Sunday, August 15, 2010

Summer Swoon

Like a fool, I went on vacation. Why did I do it?! August is my favorite food time of year in Minnesota! Everything is ripe to bursting. All my favorite fruits and vegetables are peaking: corn, zucchini, tomatoes, basil, eggplants, cherries, berries, melons, peaches, and on and on and on.

I came home to an enormous CSA farm share full of impossibly lush corn, beans, tomatoes, peppers, basil, melons, and raspberries. I’m equal parts frantic and ecstatic, so the only reasonable thing to do is faint.

When I pick myself up off the floor, I will go straight to the kitchen and cook this stuff. Summer cooking should, in my opinion, be fresh and immediate. You should be able to march out to the garden in the middle of a recipe and pick something to put in the dish. The prep should be simple and the cooking time short.

Today’s blog is a twofer because I’ve been neglecting you all. I have here a pair of dishes with summer vegetables and their good friend olive oil.

Corn and Radish Salad
This recipe came out of the Southwest Journal a couple of years ago, and I tweaked it a bit. It’s a great thing to do with leftover corn on the cob. Ha! As if there’s ever anything left over of THAT.

Dressing for 4 cups of corn
A jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
Juice of ½ lime
1-2 t honey
¼ t ground cumin
¼ c olive oil
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Put these in the food processor or blender and liquefy them as you prepare the other ingredients.

The salad: Make it by the ear!
4 or 5 ears of cooked corn
6 radishes, halved and sliced (1 or 2 radishes per ear)
¼ c coarsely chopped Italian parsley (1 or 2 sprigs per ear)
1-2 T sliced or minced onion (a scant teaspoon per ear)

Slice the kernels off the cob. You do this by holding the cob on end and sawing a sharp knife down the side of the cob. Don’t dig too deep or you’ll cut into the cob; aim to cut off around three rows at a time.

Put all the salad ingredients in a bowl and toss them with the dressing. That’s all!

Zucchini Stewed with Tomato
Stewing a zucchini is not the same as stewing a chicken. It takes minutes, not hours. You can start this dish and throw it on the back burner while you toss a salad, and they will be done at the same time.

1-2 T olive oil
1 small onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
A pound of zucchini and/or pattypan squash, sliced into thick rounds
One or two large fresh tomatoes, chopped, or 1 to 2 cups of canned tomatoes (I found one jar left from last summer)
A handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the oil in a large skillet and sauté the onion until translucent. Toss in the garlic and stir it around for a minute.

Add the squash and sauté until it begins to get tender, about four or five minutes. Add the tomatoes and, if needed, enough water so that the squash pieces are swimming just a little bit. Turn the heat down to medium-low and cover, stirring occasionally, for five minutes.

Have a look: the squash should be tender and the tomatoes should be thickened, not watery. If it is too soupy in there, uncover and cook off some of the water. Add the basil for the last minute of cooking, then season with salt and pepper.