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Summer Cooking Tips from Celebrity Chef Curtis Stone

03:55PM / Tuesday, July 17, 2007
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Photo Courtesy of ARA content
World famous chef Curtis Stone, star of the hit TLC show “Take Home Chef,” knows that each season is unique. With all the bounty of the summer season, cooks take advantage of the available produce to experiment with lighter fare and all the fresh vegetables that are readily available. “Each season presents different flavors,” says Stone. “To me, summer foods should be clean and simple -- with nice crisp tastes that suit the sunshine. Summer vegetables are fantastically refreshing and can enhance any summer dish.” In his new book, “Cooking with Curtis,” Curtis shares his cooking philosophy to keep it simple and cook with natural ingredients from Mother Nature. Summer is the perfect time to learn new ways to integrate fresh, seasonal summer produce into your salads for a delicious and healthy main meal. Stone suggests trying these ingredients to capture the true taste of summer: * Strawberry – “Strawberries are one of my favorite summer fruits,” says Stone. “They should be plump and deep red and at the height of their ripeness for the best flavor.” Try utilizing this juicy summer fruit in your salads by slicing them thin and scattering throughout for a surprisingly sweet taste to your savory salad. * Heirloom Tomato – “Lovely ripe tomatoes are something that I have come to enjoy in my summertime cooking,” comments Stone. “There are literally thousands of varieties of tomatoes, so you’ll be able to find a flavor right for you.” Heirloom tomatoes come in a variety of colors and sometimes odd shapes. Try washing and slicing the whole tomato to get round slices. To bring out the flavor, sprinkle with a small amount of salt and freshly ground black pepper and add a few torn pieces of fresh basil. * Zucchini – “Zucchini are a member of the squash or marrow family. There are three main varieties: the yellow, the round, and the most common green zucchini,” says Stone. “Zucchini should be picked when still young and small. The flowers can also be eaten and share the same flavor.” Try utilizing this summer vegetable by cutting thinly and eating raw in your summer salads or grilling and sautéing for a truly unique treat. If grilling, Stone suggests brushing with a touch of olive oil. * Bell Pepper – “Peppers are in season during the summer and are very adaptable,” says Stone. “Try bell peppers in your salad for a colorful addition with a subtle, sweet flavor and satisfying crunch.” Bell peppers come in a variety of colors such as yellow, red and green. To prepare a bell pepper, cut in half and remove the seeds. Peel away the white part of the ribs using a paring knife. Then dice or cut into long strips and sprinkle throughout your salad. After choosing your fresh summer fruits and vegetables, Curtis suggests topping your salad with a dressing that will enhance the freshness and flavor of the season’s produce. ”A trick I like to use is Marie’s Dressings, located in the refrigerated section of the produce aisle of your local supermarket,” says Stone. “They’re crafted from the freshest and highest quality ingredients and sealed cold to lock in that fresh, homemade taste.” Recognizing that each season is an opportunity to experiment with your cooking, Marie’s is hosting a sweepstakes where you can win the experience of taking home celebrity chef Curtis Stone. Simply visit their Web site and register for the chance to cook with Curtis in your own home. For more information, visit www.maries.com. Baby Spinach Salad with Summer Strawberry, Red Onion and Grilled Chicken Prep time: 20 minutes Yield: 6 servings 2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1 tablespoon olive oil 1/4 teaspoon salt Freshly ground black pepper 2 (6 ounce) bags baby spinach 1 pint strawberries, sliced, about 2 cups* 1/3 cup thinly sliced red onion 1/3 cup pecans or almonds, toasted 1 cup Marie’s Raspberry Vinaigrette Dressing Prepare grill for medium high heat. Coat chicken with oil and season with salt and pepper. Clean grill with wire brush and place chicken on grill. Grill 5 minutes on each side or until meat thermometer registers 165 F. Let cool and cut chicken into slices. Combine all ingredients except chicken and dressing. Divide salad between 6 plates. Top each plate with chicken and drizzle with Marie’s Raspberry Vinaigrette. *You can also use fresh, summer raspberries as an alternative to strawberries. Courtesy of ARA content
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