Thursday, August 23, 2007

Summer Faves

It is so very clear now that the summer days are coming to an end. I of course mean the official season of summer, since the actual feeling of summer is long gone. During the transitional period, I was having panic attacks about it - stressed about balancing school and multiple works and putting my house on the market, and upset about my lack of a summer vacay. But now that I am almost completely crossed over into the new school-year lifestyle, I know everything will be fine. I am actually really looking forward to the fall season...the leaves, the warm food, and the non-unbearable weather. We are already experiencing chilly mornings and a lil' bit of fall color :)

During the summer, I was lucky to reap the benefits of friends with garden
s as well as the ever-bountiful WonderLab garden. We've had some really delicious eggplant, tomato, and squash, and I found some new favorite recipes that worked well with the season. Also, I realized I want to try to plant a vegetable garden at my next house. It's a hell of a lot of work, I know, but wouldn't it be so nice?
My #1 summer fave is this amazing broiled eggplant, onion, and hummus sandwich that I made after trying a super-bland eggplant and hummus sandwich at Bloomingfood's a while back. The BFood's sandwich was JUST eggplant and hummus on bread. blah. So, I decided it would be best to toast the bread, spread both sides with a layer of hummus, pile up thinly-sliced eggplant and red onion (both broiled with olive oil, salt & pepper) on one half, mixed greens on the other half, and top it off with black pepper and a touch of salt. Oh my goodness...this thing is da bomb. So it wins the gold prize for summer food love. The picture above was taken on a night when I packed a couple of these up with some Miller Lite tallboys and popcorn to take to the Starlite Drive-In. It was fun. Another summer fave is this summer corn salad that is delicious either warm or cold. This is an adaptation of a recipe from The Red Cat Cookbook, which I received as a gift last Christmas. I am especially fond of the added soybeans, which make it a delicious full meal, all on its own.
Summer Corn Salad
6 small Yukon Gold potatoes, diced
1 pound asparagus, trimmed and cut crosswise into bite-size pieces
fresh kernels removed from from 6 ears of corn (don't use frozen)
5-6 roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
1 can soybeans, drained and rinsed
juice and zest from one lemon
approximately 1/4 c. olive oil
1 T. chopped thyme
1 T. chopped fresh basil
1 clamshell package of arugula

Boil potatoes in salted water for about 5 minutes, or until tender when pierced, drain (it is best to fish them out or use a pasta pot so you won't lose the hot water), and add to a very large mixing bowl. Return the water to a boil and add the asparagus, cooking for about 2 minutes or until bright green, but crisp. Remove asparagus from water and add to the large bowl.

Meanwhile, heat 2 T. olive oil in a wide, deep saute-pan over medium-high heat. When the pan is hot, add the corn and toast until beginning to brown, about 2-3 minutes. Add the tomatoes until heated through and beginning to break apart. Add soybeans to the pan and stir together until heated through.

Add corn mixture to the large mixing bowl and top with lemon juice, a sprinkle of lemon zest, and a hefty drizzle of olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper, add thyme and basil, and mix to combine. (Note: if you are not eating all of the salad right away, reserve the basil to top the individual portions. It will turn brown if left overnight.) Serve salad on top of a bed of arugula when warm or refrigerate and serve cool.

Friday, August 03, 2007

Polenta & Phicken with Blackberry-Nectarine Salsa

I have shaved away all of my cooking magazine subscriptions except for one - Eating Well - which I love. It was a gift from my sister-in-law, and I am so glad that she introduced me to it. I notice that sometimes when I am thumbing through a cooking magazine, I gloss over the meat dishes without thinking about it, and that really eliminates so many tasty options. I have to remind myself sometimes to keep an open mind . . . it usually only takes an easy substitution or two to make things work.

This recipe jumped out on the page at me, and Chris, actually. We had both seen the photograph and had this discussion about how it made us both kinda want to eat it with chicken, which rarely happens. But of course, that was an option I didn't want to consider - I had to make this work, and there was a fantastically easy solution that I had almost forgotten about completely. My favorite veggie brand on the plant, Quorn, makes frozen naked cutlets that you can sub into almost any chicken dish. Unlike the Morningstar Farms pre-seasoned strips (yuck), these actually hold together, have a great firm texture, and are not already covered in weird dehydrated flavorings that don't match with the dish you are making.

The original Eating Well recipe can be found here, but I will let you know about my substitutions.
1. As I don't own a grill, I used my faithful broiler for this one (I know, not as fun - but it works).
2. Obviously, I replaced the chicken with Quorn Naked Cutlets (straight from the freezer).
3. I doubled the amount of spice rub mixture - it was tasty, so why not?!
4. As you can see from my photograph (which I am embarrassed to post alongside a link to the pretty pretty EW picture), the nectarines overcooked to a pulp - and quickly. Based on my experience using the broiler for this one, I would place the Quorn, polenta, and nectarines on one pan and place in the broiler at the same time - then remove the nectarines first - after 3 or 4 minutes, not 6 to 8 like the recipe suggests. Then, keep the polenta in the oven until the Quorn is done, so it gets a nice golden crust.

Let me just end this by saying that I was kind of amazed at how easy this was to throw together, in that you only need to use one pan for cooking, and you can make the salsa in the time it takes the Quorn and polenta to finish you are really looking at only 15 or 20 minutes. Beyond that, the flavors and fresh and full and hearty (yum!), while the dish is still really light and good for you. You will probably want to bust into the leftovers, so I suggest eating this with a small salad so that you don't ruin your chances of having an equally scrumptious lunch the next day.