Caramelized + Roasted Eggplant Hummus with Parsley

Caramelized + Roasted Eggplant Hummus | @withfoodandlove.com

Last week there was a lightness to the air. I could’ve sworn I felt the fall mingling about. A cool breeze starting in the late afternoon, gently swooping its way over the Missouri plains and into my home. Whatever that was though, it didn’t hang around for long. It left just as quickly as it came in, and St. Louis is really hot right now. Heavy, and humid. It’s that Midwest summer everyone warned me of – the one I refused to believe in.

While I’m definitely ready for the change of seasons, I remind remind myself to stay present in this moment. Am I a crazy person for not wanting to post pumpkin and apple and fall spiced/cozy recipes right now? Back-to-school trends and easy weeknight meals? I mean, what is happening all over the internet? I get it, we’re always looking to the next thing – potentially, assumingly the next best thing. But you guys! My garden and the markets around me are still overflowing with an abundance of late-summer produce. There’s a tomato party in my backyard, it’s the peak of tomato season! I’m collecting big beautiful bowls of ripe, yellow, sweet as the sun pear tomatoes every morning, and LOVING IT! Eggplant and peppers plants, still going strong.

So here we are craving fall, a seasonal switch-up. But it’s nearly 100 degrees, and we’re all just thinking how the hell is it September already? My summer {so far} has felt chaotic. With plenty of good stuffs, bad stuffs, and in-betweens. As a human I deeply identify with water. Living near it, preferably in a coastal region. Swimming in it, earthing in it, and gazing at it – especially in the summertime. Water feels sparse here in St. Louis. I hear there is some nearby, but it certainly doesn’t feel like home, or feel like the summers I’m used to. It’s an ambiguous feeling, like a craving for nostalgia or contentment, not to be confused with happiness or gratitude. I wholeheartedly wish there was a word for it. I’m still adjusting to life here in the middle of the country. And I will continue to use this space as a place to work through these emotions. Thank you for coming back each week to read my ramblings, and hang with me here.

Caramelized + Roasted Eggplant Hummus | @withfoodandlove.com

Caramelized + Roasted Eggplant Hummus | @withfoodandlove.com

Caramelized + Roasted Eggplant Hummus | @withfoodandlove.com

I probably only got through like half of my summer bucket list. Well actually, I prefer to refer to it as moving my priorities around. But! Even with all those ambivalent feelings about my first Midwestern summer – it wasn’t so bad.

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Modern Mai Tai with Hibiscus + Thyme + a #DRINKTHESUMMER recap!

Modern Mai Tai with Hibiscus + Thyme | @withfoodandlove

For many reasons, but especially because it’s Friday and still very much the summertime – I thought I’d bring you guys something fun to sip on over the weekend. And, pretend like it’s still the middle of July. It’s a fresh take on a classic cocktail, with some updated coolness and inspired flavors.

I call it the Modern Mai Tai. Pumped full of fresh pineapple juice, your favorite rum, and some honey-sweetened, thyme infused hibiscus tea. Definitely no gross liquors or sugary syrups or artificial colors. Just clean, good old real-food ingredients. And, booze.

I’m light on the words today, so feel free to skip down to the bottom for the recipe, or read on for a recap of last week’s #DRINKTHESUMMER party!

Modern Mai Tai with Hibiscus + Thyme | @withfoodandlove

Modern Mai Tai with Hibiscus + Thyme | @withfoodandlove

Modern Mai Tai with Hibiscus + Thyme | @withfoodandlove

#DRINKTHESUMMER was a smashing success! And Renee and I were incredibly honored to have so many wonderful people/talented bloggers come together, all in the name of love and late summer produce and high-vibe cocktails. The internet can be a lonely place sometimes, and as a food blogger you spend a lot {like a lot} of your time behind a screen. So it was a really fun way for us to mix up the monotony and support one another. So, thanks for hanging everyone.

p.s. We want to make this an annual thing, open to EVERYONE {with a blog}! So if you want to participate in #DRINKTHESUMMER next year, fill out this form and we’ll totally put you on the list.

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Late Summer Ratatouille + Ratatouille Stuffed Peppers for pure green magazine!

Ratatouille Stuffed Peppers | @withfoodandlove

This week has been super challenging, with lots of emotions. Unexpected twists and turns, and disappointments. Emotions floating from high to low and back to low, and even lower than low again. Feeling downright frustrated. Misunderstood, angry. Looping thoughts of made up conversations of how-dare-yous and what the hell were you thinking? Saying? Lots of whys. Lots of wtfs.

It’s been a lot. Thank you for letting me vent that. I can push through now.

I’ve been trying to spend as much time in my backyard as possible. Weeding my garden. Letting go, physically and emotionally, of the six beautiful, wildly crazy genovese basil plants that were destroyed by a light dusting of downy mildew. The weather has been sunny and mild here. There’s been zero humidity. A calming break from that hot, sticky, heavy Midwestern summer air.  Light air, warm breezes. Not quite fall, but getting there and I’m okay with that. A change of seasons will be nice.

I remind myself, life is good.

Late Summer Ratatouille | @withfoodandlove

Vegan Parm | @withfoodandlove

Ratatouille Stuffed Peppers | @withfoodandlove

Today I have a fun little collab going with Pure Green Magazine. I was first introduced to these fine people last summer when my friends Laura, Lindsey and Claire were their first community leaders for the #PGMinseason campaign. A hashtag driven project dedicated to eating local and seasonal fare. And, I really appreciated its mission, and the sisterhood {of sorts} it’d fostered.

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Fresh Heirloom Bloody Marys with Old Bay + Spicy Pickles for #drinkthesummer!

Fresh Heirloom Bloody Marys with Old Bay and Spicy Pickles | @withfoodandlove

The past week has been one great big whirlwind. One I’d been dreaming about all summer long. Finally, I had a chance to visit my friends, my family, and the place I call home, upstate New York. It was awesome to be near the water again, something I crave and miss all the time in the Midwest. There was a lot of FOOD, and fun, and markets, and plenty of quality time with the people I love most. Also, I turned THIRTY-TWO!!! My nana made me meatballs, and when she makes you meatballs you eat them. And then I visited my grandma, and she baked me a {gluten-free} CAKE, with sprinkles and store bought icing, exactly the way I like it. She is the cutest!

Today, I’m heading back to the middle of the country. To see my husband and my cat, who both probably really need me to be home. And to my garden, that definitely needs me to be home because it’s literally bursting with ripe tomatoes, and eggplants, and peppers. And I can’t believe I’M NOT there to pick them right now!!! I’ve waited so long for this. This afternoon is going to be one heck of a harvest. New, end of summer recipes – COMING YOUR WAY!

Heirloom Tomatoes | @withfoodandlove

Fresh Heirloom Bloody Marys with Old Bay and Spicy Pickles | @withfoodandlove

Heirloom Tomatoes | @withfoodandlove

At the beginning of the summer, my friend Renee {who if you aren’t familiar with her work, go check it out now, soooo dreamy!} and I dreamt up a little party to celebrate the year’s finest produce. The late summer bounty. Rich with stone fruits and garden veg and herbs and residual berries. We invited all of our closest blogging friends. And #DRINKTHESUMMER was born.

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Detox Summer Slaw with Peaches + Parsley + scenes from overlook farm!

Detox Summer Slaw | @withfoodandlove

I love my garden. I love nurturing it and caring for it, and giving it the love and attention it requires. I like to visit it multiple times a day, always with the hope that something drastic probably happened, even though it never does. I like to prune my tomato plants, I’m probably borderline obsessive about this. Pulling weeds, and getting dirt under my fingernails – it therapeutic. There’s nothing more satisfying than eating something you’ve cared for since it was a seed. But gardening, it’s wicked hard.

I was prepared for the hard work, but I wasn’t really ready for the failures. Which seem to be more prevalent than success this first go around. I’ve always had an appreciation for where my food comes from, but now more than ever, I totally get it. And anyone who does this for a living is a freaking saint. Including the staff making it all happen at Overlook Farm. Last week I traveled about 60 miles just north of St. Louis to stay on their property and learn a little bit more about what they do. The farm is positioned in the heart of the Mississippi River Valley, spanning 327 of the greenest, most fertile land I’ve ever seen. The brains behind this carefully curated operation is Nathalie Pettus, a petite and energetic native Missourian, who had us jumping fences and hiking up to vantage points where it seemed like we could see the entire Mississippi. She exudes passion and drive, and it was an honor to spend the day with her touring about the property.

Overlook Farm | @withfoodandlove

Overlook Farm | @withfoodandlove

Overlook Farm | @withfoodandlove

Overlook Farm | @withfoodandlove

Overlook Farm is truly the epitome of farm-to-table. Operating year round supplying the produce, and fresh meat and fish to their Courtyard restaurant located on the farm, and to their city restaurant, Nathalie’s, located in the Central West End area of St. Louis. Beyond their 26 hoop houses, 5 greenhouses and sustainable tilapia farm, the property is home to four inns. Including Cedarcrest Manor the oldest inn in the state of Missouri, where Chris and I stayed and lounged by the pool and drank rosé in the secret garden. This place is pretty magical, and I’d highly recommend a trip to Overlook Farm for the night, for the weekend, for your wedding? Yeah they do that there too.

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Chilled Cream of Basil Soup with a Corn + Cucumber Salad

Chilled Cream of Basil Soup with a Corn + Cucumber Salad | @withfoodandlove

I really don’t mind cooking when it’s hot outside. I actually love to cook in the summertime, and I know this makes me a crazy person. My love for cooking in July started long before I had central air conditioning here in St. Louis. When I lived in Philly, I’d crank my oven so high I swear my tiny apartment was about to burst into flames.There’s something about the produce in the heat of the summer that inspires me on a primal level. The colors. The textures. The plentiful bounty at the market, in my CSA box and {now} in my garden. I think we probably all feel the same way, like we can never get enough of the summer veg.

We become vegetable hoarders. We covet them. And we literally fight people {or squirrels} for them until they run out. Often I’m drawn to roasting them. Eggplants, tomatoes, zucchini. I pop tray after tray of them into the oven. Keeping it simple, all with just a little sea salt and a splash of olive oil and whole garlic cloves right in their skins. The flavors deepen, the notes soften, and everything tastes the perfect amount of sweet. I don’t know why. It doesn’t matter the season, or temperature outside. Roasted food always tastes the best to me.

Chilled Cream of Basil Soup with a Corn + Cucumber Salad | @withfoodandlove

Corn + Cucumber Salad | @withfoodandlove

Chilled Cream of Basil Soup | @withfoodandlove

Chilled Cream of Basil Soup with a Corn + Cucumber Salad | @withfoodandlove

And even though eating trays of roasted summery veg isn’t too heavy, there are still some summer days when all I want to eat is raw, lighter foods. Like smoothie bowls for breakfast, salads for lunch and raw soups, like this one for dinner. This cream of basil soup is totally raw and vegan and naturally gluten-free and requires practically no work at all to throw together. It has a smooth finish and it’s herby in spirit. But please don’t miss the corn and cucumber salad, it totally makes the dish and rounds out all the flavors with a little acid. Also, this soup is perfect thing to make with the abundance of basil I have right now. I seriously have, so, much, basil.

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Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette

Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

This week I harvested my first vegetables. Hungarian hot peppers, and folks, I have a lot of them. Somehow through the process of growing all of my vegetables from seed, caring for the seedlings indoors, potting them up, hardening them off outdoors, and finally transplanting them into their forever homes – I’ve made a big mistake. I have seven hot pepper plants, and sadly, zero bell peppers.

I had planned to put in two hot pepper plants and a variety of heirloom bell pepper plants, but somewhere along the process I must have mislabeled my seedlings. And in went just Hungarian hots. Umm I’m a moron, HA! But also, I was actually pretty bummed when I realized what I did. I just had such big dreams for my sweet peppers! But I guess hot peppers need some love too. So I hope you guys are down with spicy food.

What do you do with your hot pepper harvests?

Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

Cabbage Wedges with Corn + an Herby Spicy Zesty Vinaigrette | @withfoodandlove

I’m thinking a lot of preserving and pickling and lacto-fermenting will happen. Also a lot of roasting and whizzing into dressings like this herby spicy zesty one. I got the idea of adding a roasted hot pepper into my sauces, and vinaigrettes from Sara and her roasted jalapeno dressing she posted a while back. I’ll be making big batches of it all summer long. It’s the perfect amount of heat and brightness and tang. It’s great on this roasted cabbage, and it’s fantastic as a dressing on grain bowls, pasta salad and grilled vegetables.

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