Recipes and menu ideas: tomato sandwiches, pasta salads, lamb pasta, Thai chicken, Thai corn, Thai red curry cauliflower, peach blueberry pie, peach sugar, shrimp and grits, pecan-crusted flounder, and oven-roasted black sea bass with ginger, scallion and lime.
Back in my teenage days when I was a counselor at Wheaton Farm, I had a tomato sandwich every day for lunch. I suppose it must have been easy enough for me to put together and take with me as I biked to camp every morning. I still eat them the same way—tomato, salt and pepper, lettuce, American cheese and lots of mayo. I probably used Cain’s growing up in Massachusetts, but now Duke’s is my brand.
And now the tomatoes are fancier, sometimes. I’ve been buying Cherokee Purple, German Johnson, and some kind of yellow heirloom tomato, as well as good ol’ Johnston County field tomatoes.
Another treat recently has been the sweetest meloniest cantaloupe ever. The lady at the farmer’s market picks them out for me. She asks when I’m going to cut it open and picks one that will be ready that morning. Good golly, what flavor.
Party Pasta Salads
Pasta salads are always a sure bet for daytime parties in the summer. Recently I made a no-mayo peperonata pasta salad from Food 52. I added zucchini because I had too many, but didn’t add the nuts. And I increased the vinegar because it just didn’t have enough oomph for me.
I took home some of the leftovers and turned them into dinner. I cooked some ground lamb and tossed it with the leftover pasta salad, and added more tomatoes plus basil pesto. I liked the pasta dish better than the original salad.
My favorite pasta salad is pesto pasta salad. I make mine with:
- Mozzarella balls
- Slow-roasted tomatoes
- Sliced Kalamata olives
- Sliced seeded cucumbers
- Red wine vinegar
- Basil pesto
- Parmesan cheese
- Salt and pepper
So much flavor, much better than the peperonata pasta salad. Maybe the peperonata one would be better with some chopped salami and mortadella. Hmm, that’s a really good idea.
Another stretch of hot nights and I turned to southeast Asia again. This time I made Thai basil chicken—a recipe from Leite’s Culinaria, one of my favorite food blogs. The recipe was for a pork dish but I used ground chicken instead. I also subbed in red cherry peppers instead of bird’s eye chiles.
I added cilantro and mint in addition to the Thai basil called for in the recipe—I love that mix of herbs. I’m growing mint and Thai basil in pots on the deck. I can never grow enough cilantro (or flat leaf parsley) for my needs so I rely on the store for them.
I went with Thai recipes for the sides too: Thai corn salad and Thai red curry roasted cauliflower steaks. I added that same herb combo to the corn salad and used jalapeno instead of bird’s eye chiles—can’t find those in our markets. The cauliflower recipe was real simple—just brush red curry paste onto the cauliflower steaks and roast them.
Why can’t I make pie every weekend?
Seriously, I wish I could make a pie every weekend but I don’t feel like gaining 40 pounds. However, I couldn’t resist making one with the perfect peaches I brought home. And then I thought, ooh blueberries too. I found a recipe for Peach Blueberry Pie on the Taste of Home blog and went to it.
I used the double pastry crust recipe from Ken Haedrich’s Pie Hero because it’s so buttery and flaky, and he’s one of my favorite pie people. I sprinkled vanilla sugar—add a vanilla bean to a jar of sugar and let sit—on top of the top crust.
This was my best pie in forever. I will make it again but probably not until next summer since peaches are on their way out. Of course we had it with vanilla ice cream.
I don’t remember what possessed me to wonder about the skins I peeled off the peaches, but I found myself making peach sugar. I dried the peels, ground them in my extra coffee grinder, ground the same amount of sugar, and ground both together again. What will I do with peach sugar? Good question but something will come to me, I’m sure.
My week in seafood
We hadn’t had shrimp and grits in a while so when I got some NC shrimp in my fish share, I pulled out my old recipe. The secret to the best grits ever is cooking them in shrimp broth instead of water—along with all the other tasty ingredients in that grits recipe. I had the leftover grits with fried eggs for breakfast.
On the side, I made Rodney Scott’s BBQ collard greens. He just won the James Beard best chef in the Southeast award for his BBQ place (or maybe places) in South Carolina. I made a few changes: used oil instead of lard and added cherry peppers.
Later in the week, I made pecan-crusted flounder. We loved it but I had trouble getting the pecans to stick—I probably should have chopped them even finer. Next time I might use buttermilk instead of milk and add hot sauce, or not. On the side, some regulars: roasted broccoli with garlic, lemon zest and parmesan, and roasted spicy sweet potatoes.
The other fish in my share that week was black sea bass—that was a treat. We had oven-roasted black sea bass with ginger, scallion and lime. A bold, tasty preparation that would also be great on flank steak, chicken thighs or salmon.
That’s all for now!
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