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Archive for July, 2011

While my friends & family in England are bemoaning one of the colder summers on record, we here in south central Pennsylvania are in the midst of a truly disgusting swelter. Highs in the 90s & touching 100 in the next few days, with all those tantalizing rainclouds evaporating before they provide any relief. We’re down to a few gallons of water in the rain barrel, so let’s hope the skies turn in our favor soon.

Our garden’s persevering, with the basil & oregano clearly being the happiest about this heat. We’ve cut huge bunches & made basil-garlic paste & hung the oregano to dry (which is tempering its spiciness, thankfully – I don’t know what we did, but this year’s oregano is blisteringly hot when eaten fresh). The yellow squash has put out some nice fruit, & our neighbor’s eggplant is ready to start picking. The tomatoes are taking their sweet time, with barely half a dozen cherry tomatoes being ripe enough to eat so far. The plants themselves are huge, though, so we’ve got high hopes for August’s harvest.

Meanwhile, a family’s got to eat… but turning on the stove is the absolute last thing I want to do when the temperature’s pushing triple digits. We grill on occasion, & I’ll freely admit that in our house, cereal & yoghurt & fruit often counts as a decent summer dinner, but we do try to make a proper sit-down of things, even in the heat.

One of C’s favorite dinners is what we charmingly refer to as Pick-a-Nibble. I’ll slice & steam some new potatoes & some green beans, then rifle around in the fridge for whatever leftovers might lend themselves to dinner – a bit of cold pasta, some nice cheese, jarred roasted peppers cut into strips, leftover salmon or faux meatballs, tinned chickpeas tossed in a bit of oil & lemon juice, a few soft-boiled eggs, slices of cucumber… you get the idea. It’s easy, fun & pretty on the plate, & is a good way to use up the piddly half protions of things that tend to get forgotten in the back of the fridge.

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Here’s a proper recipe for you, if you can call it that. We’re making this almost every week right now, & it’s perfect summer food – crunchy & cool & salty & a tiny bit sweet from the corn. I serve it with home-made bread, tortillas/flat breads or corn chips, sometimes with a nice avocado diced up & scattered over the top. A slab of grilled salmon rubbed with a bit of lemon juice & pepper would elevate it to a more substantial meal. Don’t roll your eyes at the tinned corn – our local grocery chain’s organic brand is pretty fantastic. You can substitute frozen, or freshly-cut-from-the-cob corn as you have it.

 

Too-Hot-to-Cook Salad

1 16-ounce tin of black beans, drained & rinsed

1 16-ounce tin of corn, drained & rinsed

Half a hothouse cucumber, diced (about half an inch square)

1-2 jarred roasted red peppers, rinsed & diced OR 1 large ripe tomato, diced

1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

2-4 tablespoons chopped fresh herbs (parsley, oregano, thyme, basil, whatever you have on hand)

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 teaspoons za’atar (optional)

Salt & pepper to taste

Combine the lot in a large bowl, adjusting the seasoning & dressing as needed. Chill for half an hour or so to let the flavors meld. Crack open a nice cold summer brew, stick your feet in the kids’ wading pool & become one with the heat… ohmmmmmmmygodit’shot.

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