Thoughts on the end of summer

Woodniche

by Aidan Carl Matthews

The dragonflies were here before us, friend:
Cupboard of branch and bramble, woodniche
Where the sun tumbles, foxgloves are gorgeous.
Children tore their knees among the thorns,

Fleshed their pullovers with raspberries.
Orange peel made ripples in the brown water,
Pebbles explored beyond our peering. I
Chewed dandelions and the sun brothered me.
Huge as policemen, sombre as soutanes,

The kind trees whispered in the long watch
And I used wonder in tremendous shadow
And be afraid of where the wonder led.

Summer was wealthy with a daze of suntraps,
Daffodil-spitting, sumptuous. Everywhere
Ours for the taking. Whoever has said
It is time to go home is an adult.

Apricot Chicken and Balsamic Broiled Brussels Sprouts

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This chicken recipe is a favorite from Simply in Season, a fantastic recipe book with recipes organized by what produce is in season. (If you want to do even more good as you cook seasonally and sustainably, buy it from Ten Thousand Villages, and support another good cause!) The Brussels sprouts recipe is a winner from my aunt, who even got my dad to like them! A rare success!

Apricot Chicken

Ingredients:

– 2 tsp butter
– 4 ripe apricots, pitted and halved
– 4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
– salt and pepper
– olive oil
– 1 tsp ginger root, minced
– 1 green onion or 2 tbsp onion, chopped
– 1/2 cup dry white wine (or substitute with apple juice or water)
– 2 tbsp honey or maple syrup
– 1/2 tsp grated lime peel (or a dash of lemon juice)

Instructions:

1) Melt butter in a frying pan. Place apricots in melted butter, cut side down, and cook over medium heat until light brown, about 5 minutes. Turn and cook several minutes more. Remove to plate.

2) Salt and pepper the chicken on both sides. Add 1 tbsp olive oil (or as needed) to pan, and saute chicken on medium-high heat for 3 minutes, then medium-low heat for 7 more minutes or until no longer pink inside. Remove chicken to plate.

3) Add ginger and onions to frying pan and saute briefly. Return chicken and apricots to pan, and add white wine, honey, and lime peel. Simmer 10 minutes to combine flavors. Serve alone, or over brown rice or cous cous.

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Balsamic Broiled Brussels Sprouts

Ingredients:

– about 1 1/2 lb brussels sprouts, halved

– 1/4 cup olive oil

– 1/8 cup balsamic vinegar

– 1 1/2 tsp coarse salt (kosher or sea salt)

– 1/2 tsp ground pepper

Instructions:

1) Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2) Combine all ingredients in a bowl, and mix until evenly coated.

3) Spread on a a baking sheet (lined with parchment paper if you have it, this makes it easier to clean later!). Pour any dressing remaining in the bowl over the brussels sprouts.

4) Roast for 20-30 minutes. Toss once at about 15 minutes to ensure even cooking. When done, brussels sprouts will be browned and tender, and slightly crispy at the edges.

P-B-M Grilled Chicken Sandwiches

Erin's P-B-M Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Everyone’s heard of a T-B-M, one of the greatest things America has co-opted and subsequently abbreviated  from foreign cuisine. But few have heard of the P-B-M: the Pineapple-Basil-Mozzarella Chicken Sandwich.

Don’t write it off too quickly; though it sounds weird, I promise that it is fantastic!

This recipe was added to my recipe book when I first made it for a group of friends on a spring break trip to Florida in college. I’m lucky enough to still be living with my college roommate, and in spite of all odds to still be friends with her to boot, so when her birthday rolled around this was her birthday dinner request.

Erin’s P-B-M Grilled Chicken Sandwich

Ingredients: (for two people)

– one chicken breast, halved (height-wise, so that each breast has the normal surface area, but half the thickness)
– two rounds of pineapple, cut about 1/2 inch thick, cored and quartered.
– 2 sprigs of fresh basil
– 1 lime, quartered
– 1 ball of fresh mozzarella
– salt and pepper, to taste
– olive oil
– 2 rolls or buns (I used pretzel rolls, my favorite!)

Instructions:

1) Brush the chicken breast halves with olive oil, salt, and pepper to taste. Grill (or saute) the chicken. When it is mostly cooked squeeze the juice from one quarter of the lime over each breast, then finish cooking.

2) Serve on bun, and squeeze juice from one more quarter of lime over the chicken if desired. Top with mozzarella, pineapple, and basil.

Sweet n’ Spicy Sriracha Salad Dressing, and Erin’s Asian Salad

As summer heats up, my oven cools down – it is just too hot to warm up my small apartment even more by baking. This is a delicious summer meal that is refreshing wherever you eat it, and is my go-to for picnics and cook-outs. This also was a regular meal during the days of the Great Greens (aka “That time when Erin had way too much produce”). Luckily it is delicious, so I never tired of it!

Erin’s Sweet n’ Spicy Sriracha Peanut Salad Dressing

– 1/2 cup canola oil
– 2 tsp sriracha
– 1 tbsp honey
– 1/2 tbsp soy sauce
– 2 tsp lemon juice
– 2 tbsp natural* peanut butter

Combine and stir with a fork.

* Preferred: unhomogenized peanutbutter. If you only have homogenized peanut butter, like Skippy, cut back on the honey and use a food processor or blender to combine.

Erin’s Kick-ass Asian Salad

Ingredients:

– 1 lb lettuce (your preferred type, or a mixture)
– 1/2 bunch of fresh cilantro
– 8 hard boiled eggs, chopped into chunks
– 1 1/2 cup of Erin’s Cucumber-Apple Pickles
– Erin’s Sriracha Salad Dressing

Instructions:

Wash, tear, and toss lettuce in a large bowl. Tear cilantro leaves off stems, add to bowl, and toss. Top with pickles, egg, and dressing.

Erin's Asian Salad

Cucumber-Apple Fresh Pickles

If the word “pickle” has you ducking and running, hang with me for a second! I promise I’m not from Portlandia. This isn’t what you think it is – there is no canning involved. These are refrigerator pickles, which means that you throw everything together, toss it is a jar, and chuck it in the fridge overnight. Done.

We Can Pickle That

Not only is this recipe easy, it is delicious – the apple and apple cider vinegar gives it a sweet flavor that is unlike the almost sickening sweetness of some of your average sweet pickles, and the ginger and red pepper gives it a wonderful Asian-influenced kick.

Need me to sell it more? Use these on pretty much anything you’d make at a summer cook-out: on bratwurst with ketchup and a dollop of roasted onions, on a burger with lettuce and onion rings, or on the meanest Asian salad ever (recipe to come!).

Cucumber-Apple Fresh Pickle

Cucumber-Apple Fresh Pickles

Ingredients:

– 1 cucumber (Japanese, Kirby, or just any old sort!)
– 2 tsp kosher or sea salt
– 1 apple (any crisp and sweet variety, like Fuji or Gala)
– 1/2 cup water
– 1/3 cup apple cider vinegar (or rice vinegar)
– 2 tbsp very thin matchsticks of peeled ginger
– 1/4 sugar
– a generous pinch or two of  crushed red pepper flakes

Instructions:

1. Slice cucumbers crosswise 1/8 inch thick and toss with sea salt. Let stand 30 minutes, then rinse and squeeze out excess liquid with your hands. Note: Don’t worry too much about squeezing out all of the liquid — you end up pouring more water over the mixture anyway.

2. Halve apple half lengthwise and cut out core. With a mandoline or sharp knife, slice crosswise 1/8 inch thick, then halve the slices.

3. Toss apple with cucumbers and remaining ingredients and place in a 4-cup Ball jar (or equivalent-sized container). Marinate, refrigerated, for 1 day (give or take).

Enjoy! And don’t miss the upcoming recipe for Erin’s Asian Salad – there’s sriracha involved!

Note: This recipe is based off a recipe from Alexandra Cooks. She is awesome. So is her recipe. I just made some tweaks to simplify it.

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

As some of you might know, the other day I was given basically all the greens ever grown. My friends’ garden was on hyper-alert, and before I knew it I had an entire cooler filled with greens. Among this plentiful produce was at least 3lbs of swiss chard. I have already taken care of using up the parsley and mint and blanching and freezing the 3lbs of kale (saved to make this soup later!) to clear out some room in the fridge for my poor roommates. But even so, the fridge is still overflowing with leaves.

So, on to step 3 – take out the chard!

Chard

Isn’t it pretty?

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

Ingredients:

– 2 tablespoons olive oil
– 1/2 cup small-dice yellow onion (from about 1/2 medium onion)
– 2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped
– 1 cup brown or green lentils
– 2 cups water
– 12 oz Swiss chard (about 1 bunch)
– 3/4 tsp kosher salt, plus more as needed
– 1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper, plus more for seasoning
– 4 tsp red wine vinegar or 6 tsp balsamic vinegar
– 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese

Instructions

  1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat until shimmering. Add the onion and garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt and pepper to taste. Cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add the lentils, stir to combine, and add the water. Increase the heat to high and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the lentils are just tender and the water has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile, trim the ends from the chard stems and discard. Cut off the stems at the base of the leaves and slice the stems crosswise into 1/4-inch pieces. Place in a small bowl and set aside. Stack the leaves, cut them in half lengthwise, then coarsely chop into bite-sized pieces; set aside in another bowl.
  4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying or straight-sided pan over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the reserved chard stems, season with a dash of salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped chard leaves, 1/2 tsp salt, and 1/4 tsp pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Stir in the red wine vinegar and reserved lentil mixture until evenly combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, about 3 minutes.
  6. If serving immediately, keep feta separate and allow diners to sprinkle it individually, so that the cheese doesn’t melt and turn runny. If serving chilled, refrigerate for at least 20 minutes before stirring in feta.

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

 

Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta

Lemon-Cranberry Quinoa Tabbouleh, and Erin Gets the Green(s).

Summer has finally come to Chicago, having shamelessly cut Spring in line. Chicago Spring is pretty weak-ass and didn’t even try to fight for her place in line, so I guess we’ll have to wait until next year to see her come around. Maybe she’ll work on her left-hook over this year.

With the summer has come all of the fresh fruits and vegetables, and it is glorious. My best friend’s parents have a garden plot, and this week were suddenly up to their ears in produce. When they asked if I wanted any I jumped on the offer, but I could not have expected what showed up at my door – an entire cooler full of greens. Gobs and gobs of greens. After unpacking the bounty, this is what I ended up with in my refrigerator:

– 3 lbs of kale
– 3 lbs of swiss chard
– 3 varieties of lettuce
– 1 bunch of cilantro
– 1 bunch of mint
– 1 bunch of parsley

In other words, I was now up to my ears in greens too. In order to not evict my roommates from their share of fridge space, I knew I needed to get that situation under control.

Step 1: Take out both the mint and the parsley in one fell swoop. In other words, make tabbouleh.

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Lemon-Cranberry Quinoa Tabbouleh

Lemon-Cranberry Quinoa TabboulehIngredients:

– 3/4 cup quinoa
– 1/4 cup olive oil
– 3 tbsp of lemon juice
– 1/2 tsp salt
– 1/4 tsp cumin
– a pinch or two of cinnamon
– 1 bunch fresh parlsey
– 1 bunch fresh mint
– 1 cup dried cranberries

Instructions:

1) Cook quinoa as directed on package.

2) Meanwhile, rinse and chop parsley and mint, and toss together in a medium-sized mixing bowl.

3) Once the quinoa is cooked and allowed to cool, add olive oil, lemon, salt, and spices to the pot and toss with a fork.

4) Stir quinoa and cranberries into the herbs, and refrigerate until ready to serve.

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Step 2: Blanch and freeze the kale. This is an awesome way to maximize fridge space, and to preserve produce for later use. Three pounds of kale cooks down to two small ziploc bags, individually packaged for  instant use when I want to make my favorite soup – Portuguese Kale, Ham, and Potato Soup.

Stay tuned for Step 3 – Swiss Chard with Lentils and Feta Cheese. Yum!

Quinoa and Bean Summer Salad

Here’s another one from the Kinfolk Cookbook – a great, fresh salad that is also a complete protein, good as a side or a meal in itself. My tweaks to this one were minimal – I simplified some of the instructions for convenience, and added cilantro because, as we have already established, I love cilantro. This is a quick and easy recipe, great to whip up when you’re in a time crunch!

Ingredients:

1 cup quinoa
2 tbsp olive oil
1 can (16oz) black beans, rinsed and drained
1 can (16oz) chick peas, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, chopped
1 cucumber, diced
1 tomato, diced
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
juice of one lemon
salt and pepper to taste
1 bunch cilantro, chopped

Instructions:

1) Prepare the quinoa as instructed on package. Cool.

2) Add all other ingredients to a large bowl and toss. Once quinoa is cooked and cooled, add and toss again. Serve.

Optional: add feta cheese.

Quinoa and Bean Summer Salad

Cilantro-Lime Lentil Salad

This recipe was an instant favorite when I first made it. It is (again) based off a recipe from The Kinfolk Table Cookbook (I did get it for Christmas!), Citrus Lentil Salad.

kinfolksalad_2714409b

Though I’m sure the original recipe is awesome, to be honest I doubt that I’m ever going to try it. Because I LOVED my version. (And other people evidently did too – the bowl was wiped clean at the a church potluck, and I got a lot of compliments!)

My recipe is the same as the original in essence, and really only has 3 differences:
– I used limes instead of lemons or oranges (because that’s what I had in the fridge!)
– I used shallots instead of scallions (ditto the above.)
– I added cilantro (because (a) I LOVE CILANTRO and (b) cilantro and lime ALWAYS taste good together.)

And though I’m clearly hugely plugging for my version, here is the even better reality of this recipe: It is SUPER tweakable. Go ahead, make it your own! If I ever get over this version, my next plan is to try it with orange juice/zest, fresh parsley, and dried cranberries.

And the best of it is, though this is a meatless salad it is still a good source of protein! This baby is just as valid a main dish as it is a side. So, here goes:

Cilantro-Lime Lentil Salad

Ingredients

1 cup green lentils, picked over
2 shallots, thinly diced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine or apple cider vinegar
Zest of 1 lime
Juice of 1 lime (about 3T)
1 tablespoon sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 bunch cilantro

Instructions

  1. Rinse the lentils under cold running water in a fine-mesh sieve until the water runs clear. Place the lentils in a medium saucepan and add enough cold water to cover by 3 inches. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer for about 20 minutes or until the lentils are tender.
  2. While the lentils are cooking: zest and then juice the lime, and put both in a large mixing bowl. Chop the shallots and put them in the bowl as well, and then add the olive oil, vinegar, sugar, salt, and pepper. Stir it together – the oil will help stop the shallots from releasing the gases that make your eyes sting.
  3. When they are done, drain the lentils and rinse in cold water, and drain again well. Nobody likes a soggy salad.
  4. Place lentils in the large bowl and toss with the rest of the ingredients.
  5. Allow salad to rest refrigerated for at least 20 minutes to let the flavors combine. Right before serving, chop the cilantro and mix into the salad. Serve.