Posts filed under ‘summer’

Lemon-Zucchini Salad

Everything good is in season right now, and I have a barbecue to attend this afternoon. So: Farmers’ market for produce, and a big batch of Lemon Zucchini Salad with Tomatoes and Sweet Corn, a fabulously flavorful – and easy! – summer recipe from Lynne Rosetto Kasper’s always-excellent Splendid Table/Weeknight Kitchen. Think “pasta salad” – only with thinly shaved raw zucchini filling in for the pasta, dressed with lemon, basil and garlicky oil. I got this via email subscription a couple of summers ago, and it never fails to make me – and anyone to whom I feed it – happy.

Lemon Zucchini Salad with Tomatoes and Corn

As Kasper suggests, I added More Stuff: cucumber, Kalamata olives, a little diced red onion. My tomatoes were great big heirlooms, chopped in chunks, and I pan-roasted the sweetcorn till it was browned before adding the garlic, basil and olive oil. For the dressing, I went with a 50-50 Greek yogurt-mayo blend, and another half-lemon’s worth of juice to thin it, with crumbled, herbed feta.

I can hardly wait for the barbecue.

(Am I back to blogging? Maybe … this is the peak time of year for the market, and for my garden … and thus my peak time of year for cooking. And my wonky sense of smell continues to improve, to the point where I can just about cook by taste again. Stay tuned …)

August 3, 2013 at 1:02 pm Leave a comment

Welcome, Willamette Living readers

If you’ve stopped by because you read my crab cake recipe in Willamette Living – welcome! I’d actually forgotten that my friend Kate Rivera – who I first met through this blog, and have since had the pleasure of spending a bit of face-time with – had asked to reprint that particular post, so when she promoted it on Facebook today, I figured I’d better dust off the blog and at least explain why it’s been idle for so long.

Four years ago, after a severe sinus infection, I lost most of my sense of smell, and with it, much of my sense of taste. That hasn’t kept me from continuing to cook and eat good, fresh, local food in season, but it’s taken a good deal of the pleasure out of the experience. I’ve found myself eating things I know I like(d), even when I couldn’t really taste them … or they tasted downright strange.

I won’t bore you with all the ways anosmia (or, more properly, hyposmia) has affected me, but one was the loss of a lot of my confidence as an inventive cook. While I still devise interesting-to-me ways of combining and preparing the bounty of the Willamette Valley farms and our local ocean, I can’t be sure that what tastes good to me will taste good to anyone else. So the blog has languished.

The good news is that, like a number of people with hyposmia, I’m getting my sense of smell back. It’s slow, and it’s quirky – Indian food came back suddenly; lemons come and go, and I still can’t really taste single-malt scotch (*sob*). But I’m hopeful, and if progress continues, I might just fire up the blog again.

Meanwhile, it’s summer, the farmers markets are booming, and I just harvested the first handful of sugar-pod peas and radishes from my little garden. Enjoy the recipes here, and feel free to comment. Happy eating!

June 3, 2013 at 8:34 pm Leave a comment

Sweet corn, the next day

Corn fritters and beefsteak tomatoesWe’ve hit what I think of as the trifecta of harvest-season perfection: Tomatoes, sweet corn and peaches. Lots of other stuff, too, but I could (and at this time of year, often do) live on tomatoes, sweet corn and peaches.

I bought a half-dozen ears of pretty, yellow-and-white sweet corn at the market yesterday for two bucks, and ate two ears, buttered and salted, for dinner, with a sliced beefsteak tomato and a ripe peach for dessert. I went ahead and cooked the extra corn so I’d have leftover corn for one of my favorite savory side dishes, courtesy of good old Joy of Cooking, circa 1964 (the cookbook my mother sent away with me to college). If you love corn, you should try these; they’re quick, easy and really delicious.

Corn Fritters

Ingredients

  • Enough sweet corn to make 1 cup of kernels (2-4 ears, depending on size)
  • 2 eggs
  • 6 Tbsp flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp nutmeg (freshly grated if you’ve got it)
  • 2 Tbsp butter

Method:

Cut the kernels off an ear of fresh or cooked sweet corn into a bowl , and scrape the cob with the back edge of the knife to get all of the germ and the sweet, milky corn juice. (If sweet corn isn’t in season, frozen corn works. “Joy” suggests canned, cream-style corn, but bleah.)  Mash the corn a bit with a wooden spoon or potato masher.

Beat eggs until light and add to corn, along with everything else but the butter.

Melt butter in a medium-hot skillet. Drop big tablespoonfuls of batter into the pan  and cook like pancakes, browning one side and then the other.

Eat hot. (“Joy” suggests topping with maple syrup, but I like these as savory side dishes, or by themselves – even reheated in the toaster-oven – for lunch). Yummy as is, or experiment with additives – I’ve made them with minced garlic and hot peppers, for a spicy version, and with  a little grated cheddar, parmesan  or gruyere mixed in.

Makes 6-8 fritters.

Note for the gluten-intolerant, such as my sister: I think this would work great with the same proportion of whatever gluten-free flour you prefer, or even with gf pancake mix (omit the baking powder).

August 28, 2011 at 6:28 pm Leave a comment

Making things up: Menus as inspiration

Seared tuna and watermelon saladOur little farmers’ market is getting more sophisticated by the month. One of the latest, and most welcomed additions: Brandywine Fisheries, a family fishing operation out of Charleston, trucking caught-the-day-before fish inland to satisfy my seafood cravings when I can’t make it to the coast.

Yesterday, they had whole albacore tuna loins for $7 a pound, which is an astonishingly good price. Could I resist? No, I could not.

Ever since my trip to New Orleans last fall, I’ve been day-dreaming about the fabulous meal I had at The Green Goddess – and all the  enticing things on their menu that I didn’t have a chance to try.  One, in particular, keeps coming back to haunt me: a dish of seared tuna and diced watermelon, of all things, called Tumblin’ Dice.  Now, I don’t have access to the more esoteric ingredients – fennel pollen, for instance. But the basic concept, pairing warm, barely cooked tuna with cool watermelon, sounded like a fantastic high-summer meal.

Having acquired the tuna, I hit the supermarket and picked up a small, sweet seedless watermelon. After pondering flavor combinations, I came up with this. Call it a Pacific Rim tribute to a great New Orleans restaurant.

Seared Tuna and Watermelon Salad

(Inspired by The Green Goddess)

Ingredients

  • Fresh (or shipboard-frozen and thawed) tuna loin
  • 1/2 cup lime juice
  • 2 Tbsp sesame oil
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 Tbsp fresh ginger, minced
  • dried hot chili peppers, crushed (I used two fiery little Thai chiles)
  • Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 Tbsp sesame seeds.
  • Seedless watermelon,  rind removed, cut into cubes*
  • Sea salt
  • Tender greens of your choice (I used baby lettuce and chives from my garden)
  • Pickled sushi ginger
  • Wasabi mayonnaise (mix prepared wasabi into store-bought mayonnaise at a strength that suits your tastes).

Preparation

In a large resealable bag, combine lime juice, sesame oil, garlic, ginger, chiles and black pepper. Add the tuna loin, seal bag and turn several times to coat the fish with the marinade. Marinate in the refrigerator for an hour or more.

When dinner time rolls around, prepare watermelon by cutting it in inch-thick slices, removing rind and cutting the slices into cubes. Place melon cubes in the fridge (or freezer!) while you prepare the fish.

Remove tuna from refrigerator and drain off marinade. Sprinkle sesame seeds in a plate, and roll the tuna loin in the to coat well.

Heat a large, heavy skillet on high until a drop of water sprinkled onto the surface sizzles and dances.

Using tongs, place the tuna in the skillet (you may want to cut it in half to make it fit) and sear each side for about a minute, if you like your fish, as I do, cooked on the outside but pink and rare-to-raw inside. Feel free to cook it longer if you prefer, although it won’t be as luscious.

When fish is cooked to your taste, transfer to a cutting board. Remove melon cubes from freezer and pile on plates. Sprinkle lightly with salt. Cut inch-thick slices off the tuna, and  arrange atop the melon, garnish with greens. Serve *now*, with wasabi mayo and pickled ginger.

Depending on the size of the fish, a whole tuna loin can easily serve 4-6 people. If you wind up with leftovers, as I do, the best bet is to wrap it in foil, pop it in a 350F oven and let it cook through (it should only take 15-20 minutes), then refrigerate. Me, I’m going to be taking fabulous tuna sandwiches and fresh watermelon cubes to work for lunch this week. (-:

Quick links:

July 31, 2011 at 5:41 pm Leave a comment

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

Ripening tomatoesI haven’t quite reached the point where I have so many ripe tomatoes that I need to start cooking them, or to where I’m bored with the basics (BLTs!), but I’m getting 3-4 ripe ones a day out of my modest garden, and I know some of you have a lot more.

So here’s a quick rundown on some great things to do with “excess” tomatoes while they’re ripe and ready to eat. I’m going to link to other people’s recipes, because (a) I’m feeling lazy and (b) it’s almost time for dinner, which will include a helping of …

Tuscan Bread Salad. This is a late-summer staple at my house, and it’s not bad in the winter made with good-quality canned tomatoes, well-drained. There are lots of variations on the recipe, many of which call for soaking the bread till it gets mooshy. I prefer it this way, sometimes substituting balsamic vinegar for red-wine vinegar and I like to use rustic whole-grain bread. Add some chopped cucumber if you like, or even canned tuna to make the dish a meal. Fast, easy and absolutely delicious.

Roasted Vegetable Ratatouille – Classic ratatouille is a vegetable stew; I prefer this version, which roasts the vegetables and then combines them in a rich, smoky-sweet dish. The tomatoes and eggplant are central; everything else is optional, and you can experiment with adding mushrooms, pearl onions and other seasonal veggies.

Grilled Heirloom Tomato and Mozarella Sandwiches with Green Tomato Gazpacho – I stumbled onto this a while back and it’s a great new harvest-season take on good old grilled cheese and tomato soup. Make one, the other or both, depending on how many tomatoes you’re blessed with.

And then there’s the Easiest Pasta Dish in the World: Chop up some room-temperature tomatoes. Add fresh basil, a little salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the pasta of your choice and top with tomatoes. Cheese is optional.

September 12, 2010 at 5:19 pm Leave a comment

Harvest dinner: Fasolakia

FasoulakiaHarvest season is in full swing, and the only thing better than having my own garden right now is knowing other gardeners who planted things I didn’t get around to planting this year. Because it seems like all of us overestimated something, and food-swapping is happening all over the place. Last week I offloaded a bunch of cherry tomatoes and a half-dozen lemon cucumbers on some friends at work, and picked up a nice zucchini someone had left in the break room.

I love green beans, but my garden isn’t laid out well for growing them. The border along the backyard fence which once made a nice spot for pole beans is now fully occupied by raspberries (poor me). So it was great to hear that my friends Debra and Gary had too many green beans. I swung by their place on the way to run errands this morning, and they weren’t home to thank, but they’d left a nice big bag of them on the porch for me.

And I have tomatoes, finally. Quite a few tomatoes, in fact, having got through an early scare with blossom-end rot by side-dressing the plants with lime and keeping to a regular watering schedule.

In my kitchen, the coincidence of fresh green beans and ripe tomatoes  means one thing: Fasolakia.

This Greek dish is so easy – and so flavorful – that I can’t let a harvest season go by without making big pots of it. I always mean it as a side dish; I always eat the first big bowl all by itself.

Here’s my recipe, such as it is. It’s endlessly adaptable and forgiving, and you can adjust it to your tastes – or your harvest. Diced potatoes are traditional, some people like to add summer squash, and I change up the herbs depending on what’s thriving in my garden at the time. Heck, you can make it in the middle of winter with frozen green beans and canned tomatoes if you like. But try it with fresh, while the season is high. Trust me on this.

Fasoulakia

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • One medium onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 pound of fresh green beans (or more, or less), stringed if they need it, cut into bite-sized lengths
  • Minced garlic (you know how much you like. I use at least 3-4 big cloves)
  • 1 pound of ripe tomatoes, cut in chunks. If you want it to look prettier, I suppose you could peel them (dip the fruit briefly in boiling water and the skins will come right off), but the skins add a lot of flavor and good nutrients.
  • A big handful of fresh Italian parsley, chopped
  • A generous amount of oregano and thyme. Dried is OK. Fresh – at least a tablespoon of each, minced – is better. If you prefer other herbs – basil, for instance – go for it.
  • Generous grinding of black pepper

Method

Pour some olive oil into a large, heavy-bottomed skillet – enough to coat the bottom; more if you like (the traditional Greek recipe often calls for up to a cup of oil!). Heat to medium and toss in the onions, cooking until they begin to soften.

Add the green beans and garlic; stir to coat with oil and cook for 10  minutes to give them a head start.

Add remaining ingredients, bring it all to a boil, and then lower the heat and simmer away, stirring occasionally. After about 20 minutes total cooking time, check beans for tenderness; continue cooking until they’re quite soft but not mushy. (Note that the traditional Greek dish, which uses much more olive oil and often substitutes canned tomatoes or tomato puree for fresh, turns out quite soupy; this doesn’t, but the flavors are startlingly good).

Serve hot or lukewarm – or even chilled (that’s how I usually eat the leftovers). Great with grilled lamb, pork or sausages or all by itself. Got vegans to feed? Feed them this!

How many does it serve? That depends on whether you’re serving it as a side dish or main course, but this amount could satisfy 3-4 people – or 2 really hungry ones – eaten all by itself.

August 28, 2010 at 7:15 pm 1 comment

Hot weather food

Sesame crusted albacoreThe temperature here hit somewhere between 100 and 102 today, depending on which weather site you believe. All I know is it was hot enough to keep me indoors all day, half wishing I hadn’t set that lovely piece of Pacific albacore to thaw in the fridge last night, because I could just as easily have dined on salad and fresh blueberries.

But thawed it was. I’d originally planned to grill it, but by dinner time it was still too hot to mess with charcoal. So I chose a recipe that requires no thought, virtually no prep and under five minutes at the stove.

If you’ve never tried tuna rare, you should. Tender and meaty, hot on the outside and meltingly warm at the core, it’s absolutely delicious. The trick is getting the best possible tuna, and that’s not hard to do in Oregon. Albacore season runs from April through October, and modern fishing practices include shipboard freezing that results in fish that’s “fresher” than much of what’s sold as fresh in the supermarket.

If you’re worried about mercury in tuna, troll-caught albacore is a good choice. Troll-caught fisher are much smaller – and younger – than the large fish that typically go into canned tuna, and thus have had less time to absorb mercury; tests have shown that troll-caught fish are low in this toxic compound.

Pan-seared, sesame-crusted tuna

Ingredients:

  • Thick albacore or ahi tuna steaks, fresh or thawed
  • 2 Tbsp oil
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 1 Tbps black sesame seeds
  • 1 Tbps white sesame seeds

Method

Place the tuna steaks in a plastic bag with 1 Tbsp oil and the lime juice; seal bag and turn several times to coat the fish.

Mix sesame seeds in a shallow bowl or saucer

Heat the remaining 1 Tbsp oil in a skillet or grill pan over medium heat.

Remove tuna from bag and press into the sesame seeds, covering all sides

Cook in skillet for a scant 2 minutes per side. Fish will be rare and pink in the middle; you can cook it longer if you prefer your fish done through, but it won’t be as good.

Serve with a dollop of wasabi mayonnaise and a light salad. Mine was a mix of locally grown lettuce and arugula topped with heirloom tomatoes and sliced, grilled miniature eggplants from my garden, dressed with nothing more than a little sea salt and freshly ground pepper. Fantastic, and almost effortless.

August 14, 2010 at 7:03 pm Leave a comment

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