Archive for summer

Polenta Medallions with Tomato Sauce

Polenta Medallions

One of my new favorite dishes is vegetarian polenta topped with melty fresh mozzarella. The quick (and delicious way), is to buy a tube of pre made organic polenta (I get mine from Trader Joe’s or a local health food store) and slice it into ½ inch rounds.

Store Bought Polenta

Then I pour a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a non-stick pan (important because it is prone to sticking) and fry them up for about 10 minutes per side. Then, when they are nice and golden with a crisp layer, I put them on a large cookie sheet, top them with a little fresh mozzarella ball and broil them about 2 minutes. The cheese caramelizes as it melts. As long as you keep an eye on them so they don’t burn, they ALWAYS come out absolutely delicious. I make a tomato sauce to serve on the side. In the summer, I make a fresh sauce with local organic heirloom tomatoes. Otherwise, I use canned Cento San Marzano tomatoes.

For a party, it would be great to fry up a bunch of slices, top them with the cheese, set them aside, and then put them under the broiler right as your guests arrive. As a main dish, one tube of polenta cuts into about 13 slices and feeds two people. Served with a salad and broiled zucchini or eggplant, it makes a stellar summer vegetarian meal, worthy of all members of the family and the most discerning guests.

“Recipe” Serves 4

2 tubes of polenta cut into 1/2 inch slices

1-2 Tbs. good olive oil for frying

1-8 oz. container of fresh mozzarella

A couple cups of your favorite tomato sauce

Bon Apetit!


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Red Velvet Okra Summer Meal

At our Wednesday and Saturday morning Santa Rosa farmers market we have great local organic produce. Some farms aren’t certified organic, but don’t spray, since certification can be a long costly process for a little farm. One of the local farms I love is Crescent Moon Farm. They aren’t certified organic, but follow those principles. I love their Armenian Striped cucumbers, yellow and green zephyr squash and sweet red lipstick bell peppers.

Crescent Moon Farm

But this week, I found something even more gorgeous…Red Okra. I really like okra, but I generally wouldn’t use “gorgeous” and “okra” in the same sentence. The stand’s overflowing basket was other worldly though. I bought about 1 ½ pounds and mixed in a little of the green okra.

Red Okra

When I got it home, I trimmed off the stem ends and sliced them into about ½ inch rounds.

Sliced Okra

Then I sautéed diced onion until caramelized and added a diced heirloom tomato and the okra. The okra cooked about 8 minutes until they were tender but still a little al dente. The finished dish lost some of the vibrant red color, so I didn’t take pictures of it, but boy was it delicious! It was enough for the four of us, but I think we all could have eaten twice as much. It was so succulent, tender, sweet and savory. I just seasoned the dish with some salt and pepper and a couple tablespoons of fresh chopped cilantro for brightness.

To go with the okra, I made some quinoa and a lentil dish with onions, carrots, and celery, seasoned with turmeric, black mustard seeds and sweet curry powder. I like to use red lentils since they only take about 15 minutes to cook up, and are just so delicious. I highly recommend this simple but fabulous summer recipe. Start to finish, the whole meal took about an hour to prepare.

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Mexican Style Cucumbers

Mexican Style Sliced Cucumbers

My favorite snack on a hot late summer day is cool cucumbers served Mexican style. Mexicans love to toss fruits or veggies with lime juice and chili. You name it: cucumbers, mango, carrots, jicama or fresh coconut chunks…all can be amped up with chili and lime.

My favorite combo is Armenian Striped cucumbers with lime and Tajin Salsa en Polvo. Tajin is a chili powder with crystallized lime and salt. I have tasted many other perfectly good varieties of Mexican chili powders, but Tajin stands out as the best. I first tasted it when my step mom brought some back from central Mexico, but we couldn’t find it anywhere. Then on a brief stopover in Puerto Vallarta, we found it in a grocery store and bought 3 containers to hold us over a while. I just discovered it in our local market in Santa Rosa. Which is a good thing, because flying all the way to Mexico once we run out may be a little excessive.

“Recipe”

1 big cucumber

1 juicy lime

Tajin (or your favorite chili powder or hot sauce) to taste

Just slice the cucumbers, juice the lime over them and sprinkle on copious Tajin. Serves one, or if you are willing to share…two.

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Armenian Striped and Lemon Cucumbers

 

Mid to late summer is my absolute favorite time for fresh produce. Nature’s bounty is almost overwhelming. How can I even keep up with preparing everything I want to buy at the farmer’s market? Some of my favorite veggies are Armenian Striped Cucumbers and Lemon Cucumbers.
armenian-striped-cukes.jpg
Armenian striped cukes are incredibly sweet and fragrant. If you think cucumbers are bland, you haven’t tasted these beauties. They are striped lengthwise with darker and lighter tender green skin and usually come in these funny curly cue shapes. They are hard to transport since they refuse to conform to uniform shapes and sizes, but that’s part of their charm. Striped Armenians have very small or no seeds at all, so they are a burpless variety (a plus for those concerned with proper dinner etiquette, neither here nor there to me). I always keep my eye out for them come July and August, since they are such a great treat.

The other wondrous cuke I lust after are Lemon Cucumbers. As a child, going to the Santa Barbara farmer’s market in late summer with my mom always meant abundant lemon cukes. They are small yellowish orbs that look like lemons, but taste of cool summer cucumber. Their skin is a little thicker and tougher, and can sometimes be prone to bitterness, but when they are perfect, they are well worth it.

Lemon Cukes

Of course both varieties of cucumber can be prepared in as many dishes as you can dream up, but this traditional Mexican snack is my favorite.

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