summer food

Arugula Salad with Grapes and Dates

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On the first day of summer, what could be more refreshing than a good salad?

This one is a good fit with grilled meat, chicken or fish but if you're doing a meatless meal add some crumbled blue, feta or goat cheese. Or hard cooked eggs. Or tofu.

Doesn't get much easier than this. 

I used La Tourangelle* avocado oil for this -- it is rich, with a fabulous mouth-feel and is a really delicious vegetable oil for salad. But olive oil would be fine too.

*I did not get paid for this or receive free product. I just love La Tourangelle products.

Arugula Salad with Grapes and Dates

  • 2 cups (packed) baby arugula
  • 2 cups (packed) shredded radicchio
  • 1 cup halved red grapes
  • 12 medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 1 avocado, peeled and coarsely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons avocado oil (or use olive oil)
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Place the arugula, radicchio, grapes, dates and avocado in a salad bowl and toss the ingredients to distribute them evenly. Pour the avocado oil over the salad and toss to coat them. Pour the balsamic vinegar over the salad and toss again. Let stand about 5 minutes before serving.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

Strawberry Shortcake (Without the cake)

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The strawberries are fabulous right now -- the local ones anyway. They're sweet, juicy and fragrant. They're small to medium rather than gigantic -- like the year-round supermarket staples, which are dry, tasteless and smell like plastic. The strawberries you can buy now are the kind I remember strawberries from long ago, (especially the ones I picked right off the plants in my parents' garden).

If you are lucky enough to get good, seasonal strawberries, try this recipe. I call it Strawberry Shortcake without Cake because the whipped cream mixture, which is made with mascarpone cheese, is thick, almost like a really moist cake, and yet it is sort of like whipped cream.

So easy too!

Remember this recipe next Passover. Or Valentine's Day. Or July 4th for that matter!

Make the cream part ahead and top it with berries just before you serve it. Lovely with coffee or tea and also an after dinner drink (brandy and so on).

Strawberry Shortcake without Cake

  • 1 pint strawberries
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 2/3 cup mascarpone cheese (or use whipped cream cheese)
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 tablespoon grated fresh orange peel
  • 2 tablespoons Balsamic vinegar

Wash and dry the berries and remove the hulls. Make incisions into each berry as if to cut slices but do not slice through. Set aside. Whip the cream and mascarpone cheese with the sugar and orange peel until the mixture is thick. Fold in the Balsamic vinegar. Spoon equal amounts of the cheese mixture onto 4-6 dessert plates. Place sliced strawberries on top, gently moving the “almost” slices to fan them slightly.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

Cream of Asparagus Soup

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I know asparagus are available all year, but they have the most depth of flavor right now, when you can get the local ones that taste like springtime. Like asparagus are supposed to taste.

On the other hand, although I would suggest making this soup now, it's good any old time because its very simplicity gets the most out of the asparagus taste.

The dish is versatile too: make it dairy or dairy-free (see the recipe options).

And easy: 8 ingredients including salt, pepper and garnish.

Makes a lovely first course for summer dinner.

Cream of Asparagus Soup

  • 2 pounds asparagus
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil, butter or a mixture of olive oil and butter
  • 1 large shallot, chopped
  • 1/4 cup white rice or a small, chopped all-purpose potato
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 13/ to 1/2 cup cream or coconut milk
  • chopped chives, scallions or Aleppo pepper for garnish

Wash the asparagus and chop the spears into chunks. Heat the olive oil in a soup pot over medium heat. Add the shallot and asparagus and saute for 1-2 minutes to soften the vegetables slightly and coat them with oil. Stir in the rice, pour in the vegetable stock and season to taste with salt and pepper. Bring the soup to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer and cover the pan. Cook for about 25 minutes or until the vegetables are soft. Puree the ingredients in a blender or with an immersion blender. Stir in the cream, reheat and serve garnished with chives, scallions or a sprinkle of Aleppo pepper.

NOTE: this may be served chilled OR hot.

Makes 4-6 servings

White Asparagus with Tomato Vinaigrette

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Among the delicious foods I feasted on on our recent trip to Eastern Europe were these: white asparagus, which is in season NOW. In the U.S. too. 

I found these beautiful spears at Fairway and prepared them exactly as I had them for dinner one night in Vienna.

Yes, these were dinner.

Ok, ok, I had a few rolls with a lot of butter too.

And strudel with schlag for dessert.

If you've never tasted white asparagus, you are in for a treat. They are milder and sweeter than the green ones and take a few minutes longer to cook because they are usually thicker. But, if you can't find these, use regular green asparagus (adjust cooking time depending on thickness of the spears).

 

White Asparagus with Tomato Vinaigrette

  • 1 pound white asparagus
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
  • 1 small tomato, chopped
  • 1 hard cooked egg yolk, sieved or mashed
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Remove the fibrous bottoms of each asparagus spear. Poach the asparagus in lightly salted water for 8-10 minutes, depending on thickness, or until tender. Drain under cold water and set aside in a serving dish. Whisk the olive oil and wine vinegar together until well blended. Add the tomato and egg yolk, stir and pour over the asparagus. Toss to coat every spear. Sprinkle with parsley, salt and pepper. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving. 

Makes 4 servings

Ah! Summer Blueberries!

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It's impossible to lose weight during the summer. Not when there is so much glorious fruit around and it tastes so good just out-of-hand but SO SO delicious in crisps, pies, muffins, galettes and quickbreads.

Like this blueberry bread. Spiked with orange.

A nice snack all by itself. Sliced for sandwiches smeared with cream cheese. Dessert when topped with ice cream.

Blueberry Bread

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons grated fresh orange peel
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 3/4 cup orange juice
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 9”x5” loaf pan. Mix the flour, sugar, baking powder, baking soda, salt, orange peel and vanilla powder together into a bowl. Add the coconut oil in chunks and cut it into the dry ingredients with your fingers or a pastry blender. If you use an electric mixer, set it at low-medium speed. In a second bowl, beat the egg and orange juice together until well blended (if you use vanilla extract, add it here). Add to the flour mixture and stir to blend ingredients. Fold in the blueberries. Pour the batter into the prepared pan. Bake for 55-60 minutes or until a cake tester inserted into the center comes out clean.

Makes one loaf

Roasted Nectarines or Peaches with Oat-Almond Crumbles

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Mistakes happen. Sometimes it works out well.

Take this dessert, for example. I wanted to grill peach halves and serve them with whipped cream and some sort of crunchy topping. But I couldn't find good peaches, so I bought nectarines. But they weren't freestone, and when I tried to cut the fruit in half the flesh clung to the pit.

No halves.

I had to cut the nectarines into pieces.

That meant no grilling. So I roasted the pieces instead.

All I can say is I wish I had more of this dessert. It was so good that a recipe that is supposed enough servings to feed 8 people only served 4.

But maybe you will all be more abstemious.

 

Roasted Nectarines with Oat-Almond Crumbles

Oat-Almond Crumbles:

  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup chopped toasted almonds
  • 1/2 cup quick oats
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup melted butter

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a bowl, mix the flour, almonds, oats, brown sugar, salt and melted butter. Spoon the mixture onto a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for 12-15 minutes, stirring halfway through, or until golden brown. Set aside to cool.

Roasted Nectarines and Cream:

  • 8 firm, but ripe nectarines or peaches
  • 2 tablespoons melted butter
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 cup whipping cream
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut the nectarines into chunks and discard the pits. Place the chunks in a bowl. Add the melted butter and all but one teaspoon of the sugar. Place the fruit on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for about 10 minutes to caramelize the fruit. Place equal quantities of the baked fruit on serving dishes. Whip the cream with the remaining teaspoon sugar and the vanilla extract until it is thick. Top the fruit with equal amounts of whipped cream. Scatter the crumbles equally on top.

Makes 8 servings (unless you can't control yourself, in which case, maybe 4-6)

Two Cabbage Cole Slaw

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We're now in the dog days of summer.

Cole slaw weather.

I remember my grandmother making the stuff by hand. She used one of those old grater/shredders and by the time she was done preparing the cabbage and carrots, her hands were rough and red.

This recipe was much easier. It's basically hers, except I use two kinds of cabbage, which I think makes the dish prettier.

And of course, I use a food processor (slicing disc). Better on the hands! Much less time. Much less mess. Tastes the same as I remember.

TWO CABBAGE COLE SLAW

  • 6 cups shredded green cabbage
  • 2 cups shredded red cabbage
  • 3 medium carrots, shredded
  • 2 scallions, shredded
  • 3/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dry mustard
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Place the cabbages, carrots and scallions in a large bowl and toss to distribute the ingredients evenly. In a bowl, whisk the mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, sugar and celery seed together and pour over the vegetables. Toss the ingredients, sprinkle with salt pepper to taste. Let rest for at least 15 minutes before serving.

Makes 8 servings

 

Grilled Asparagus Salad

When the weather is hot and sticky I find myself yearning for fruits and vegetables, not meat. I want salads, cold rice or noodles. Easy food, easy to prepare, easy to digest.

I recently had some grilled asparagus left over and used them for salad the next day. This dish was the perfect accompaniment to a rice salad that had other leftover vegetables in it!

 

Grilled Asparagus Salad

  • 1 pound asparagus
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 cups mixed cut up salad greens
  • 1 cup halved grape tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup crumbled blue or feta cheese
  • 2-3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat an outdoor grill (or turn oven to 450 degrees). Trim the asparagus and place them in a shallow dish. Pour about 2 teaspoons of the olive oil over the asparagus and roll the spears to coat them evenly. Grill the spears, turning them once or twice, for 5-8 minutes, depending on thickness. Cut the spears into bite size pieces and place in a salad bowl. Add the salad greens, tomatoes and cheese and toss the ingredients. Mix the remaining olive oil, 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar and mustard and pour the dressing over the salad. Toss and taste. Add more vinegar to taste. Sprinkle with pepper and serve.

Makes 6-8 servings

Grilled Baby Vidalias

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During the summer my family likes grilled everything. 

Like these gorgeous baby Vidalia onions. I bought some recently. They are a perfect side dish for whatever else I make for dinner (also on the grill). 

They are among the easiest side dishes I have ever prepared.

Just a few simple ingredients. You can do this with spring garlic, thick scallions too.

Whatever you're grilling for the 4th of July -- this goes with it.

Grilled Baby Vidalia Onions

  • 1 bunch of baby Vidalia onions (5-6), or use baby leeks or thick scallions
  • 1-1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
  • sea salt

Preheat and outdoor grill or grill pan to medium-high. Trim the onions but leave enough of the root intact so the leaves don't come apart. Rub the olive oil over the surface of the onions. Place the onions on the grill and cook for about 8 minutes, turning them occasionally to cook all sides. After the first turn, sprinkle the onions with the lemon juice and Aleppo pepper. When the onions are browned and tender, sprinkle with sea salt and serve.

Makes 4-6 servings

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fried Green Tomatoes

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I go out to my garden now and it's still warm, like summer. But the leaves on big maple trees in the back are starting to turn and I can see the vague copper tips. It's that transition season when you want to grab the last of summer but your head understands that autumn is coming.

I've picked dozens of luscious tomatoes in the last few weeks, but there are still some green ones hanging on the vines. Do I wait for them to ripen and have the last few precious bites?

What if there's a sudden frost! That happened to me last year and all my tomatoes were ruined.

Here's what to do: use some green tomatoes and leave just a few to ripen and hope for the best.

In the past I've baked green tomato pie, fried green tomato slices, baked green tomato slices, made green tomato pickles and cut green tomatoes into different kinds of chutney.

This year I decided to pack them into a sandwich.

Dee-lish.

Fried Green Tomato, Roasted Red Pepper and Cheese Sandwich

  • 2 medium red bell peppers
  • 2 teaspoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 2 large eggs, beaten with one teaspoon water
  • 3/4 cup plain bread crumbs
  • 12-16 slices green tomato (about 1/2-inch thick)
  • 4 Portuguese rolls, sliced
  • vegetable oil
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
  • 2 cups shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat the oven broiler or outdoor grill with the rack about 4 inches from the heat source. Remove the stem and seeds from the bell peppers and cut them into quarters. Brush the pepper pieces with the olive oil. Broil the pepper pieces, turning them occasionally, for 8–10 minutes or until charred. Remove the pieces to a plate. When cool, peel off the skin.

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Mix the flour with some salt and pepper in a shallow dish. Place the beaten eggs in another dish. Place the breadcrumbs in a third dish. Coat the tomato slices with flour. Shake off the excess. Dip the coated slices in the beaten eggs, covering the slices completely. Coat the slices with the breadcrumbs. Place the tomato slices on a cookie sheet or baking rack to air dry for at least 15 minutes. Heat about 1/4-inch vegetable oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. Fry the tomatoes for 2-3 minutes per side or until golden brown. Drain on paper towels.

Place the rolls in the oven to warm them up for about 4-5 minutes. Remove the rolls from the oven. While the rolls are warming, mix the mayonnaise and basil together. Spread equal amounts of the mayonnaise on the bottoms of each of the rolls. Top each with 3-4 tomato slices. Top each with two roasted pepper quarters. Top each with equal amounts of the cheese. Finally, cover with the top of the roll. Place back in the oven for a minute or so to slightly melt the cheese and serve.

 

Makes 4 sandwiches