August 23 weekly menu | summer table

Farm Fresh

basil, beets, celery, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, gourmet greens, lettuce, onions, zucchini

What’s for Dinner?

My entire kitchen smelled like the freshest basil ever as I unloaded my CSA box.  For as long as I can remember, my kids have sat on the counter and helped with all sorts of baking projects…cookies, pies, cakes, muffins, etc. For about that long, my little boy has sat on that same counter, whipping up batches of homemade pesto, knowing the ingredients and amounts by heart, and loving to be in charge of the food processor. And if I’m not using it right away (which is really the most tempting and best way!) I’ll throw it in a quart-sizbag bag and into the freezer.  So many uses…as a sandwich spread, an appetizer with crostini or veggies, on top of eggs, and of course mixed in a zillion pasta dishes.  So, this week we’ll make that batch of pesto. And have so much fresh basil left, it’ll be used nearly each night with all of these other farm beauties. Enjoy!

Friday – grilled pizza fest

summer squash & red onion pizza (Cooking Light)
gourmet greens salad

Saturday – chocolate & zucchini via chocolate & zucchini

tomato and basil pasta (The New Basics)
grilled zucchini (Cooking Light)
chicken with goat cheese & basil (Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home)

chocolate & zucchini cake (Chocolate and Zucchini)

Sunday –  frenchie feast in a flash

breakfast:
zucchini bread (Cooking Light)
green smoothies (Ashley Paquin, White Bird Wellness)

dinner:
celery & roquefort salad (Bon Jour Paris)
beet salad & goat cheese (Serious Eats)
grilled salmon with buerre blanc (Martha Stewart)
baguette

Monday – sammies + salad

chicken salad sandwiches (The Ellen Jackson Collection)
lettuce, basil, & cucumber salad (Jason French, Ned Ludd)

Tuesday – thai minus the take-out

thai green curry with eggplant & basil (Katherine Deumling, SIO Blog, Wk. 13 2013)
jasmine rice

Wednesday –  zucchini again? you bet!

israeli salad + pitas  (Deb Perleman, Smitten Kitchen)
zucchini fritters (Deb Perleman, Smitten Kitchen)

Thursday –  off to the market

grilled corn (Serious Eats)
chopped salad (Epicurious)
grilled tomato, corn, & basil sausages


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Friday –   grilled pizza fest

summer squash & red onion pizza (Cooking Light)
gourmet greens salad

Super fun, interactive, and delicious way to use those veggies –Pizza Night! Let this prior post be your inspiration and step-by-step instructional for pizza making. Friday is the perfect night for this, not only as an end-of-the-week celebration, but because I can literally pick and choose veggies off my table to top the pizzas!  This week, I’m going to use a combination of yellow summer squash and zucchini, and some yummy caramelized red onions. The caramelized onions are just a hot skillet, a little olive oil, and thinly sliced onions, low and slow until their brown and caramelly.  They make any pizza extra special!  This Serious Eats guide to grilling seems pretty fool proof.  I do find it easier to grill pizzas when you make them the individual size.  Skip the tube-o-dough and either use my go-to 5 minute recipe from The New Basics, the Serious Eats recipe, or grab your dough from Hot Lips, New Seasons, or nearly any favorite pizza place. This is a simple, sauceless pizza, gaining all of its flavor from farm fresh toppings; I would definitely brush the crust with some olive oil and give it a sprinkling of salt.  And I think my pizza may even resemble the fresh-tomato-topped version in the recipe photo; I finally have a few (a very few…) ripe, slicing tomatoes – yippee!  Our salad will be a lickety-split version – gourmet greens, drizzled with balsamic vinegar, high quality olive oil, and salt and pepper.  With greens this fresh and delicious, nothing fancier is needed.

Other pizza combinations:

winter squash and wild mushroom 
potato and rosemary 
leek, crimini mushroom, and prosciutto
portabella mushroom & roasted red pepper
shitake mushroom
leek, sundried tomato, and goat cheese
caramelized leek, mushroom and Italian sausage pizza
pizza with kale raab, leeks, and olives 
pizza with fennel sausage, braising greens and rosemary
dandelion greens, Italian sausage, and fontina cheese pizza
spinach and chive pizza
grilled pizza with kale, mushroom, & sausage
shaved asparagus & parmesan pizza
leek, chard, & corn flatbread
kale, sundried tomato, & feta pizza
pizza with green garlic & arugula
pizza bianca with goat cheese & chard
fresh ricotta and red onion pizza
sweet onion pizza
pizza with grilled fennel and parmesan
eggplant & tomato pizza

Saturday – chocolate & zucchini via chocolate & zucchini

tomato and basil pasta (The New Basics)
grilled zucchini (Cooking Light)
chicken with goat cheese & basil (Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa at Home)

chocolate & zucchini cake (Chocolate and Zucchini)

My kids really wait all year for these “hot and cold” pastas.  The sauce sits at room temperature for several hours, combining and melding the summer flavors.  The pasta is hot, and when you combine the two, watch out – the most amazing, ooey, gooey, cheesy concoction ever!  The recipe calls for sun-dried tomatoes, which I think are really nice in their texture and pack-with-flavor oil, but if you’ve already got lots of good-looking fresh tomatoes, try them out here.  Of course, brie is a winner for the cheese selection, but other melty cheese options abound.  I skip the cheese-freezing – just get the rind off when it’s just out of the fridge, and with your hands, tear into small chunks.  And the fresh basil really makes the dish.  We’ll use even more of it in Ina’s super simple chicken with goat cheese and basil.  You place the couple ingredients right under the chicken breast skin to flavor it while it cooks. This could easily be done outdoors on the grill also.  Add some summer squash or zucchini to the grill line-up.  With just olive oil, salt and pepper, it’s a hit every time!  If I have zucchini, I often attempt to cut it long-ways (with mixed success – hard to get those slices uniform thickness!) for less labor-intensive flipping, less falling through the grill, and a really pretty presentation!  The Cooking Light suggestions to fancy it up are nice; I also sometimes drizzle a bit of good balsamic vinegar after cooking.  And speaking of zucchini, how about some more….for dessert? I’ve never grown a zucchini in my life, but somehow, someway I always end up with a fridge full come August – my CSA, friends, neighbors, and tables with “free to a good kitchen” signs.  I think it’s very fitting to try this chocolate and zucchini cake recipe from the delightful Chocolate & Zucchini food blog. She describes it as “voluptuous”.  I’m in.  If you’re eeking out the last of the summer grill gatherings with friends, this meal’s a winner.  Simple and (mostly) do-ahead for the chef, delectable for all!

Sunday – frenchie feast in a flash

breakfast:
zucchini bread (Cooking Light)
green smoothies (Ashley Paquin, White Bird Wellness)

See above re: overabundance of zucchini (or yellow summer squash – really interchangeable).  I’ve found this recipe for zucchini bread that’s really light, moist, and summery.  I skip the egg substitute, and just use three whole eggs.  I also sometimes add 1/2 cup or so of plain or vanilla yogurt, just for a little extra moistness and flavor.  Lots of pure vanilla and a heaping teaspoon of lemon zest make this zucchini bread so scrumptious and different from the (also delicious) fall variety, spiced with more of the nutmegs, cinnamon, etc.  Add a green smoothie (I’m going to try with dark green lettuce!), highlighted in a recent Portland Farmer’s Market blog post, and you’ve got a healthy and amazing full-meal-deal to start your summer day.

dinner:
celery & roquefort salad (Bon Jour Paris)
beet salad & goat cheese (Serious Eats)
grilled salmon with buerre blanc (Martha Stewart)
baguette

I originally had this celery and roquefort salad at a cooking class.  I thought it was crunchy, fresh, and fabulous in its simplicity – how could celery taste so good?  The answer lies in the crumbled Roquefort cheese.  Splurge here, to get a true Roquefort sheep’s milk from the south of France, and you’ll not regret it.  It doesn’t take much of a sprinkling to get big, rich flavor. I’ll add another uncomplicated French salad of beets (which I’ve got pre-roasted and at-the-ready) and goat cheese to the meal.  It’s sweet and juicy, with the tang of just a bit of fresh goat cheese (farmer’s market find?) and some zesty mint from the herb pot.  Traditionalists would probably serve these salads with salmon en croute (wrapped in a pastry dough), but I’ll just toss mine on the grill, knowing I can whip up some buerre blanc sauce in a jiffy.  In a tiny little saucepan on the stove, it really only takes a few minutes to create this gourmet salmon topping.  I’ll probably bastardize it, and use tiny chopped red onions instead of shallots.  And whatever herbs you’ve got going work to finish it off – I’ve got basil, parsley, and chives coming out my ears.  I’ll halve or even quarter this recipe – a little rich butter sauce goes a long way!  Add a fresh french baguette from your favorite bakery, a glass of  sauvignon blanc or chardonnay, and you’re on your way to a French-style armchair vacation.

Monday –  sammies + salad

chicken salad sandwiches (The Ellen Jackson Collection)
lettuce, basil, & cucumber salad (Jason French, Ned Ludd)

To start the week (sammie style), I’m game to try Katherine Deumling’s (SIO Blog) recommended chicken salad recipe from her friend Ellen. Mostly I was just looking for a no-frills, relatively healthy version, that would utilize a big bunch of my fresh celery.  My hunch is I’ll have chicken left from the grill the other night, so I’ll use that.  Otherwise, roast or poach anew, or better yet, buy a pre-made roasted chicken.  I would double this recipe for four people.  I’ll use at least that much chopped celery, and I’ll use some of my red onion instead of scallion, as well as chives from the pot.  With just enough mayo (you could probably skip this and up the yogurt ante), plain yogurt, and lemon juice to moisten nicely, you can then season the dressing with any herbs that sound tasty – basil, tarragon, parsley, etc.  I’m doing mine sandwich style, with some good, hearty, whole-grain bread. Thinly sliced cucumber and lettuce leaves would be delicious fillings.  For a side salad, I’m repeating a recent recipe I posted from the chef at Ned Ludd – it worked very nicely to skip all the fancy steps, and just whirl the olive oil, salt, lemon juice, and basil all together in a mini food processor for the dressing.  No separate steps, just pour it over your simple salad of lettuce, cucumbers, and goat cheese (or whatever cheese…); I keep thinking kalamata olives would go nicely in here too.

Tuesday – thai minus the take-out

thai green curry with eggplant & basil (Katherine Deumling, SIO Blog, Wk. 13 2013)
jasmine rice

One of my favorite dishes to order on any Thai menu is the green curry anything.  The combination of Thai herbs and spices is just made for fresh basil.  Seems it’s usually zucchini and chicken that I order; I’m anxious to try this with eggplant.  But feel free to improvise with whatever veggie calls your name, and add chicken, shrimp, or tofu.  A simple, stress-free, wok-inspired dinner, that needs only a helping of your favorite Thai jasmine rice alongside.

Wednesday – zucchini again?  you bet!

israeli salad + pitas  (Deb Perleman, Smitten Kitchen)
zucchini fritters (Deb Perleman, Smitten Kitchen)

What a magnificent-looking salad from so few ingredients.  Farm-fresh cucumbers and red onions, and all I’ll need is two ripe tomatoes from my own plants.  This might be asking a lot, after using the essential couple on the pizza.  Again, I’m having a year where my plants look all  tall and bushy and lush and right.  But the actual, big, ripe, gorgeous tomatoes elude me. There’s still hope, I think. This salad can then be a blank palate for experimentation, but Deb insists that sumac powder is essential.  It’s a Mediterranean spice that’s both lemony and smokey that adds a deep, rusty, red sprinkle to the finished product.  I love her idea of thick, homemade pitas, just with a little olive oil, sea salt, & sumac, used either as a vehicle for dipping, or crumbled right into the salad.  But there’s some awfully good pitas in the bag, so we’ll see.  For the full-meal-deal dinner, this certainly could be it if you added some chickpeas.  I’m going to make it as is (well, maybe with olives and feta) and try my hand at these zucchini fritters also, especially since the salad’s such a snap.  The fritters do not look at all difficult either – think “pancakes”, with shredded zucchini. It’s flour, egg, & shredded zucchini, plus I’ll add some very tiny chopped red onion, instead of the suggested green.  A little plain greek yogurt mixed with lemon juice & chives would be a nice topping.

Thursday –  off to the market

grilled corn (Serious Eats)
chopped salad (Epicurious)
grilled tomato, corn, & basil sausages

It’s a good week when the worst thing that happened to you was receiving an email from your CSA farm announcing they’d run out of corn and your delivery would be without.  I was still really sad!  I’ve had it on my mind all week, since I saw this photo of that grilled, sweet, succulent, mouth-watering, late summer corn on the cob.  So much so that I, who rarely purchases any additional veggies (really…with a table looking like this, how could I?!?), am off to the farmer’s market to buy corn!  With so many farms around the northwest with corn-a-plenty right now, this is an easy problem to solve.  With eight farmer’s markets serving the Portland area, I’m just certain I’ll find a fun mid-week option.  To go with what I consider the main event (grilled corn!), since it’s clean-the-fridge day at my house, this chopped salad will do the trick nicely.  And deliciously. I’ve got some amazing-looking, sturdy lettuce to work with (does not need to be iceberg).  The suggested dressing here uses whatever red onions I have left; the remaining salad ingredients are up-to-the-maker.  Olives are a must, I think.  And I’m pretty sure my fridge will have cucumbers, celery, & pre-cooked beets to offer up.  I’ll add some pre-made-by-someone-else grilled sausages (this tomato, corn, & basil variety is featured this week at New Seasons) to round out this simple summer dinner.  Complete with grilled corn – really, enjoy this delicacy while it’s here!

“What the Kale?!?”

Don’t panic and get out the compost bin if all of the sudden you have a giant veggie delivery coming your way, and you still have a fridge full.  Here are a few suggestions for preserving the bounty!  (Soups and stews freeze wonderfully in those gallon zip lock freezer bags.)

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