Saturday, July 31, 2010

July: 1-2-3 Goodness!

Boy, I can't believe I haven't posted since the end of June!  Summer gets us all out of our routine, I guess.  My favorite thing about cooking in the summer is that we tend to have late dinners, and they are simple but amazingly good.  All thanks to the abundance of local veggies! Here's a general accounting of the yumminess that is to be had in July at my house.

1)  Moses Corn.  While there are lots of local farmstands for fresh corn in the summer, the hands down best is from Grandma Moses' ancestor's farm land in nearby Eagle Bridge, NY.  Fortunately for us, Henry's, the local market right here in town sells it.   My mom taught me the best way to cook corn:  place the dozen in a big pot with only about two cups of water.  Bring the whole thing to a boil, but then turn it off and leave the lid on!  Let the corn just steam this way, and it won't be mushy. I like to serve it from the pot so it stays hot. Sometimes I grab some tongs and rotate the corn from top to bottom once I turn the heat off.

I've posted how much my family loves corn and black bean salad, so if there's left over corn, it goes in there.  Better though, it corn chowder with fresh corn.  I try to make my corn chowder a healthy, less-fat version since we eat it so often (it's in Kira's current favorites rotation).

The trick to good corn chowder is the actually to use the best potatoes possible:  so when the farm potato crop was ready this month, I was in heaven. If you can't get local new, fingerling, or red potatoes, buy the baby potatoes in the grocery--they're worth it.

Pacific Natural Foods Organic Vegetable Broth, 32-Ounce Containers (Pack of 12)I cut up all the veggies:  red pepper, onion, celery, and garlic, and saute them in olive oil. Then I put in the cubed potatoes (skin on! they're organic after all!), about 2 tblsp. butter, and 1/4 cup flour. I coat everything and let it cook a bit.  Then I add my favorite Pacific Vegetable broth to cover the potatoes and let the whole thing low boil to cook the potatoes until soft.  (My brother said that if you put the corn cobs in the pot, it'll help thicken it up.  If I remember to save some of the cobs, I'll put them in too-- just remember to pull them out before trying to puree!)

I take out about 1-2 cups of the chunky soup out, then use an immersion blender to puree the pot full.  I add back in the chunky soup, as much corn as you like  and 2% milk to your desired consistency.  Don't forget the broth isn't seasoned, so you'll also need to salt & pepper the whole thing generously.  This ends up being a golden yellow colored soup, and it's so amazing.  I like to grate a little cheddar cheese over the top.  Then we eat it with crusty bread from a local bakery!

2) Grilled Vegetables.  What doesn't taste good with grilled vegetables?  Seriously?  You can grill up a huge bowl one day and get many meals out of it.  It takes time, but it's so great to grab them out of the fridge for a few days of good eating.  Owen has discovered that he loves zucchini grilled!  And Kira even tried an onion!  For me, the basic vegetables to grill are a combination of squash, zucchini, onion, red pepper and portobello mushrooms.  I like to throw in asparagus too, but last time it was pretty skinny and got a bit overcooked, so next time we'll cook it separately.  Now that eggplant is in season, we'll throw that in too!

veggies before grilling
I cut all the veggies up in large chunks and toss them in a bowl with olive oil. I'm not a fan of the sliced grilled veggies--we can't really pull them off at home, and they take way too long to do in big batches.  We use an  open grill basket with sides, and cook them with the grill cover down for awhile.  We let them get pretty charred, stir, and keep cooking.  The trick is they need to cook a good long time to be tasty.
veggies after grilling

At the most basic, grilled veggies are good all by themselves.  Step it up a bit and add them to a green salad. We had one a few weeks ago with grilled salmon patties and gorgonzola cheese tossed in.  Another night, I took them and added them to a sautee pan of garlic, butter, olive oil, pesto, and vegetable broth, and tossed it all together with Barilla Plus elbow macaroni and cubes of fresh mozzarella.  The leftovers were good as a cold salad all week!
another pasta version--this one isn't grilled--fresh tomatoes & asparagus w/pesto

But I think my absolute new favorite way to eat them is on Naan Bread Pizza!  My sister and her husband turned us on to these quick pizzas.  Our grocery store sells a two-pack of Naan bread in cellophane in the deli/bakery section.  I put fresh pesto on top, an assortment of grilled veggies, and either feta, fresh mozzarella, or both on top.  Stick them under the broiler of the toaster oven, or on the grill if you're grilling, and they rock!  The kids like them with sauce and fresh mozz on top too.
Darn if I didn't take a picture of the grilled version. This is yummy too, Sundried Tomatoes & Kalamatas!
Late ADDITION/EDITION:  My darling husband is upset that he didn't get credit for being master of the grilled veggie.  Though I did say "we," I fully acknowledge that while I tipped my hat formally to my mom, my brother, and even my sister in this blog post, I did not fully bow down to the greatness that Will exhibits when handling the grill basket.  We just had grilled eggplant that was to die for.  I chopped it up and added it to a sautee pan with two cloves of garlic, capers, and kalamata olives. Finished with olive oil & chopped parsley. Served with spinach ravioli and also had as a bruschetta topping.  (Oops, was I giving myself too much credit again?)

3)  Fresh Berries.  Blueberries last all summer here.  Local berries have been fabulously sweet this year.  Most of the time they just get eaten by the handful out of the fridge, but this week I happened to have an abundance of them, plus strawberries that were starting to get overripe, and some rhubarb that I never got the energy to bake anything with.
So I threw the rhubarb on the stove with some sugar and cooked it down, added the blue & strawberries, more sugar, and lemon juice, and cooked them all down to a thick sauce.  Added a little corn starch at the end.  Made two and a half quarts of fantastic sauce that we had on ice cream last night, and this morning I mixed it into my hot Oat Bran cereal (another new food from sis!)  When we have friends over this week, I'll offer it on shortbread cakes with ice cream. YUMMMMMMM!!!
Bob's Red Mill High Fiber Oat Bran Hot Cereal, 18 oz (1 lb 2 oz) 510 g by ClubNatural

One last summer goodie:  S'mores!  Since adulthood, I haven't had the stomach for marshmellows. My husband made a fire pit in the back yard and the kids have enjoyed toasting marshmellows with friends.  One night we had guests and I bought graham crackers and both milk and dark chocolate for S'mores.  Maybe it was the dark chocolate that did the trick, but Kira made me two and they were DIVINE.

July is truly sublime.
Pick Your Own At Mighty Food Farm--early July.