Food for Thought
When produce is at its peak, the simplest preparations are often the best way to highlight those fresh, crisp tastes that an August farmers’ market delivers. Corn on the cob should stay in its husk and be grilled on the barbecue for 15 to 20 minutes, turning as needed. Fresh herbs, flaky salt and a dash of good virgin olive oil complement any chicken or fish preparation; just-picked vegetables give the perfect crunch to your favorite dip or chopped into salad. Mix together your own favorites for a tangy salsa: raw tomatillos, corn kernels, cilantro, jalapeno, chopped tomatoes – in lime juice and olive oil, spiced to your taste. Be creative with what you find at the market, and you’ll be surprised at how your culinary inventiveness will reap glorious seasonal tastes.
Goat Cheese/Sun-Dried Tomato Appetizer
One jar sun-dried tomatoes or approximately one cup. (I make my own by splitting 12-15 small (not cherry) or plum tomatoes, salting them and drying them in a 250-degree oven for about six hours. Make sure they are still plump and not totally desiccated and rubbery. The sugar condenses into the sweet, juicy smaller half tomato).
- 12-15 peeled garlic cloves
- Rosemary sprigs
- Thyme sprigs
- Sage leaves
- Olive oil ( approximately one cup)
- One log goat cheese
Several days before serving, layer sun or oven-dried tomatoes, peeled garlic cloves, lots of thyme, rosemary and sage sprigs in a screw-top or Weck jar, then fill to the top with olive oil. Let sit to “cure” and when ready to prepare appetizer, slice the goat cheese into 1/3 inch wide rounds and place on platter with raised sides (so the olive oil doesn’t flow over). Slice the garlic cloves from the preserved herb/tomato mixture into slivers and scatter over goat cheese. Then strip rosemary, thyme and sage leaves from fresh herb sprigs and sprinkle over the top. Pour the marinating olive oil over all and add any more extra virgin olive if needed. Lastly, top with a bit of freshly cracked black pepper.
Serve with plenty of crusty country-style bread. Guests will want to spoon up the deliciously flavored olive oil with the goat cheese, tomatoes and herbs.
Tabbouleh, a popular Middle Eastern bulgher wheat salad made with freshly chopped parsley, mint, onion, and tomatoes, can be complemented with other favorites ingredients: cucumbers, radishes, green onion, cilantro, garlic or shallots. Parsley is the key to this preparation, so make sure you have the freshest on hand (either curly or flat), and, if so, include the finely chopped stems for added flavor. Amounts and ingredients in this recipe should vary according to your taste:
- 1 cup medium cracked wheat (bulghur). If using finer bulghur, soak less.
- Boiling water to cover
- 1 bunch chopped parsley
- 1 cup chopped tomatoes
- 1 cup chopped cucumbers
- 1 cup chopped green onions
- ½ cup chopped mint leaves
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- ½ cup extra virgin olive oil
- Salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
Wash bulghur in a bowl, changing the water a few times. Cover with boiling water and let sit for about 30 minutes until barely softened. Drain through strainer, then take handfuls of bulghur and squeeze out excess water if necessary (either in cheescloth or by hand). Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and stir.
Chop all vegetables and herbs finely and carefully so they keep their shape and don’t turn to mush. Mix together and add the flavored bulghur. Once ingredients are all combined, taste for salt, pepper, olive oil and lemon juice amounts. Adjust, then let sit in refrigerator at least one hour before serving to meld the flavors.
Serve with plenty of warmed pita bread or pita chips.
Blender Mint Julep
This is simple to do, and so effortless to keep a supply in the refrigerator, that it’s easy for this mint julep to become your go-to hot weather cocktail. You can vary the amount of sugar to your taste and add soda water to the finished product or not. Traditionally it is served with crushed ice, but your drink gets awfully melted if you do. Like everything else about cocktails –it’s your call!
- 1 bottle of Jack Daniels
Tennessee whiskey or any
decent bourbon such as Elijah Craig
- 1/3 cup of sugar
- 1 large handful of mint, stems
Place ingredients in a blender. If all of the bourbon won’t fit, leave some of it in the bottle.
Blend for one minute on high speed.
Put a funnel in the mouth of the bourbon bottle and a layer of cheesecloth in the funnel. Do this in the sink in case of spillage. Gradually empty the contents of the blender back into the bottle. You will probably have to stop halfway through to squeeze the cheesecloth with your hands and discard the solids. If there’s a little extra in the blender at the end, strain it into a glass and save it (or drink it!) The bottle can stay in the refrigerator, but shake it up each time you want to pour a drink. Add club soda (optional) and a fresh sprig of mint per cocktail.
Some people prefer to serve mint juleps in chilled silver cups because the drink’s green color is not necessarily perceived as particularly attractive. On the other hand, the aroma and taste more than make up for it.