Thursday, July 12, 2012

Veggies, Veggies Everywhere

The season of fresh and vibrant local produce is upon us, and I have been digging through my recipe files to remember all the ways I love to eat the summer’s bounty. I especially love dishes that don’t involve too much stove or oven time, and I favor treatments that are delicious without needing to be exact about ingredients or measurements. These are some of my favorite summer “recipes,” but feel free to treat them as guidelines and get creative!

Beet salad

Trim ends off of beets and place in pan with enough cold water to cover the beets. Bring to a hard simmer and cook, covered, until beets are tender, about one hour (this is one exception to the “don’t use the stove too much” rule, but worth it). When a fork easily slides into and out of the beet, they are done. Rinse under cool water, rub skin off, and cut into cubes.

At this point, the beets are ready for anything. My favorite way to serve them is to add crumbled goat cheese and toasted walnuts. Splash on some white wine vinegar and olive oil. Add fresh basil if you have some around. Salt and pepper to taste.

Ribboned zucchini

There are a million different ways to use zucchini and other summer squashes. They are fantastic in bread, on the grill, as a fritter, or in lasagna. A lightning fast no-cook option is this:

Using a vegetable peeler, slice long thin ribbons of zucchini. Place in a bowl and toss with lemon juice, olive oil and salt. Arrange on a plate and, using the peeler again, shave slices of cheese on top. Serve immediately. Use a dry aged cheese like Parmigiano Reggiano or Robusto (an aged Dutch cheese) for best results.

Cucumber avocado soup

Okay, I know avocados aren’t local, but they are essential in my house. I could eat this soup every day in the summer and be a happy camper. The lime keeps the pureed avocados green, so you can make a big batch a day or two ahead.

2 ripe avocados
1 cucumber, peeled and cut into rough chunks
juice of two limes
3/4 c. chicken broth
1 T. sour cream
1 small handful of fresh cilantro leaves and stems
salt and pepper to taste
Place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth. Serve garnished with sour cream and cilantro.

Slaw of any kind

There is infinite variety available in the cole slaw category. Cabbage is usually the base, but even within the cabbage family there are options: napa, purple, bok choy. For dressings, you can start with buttermilk, oil, or mayonnaise. Slaw is very forgiving for substitutions and lazy measurements, and each one I make is different. Lately I’ve been focused on Asian flavors. Here’s what I did recently.

For the veggies:
1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
2 carrots, shredded
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1 mango, diced (optional, but delicious if you can find it)
1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
1 handful fresh cilantro, roughly chopped

For the dressing:
1/3 c. rice vinegar
2-3 T. grated fresh ginger (use a microplane here if you have one)
3 T. sesame oil
3 T. canola oil
salt and pepper to taste
Mix veggies in one bowl, and whisk the dressing in another. About 15 minutes to one hour before serving, dress the veggies.