Summer Recipe Roundup

A few weeks ago, a friend of mine asked if I could post some fun, summer recipes. The problem is that because summer has just begun (or not even, officially), I can’t really start experimenting or playing around with summer recipes yet until the produce is available. I did get a pretty good haul this past weekend and hopefully will have some recipes to share with you at the end of the week, but for now, what I thought might be nice is to round up several recipes from previous summers, with links, so you can dive into the archives and go with something tried and true. So here ya go, Janessa.

Summer Recipe Roundup

Creamy Avocado Linguine with Meyer Lemon and Arugula
shrimp avocado pasta

Although avocados are technically in season all the time, this dish is decidedly summer. The addition of shrimp make it seasonal for the Eastern Seaboard, and it’s just so damn refreshing.

 

Dried Strawberries

Dried Strawberries

There are still some strawberries in the fields around here – if they’re still available where you are, a great way to save them is to dry and freeze them. Great on salads, in cereal, oatmeal, yogurt, etc.

Eggplant Rotini with Roasted Veggies

eggplant Rotini

This is one of my favorite summer recipes. Quick, fresh, easy and adaptable to whatever veggies you have on hand. Don’t go through the summer without making this.

Local Yokel Mojito
20130415-183149.jpg

Of course I had to add a beverage in, but mojitos, with fresh mint from your garden, are the epitome of summer sipping. My mint is already coming up like crazy, and if yours is too, then don’t let another Happy Hour go by without making this.

Roasted Beet Salad with Vinaigrette
Beets in vinaigrette

I just got a bunch of beets from the farmers market this past weekend, so beet salad with vinaigrette is not far away. This is by far my favorite beet recipe out there and a summer staple at our house.

Shrimp Ceviche
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Shrimp Ceviche is so fresh, light and healthy that it screams summer. Dish it out into martini glasses for a classy, but super easy app.

Summer Beef and Rice Skillet Casserole
beef skillet

This recipe was great and I’m furious at myself for not making it this past summer between our epic move and living in two different states. This is a great way to use up all that squash and zucchini that presents itself mid to late summer. It’s also great for a family or for a small crowd. This summer, I’ll be making it as much as is reasonable and/or until my husband starts complaining.

 

OK! There are so many more recipes, many of which are summer seasonable, over on the RECIPES PAGE, but hopefully this gave you a good start. This is such an exciting time of year when things start to pop up and the options are endless, so don’t let it pass you by – get out to your local farmers market, farm stand or local grocery and BUY LOCAL and EAT FRESH!

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Dried strawberries

It’s strawberry season in Hampton Roads, and that is major. We love our strawberries around here. Every city in the region that has farms has pick-your-own strawberry fields and it’s a tradition for kids and adults alike to pick strawberries on field trips or on Mother’s Day or Memorial Day weekend when Virginia Beach hosts the Strawberry Festival.

Last week I got an email from a farm saying that they had so many berries in their field that they were going to be offering pick your own berries for $1.25/lb. That is unheard of. You would never ever find berries that cheap in the grocery store. So after sharing it with the Buy Fresh Buy Local Facebook fans, I got in the car and headed to the farm, which thankfully, is only about 10 minutes from my house. Yeah, it was a week day. Yeah, I had a lot of work to do, but sometimes you just have to get up and go pick strawberries. All that work will be there for you when you get back, I promise.

If you’ve never picked strawberries, it’s very easy – they are literally low hanging fruit. When they’re ripe, they get so heavy they just sort of dangle below the leaves and pretty white flowers of their plant. And they pop right off their stems and get tossed right into your strawberry carrying device. The only issue is that if you have a bad back like I do, you may be in a bit of pain the next day (like I was), but that’s why you bring your kids – to do the hard work of bending over and finding the ripest strawberries. When picking, look for deep, red berries. Before plucking them off the plant, lift them up and make sure the underside isn’t white or green (unripe) or that it hasn’t been noshed on by any bugs.

Sometimes you just have to leave your desk and go pick strawberries.

Sometimes you just have to leave your desk and go pick strawberries.

So what to do with 10 lbs of berries once you get them home? Most people I know make strawberry bread, pie, muffins, etc etc. We all know how I feel about baking, so I do one of (or all of) three different thing:

1. Eat them. Duh.

2. Freeze them. Rinse and dry the berries, cut off the caps and then halve each berry and lay in a single layer on a baking sheet. Place the sheet in the freezer for several hours, then put the berries into a freezer ziploc bag. Pull out what you need, when you need it. I freeze pounds and pounds of berries like this every year to use in my smoothies all year long.

3. Dry them. Dried berries are sort of like craisins – tart, but still a little sweet. Perfect in salads, on yogurt or oatmeal, granola, etc. Wash and dry the berries, cut off the caps and halve each berry. Lay in a single layer on a baking sheet and bake at 210 degrees for 3 hours. Let them cool completely, then store in an airtight container in the fridge OR you could freeze these also and just thaw them as you need them. I’m not sure exactly how long they’ll keep in the fridge….you’ve probably got about a week?

Dried Strawberries

Dried Strawberries

Strawberries are pretty amazing little fruits. One cup of berries has only 49 calories and almost 150% of your daily Vitamin C. They also have fiber and protein and good amounts of folates and potassium as well as manganese.

So get out there and pick some today. Or, make your kids do it. Also, can I borrow your kids for an afternoon?

Herb Jelly

A few weeks ago my mom, myself and a friend of ours went to an herb preservation workshop where we learned how to make herb vinegar as well as herb infused oils and jams and jellies. I have a jar of herb vinegar stewing away in the back of a cabinet, which I will blog about soon, but it’s so easy to do it’s almost pitiful. In the meantime, our friend Theresa took on the more complicated process of making herb jellies and at a dinner this past week she presented us each with a jar of basil and rosemary jelly. I was so excited to try this flavor combination with anything I could find: fruit, bread, meats, cheese, an old flip flop – whatever!
The whole thing was made even more appealing by just how adorable the jelly was to begin with:

Rosemary and Basil Jelly

So this morning for breakfast, I decided to try it with a slice of multi-grain bread and some fresh, local peaches I got from the farmers market this past week. I know, peaches with rosemary and basil may not be the first thing that comes to your mind, but it should be! This combo was amazing. The heartiness of the bread, the sweet but herbal flavors of the jam and the tart but subtly sweet peaches were perfection. It doesn’t look like much and I realize you can hardly see my bread for all the peach, but seriously – amazing.

Multi-grain bread with herb jelly and peaches.

If you are already making jams and jellies, then add this recipe to your repertoire:

Herb-Apple Jelly

  • 4-5 fresh basil sprigs
  • 1 fresh rosemary branch (not too large or flavor will overpower the jelly)
  • 3 cups unsweetened apple juice
  • 4 ½ cups sugar
  • 3 oz. liquid Pectin (1 pkg.)

Make this jelly with different fresh herb combinations, either basil with rosemary or
thyme with mint. It’s good on toast, and excellent on pork and chicken.

You will need 6 clean (8-oz.) jelly jars and two-part lids (seal and screw-on band). Fill a
large stockpot or canner with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Sterilize jars and
lids. Keep at a simmer while you prepare the jelly.

Tie basil and rosemary sprigs in cheese-cloth. Place in a 5-quart pot along with apple
juice and sugar. Bring to a full boil and continue boiling for 1 minute.

Add pectin, stir well, and boil for 3 minutes. Remove and discard cheesecloth with
herbs; skim foam if needed. (you may also add a teaspoon of butter to reduce foaming)

Pour hot jelly into sterilized jars. Wipe jar rim if necessary, press on lid, and screw on
band. (If there’s any extra jelly, you can enjoy it right away and it will last in your fridge
for a while.) Work quickly but carefully, as the jelly will be very hot. Place jars in
simmering water and raise heat to bring water to a boil. Boil jars for 5-10 minutes, then
remove and allow to cool to room temperature. Leave for 24 hours.

You should hear the jars pop shortly after removing them from the canner. This
indicates that it’s sealed. When cool, the lids should be smooth and flat. Store for up to
a year in a cool, dark area out of direct sunlight.

This recipe and the others we received in the workshop are courtesy of local personal chef and herb-master, Elizabeth Meska. 

 

I can’t wait to try this jelly with so many other things. Anybody have any suggestions?

Get to crackin’

Let’s talk crabs. Of the crustacean sort, of course.

Blue crabs fresh from the Currituck Sound

Blue crabs are a way of life here. They are how many people, my uncle included, have made a living on the local waters. Growing up around bays where blue crabs thrive means that you learn how to crack a crab claw open before you learn how to use a fork, and I’m not kidding. Which brings me to one of my food obsession: food that takes a lot of work for a little bit of food. Crabs, shrimp, oysters, even pistachios – I LOVE eating food that is a challenge. There’s a sense of accomplishment, for one thing. It also extends the meal itself. Ever eaten a bushel of crabs with a small group of people? Two hours later and you’re wondering why there is still half a bushel of crabs left.  It forces you to relax, take your time, enjoy the company, the food, and everything else that entails.  Which is good, because for nearly $100/bushel, you should really, really enjoy them.

These crabs were caught by my (2nd? once removed? who knows) cousin, Mason who learned to crab from my uncle Wayne – his grandfather. They were delicious (both times) and I never take for granted the amount of work, from the crab pot to plate, that this kind of meal requires. Of course, you can’t have crabs without beer . . .

Crab claws make great beer-tab openers

I can eat crabs all by themselves….without stopping….for days on end….but I did decide to make a little cucumber and tomato salad with some local produce I’d gotten at the farmers market. One cucumber, halved, seeded, and cut into half moons, with halved cherry tomatoes in a sauce of Greek yogurt, dill from my garden, lemon zest and juice, garlic, salt and pepper.

Tomato and cucumber salad in Greek yogurt dressing

It’s a fun table to set: crabs, beer, fruit salad (local watermelon and peaches) and tomato and cucumber salad.

Crab dinner

And of course, we eat our crabs Carolina style – dipped in apple cider vinegar with salt and pepper. Another thing about growing up around here is learning to stomach, then appreciate apple cider vinegar. It goes on everything: BBQ, crabs, vegetables, collard greens – you name it. But did you know that it’s has some pretty serious health benefits? From WebMD.com “The effect of vinegar on blood sugar levels is perhaps the best-researched and the most promising of apple cider vinegar’s possible health benefits. Several studies have found that vinegar may help lower glucose levels. For instance, one 2007 study of 11 people with type 2 diabetes found that taking two tablespoons of apple cider vinegar before bed lowered glucose levels in the morning by 4%-6%.” Blue crab meat is also a great source of protein and is low in fat. It’s also a pretty amazing source of vitamin B-12, zinc, calcium and other nutrients. It’s also a good local “Sensible Seafood” decision, according to the Virginia Aquarium’s Sensible Seafood guide. But it’s important to note that what is a “sensible seafood” can vary by region, so while it’s sustainable here, it may not be in other parts of the country or world. Check out the original Sensible Seafood program at the Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Site.

What are your favorite foods that you have to work for? 

Going once, going twice . . .

I’m not sure if I’ve mentioned this yet, but I pretty much have the best job ever. Case in point, yesterday for my “job” I met with two women who have just started a Food Truck business called Wrap-N-Roll and are interested in sourcing some of their ingredients for their healthy-but-yummy wraps from local producers. Let me re-cap: 1. Food Truck 2. Healthy but yummy 3. Local ingredients. FTW!
Here’s their food truck, which is actually a re-vamped RV from the 80’s, which I LOVE:

Wrap-N-Roll Food Truck

This beast has been given a second life!

I met them at the Virginia Beach Farmers Market, which hosts a produce auction every Wednesday night. This was my first time at a produce auction, but I thought it would be a good place to take them so they could purchase local product in bulk, meet the farmers, get a feel for local food pricing, etc etc. The whole thing is a little daunting and the auctioneer is seriously talking a mile a minute. For a southern girl like me who is used to hearing people talk …. uh…. slooowwweeerrr….it was a little hard to keep up with. Halfway through the auction the market manager and my former boss showed up and suggested I only try to catch every 10th word or so. He was right, but fortunately I wasn’t bidding, although it was incredibly tempting – everything looked so good!

Produce Auction

Peaches, cabbage, watermelon and a mixed box of corn, egglplant, tomatoes and peppers.

Yeaaaaa….THAT good. My food truck ladies bought what they needed and the whole thing worked out great. Maybe next week I’ll go back and do a little bidding . . .
Produce auctions are great for restaurants, retail outlets and just ordinary people wanting to buy in bulk for canning, jams or jellies, or other preservation methods. The prices are a steal and the product is incredibly fresh. Most of farmers who grow the product are actually there at the market. In fact, two of my very favorite farmers were there yesterday – Jim and Anne Bright.

Jim and Anne Bright

Anne and Jim are long-time family friends and Anne was even the mistress of ceremonies at my wedding. I love anything where I get to talk to farmers about what they’re growing – they are the most knowledgeable and helpful people. In fact, one of the ladies I was there with wanted to purchase a box from them, but along with other products she needed, it also included beets, which she had no idea what to do with (for shame!). Before she could even finish bemoaning this fact, Anne had given her an easy, but no doubt delicious, recipe for them. Which brings me to my next point:

New Local Food Program with USDA

Click on the image to go to the USDA food compass

If you can talk to the person who grew your food, then you don’t have to worry about things like “what country did this come from? What are their safety and food standards? Was it sustainably grown? Were herbicides or pesticides used? How fresh is this? What do I do with it? How do I store it?” All the answers to those questions are standing right in front of you! And then when you support restaurants (like Wrap-n-Roll) and other outlets who are also sourcing local product, you don’t have to worry about the same things when you’re eating out. Yay for food safety! And sustainability! And supporting your local economy! You get to eat fresh, local, delicious food and as a bonus – you’re a superhero! FTW!