New Ways to Top Your Hot Dogs This Summer

Here’s how to make the best hot dog toppings happen:

1. Spice up classic condiments

Old Bay Mayo: Stir 2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice and 1 tsp. Old Bay seasoning into 1/2 cup mayonnaise; adjust to taste.

Harissa Ketchup: Stir 1 tsp. harissa paste into 1/2 cup ketchup; adjust to taste.

Maple Mustard: Stir 1/4 cup maple syrup into 1/4 cup Dijon mustard; adjust to taste.

Chipotle BBQ Sauce: De-seed and mince 1 canned chipotle in adobo, stir into 1/2 cup barbecue sauce; adjust to taste.

2. Grill your toppings

Onions: Slice 2 red or yellow (or a mix of both) medium onions into thick rounds and grill until charred and soft.

Peppers: Quarter 2 peppers (a mix of bell and/or poblano) and remove seeds. Grill until charred and softened, then thinly slice.

Corn: Grill 2 husked ears of corn until charred, then slice kernels off.

Tomatoes: Thread 1 pint cherry tomatoes on skewers (or use a grill basket) and grill until charred and softened.

3. Add crunch with pickles

Make your own quick pickles—or just jazz up the store-bought kind.

Pickled Carrots: Shave 2 medium carrots into thin ribbons with a vegetable peeler and combine with 1/2 cup white wine vinegar, 1 tsp. kosher salt, and 1 tsp. toasted cumin seeds in a medium bowl. Let sit at least 10 minutes and strain before serving.

Pickled Cabbage: Place 1 cup thinly sliced purple cabbage in a large heatproof container or bowl. Toast 1 Tbsp. caraway seeds in a small pot over medium heat, then add 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1 Tbsp. sugar, and 1 Tbsp. salt and bring to a boil. Pour over cabbage and let sit at least 10 minutes. Strain before serving.

Dill Pickle Relish: Combine 1 cup diced bread and butter pickles and 1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh dill.

Scallion Kimchi: Combine 1/2 cup thinly sliced kimchi and 1/3 cup thinly sliced scallions.

4. Try a Combo

Of course, you can mix and match these toppings any way you like. But here are the combos we couldn’t stop eating in the Epi Test Kitchen.

“The German”: For a bratwurst-inspired dog, layer on Maple MustardPickled Cabbage, and Grilled Onions.

“The Sweet + Smoky”: For a dog that hits all the spicy sweet and smoky spots of your favorite backyard barbecue, layer on Chipotle BBQ SauceSweet Dill Pickle Relish, and Grilled Corn.

“The Garden Dog”: Old Bay Mayo provides a creamy base for tart Pickled Carrots and smoky Grilled Peppers.

“The Fire Starter”: If spice and brine are your beats, mix together Harissa KetchupScallion Kimchi, and Grilled Peppers.

“The Southern Belle”: For a combo that’s even better than your favorite summer succotash, top your dog with Old Bay MayoGrilled Tomatoes, and Grilled Corn.

 

Courtesy of epicurious

Texas Caviar

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This fresh and spicy dip is great for any summertime BBQ or picnic. It’s simple, quick, and almost all the ingredients you can grow in your AeroGarden. So next time someone asks you to bring a side dish to their party, you don’t even need to think twice, this Texas Caviar will have everyone asking for more.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 16-oz cans black-eyed peas, drained and rinsed of all juice
  • 2 16-oz cans corn, drained
  • 1 small jar chopped pimentos, juice included
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced, green part only
  • 1 tablespoon fresh oregano
  • 1 tablespoon Tabasco sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Worchestershire sauce
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3 fresh jalapeño chiles, chopped
  • 1 cup diced cherry tomatos
  • 2 cups vinaigrette
  • 1 green bell pepper, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves fresh garlic, pressed or minced
  • 1 avocado, diced

PREPARATION

  1. In a large bowl, stir all ingredients very well. Refrigerate for at least 4-6 hours, preferably overnight, in a sealed or covered container. Remember the longer it sits, the better it gets!
  2. Serve with old-fashioned saltine crackers or with corn tortilla chips.

Recipe From:  Epicurious

Cilantro Jalapeno Margarita!

Many margs are far too sweet with their added artificial lime flavoring or too much fake sugar. A good margarita should be light, refreshing and fresh. This recipe not only gives homage to an authentic margarita but it has the perfect hint of cilantro and jalapeno for a fresh and spicy kick.

INGREDIENTS

    • 1 lime wedge
    • 1 to 3 thin slices jalapeno (stemmed, seeded, sliced lengthwise)
    • 2 cilantro sprigs
    • 1 1/2 oz. blanco tequila
    • 1 oz. fresh lime juice
    • 1 oz. Countreau
    • 1/2 oz. agave syrup or simple syrup
    • 6 to 10 ice cubes

PREPARATION

  1. Muddle jalapeno and one of the cilantro sprigs. Add the tequila, lime juice, Cointreau, agave, and ice. Cover and shake.
  2. Run the lime wedge around the edge of the rim and dip in salt (or spicy salt.)
  3. Pour and enjoy!

Recipe from Epicurious

German Potato Salad

This potato salad is not only loaded with fresh herbs, but is also vegetarian and vegan friendly. Making this a perfect side dish for any backyard bbq. Try this tasty recipe out with your AeroGarden herbs- dill, chives, and parsley.

 

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 pounds halved small waxy potatoes (have some fun with colorful varieties)
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 teaspoon toasted caraway seeds and toss
  • Salt
  • Pepper

Add as much herbs as you like! Yum.

PREPARATION

  • Cover 2 pounds halved small waxy potatoes with cold salted water, bring to a boil, and cook until tender; drain and transfer to a large bowl.
  • Add olive oil and apple cider vinegar.
  • Add to potatoes along with 4 sliced scallions, 2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, and 1 teaspoon toasted caraway seeds and toss, crushing potatoes slightly; season with salt and pepper.

One way to cut down on prep time is with the Mezzaluna Herb Chopper & Cutting Board. The comfortable grip and rocking motion make quick work of herb preparation. Plus, the Mezzaluna has double blades!

 

 

 

 

Courtesy of Epicurious

Lemon Balm Honeysuckle Cocktail

Cool off with this Lemon Balm cocktail! Make with lemon vodka or white run. Try it with July’s Seed Pod Kit of the Month, Cocktail & Mocktail Herb Blend (25% OFF through July).

Lemon Balm, Lemon Mint, or Mint leaves compliment the lemon and honey in this cocktail.

 

 

Lemon Balm and Mints are pruned in the same method. Watch the video above for help with pruning.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 2 cups lemon vodka or white rum
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1 cup (loosely packed) fresh lemon balm leaves or mint leaves
  • 8 lemon slices

PREPARATION

    • Stir honey and 6 tablespoons hot water in a large pitcher until honey is dissolved. Stir in vodka and lemon juice. Add 2 cups ice cubes. Cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 2 hours.
    • Squeeze lemon balm several times to lightly bruise leaves; add to pitcher. Fill Old Fashioned glasses with ice cubes. Divide cocktail among glasses. Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Makes 8 servings

Courtesy of Epicurious

GRILLED VEGETABLES

Make a deliciously smoky side for a BBQ. Use any combination of flame-kissed veggies, then brush and toss with this easy parsley and basil vinaigrette.

Prune your AeroGarden basil and parsley for the vinaigrette.

How to harvest basil

How to harvest parsley

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed with a garlic press
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and root end trimmed slightly, leaving end intact
  • 1 1/2-pound eggplant, halved crosswise, then cut lengthwise into 1″-thick strips
  • 1 large bell pepper
  • 2 1/2 pound mixed green and yellow zucchini (about 5)
  • 2 plum tomatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh parsley
  • 3 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh basil

Special equipment: Four 12″ skewers, soaked in water for 30 minutes if wooden.

PREPARATION

Prepare grill for direct-heat cooking over hot charcoal (medium-high heat or gas).

Whisk together garlic, herbs, vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper in a large bowl, then set aside 2/3 of vinaigrette for brushing. (set aside some of the chopped parsley and basil).

Halve onion lengthwise and cut halves lengthwise into 1/2″-wide wedges. Thread 1/2″ apart onto skewers (to hold layers together). Brush onion and eggplant with some reserved vinaigrette.

Oil grill rack, then grill pepper with onion and eggplant, covered only if using a gas grill, turning occasionally with tongs, until onion and eggplant are very tender, 6-10 minutes; transfer to a large rimmed baking sheet. Continue to grill pepper, turning it until skin is blackened, 1-2 minutes longer. Put pepper in a deep bowl and cover with a plate, then let stand while grilling remaining vegetables.

Quarter zucchini lengthwise; brush them and tomatoes with reserved vinaigrette. Grill, covered only if using a gas grill, turning tomatoes less frequently than zucchini, until tomatoes are just blistered, about 3 minutes; transfer to baking sheet. Continue to grill zucchini, turning, until just tender, 1-3 minutes longer.

Peel pepper and thinly slice flesh. Cut tomatoes into wedges and chop remaining vegetables. Add to bowl of vinaigrette along with remaining herbs and salt to taste, tossing to coat.

Cooks’ notes: If you aren’t able to grill outdoors, vegetables can be cooked on an oiled 2-burner grill pan over medium-high heat. Vegetables can be made 1 day ahead and chilled. Rewarm before serving.

Makes 4 servings

Courtesy of Epicurious

Tips for Herbs

  • Basil is usually the first seed to sprout and it grows rapidly. Harvest basil
    (and any other fast-growing herbs) to keep them an inch or two below
    the lights, and avoid raising the Light Hood until all other plants are well
    established.
  • Some herbs, such as chives, thyme, and oregano grow slowly and often
    get shaded by faster growing plants. Create space for slow-growing
    plants by pruning surrounding plants with garden shears.

SCALLOPS WITH ASIAN NOODLE SALAD

Fresh and tasty dish to use those herbs you’ve been growing, such as MINT, BASIL, and CILANTRO!

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YIELD
Makes 4 servings

INGREDIENTS

Salad

  • 4 ounces bean thread noodles (cellophane noodles)*
  • 4 ounces snow peas, thinly sliced on diagonal (about 1 1/3 cups)
  • 1 cup bean sprouts
  • 1 cup matchstick-size strips seeded peeled cucumber
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted salted peanuts
  • 2 tablespoons finely shredded carrot
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 1/4 cup Thai fish sauce (nam pla)*
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 teaspoon minced serrano chili
  • 1 teaspoon chili-garlic sauce*

Scallops

  • 1 pound sea scallops
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 shallots, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped lemongrass*
  • 1 large garlic clove, chopped
 PREPARATION

For salad:

  1. Pull noodles apart; place in large bowl. Pour enough boiling water over to cover generously. Soak noodles until tender, stirring occasionally, about 1 hour. Drain; return to same bowl. Cut noodles in half (or in thirds if very long).
  2. Add snow peas, bean sprouts, cucumber, herbs, peanuts, and carrot to noodles and toss to blend. Combine 1/3 cup water and all remaining ingredients in small bowl; whisk to blend. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper. Stir dressing into noodle mixture. Let stand 15 minutes, tossing occasionally.

For scallops:

  1. Sprinkle scallops with sugar, salt, and pepper. Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat. Add shallots, lemongrass, and garlic; stir 1 minute. Add scallops; sauté until just opaque in center, about 3 minutes.
  2. Divide salad among 4 plates; top with scallops and serve.

Available at Asian markets and in the produce section and/or Asian foods section of some supermarkets.

Courtesy of Epicurious

ROASTED CHICKEN THIGHS WITH LEMON AND OREGANO

Want super-crisp chicken without having to add much fat? Start with a room-temperature pan: As the skillet becomes hot, the chicken skin will gradually render its fat, becoming browned and crackling.

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lemon and Oregano / Brian W. Ferry

YIELD
Makes 4 servings
ACTIVE TIME
20 minutes
TOTAL TIME
30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lemon
  • 4 large or 8 small skin-on, boneless chicken thighs
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 teaspoons olive oil, divided
  • 3 sprigs oregano
  • 1 tablespoon minced shallot
  • 1/2 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/8 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine (such as Sauvignon Blanc)
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium chicken broth

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 425°F. Very thinly slice half of lemon; discard any seeds. Cut remaining lemon half into 2 wedges. Season chicken thighs with salt and pepper.
  2. Coat a large room-temperature skillet with 1 teaspoon oil. Add chicken, skin side down. Place skillet over medium heat and cook, letting skin render and brown, and pouring off excess fat to maintain a thin coating in pan, until chicken is cooked halfway through, about 10 minutes.
  3. Scatter half of lemon slices over chicken and half on bottom of skillet (the slices on top of the chicken will soften; those in the skillet will caramelize). Transfer skillet to oven, leaving chicken skin side down. Roast until chicken is cooked through, skin is crisp, and lemon slices on bottom of skillet are caramelized, 6-8 minutes.
  4. Transfer chicken pieces, skin side up, and caramelized lemon slices from bottom of skillet to a warm platter. (Leave softened lemon slices in the skillet.) Return skillet to medium heat. Add oregano sprigs, shallot, garlic, and red pepper flakes; cook, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  5. Remove skillet from heat. Add wine; cook over medium heat until reduced by half, 1-2 minutes. Add broth; cook until thickened, about 3 minutes. Squeeze 1 lemon wedge over and season sauce with salt, pepper, and juice from remaining lemon wedge, if desired. Drizzle with 2 teaspoons oil. Return chicken to skillet, skin side up, to rewarm. Serve topped with caramelized lemon slices.
Per serving: 290 calories, 21 g fat, 1 g fiber

Ask the Expert

 

Question: What’s the best way to prune and harvest an herb garden?

Luke C., Niwot, CO

Answer: Great question.  With proper pruning/harvesting you can increase the yield, health and appearance of your herb garden.  They say a picture is worth a 1000 words, so I created a video to help you out. You can watch it here.

 If you’re not a video person, the tips are summarized here:

  1. Prune early and often, especially fast growing Basil.
  2. Keep your lights as low as possible as long as possible.  This means prune your fast growing tall plants to keep your lights within 4 inches of your smallest plant. 
  3. Prune horizontal growth so that it does not block light to neighboring plants.  See the diagram below. 
  4. Always prune at a leaf joint, a leaf joint is the point of connection of a leaf with the stem from which a bud arises.  See the diagram below.
  5. Never prune more than a 1/3 of the plant at one time.
  6. Pruning the newest growth of Basil plants will create more leaf growth and less stem growth.
  7. To keep your Thyme and Mint plants bushy, remove the pieces that have long stems and few leaves. 
  8. Rotate the pods and put the fullest side of the plants out and the thinner side in towards the center of the garden.
  9. Basil, Mint and Dill are fast growing plants and require more pruning than Thyme, Oregano, Parsley and Dill which are slower growing. 

Check out the video.  You can comment there and send your questions to AskTheExpert@aerogrow.com.

Happy AeroGardening,

Cate

AeroGrow Plant Research and Development Lab

About the Expert.

Cate manages AeroGrow’s 5,000 square foot Plant Research and Development Laboratory in Boulder, CO.  Stop in to see us when you’re in Boulder!  The Grow Lab is where AeroGrow does our formal plant testing and product development.  Cate also grows all the plants for television commercials and time lapse photography.

Cate has grown tens of thousands of plants in AeroGardens and the Ask the Expert blog is her way of sharing that knowledge with other AeroGardeners.

“Ask the Experts” is a “sometimes” weekly blog Please send your questions to asktheexpert@aerogrow.com.