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Friday
Jun082012

Simple + Seasonal: Ravishing RADISHES

I bet if you were playing a word association game, "radish" wouldn't come to mind when you hear the word "exciting." I can't blame you. We usually eat radishes raw, perhaps in a salad, and as Homer Simpson once taught us, you don't win friends with salad.

As members of the turnip and horseradish family, radishes look tame but they can have a pretty fiery kick. Between the variety of shapes, sizes, and color, not to mention their crisp texture, cool and refreshing watery nature, and that hint of pepper, it's no wonder that the radish is a staple, an integral part to seriously complex and delicious dishes at restaurants everywhere.

 

Selecting

At your grocery store, you'll likely find the basic radish we normally see at salad bars. Those are just fine, but take advantage of the warm spring weather and support your local farmers by hitting a farmer's market to find gorgeous varieties like Easter egg, pink beauties, watermelon (halved lengthwise then sliced, they look like actual watermelon slices) and icicle radishes. Pepperiness does not correlate with size but rather with how long it took to grow. Split or cracked radishes may either be a sign of age or a sudden influx of moisture.

 

Storing

Remove the tops from radishes to keep them crisp longer. The tops attract moisture making radishes soft. Store the green leafy tops in a plastic bag in your crisper for 2-3 days; store the radishes whole in a plastic bag in your refrigerator for 5-7 days.

 

Preparing

Be sure to eat your radish greens! They can be sauteed in a little bit of oil with garlic and red pepper or eaten raw in a salad. For the radishes, serve them raw as part of a salad or on an appetizer platter. Steam or saute them in some butter to add to entrees. You can also thinly slice them on a mandolin then deep fry them, making radish chips. Just make sure to scrub the dirt off of them with a vegetable brush and trim the stem and root ends off before preparing radishes to your liking.

 

Here are two ideas for making radishes the star of an appetizer platter. Their bright colors and the refreshing yet peppery bite of a radish straight out of the refrigerator make them perfect for late spring or summer entertaining.

The Mediterranean Plate

 Cube 4 ounces of a good, firm feta cheese (preferrably not packed in water.) Cut half of an English cucumber into 1 inch pieces. Lightly grill 2-3 pieces of naan, pita, or some other flat bread. Trim radishes or for even more color and height, scrub them clean but serve them attached to their leafy greens in a bunch. Arrange these elements on a serving platter then sprinkle the border with flakey sea salt and a small dish of hummus. Tasters should feel free to dip a radish in some of the sea salt before eating it paired with the feta for an outstanding contrast between the crunch of the radish and the creamy texture of the cheese.

 

The French Plate

Place 4 ounces or 1 stick of room temperature butter in a medium bowl. Add 1 tablespoon each of up to three of your favorite fresh herbs, finely chopped-- I love the combination of chives, parsley and dill. Add a pinch of salt and pepper then mash together with a fork. Optional-- add 1/2 teaspoon of freshly grated lemon zest to the butter as well. Place the herb butter in a small bowl and serve with toasted slices of baguette and thinly sliced radish rounds that have been sprinkled with flakey sea salt. As an alternative, you can make lovely looking bruschetta by spreading the butter on cooled but toasted baguette slices, arranging the radish slices on top then sprinkling with sea salt right before serving.

 

Simple + Seasonal Cooking by Christina Wong
Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Christina is the author of Unchained Kitchen and is on Twitter @cj_wong. Read her full bio here.

Wednesday
Jun062012

How to turn your GRILL into a SMOKER

Today's post is part of the #HolidayHQ Blog Hop. Join us at 8pm EST on Twitter at #HolidayHQ for insprired summer entertaining tips.

 

For years, my husband has toyed with the idea of getting a smoker, but the thought of a) buying yet another piece of equipment and b) taking up already scarce outdoor space has desuaded us from doing so. I think the folks at Weber sensed our dilemma, because they've just come out with a genius book titled Weber's Smoke: A Guide to Smoke Cooking for Everyone and Any Grill.

Author Jamie Purviance (see his fish grilling tips) shares ideas for turning your charcoal or gas grill into a smoker:

1) When smoking on a charcoal grill, create a small fire on one side of the grate, then position the food on the opposite side of the grill.

2) If you're using a gas grill, light some (but not all) of the burners, the smoke the food on an area not duriectly over a lit burner.

3) Pairing wood to food is like pairing wine to food. Big, bold woods like mesquite are best with beef, whereas the mild alder goes best with delicate fish. Most commercially packaged wood chips come with a flavor intensity guide.


The recipe below is ideal for a charcoal grill, but Weber's Smoke is full of tips for gas grills as well. And if you can't get the book before the weekend, Chicagoans can pop by Better Homes & Gardens and Weber's Chill & Grill Festival this weekend at Waveland Park for tips from Jamie and other Weber experts.

Grill-Roasted Artichokes with Smoked Garlic Aioli

Serves: 6
Prep time: 30 minutes
Cooking time: about 47 minutes

Ingredients:
1  lemon
6  artichokes, each 7 to 8 ounces
2  medium garlic heads
2  tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1  teaspoon water
Kosher salt
Ground black pepper
2  large handfuls oak wood chips, soaked in water for at least 30 minutes
1  cup mayonnaise
2  tablespoons chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

 

 

1. Prepare a two-zone fire for medium heat (350° to 450°F).

2. Cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice into a large, nonreactive bowl; fill the bowl two-thirds full with water. Reserve the lemon halves. Working with one artichoke at a time, trim the very end of the stem (if attached) and remove the smallest leaves. Using scissors, snip off the thorny tips from the outer leaves. As you work, rub the cut surfaces with the pulp side of the lemon halves. Put the trimmed artichokes in the lemon water.

3. Cut off the tops of the garlic heads to expose the cloves; discard the tops. Place the garlic heads side by side on a square of aluminum foil. Wrap the foil around the garlic, like a canoe, leaving the tops exposed. Drizzle with 1 teaspoon of the oil and 1 teaspoon water and season with a pinch of salt and pepper.

4. Drain the artichokes. Place each artichoke on a square of aluminum foil. Drizzle the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil over the artichokes and season them evenly with 1½ teaspoons salt and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Wrap each artichoke in its foil

5. Brush the cooking grate clean. Drain and add one handful of the wood chips to the charcoal (or smoker box, if you're using gas - Jen) and put the lid on the grill. When the wood begins to smoke, cook the garlic and artichokes over indirect medium heat, with the lid closed as much as possible, for about 40 minutes. Remove the garlic from the grill and let cool slightly.

6. Open the foil to expose the artichokes. Drain and add the second handful of wood chips to the charcoal. Continue grilling the artichokes until a large leaf can easily be pulled off, about 7 minutes more, turning the artichokes over once in the foil. Remove the artichokes from the grill.

7. Squeeze out the garlic cloves into a medium bowl. Mash the garlic with a fork. Add the mayonnaise and parsley and mix. Season with salt and pepper. Serve the artichokes warm or at room temperature with the aioli.

©2012 Weber-Stephen Products LLC. Recipe from Weber’s Smoke™ by Jamie Purviance. Used with permission.

 

More summer entertaining ideas from the #HolidayHQ crew. Join us tonight with the #HolidayHQ Twitter Party at 8pm ET!

CELEBRATIONS AT HOME |  Make A Watermelon Cake
SECOND CITY SOIREE | How to Turn Your Gas Grill into a Smoker
THOUGHTFULLY SIMPLE | 4 Summer Cocktails
SKIMBACO LIFESTYLE | Scandinavian Summer Party Ideas
HOUSEWIFE BLISS | Summer Bunting for Playful Parties
VALLEY & CO. | Perfect Summer Cocktail Recipes
PARTYBLUPRINTS BLOG |  Super Summer Pie
PAPER & PIGTAILS |  Favorite Summer Printables

Wednesday
May302012

FRAGRANT Flowers for Summer GARDENS

Summer means enjoying the outdoors on our patios, decks and yards. You've probably thought about how you want your outdoor space to look, but don't forget about delighting your sense of smell. This summer, consider plants that are not only colorful, but also fragrant. Here are some suggestions to scent your summer:

Alyssum

This low growing tiny-leaved plant can be used in beds, containers or window boxes for a long season of spicy fragrance in full sun to part shade. It blooms in shades of white, lavender and purple and may reseed itself. The white blossoms can be especially nice in a moonlit or after work garden.

Gardenia

A sentimental favorite of mine because it was my prom corsage, the white waxy flowers of gardenia will perfume the air in all directions. In our area, they prefer part sun and a rich, organic soil with some moisture retention. Gardenias love humidity and acidic soil can be found frequently in tree form.

Heliotrope

An heirloom favorite of the Victorians, heliotrope has a sweet, strong fragrance and blooms purple or white. Remove spent blooms to keep it flowering all summer in full sun to part shade. It prefers a rich soil, so give it an extra boost of slow-release fertilizer.

Nicotiana

Nicotiana, or flowering tobacco, releases its sweet scent from trumpet-shaped flowers at dusk. Another plant ideal for the evening or after work garden, it blooms in white, green and a range of pinks. Nicotiana likes full sun to part shade and can be fairly drought tolerant. It will sometimes reseed and can be anything from six inches to three feet in size.

Scented geranium

Not all fragrance can be from flowers! For a fragrant foliage plant with tiny flowers, try scented geraniums. With a huge range of foliage colors and fragrance reminiscent of rose, fruit or spice, they also make a good houseplant. Plant them in full sun and brush the leaves to release their scent. Leaves are edible and may be used in jellies, sauces, teas, or dried for a long-lasting potpourri.

 

Gardening by Heather Prince

Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Heather is on Twitter @FearlessGarden. Read her full bio here.

Friday
May252012

Patriotic POPPIES for MEMORIAL DAY

I probably don't need to remind you that Memorial Day is nearly here, and that means a FOUR DAY WEEKEND! Memorial Day parties typically lean towards red/white/blue decor, but if you'd like to go in a slightly different (yet still patriotic) direction, remember the poppy.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

The post WWI poem In Flander's Fields transformed the poppy into a symbol of rememberance throughout the world, particularly in former and current Commonwealth countries. This Memorial Day, take inspiration from the simple black and red flower and put the reason for the day front and center. The images above can serve as your inspirational springboard to a truly unique and meaningful celebration.

Poppy cookies and cookie cutter
Poppy pin display
(try navy blue in place of the black)
Marimekko Unikko poppy tablecloth
Marimekko Uniko poppy napkins
Poppy pin tutorial

And thank you, to those who have served.

Tuesday
May222012

Escort Card vs Place Card: What is the Difference?

One of the most frequently asked questions I get from my clients is: "What is the difference between an escort card and a place card"? These terms often get used interchangeably - even within the industry - but there is a difference! Most of the time, all you really need for your seating arrangements are escort cards.

 

Escort Cards are located on a centralized table and indicate what table the guest is seated at. Each guest (or couple) receives his or her own card with their assigned table number. Tented cards are the most typical, but these days, brides and grooms are getting much more creative with the presentation of the cards.

TIP: The cards escort the guests to their table.


Photo Source: Aruna B Photography

 

Place Cards on the other hand, are located at each place setting and indicate to guests exactly where to sit at the table. These are typically found at more formal events, but are not necessary, as most guests can decide where to sit around the table. 

Photo source: Invitations by Ajalon

Which do you think you'll use for your wedding or event? Have you seen any creative escort cards or place card displayes?

 

Weddings by Charlene Liang
Part of the Second City Soiree Contributor Series. Charlene is on Twitter @SweetchicEvents. Read her full bio here.

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