How to Cut Dragon Fruit

sunday cruise So today I had originally planned to talk about a certain vanilla chia seed pudding that I had made. While the post is still coming, it is just being pushed back slightly. This weekend Tommy decided to crawl out of his apartment and be social! I have to say, it was amazing to spend time with friends, sit in a coffee shop, ride bikes for 20 miles along Lake Michigan. With that said, my entire Sunday was consumed with church, lunch with friends, riding bikes, which included a small bar crawl as we made our way to dinner at Barn & Company in Lincoln Park. Needless to say, I didn't have much time to finish photographing the chia seed pudding.

dragonfruit cross section

Instead, I decided to share with you my experience I recently had with dragon fruit. I have seen this fruit countless times at the grocery stores but have never bitten the bullet to spend the money. (It is about $6.00 for one fruit....). I was excited to try something new. Today's post is mainly just sharing the fruit with you and how to cut it. There will be a post next week where I used this fruit in a recipe, so keep an eye out for that.

dragonfruit

How to cut a dragon fruit:

  1. Placing the fruit on a cutting board, cut the fruit straight down the middle with a sharp knife.
  2. Cut through to the other side, so that you can separate the fruit into 2 sections. Inside the flesh may be white or red - both will have tiny black edible seeds, just like kiwi fruit.
  3. Run a tablespoon around the circumference of the first section to separate the flesh from the skin.
  4. Lift the flesh out of the skin and place it on the cutting board. Reserve the skin for serving (as in step 7), if desired. Note that the skin is not edible. Do the same for the other half.
  5. Turn the mound of flesh over, checking for any residual pink skin. Slice this off, as the skin isn't healthy to eat.
  6. Now you can slice up the flesh. Cubes work well for eating the fruit fresh.
  7. If desired, return the cubes of fruit to the skin to serve, or transfer to a serving dish and enjoy! Leftovers can be refrigerated, like any other fruit, in a covered container.

sliced dragonfruit

Restaurant Photography 101

restaurant photography Let's get one thing out in the air immediately. Posting pictures of your food on Instagram has become a global phenomenon. Really, you know you've had that time when you forgot to Instagram your fancy dinner from RPM or Dos Caminos and you kicked yourself after the fact.

instagram is down

I find myself pulling out my iPhone all the time and restaurants, feeling the need to document every bite that I take. I've unfortunately even caught myself photographing my Bacon Habanero Ranch Burger from McDonald's... This strange obsession with food photography infused into social media has become common practice in our society. The matter of the fact is, I don't see it going away anytime soon.

So with that in mind, I offer up a few general rules to follow when taking pictures of your food at a restaurant:

1. Avoid the flash. This is one of my biggest pet peeves. If I wanted to be surrounded by strobe lights I would have gone to American Junkie on a Saturday night. When it comes down to it, using a flash in the middle of a restaurant is rude and distracting to other diners. Plus, more often than not, the flash will wash out your food. Stick to no flash and go au naturel.

2. Snap and dine. There's no reason to turn this into a production. The chef put time and effort into preparing your meal and it is rude to let it sit and get cold just because you need the perfect picture. Quickly snap a few pictures and then put away your phone.

3. Pull out that smart phone. Let's face it, even I'm not a professional photographer taking pictures of gourmet dishes for a restaurant. Although I'd love to be doing that someday... Most of us want to share a little food porn on social media, so stick to your iPhone or Android. There are enough apps out there now to enhance your photos and make them look delectable.

4. Keep it discrete. Trust me, I want the perfect picture too. "Perspective is everything. It's all about the aerial view. I just gotta stand up and get the picture from up above." No, please do not make a spectacle out of yourself. These antics can end up being more distracting than anything else.

5. Social media can wait. There is no need to edit your photos, apply a filter, and post it on Instagram or Twitter right away. You can wait a few hours before posting. Again, people put a lot of effort into making your food so please, just enjoy it!

How to Make the Perfect Salad: Beet and Goat Cheese Arugula Salad

Salads are typically a hit or miss for me. Sometimes I can't get enough of them and other times I'll only pick at them. So what does it take to make a good salad? Below are a few tips that I try to follow when throwing together a salad:

  1. Wash greens gently: Most greens grow in sandy soil which means that more often than not, there will be some dirt left behind. Greens can bruise, so gently swirling the greens in cool water will help dislodge any leftover residue.
  2. Dry greens completely: Air water left on the greens after washing will ultimately dilute your dressing and will get in the way of flavors. Your dressing will have a more difficult time clinging to wet greens. I prefer to give them a spin or two in a salad spinner and then pat dry any remaining moisture.
  3. Opt for seasonal greens: Just like other vegetables, greens have their seasons. Try kale or brussels in the fall and winter, while going for butter lettuce or romaine during the spring and summer. My favorite though is arugula which is great during the spring and early summer months.
  4. Use varying textures: Have fun with this - mix the crunch of nuts with a creamy cheese and the crisp snap of fresh carrots.
  5. Experiment with different oils and vinegar: Balsamic vinegar and olive oils are classic dressing ingredients. Instead mix it up with an apple cider vinegar, avocado oil, or sherry vinegar.
  6. Toast the nuts: I love including walnuts or pine nuts in salads but the key comes with the preparation. By toasting the nuts prior to tossing them in the salad, you enhance their nutty flavor and crunch texture. Don't forget to let them cool before mixing them into the salad.

beets

I grew up on beets and have understandably developed an affinity for them. Pickled beets. Beet juices. Roasted beets. You give them to me and I'll eat them! I've found that throwing roasted beets into a salad is an unexpected treat. They add a nice punch of color and flavor. In the recipe below, I tossed the beets with enough dressing to coat them, allowing for slight caramelization around the edges.

beet and goat cheese arugula salad

Do you have any tricks or tips for making the perfect salad? What ingredients do you find yourself constantly using for your salads?

Beet and Goat Cheese Arugula Salad Recipe from Giada de Laurentiis

Ingredients:

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 3 tablespoons shallots, thinly sliced 1 tablespoon honey 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper 6 medium beets, cooked and quartered 6 cups fresh arugula 1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted 1/4 cup dried cherries 1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted, and cubed 3 ounces soft fresh goat cheese, coarsely crumbled

Directions:

  1. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  2. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees Fahrenheit.
  3. Whisk the vinegar, shallots, and honey in a medium bowl to blend. Gradually whisk in the oil.
  4. Season the vinaigrette, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  5. Toss the beets in a small bowl with enough dressing to coat.
  6. Place the beets on the prepared baking sheet and roast until the beets are slightly caramelized, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Set aside and cool.
  7. Toss the arugula, pine nuts, and cranberries in a large bowl with enough vinaigrette to coat.
  8. Season the salad, to taste, with salt and pepper.
  9. Mound the salad atop 4 plates.
  10. Arrange the beets around the salad.
  11. Sprinkle with the avocado and goat cheese, and serve.

How to Grill Asparagus

How is it that after an amazing weekend you need another weekend to recover? It's been so great but my exhaustion level is through the roof. Can't we just have 4 days weekends every weekend? I always say that more time during the day would be nice, but perhaps I just need to get better at time management - work, blog, social life, chores. It is all doable, it is just a matter of how and when I make time to do said things.

asparagus

Grilling during the summer, throughout the entire year for that matter, is an absolute must. In my opinion, there is nothing better than enjoying a steak or fresh vegetables cooked over the grill. In the summer, it just so happens that we are able to make an event out of it, inviting friends over for some beer and conversation. One of my favorite vegetables on the grill is asparagus.

grill topper

There are a number of ways to cook asparagus - roasting, sautéing, blanching, boiling. But I've found grilling gives the vegetable just a hint of a charred flavor without sacrificing that flavors of the asparagus. I use a grill topper, seen in the picture above, to help prevent the asparagus from falling through the grates.

asparagus_2

What's your take on grilled vegetables? Any favorites?

Grilled Asparagus

Ingredients:

bunch of asparagus olive oil sea salt freshly ground black pepper

Instructions: 

  1. Place asparagus in gallon sized bag and coat with olive oil, sea salt and ground pepper. Allow asparagus to sit for 20 minutes.
  2. Spread asparagus on grill topper over high heat. Cook for 6-8 minutes, flipping once or twice during this time, or until desired tenderness is achieved. Asparagus will start browning in some spots but should not be allowed to fully char.
  3. Removed from grill and serve.