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Cold Cantaloupe Cucumber Soup

A chilled summer soup with cantaloupe and cucumber, mint and white pepper. #cantaloupe #cold #soup | mjskitchen.com

 

I think everyone will agree that all melons  – watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew – are best eaten in their prime, when they’re sweet and firm.  But sometimes, you’ll buy a melon that has gone past its prime or one that, you can tell, is just never going to get there. Either the melon is overripe and mushy or under ripe and not very sweet.  When this happen, a chilled soup is a great way to save the melon and actually enjoy it.  My favorite is this Cold Cantaloupe Cucumber Soup.  This soup makes a great starter, a palate cleanser, or a complement to a grilled cheese sandwich.  The sweetness of the cantaloupe is balanced with the spiciness of pickled pepper vinegar and the savory bite of ground white pepper.

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Watermelon Salad with Preserved Lemon

A cool and refreshing watermelon salad with preserved lemon, mint and olives @mjskitchen #watermelon #preserved #lemon

 

Several years ago when Bobby and I were spending a long weekend in Taos, New Mexico, we went to the El Meze Restaurant for dinner. We had a marvelous meal as we always do at the El Meze, but the shining star of the evening was a watermelon salad with preserved lemons.  It was SO good that we went back a couple days later, just so we could have it again.  This second time, I paid extra special attention to the ingredients and flavors because I knew I would want to be able to make this salad at home.

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Bean and Red Mole’ Pizza

A simple pizza made on a flour tortilla and topped with beans and a spicy mole' sauce | mjskitchen.com

After making the New Mexico Red Chile Molé that I shared with you last week, I used it in a few new dishes before freezing the leftovers.  This Bean and Red Molé Pizza was one of those dishes.  It is a variation of a Mexican-style pizza that I usually make with red chile sauce.  The molé completely changed the flavor of the pizza making it a totally different experience and just as delicious.

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Pickled Vegetable Salad

A salad of pickled cucumbers, daikon radish, and carrots | mjskitchen.com

 

I don’t know about where you live, but here in New Mexico we went from cool spring temperatures to the heat of the summer overnight.  This week the temperatures have been in the triple digits, a real challenge for our swamp cooler.  As a result, meal criteria is now “easy to make, at least one cold dish, and any cooking is on the grill”.  Last night’s meal met this criteria to a T:  grilled soy-ginger chicken and this Pickled Vegetable Salad – two very complementary dishes.

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Coconut Crusted Tofu and Pineapple Bites

Coconut crusted tofu with pineapple and sweet chili sauce makes a great appetizer | mjskitchen.com

These Coconut Crusted Tofu and Pineapple Bites were inspired by two completely different sources – Soni’s Food’s Coconut Crusted Tofu with Spicy Mango and Cucumber Topping and this very cool Hot and Cold Soapstone Serving Platter from uncommongoods.  Wanting to incorporate more tofu into our diet, I got really excited when I saw Soni’s recipe and just had to give it a try. Unfortunately, the mango I had was not very good, so instead, I zoned in on the fresh pineapple sitting on the counter and started thinking about how I could use it instead.  Literally, a few minutes later this complimentary serving platter was delivered to my door and everything just fell into place.

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Aji Panca Chile Paste

A rich, smoky, spicy paste made with aji panca chilies from Peru | mjskitchen.com

 

Thanks to my chile loving soul mate, European blogger friend, Sissi of With a Glass, I have now had the privilege of tasting a new chile…the Peruvian Aji Panca chile.  Thank you Sissi!!!!  What a chile!  A few weeks ago, I received a bottomless package of goodies from Sissi that consisted of products from all around the world – biscuits from Switzerland, chocolate from France, spicy seasoning from Japan, and dried aji panca chile from Peru (just to name a few).  Of course I zoned in immediately on the dried chiles.

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Red Chile Strawberry Jam

A quick and easy strawberry jam with red chile flakes and no pectin | mjskitchen.com

 

If you love sweet and spicy then you’re going to love this Red Chile Strawberry Jam! With every bite you get the luscious sweetness of strawberries soon followed by a burst of spicy chile that continues to tickle the tongue long after the jam has moved on. It’s a great jam for toast, biscuits, crackers and our favorite, a soft double cream brie.  But once you taste it, you’ll probably just grab a spoon and eat it right out of the jar.

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Asparagus with Orange and Kalamata

A simple asparagus with an orange and olive relish | mjskitchen.com

 

Asparagus with orange and kalamata is a light and delightful dish that I love making this time of year when there’s the overlap between good quality citrus and young shoots of fresh asparagus. This dish that can be served as a warm side or cold salad.  For a warm side steamed asparagus is immediately serve with the cold orange kalamata topping.  The contrast of the hot asparagus with the chilled orange is quite enjoyable.  For a cold salad the steamed asparagus and the orange kalamata topping are both chilled at least one hour or over night.  As a cold salad, this makes a mouth calming complement to a spicy entree.

This dish makes an excellent lunch or dinner salad as well as a dinner side for numerous entrees.

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Sweet Pepper Stew (aka Peperonata)

A peperonata stew with sweet peppers, tomatoes, capers | mjskitchen.com

 

Sweet Pepper Stew is a version of the Italian dish – Peperonata – that is normally made in the fall when there is an abundance of different colored sweet peppers. However, several years ago Bobby made this lovely dish for me for Valentine’s Day and it’s been our traditional Valentine’s Day dinner every since.

Buying organic fresh sweet peppers this time a year is not cheap, but this dish is well worth the price. To the peppers we add frozen tomatoes and basil from our summer garden, along with a few capers.  After resting in the refrigerator overnight, this sweet pepper stew becomes quite “juicy” from the tomatoes and flavorful from the melding of all of the wonderful ingredients.  You can eat it by itself, or serve it with a nice baguette or homemade bread.  It’s also quite good over creamy polenta.  Finish your meal off with a Coffee Scented Chocolate Pot for a delicious and memorable Valentine’s Day home dining experience.

What is your traditional Valentine’s Day meal?

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