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No-Bake Summer Squash Gratin (Sort of)

I meant to post this in August, but since some of us are still experiencing summer heat in September, and the markets still have summer squash (so. much. zucchini!), it seems fitting even now. I’m certainly happy not to be turning my oven on yet.

Squash Gratin For One:

  • 2 small to medium zucchini and/or summer squash
  • small onion or scallion
  • cheddar, grated, about 1/4 cup or more (I say more)
  • basil or thyme or parsley (fresh not dried)
  • 1 garlic clove, smashed a bit
  • breadcrumbs, about 1/4 cup (I based on the amount of squash, so use your judgment)
  • Splash of white wine or dry vermouth (the white one)
  • butter and olive oil

What to do:

Grate one of the squash and dice the other one. Or grate them both, if you prefer. I liked the difference in shape and texture but it is not mandatory. Just a bit of fun. Thinly slice the onion/scallion. Continue reading

Simple Summer Salad

Hot weather often leaves me reluctant to do any cooking, stove or no. So a steady fallback is the cucumber. Cucumber salad has so many possible variations , and this one is substantial enough to make a good lunch or dinner.

Cool cucumber salad with chickpeas:

  • One or two medium English cucumbers (European style has thinner skin and fewer seeds), or slicing cucumbers
  • 15 oz or larger can of chickpeas
  • sprigs of fresh parsley (optional) or perhaps mint or chives
  • white wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar, or a bit of both
  • mirin
  • walnut oil
  • salt

Peel the cucumber – I like to leave a few thin stripes for visual appeal. Cut cucumber into chunks (this is to match the chickpeas in size, approx). So, I cut it in half, then halve that, then half again and then slice into half-inch slices.

Rinse chickpeas and toss with cucumber slices in a bowl. Add chopped herbs.

Mix the dressing. I like a bit more vinegar, but use the  oil-to-vinegar ratio you prefer. I mixed white wine and rice wines vinegars here and added a splash of mirin, plus salt and a little bit of Spanish smoked pepper. Overall I had about 1/4 cup dressing or so. If you have more cucumbers and chickpeas, make more dressing as needed. Toss dressing and veggies, let stand in fridge for 10 minutes or so. Serve with a good crusty bread or a cheese tortilla aka quesadilla (fresh from the skillet).

Quick Hit: More Pesto Variations

Yes, by now we’re aware that pesto is a great way to use up bushels and bushels of basil – but what if your wallet balks at the price of pine nuts to go along with all that basil? And what if you’re also out of basil, having no garden of your own to be overrun with it? Well, there are other green leafy alternatives, as well as other nuts (actual nuts too). Experiment with what you have.

For example, try cress and cashews, plus walnut oil, garlic, and some chives (optional). Leave the cheese out until you plan to use the pesto (so you can freeze it if you want to), and try Pecorino instead of Parmesan. Great on pasta, or as a potato salad dressing or with peas, or on baguette or…

Or if you don’t have cress, try arugula instead. Maybe with walnuts instead of cashews. Really, the variations go on.

Basic Bread Salad

Looking for a quick dinner and a good way to use up any slightly stale bread you have? The magic word is “Panzanella” – also known as bread salad. You can go basic on this and leave out the scallions and herbs if you don’t have those around. If you don’t have fresh tomatoes, try a bit of tomato sauce. Or leave it out entirely, and use a bit more olive oil.

I used about a quarter of a baguette-type bread loaf (it was a bit larger and softer than the classic French baguette), sliced. Continue reading

Summer Pesto Salad

This makes a nice dinner but also a good cold salad to take to potlucks, BBQs, and picnics.

For the pesto sauce:

  • A bunch of “cooking greens” – assorted leaves of kale, chard, etc.
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves (broken down into smaller pieces)
  • the green parts of 2 scallions, chopped
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/3 cup (about) grated Parmesan or Gran Padano
  • olive oil (good kind for salads, not for cooking)

Cut or tear the green leafy part off the stems (de-rib), and then into smaller pieces. Steam (or sauté quickly, if you prefer) the greens for about 5 minutes, until sightly limp. Chop up walnuts and garlic. Add greens, garlic, nuts, and scallions into food processor. Blend while adding olive oil until the mixture becomes smooth. Add in the grated cheese (unless using the pesto later), and mix together. Continue reading

Sunny Summer Pasta (Corn and Sungold Tomatoes)

Since the farm stands are still overflowing with lush summer produce, here is a meal that you can put together fairly quickly and that rewards you with the look and taste of full summer.

What you need:

  • about 6 – 8 oz (1/2 box/bag) Rigatoni, Penne, or similar pasta,
  • about 1/2 to 1 pint Sungold tomatoes (the small orange ones, sweet), halved,
  • 3 ears of sweet corn,
  • 1/4 cup ricotta (or maybe some fresh mozzarella),
  • some springs of fresh herbs like parsley, dill, or herb fennel aka sweet fennel (look that one up, it’s interesting);

This makes enough for 3-4 servings (next day lunch!).

What to do:
Cook the pasta, and once it’s done, be sure to save some of the pasta water; about 1/2 a cup or so. While the pasta is cooking, strip the kernels off the corn cobs. Then sauté the corn in some butter with the herbs (I used herb fennel here) for a few minutes – you want to start this only when the pasta is done, or almost so, so that you’ll have the pasta water on hand when you need it.

Now add about 1/4 cup pasta water (enough to cover) and some white wine or dry vermouth (optional) to the corn, and cook over medium heat, stirring, until the kernels are tender. Add the pasta, stir everything together, and add chopped parsley (if using). Stir in 1/4 cup or so of ricotta, and the tomatoes. Turn off the heat and let everything warm through for a bit. Salt and pepper to taste. Heap on a plate and eat on a balcony or patio, if possible. Or just open the window a bit, unless it’s one of those hot humid days. In that case, enjoy your fan or AC and bask in the plateful of summer from your cooking efforts.

Gold Zucchini Pasta

Here’s something to do with the zucchini/golden summer squash that should be piling up by now. You can throw  this together quickly – either a dish for two people or one person who likes leftovers (hello, lunch).

What you need:
1 medium golden zucchini, or it can be a regular green one too, shredded (by hand on your cheese grater or in a food processor if you have it)
About 1 cup dry fusili pasta (estimate)
About 1/2 tsp chopped rosemary (fresh)
1/2 cup or so of panko breadcrumbs
1/2 cup grated Parmesan or Manchego (more if you like)
1 Tbs olive oil

What to do: (Note: I did not measure when I made this, so this is all speculation based on memory.) Continue reading