Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Savoring Summer

I cannot believe we are already into the first week of September!

Summer in Portland always seems to fly. I wait all year for this beautiful season and then it fades before I can even settle into it. On the bright-side, the fleeting nature of summer compels me maximize the incredible wealth of seasonal bounty that Oregon provides.

I don't think I've gone more than a meal or two without incorporating some kind of local or homegrown produce. From blueberries on my almond butter toast in the mornings to kale in my smoothies to huge salads made with fresh greens to spiralized zucchini and carrot pastas with fresh pesto and cherry tomatoes - I am literally in produce heaven. Makes me feel so fortunate to live in such an incredible community of farmers, growers and other locavore-foodies.

I was invited to some friends' house the other night and, with no real meal plan, we pillaged from their garden and used the goods in order to craft an extra-fresh dinner. We started with a melon-tomato gazpacho. And by "we" I mean my brilliant friend Kristina used the orange watermelon I brought over and vitamixed it with tomatoes, spices and magic to make this amazing cold soup.

I wish I had the recipe for you but I don't. She whipped it up so fast I barely even had a chance to ask what the general ingredients were, let alone take down the full recipe. 

But don't worry - while she was crafting her magic-soup, I was throwing together this bruschetta which is one of my go-to summer dished that always seems to be a crowd-pleaser

Backyard Bruschetta
  • 2 large heirloom tomatoes or a pint of heirloom cherry tomatoes
  • 2 medium lemon cucumbers
  • 1 large handful of basil
  • White balsamic vinegar, to taste
  • High quality olive oil, to taste
  • High quality salt (like Jacobsen Salt), to taste
Chop tomatoes and cucumbers and combine in a medium sized bowl.

Chiffonade basil and toss with the veggies. 

Add olive oil, vinegar and salt and stir until combined. Continue to adjust until you get the right balance of acidity and smoothness.

Spoon on top of a toasted, locally baked baguette and enjoy.

In terms of the rest of our dinner, we simply picked veggies straight off the vine (tree, plant etc...), slathered them in various sauces and tossed them on the grill. Add a bottle of Rose' and it's difficult to imagine a more perfect summer night.


Another bounty-inspired summer meal that I made recently was this one of collard wraps and my take on a Catalonian Romesco sauce.

I adore greens in all forms, but there I especially love greens that can be used to make wraps. Between green wraps and spiralized-veggie noodles, I am getting more than my fair share of fresh summer vegetables. To make these wraps, I used Collars which I have found are the best in terms of shape and texture to make wraps out of. Any heartier green will work, however, so it's really up to you.

I stuffed these wraps with steamed sweet potato, black beans, pan fried padron peppers from Viridian Farms, spinach and carmelized onion. Like I said, though - you can put pretty much anything in them. Despite not being the prettiest or most photogenic topping, I spooned a romesco-type sauce over the top which I thought complimented the flavors of the wraps nicely :) I didn't use toasted or stale bread in my romesco as is traditionally done - I used roasted eggplant instead for a thicker texture. 

Collard Wraps(Serves 2)
  • 8-10 large collard green leaves
  • 1 can black beans
  • 2-3 sweet potatoes, chopped and steamed
  • 10-12 padron peppers, roughly chopped
  • Large bunch fresh spinach
  • 1 medium Walla Walla sweet onion, chopped
  • 2 Tbsp. coconut oil, divided
  • 1 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
  • 1 large handful fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 large handful cilantro, chopped
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp Italian seasoning
Start by heating a tablespoon or so of coconut oil in a fry pan over medium heat. When the oil is heated, add the chopped padron peppers and pan fry until crispy (you can add more oil depending on the size of your pan). Remove the peppers from the pan and set aside.

Add the second tablespoon of coconut oil to the pan and bring up to medium heat. Add the chopped onion and begin to saute. After 5 or so minutes, add the balsamic vinegar and cotinue to caramelize for another 10-15 minutes. Add the black beans and steamed sweet potatoes and saute everything for another 3-5 minutes. Add spinach, fried peppers, fresh herbs and spices and saute until spinach is just wilted. Remove from heat immediately.

Next, fill up a large sauce pan with water and bring to a boil. Chop the thickest part of the collard stems off. Using tongs, submerge an individual collard leaf in the water for 10-15 seconds or until pliable. Remove from water and set on a flat surface. Spoon filling into the center of the collard leaf and roll up like a burrito. Repeat until all leaves and filling are used up! 

Lightened-up Romesco
  •  1/4 cup raw hazelnuts (preferably from Freddy Guys)
  •  1 medium eggplant, roasted and skinned
  •  2-3 cloves of garlic, roasted
  •  1/2 red onion, roasted
  •  2 medium red peppers, roasted
  •  1 large heirloom tomato
  •  1-2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar (could also potentially use red wine)
  •  1 tsp red pepper flakes
  •  1 tsp smoked paprika
I roasted everything in my oven (the peppers I then broiled to scorch them to make it easier to remove the skin) but you could easily do it in the BBQ if you have that baby up and running. Once roasted, combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until chunky and blended. If necessary, heat over the stove for a few minutes until warmed through.

Top collard wraps with sauce and enjoy! Pair with steamed broccoli and flake salt if it suits you.

In other news. I've also been baking pies. With blackberries from my back yard. I don't have a recipe for this guy either because I literally used what I found in a family friend's kitchen to make it. Hadn't made a pie in a while (let alone on a whim, without a recipe) but I will say it turned out pretty well. Add enough sugar and shortening to anything and it will turn out just dandy. Vegan, yes. Healthy? Not so much. But DELICIOUS.

Also sometimes I put wine on Wyatt's head. He loves to go wine tasting with us :)

What a trooper.

Live long and prosper, lovers. And enjoy the rest of this stunning summer.

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