july 4 weekly menu | summer table

Farm Fresh

basil, bok choy, chard, fava beans, gourmet greens, lettuce, potatoes, green onions, summer squash

What’s for Dinner?

Well, a festive all-American holiday meal, to begin with. It’ll be chock full of tried-and-true Independence Day food traditions, and surely some red, white, and blue (and green!). Lots of other reasons to celebrate as well, beginning with my first fava bean delivery of the season – yahoo! Five pounds to be exact…they’ll grace more than one dinner table this week. And you’ll notice a preponderance of Mexican meals. I’m on the heels of a week in our neighbor country below, having indulged in some unbelievable food indeed! Will try to recreate some favorites – nothing fancy, just their day-in and day-out comida. The Northwest influence that I can’t wait to impart is the addition of vegetables. Those seemed more than a bit hard to come by at those taco stands and streetside home kitchens. I’ll more than make up for it with this line up, for sure!

Friday – 4th of July

watermelon

best (and simplest) potato salad (Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)
red, white & blueberry salad (Aviva Goldfarb, pbs.org)
grilled brats

fresh strawberry basil ice cream (Cuisinart)

Saturday – fish tacos + SALAD!

grilled garlic-lime fish tacos (Martha Stewart)
green onion salsa (The Oregonian)
chard salad with cilantro-lime vinaigrette (CI, The Best 30-Minute Recipe)
mexican beans

Sunday  – habas & carnitas

sopa de habas (fava bean soup) (Saveur)
pork carnitas (Cooks Illustrated)
mango & bok choy salsa (Millsap Farms)

Monday – soup night, summer style

tortilla soup (Simply Recipes)
salad with basil-lime vinaigrette (The Verdant Life)

Tuesday –  10 minute taco tuesday

crispy bean tacos with bok choy slaw (Deb Perelman, The Smitten Kitchen)

Wednesday – cheaters’ chilaquiles

chilaquiles with eggs (Rick Bayless, Frontera)
grilled summer squash

Thursday – Mexican potpourri

grilled fava beans (101 Cookbooks)
beans ‘n greens burritos (Mark Bittman, Food Matters)


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Friday – 4th of July

watermelon

best (and simplest) potato salad (Mark Bittman, How to Cook Everything)
red, white & blueberry salad (Aviva Goldfarb, pbs.org)
grilled brats

fresh strawberry basil ice cream (Cuisinart)

Because I recently splurged on a homemade mayo-based potato salad (well worth it, I must say), I’ll switch gears this time with this lighter, simpler, vinaigrette-dressed version. These are also easier to travel with, not worrying so much about refrigeration, etc. I’ll use half of my new potatoes, with the skins on, and dress just after cooking with a yummy mustardy vinaigrette And with bunches of farm fresh basil this week, I’ll use half basil/half parsley for the herbs. A bit of fresh dill would also be delicious, as would chopped hard-boiled eggs and olives. The OR berries are coming full force, so this light, healthy, and perfect-for-the-4th-or-any-time berry and greens salad is a must. I’ll use my gourmet greens, and have fun perusing the farmer’s market for whatever red(ish) and blue(ish) berries catch my eye. Use pine nuts, hazelnuts, whatever nuts, and a favorite fresh farmer’s cheese. Toss the brats on the barbie (I’ll be stopping by Olympic Provisions for some of their house-made…), set out a mustard sampling, and celebrate in fine foodie style. The perfect ending – homemade strawberry (or any berry) ice cream makes the evening extra special, and marks the real kick-off of the season. Plus, it puts the kids to “work”, experimenting with the newest member of the summer kitchen must-haves (the ice cream maker!). For a real taste treat, mix in a handful of fresh basil (or mint) with the strawberries before pureeing – yum!

Saturday – fish tacos + SALAD!

grilled garlic-lime fish tacos (Martha Stewart)
green onion salsa (The Oregonian)
chard salad with cilantro-lime vinaigrette (Cooks Illustrated)
mexican beans

Fish tacos just couldn’t be simpler, or healthier. With a good piece of white fish, some olive oil, garlic, and lime juice, you’re in business. Use your favorite corn or flour tortillas (I smuggled some home in my suitcase!), keeping them warm and the tacos rolling! I picked up a $5 tortilla warmer in Mexico – basically two pieces of fabric sewn together in a circle with an opening along one side. A folded over kitchen towel will do – anything to prevent those dried out oven-warmed tortillas, or the multiple trips to the microwave. I’ll skip Martha’s corn & tomato salsa in favor or this green onion version. It looks fresh and zesty, and will make a perfect fish taco accompaniment. I’ll serve the tacos along with a Mexican-style chard salad. This CI recipe is a winner for a quick dressing I use for any salad accompanying a Mexican dinner. (And no real need to use the blender – a whisk will do just fine.) Cut the chard into very thin strips, then add what you’ve got on hand or think sounds delicious. Some ideas: Mexican cheese (cotija, queso fresco, manchego…), green onions, cilantro, chives, sliced radishes, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, sliced avocado. I’m just so happy to be surrounded by fresh veggies at dinner, I can imagine I’ll overdo it just a bit. And since it’s Saturday, I’ll stray from the can, and slowly cook these out-of-this-world Mexican beans. Each time I make them I wonder why oh why I ever use canned beans. It’s really ridiculous how simple they are:  soak a pound of pinto beans overnight (or use the quick soak method), cover with chicken broth about one inch above the beans, add one half of a white onion, a couple whole cloves of garlic and 1 tsp. of salt. After bringing to a boil, cover the pot and cook very slowly (on low or warm) for an hour. Test them at this point, but I usually add a bit more salt and cook for another half hour or even more. Use them as you wish, with this dinner and any and all others this week as well! Mexicans do indeed eat beans at every meal.

Sunday –  habas & carnitas

sopa de habas (fava bean soup) (Saveur)
pork carnitas (CI, Our Best Bites)
mango & bok choy salsa (Millsap Farms)

When I saw five pounds of fava beans, I will admit some concern about how they’d fit in to my planned week of Mexican fare. Turns out I needn’t have worried…a favorite south of the border soup proudly features our fine favas. The secret is in the ultra-flavorful tomato (I’ll use a can of chopped), garlic, onion base that’s cooked ahead of time. Instead of dried favas, I’ll use three pounds of my fresh (equivalent to two cups shelled and peeled). See these fava bean tips for easy blanching and peeling. Be sure to use four cups of water (or more) for blanching the beans, then save this for the soup broth. The soup will make an amazing accompaniment to our pork carnitas. The word carnita literally means “little meats”. Traditionally, chunks of pork are cooked in lard, then slowly braised over a number of hours to get a most tender, fall-apart meat. It’s not until the end that the pork is crisped up with additional heat. In this CI recipe, the lard is skipped, and a sensational mix of Mexican-esque seasonings are added to the pork before slow-roasting in the oven for a couple of hours. The browning is achieved at the very end, when the pork is shredded and inserted under the broiler for just a couple of minutes. Sounds amazing! This recipe could easily be halved, or make a lot and use it all week. The veggie tonight is going to be bok choy…in a salsa! With a fresh mango and some lime juice, we’re taking our bok choy in new directions. I’ll use green onion instead of red, and at least double this recipe, rendering it a bit of a combo between a salsa and a salad.

Monday –  soup night, summer style

tortilla soup (Simply Recipes)
salad with basil-lime vinaigrette (The Verdant Life)

Another soup tonight, but these do not feel like the rich, hearty, and warming ones of winter. These are fresh and bright and filled with summer bounty. Some version of tortilla soup seemed to be on every menu in Mexico – I’m certain there’s small variations here and there. But the basics are simple: a tomato-chili based broth, simmered with pre-shredded chicken, poured over fried corn tortilla strips. My version is simplest (and weeknight friendly!) using a pre-roasted store-bought chicken, and crumbled corn tortilla chips from the bag. I’ll hand pick my chips to be of the high quality, thick-cut variety – whatever might closest resemble the homemade version, which of course, can’t be beat. The tortilla chips become moistened (but not soggy, if you have good ones) and then the soup is garnished with your choice of delicious toppings. Avocado, cilantro, cheese and lime are standard. I’ll add green onions to that list. And, again, a large green salad, just because I can! I’ve got farm-fresh lettuce coming out my ears, and I’ll use a ton here in this salad with a Mexican-inspired dressing. This twist here is it’s a basil-lime vinaigrette, instead of a more traditional cilantro one. Sure to be fabulous, and maybe even make a dent in the mound o’basil that came my way this week.

Tuesday – 10 minute taco tuesday

crispy tacos with bok choy slaw (Deb Perelman, The Smitten Kitchen)

Who doesn’t look twice when you see a photo of a fabulous looking Mexican-inspired meal, along with a 10 minute preparation claim? And when one of the key ingredients is one from my box…sign me up! I’ll saute some garlic and onion along with the cumin, before adding some of our homemade beans to meld the flavors and mash. This step alone I believe will take it beyond the kids’ lunch quesadilla to a more grown up & tasty rendition. And I do think all that’s needed to take it to even another level is the addition of a farm fresh slaw (instead of from the bag). This week, I’ll substitute bok choy for the cabbage; after all, they are in the same family. The stems will resemble the cabbage we’re used to, and the thinly sliced leaves will just render it a bit more salad-like. With a dressing of just EVOO, lime juice, green onions, & cilantro, the ultra crunchy and flavorful bok choy will be a special twist that’ll make the meal. Have an option of the leftover pork carnitas from Sunday, some fresh guacamole, a salsa sampling, and you’re surely still within that weeknight 30-minute limit we all love.

Wednesday – cheaters’ chilaquiles

chilaquiles with eggs (Rick Bayless, Frontera)
grilled summer squash

I’m not sure I knew exactly what chilaquiles was before my travels. Again, the cheaters’ version is coming your way, compliments of Rick Bayless. At least the source is valid, if not the normally slow-cooked preparation. Again, ala tortilla soup, it’s normally fried corn tortilla chips, smothered with a red or green salsa, sprinkled with cheese, and often topped with eggs, especially if it’s served for brunch. I love this weeknight idea…instead of a slow-simmered sauce, Bayless suggests choosing one of his salsas (of course, but you can’t go wrong!) and mixing that with chicken broth as the short-cut. I’m in! After softening the broken up chips a bit in the sauce, it’s just a matter of topping with shredded cheese and a sunny-side-up egg, and maybe a smattering of chopped green onions and a dollop of sour cream. And not that I didn’t have enough veggies coming my way…I got a surprise bonus delivery of summer squash. Easy enough. I’ll slice it up, brush it with olive oil, add a sprinkling of salt, pepper, cumin and chopped garlic, and grill until lightly browned. Once on a platter, sprinkle with cilantro and lime juice, and it’s an instant Mexican side dish to accompany our chilaquiles.

Thursday –  Mexican potpourri

grilled fava beans (101 Cookbooks)
beans ‘n greens burritos (Mark Bittman, Food Matters)

Potpourri night (clean the fridge before veggie onslaught…)! Fava beans are first on the list; five pounds is a mighty charge. Truly one of the tastiest and easiest fava bean preparations is simply to slather them with olive oil and salt, and throw them on the grill. I’ve now come to really anticipate this annual treat, and for this year’s premier, I’ll just give them a little south of the border style, adding a pinch of crushed red pepper, some fresh chopped mint, and a sprinkling of lime juice, all mixed in just after grilling. This 101 Cookbooks recipe is a great tutorial on grilled favas (not that there’s much tutorial needed…) but I would go a step further. Once they are grilled so they’re perfectly charred and blistered on both sides (which ensures they are steamed on the inside) there is no need to remove that skin surrounding each bean. Just throw the huge platter of grilled favas on a giant platter, and let people go to town shelling their own, getting all of the oil, salt, and any other herbs and seasonings, all over their fingers. Obviously, an exception to the “no licking your fingers” rule is essential here! In my house, this could truly turn into a main meal, the platter of grilled favas and some grilled bread. But, since we’re finishing out our Mexican week, I’ll add some casual roll-your-own burritos.This is one of those weeknight recipes that lends itself to all sorts of whims and wishes. For the greens, I’ll use swiss chard. What looks like an absolute TON of greens wilts way down upon cooking, and you’ll want to end up with enough to stuff at least four of those giant tortillas wrapped up in a nice burrito package. If you’ve got pork or chicken left and want to use it, great! And, there’s probably still more of those homemade Mexican beans. Add in a toppings bar for people to customize as they wish –  cheese, chopped cilantro, green onions, and our favorite ready-made salsas will be in the line-up for us.

 “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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