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in the good ol’ Summertime…..

July 16th, 2013 | 1 Comment »

When you think of the month of July, what comes to mind? Heat. Sun. Humidity. Thunderstorms. Exploding growth in the garden. Balmy, beautiful Summer nights. Popsicles. Ice cream. Grilling outside. Fresh produce from the Farmers Market.

In one word, quintessential Summertime.

It’s very warm as I write this, too; nearly 80 degrees and it’s only 8AM. Yesterday, as I walked to my car after work, the sun shimmering over the parking lot, and opened the car door to the furnace inside, I thought back to April, and it’s never-ending snowfalls. The blanket of snow we awoke to on Griffin’s birthday on the 19th, the Earth Day storm and parade of cold, sopping wet days. The May Day snow. Rain, rain and more rain in May and a Memorial Weekend at the lake where we needed to run the furnace, and a simple sweatshirt wasn’t enough to keep the chill at bay.

As I sat in my car, feeling the suffocating heat, I thought ‘This is what we waited for in the Spring. This is what we love, our theater of seasons, our scorching Summer.’ The idea of even raising one breath of complaint about it went out the window. It was hot, all right.

Thank goodness for that.

We’re not cooking much these days, although I did roast a whole bunch of vegetables the other day while the A/C churned out some crisp air. Today I plan to make a big batch of these Ridiculously Healthy Millet, Kale & Yam Burgers. And as always, with the surge of heat I get the urge to bake. Crazy, isn’t it? We’ll see what I come up with. But we still need to eat, and simple foods are passing through our kitchen, with lots of fresh salads, some quick stand-bys and a few Yee-Hawww cowboy style, throw it all together and see what happens kind of meals.

For a bit of inspiration, check out these oldies, but goodies from my Recipe Box.

Chard with White Beans and Fresh Herbs

In July, two years ago, I fell head over heels in love with Chard. We ate this quite often that Summer, and ever since.

Fettucine with Braised Kale

We also fell hard for Kale. This was one of the recipes that completely changed my mind about that green.

Ratatouille Gratin

When zucchini, tomato and eggplant are at their peak, there is nothing finer than this dish.

Roasted Radish & Caramelized Onion Tart

 We had a lot of vegetable revelation in 2011; this time was all about roasting Radishes.

Herb Flatbread with Pesto & Caramelized Onions

Simple and so delicious; make a big batch of the onions to keep on hand and it’s even easier.

Pickled Radishes

Perfect on a sandwich, or just straight from the jar. I really need to do these again.

Kale Slaw with Peanut Dressing

Gotta love the crunch of these raw salads. I’m addicted to them.

Super Simple Strawberry Vinaigrette

If you’re flush with strawberries (and if not, you should be!) this simple salad vinaigrette is extraordinary.

Cheesy Creamed Corn with Cilantro

This delicious and simple recipe came from my very last issue of Gourmet magazine, back in 2009.
(A moment of silence for the loss of a great work of art)

What are you eating during our hot and wonderful Summer?? Anything good you’d like to share??

inspiration for the bounty

August 29th, 2012 | 2 Comments »

In case you’ve been living underground, or in a state of firm denial, September begins on Saturday.

And to that I say “WHAAAAAAT??”

Summer just seems to whiz by us in a blur. There at the start it seems like it could be endless, days and days of nothing ahead of us and hours of daylight that stretch long in to the night. All of a sudden we turn the page to August, the air changes a bit and the light leaves earlier and the slide to Fall comes fast and quick. The ‘back to school’ photos are showing up everywhere this week, and next Tuesday, after Labor Day there will be tons more. For the first time in 13 years, I won’t have a child in school. It’s both bittersweet and wonderful. There’s a lot of change happening in our household as my boy finds his way in this world.

There is one constant with us now, as the tables turn from Summer to Fall and schedules become more prevalent, and that’s the staggering, loaded tables of the Farmers Market in it’s most bountiful season. Even though I know this to be true, it still boggles the mind when I gaze around me at the wonders that came from the soil, the simple act of placing seed in dirt, with faith, water and sunshine, and a plant that we can consume grows before our eyes. Water washes the dirt away and we take knife to vegetable flesh, some raw, some cooked and all delicious and perfect. I love when people share photos of their CSA bounty, the excitement clear in their words. What a blessing we have in the bounty of such a plentiful season.

But the question remains; how much eggplant and zucchini and tomato and corn and EVERYTHING can we consume, in all honesty? What’s next for the buckets of peppers? The endless greens? Oceans of onions? If you time your visit to the Farmers Market just right, the vendors tend to give away and handful of extras when you buy something, just to move it along. I’ve often staggered home under the weight of such visits, dumping out my bags on to the kitchen island to survey and ogle and dream and scheme. And I’m happy to share my findings.

Ratatouille Gratin

 The bread base alone in this dish is incredible, but the meltingly good, thinly sliced veggies on top of it become so soft and tender from the oven that your fork slips through it without a second thought. Get out the good olive oil, round up your fresh herbs; this dish should be in your meal plan now.

Roasted Ratatouille with Crispy Chives

There is surely no shortage of recipes for Ratatouille, and countless ways to pull together this classic and rustic dish. This roasting method was a favorite way to use up zucchini and eggplant last year, bringing out the sweet flavors and the topping of crisp chives added such a perfect extra touch.

Toasted Farro with Greens and Tahini

 Simple and quick, although not the prettiest, any hearty green can be used, along with any grain. The versatility of this dish is one of it’s best appeals. Plus side? It’s good, fast and hearty without being heavy.

Herbed Sweet Corn & Tomato Salad

As fresh as you can get, and beautiful to behold, this salad spotlights all the gorgeous tomato varieties available, resplendent with fresh herbs and crunchy sweet corn. It’s perfect for any remaining hot Summer days.

Herb Flatbread with Pesto & Caramelized Onions 


A bit futzy, as you make both a pesto and this delicate herbed flatbread, PLUS caramelizing a pan of onions, but put them all together and it packs amazing flavor. Use a good cheese and say Hello to an elegantly done meal or appetizer.

Tomato & Mushroom Pizza

 This was, hands down, one of the best pizzas I’ve ever made at home. I could not get enough of it and ate far more than would be considered reasonable, but that’s how good it was. And once again, it requires a few steps ahead of putting together the final result, but every moment spent creating this pizza is well worth it.

There are SO many more recipes and simple dishes to put together that I could share with you but I think I will save those for another post in order to not overwhelm you. This bountiful season will continue, and of one thing I’m certain, we’ll all need lots more inspiration before the end is in sight.

summer bounty

July 18th, 2012 | Comments Off

It’s more than just food, sometimes.

July has shown us little mercy. She rises daily at dawn, consistent and sure of herself, simmering her heat and thick air giving little relief in the night hours. I’m stuffed through and through with her blistering melancholy, brought down by hot winds, the white haze of mid-summer and a relentless, calculating sun. I snack on watermelon slices, thick with juice and snapping cold against my teeth, lush ripe cherries that burst in my mouth, forcing a wave of juice down my throat, nearly choking me in glorious abundance. My plate piles with deep green leaves, scattered with tiny radish and beets, shaved strips of deep red carrots, burnished fingers of grilled zucchini. I bite down on corn cobs that spray sweet white milk over my cheeks, lush with mashed avocado, squeaking tart lime and the right touch of salt. I wither. I rise, and repeat. My oven seems lonely. I forget what pants feel like and the washer spins over and over with white linen, flippy cotton skirts, the most minimal of clothing. I’ve lost count on the number of pitchers of iced tea I’ve brewed, the ounces of water consumed daily as a means to keep moving. I pin up my hair, thick with humid curls and dream ever so slightly of cutting it all off. Which I won’t. Come Winter, through bitter winds and snow, I’ll press it to my neck for warmth and remember this July. This heat, choked and hard that descended on us without respite.

But the rains come, thankfully. Blessedly. There is no scent more beautiful than that of the rain falling on a parched earth. With thunder rolling and wind in the trees, it’s a melody of riches for the heat weary soul. I press my face to the screen, taking in deep lungfuls of fresh wet air, reveling in the sound of water rushing past my ears and the earth drinking heavily of this bounty. It revives me; lifts me and lightens the spirit. I feel giddy, like a girl; thinking to run and dance in rejoicing at this gift from above. But instead, I watch, mesmerized at the patterns of droplets on stone, like snowflakes no two the same, each bringing sweet relief.

I love this season called Summer, even with it’s scorched sun and grass, with it’s heat, humidity and drapery drawn against the day, the endless bounty of life-sustaining foods, the inexpensive means to feed us, body and soul, sun on bare skin, the smell of warm grass, the light at 9pm.

Or even later than that.

{{ taken by Bald Eagle Lake, late June around 10:10pm }}

I don’t tire of this heat, as tiring as it can be on me; I know as soon as Summer wends it’s way towards September and tomato plants wilt against the inevitable downfall of their life span and the calendar pages turn that it will be missed. It’s a yearly struggle of self vs. elements, attempting to embrace the present without fail, to move through the days in the swelter of high Summer, no word of complaint falling from my lips for I know in my lifetime of this season, it’s as brief as a spark, or a thunderstorm that breaks up the endless pattern of scalding sunshine. It’s embedded deep in my bones with my DNA, my lifetime of July, followed by years of sultry August, right on the heels of exalted and sweet September.

ratatouille gratin

July 27th, 2011 | 5 Comments »

Eventually, we all know it’s going to happen; the bounty of summer vegetables is going to begin to overwhelm home cooks. This rapid increase of summer heat has brought my tomato plants into full force growth, skyrocketing up in the garden and bursting out buds like crazy. If this keeps up, August is going to be both delicious and ridiculous. And zucchini? We all know that one plant per home garden is enough to keep a happy cook in oblong green delight, but the overly enthusiastic gardeners who tend several plants will one day walk out to their garden and be confronted with tons of zucchini. Mark my words. Then they’ll do whatever they can to pawn the excess off on anyone who’ll look their way. Then there’s eggplant. The purple orbs are everywhere once they’re ripe. My word. It’s craaaaa- zee. But in a good, good way.

Because I found The. Best. summer vegetable option once your countertop is over-flowing with fresh zucchini, tomato and eggplant.

Provided your willingness to turn on your oven, here’s a dish that screams out “SUMMERTIME!!” in every bite, from the heady garlic and fresh herb infused olive oil that you drizzle over everything to the fresh vegetables that make up the bulk of this gratin. Get a really, really good loaf of bread for the base, a fine bottle of white wine for you, and enjoy a meal worthy of any fancy summer dinner party, or simply a way to ease yourself out of a hectic day.

I spied this recipe on the Food & Wine website, searching for some new plant-friendly recipes to add to our eating repertoire. I knew we’d love it and I wasn’t disappointed. Once out of the oven, the smell was killing me. I could barely wait for it to cool enough to cut a slice and dig in. Mike came home from meeting with some of his clients, and despite having already eaten lunch, I pretty much shoved a slice at him and demanded that he try it. Which he did. He’s got the right attitude, hmm?

The base of this gratin is made from good rustic bread, torn in to pieces and drizzled with a heady blend of garlicky oil inundated with fresh herbs. It bakes up nice and crunchy, aromatic and flavorful, adding a nice contrast to the soft baked tomato, zucchini and eggplant slices gracing the top. A smattering of fresh basil, a spray of good parmesan cheese and a fork. Oh, and don’t forget the wine. It’s a dish that tastes of summertime, reeking of warm days, the scent of cut grass and the way the night air sulks around at dusk with the lingering scent of the day before finally giving way to the cool of night. If anything else smacks of good seasonal eating, show me, because I really want to know.

You know that day will come when you glance, overwhelmed, at the summer bounty before you and you think ‘Oh dear, what do I do NOW???’ Well I have the answer, my friends. You will make this dish. And with one bite, you will determine when you can make it again. And maybe, again.

Do you have any favorite ways to use zucchini and eggplant??

Ratatouille Gratin

1 medium eggplant, sliced 1/4″ thick
2 medium zucchini, sliced 1/4″ thick
3-4 medium tomato, sliced 1/4″ thick.
1/2 c. good olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced extra fine
1 heaping tablespoon each fresh thyme, parsley and basil, minced fine, plus extra for finishing
1 1-lb loaf good quality artisan bread, torn in to 1-2″ pieces (i used a good sourdough, left in a paper bag overnight)

Stir olive oil, garlic and the heaping tablespoons of fresh herbs together in a small bowl. Whisk well to combine.

Toss eggplant and zucchini with 1-2 teaspoons of kosher salt and let stand for about 20-30 minutes. Drain any liquid and gently squeeze dry, if possible. Sprinkle tomato slices with salt and pepper.

Spray a 9×13 baking dish with cooking spray and arrange torn bread in bottom. Pack the bread in as tight as possible in one layer, using the entire loaf. Drizzle the bread with about 2 T. of the garlic/herb oil. Arrange the eggplant slices on top, then the zucchini, then the tomato. Drizzle the top of the vegetables with another tablespoon or two of the oil and sprinkle some thyme leaves over that.

Bake the gratin for 30-40 minutes, or until the vegetables are aromatic and slightly browned and the bread crust is crispy. Remove from oven and allow to stand for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle with minced basil and parsley and fresh grated parmesan before serving, if desired. The gratin can be served warm, or at room temperature. To reheat, place gratin on a baking sheet and rewarm in a low oven.

From Food & Wine, with heavy modifications

summer speaks

July 6th, 2010 | 6 Comments »

This summer is no usual summer for me. At least not like the past five or so years when the span between May and September often found me barefoot, my head in the breezes and most likely staring down a day with little to no agenda. No, my friends, this summer is much different. There won’t be any tan lines, probably no exhilarating rides around the lake atop a kneeboard and it’s quite possible that my swimsuit will stay tucked away in the drawer. Which is kind of sad- I really like that suit.

I’m working a lot- as expected, and surprisingly, when I’m deep in my work, and not partaking in the forays into summertime that are going on around me, I don’t find myself wistfully gazing off into space, my knife in hand, fighting off an emotional tugging at my heart over what I’m missing. The moment that white coat goes on and I pick up my knife case, heading up to the kitchen with an armload of towels, my hair twisted at the nape of my neck, the rest of the world falls away and my passion takes over. I don’t miss out on anything because I am right where I want to be. Often I catch a glance out the back door of the kitchen, when someone opens it to toss out the cardboard boxes, and I see the blue sky above the tree line, sometimes peppered with fleecy cloud, but there isn’t an urge to drop what I’m doing and step out into the warmth. In fact, when I do go outside at meal time and gaze off over the lake, I have a moment of appreciation for the glorious summer weather, but I shrug it off and head back inside to do what needs to get done.

And no one is more surprised by this than I am. I’ve discovered a great deal about myself in the past two months at this job. Where I used to think that I could never spend another summer indoors, chained to a time clock, slogging through task after task, what I never realized before is that when you’re deep in a profession that you feel you were created to do, the hours slip away and the rest of the world ceases to matter until the day is done. If I struggled before to get through my work day, it’s because I hated what I was doing. There was no passion involved in the work. I may have been skilled, capable and good at what I was doing for 8 hours a day, but my heart didn’t swell with anticipation each time I stepped up to the plate. I cared enough to do what needed to get done, but it never stirred me. Now I’m being stirred each day, loving what I do and eager to go above and beyond to get done what needs to get done. I’ve discovered what it means to truly, truly love your job. And I’m so grateful for that.

And summertime, the sweetest months in Minnesota, are moving past me at the usual rapid rate and really, I’m fine with it. Still, the time that I do have to enjoy the sunshine has been more sweet and appreciated, simply because I know that it’s limited and I need to get out there, even if it means just taking a walk through my garden. In there, the summer is in full swing, strong and vocal and clamoring to be heard. With being so busy, I find myself living much more in the moment than I have in a very long time. For there’s no fretting about the future these days, there’s no financial stress or concern about wearing ourselves out tugging so hard at life to make it’s ends meet. And while I do know that this will come to an end, I can’t think about that. There’s still so much ahead, so much to learn, to do and to experience and many, many more days of work before it’s time to stop, to rest and to re-focus. For now, it’s nice to just ‘be’

My favorite time in the garden has arrived- it’s Hollyhock time!!

Every year I allow the Hollyhocks to take free range over wherever they decide to grow and am always amply rewarded with towering stalks and gigantic buttons of eye-popping color. These deep red ones on the left are a standard, jutting out against the pale backdrop of the house, offering a rich haven for lazy droning Bumblebees. The lovely pale yellow also come up each year.

This year’s surprise color is this gorgeous pink.


Almost every season brings a new color, one that’s morphed from a previous plant. This pink is so stunning, light and delicate around the edges with deep magenta accents in the center and along a few petals. The first bloom of this took my breath away.

Another surprise color this year is this lovely salmon.

I’ve gotten full on pink flowers in previous years, but this one shows more orange, giving it a nicer and richer color than just plain pink. The stalk of these bloomed so profusely that it fell over after a few days, so thick with blossoms. That’s the one drawback of the Hollyhock. It collapses under the weight of it’s own beauty.

This super delicate pink comes up every year. The center is a lovely rose color.

Here’s another return visitor each summer. The golden petals are set off by a deeper pink center that almost looks orange.

A brighter yellow made an appearance this year too.

And on top of it being prime Hollyhock time, the Echinacea are in bloom

One variety of DayLily managed to bloom this year. The others set their buds, which then dried up. Mysterious, huh? This one of my favorite though. It’s so exotic and beautiful.

The very delicate and lacey Scabiosa have also started blooming.

These lovely flowers, waving from atop a thin but sturdy stem are wholly dependent on sunshine to unravel their frilly petals one at a time. One day I will look and see a few swollen buds, then over a few sunny days, the tiny petals unfurl like tentative sails until they are all gloriously open and blowing in the breeze. I have three Scabiosa plants that should have a variety of colors. So far, all that’s opened has been white, but the others are now blooming and I’m hoping to be pleasantly surprised soon.

The Bee Balm has opened it’s thin petals, much to the delight of the roaming Bumblebees.

The Phlox stands tall and proud with deep pink fists of color.

And rounding out the current events in the garden is the ever cheerful and sunny Coreopsis.

The funnest part about the Coreopsis is that the petals sort of resemble duck feet.

Summer is also speaking warmly from the vegetable patch, with tiny tomatoes and peppers, abundant Thyme and Oregano. The wily resident rabbit has been fenced out of foraging on my vegetable plants, and I still see him, gazing wistfully through the barrier at the bounty he can no longer destroy. I don’t mind if he wants to gobble up all the sunflower sprouts, but he won’t be making a salad bar out of my food, thank you.

And another loud exclamation of summer? A sunny morning, complete with fresh cherries in a homemade bowl on faded redwood steps.

I hope your summer is happily bending your ear with it’s tales of sunshine and play, that there’s glorious fruits and vegetables filling your lives and tummies. Any surprises at your end? Please share them so we can all find the joy in this exquisite and fleeting time.

Dog days

August 14th, 2009 | 2 Comments »

August has descended to show us what it’s capable of setting out. I’ve missed the heat….. and I fully realize how strange that might sound, but here in Minnesota, this summer has been anything but hot. While there are some who may tend towards whining about weather, we often can feel cheated if a summer passes us by without whacking us a good one with it’s expected personality. July’s average temperature was 70° and that’s unheard of in this state. I wore a sweatshirt last month. And pants. Maple trees beginning to turn in July is no one’s idea of Summertime.

Did you know that the origin of the term ‘Dog Days of Summer’, those sultry and hottest days traditionally between early July and early September, were once considered an evil time when ‘the seas boiled, wine turned sour, dogs grew mad, and all creatures became languid, causing to man burning fevers, hysterics, and frenzies’ ?  Really….dramatic, huh? But I suppose in the days before air conditioning…..

dog-days-of-summer

Last night there was a spectacular lightning show to our Southeast. The flashes leapt from cloud to cloud, jagged arcs across an edge of the sky that was otherwise clear and filled with stars. I watched from our second floor window to get the best look at the awesome display and on occasion, would turn my eyes away to look at the glittering points of light around me. I was amply rewarded, during this, the time of Perseid, to see one lone asteroid streaking across the sky as lightning continued to flash in the other direction. It was an incredible sight.

Perseid97

I haven’t been blogging about much food, have I? My apologies. We’ve been eating, but it’s been simple fare, really the best kind. Isn’t it wonderful that often the best thing you can do to food is as little as possible? Farmers markets are stuffed to bursting with more fresh fare that imagineable; the deep purple eggplants, rich green peppers and in grand fashion, trucks that are overflowing with sweet corn.

sweetcorn

Like the sweet cherry season of early June where I am known to purchase a sack of ruby fruits several times a week, this time of year I will happily eat my weight in sweet corn. Or try to anyway. I’m not shy about indulging and enjoying it, my hopes pinned on being so absolutely tired of it that when it’s gone for the year I won’t miss it much. Until next summer, anyway. There such a joy to biting into that quintessential taste of summer, kernels so juicy that they spray an unsuspecting fellow diner, warm melty butter slicking my lips. I can find means to eat it every single day. Have you ever tried sweet corn, smoked salmon and goat cheese in an omelet?? I highly recommend it. With fresh basil, please.

cabin delights 008

Our suppers have been simple these days as well, lunches light and refreshing. I’ve been a bit obsessed with these beans, loving the simplicity as well as the taste. I can make an entire meal out of a thickly sliced eggplant, brushed with oil and grilled to a nice char. We enjoyed a spicy, kicky meal of chili-garlic grilled shrimp, another round of Mike’s famous burritos. There was time at the lake, where a simple mix of grilled vegetables made for an amazing side dish. Local tomatoes are starting to arrive.  I haven’t felt like there’s been much to blog about because what’s going on in the kitchen here is what should be happening in your kitchen as well, and others too. Very little. Your meal shouldn’t be putting you out, or taxing your energy. There’s a summertime outside, quietly slipping away yet with enough remaining moments to grab in your hands, maybe with a picnic on the side.

How about a nice Tabbouleh style salad to pack up and take along?

bulgur with veg 006bulgur with veg 008

Chickpea Tabbouleh
By Kate (with some help from The Minimalist)

I 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
2-3 c. cooked bulgur
1 c. fresh green beans, steamed with a bit of crunch and diced
2 medium tomatoes, diced
1 medium carrot, peeled and grated on a microplane (watch the fingertips!)
1/3 c. minced fresh parsley
1/3 c. minced fresh mint
Juice and zest of half a lemon (more if you desire)
3 T. good olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Place chickpeas in a medium bowl and gently mash with a fork or other implement to break down into small pieces. Add in remaining ingredients and drizzle lemon juice and oil over all. Toss to coat and combine. Season to taste and chill for several hours. Stir before serving and adjust seasoning if necessary. Change-up veggies as you please.

SOME TIPS:
Make it less, make it more; vary the bulgur to chickpea ratio according to what you desire for your salad. Add more chickpea, less grain, or reverse it. When making a salad like this, the idea of having uniformity is pleasing to the eye and makes it easier to consume, hence the microplane for grating the carrot and the step of breaking down the chickpeas. It isn’t necessary though. As per any recipe with fresh herbs, personal taste prevails. Add more if you like, or less.

Sweet Summer Raspberries

July 30th, 2009 | 2 Comments »

If I had any say in the matter, I would wish to line the road to Heaven with wild summer raspberry bushes.

summer raspberries 013

There is nothing more rewarding and satisfying on a warm morning in late July to find the narrow country road upon which you’re walking lined with loaded wild raspberry patches. I was back-tracking on the road, having first traversed it’s dusty and worn tire tracks to the end where it meets the noisy highway, weaving along behind the properties that dot the lakeshore around our cabin when I suddenly lifted my nose to the wind and thought to myself  ‘I smell raspberries!’

I should have had a clue from the mass of deer tracks in the mud by the road that something was amiss in that area, but upon closer inspection, I saw the red orbs hiding deep within their brambly branches. The deer, and the delightful scent had led my eyes to the right spot. The ditch dipped away from under my feet, a steep incline on both sides that was littered with thick slabs of sharp shale, partially covered with tall grass,  and dangerous underfoot. I couldn’t reach to the farthest those branches spread, and gazed longingly at the dark red fruit hanging just out of reach. With a gentle hand drawing back the thorns, I pulled free what I could, and then moved on.

Barely 50 yards further down the road, with the sun high, another broad patch of berries caught my eye. This one was more accessible, hovering slightly under a stand of wild apple trees, the ditch was flatter and more easily stepped through without fear of slipping. And it was full of fruit. My bare legs bore the brunt of careless foraging among the thorns, but my mouth was leading the way. The fruit, at once warm and tart where the sun played on it all day long to sweet and cool underneath the canopy of trees, was abundant, deep shades of dark reddish purple and perfectly ripe. Just lifting the branches caused many of the berries to simply let go, falling to the undergrowth, and the ones that I could cup my fingers around fell easily into my hand. Their sweet flavor burst over my tongue, the purest taste of raspberry that one can get, with a memorable hint from the humid touch of our lake and the very grasses in which they grew present in almost every bite. In many spots the berries were as big as the end of my thumb; others they were miniscule, hardly more than that half a dozen tiny spores, but swollen with summer goodness and thick with the essence of late July. I walked among the bushes, plucking, lifting, slurping and sweating, brushing aimlessly at the lazy buzzing flies, my eyes riveted on the bushes for the next spot to pounce upon.

Among the Bee Balm, Crown Vetch, Indian Paintbrush, Black-Eyed Susan and thick woodland ferns, the bounty rose undisturbed under my feet, save for the lucky birds and a trio of Does and their Fawns that I startled out of their morning snack. The Does gazed at me, indignation apparent in their faces as I plundered their stash; the Fawns, with their huge startled eyes and flashing puffy white tails glanced about nervously, eyes darting from their mothers to me as if to say ‘Aren’t we supposed to run or something??’ I quietly slipped away from them, hoping they would just return to the same enjoyment that I was having, and since I didn’t hear the thunderous crash of their hooves through the woods, I imagine they did. Why wouldn’t they?

Wouldn’t you?
summer raspberries 010

Along the whole length of road, I wove back and forth, my eyes trained on the ditches in order to not miss one stand of bush. With each handful passed to my mouth, my thirst sated with their endless juice and the sunshine pouring down on my head, I almost felt like I was drunk with my bounty, filled to bursting with the very flavor of summer. When I finally emerged onto the paved road that led to our cabin, stuffed with fruit and drenched in sweat, I had to heave a huge sigh of contentment. The wind had picked up, some thick puffy clouds were dragging themselves lazily across the abundance of blue sky overhead, and across the road from our place, a field of amber wheat waved carelessly, paths rippling across the top of the grain sheaths in endless and hypnotic patterns. I longed to just drop into the tall grass with a sigh and take it all in, the parade of summer that passes far too quickly. Instead I retired to our screen porch to watch the lake pulse and dance from the touch of the wind, with a happy raspberry filled tummy.

Regrouping….again (with a recipe)

July 28th, 2009 | 4 Comments »

My goodness, I’ve been MIA on the food posts for a week!! What in heaven’s name have I been doing? Playing hooky in the summer sunshine? Ah, sadly no….

Picnics in the gentle July breezes? No again……

Oh yeah….. *sigh*
audi 72309 001
audi 72309 003

Despite it being high summer, where sunshine and warmth and summer vegetables should be in abundance, instead we’ve had copious rainfall (a good thing, according to my crunchy grass) cool temperatures and a totaled Audi, our best and most reliable vehicle.

Thankfully no one was hurt. Both Mike and Griffin were in the car and have some very minor whiplash, both completely treatable, but the poor car was a total wreck. The frame was badly bent, the cargo area crushed, the fender pushed under against the wheels and the entire back end twisted to the right due to an unattentive driver who rear-ended it. Our insurance settlement was fair and very favorable, now it’s on to focusing our intentions to the purchase of a new vehicle. We loved this Audi, the A6 wagon, and fully intend to get another one, a newer model with lower mileage. Already we’ve seen some very promising vehicles. And once again, when faced with something difficult and trying, the outcome could have been so much worse and we’re really so very fortunate and blessed in that regard.

So there’s been my focus for the past week. The Audi was my car primarily, and having to clean it out and leave it at the salvage yard was like saying goodbye forever to a trusted and reliable friend. While it’s only a chunk of metal, I really loved it, and it was as close to a dream car as I’ve ever owned so for a day or two I simply felt heartbroken.

Dinners have been almost an afterthought, and even when effort was made they remained pretty simple; grilled chicken, delicious chicken sausages stuffed with hearty portobella mushroom chunks, some of the first summer sweet corn, grilled eggplant and zucchini and still, lots of hearty summer salads made with tons of fresh vegetables and the nicest greens found from the farmers market. We’ve done BLT’S, making Griffin nearly dance with joy over the prospect of BACON for dinner, but now that he’s off for a week of service with his youth group, Mike and I, once again, declared the house a Meat-Free Zone.

And to celebrate, I made Quinoa, rich with a hearty helping of fresh vegetables.

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This was one of those dishes made out of the odds and ends that accumulate over a short window of time in your fridge from various meals. I couldn’t possibly create it in this same way again, but the idea of it is open to infinite possibilities. All you need is cooked quinoa for the base and the rest is up to your taste, imagination and whatever leftovers you have on hand.

What did go in to this version was about half a chopped red pepper, a clove of thinly sliced garlic, an ear of leftover sweet corn, two slices of grilled eggplant and about four of grilled zucchini (i’ve been crazy for grilled veggies lately- maybe because of my spiffy new grill???) , the remains of two store-bought deli salads left from a party, half an avocado and four slices of tomato. It didn’t need any seasoning but salt and pepper.

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It was a nice dish to enjoy in the company of an attentive and interested cat too….
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This isn’t a whole lot different from what I posted recently….my apologies if repetition annoys you but that post brought forth a few inquiries that were deemed noteworthy to address,  so here’s a few good tips……

Cooking quinoa:
Measure 1-1/2 cups of water into a saucepan with a tight fitting lid and bring to a boil. Meanwhile, in a mesh colander, rinse 1 cup of quinoa well, lifting it with your fingers to make sure it gets saturated. Quinoa is a very dusty grain, and although most commercially available sources have already removed the bitter saponin from the outer husk, a thorough rinse is always recommended. When the water boils, add the washed grain and cover the pan, bring it back to a boil then reduce heat and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. The water should be absorbed and small ‘eyes’ will have appeared in the top of the grain. Remove from the heat and allow to sit for 5 minutes or more to steam. I’ve left the grain for up to half an hour once cooked with no issues. Steaming is necessary to ‘finish’ the process.

Grilling Vegetables:
I’ve had several queries lately about how I grill vegetables, and this will mainly cover eggplant and zucchini as those are my most current obsession.  The key to cooking eggplant is NOT to add too much oil. Eggplant is like a sponge and will absorb an enormous amount of oil which is then released when cooked, turning the vegetable to mush. I cut the eggplant into thick slices and brush one side only with olive oil, usually seasoned with dried basil and garlic. Resist the urge to add more. For zucchini, I cut them into long slices, and as thick as possible. This will vary depending on their size. I brush them with a bit of seasoned oil as well, then sprinkle them all with sea salt and a little pepper and a nice dousing of McCormick’s Parmesan Herb seasoning mix. (this is optional, but it’s pretty darn good)

I use a gas grill, and this is my method:
Heat your grill on high until it’s good and hot, then scrub your grates well with a stiff wire brush. I’m kind of a fanatic when it comes to keeping my grill grates clean, but it keeps them from getting anything gunky or off-tasting on my food. Once they’re scrubbed, using a pair of tongs, dip a wad of paper towel into some cooking oil- I use canola- and wipe the grates well to prepare them. The more you scrub them off, the more you need to season. Turn down the heat to low- remember, it’s already really hot- and then place the vegetables oiled side down on the grates and shut the lid. Let them cook, undisturbed, for about 3-5 minutes but keep an eye on them. The edges should be curling slightly or showing wrinkles, then flip them over and allow to cook on the other side for about five minutes more. They should be soft but not soggy, and have some nice grill marks.