Summer Veggies Are My Salvation!

This summer is hot. For real. Its been a weird week- kind of busy but no energy and feeling blah. I get the sense everyone is feeling it, not just me. The two things that have kept me going this week (besides Grant and the doggers), though, are… fresh summer veggies and good music!

Last weekend we had a whirlwind of a road trip as we went to our friends Ali Marie & Dolan’s wedding celebration in the Shenandoah Valley. Virginia really IS for lovers. We had an amazing time with so many nice people and good food. Nothing says summer celebration better than welcoming the Solstice in with bluegrass tunes by a campfire with good friends! Oh, and our good friend George Dickel, he’s always fun at a party! We pitched our tent, had a quick night’s sleep, and were awakened by the most beautiful little chirping birds and the sight of these amazing little blue wildflowers! (Then on the way home we found. . . bum, bom, bohh. . . . . FOAMHENGE! See photos below!)

Last Saturday before we took off, we realized we had a bag of the most beautiful red and green okra I had found at The Turnip Truck earlier in the week. It had to be eaten. For the last couple of years, we have grown our own okra and always meant to pickle some but never did. This day, we realized just how easy it is to do so. Grant found a simple recipe online that went something like this:

1 qt white vinegar
1/2 cup sea salt
dash of organic raw sugar
1 cup water
fresh okra
hot red peppers
hot green peppers (we used Anaheim)
garlic cloves

We sterilized the jars in boiling water, put the garlic, peppers, dill  in, stuffed them with washed okra, and then poured the water/vinegar mixture (which had been heated with salt and sugar) over top and sealed them up. The jars are in the refrigerator now and in one week, we can see how they taste. I was a little sad that the red okra lost most of its color when we poured the warm mixture over it but they still look beautiful!

I get so overwhelmed looking at fresh summer produce. There are so many possibilities and it all has so much potential. I’ll admit it, I am a food nerd. I often buy things because they are pretty or interesting looking and I think they will photograph well. I always eat it and it never goes to waste. This year, probably because of the blog, I have been buying more vegetables I am less familiar with. It becomes a challenge to try to figure out how to cook it. That’s sort of what happened with these baby turnips I got this week. They were so cute and perfect in shape. I also jumped on the yellow wax beans just because I rarely see them. I started to explore cookbooks and recipe sites to find the perfect recipe for either or both together but got lazy and kept it simple. I just used what we had and this is what I came up with (as I rediscovered my love for Lyle Lovett’s, The Road to Ensenada)-

Baby Turnips & Waxed Beans with Tomato Relish

small bunch of baby turnips
small bag of yellow wax beans
1/2 basket of cherry tomatoes
hand full of fresh basil from the garden
our first green pepper from the garden
1-2 tbsp good olive oil
1/2 tsp unsalted organic butter
1-2 tsp balsamic vinegar
sea salt

I cleaned and steamed the turnips for about 5 minutes and then added the beans. I steamed them for another 5 minutes maybe and then threw them in an iron skillet with a little olive oil and the butter on medium high heat to get them a little browned. I did not cook them long, maybe 5-10 minutes (both were still firm and crisp, the turnips seemed very potato-like). While these were cooking, I chopped the cherry tomatoes, green pepper and the basil and mixed it together with olive oil, the balsamic vinegar, and sea salt to make a little relish. I poured the turnips and beans in a bowl and topped with the relish. It was so simple yet tasted so fresh and delicious. We ate it with some baked lemon garlic chicken Grant concocted and it was perfect together. The next day, I had the leftover turnips & beans cold and it made the perfect healthy salad. Grant put some in a wrap with turkey. Ahhh… summer at its best!

That is all I have for now. But, I have lots and lots of fresh berries in the fridge and I plan to make many pies this weekend. The first Red Barn Round-Up of the season is on Sunday- the perfect mix of Southern cookin’ and old school country music!


June 15th is Waylon’s Birthday so we had lots of Waylon tunes filling the air at our house this week. Also just out is Twistable, Turnable Man, a musical tribute to the late Shel Silverstein in which Bobby Bare, Jr. put together some great songs sung by some great folks and this, it turns out, is a fun summer album. It makes me happy.

The local organic tomatoes and blueberries have appeared and this, also, makes me very happy.

One of my favorite ways to enjoy these little tomatoes is to half them, spread them out on a cookie sheet, cover in olive oil and roast in the oven with garlic cloves. Then you can do all sorts of things with them! For this particular evening, I also roasted summer squash and asparagus, added fresh basil from our garden and then threw over pasta and topped it with Reypenaer 2 year aged Gouda cheese. Delicious.

We LOVE blueberries and they are so good for you. We eat them all by themselves, with plain yogurt, in smoothies, fruit salads or sometimes… I make my Mom’s famous Blueberry Crumble Top Pie!

Earlier in the week, we drove over to 12th South to wander around and see what was new. We stopped at the new Green Light Market which is next to the new Las Paletas location and the new, much talked about restaurant, Burger Up. The market is tiny but cute and friendly. They have yummy sounding sandwiches, homemade lavash crackers that are amazing,  local specialty items and some local organic produce.

We found some amazing English Peas. I did some recipe searches trying to figure out what I wanted to do with them. I really like this recipe on Heidi Swanson’s 101 Cookbook site and I found one other I really liked that was just a simple salad with Arugula and Pecorino Romano cheese and a couple other ingredients. I ended up sort of combining both recipes and came up with my own which we ate with some garlic and fresh basil roasted chicken in foil that Grant made.

My recipe went something like this…

Fresh Pea Salad
1 cup fresh mint leaves
2-3 tbsp Flame raisins
1-2 tbsp olive oil
1 small Anaheim pepper
a squeeze of fresh lemon juice and zest from that lemon
1 1/2 cups fresh peas
1 small head of romaine lettuce, cut into shreds
1/4 cup Parmesan Reggiano, cut in small pieces
fine grain sea salt

To make the mint dressing, puree the mint, raisins, chiles, olive oil, and lemon juice and zest using a food processor or hand blender. Blend until uniform in texture. Thin it out by adding a tablespoon of water so that it is a consistency in which you can drizzle over salad. Taste and adjust for lemon and spiciness.

Cook shelled peas in salted boiling water for no more than one minute. Immediately drain peas and place in a bowl of ice water to stop cooking process.

Just before serving gently toss the peas, lettuce, and cheese with about half of the dressing and a couple pinches of salt. Taste and add more dressing if you like.

Serves 2 – 4.

We used the leftovers in a sandwich wrap the next day!

Grant's chicken dish that accompanied the pea salad!

Also this week, I found some new and interesting cole slaw recipes. This one was particularly different and I have to admit that the thought of raw collard greens did not sound too appetizing to either Grant or myself. But, we tried it anyway and knew the raw vegetables would, if nothing else, be really good for our bodies. Surprisingly, we both really enjoyed it and were able to eat it with two very different meals this week. The first night we enjoyed it with a shrimp and Andouille sausage gumbo Grant made and the second night, we served it with Terriyaki salmon and some rice.

Collard and Cabbage Slaw
1 bunch collards, stems removed and sliced very thin
1/2 small green cabbage, core removed and sliced very thin
1 large carrot, grated or julienned
3 green onions, white parts and some of the green, sliced thin on the diagonal
3 tablespoons fresh orange juice
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons fresh ginger, finely minced
1 clove garlic, minced
1 teaspoon salt or to taste
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Combine collards, cabbage, carrots and onion in a large salad bowl. Toss until well mixed. Combine orange and lemon juices, ginger, garlic and salt in a small bowl. Slowly whisk in olive oil and continue to whisk until emulsified. Adjust seasoning to    taste. Pour dressing over greens and toss until greens are well coated.

This recipe I found on the PCC Natural Market website, our Seattle market when we lived there.

Collard & Cabbage Slaw with Gumbo and Scrabble!

Collard Slaw Again- with Salmon & Rice

Lots of good eats and fun country music coming up with a trip to friends’ wedding celebration in the Shenandoah Mountains of Virginia and the first Red Barn Round-Up of the summer!!!