July 2009


This easy noodle dish comes together in the time it takes to boil pasta and pleases the entire family.  Eat it hot or cold, alone or topped with some simply sauteed vegetables (whatever you have on hand will do).

Sesame noodles and cabbage with stir-fried vegetables

Yield:  Serves 4.

For noodles (adapted from Vegetarian Times):

1/2 lb. soba or udon noodles, or whole wheat or brown rice spaghetti

1/2 head napa cabbage, cored and shredded (about 6 cups)

1 handful fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

3 tbsp. natural peanut butter (or use sunflower seed butter)

2 tbsp. tamari (or use regular soy sauce)

2 tbsp. toasted sesame oil

2 tbsp. mirin or sherry

1 tbsp. unseasoned rice vinegar

1 tbsp. granulated sugar

1/2 tsp. sriracha (or a pinch of crushed red pepper)

For vegetables:

2-3 tbsp. canola oil

1 large or 2 small garlic cloves, thinly sliced

1 tsp. grated, fresh ginger

1 carrot, peeled and grated

A few scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

1 red bell pepper, cored and sliced

2 handfuls snow peas

Kernels from two ears of fresh corn (Not sure how to do this?  See here.)

Make noodles:

Bring a large saucepan of salted water to a boil.  Add noodles, and cook according to package directions.

While noodles cook, whisk sauce ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Put shredded cabbage into a large colander in the sink.  When noodles are cooked, pour noodles and cooking water over cabbage in colander.  Drain well.  Toss noodles and cabbage with sauce and cilantro.

(Sesame noodles keep well in the fridge and make an excellent, portable lunch.  Serve hot, cold, or at room temperature.)

Saute vegetables:

Warm a large skillet (or use a wok, if you have one) over medium-high heat.  Drizzle in oil, then add garlic, ginger, and carrots.  When vegetables are softened and fragrant, add scallions and peppers.  Cook a few minutes, then add snow peas and corn.  Cook another minute or two, until snow peas are bright green and vegetables are hot throughout.  Spoon vegetables over noodles and serve.

Cook a grain.  Chop some vegetables.  Add beans, fruit, and/or cheese.  Toss with fresh herbs and vinaigrette.  This quinoa salad is but one variation on theme I repeat over and over all summer long (see here and here), one that yields and endless supply of packable, weekday lunches or easy, warm weather dinners (just add something from the grill).

Chewy, nutty quinoa is my all-time favorite grain for salads, but bulgur, couscous, brown rice, and barley are all good, too.  Practically any vegetable is fair game — some need to be cooked first (grill or roast squash and eggplant, steam asparagus and peas), others are fine raw (celery, cucumbers), a few can go either way (tomatoes, peppers).  Grapes, peaches, nectarines, pineapples, mangos, even strawberries and blueberries add color and sweetness, while crumbly cheeses like feta, goat, and ricotta salata add savory depth.  Poached or grilled chicken or shrimp can replace beans.  Anything goes, really, as long as you balance colors and textures, and pick a vinaigrette that suits your other flavors: delicate vegetables, like cucumbers and peas, pair well with mild vinegars like champagne and rice;  eggplant, peppers, and tomatoes can stand up to bolder red and white wine vinegars.

Quinoa salad with peas, grapes, and feta

Yield:  Makes about 6 cups

1 c. sugar snap peas, trimmed

1/2 c. shelled English peas

2 heaping cups cooked quinoa (drained and cooled)

1 15-oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained (organic varieties usually have better texture, if you can find them)

1 c. red grapes, halved

4 oz. good-quality feta cheese, crumbled

6 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

1 handful fresh mint leaves, finely chopped

2 tbsp. champagne vinegar (or use white wine), or more to taste

2 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil, or more to taste

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Bring a kettle or medium saucepan of water to a boil.  Place snap peas and English peas in a colander in the sink, and slowly pour the boiling water over them.  (Alternatively, you can blanch the peas in a saucepan of boiling, salted water for a minute or two, but if your peas are really fresh they need only a quick dousing to brighten their color.)  Immediately shock the peas under cold tap water, then set aside to drain.

Toss all ingredients together in a large mixing bowl.  Adjust oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper as needed.  Salad keeps well in the fridge for at least 3 days.  Serve at room temperature.

I’m pretty sure that if I had an afternoon with nothing to do but sit in the grass and watch the garden I could actually see the vegetables growing.  There’s something new to pick every day:  warm, juicy golden nugget and small red cherry tomatoes, slender carrots, a few lingering English peas, handfuls of sweet sugar snaps, fat yellow onions, and all the parsley and basil I could possibly need (pesto, anyone?).

And there’s more to come:  two cucumber vines (the seed packet said “bush cucumber” but the plants are winding their way through the tomatoes and over the edge of the bed) and one zucchini plant have at least a dozen yellow blossoms between them, and the black cherry (my favorite) tomatoes are nearly full size but still maddeningly green.

"Bush" cucumber vines and sugar snap peas

Zucchini and black cherry tomatoes

And the perennials along the fence — at least those the resident bunny isn’t eating — are starting to bloom.

Rudbeckia "Indian summer," potentilla, scarlet lobelia about to bloom, and pineapple mint

Broccoli is not my favorite vegetable.  Simply steamed, I think it tastes like a bit like felt (that is, what I imagine felt to taste like).  But tossed with olive oil, garlic, and hot pepper, the ubiquitous, healthy vegetable holds its own on the plate, complementing everything from steak to tofu.  Do you really need a recipe for sauteed broccoli?  No, not really.  But a few suggestions never hurt:

Sauteed broccoli with garlic and red pepper

Yield:  As much or as little as you like

Broccoli (one good-sized bunch serves 3-4)

Olive oil (enough to coat the pan, then an extra tablespoon or two)

Garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced (two per bunch of broccoli)

Crushed red pepper, to taste

Salt, to taste

Cut the broccoli crowns into bite-sized florets.  If you want to use the stalks, peel off the tough outer layer and cut them, on the bias, into bite-sized slices.

In a large saute pan, bring about an inch of water to a boil.  Add the broccoli and cook, turning occasionally, until bright green and almost tender, about 3 minutes.  Drain.  (If you’re not sauteeing immediately, shock the broccoli under cold running water to stop the cooking and set the color.)

Wipe the pan dry and return it to the stove.  Heat  the oil, garlic, and red pepper over medium heat.  When the garlic is sizzling and fragrant but not browned, add the broccoli to the pan and raise the heat to medium-high.  Season with salt and cook until tender but still crisp, about 3 minutes more.

Can you dedicate a salad like you can a song?  If so, this one goes out to my friend Jill, who loves her veggies and appreciates pungent flavors (I have known her to knock back sun-dried tomatoes like you might a handful of raisins).  In this recipe, raw cauliflower stands up to a potent vinaigrette without losing its crunch, making a salad that keeps and travels well.  Great with a sandwich (think tuna or egg salad, or turkey and mild cheese) in a brown-bagged lunch, or for dinner with a simple roast salmon or gratin of greens and cheese.

Cauliflower salad with olives and sun-dried tomato vinaigrette

Yield:  A LOT, but you can easily halve the recipe.

For vinaigrette (adapted from Deborah Madison’s Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone):

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar

2 tbsp. red wine vinegar

6 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped

1/4 to 1/3 c. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For salad:

1 large head cauliflower

4 scallions, white and light green parts only, thinly sliced

1 handful black olives, pitted and thinly sliced

1 handful fresh parsley leaves, finely chopped

Make vinaigrette:

Combine shallots, garlic, a pinch of salt and pepper, and vinegars in a mixing bowl and let sit 15 minutes.  In a separate, heat-proof bowl, combine sun-dried tomatoes and enough boiling water to cover and let sit until tomatoes are plumped and soft.

Drain tomatoes in a fine-meshed sieve, pressing with the back of a spoon to remove excess moisture.  Add tomatoes to vinegar mixture, then drizzle in 1/4 c. oil, whisking to emulsify.

Assemble salad:

While tomatoes steep, quarter and core cauliflower.  Break into large florets, then thinly slice (some cauliflowers are more crumbly than others —  this is fine).  Toss cauliflower with scallions, olives, parsley, and vinaigrette in a large mixing bowl.  Add an additional drizzle of olive oil or sprinkling of salt and pepper if necessary.  Serve at room temperature.

Another strawberry dessert recipe?  Yes indeedy!  Local strawberries are still abundant and affordable here in eastern MA, possibly due to an unusually cool June, so we will eat them and eat them until they disappear (Then we will eat blueberries.  And then apples. Then more apples.  Then more apples…).

I like the rustic ease of a galette for summer.  Less formal and quicker to bake than a pie, this free-form tart practically begs to be eaten outside, with a view of the countryside (or from the fire escape) and a glass of sparkling wine or a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

In this recipe, cornmeal — always lovely with berries — gives the crust a textural bite that I find balances the acidity of the fruit nicely.  If you prefer, a plain pate brisee will work as well.

Strawberry galette with cornmeal crust

Yield:  Serves 6 (or maybe just 4).

For pastry:

1 c. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/3 c. cornmeal

1/2 tsp. salt

1/2 c. cold butter, cut into small pieces

About 1/4 c. ice water, as needed

For filling:

2 pints strawberries, halved or quartered if large

1/4 c. sugar (granulated or light brown)

2 tbsp. cornstarch

1 tsp. vanilla extract

Milk (any kind) and granulated sugar for crust (optional)

Make pastry:

Sift flour, cornmeal, and salt into a mixing bowl.  Cut in butter with a pastry blender (or whatever method you like best) until mixture is sandy, allowing some pea-sized chunks of butter to remain.

Slowly drizzle in water, stirring constantly with a fork until dough starts to come together.  If you press the dough into a ball and it crumbles when you let go, add another tablespoon or two of water.

Flatten dough into a disc, wrap in plastic, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes or overnight (or make it in advance and freeze it).

Assemble galette:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

On a large, square piece of parchment paper lightly dusted with flour, roll pastry into a rough circle about 14 inches in diameter.  Transfer pastry and paper to a sheet pan and refrigerate while you make the filling.

Toss berries, sugar, cornstarch, and vanilla in a mixing bowl.  Spoon into center of pastry, leaving a 2-inch border of uncovered pastry all around.  Fold up edges of pastry around berries, pleating dough every 3 inches or so.  If you like, you can brush the crust lightly with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

Bake for about 35 minutes, or until pastry is lightly browned and berries are bubbling.

Serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream (or frozen soy yogurt).

Make it vegan: Use a non-hydrogenated, vegetable-based shortening in place of butter in the pastry.