This is my happy place. Carova Beach, Outer Banks, NC. Once a year I get to be here with the best company for two weeks of laughter, play, sun, salt, relaxation, sandy doggies and lots of good cooking. Oh, and it also involves my birthday, so cake and fancy drinks are always part of the shenanigans.
My 23rd birthday cake to celebrate this new year of life: a blueberry cornmeal cake with lemon curd – neufchâtel frosting. I thought up the flavor combination when blueberry season was just beginning and had been craving it ever since. So when the day came, I handed the special job over to my boyfriend and supervised carefully to make sure he made it exactly how I imagined :) He did great, topping it off with a decorative blueberry swirl. Thanks Forrest!
*Note: my birthday was in July; I am just now realizing I never got to posting this cake recipe which needs to be preserved forever and ever. And I’m reminiscing of those wonderful two weeks at the beach. Summer, don’t go so fast! Continue reading
I’m finding my eating habits to be more and more in tune with the seasons as I grow older. Except for chocolate, which will always be in season to me.
Growing up in a rural area and seeing everything around me blossom, fruit and die in cycles with the seasons has certainly made me aware, as has working on an organic farm, having local food so easily available, and tasting the difference between sweet corn grown 2 miles away versus sweet corn from the opposite coast in the dead of winter. Although it’s been hard to learn that I can’t have it all whenever I want it, anticipating the summer months and watching my edible garden grow makes in-season produce that much more special. It’s like my mom used to say when I asked why she couldn’t make her amazing Christmas cookies all year long — “because then they wouldn’t be so good!”
Now it allll makes sense.
The good things are certainly worth waiting for, especially when it comes to juicy sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes and zucchini in the summer. I enjoy this dish as soon as the first sweet corn arrives at the market and for as long as the season lasts. It was one of my blog’s early recipes: Calabacitas con elote, or Mexican Zucchini with Corn. The past few summers we had enjoyed it as a side dish, but this year I’ve decided to take advantage of its versatility. The sautéed squash, corn and tomatoes are such a simple combination, but something about them simmering together in their ripe juices with a little fresh oregano gives the dish a rich flavor I can only describe as purely summer.
Lately we tried adding local pork chorizo from our neighbors at the farmer’s market, which was a delicious way to make a one-pot meal — and quite the rich & hearty one. For a lighter option you could add pulled chicken, taco-seasoned ground turkey or tofu, or black beans to the mix for a filling and nutritious entree. Another thing I want to try is using the veggie dish as a taco or enchilada filling or adding a little broth to make a summery soup. So many possibilities for this simple dish! Continue reading
Gazpacho and I have a thing this summer. How did I never see in it what I do now? I used to compare it to ‘just like drinking a jar of salsa – yuck!’, but now I see it’s so far beyond that. Light, refreshing, complex, pure, and wonderful. Like drinking my summer garden. For breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Topped with herbed croutons, fancy ceviche, or nothing. I love it, and I love that it helps me keep any of my precious garden tomatoes from going to waste.
Working on an organic farm this summer as well as having 6 plants of my own to tend, you could say I’ve picked my fair share of ‘maters this season. And just look at all the varieties! Each has their own flavor, texture and purpose. Many are heirlooms, which are so flavor-packed and meaty they’re just crying out to be part of a mean BLT. I’ll admit some look pretty darn ugly on the outside. But it’s the inside beauty that counts, right?
I’ve made gazpacho (Spanish chilled tomato soup) maybe 6 times in the past few weeks, enjoying it as an on-the-go breakfast, as a cool refresher after working outside, eating bowls-full for lunch & dinner, and taking it to a cookout for friends to enjoy. Each time I make it is a little different, as I don’t follow a strict recipe and always use a mishmash of tomato varieties. But it’s hard to mess up too bad, unless of course you mistake jalapeños for bell peppers. Here’s my top secret recipe, now go put summer’s bounty to good use! Continue reading
This time of year I desperately look for any and every way to take advantage of our abundant garden, namely the tomatoes who are currently on a serious ripening rampage. It’s painful to watch an unused tomato go rotten on the counter, when in just a few months I’ll be dying to have one so juicy and fresh. Gazpacho, tomato sauce, salsa, more gazpacho, BLT’s, tomato-basil-mozzarella salads for lunch and dinner daily…… Not that I get tired of it, I just wish the tomato good-ness could be spread more evenly throughout the year!
While brainstorming other lunch-worthy uses for tomatoes, I thought of tabbouleh, and then I thought of the tabbouleh I had at a recent potluck (well, in June… Is it really August already?!) This light and refreshing herbal salad swapped out the traditional bulgur wheat for quinoa plus a good dose of mung beans, all together making one protein-packed, fiber-full, and vitamin-rich hearty salad.
Tabbouleh is easy because there’s no right and wrong ratios of herbs to grains or veggies, so it’s really just up to your taste. This recipe’s a keeper in my book, especially when it comes to putting all these summer garden veggies to use.
The garden is thankful for the love we have shown it this year, and I am thankful that it is thankful, because look at this beautiful produce! This was our first harvest of squash, beginning of the tomatoes, first jalapeño, and finally decided to pull the garlic that’s been chugging along since last fall.
Along with taking a greater interest in gardening lately, my boyfriend Forrest and I decided to build 4 raised garden beds, fill them with nutrient-rich compost and soil, and surround the entire garden with a deer fence, overall providing a huge improvement in looks and prosperity.
It was a slow, cold spring, and I would stare out my window at the garden every morning, daydreaming about the day when it would be lush and thriving, out-of-control with tomato vines, when it would have too much fruit-producing energy for me to keep up with. And the day is here—it has been here for several weeks—but now we are getting deep into the heart of the summer harvest, when my basket is a rainbow like the photo above.
A summer Indian feast.
Recently I started working on a small-scale organic farm (and am gaining a whole new appreciation for the hard work that goes into growing our organic food!) along with selling the fruits and veg of our labor at local markets. Although quite the exhausting and dirty workday, it’s great to be reunited with the outdoors during my favorite time of year (bring on the summer heat and tomatoes!) and to bring home some fresh-from-the-earth vegetables to throw on the grill.
We tend to have a good variety of unique vegetables that people are not as familiar with, like garlic scapes, caraflex cabbage, and the star of today – kohlrabi. Puzzled customers examine these alien-looking crops and ask “What is this? What do I do with it? Have you cooked with it?” And of course, I need to be able to answer! Never having tried kholrabi myself did not make it the easiest to explain to intrigued customers at my last market. So I brought some home, told my boyfriend to get excited for an Indian feast (our favorite when cooking a big scrumptious dinner) and decided to create a curry featuring this lovely, seasonal kholrabi.
Kohlrabi, I learned, translates from German as ‘cabbage-turnip’. To me it tastes very much like a broccoli stem when cooked, but eaten raw it is mildly sweet and crisp almost like a jicama. I imagine it would be delicious sliced up thin into slaw. But right now this curry — filled with chickpeas, lentils, butternut and lots of warm spices — has won my heart.
Forrest is a pro at the whole grilling thing, so he was in charge of that part of the meal. Not that I was surprised, but his tandoori chicken was awesome. Like only-marinated-for-10-minutes-yet-unbelievably-flavorful, crispy-on-the-outside-juicy-tender-on-the-inside …awesome. Mucho props to him.
And all together — doused in fresh cilantro and a dollop of yogurt on the side — this made one healthy, satisfying Indian feast, perfect to enjoy on the patio alongside a summer sunset. Continue reading
Strawberry season in the Mid-Atlantic — although fleeting, it always leaves me with excitement for more of summer’s candy to come: blueberries, wild raspberries, and my most beloved, the peach! So while I do cherish the early red berries, admittedly I get more excited for what’s to follow, and the indication that my favorite season is only just beginning.
garden bouquet: summer lettuces and berries
My go-to recipe to highlight the local strawberries for the past few years has been this: an oat square that reminds me of my good old Nutri-Grain bar, but much more hearty and wholesome with fresh-from-the-fields strawberry jam slathered and baked right on top. They’re also vegan, and interestingly made with chia seeds as a thickener in the jam and as an egg-replacer in the dough. Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, protein, antioxidants, calcium, omega-3, and pure energy! I also like the seedy texture it gave to the jam — i love jam with chunks of fruit and seeds :)
Fresh-picked strawberries ripen fast and need to be put to use, so if you’re looking for a healthy treat or a sweet and wholesome breakfast to use up those buckets of fruit, give these bars a try. Continue reading