The summer solstice marks for me the start of, not just time spent building sandcastles and swatting at flies, but of succulent, brilliant, and crisp fresh foods. For the coming months my table will be set with flavor – not manipulated by me; by Mother Nature herself. It is with great gratitude and a celebratory desire I pick up a basket resplendent with produce pungent by maturation having been visited in its nascent state by bees, butterflies, humming birds and all other things that toast on nature’s nectar-tini.
The color of my table is taking on a rainbow of shades and a myriad of textures – from crunchy Kirby cucumbers to marble-sized beets to explosive cherries I have the bounty of the season gracing my every meal. Cooking this time of year is the simplest – quick sautés; tossed salads; ears of corn that just need to be stripped. It is the time to raise a fork and savor the wonders of the earth.
Chopped Salad - yields 6 to 8
I readily admit that I can make a meal of a salad and this one is always a comfort for me. Part of what I adore about this salad is that is will last a few days in the refrigerator. Granted, the spinach will wilt down, it does not tend to get “slimy” like more tender leafy greens as it sits. Change the vegetable in this salad as you see fit using broccoli, jicama, or chayote squash as they come into season.
1-tablespoon canola oil
1 ear of corn - husk and silk hairs removed
1 large red pepper - seeds and membrane removed
1 small red onion - diced
1 cup halved cherry tomatoes
1/2 cup torn basil leaves
1/4 cup Kalamata olive - pitted
1 bunch spinach (approx 4 packed cups) - washed thoroughly and dried
2 cups cauliflower florets
1 medium zucchini – cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Slice the pancetta into 1/2” long strips. Heat a sauté pan to hot and add the oil along with the pancetta. Cook the pancetta to crispy and then remove to an absorbent surface and reserve.
Cut the kernels of the corn from the ear. The corn is raw, so it should be as farm fresh as possible. Diced the red pepper and red onion into 1/2” squares. Roughly chopped the olives and spinach.
Blanch the cauliflower in boiling water for 3 to 4 minutes. They should still have a nice crunch. Refresh under cold water in order to stop the cooking process. Drain.
Toss all the ingredients together along with a approximately 1 cup of Italian dressing (recipe follows).
Italian Dressing - yields approx. 1 1/2 cups
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tablespoon basil - leaves chopped
2 teaspoons thyme - leaves only, chopped
1 tablespoon oregano - leaves only, chopped
1 garlic clove - crushed to a paste
1 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper
Mix all ingredients together, except the oil. In a slow stream whisk in the oil until all is incorporated.
Cornish Game Hen dressed with Bread, Arugula, Currants and Pine Nuts - serves 6
3 Cornish game hens
1 cup chicken stock
2 shallots - sliced into thin julienne
1/2 teaspoon red chili flakes
1/2 cup currants
1 loaf crusty Italian style bread
2 cups packed arugula - washed and dried
2 cups packed sorrel leaves – washed and dried
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup mint leaves - roughly torn
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.
Cut the hens in half through the backbone to remove it completely. Wash the chicken under cold water and pat them dry.
Bring the chicken stock to a boil and then remove from the heat. Add in the shallots and currants and let sit for 20 minutes.
Cube the bread into approximately one inch pieces. You will need approximately 6 cups in total. Toss the bread cubes with the stock, shallots, currants, arugula, sorrel, pine nuts, parsley, mint, salt and pepper. Divide the bread mixture into 6 mounds on a baking tray and place a hen over each one.
Mix the olive oil and balsamic vinegar together and drizzle a bit over each hen. Season the hens with salt and pepper and place in the oven. Bake the hens for 25 to 30 minutes and serve.