Summer Recipes on Our Gravel Road

In August, most of our meals revolve around what comes in our weekly CSA share and what’s in season at the grocery store. Since many fruits and veggies are available for a very short time, I’ve been cooking family favorite recipes rather than trying new ones. That’s why today’s post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately.

1. Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.To use up tomatoes, sweet peppers, and jalapenos we’ve been making double batches of this delicious summer salsa. This summer’s new twist has been to cut the corn off two ears of sweet corn, microwave it for a minute, and add it to the salsa. How can something good for a person be so sinfully good?

2.  Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.

Summer heat’s been great for the basil in my herb garden. I’ve lost count of how many batches of pesto we’ve made. We make non-dairy basil pesto, which is as tasty as the regular version.

3.  Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.Most of the pesto goes in the freezer to be used throughout the winter. But some of it gets added to pesto pasta, to which we add summer vegetables that need to be used: zucchini and grape tomatoes are two faves.

4. Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.Peanut chicken stir fry is another summer favorite at our house because we can add whatever veggies are available. Our favorite is Joni’s Cashew Chicken, garnished with peanuts instead of cashews. You can find other stir fry recipes by typing “chicken stir fry” in the Gravel Road search box.

5. Today's post is a parade of the previously published recipes that have been prepared in our kitchen lately using seasonal produce.With peach season going strong, we’ve been eating a lot of peach pie for dessert. This morning I made two for supper with friends tonight. This fresh peach pie recipe can’t be beat.

So what’s cooking in your late summer kitchen? Leave a link to your favorite recipe in the comment box if you like.

Summertime Cooking Tips

Between helping with our friends’ wedding rehearsal supper and a day at the Iowa State Fair, the past week wasn’t conducive for cooking. So no new recipe this week. Instead, I’ll share some tips that will maximize the flavor of your summertime produce.

Tips for Choosing the Best Peaches

  • Do not use California peaches if you live in the midwest. Who knows why – distance, picked too soon, whatever – but it’s hard to get good California peaches in this part of the world.
  • In the midwest, the best peaches come from Missouri, Michigan, Colorado and Georgia, in that order.
  • Smaller peaches are usually better than large ones.
  • Choose peaches with a little blush and a lot of clear, yellow color.
  • Let the peaches ripen in a bowl or paper bag until your kitchen smells just peachy. Then they’re ready to use.
  • Peach season runs from early July to mid-August. It’s hard to get good peaches outside those time parameters.

Tips for Making the Best BLTs

  • Wait until your tomatoes are really ripe to use them. Yes, I know it’s hard. But you’ll be glad you did.
  • Slice tomatoes with a serrated knife. You can buy a tomato knife, but a steak knife works just fine, too.
  • Slice sandwich tomatoes very, very thin when serving people who aren’t crazy about them.
  • Slip the tomato between the lettuce and bacon so the bread doesn’t get soggy for your texture-sensitive eaters.

Tips for Easy Pesto Making

  • When making basil pesto, put the oil in the blender and run the garlic through a garlic press before adding it to the oil. This will avoid chunks of garlic in the pesto.
  • After adding the garlic, add basil leaves before adding the nuts or salt. The basil blends into the oil much easier this way. Add about a half a cup of basil at a time. Mix well, then add another handful of basil, mix, and repeat until all the basil is pulverized.
  • Finally, add the salt and nuts. The salt won’t sink to the bottom and the nuts will grind beautifully.

There you have them. My top summer cooking tips. What are your secrets for working with summer produce? Leave a comment!

Non-Dairy Basil Pesto

Two summers ago, the weather was perfect for growing basil, and the fragrant herb was coming out our ears. So I dug out a basil pesto recipe my sister had given me a few years before and put it to good use. We froze oodles of pesto and for the past two years have used it instead of tomato sauce on pizza, as a spread for sandwiches, and tossed with pasta.

It. Was. Delicious.

Already this summer’s another banner basil year, so I dug out the recipe again, did some research, and came up with a non-dairy version. No was is this dairy allergy gonna keep me from enjoying the spicy spread. So, here’s the non-dairy version of the basil pesto recipe originally posted on this website in August of 2010.

It. Is. Delicious.

2 cups packed basil leaves
3 cloves garlic
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
pinch of salt
1/4 cup pine nuts or walnuts
1/4 cup bread crumbs (be sure the bread is made without milk or milk products like whey)

Pour oil in blender. Peel and slice garlic cloves into oil. Blend well. Add nuts and salt. Blend well. Add basil gradually, blending well between additions. When thoroughly blended, pour into a bowl. Add cheese and stir well. Use immediately or freeze in small plastic containers or ice cube trays. Once frozen pop out the pesto cubes and store a tray’s worth in a quart freezer bag.

*For those on a gluten free diet, omit the bread crumbs and double the amount of nuts.

Note: The picture above is a triple batch.

My Herb Garden

The resident man of steel is on the mend after his back surgery on June 12. But, he’s still feeling a bit rusty, so he’s obeying the surgeon’s orders: no driving, no extra bending, no twisting, and no lifting anything more than five pounds.

Hiram’s back pain is preventing us from launching any new yard projects this summer. Thankfully, the heavy lifting for the container herb garden on the south side of the house was done before the man of steel’s back went wacky. This warm spring encouraged the herbs (oregano and rosemary in the far pot, basil in the middle one, chives and thyme in the near one, parsley and cilantro in a fourth pot not pictured) to grow faster than expected.

The basil’s already had one haircut which yielded a good-sized batch of pesto. (The recipe for a non-dairy version coming next Wednesday.) As the picture shows, the basil’s ready for another haircut this weekend. Some of the rosemary and chives spiced up a batch of  grilled potatoes and onions, and the oregano put in an appearance in last week’s grilled red onions recipe. But this wannabe spice chef can’t cook fast enough to keep up with the other spices. The best I can do is trim the ends before everything begins to blossom.

So if you have good recipes that require copious amounts of fresh herbs, please leave a suggestion, a recipe, or a link in the comment box. If you like, comment on the artistically arranged vintage bicycle, too. The resident man of steel thinks it’s kinda crazy, but I like it!