Summer’s Bounty

by Caroline

Aside from our one disappointing long weekend of notcamping, my family’s enjoyed a fortunate summer. Unlike poor Lisa’s family, who struggled through a difficult summer of illness and hard work and not a lot of fun, relying — as I would — on the comforts of familiar foods — we were able to explore. We tried new things in the kitchen (zucchini blossoms; homemade nutella; mint stracciatella) and we traveled new places (which I will be writing about in the coming weeks).

But I think my favorite part of this sweet summer was one of our most familiar stops, my parents’ home in Connecticut. Summer is my favorite time to visit because my dad’s garden is always so plentiful. We can never predict whether it’s going to be a good year for apples or peaches, potatoes or green peas, corn or beans, but there’s always something.

This year the harvest looked like this:

And this:

And this:

And this:

Summer is winding down now. School has started, work is amping up, and some worries loom. A new season is beginning. But as I head into the fall and the memory of summer’s bounty starts to fade, I will continue to remember this:

Zucchini Blossoms, Two Ways

by Caroline

I grant that this post is a little silly. I know for most folks zucchini blossoms are more of a rare summer treat than something you’re looking for new ways to prepare. They are too fragile to find in grocery stores, so you really need either to grow them yourself or look for them at a farmer’s market, where they aren’t cheap. And once you have them at home, well, when they are so tasty dipped in batter and fried, why look any further?

But I was taken by Melissa Clark’s recent NYT column about zucchini blossoms, in which she points out what we really all know: once you batter and fry something, especially something as delicate as a zucchini blossom, the prevailing flavor disappears in the larger sensation of salty crunch. Not that there’s anything wrong with that, but, maybe there’s another way?

And also, I’d bought a bag full of the flowers expecting friends for dinner; their plans changed but my sense of urgency about getting to the blossoms before they wilted did not. So I figured two preparations would be the best way to handle the bounty.

I fried half, using a simple flour and seltzer water batter like this one; for the other half, I followed Clark’s lead and simply stuffed the raw flowers with tapenade and burrata (the mozzarella filled with heavy cream).

As we sat down to eat, the fog rolled in and it started to drizzle, but the sunny platter loaded with zucchini flowers brought a little summer into our evening.

Arugula and Apricot Salad

by Caroline

Our backyard was full of this:

And our fruit CSA had brought us all these:

And so I decided to combine them into this:

Arugula and Apricot Salad

Serves one; adjust amounts according to taste (and your supplies)

Several handfulls of arugula, torn into bite-sized pieces
1 apricot, sliced thinly
6-8 toasted pecan halves
about half an ounce of sharp cheddar cheese (use a vegetable peeler to get thin shavings)
a drizzle of your favorite vinaigrette

Toss all the ingredients together until nicely dressed. Serve.

Chard, Chickpea and Carrot Salad-y Side Dish

by Caroline

I got the idea for this dish from Yottam Ottolenghi’s gorgeous new cookbook, Plenty, but I really only had the three key ingredients: chard, carrots, and chickpeas. Ottolenghi adds coriander seeds, mint and other herbs that probably make the dish extra-specially delicious, but really, it’s fine the way I did it, too. Is it a warm salad? A side dish? It’s up to you.

3/4 lb (that translated into two bunches) Swiss chard
1/4 cup olive oil
4 medium carrots, peeled and diced
15 ounce can chickpeas
1 garlic clove, minced
1 tablespoon lemon juice, or the juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup greek yogurt

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil.

Separate the chard leaves and stalks. Blanch the stalks in boiling water for 3
minutes, then add the leaves and continue cooking for 2 more minutes. Drain well (squeezing to get the water out), then chop.

Heat the oil in a large saute pan, then add the carrots and saute for 5 minutes, then add the chard and chickpeas. Cook another couple minutes, just to heat through, then add the garlic, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and serve with the yogurt.

Roasted Squash & Black Rice Salad

by Caroline

Suddenly after a pretty mild, dry winter it has turned cold here in San Francisco and all I’ve wanted to eat are hearty salads and soups. I spotted this in Sunset, my go-to magazine for new recipes, and while I didn’t have all the ingredients (pomegranates are out of season) I had enough — and added a few more (like dried cherries, which I’m adding to everything lately) — to make a great lunch for several days.

I’ve linked to the original, and am posting the recipe here as I adapted it:

2/3 cup black rice
1 pound butternut squash
4-5 scallions
1/2 teaspoon sweet smoked Spanish paprika
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped, or pumpkin seeds
1/4 cup dried cranberries or dried cherries
Juice of half a lemon
Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375°.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the rice, adjust heat to maintain a simmer, and cook until rice is tender, about 30 minutes. Drain and rinse with cool water, then drain well again before tossing into a serving bowl.

Peel and seed the squash and cut into 1-in. cubes. Toss the squash with paprika, salt, and oil. Spread on a baking sheet in a single layer and roast, stirring occasionally, until browned and tender, about 30 minutes. Put the squash in the bowl with the rice and use the baking pan to roast the scallions for 5-6 minutes, until nicely browned and wilted. Let cool, then chop into bite-sized pieces and add to the growing salad in your bowl. Squeeze half a lemon into the bowl and toss.

Spread the walnuts or pumpkin seeds on the baking sheet and toast until fragrant (6 to 8 minutes), stirring once, then add to the salad along with the dried cherries or cranberries. Toss and serve.