In this high season of summer, it’s natural to write about what’s inspiring right now. Mostly summer vegetables and beautiful gardens. Squash, tomatoes, eggplant, cucumbers.
Summer squash, tomatoes and eggplant are delicious in a simple layered dish cooked quickly to keep the kitchen cool. Layer with rich cheese, dust with panko and parmesan, and voila – you have dinner!
Puree fresh tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers to make a delicious gazpacho. Season with a chili and garlic, and drizzle with good olive oil and sriracha for a cool, filling drink or soup to start your meal.
For a little more complicated squash dish, my favorite:
Summer Squash Cheese Custard
2 large yellow squash, sliced into ½-inch rounds (about 4 cups)
1 medium onion, coarsely chopped
1 large clove garlic, chopped
3 ounces goat cheese or other cheese, grated
¼ cup cornmeal
2 eggs, beaten
1 cup milk
3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill, plus sprigs for garnishing
1 teaspoon kosher salt
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400°F. Steam the squash until tender. Saute onion and garlic until tender.
Drain squash. Add all ingredients to a blender and puree until smooth. Pour into an 8-by-8-inch baking dish or 6 individual ramekins that have been coated with cooking spray. Bake at 400°F for 40 minutes (35 minutes for the ramekins) or until golden brown on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.
The summer is heating up and with the holiday weekend upon us, barbecuing is on everyone’s mind. This is a prime time to heat up the grill instead of the kitchen.
I used to think of the grill as the place where you cooked ribs, chops and chicken breasts. However, I now use it for all types of vegetables, mushrooms and bread and I’m hooked.
Gas or charcoal
You can use a gas or charcoal grill but it just takes a little more planning to get the coals ready. I’ve managed to pick up a few grilling baskets and trays at second-hand stores although you also buy new ones from garden and hardware stores. Whatever utensils or cookware you use, make sure it’s not your best because it will show wear from the grill. I have set aside a couple of older cast iron pans for use on the grill and I love how they cook outside almost as much as inside.
Grill almost any vegetable
A visit to the farmers market or my garden brings in tomatoes, summer squash, spring onions, early carrots, fresh garlic, maybe some late asparagus, bok choi, broccoli, cauliflower, mushrooms and a myriad of other good eats.
All of which can be simply grilled. The essence of grilling is to use high-quality oil to help the vegetables caramelize. My go-to is fruity olive oil, but you can use grapeseed, walnut or even toasted sesame oil for a slightly Asian taste.
Garnish with herbs after grilling
Fresh herbs lose their flavor quickly when grilled, so if using them, chop and add them after the vegetables come off the grill. I also wait to salt vegetables until they come off the grill, while they are still warm so the salt dissolves, but not while on the grill which tends to make it necessary to use more salt.
Marinate or not
You can marinate the vegetables before cooking if you choose, but since vegetables don’t soak up oil and vinegar as meats do, it really isn’t necessary. You can toss them with whatever you like after they come off the grill for delicious flavors.
Vegetables don’t take long to cook, so cook any meats or other main courses first.
How to grill
Heat the grill to high and then turn it back to medium. Oil your pan (cooking spray works fine), and then add the vegetables. Some that are tougher, like carrots or beets, should be steamed or blanched briefly in boiling water to start the cooking process. Don’t cook until they are soft, though or they won’t hold up on the grill. Toss the vegetables frequently while they cook so all sides get equally caramelized.
Trim off tough ends, roll in olive oil and grill on a flat grill pan for around ten minutes, shaking the pan part-way through or using tongs to roll them around. Serve with a yogurt or mustard sauce.
Steam or blanch about 2 minutes and then dress with olive oil. Grill in a basket about ten minutes until easily pierced with a fork. Toss with fresh mint and maple syrup if desired or simply dressed with salt.
Cabbage and cauliflower
Cut into “steaks”, drizzle with oil and cook on a grill tray until it is just crisp-tender. Sprinkle with garlic powder and drizzle with balsamic vinegar to serve.
Cut into small florets, toss with oil and toss in a grill basket about ten minutes. Toss with fresh parmesan, a fresh squeeze of lemon and lots of fresh ground pepper to serve.
Summer squash, zucchini, pattypans
Cut into ½” thick coins and toss with garlic powder and oil. Toss in a grill basket about 10-15 minutes until crisp-tender. A sauce made with Dijon mustard and yogurt is delicious drizzled over the top.
Blanch new potatoes (red or gold) until slightly tender. Slice in half, toss with a bit of olive oil and grill for about 10 minutes. Toss with a warm vinaigrette for grilled potato salad.
Grilling mixes, rubs and marinades
Use these as a dry rub on meat, fish or vegetables: brush with olive oil and sprinkle with grilling mix.
Or, add a tablespoon to ¼ cup olive oil and ¼ cup vinegar of choice for a marinade. Brush vegetables or meats with leftover marinade as you grill. If you marinate meat, be sure to discard any extra marinade that you don’t use in cooking. It can harbor bacteria.
Basic Grilling Mix
1 T. oregano
1 T. basil
1 t. garlic powder
1 t. thyme
For specialty mixes – start with the basic grilling mix and add the ingredients listed:
Mint Herb Mix – use on potatoes, lamb or fish
1 T. mint
1 T. marjoram
1 T. tarragon
1 t. lemon balm
Italian Herb Mix – Use for pizza on the grill, on grilled potatoes for potato salad, on chicken breasts
1 t. rosemary
1 t. chili flakes
Herbed Ranch Mix – Use on salmon or white fish, grilled potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash
1 T. dill
1 T. ground black pepper
Traditional barbecue – delicious on vegetables and potatoes
There’s something so cozy and wholesome about potato pancakes. They’re crispy on the outside, creamy on the inside and a wonderful palette awaiting a dollop of sour cream or applesauce.
Although I don’t have an ethnic tradition of latkes in my background, I’ve taken a traditional recipe from a Jewish friend of mine and adapted it to use whatever is coming in from the garden or left over in the fridge.
This is one of my favorite ways to use leftover mashed sweet and white potatoes around the holidays. The best part is that you can use your imagination and creativity to combine all sorts of vegetables and seasonings.
The basic recipe:
1 c. mashed or grated sweet potatoes 1 c. mashed white potatoes ½ small onion, finely chopped 1 clove garlic, finely chopped 1 egg ½ c. flour Salt and pepper to taste
Saute onion and garlic in a small amount of olive oil. Mix all ingredients in large bowl and drop by large spoonfuls into pan glazed with olive oil. Pat the cakes flat. Saute until browned; flip and brown on the other side. Alternatively you can place on parchment or a silpat on a cookie sheet and bake for about 15-20 minutes in a 350 degree oven. Repeat with the rest of batter.
Serve warm by themselves with a dollop of plain yogurt or sour cream and a dollop of applesauce or currant jelly or whatever other jelly you have on hand. Or serve cold over a fresh salad dressed with vinaigrette and sprinkle with goat cheese or feta.
Riffs on the recipe:
1 cup of any combination of grated raw beets, carrots, parsnips, finely chopped greens
You can also add cooked grains (quinoa, bulgur, oatmeal), mashed cooked beans (black, garbanzo, lentils). Just remember that the drier the mix, the more binder you may need such an additional egg.
Check the recipe tab for zucchini latkes and quinoa cakes