Category Archives: Summer

What’s YOUR favorite Basil?

Lula's Caprese Crostini

I tend to “decorate” with herbs…I have such a beautiful garden and it’s so easy to pluck a few varieties both flowering and non flowering.   Since it’s almost basil season I’d love to alert you to  a couple of GORGEOUS varieties of Basil that are purple instead of green!  The Purple Ruffles variety has leaves that look like a 1970’s handkerchief skirt.  The “Red Rubin variety has pink flowers!  Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering makes our Caprese Crostini with Genovese Pesto, garnished with Lime Basil, two OTHER varieties!

Artie Chokes 2 for a Dollar!

Zucchini and Artichoke Frittata

…and other myths…one of my favorite finger foods, the artichoke, is in season right now, and you needn’t be afraid of it!  Think of the artichoke as your well worth it high maintenance expensive girlfriend (around $2.25 each as one roughly weighs a pound).  But hard?  No.  First, let’s talk about the benefits:

  • Artichokes ROCK when it comes to vitamins and minerals: they have one of the highest total antioxidant levels of any vegetable, as well as folate, magnesium and potassium, and vitamins K & C.
  • Evidence from research shows that artichokes decease cholesterol,  increase probiotic bacteria in the gut,  and help maintain a healthy liver.
  • Artichokes are packed with fiber at more than 10.3 grams per artichoke (the edible part!).
  • You have to eat an artichoke SLOOOOWWWLY.  Need I tell you the health benefits?

Now, let’s talk facts:

  • The artichoke is part of the thistle family – it is simply the bud before it flowers.  See? (this one has flowered obviously)

  • A baby artichoke is not another type of artichoke, it’s just a smaller less mature choke on the same plant down at the bottom.  It is fully edible as it hasn’t developed a choke yet (the only part of the artichoke you can’t eat).
  • The sunchoke has nothing to do with the artichoke; it is part of the sunflower family.

You can find all kinds of recipes that, step by step, will intimidate the crap out of you from acidulation to scissoring the thorns – ignore them.  Do this:  choose artichokes that are green – not purple or bluish – those are overripe.  Take them home, slice them in half lengthwise and steam them for 20 minutes.  Heat your grill while this is happening, and transfer the steamed artichokes to the grill flat side down, for about 15 minutes, then turn over (if there aren’t any grill marks yet your grill isn’t hot enough so keep on grilling on the flat side).  If there ARE grill marks it’s time to lay them awkwardly on the grill on the opposite side for 3-4 minutes till the leaves are charred.  Plate them (1/2 artichoke per person) and either brush them with melted butter, sprinkled with a tiny bit of sea salt (the good kind that have large crystals) on them, maybe some cracked pepper if you’d like.  If you want to be fancier whip up some remoulade for dipping.  Truly, you don’t really need anything.  Just pluck each individual leaf off, put it in your mouth upside down and scrape the flesh from the leaf using your bottom teeth.  Don’t eat the fuzzy choke in between the leaves and the heart though – it’s yucky.  The heart will be your final reward.  The smokey, creamy taste and texture will make you close your eyes and sigh with pleasure.   Now, if you want to pay me to make the frittata you see at the top of the page just let me know!  There are MANY ways that Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering  incorporates artichokes into our menus, including one of our 6, to date, GREEN soups!!!

Cucumbers and your BRAIN!

Lomi ala Lula – Jade Pearl Rice, Crushed Wasabi Peas

Did you know that cucumbers are BRAIN FOOD?!?  And the fresher they are (as in you’re growing them right now aren’t you?!?  are they coming out of your ears?!?) the more brain boost they pack?

Cucumbers are high in potassium which helps brain cells talk to each other.   When they talk to each other they maintain healthy connections and stay lubricated.   Potassium also helps you with that sunny disposition, and lack of it contributes to depression

Cukes also contain an anti-inflammatory plant compound called fisetin, which researchers are discovering helps to delay age related nerve cell decline in the brain. You can’t get more brainy than Lula’s for Lunch,,,and More! Catering ‘s  Lomi a’la Lula  –  Salmon and Cucumber in one genius WALLOP!!

It’s SEAFOOD Time!

 

Ruby Red Trout Skin

Summer tends to make us want to eat lighter, and fish feels that way to me…so with a little “Deadliest Catch” in mind, I’d like to give you a few tips about purchasing your seafood:

  •  Stay away from purveyors who don’t display their seafood directly on ice – all seafood needs to STAY as cold as possible at all times.  It’s the protein that spoils the fastest!
  • If you’re buying something premade and packaged (like a stuffed flounder), there should be virtually no accumulated liquid in the package.
  • Fish should smell like a cross between the ocean and a clean running creek. If it smells too fishy, something’s “fishy”.
  • It’s best to not be lazy about your shrimp.  By it shell on and clean it at home – the shell holds in moisture which keeps your shrimp plump and firm.  Besides, the shells can be used for a broth or sauce that will GREATLY enhance your shrimp!
  • If you’ve got a recipe you want to try but can’t find the particular seafood it’s asking for, ask your fishmonger.  Virtually EVERY fish has one or two perfect substitutions – get what’s freshest!

Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering wishes for you the most fabulous summer ever – loaded with delicious fresh seafood!  The picture above is of a GORGEOUS Steelhead Trout (this particular filet weighing in at about 4.5 pounds… 🙂 )

 

A Beer Primer

Beer

I’m not a beer drinker.  There, I said it.  There are some beers that taste good to me, but in general, I don’t like the carbonation (I don’t drink pop either) and what it does to my ‘constitution”.  That being said, Cincinnati s a great beer town, and is becoming more  so every day with our new micro-breweries and pubs.  So, I thought, perhaps there are others out there who might like to know what they’re drinking, or talking about, when celebrating our city’s great tradition.  Here you go:

Beer (ALL beer – lager, ale, stout, bock, pilsener, porter, etc) is made from the same ingredients:  water, barley malt, hops, and yeast.  What makes a different taste, style, or type of beer is the addition of other ingredients, different types of yeast, and fermentation temperature.  Age also changes the flavor of beer.  So let’s touch on the 5 major “types” of beer and try and make sense of it:

ALE:    Ales are not aged, and are made with a yeast that floats to the top of the vat during fermentation.  They contain a little more alcohol than lagers.  They often have a hint of fruit in their flavor or aftertaste.  A type of ale is STOUT.  Darker and stronger than regular ale, a stout is brewed with toasted malt.

LAGER:  The yeast in lagers sinks to the bottom of the vat and is fermented slowly and at cool temperatures, and take one to six weeks to age.  Types of lager are:

PILSENER:  About a third fewer calories and about 20% less alcohol than regular lager.  Pale and golden, they are your “light” beers.

PORTER:  The stronger flavor of this lager comes from toasting the malt before brewing.  It is a  bit higher in alcohol content as well.

BOCK:  A dark German style of lager, bocks are traditionally spring beers, but these days they are brewed year round.  They are rich, and thicker (in Germany they are made by freezing the beer and taking off the top layer of ice to thicken it).  Bocks are brewed with roasted malts.

Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering uses beer in some of our recipes.  Try our Ballpark Casserole – our Brats and Metts are poached in beer before grilling.  Or, this fall, order our Cheddar-Ale Fondue, served with our Brats and Metts as well as our homemade German Salt Rye!  You can always order our Beer Marinated Pork Tenderloin Sandwich from our Deli!  Cheers!

Tomato, ToMAHto

We all love the juicy sweet red ripe tomato straight from the garden, right?  Well, did you know there are juicy sweet GREEN tomatoes as well as many other colors?  Heirloom tomatoes are in vogue, and lucky us – we get to eat them!    Below is an indicator (in general) of tomato colors and their flavor profiles.

In general, the RED and PURPLE colored variety of tomatoes are fuller flavored with more acidity and, some would say, a slightly “salty” taste.  Better Boys and Beefsteaks are in this color group – we all know them.  BUT>..when you’re at the farmer’s market, ask about the Cherokee Purple or Marmara – and see if one of your local farmers can supply you with some – or other alternatives of like taste.

YELLOW and ORANGE tomatoes are lovely, and a bit less acidic.  Sometimes they’re described as sweet.  Ask for Orange Strawberry or Pineapple!  A Balsamic reduction is perfect and beautiful on these tomatoes – sharp and tangy with the sweetness of the tomatoes bursts in your mouth.

GREEN tomatoes are not always “unripe”!!!  There are green varieties, such as the Green Zebra (one of my favorites) that are very complex – sharp, sweet, tangy, salty…and stunning on a plate!

Did you know there are even PINK and WHITE tomatoes?  Translucent, very thin skin make these varieties delicate and sweet without bitterness.  Harder to find – it’s still worth asking for a “Great White” or a “Rose de Berne” … your palate with thank you!!

Eat the BLUE in that BERRY!

Lemon Shortbread with Blueberry-Floris Compote

OK, let’s get all sciency about blueberries.  Because it’s important.  Blueberries may just be the #1 Super Food…and we all need to take advantage of THAT!    Here are a couple of reasons why:

  1. Our bodies are incapable of producing several essential antioxidants, and you get a dose of all three of these when you eat a handful of blueberries:  Vitamin C, Vitamin E, and the mineral Manganese.
  2. Blueberries slow aging, fight disease, and provide the same bacteria blocking action that cranberries do to help prevent urinary tract infections.
  3. Compounds in blueberries help prevent all kinds of dementia.

Blueberries are available year round in the supermarket – no, they’re not as fabulous as going out and picking them yourself in July, but you have NO EXCUSE to not eat them year round and HELP YOU BE A BETTER YOU!

Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering utilizes blueberries in salads, barbeque sauces, and of course, desserts, to give you a few ideas…while you’re conjuring up your own please salivate to the picture of our Lemon Shortbread with Blueberry Floris Compote above!

You’re a PEACH!

Biting into a fresh, sweet, juicy peach is one of summer’s greatest pleasures.  But did you know that peaches are also a superstar in the nutrition department?

They’re low in calories, contain only a negligible amount of fat and are loaded with vitamins and minerals.  Also, despite peaches’ sweet flavor, they’re relatively low in sugar compared to many other fruits, and their robust fiber content helps minimize any quick spikes in blood sugar.

Lula’s for Lunch…and More! Catering loves utilizing the peach in the summer – we love to pair it with lavender, and almond, as well as make salsa and chutney, and let’s not forget CHAMPAGNE!!  You’re looking at our Peach-Lavender Parfait and our Homemade Olive Oil Crostini topped with Brie and our Peach-Vidalia Relish.

Disclaimer:  The first two paragraphs are stolen DIRECTLY from the Sam’s Club Newsletter this month!!

An Easy Grilling Tip

OK – so we all know raw chicken is yucky, right?  Instead of using 2 sets of tongs and platters to “separate” the salmonella from the fabulousness (Lula’s for Lunch…and More! ‘s fabulous Tico Chicken pictured above) , try wrapping aluminum foil around your tong ends and layering your platter with foil, do your marinating and transferring to the grill…then when the chicken exterior is getting done, whip off the foil on both apparati (great word, right?!? – I made it up!) and continue using them to transfer your cooked chicken to your clean platter!  Lula is now bowing for the applause…

Sugarplums are REAL!

My friend Heidi Bright, Author of “Thriver Soup”, an incredible manual for those taking the cancer journey and their loved ones, offered this blog last week, and I just had to take advantage of her information!

“The children were nestled all snug in their beds, / While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads.”

The children in this poem dreamed of sugarplums. What are sugarplums? I was amazed to learn in May that they were growing in my front yard.

In June 2016, I watched each morning as a robin picked all the little fruit from my serviceberry tree. During this past May, I read about these edible, nutritious delicacies. They have many names, including June, Saskatoon, prairie, shadbush, and pigeon berries, along with wild plum and chuckley pear.  And sugarplum.

This summer birds squawked nearby each morning as I picked the berries while red, because the fruit would not last long enough on the shrub to turn a darker shade.

They are shaped like small blueberries yet are more related to the apple family. Their mildly sweet, almondish flavor contribute plenty of fiber, protein, antioxidants, and nutrients to my breakfast.

They go great with diluted coconut butter, chia seeds, and soaked/dehydrated raw pecans. Maybe this coming Christmas, long after these berries are consumed, I’ll be dreaming of sugarplums dancing in my breakfast bowl.

Thriver Soup Ingredient

More than 50,000 plant species and possibly more than 80,000 on our planet are edible. Only about 3,000 of these species are regularly used as food. 103 species make up 90 percent of our plant food supply.  That’s paltry.

By expanding the types of foods we eat, we can expand the nutrients available to us. Perhaps check out Whole Foods, Jungle Jims, and some farmer’s markets this summer to discover some new tastes and textures.