My favorite thing about the summer is when it gets hot and sultry out, and tomatoes burst forth with all their colorful, vibrant glory. I mean, look at this:
This is a salad (ok, in my world, it’s a salad) involving items that we got in our CSA share this week – 2 big beautiful heirloom tomatoes sliced, and a handful of beautiful little yellow baby tomatoes cut in half. Some parsley, also from the CSA. Salt and pepper. That’s literally all it is, and it’s the most beautiful thing ever. This salad is what I love best about summer. The funky old tomatoes, green and brownish and yellow, orange, pink, red, multicolored and mottled, they’re all finally coming ripe, and being their amazing selves. I love tomato season.
Fun fact: when Jesse and I started dating, he told me that he didn’t like tomatoes. I told him, honestly, that what he disliked was crappy tomatoes. A good tomato is a joy, and judging by the happy look on his face when I gave him his plate tonight, he has learned that lesson well.
The other amazing thing about this particular summertime is our CSA share. Where before, on a night like Sunday night, I would have needed to go to the store to get something to make for dinner, I could just open the crisper and see what veggies we had, or had left from previous weeks. I haven’t had this ready access to fresh, excellent vegetables since I was a kid and my parents and grandparents had gardens. And while just a week or two ago I was bemoaning the fucking omnipresence of zucchini (seriously, there was none this week in the share. I did a happy dace), Sunday night it was a lifesaver to have those squashes in the crisper.
Because it meant that I could make squash cakes to go with our tomato salad, thereby giving us a full on vegetarian meal, complete with the inclusion of fruity beer and cheese!
adapted from Epicurious
I pretty much stick to the recipe when I make these cakes, which I have made a couple times now. I hope to use the same recipe to make sweet potato cakes in the future, because sweet potatoes with some curry spices and cheese…. just the thought makes me happy!! In fact, it makes me wonder if I could do this with butternut squash and white cheddar, or acorn squash and goat cheese. The possibilities seem endless!!
I grated up 1 small zucchini, 1 yellow goose-neck squash, and 1 pattypan squash, put them in the colander, and sprinkled them with salt. Then, I squished the shredded squash with my hands, squeezing out the water after the half-hour was up, and rolling it up in a dishtowel to squeeze out some more water. When making the batter, I used 1/3 of a cup of Bluepoint Blueberry Ale, because I’m convinced that the quarter-cup I added the first time wasn’t enough. I also added 1/4 teaspoon of cumin and 1/4 teaspoon of cayenne, because I’m a punk.
From there, the only real change I made this time was using shredded mozzarella instead of goat cheese, because it was what I had in the fridge. I really like the way the mozzarella melts, and gets kind of crispy, so it’s a little like you’re eating pizza or the best grilled cheese. It’s also a little like you’re eating a latke, only a latke jacked up about 10 degrees. In fact, I bet this would be really good with straight up potatoes too, if you could squeeze out enough water, so if anyone’s interested in the attempt, let me know.
This was an awesome Sunday night supper, and used up a lot of the veggies that I was wondering what to do with, and how I could use them before they became a waste. Hopefully it can help you get rid of some of your excess zucchini, or help you appreciate your summer tomatoes a little better. Or maybe both.
Any summer favorites from you guys out there?
Gourmet Magazine’s closing has affected many people in many different ways. An unexpected impact appears to have been that it has brought some of the food blogging community closer together. Or at least, it’s spawned a great idea, and a way to review old copies of Gourmet and pull out ideas.
One of my favorite things about Gourmet was that among all the recipes that were fancy, there were the ones you could cook from what was in your cabinet. For example: Baked Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes. My parents did not know, on Saturday, that I would be cooking dinner. But when I asked, they said ok. They didn’t have time to go shopping, so the dish got hacked a little. But in the end, what’s the difference between a kidney bean and a cannelini bean? What’s the difference, really, between a can of crushed tomatoes, and stewed tomatoes with juice? In fact, what ARE stewed tomatoes?
Baked Chicken with White Beans and Tomatoes Chez Johnsons
via Gourmet December 2004
6 pieces of bacon
4-6 pieces bone-in, skin on dark meat chicken
1 huge shallot, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed and chopped
1 can crushed tomatoes
1 can kidney beans, 1 can pinto beans
Preheat the oven to 350
Cut the bacon into roughly 1/2-inch pieces, and brown in a skillet, reserving the fat. Scoop out the bacon pieces, and brown the chicken (probably in 2 batches), which you’ve seasoned on each side with salt and pepper, about 4 minutes per side.
Remove the chicken to your casserole dish, and scoop out 3 tablespoons of the bacon fat. Pour out the rest, and wipe out the pan.
Put the bacon fat back in the pan, and saute the shallot. When it is getting soft, add the garlic. Stir and saute until the garlic starts to smell amazing. Then, add the tomatoes, and rinse and drain the beans. (If you’re using cannelini beans, that would be 2 cans of them). When the tomato liquid comes up to a simmer, stir in the bacon pieces, and the drained cannelini beans. Stir to heat the beans through, and combine with the chicken in the casserole dish.
Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the chicken is done.
This recipe is warm and comforting. My parents loved it, which is always nice. A major benefit is being able to check the comments on Epicurious – I knew that the dish could be kind of bland, and added some garlic as many of the commenters suggested. I also threw in a splash of white wine, even though deglazing in a nonstick pan is kind of…. silly.
And best of all, my parents had basically everything, or a reasonable facsimile of everything, in their house already. If you have any kind of pantry, you probably do too.
Just when you thought it was safe….. here comes another awesome and delicious vegetarian recipe, designed to help Alex run better, help her eat better, and help us fight cancer better. Please remember that for every comment with at least a name (that’s right, you can leave me the word “yum” and I’ll take it), I will donate to Alex’s cause. Her Half Marathon is coming up VERY SOON so we’re going to have a small blitz of recipes to keep her full and focused, and try to raise the donation total.
I get really, really fired up about grains. I love them, and I love when they surprise me. Sometimes you read things about brown rice that surprise you. Sometimes, I order Barilla Plus multigrain pasta and it turns out to be the most delicious thing ever.
And then….. there’s quinoa.
Quinoa is basically a superduper grain. It’s high in fiber, it’s high in protein, it’s gluten-free, and it’s basically remarkable. The only thing you really need to know about it is that in order to get the most out of it, you need to soak it for a few hours in some water before you cook it. Otherwise, it’s easier and quicker to cook than rice, better for you than couscous (which is really just tiny pasta crumbs), more balanced than polenta, and delicious! Plus, it has a very interesting texture, and it’s super versatile.
To wit: I made Vegetable Quinoa salad. This isn’t really a hard-and-fast recipe, because you can change this up to fit what’s in season, what looks good, what you want to put in your vinaigrette, etc. Play around with it.
1 cup quinoa, soaked in cold water, and rinsed thoroughy
1 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 butternut squash, cut into cubes, sprinkled with olive oil, salt and pepper, and roasted at 375 until soft
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup kalamata olives (or other salty black olives) pitted and chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
Balsamic vinegar (I used some lovely blackcurrant balsamic that I spent a fortune on but any type is fine)
Bring the quinoa and stock to a boil (covered). Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
Combine olive oil and vinegar in the bottom of a large bowl, season to taste, until you have a vinaigrette. You’re going to need to make a lot, because Quinoa will absorb a TON of dressing. Add in the squash, tomatoes, olives, and golden raisins. Season with salt and pepper.
When the quinoa has finished cooking, let it cool a little, and then toss it with a fork like you would couscous. Add the quinoa to the bowl with the veggies and vinaigrette, and stir to combine. Eat. Enjoy.
This is great with the quinoa still warm and the veggies all cool. It’s great with everything cold. It’s good to add to, because if you realize you need to use up your slivered almonds before they go bad, they’ll taste great in here. Have some steamed or sauteed kale or chard left over?? Toss it in, and enjoy. Like tofu or want some extra protein? Throw it in!
This makes a TON, and you can eat it for several days by fixing things. Plus,it feels light, so if you’re tapering you’re not going to feel guilty because you have a lead weight in your stomach.
The things I do for you…..
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