August 28 weekly menu | summer table

Farm Fresh

beets, bell peppers, cilantro, corn, cucumbers, eggplant, gourmet greens, jalapeños, lettuce, onions, poblano peppers, tomatoes

What’s for Dinner?

Really? The last weekend of summer vacation?!? Sad but true. As I said in June, ages and incredible amounts of veggies ago, meals are just different in the summer. The local bounty has changed, to be sure, as have the rituals. We’re full into summer squash and corn and tomatoes and Walla Walla sweets…all of the things we waited patiently for the entire year. The rhythm and pace have also changed; let’s savor every final moment of this summertime bliss. One last long weekend, and an easing into the school year and the new season that comes with it. Let’s celebrate the all-hands-on-deck meal preparation; the impromptu picnics; the hot nights, where salads and sandwiches are the perfect antidote; the bit lighter fare, fare that can be served hot, warm, or room temperature; and the parties and potlucks, where people enjoy sharing in what the season offer. Don’t forget the outdoor grilling, a perfect “hurrah!” in commemoration of summer.

Friday – picnic, rainy day style

chilled melon mint soup (Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
corn salsa and chips (Jamie Oliver)

zucchini and goat cheese tart (Tartine and Apron Strings)
beet salad with goat cheese & walnuts (Jennifer Segal, Serious Eats)
chicken rice salad with cilantro (Chicken Rice Salad)

peach and berry crisp (Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

Saturday – retro revival

stuffed peppers, Mexican style (Cooks Illustrated, The New Best Recipe)

Sunday –  sweet summer’s end pizza night

sweet onion pizza (Better Homes and Gardens)
gourmet greens with balsamic vinaigrette (Mark Bittman, NYT)

Monday – grilling, rain or shine

tacos with grilled chicken, poblanos & onions (Food and Wine)
green salad with cilantro-lime vinaigrette (CI, The Best 30-Minute Recipe)
mexican beans

Tuesday – off to school

power breakfast:
mixed berry & beet smoothie (Martha Shulman, NYT)

snack-in-a-snap:
cucumber, lettuce, tomato wraps (Whole Foods Market)

dinner:
OUT – kids’ choice!

Wednesday –  height of summer pasta

rigatoni with eggplant tomato puree (Deb Perleman, The Smitten Kitchen)
butter lettuce salad

Thursday –  finger food, btsn

cucumber rounds, pita chips, baba ganoush (Katherine Deumling, SIO Blog)


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Friday –   picnic, rainy day style

chilled melon mint soup (Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)
corn salsa and chips (Jamie Oliver)

zucchini and goat cheese tart (Tartine and Apron Strings)
beet salad with goat cheese & walnuts (Jennifer Segal, Serious Eats)
chicken rice salad with cilantro (Chicken Rice Salad)

peach and berry crisp (Deborah Madison, Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone)

Who says a picnic has to be outside, in the sunshine? While this may be preferable, nothing’s going to stop this celebratory group picnic gathering! My contribution is inspired from my corn. It’s a very straightforward and fresh mostly-corn salsa. The corn will be grilled until lightly golden, cut from the cob, and then mixed together with a few other farm fresh ingredients like tomatoes, peppers, and onions. I’ll improvise and use jalapeños and a bit of sweet onion – salsa is so flexible! Also on the menu is this chilled melon and mint soup – perfectly seasonal, fresh, and simple. Especially if you skip the salsa topping, which surely adds to the fuss factor. It’s fabulous without! Another wonderful picnic offering is a summertime tart. Get some trusty puff pastry, lay it out, and top away, with whatever summer bounty strikes your fancy. Tonight, summer squash and fresh goat cheese, a lovely and tasty combination. This is one of those contributions that looks so darned gourmet, but in the real world of your kitchen, is the easiest thing possible! Note that the final egg brushing step is not essential – adds a nice gloss, but no one will note its absence. Our late summer beets are going strong, and adding a beet salad to the line-up is perfect. All of the components can be prepared ahead of time, with just a final mixing at the picnic venue. The hostess’ take on the chicken salad reminds me of the staying power, relevance, and beautiful simplicity that a recipe passed down through the generations offers. This is a lively, zesty take on a chicken and grain salad, in this case using rice and a lemoney dressing. I’ll find a spot to repeat it on my own this week, using lots of my farm fresh cilantro. It will make a perfect lunch, dinner, or anytime snack! To top the evening off, how could you go any different direction that a grand finale seasonal crisp?!? Peaches and berries at their peak, topped with an extra special crisp topping made with locally farmed oats and chopped walnuts. I don’t think anyone noticed if the rain put a crimp in the outdoor picnic plans!

Saturday – retro revival

stuffed peppers, Mexcian style (Cooks Illustrated, The New Best Recipe)

Stuffed peppers are the perfect little dinner package, all in one. I’ve found some shortcuts to make this dish super weeknight friendly as well. Firstly, I see no real need to pre-boil the peppers; they’ll cook up enough in the oven, and you can improvise baking times to achieve your own desired tenderness. Make this dish with any type of pepper – sweet red, yellow, orange peppers, or even green bell peppers, which I’ve got this week. These farm fresh peppers are smaller than the ones you might typically see in the grocery store. They are not going to be the type you slice the top off, stuff, and have stand up nice and tall in a baking dish. I have a solution for that! I’ll use eight smaller peppers instead of four big ones, cut them in half long-ways, and stuff them “lying down” instead of standing upright. Also, I either make the rice ahead of time in my handy-dandy rice cooker, or with a little planning, use rice leftover from a prior meal. This week I’ll use rice from the chicken & rice salad. Then it’s at the ready to throw in the simple stuffing mixture when you’re cooking. I’ll use one of my sweet onions, and while it’s softening add some taco seasoning to give the dish a bit of a Mexican flair. The classic recipe calls for ground beef, but you could certainly use chicken, turkey, even canned beans. If you’ve got extra greens lying around, this is a good place to get those in too – add at the end of cooking the beef, just until wilted. I’ll add a bunch of chopped cilantro, adding to the south of the border flavors. My cheese of choice will be cotija, but use whatever cheese you love – pepper jack, fontina, cheddar, smoked mozzarella, etc. Our entire dinner will be in these cute little stuffed pepper packages.

Sunday – sweet summer’s end pizza night

sweet onion pizza (Better Homes and Gardens)
gourmet greens with balsamic vinaigrette (Mark Bittman, NYT)

IMG_1084

This week, my Walla Walla sweets inspire me to make this simple and delicious caramelized onion pizza. Add whatever else you like, but I guarantee it’ll be fabulous even with just onions and a ricotta/mozzarella cheese combination. I may add some sun dried tomatoes, and some oregano, basil, or parsley from the herb pots, but the sweet onions will star. Let this prior Pizza Night! post be your inspiration and step-by-step instructional for pizza making. For a simpler version, grab your dough from Hot Lips, New Seasons, or nearly any favorite pizza place.  Add a salad of gourmet greens with a tangy balsamic dressing, and we’ve got a perfect example of the scrumptious pizza night dinners that can be created with just a few farm fresh ingredients.

Monday –  grilling, rain or shine

tacos with grilled chicken, poblanos & onions (Food and Wine)
green salad with cilantro-lime vinaigrette (CI, The Best 30-Minute Recipe)
mexican beans

I love the special time of year that I receive poblano peppers. So easy to roast or grill, their mild flavor is a fabulous addition to any Mexican meal. I’ll grill it all – chicken, peppers, and one of my sweet onions – savoring some of the last authentic BBQ weather. I’ll serve the tacos along with a Mexican-style green 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.) Some ideas for mix-ins: Mexican cheese (cotija, queso fresco, manchego…), sliced (seeded) jalapeños, green  or red onions, cilantro, chives, sliced radishes, pumpkin or sunflower seeds, sliced avocado. For the beans, I’ll stray from the can, and slowly cook these out-of-this-world Mexican slow-cooked variety. They’ll make you wonder why oh why you 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 at any and all other meals this week where they seem to have a place. Mexicans do indeed eat beans at every meal.

Tuesday – off to school

power breakfast:
mixed berry & beet smoothie (Martha Shulman, NYT)

snack-in-a-snap:
cucumber, lettuce, tomato wraps (Whole Foods Market)

dinner:
OUT – kids’ choice!

Back to reality, which for me means getting my kids out the door early, with something healthy and energizing in their system. Smoothies are a great breakfast solution because you can pack them with so much. Yogurt, fruit, and even veggies. We’ve all gotten used to the concept of kale in a smoothie, but beets?!? Apparently the vibrant red color tells us that it’s high in anthocyanins and flavonoids, believed to have strong antioxidant properties. I’m just happy I’ve found another use for raw beets! With yogurt, berries, and even a little granola, this smoothie’s got it all! The next back to reality moment is late afternoon, when we all quickly realize how cranky a day’s worth of mental exercise combined with a hungry belly can make a person! Often, my veggies come to the rescue, especially if I keep some at-the-ready as you can so easily do with sliced cucumbers. This week, I’ve also got cherry tomatoes from my backyard vine, as well as several choices of lettuce. With a simple wrap or sandwich – it’s surprising what you can do in a hurry with some fresh veggies. I just keep some whole wheat tortillas and spreadable cream cheese or hummus on hand, and more often than not, I’ve got fresh-from-the-farm goodies to wrap up inside. With the first day behind us, everyone deserves a dinner out!

Wednesday height of summer pasta

rigatoni with eggplant tomato puree (Deb Perleman, The Smitten Kitchen)
butter lettuce salad

So many people say “eewwwhhh!” to eggplant…I guess it’s a texture thing. I’m not a good judge, because I haven’t met a veggie I didn’t like. Admirable? Not so much, as I’ve also never met a dessert I didn’t like (unfortunately). I do think this pasta recipe with eggplant might please event those non-eggplant-lovers amongst us, as it’s pureed, so seems like a sauce instead of mushy chunks. No one will probably even know there’s eggplant in it – it’ll just taste great! I’ll use a pint of my backyard cherry tomatoes, but certainly a larger variety tomato would work as well, as it all gets roasted and tossed in the food processor together. Use basil if you don’t have mint, although I’m finding mint so easy to grow on my own. What I love most about this recipe is that in the photo, her toasty golden pine nuts resemble what happens to mine often-times – more like charred and blackened! The pasta will be accompanied by a farm-fresh salad of just delicate butter lettuce and whatever I have lying around (maybe some yummy avocado and blue cheese?), sprinkled lightly with olive oil, vinegar, and crunchy salt flakes.

Thursday –  finger food, btsn

cucumber rounds, pita chips, baba ganoush (Katherine Deumling, SIO Blog)

My approach remains to ignore the rigid food assignments at the many Back To School Night potlucks on the horizon. Pick a late summer veggie in full swing, find a favorite recipe that utilizes it, and nine times out of ten, you’ve got a seasonal crowd-pleaser. For me, the go-to veggie this week is eggplant –  babaganoush to the rescue again! I do think this recipe might please even the non-eggplant-lovers amongst us. After roasting the eggplant, the recipe is a snap in the food processor, just adding tahini, garlic, lemon  and a couple of always-on-hand spices. Pile a party platter high with farm fresh cucumber rounds, pita chips or bread, and a beautiful bowl of babaganoush.

“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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