Summertime and the eatin’s easy

By on August 22, 2012

It’s August and I’m still trying to savor every bit of my garden and all that the bounty of summer offers. I have abundant herbs, tomatoes, squash, zucchini, cucumbers, and peppers and I’m using all of the glory of summer.

My first offering to you is a special potato salad. Potato salads are like cole slaws and BBQ sauces. Everybody has a recipe. This one is a little different from your standard potato salads. The addition of dill and Dijon mustard give this salad a totally different flavor profile.

There’s an important step in the directions that you must not overlook: Pour the vinegar over the cooked potatoes while they’re still hot.

Dill and Dijon Potato Salad
2 lbs. potatoes, sliced (I prefer red new potatoes.)
3 1/2 TB rice wine vinegar
1 1/2 TB Dijon mustard
6 TB canola oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh dill

Cook potatoes until just tender.
Drain.
Transfer to large bowl and add 2 TB vinegar to hot potatoes and stir gently so the potatoes can absorb the vinegar.
Combine remaining 1 1/2 TB vinegar and mustard in a small bowl.
Gradually whisk in oil until you have a nice emulsion.
Add chopped dill.
Pour dressing onto potatoes and toss gently.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Refrigerate.
Garnish with dill sprigs and cucumber slices.

A friend brought the Hawthornes a bag of Currituck corn and I came up with this recipe to use up some of that corn. I like to call this my Fiesta Salad. I love dishes that you can feast on with your eyes first and this corn and black bean salad is most decidedly feastable.

Fiesta Salad With Lime and Cumin Dressing
For the salad:
2 cups cooked black beans
Kernels from 2 ears of corn, caramelized
¼ green pepper, diced
¼ red pepper, diced
½ red onion, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
1 avocado, diced
Handful of cilantro, chopped, about 2 tablespoons

I use dried beans and cook them. And I never bother to soak them overnight. It’s not necessary. To cook beans, rinse them off well, and put in a large pot of salted water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low simmer. After about 20 minutes, rinse off the beans and refresh the water. Bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cook about 15 – 20 minutes longer, or until beans are al dente. You want the beans slightly toothy, not mushy.

If you’re not a fan of cilantro, substitute chopped parsley.

For the corn, slice the kernels off the ears. Heat a tablespoon each of unsalted butter and oil. The butter is for the flavor; the oil is to raise the smoke point of the butter. When the butter is sizzling, add the corn with a tablespoon of sugar and toss to coat. When corn is slightly caramelized, set aside and let cool.

Combine all ingredients.
Pour dressing over top and toss to coat evenly.

Lime and Cumin Dressing
Juice of two limes (about ¼ cup)
1 TB cider vinegar
1 tsp cumin
½ cup canola oil
Freshly ground salt and pepper to taste

Mix lime juice, vinegar, garlic, and cumin. Slowly drizzle in canola oil, whisking constantly to make an emulsion. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

For serving suggestions, the Fiesta Salad pairs very well with seafood

Mahi Mahi with Homemade Salsa and Fiesta Salad
Place mahi mahi in baking dish.
Dot the tops of each filet with unsalted butter then sprinkle Old Bay seasoning over top.
Pour a little white wine into the dish or you could use sherry, diluted with a little water.
Bake at 350° for 25 to 30 minutes, until fish flakes.

Blackened Flounder with Homemade Salsa and Fiesta Salad
For a light and quick summer meal, I recommend this blackened flounder with your favorite homemade salsa and my Fiesta Salad. The cool and refreshing salads are a nice counterpoint to the heat from the spicy rub on the flounder.

Spicy Rub:
2 TB Old Bay seasoning
1 TB dehydrated onion
1 TB granulated garlic
1 TB + 1 tsp hot paprika
½ tsp black pepper, freshly ground
½ tsp onion powder

Mix all ingredients and rub into flounder.
I heated a thin layer of peanut oil to 350 degrees in an iron skillet. I have a laser thermometer to test temperatures, but you can also use the end of a wooden spoon. Dip the spoon in the hot oil and if you see bubbles vigorously bubbling out of the spoon, then your temperature is in the ballpark. I seared this flounder about two minutes each side.

My next offering is an intensely flavored little appetizer — gremolata-stuffed cherry tomatoes. Gremolata is a chopped herb condiment and its brightness and freshness pairs wonderfully with garden fresh tomatoes.

Gremolata-Stuffed Cherry Tomatoes
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 TB basil, chopped
zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp red wine vinegar
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup toasted almonds, finely chopped
1 TB fresh rosemary, chopped
3-4 TB olive oil (I prefer Bertolli’s Extra Light Olive Oil.)

Cherry tomatoes, halved with seeds scooped out. If necessary, make a thin slice on the tomato bottom so it will sit evenly without wobbling.

Add all ingredients except olive oil to processor and pulse a few times. Add in olive oil gradually while processing until you get a nice consistency so that you can spoon the mixture into the tomato cups.

These are summer’s flavors at their best. You have the herbaliciousness of the parsley, basil, and rosemary, the summery goodness of the tomatoes, and the zesty lemonocity which wraps all the different flavors up in a lovely little package of yumminess. It’s a pop of summer in your mouth.

One of my favorite summer flavors is basil and pesto is an excellent way to showcase basil. Since I’m growing this in my garden, I make large batches.

8 cups basil leaves, loosely packed and chopped
8 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup pecans, coarsely chopped
1 ¼ cups olive oil (I prefer Bertolli Extra Light Olive Oil)
1 ¼ cups Parmesan cheese, grated (I like Il Villagio from the Teeter.)
Kosher salt to taste.

Process basil, garlic, and pecans. Have the basil coarsely chopped, the garlic chopped, and the pecans chopped already. This prep work helps the different ingredients to process better. Drizzle in olive oil while processing. Add in grated Parmesan. Taste test. Add salt if needed. I usually don’t add any salt since the Parmesan is salty. Depending on what type of Parmesan you use, you may need to add salt. Add more olive oil if necessary. You want a fairly spoonable mixture. This recipe reduced to 3 cups of pesto, which 2 ice cube trays will accept.

The recipe is not etched in stone either. Traditionally, pesto is made with pine nuts, but I prefer the flavor of pecans. As always, taste test. If you’d like more garlic, then add it. If you’d like more Parmesan, then by all means throw it in. Add in enough olive oil to get the texture between paste and liquid.
Pour the pesto into a container and I always pour a thin film of oil over top, then cover with plastic wrap touching the pesto. This keeps it from drying out and turning dark, if you’re leaving it in the refrigerator for a few days.

Since I generally make a large batch of pesto, I pour the pesto into ice cube trays, freeze it, then pop the pesto cubes into freezer bags. Whenever you want pesto, you’ll have it on hand. There’s nothing better in the dead of winter than to pop one of these cubes out and toss it with pasta. Close your eyes and it’s summer!

Another wonderful way to enjoy pesto is to spread some on toasted whole wheat or rye bread, top with turkey or chicken slices, maybe some bacon, top that with Mozzarella or Swiss cheese, then give it a trip under the broiler to get the cheese bubbling and you have a wonderful sandwich. Just add pickle slices and chips. Pesto is an excellent food item to have on hand. It’s green. It’s vibrant. It tastes like summer. Pesto is summer.

I planted a fig tree in my garden two years ago and got my first crop of figs this year. I came up with a lovely sweet and savory fig sauce that pairs excellently with pork chops.

Fig Sauce
2 cups red wine
1 ¼ cups chicken broth
2 TB honey
2 cinnamon sticks
2 sprigs fresh rosemary

Combine all ingredients in a sauce pan and cook over medium low heat, simmering,
for about 30-40 minutes, or until mixture is reduced by half. Whenever a recipe calls for wine, use a good wine that you would drink. Do not buy a cheap “cooking” wine. You are reducing the wine and intensifying the flavors, so you wouldn’t want to use a wine that you wouldn’t drink. After the mixture has reduced, remove the cinnamon sticks and the rosemary and let the mixture cool a bit, then pour it into a processor. Don’t worry if a few rosemary leaves are left in. Process until smooth, then add in 3 TB unsalted butter and process again. And you end up with a velvety, warm, rich savory fig sauce with excellent cinnamon and rosemary components. The fig sauce is a perfect complement to pork chops.

Lastly, I came up with a simple fig appetizer that’s sure to please.

Figs Hawthorne
Figs
Bleu cheese
Prosciutto
Honey
Fresh rosemary

Halve the figs and place a bit of bleu cheese on top. Wrap a piece of prosciutto around the fig. Drizzle honey over top and place a few rosemary leaves on each fig. Run under the broiler until prosciutto crisps up a bit and cheese melts.
I hope you enjoy my summer recipes. Savor the season while you can.
As always, please visit with Rosie at kitchensaremonkeybusiness.com for cooking, gardening, travel, fun, furry creatures, and the Outer Banks. For any cooking questions or recipes, please e-me at rosiehawthorne@aim.com. I’ll do my best to help.



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