinner comes way too late. We needed an energizing snack, since we are not the napping kind. A pick-me-up of the nonalcoholic sort, to get us to our next activity.
Then I remembered my 4:00 ritual while traveling through Sicily last summer: Espresso Granita. Italians everywhere materialize onto the city streets late in the afternoon, refreshed from their midday rest, and head for the local gelateria. I love gelato more than just about anything else on earth, but after several consecutive days (sometimes twice daily) of gelato snacking, I wandered over to the granita counter.
The gelateria in Catania, Sicily.
Granita is just shaved ice, sweetened with a fruit puree or some other liquid, but it is so much more than just the sum of its parts. Sicilians are passionate about their granitas, and rightly so. A good granita is sweet, but not too sweet, and the crystals are just the right texture to form a creamy dessert that contains no cream. Sicilians serve granita con panna (whipped cream) in cups or nestled into huge brioche rolls. We prefer ours straight up in Dixie cups, but adding a dollop of creme fraiche would make a pretty dessert that is not overly sweet.
Here is my recipe for Espresso Granita, which I made with decaffeinated espresso beans for the kids' sake (and for mine), but it still packs a little tiny punch of caffeine, to keep you moving so as not to miss one moment of this gorgeous summer. (We can always sleep in the off-season).
Nick and Holden gave Espresso Granita two thumbs up, after hiking Snow King and playing soccer all day.
Granita can be made without an ice cream machine with just 2 ingredients. The quality of the granita will depend entirely on the quality of the espresso. Find some freshly roasted espresso beans, regular or decaf, and make your own espresso, or go to your favorite barista and have them whip it up for you.
- 2 cups freshly made espresso, cooled
- 3/4 cup to 1 cup sugar, depending on your tastebuds
- Freshly brew the espresso and let it cool to just warm.
- Add 3/4 cup sugar and stir to dissolve. Taste. It should taste very sweet (it will be less sweet once frozen). If not sweet enough for you, add a few more teaspoons of sugar and taste.
- Pour into an 8" x 8" glass or metal pan, such as a brownie pan.
- Put the entire pan in a gallon size Ziploc baggie and close. (I know from experience that it is tedious to clean sticky granita spillings that occur when someone yanks open the freezer door too quickly.)
- Place in the freezer. Now you can let this freeze solid, which usually takes about 8 hrs. Once frozen, take it out and let it thaw slightly. Make the granita by raking the ice crystals with the tines of a fork until it resembles shaved ice. Place in a clean container, such as a tupperware with a tight lid, and place back in the freezer until ready to serve.
- OR, you can freeze the granita for one hour. Take it out and scrape the ice crystals on the edges into the middle of the pan with a fork. Freeze another 30 minutes. Repeat. Continue until all large chunks of ice are broken up into smaller crystals. If at any time you have to leave during this process, just take the frozen granita out to thaw slightly, and scrape the rest down to uniform crystals.
- Serve straight up or with whipped cream, or with creme fraiche (less sweet).
The Best Take-Out Sushi for Lunch
Elevated Grounds is the official coffee shop, gathering place and lunch spot of the WestBank. Now EG serves a delicious plate of sushi, made fresh by the chefs at Sudachi right down the bike path. For $13, you get 8 pieces of spicy tuna or some other roll, a pile of edamame, and a seaweed salad. Brilliant!
Veronica ordered salmon and avocado rolls, I got spicy tuna.
The People's Market
Have you checked out the People's Market on Wednesday evenings, from 4-7 pm across from the Teton County Rec Center? A mini-version of the Saturday Farmer's Market, vendors sell farm-fresh produce, jewelery, baked goods, and fresh cheeses. I could not resist the Blueberry/Blackberry/Raspberry pies sold by "Guys Selling Pies". My friend Kathleen and I shared the mini-pie, and she declared the crust "perfectly flaky" and the filling "not too sweet". This is high praise coming from a Southern woman who used to teach pie-making classes. Good job Ian and Orion!
Ian MacGregor and Orion Belldorado, the 'Guys Selling Pies'
You've got to make some ceviche. I will give you three ways to get your ceviche fix: 2 recipes and a local Mexican dive with great shrimp ceviche.
Ceviche is lime-marinated seafood. It is an honest dish; only the freshest ingredients will make a good ceviche. You must use fresh limes and the freshest seafood you can find. This takes a bit of foraging at the local purveyors of fish.
I was pressed for time when I had the urge to make a big batch of ceviche yesterday. So I headed for Pearl St. Meat and Fish Market in Jackson. I was lucky to catch owner Scott behind the counter, and told him I needed the freshest fish for ceviche. The Ono had just flown in from Hawaii that morning; it had been line-caught and frozen on the boat (no fish is truly fresh here unless you catch it yourself). Pricey, yes, but I only needed 1 pound of fish to make ceviche for a crowd. At $22 per pound, that wasn't too bad.
I also purchased Wild Salmon for the Salmon Ceviche with oranges and capers. Salmon is a bit soft for ceviche, but it works if the fish is firm and fresh.
You could use any firm, fresh white fish with large flakes for ceviche, such as snapper, sea bass, halibut or mahi-mahi. Steaky fish like tuna or swordfish would also make nice ceviche. Finer small-flake fish like trout will get mushy.
Ask the fishmonger to cut off the skin for you; it will save you some time and they always do a neater job of it than I do.
These recipes are adapted from Rick Bayless' book "Mexico One Plate at a Time". Rick Bayless is the chef at my favorite restaurant in Chicago, Frontera Grill. I always get the ceviche when I go there; it is always amazing.
It's official. The wildflowers on the Old Pass Rd. peaked today!
- 1 pound fresh, firm fish fillets, skin off, such as mahi-mahi, ono, halibut, snapper, sea bass
- 12-14 juicy limes, enough to make 1 1/2 cups lime juice
- 1 medium white onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
- 6 plum tomatoes, or 2 large tomatoes, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
- 2 serrano chilies, seeds removed and finely chopped
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus more for garnish
- 2 Tbsp. olive oil
- 3/4-1 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. orange juice, or 1/2 tsp. sugar
- 2 small ripe avocados, diced
- Butter lettuce, saltines, or tortilla chips, for serving
Here is my best attempt at 1/2 inch dice. Uniformity is important so they all 'cook' at the same rate.
- First, Juice the limes. Do not dread this, it is a great upper body workout! If you're limes are less than the juiciest, zap them in the microwave for 15 seconds, and knead them on the counter before juicing. Place the juice in a stainless steel or glass bowl (don't use plastic or aluminum).
- Cut the fish into 1/2 inch dice. Discard any tough, stringy pieces.
- Add chopped onion and fish to the lime juice. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 1-4 hours, depending on your fish and how raw you like it. I "cooked" the Ono for only 1 1/2 hrs. and it was perfect.
You should have enough lime juice to just cover the fish.
4. In another bowl, mix the tomatoes, cilantro, chilies, and olive oil.
5. Check on your fish and see if it's done to your liking. A piece should no longer look raw when broken open.
6. Drain off the lime juice and gently add the rest of your chopped ingredients, except for the avocados.
7. Season with salt, and add orange juice or sugar. Taste. It should have a nice balance of salty and sweet. Cover and refrigerate.
8. Just before serving, dice the avocado, and gently toss with the ceviche. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
9. I like to serve this with Saltines, Baja style, and lettuce cups, which make it an even more virtuous and healthy appetizer. Tortilla chips, of course, are also really good.
Oops, I forgot the garnish, but it is still really pretty.
Salmon Ceviche with Oranges and Capers
- 1 pound fresh salmon fillets, without the skin, cur into 1/2 inch cubes
- 2/3 cup fresh lime juice
- 2/3 cup fresh orange juice
- 1 small red onion, chopped into 1/4 inch pieces
- 1 serrano chili, deseeded and finely chopped
- 2 large seedless oranges
- 2 Tbsp. drained capers
- 1/3 cup fresh cilantro, chopped, plus some for garnish
- lettuce cups, saltines, or tortilla chips, for serving
- one avocado, diced (optional)
- Marinate the salmon and the chopped onion in the lime and orange juices.
- Cover and refrigerate for about 2 hours.
- Drain off most of the juice.
- Cut the oranges into pithless segments by first cutting off the top and tail ends, cutting away all the rind, and cutting out the orange fleshy segments. Cut these in half so that they are about the same size as the fish. Add to the fish.
Orange segments cut this way are called 'Supremes'. Fancy.
5. Stir in the capers and cilantro. Add 1/2 tsp. salt and taste. Add more salt to your liking. Cover and refrigerate until serving.
6. Serve with lettuce cups, saltines or tortilla chips. Garnish with cilantro leaves.
Jon and Doug enjoy ceviche on the deck for Jon's birthday dinner.
If all that is just too much trouble, you can get a really delicious plate of Shrimp Ceviche in the Yucatan style (in a tangy, tomatoey sauce) at La Palma in Driggs, Idaho. La Palma is the white bus parked on the other side of Driggs. It is spotlessly clean, nicely air-conditioned, and the food is great. For $9.99 you get 3 tostadas piled high with shrimp ceviche. It's perfect for sharing, although I have been known to polish off a whole plate on my own.
La Palma restaurant in Driggs, Idaho.
It's finally summer in Jackson Hole, and I don't feel like cooking. Ironic, I know, since I am starting a food blog.
I cooked up a storm during the long, cold, rainy spring. I made risottos, fresh pasta, and homemade ricotta for gnocchi with morels. I baked banana bread, pumpkin bread, marmalade cake, and mango blueberry upside down cake.
I even baked a 2 layer yellow cake with real fudge frosting for Father's Day, which required that I find my candy thermometer. Whew!
Now it is Summer. Our mountain summer is short and sweet, over before we can say "barbeque!". The wildflowers are in bloom, the kids are home all day, and the fishing will soon be getting good.
All I want to do is play in the mountains, and forage for food the rest of the day. I want to sit at the counter of the new Teton Thai in Driggs, Idaho, and slurp spicy curried noodles and sip Reisling.
I want to skip lunch in favor of a Nutella milkshake at Scratch in Victor, Idaho, where they import Fluff from the East Coast to use in their milkshakes. Remember Fluff? Can't get it around these parts. (Scratch is also rumoured to have the best rib-eye steak in Teton Valley, but we have not tested this claim.)
And I want to ride my bike to Calico Restaurant in Jackson for a surprisingly delicious Grilled Calamari and Arugula Salad, while I sit on the deck and watch the kids play soccer. Ahhhh, summer.
But I do have a few lazy, summer recipes to share. Roasted Vegetable Empanadas are the perfect snack to share with friends on your deck, while sipping a Watermelon Margarita.
Empanadas from scratch do take some time and effort, and they are my favorite. The dough should be mixed, kneaded and rested, rolled and cut with a biscuit cutter, scraps rolled and cut. If you'd like my empanadas-from-scratch recipe, please email me.
But not in the summer. Premade empanadas "tapas", or wrappers, can be found in the freezer section at Jackson Whole Grocer. Just defrost, and most of the work is already done.
Roasted Vegetable Empanadas
- 1 peeled sweet potato
- 1 red onion
- 2 shallots
- 1 carrot
- 1red potato, peeled or not
- 1 peeled beet (optional and not very popular in my house)
- Olive oil
- sea salt
- 3-4 Tbsp. goat cheese, crumbled
- 1 1/2 Tbsp. chopped fresh thyme or rosemary
- 1 1/2 tsp. Kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp. pepper
- 1 package empanada Tapas
- 1 egg, beaten for egg wash
- Chop vegetables into 1/2 inch dice.
- Toss with olive oil, salt and pepper on a baking sheet.
- Roast at 425 F, for about 30 minutes, or until brown and soft.
- Using a fork, mash about 1/4 of the roasted veggies, and fold back into the rest of the veggies.
- Add the herbs and the crumbled goat cheese.
- Reduce oven temperature to 375. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat.
- Place tapas on the baking sheet and brush the edges with the egg wash.
- Place about 1/4 cup roasted vegetable filling onto the center of each tapa, and fold over. Crimp the edges, and then brush the tops with more egg wash.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through, until they are nicely browed.
- Serve warm or at room temperature.
Jack and Nick prefer Empanadas de Carne, but these will have to make do.
Watermelon MargaritasWe served these margaritas on the 4th of July. Be prepared to double or triple the recipe; our first batch disappeared very quickly. This recipe is adapted from a recent issue of Cooking Light. They claim that each margarita has only 105 calories; now that is something to celebrate!
- 2 tsp. sugar, for the glasses
- lime wedges
- 3 1/2 cups cubed and seeded watermelon
- 1/2 cup tequila, or more to taste
- 2 Tbsp. sugar (optional, taste before adding, you don't want them too sweet)
- 3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
- 1 Tbsp. Cointreau, or Triple Sec
- Place 2 tsp. sugar in a saucer. Rub glasses with lime wedge, and coat with sugar.
- Combine watermelon, tequila, sugar (if using), lime juice and Couintreau in a blender, and process until smooth. Taste. Add sugar i
- Fill glasses with ice, and add margarita. Garnish with lime wedge. Ahhh, summer.
These margaritas prompted a Patriotic Beanie contest; I think Chris wins.
Definitely not a good look for me,
or Jon; his head's too big.
We all agreed Erich wore his with panache...
but Len is definitely the most patriotic....
and Anne is the most photogenic with her Watermelon Margarita.