It’s Time to Plant Your Fall Vegetable Garden—Here’s How

If you have free space in your garden beds or empty containers, it’s still early enough to plant for a fall harvest. Vegetable gardening in the fall is often more successful than in the spring or summer because you are up against fewer odds: weed growt…

If you have free space in your garden beds or empty containers, it’s still early enough to plant for a fall harvest. Vegetable gardening in the fall is often more successful than in the spring or summer because you are up against fewer odds: weed growth slows down, the plants are under less heat stress, there’s more rain, and many garden pests are also (temporarily) gone. While you can certainly do a thorough end-of-seasoning gardening cleanup (and you should!) you can also make use of your fertile ground for a harvest-timed harvest.

Read on for the best ways to leverage the last of the pre-winter weather for a successful fall vegetable garden.

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How to Take a Cheese Plate on the Go

Whether you’re camping, road-tripping, picnicking, or spending time at the beach, a cheese plate by your side is always a welcome snack. I might be biased, but I love enjoying a plethora of great cheese and cured meat in any scenery, all year round. Ho…

Whether you’re camping, road-tripping, picnicking, or spending time at the beach, a cheese plate by your side is always a welcome snack. I might be biased, but I love enjoying a plethora of great cheese and cured meat in any scenery, all year round. However, my typical, carefully designed plates aren’t exactly simple to transport, especially when planning to enjoy them on the go. To keep your beautiful, cheesy creations intact outside the confines of your home, here are six tips.

1. Pick a Secure Base

When you’re out and about, forget about fancy platters or boards. I like to build my cheese plate directly in a wide reusable container or to-go box (you can even find boxes made specifically for this use). This way, everything is packed in and ready to eat once you arrive at your destination. It takes some extra work to bring all of the items separately to build on the spot, so arranging the plate beforehand saves a lot of time and eliminates the need for excess supplies, like a cutting board, sharp knife, and extra food packaging.

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Why Are There So Many Salmonella Recalls?

If it seems like every week you’re reading about a food recall due to a salmonella outbreak, well, that’s because you are. In July and August alone, there have been recalls of blueberries, raw carrots, frozen breaded chicken products, frozen cooked shrimp, dry spice blends, and packaged salad greens, all due to salmonella outbreaks. These recalls are covered widely and frequently but rarely do we hear how we’ve gotten to this point…and where we go from here. How does salmonella get into McCormick seasoning blends? Why is chicken so often the culprit? Does cooking get rid of salmonella? I spoke with several food safety experts about how we’ve gotten to the point of weekly recalls and what this means for the future of food production.

What Is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a naturally occurring bacteria commonly found in birds, such as chickens. It’s similar to the gut bacteria that humans naturally have. It is not inherently dangerous to birds or humans, but it can spread easily when anyone handling food or produce does not practice proper hygiene or safe cooking practices, which leads to the severe illnesses that we so often hear about. By definition, salmonella is a group of bacteria called salmonellosis that can cause gastrointestinal illness and fever, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are over 2,000 strains of salmonella that are named based on where they were discovered.

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If it seems like every week you’re reading about a food recall due to a salmonella outbreak, well, that’s because you are. In July and August alone, there have been recalls of blueberries, raw carrots, frozen breaded chicken products, frozen cooked shrimp, dry spice blends, and packaged salad greens, all due to salmonella outbreaks. These recalls are covered widely and frequently but rarely do we hear how we’ve gotten to this point...and where we go from here. How does salmonella get into McCormick seasoning blends? Why is chicken so often the culprit? Does cooking get rid of salmonella? I spoke with several food safety experts about how we’ve gotten to the point of weekly recalls and what this means for the future of food production.

What Is Salmonella?

Salmonella is a naturally occurring bacteria commonly found in birds, such as chickens. It’s similar to the gut bacteria that humans naturally have. It is not inherently dangerous to birds or humans, but it can spread easily when anyone handling food or produce does not practice proper hygiene or safe cooking practices, which leads to the severe illnesses that we so often hear about. By definition, salmonella is a group of bacteria called salmonellosis that can cause gastrointestinal illness and fever, according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA). There are over 2,000 strains of salmonella that are named based on where they were discovered.

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Hey You! Freeze Those Summer Green Beans

There are, of course, many welcome newcomers to the produce aisle this time of year. The tomato is the obvious star of the show (we get it, you’re juicy and sweet and delicious and pretty much perfect), but there’s also eggplants, zucchini, all sorts o…

There are, of course, many welcome newcomers to the produce aisle this time of year. The tomato is the obvious star of the show (we get it, you’re juicy and sweet and delicious and pretty much perfect), but there’s also eggplants, zucchini, all sorts of stone fruit, bell peppers, and corn. One summer growth, however, doesn’t always get the recognition it deserves at the farmers market, and that’s the humble green bean.

They’re sturdy and reliable, endlessly versatile, and thus deserve a spot in summer’s pantheon. I like them cooked low and slow until effortlessly tender and velvety in a good dousing of olive oil. Though green beans can be found year-round (thanks, modern supermarkets), there’s something special about all the varieties of pole and bush beans, like romano, wax, and long, that start to emerge come summertime. So whether you grew your own, picked them fresh, or bought them at a farmers market or grocery store, here’s how to enjoy those summer beans well into cooler months.

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The Ultimate Guide to Summer Vegetables (& 43 Ways to Use Them)

Summer is the CSA basket’s time to shine. That’s why Joshua McFadden’s Six Seasons—a seasonal-cooking bible that made our list of the top five books for all things vegetable—considers summer to be three different micro-seasons rolled into one. In that …

Summer is the CSA basket’s time to shine. That’s why Joshua McFadden’s Six Seasons—a seasonal-cooking bible that made our list of the top five books for all things vegetable—considers summer to be three different micro-seasons rolled into one. In that vein, I present to you a guide to summer vegetable cooking (or no-cooking) that’s broken down into early, mid, and late, using the vegetables in McFadden’s iconic cookbook as examples. But by all means, take creative liberties and cook outside the micro-seasons, paying attention to your local climate (and farmers markets). After all, summer is a time for a more relaxed approach to cooking that involves less oven, more salad, and loads of color. Here’s a cheat sheet:

Early Summer: Beets (young), carrots (young), celery, fennel, new potatoes, turnips (young)

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10 Vegetables That Thrive in Pots, No Garden Required

This past year has seen a surge of moves to the suburbs, time spent on balconies and in yards, and home cooking, which inevitably also led to people thinking about growing their own food. Growing herbs and vegetables doesn’t have to take up an entire y…

This past year has seen a surge of moves to the suburbs, time spent on balconies and in yards, and home cooking, which inevitably also led to people thinking about growing their own food. Growing herbs and vegetables doesn’t have to take up an entire yard or require a farmer’s touch, either. Everyday people (you!) can successfully feed themselves fresh homegrown produce, no matter how big or small the outdoor space.

I checked in with two plant experts, Nadia Hassani, plant author and Penn State Master Gardener, and Tim McSweeney, Food52 design director and backyard farmer extraordinaire, to find out the best starter produce for growing in containers. But first, a couple things to keep in mind:

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A Newbie-Friendly Guide to Starting a Vegetable Garden

Jeni Afuso used to kill her houseplants. “For years, I thought I had a black thumb,” the Los Angeles-based food photographer told me over the phone. Turns out, she was wrong. Frustrated by the lack of regularity of certain kitchen staples at her market…

Jeni Afuso used to kill her houseplants. “For years, I thought I had a black thumb,” the Los Angeles-based food photographer told me over the phone. Turns out, she was wrong. Frustrated by the lack of regularity of certain kitchen staples at her market, the abundance of plastic used to wrap the ingredients she did buy on a regular basis, and the money she was spending on them, Afuso decided to start her own outdoor edible garden—previous failures be damned.

In a certain way, it’s no surprise things went better than expected. Gardening is in her blood. Her great-grandfather emigrated from Okinawa to Maui and ended up, as many Japanese immigrants did, working in the sugarcane fields. Her grandfather, who moved the whole family from Hawaii to Los Angeles in the mid-’50s, had his own gardening and landscaping business in the Valley. Her parents, though not professionals, grew food in their backyard. “I don’t remember my mom or dad ever buying green onions,” she says.

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Classic Wedge Salad

There’s something about the wedge salad that satisfies every time! This recipe breaks down all the elements of this classic side dish. Classic is classic for a reason, and the classic wedge salad does not disappoint. Every time we serve it, people ooo and ahh. Because it really is perfection: the crunch of iceberg lettuce against the creamy, savory blue cheese dressing just makes sense. Not to mention it looks stunning! There’s a reason this salad has been impressing us all for 100 years. It’s our favorite to serve with a grilled dinner or sheet pan salmon and asparagus. How do we make it? Here are all the classic elements: and of course, we’ve put our spin on it. What’s in a wedge salad? The first recipe for an iceberg lettuce wedge salad was printed in 1916 in the book Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes by Marion Harris Neil. It was called “Lettuce Salad with Roquefort Dressing” and calls for smothering lettuce hearts with a creamy blue cheese dressing and hard boiled egg whites cut into rings. Not quite what the salad looks like today! In the 1950’s, the wedge salad took on the blue cheese crumbles and bacon […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

There’s something about the wedge salad that satisfies every time! This recipe breaks down all the elements of this classic side dish.

Wedge salad

Classic is classic for a reason, and the classic wedge salad does not disappoint. Every time we serve it, people ooo and ahh. Because it really is perfection: the crunch of iceberg lettuce against the creamy, savory blue cheese dressing just makes sense. Not to mention it looks stunning! There’s a reason this salad has been impressing us all for 100 years. It’s our favorite to serve with a grilled dinner or sheet pan salmon and asparagus. How do we make it? Here are all the classic elements: and of course, we’ve put our spin on it.

What’s in a wedge salad?

The first recipe for an iceberg lettuce wedge salad was printed in 1916 in the book Salads, Sandwiches and Chafing Dish Recipes by Marion Harris Neil. It was called “Lettuce Salad with Roquefort Dressing” and calls for smothering lettuce hearts with a creamy blue cheese dressing and hard boiled egg whites cut into rings. Not quite what the salad looks like today!

In the 1950’s, the wedge salad took on the blue cheese crumbles and bacon bits that are traditional in today’s salad. By the 1970’s, it became popular at steakhouses where it still is today. Most restaurants and chefs these days like to put their own creative touches on wedge salads (which we’ll cover below). The basic elements of a classic wedge salad are:

  • Iceberg lettuce
  • Blue cheese dressing
  • Tomatoes
  • Chives
  • Bacon
Wedge salad recipe

Try smoky breadcrumbs in place of bacon!

For our spin on the classic wedge salad, we’ve created an innovation instead of the traditional bacon: smoky bread crumbs! You can use breadcrumbs to add the crunchy element that bacon provides, and season them to add a hint of the smokiness of bacon. It’s a fun way to get creative with your wedge salad (and makes it vegetarian). You’ll simply toast the breadcrumbs in a skillet with olive oil and spices until they’re golden, about 3 minutes. Here are the spices you’ll need:

  • Smoked paprika: Also labeled as pimentón at the grocery store, it’s a smoked version of sweet paprika and adds a hint of smoke to everything it touches. It’s worth seeking out here! (Use leftovers for all these smoked paprika recipes.)
  • Onion powder
  • Garlic powder
  • Salt

A fresh spin on blue cheese dressing

This wedge salad uses our favorite blue cheese dressing recipe: classic with a modern spin! Here are a few of the features of this dressing that makes it a go-to:

  • Uses Greek yogurt! Combining the standard mayonnaise with Greek yogurt helps to reduce the calories but still keeps the deliciously creamy texture.
  • Easy to whisk up. This one takes just a few minutes to make! You’ll mash the blue cheese crumbles with a bit of vinegar, then mix it together with the yogurt, mayo and spices.
Wedge salad

Don’t like blue cheese? A few options

Blue cheese is a strong flavor, and we know several people in our immediate circle who aren’t fans. You too? You can mix things up in the wedge salad and use a different salad dressing. Then top with feta cheese crumbles! Here are a few ideas for alternate dressings:

  • Ranch dressing: Try our best Ranch Dressing! It also uses Greek yogurt. You can even add a little smoked paprika to make Smoky Ranch.
  • Feta dressing: Simply make the blue cheese dressing below but use feta cheese instead of blue cheese.
  • Thousand island: Who doesn’t love Thousand Island? It’s not classic for a wedge salad, but still tasty!
Wedge salad

Cutting the wedges in wedge salad

Last up: there are a few things to note when you cut an iceberg head for your wedge salad! Here are a few notes and things to look for:

  • Look for a small to medium iceberg head. Some iceberg lettuce heads you can find at the store are massive! Small to medium makes the best wedge.
  • Remove the outer leaves first. The outer leaves can be dirty and sometimes are damaged. Pull them all off first!
  • Cut into 4 for a small head or 6 for large. If all you can find is a very large iceberg head, you can cut it into 6 wedges. This will make it more manageable on a plate!

Mains to pair with wedge salad…it’s totally versatile!

The classic wedge salad is one of the most versatile salads we know. It goes with nearly anything. Here are some our favorite ways to pair it with a meal…that’s not steak:

More classic salads

Love the wedge? You’ll love these super classic salads too:

This wedge salad recipe is…

Vegetarian and gluten-free.

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Wedge salad

Classic Wedge Salad


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 15 minutes
  • Cook Time: 0 minutes
  • Total Time: 15 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Diet: Vegetarian

Description

There’s something about that classic wedge salad recipe! Crisp iceberg and creamy blue cheese dressing is a match made in heaven.


Ingredients

For the salad

  • 1 recipe Blue Cheese Dressing*
  • 1 small head iceberg lettuce
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered (or 4 sundried tomatoes, chopped)
  • 2 chives, thinly sliced
  • 3 tablespoons blue cheese crumbles
  • Smoky breadcrumbs, for the garnish (1 handful crushed potato chips or crumbled bacon)

For the smoky breadcrumbs

  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1/2 cup panko (or homemade breadcrumbs)
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon each onion powder and garlic powder
  • 1/4 heaping teaspoon kosher salt

Instructions

  1. Make the Blue Cheese Dressing
  2. Make the smoky breadcrumbs, if using: Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. In a small bowl, mix the panko with the smoked paprika, onion powder, garlic powder and kosher salt. Add them to the skillet and toast, stirring frequently, until golden and crisp, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a bowl. 
  3. Remove the outer leaves of the iceberg head, then slice it into wedges (4 for a small head, 6 for a large head). Prep the chives and tomatoes.
  4. To serve. place a wedge on a plate. Top with dressing, tomatoes, chives, blue cheese crumbles, and smoky breadcrumbs. Serve immediately. 

Notes

*Not a blue cheese lover? Make our Ranch Dressing and add 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika for a smoky flair. Then top with crumbled feta cheese. 

  • Category: Side dish
  • Method: Raw
  • Cuisine: Salad

Keywords: Wedge salad, wedge salad recipe

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

OK, I’ll Bite: What Are Ramps?

If you see a crowd gathering around a stall at your local farmers market any time between mid-April and early June, odds are you’ve stumbled across someone selling ramps. Let me tell you, nothing gets people who know and love ramps more excited than se…

If you see a crowd gathering around a stall at your local farmers market any time between mid-April and early June, odds are you’ve stumbled across someone selling ramps. Let me tell you, nothing gets people who know and love ramps more excited than seeing those first green leaves on a warm spring morning. Of course, by appearance alone, they’re simply yet another plant in a sea of green at the market. So, what’s all the fuss about? What are ramps?

What Are Ramps, Anyway?

Ramps (allium tricoccum), sometimes referred to as wild leeks or wild garlic, are technically a wild onion that grow most abundantly in the eastern and central U.S. and Canada (though you can find them showing their verdant heads in a couple other southern and western American states). Ramp patches typically begin to sprout in wooded areas around early April, and last until May or early June.

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Salmon and Asparagus Sheet Pan Meal

This baked salmon and asparagus recipe is the definition of easy dinner! Throw it all on a sheet pan with lemon, and the flavor is unreal. We’ve got a new solution to an easy dinner that pleases everyone: this baked salmon and asparagus recipe! It’s simple, it’s elegant, but it tastes like something you’d order at a restaurant. Roasting it up on a sheet pan with lemon slices and fresh herbs adds effortless flavor that feels fresh yet refined. Somehow in all our years of home cooking we’d never made a sheet pan meal exactly like this…and now it’s solidly in our repertoire! Alex and I made it for a healthy weeknight dinner on the patio with a wedge salad and it was perfection. Important: thin asparagus is key! Here’s a tip for working with asparagus: buy thin asparagus if you can find it! Thin, young asparagus spears are much more tender and tastier than large stalks, which can be very tough. When you roast thin asparagus, it comes out sweet and beautifully cooked! We were able to find some very thin bunches at our local grocery store, and after this recipe we decided to always look for thin asparagus. […]

A Couple Cooks – Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes

This baked salmon and asparagus recipe is the definition of easy dinner! Throw it all on a sheet pan with lemon, and the flavor is unreal.

Salmon and asparagus

We’ve got a new solution to an easy dinner that pleases everyone: this baked salmon and asparagus recipe! It’s simple, it’s elegant, but it tastes like something you’d order at a restaurant. Roasting it up on a sheet pan with lemon slices and fresh herbs adds effortless flavor that feels fresh yet refined. Somehow in all our years of home cooking we’d never made a sheet pan meal exactly like this…and now it’s solidly in our repertoire! Alex and I made it for a healthy weeknight dinner on the patio with a wedge salad and it was perfection.

Important: thin asparagus is key!

Here’s a tip for working with asparagus: buy thin asparagus if you can find it! Thin, young asparagus spears are much more tender and tastier than large stalks, which can be very tough. When you roast thin asparagus, it comes out sweet and beautifully cooked! We were able to find some very thin bunches at our local grocery store, and after this recipe we decided to always look for thin asparagus. It tastes so much better!

Another tip for working with asparagus: always trim off the tough, woody bottoms of the stalks. Here’s how to trim asparagus…fast!

Salmon and asparagus recipe

What to look for when buying salmon

The other important part of this salmon and asparagus recipe is the quality of the salmon! There’s a wide variety of salmon quality at the store (vs shrimp, which has less variation). Here’s what to look for when shopping for this sheet pan meal:

  • Fresh salmon is best. You can find decent frozen salmon. But for the very best salmon, buy it fresh from your local seafood counter.
  • Buy wild caught salmon. Wild caught is the way to go! It’s most sustainable and has the best flavor.
  • Coho is a good choice. We tend to like Coho salmon for its mild flavor: it’s a good middle of the road option in terms of price. Of course, King salmon is incredible but more of a splurge. Atlantic salmon is typically farmed salmon, so it’s a less desirable choice.

How to tell when salmon is done

The only difficult part about cooking salmon? How to tell when it’s done! For this salmon and asparagus recipe you’ll be cooking both at the same time. The asparagus should cook in about the same time as the salmon here, but you should base the timing on the salmon itself. Here’s what to know about how tell to know when salmon is done:

  • Use a food thermometer to measure 125 to 130 degrees Fahrenheit, making sure to measure at the thickest part of the fish. This is the most accurate way to assess doneness and results in medium salmon.
  • Or, cook until the salmon just starts to flake when pricked with a fork.
  • Be careful not to overcook. We prefer our salmon cooked to medium: to us, there’s nothing worse than a dry piece of fish. Keep an eye on it and don’t overdo it!
Baked salmon and asparagus

Top with lemon and herbs

The fun part about this salmon and asparagus is the seasoning! Fresh lemon and fresh herbs is simple, but classic. Here’s what to know about adding these seasonings to your sheet pan meal:

  • Place lemon slices on the asparagus, not the salmon! Don’t place the lemon on top of the salmon because it makes the top gooey, not crispy! But it’s perfect right on the asparagus: it infuses the perfect lemon flavor.
  • Use fresh herbs like chives, thyme, mint, basil, or whatever you have on hand! It’s just for a garnish, so you don’t have to measure. But it adds great flavor! We used chives and thyme from our garden.

Sides to serve with salmon and asparagus

How to make this tasty baked salmon and asparagus recipe into a healthy meal? Add a salad and you’re golden! Or add a whole grain to make it filling and satisfying. Here are some easy sides we’d pair with it:

Salmon and asparagus

More sheet pan meals

Everyone loves meals on a sheet pan! Here are a few more we love to make on regular rotation:

This salmon and asparagus recipe is…

Gluten-free, dairy-free, and pescatarian.

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Salmon and asparagus

Salmon and Asparagus (Sheet Pan Meal!)


1 Star2 Stars3 Stars4 Stars5 Stars (5 votes, average: 5.00 out of 5)

  • Author: Sonja Overhiser
  • Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Cook Time: 10 minutes
  • Total Time: 20 minutes
  • Yield: 4
  • Diet: Gluten Free

Description

This baked salmon and asparagus recipe is the definition of easy dinner! Throw it all on a sheet pan with lemon, and the flavor is unreal.


Ingredients

  • 1 pound thin asparagus
  • 1 pound salmon, wild caught if possible
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Lemon
  • Minced fresh herbs (like chives, mint or thyme), for garnish

Instructions

  1. Allow salmon to come to room temperature.
  2. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with foil.
  3. Trim the asparagus. Place it on the baking sheet and toss it with 2 tablespoon olive oil (this also oils the foil). Sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper.
  4. Pat the salmon dry and place it on the foil. Drizzle it with 1 teaspoon olive oil. Sprinkle the salmon with 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt and fresh ground black pepper. Place asparagus around the salmon. Slice the lemon into wheels and place them on top of the asparagus (but not the salmon). Squeeze juice from the two ends of the lemon onto the tray. Then add the chopped fresh herbs on top of everything. 
  5. Bake 9 to 12 minutes until the salmon is just tender and pink at the center (the internal temperature should be between 125 to 130F in the center for done, or 10 degrees less if you’re broiling). 
  • Category: Main dish
  • Method: Baked
  • Cuisine: Seafood

Keywords: Salmon and asparagus

A Couple Cooks - Healthy, Whole Food, & Vegetarian Recipes