Friday, July 12, 2013

Summer Cookin'

Everything about cooking in the summer is better.  It's fresher, prettier, more creative and when you cook with the windows open you get to taste summer in the food.  I have been neglecting food in this blog lately!  This does not mean I have not been cooking with all the beautiful ingredients Matt brings in everyday from the garden.  I love summer cooking because it inspires me to try new things.  In the winter I do a lot of veggie chili's, soups, pastas...warm comfort food.  Summer brings it on.  I find instead of buying the same old things at the grocery store I get distracted by all the vibrant colors in the produce aisle and stray from my list and menu for the week and buy what calls my name.  When I get ready to prepare a meal I realize I don't have any of the ingredients I actually need so I toss my plan out the window and the fun really begins.  This is refreshing for my "planning" type personality. For the past few years we've also done a CSA...meaning we get weekly vegetable from a local garden.  I never know what will be in the box.  It's like getting a present every week.  We have tried so many new veggies because of this.  Things I wouldn't normally think to buy.  Therefore, I am dedicating this whole post to food.  Summer food to be more exact.  

I will begin with what we have had the most of.  Not only is it growing like crazy in our garden, but it has been a part of our weekly CSA.  Spinach.  Oh, have we got a lot of spinach.  I have managed to get it into every meal.  Breakfast...sauteed and tossed in a cheese omelet...so good.  I've also been blending it with frozen bananas, blueberries (or strawberries) and Greek yogurt.  I like to think of it as a breakfast salad.  It goes on our veggie sandwiches almost everyday for lunch.  Poor girls...they went from PB sandwiches everyday of the school year to veggie sandwiches during summer.  Although, they don't complain about the veggie ones nearly as much.  For dinners there have been lots of salads.  But, my favorite way to use our over abundance of spinach is in my lazy girls version of spinach pies...

Spinach pies are a Lebanese meal I make for holidays a lot.  They take a bit of work. Making the dough, making the filling and then rolling a few dozen pretty triangles.  This is why I created my lazy version.  I make my dough like I do for regular spinach pies, you can find that here.  I modify the filling a bit.  I throw spinach, Parmesan cheese, garlic, basil, s&p, olive oil and anything else that sounds good in the food processor and chop it up.  Then, roll out the dough spread with the filling and roll it up jelly roll style.  (I divide the dough in half or quarters depending on how big you want them).  Then bake in a 425-degree oven for around 20 minutes and slice.  SO much easier than rolling them all and in the summer I would rather be doing other things.  

Our spinach will soon be done and I'll be adding zucchini to every meal.  Bring it on.

Another summer favorite we seem to have a ton of this year is strawberries!  They have really taken off this year and Matt brings in bowlfuls every night.  I think they will last forever and every day they are gone by the end of the day.  This morning, before the girls had a chance to devour them I decided I wanted to bake with them.  Voila...

Strawberry muffins!  Let's be honest...the only reason we call them muffins instead of cupcakes is so we can justify eating them for breakfast.  They were so good...girls each had two and I'm sure would have had more if mean mommy hadn't said no.  I have never made strawberry muffins and I tend to rely on recipes when baking.  I read a few and modified them so I can proudly call this my own strawberry muffin recipe:
1-cup chopped strawberries
-1/4 cup canola oil
-1/2 cup milk
-1 egg
-1 tsp vanilla
-1/2 cup sugar
-2 tbls brown sugar
-1 3/4 cup flour
-2 tsp baking powder
-1/2 tsp salt
1.  Mix oil, milk, egg and vanilla in a bowl and set aside
2.  In a separate bowl mix flour, sugars, baking powder and salt.  Toss strawberries in to coat.  Add milk mixture.  Pour into 12 prepared muffin tins and bake at 375-degrees for 20 minutes.  Enjoy!

I have been wanting to make some vanilla ice cream to have with the fresh strawberries, but they just aren't lasting.  Maybe I'll get to do that when the hundreds of raspberries we have begin to ripen.

Something new I've cooked with this week...

Garlic scapes.  I've never seen these crazy things until this year and I'm pretty sure I'm in love with them.  Not only are they adorable but they are tasty also.  On the advice of a chef friend (best kind of friend to have) I drizzled them with olive oil, sea salt and pepper and grilled them.  After grilling I turned them into pesto.  I love, love, love pesto.  Could eat it on toast for breakfast type love it.  These babies really added something to my usual pesto.  (Basil, garlic, Parmesan cheese, olive oil, garlic and pine nuts...pureed until smooth...add s&p to taste).  Because I was trying to find another way to use spinach I decided to use the pesto on our pizza and top it with spinach and arugula.  It was a very green pizza-

I cooked the pizza on the grill.  Total summer, Montana garden pizza.  I think you can put just about anything from the garden on a pizza, top it with mozzarella, grill it and it will taste good.  Just my opinion.

We always get a few things in our CSA share that I really don't know what to do with.  A lot of different types of radishes and kohlrabi...not my favorites.  I'm trying to pickle some of the radishes.  I'm also not a fan of pickling, but maybe Matt and the girls will love it.  It does look pretty...
I sliced them, added rice vinegar, salt and sugar.  We'll see how they turn out.  

And check out this beauty...

It's a shrimp and tomato salad.  Another one that tastes like summer.  I marinate my shrimp for a bit in some fresh lemon juice and salt & pepper.  Heat some olive oil on the stove, saute some minced garlic, add shrimp and cook until done.  Meanwhile cook some sort of pasta...I like bow-tie for this one.  In a bowl combine your veggies...sliced cherry tomatoes, corn, fresh basil, fresh parsley, one can rinsed and drained cannellini beans, Parmesan cheese and some more olive oil and fresh lemon juice.  You can add any other fresh herbs or veggies you desire.  Add them all to the shrimp and cook for a few more minutes.  Toss with the pasta and season with s&p.  Add some fresh bread on the side and dinner is served.

We even made homemade popsicles this week with fresh squeezed oranges from our orange tree.  Not really.  We did freshly squeeze the oranges but sadly we do not have an orange tree in our backyard.  One day I may live someplace with an orange tree in my backyard.  For now I will settle for a backyard bursting with spinach, strawberries, peas, raspberries and lots more.  It's all good.

Besides cooking, eating or thinking about cooking and eating we've been tending to the business of summer.  Things like going to the park and playing at our version of a beach.
Why hello there, sunshine.  


Kids splashed in the warm water with friends and played in the nicest sand you can find here in Montana.  Moms soaked up the sun and chatted.  If you stuck your feet in the sand and closed your eyes you could be fooled into thinking you were on a real beach with the sunshine warming your skin.  However, the smell of pond is definitely different than the smell of salt in the air.  Oh, well.  We gotta take what we can get.  

Happy weekend.   

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