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The Summer Essentials
all the recipes for when summer produce is at it's peak
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This week I’m giving you my version of the summer essentials. Some of my favorite dishes, all super simple, that let summer produce shine. All these recipes have those very seasonal items that I want to gorge myself on while they’re available. And I do this knowing full well that the moment thanksgiving rolls around, I’ll be craving them again for the following year.
I listed favorites like my fried squash blossoms, or a classic cucumber and tomato salad I insist on eating at just about every meal. I love it. And then there’s my twist on some classics, like the yogurt ranch, which is great drizzled on any greens you can find or just use it as a dip. And finally the corn and lima alla gricia. Very seasonal if you’re using fresh veg, but you could swap in frozen if you want and make this in the colder months. It’s a good recipe to have on hand when things are getting a little drab in February. On now onto the recipes below…
Cucumber and Tomato Salad
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This is my salad of summer. Every weekend, and most weekdays, cucumber and tomato salad is on the dinner table. If tomatoes are in season, I am eating them. As many as I can. And I can eat a lot of tomatoes. I love this salad for how simple it is, peak season produce tossed with some oil and vinegar.
I’ll do endless variations of this salad depending on what I have on hand, don’t have, or need to use up. I’ll switch up the herbs, go no onions, and occasionally I’ll use balsamic vinegar if I don’t have red wine available. Nothing is set in stone. But the recipe here is my classic version. The ideal version, I guess. I’m usually eating this alongside some type of grilled fish and rice, but it’s also great spooned over a thin, grilled chicken cutlet or my favorite if I’m eating alone: a can of oil cured tuna flaked on top. And lots of crusty bread to go alongside. Turns into a kinda tuna panzanella salad. Delicious. But I’m getting off topic. I do insist on the excess dressing, it’s a must. You’ll notice there seems to be a lot of oil and vinegar when you make this. It gets mixed with the juices from the tomatoes and cucumbers, then drizzled over any rice you’re having with dinner, used for dipping in chunks of bread or fresh pitas. You want this salad juicy. Don’t skimp. Generously dress this salad.
Prep Time: 5 mins
1 large cucumber chopped in rough irregular shapes
1 large tomato chopped in rough irregular shapes
1/4 onion thinly sliced
1 handful of cherry tomatoes halved
1/4 c olive oil
1/ 4 c red wine vinegar
1 small handful fresh basil leaves
Combine cucumbers, tomatoes, and onions in bowl. Season generously with salt and pepper. Let sit for at least 5 minutes.
Finish salad by dressing with oil, vinegar and lots of basil. Toss and serve.
Fried Squash Blossoms & Crispy Fried Sage Leaves
While there are many ways to savor those delectable blossoms, such as in a salad, made into fritters, added to an omelet, pickled and used in a quesadilla (another one of my faves), simply fried and stuffed with some fresh ricotta has gotta be it! And, while you’re at it, fry up some sage leaves to go with, you’ll be greatly rewarded for your efforts. Fry em up, pour a cold beer and eat them while they’re still hot. Truly one of the great pleasures in life!
I know I’m about to state something very controversial here, and feel free to judge, but I don’t particularly like ranch dressing. At least not the kind that comes pre-made and out of a bottle. But sometimes ya just want a creamy dressing that’s not blue cheese…
Corn & Lima alla Gricia
If you couldn’t already tell from the title, this is my very American take on a classic Italian dish, or more specifically Roman dish. It was one of those dinners where I had the intention of making one thing, but a happy accident (and a bit of a fridge-raid) led to another. The first time I made this was over the summer, I used some fresh sweet corn, limas I had stashed in the freezer and bacon. I always seem to have plenty on hand. But, now that it’s mid-winter, and there is literally a foot of snow on the ground, this is for sure something you could (and should!) make using some frozen corn and limas. And while you’re eating it, just try to remind yourself we are only a few weeks away from spring…I hope.
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