Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Dog Days Dinner

They’re here.  It’s hot.  And, steamy.  It’s been this way for a while.  It’s natural to wish for a change in the weather pattern.  But, after these dog days, the weather will change and summer will officially be history.  I love summer.  I live for summer.  Unwilling to wish it away, it's time to dig down and find the good.  My silver lining?  The food.  The garden is flourishing.  Peppers are coming in daily.  Tomatoes are coming in daily.  Summer squash is gorgeous.  Melons are so ripe that my kids walk in the door and ask for a slice because they can smell it at the threshold.  What to do with all this produce?

As you may recall, I have had a love/hate relationship with cooking for most of my life.  As a result, I have a hard time classifying anything I make as good.  Well, this dinner changed that.  This meal was good.  So good, in fact, that my husband made me promise to write it down so I won't forget it and will be able to recreate it next summer.  Even I am willing to admit it was good.  And, I am a tough sell.  

If it is so good, why not whip up a batch this winter?  Well, this medley shines because of fresh, locally grown produce.  And, the ingredients won’t be available fresh during the winter.  Maybe it will be good with frozen vegetables, but I haven't made it (yet) so I can't say for sure.  Why take the chance?  Hit up your local farmer’s market, grab your CSA box or harvest from your garden and whip up a batch of this Dog Days Dinner.  Your taste buds will thank you. 

Dog Days Dinner
This meal can be served hot or at room temperature which makes it perfect for dinner at the table or for packing for a picnic in the park.
Serves 4

3 cloves of garlic, pressed in a garlic press
1 large onion (any variety), diced
Medley of peppers, diced (I used 2 banana peppers, 2 cubanelle peppers, 2 poblano peppers and 4 pimiento peppers.  You can use whatever you have available.  You can also add some jalapenos for added heat.)
3 medium to large sized summer squash and/or zucchini, diced
½ cup golden raisins
½ cup pistachios
Juice and zest of one lemon
1 tablespoon honey (preferably local)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Sea Salt
½ cup ground cherries, halved
10-15 leaves of lemon basil, torn

I realize this recipe calls for a lot of diced vegetables.  If you don’t have the time to dice this many, I highly recommend the Vidalia Onion Chopper.  Yes, it’s gadgetry.  It’s another thing to store.  Maybe you can do this with a food processor.  Or, are skillful enough with a knife that you can knock this out in no time.  I am not.  So, this baby is a time and life saver (literally, I am dangerous with knives) for me.  It allows me to quickly dice all these vegetables into perfectly-sized, uniform pieces. 

Here we go:
1.       Heat 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil on medium high heat in a large sauté pan.  Add the garlic and let it mellow in the pan.  You want it to lose some of its rawness, but not brown.  If it begins to brown, reduce the temperature.
2.       Once the garlic has cooked for about a minute, add the onion and sauté for 2 minutes.  If you have reduced the temperature, increase it to medium high again.
3.       Add the pepper medley to the pan and sauté for 2 minutes.  You want the peppers to sweat to reduce the moisture, but not brown.  If they begin to brown, reduce the heat slightly.   If the pan begins to get watery, increase the temperature.
4.       Add the summer squash and continue to cook.  At this point, you have two choices; you can cook at the same temperature for another 2-3 minutes.  Or, you can reduce the temperature and cook the mixture more slowly.  I reduced the temperature to medium low so that I could quickly make the sauce.
5.       To make the sauce, mix the juice of a lemon, the zest of a lemon and the tablespoon of honey.
6.       Once the squash is cooked al dente, remove the pan from heat and dress them with the honey and lemon mix.  Finally, toss in the golden raisins and pistachios.  Salt to taste.
7.       Plate the vegetable medley and dress each serving equally with halved ground cherries and torn lemon basil.
I served the vegetable medley over farro.  Farro is easily my favorite side.  I like it better than pasta, rice, quinoa, couscous, etc.  It has a wonderful texture and a delicious, nutty flavor.  It is the perfect complement to this medley.  I make it according to the package directions skipping any added fat and adding just a touch of salt. 

Stay cool!

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