Unseasonably warm temperatures suggest summer while the calendar and market options are becoming decidedly autumn. Blending the seasons seems to be the best strategy this week. Za’atar Roasted Mushrooms and Eggplant with Barley and Tomatoes marries summer and autumn for a filling meal that straddles the seasons with ease….
Whether I want to admit it or not, our amazing summer is coming to a close and the abundance of tomatoes are disappearing with the waning days. This year, however, I am determined to capture summer in jars so we can enjoy throughout the winter….
Eggplant is everywhere in beautiful shades of…. well, aubergine. I found these purple and white striped beauties at the farmers market this week but I also admire the exotic white varieties. However, it is the shades of deep purple that make eggplants swoon worthy this time of year both for their beauty and their deep earthy flavors that can only be appreciated in season.
If I am honest (and indeed, I am), eggplant is not a family favorite. I’m the only one who seeks it out and am alone when I order it sliced on a pizza. However, an Eggplant Caponata is a game changer in our house. Cubes of slightly burnished eggplant are mixed with the freshest tomatoes, salty capers and olives, and a sprinkling of toasted pine nuts. Salty, earthy and slightly acidic, it is such a lovely and satisfying combination.
I make a large batch and keep in the fridge for several days to top pizzas, pasta or a slice of toasted bread topped with fresh mozzarella for a tartine. It is so very adaptable and makes weekday meals easy. I also sometimes make it with very small cubes and serve on top of sliced toasted baguette as a bruschetta appetizer. Paired with an Aperol Spritz, Eggplant Caponata is a elegant start to a late-summer evening.
I believe that eating eggplant in season fresh from the farm eliminates the bitterness some associate with eggplant and that might be, in large part, due to the travel time it is forced to endure if you are eating it out of season. Fruit and vegetables were not meant to sit around for weeks. Picked fresh and on your plate within days, you will not be disappointed in eggplant and likely surprised at its tender, soulful pull on any dish.
Unlike Ratatouille, Eggplant Caponata maintains the structure and identity of each vegetable. Eggplant remains in cubes as do tomatoes, and, celery, ( if you have any at the market, which I sadly haven’t seen near us). The salty and briny addition of capers and olives also add a zing to the palate.
Eggplant Caponata is on our plates this weekend and hopefully on yours, as well. It has become a family favorite… honestly.
- 4 or more Tablespoons olive oil
- (2) medium eggplants (4-6 cups cubes), ends removed and chopped into cubes
- (1) medium onion, peeled and chopped
- 2-3 medium tomatoes (I like plum or San Marzano as they have a firmer flesh) peeled, cored and chopped
- ½ teaspoon granulated cane sugar (or more depending on your tomatoes and your desire for sweetness)
- (4) celery spears from the heart (not the tough outer spears) optional
- (2) Tablespoons capers*, rinsed and drained
- ¼ cup chopped green olives
- 2 Tablespoons red wine or sherry vinegar
- 2 Tablespoons pine nuts, toasted **
- Basil leaves, chopped, optional
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Put cubed eggplant into a large bowl and coat lightly but evenly with olive oil, about 2 tablespoons.
- Lightly oil a large stainless steel fry pan (do not use non-stick, teflon or cast iron) and set over medium heat. Once hot, add the eggplant and toss over the heat. The eggplant will absorb all of the oil and will start to lightly stick to the pan. That is ok! Keep tossing and the eggplant will brown.
- Once the eggplant is browned and softened, remove to a plate. Sprinkle lightly with salt.
- Add a tablespoon of olive oil, or more to coat your pan, and add onion and celery (if using). Stir until softened, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add chopped tomatoes, sugar, capers and olives. Cook over medium heat until tomatoes are cooked through and celery is softened, about 10 minutes. Scrape the pan to loosen any stuck-on bits and continue to stir occasionally. (Do not boil rapidly, rather gently simmer)
- Add the eggplant and stir to combine. Cook over medium heat for another 5 minutes until completely combined and gently softened.
- Remove from heat, add vinegar, pine nuts and basil (if using). Stir to combine and taste. Adjust seasoning, if needed. Drizzle with olive oil.
- While you can serve immediately. It is probably best served after a night in the fridge and let to sit out at least 20 minutes.
- Serve as a dip for toasted pita triangles, atop pizza dough with slices of fresh mozzarella for a pizza, on top of pasta with fresh parmesan or on large slices of toasted bread for a tartine.
- To make this as an appetizer bruschetta, cut vegetables into a small dice and spoon atop toasted baguette slices.
**Toast pine nuts in a dry stainless steel fry pan. Toss in a hot pan until lightly browned. Do not look away! It takes just a moment to go from brown to burnt. i have also put into a toaster oven but again, keep a close eye.
Corn is everywhere at the farmers market these days. This is probably my favorite time of year. While we enjoy corn on the cob roasted on the grill, we always cook more than we can eat. It is all part of the master plan. What we enjoy the most is our Corn Summer Salad.
My friend, who doesn’t consider herself a cook, introduced me to this perfect summer salad that can keep in the fridge during the week (add tomatoes just before serving), and adapt according to your taste that day. She makes a large batch for the week. Somedays she adds avocados and black beans and other days it is served simply with just corn, red onion and peppers but always with a generous squeeze of lime and dousing of fruity olive oil.
The season for fresh corn coincides with the abundance of all different varieties of peppers. My favorite are poblano. With their dark forest shade of green and crimped body, poblanos vary in intensity from mild to those with a bit of a kick. Younger poblanos are milder and later in the season they kick up the heat. It is impossible for me to know based on sight alone so I take my chances and enjoy them either way. Regardless of the heat level, poblanos have a depth of flavor minus the bitterness of green bell peppers that many people dislike. (Although, I like green bell peppers, too).
I also love the small, narrow serrano peppers that pack much more of a punch and become my favorite breakfast when sautéed with diced potatoes and mixed with scrambled eggs. Beautiful habanero peppers are something I admire from afar for their heat is beyond my ability to tolerate.
Corn Summer Salad is a thirst-quenching salad that highlights the best of summer. It’s casual like a summer day and we don’t know what we would do without it in August.
- (4) ears white or yellow corn
- Grapeseed oil or sunflower oil to season corn to prepare for the grill.
- (3) poblano and/or green, red or yellow bell peppers (about 2 cups, chopped)
- (1 ) jalapeno or serrano pepper (optional)
- (1) medium red onion or 2 small spring red onions
- (1) large handful cilantro (or basil for non-cilantro people), stems removed and chopped
- 2 limes
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, or more to taste
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 15.5-oz. can black beans, drained and rinsed (optional)
- 1 avocado, cubed (optional)
- 1 large handful cherry tomatoes, halved (optional)
- Cook the corn on the cob either by cooking in boiling water for a few minutes, or on the grill. To grill, lightly brush with oil and place on a hot grill only for a few minutes until the kernels are lightly browned. Set aside to cool.
- Core peppers and dice into ¼-inch pieces. Place into a large bowl.
- Dice onion and put into a strainer. Rinse with cold water and drain. (This mellows out the flavor so not as pungent.) Add to the peppers.
- Using a sharp knife, remove the corn kernels and add to the bowl.*
- Add the salt, pepper and cumin.
- Using a microplane grater over the pepper and onion bowl, grate the zest of the limes (just the green skin, not the white pith). Juice one lime and taste. Depending on the juiciness of your lime, you will likely need the juice of the second lime, too.
- Add the olive oil. Add black beans, if using, and stir to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning, if necessary.
- Serve immediately or chill in the fridge. Add optional tomatoes and/or avocado just before serving.
I always find myself this time of year appreciating Shakespeare’s phrasing of a “Midsummer Night’s Dream.” There is indeed something magical about the midpoint of summer that can be particularly appreciated as night falls and the symphony of cicadas is illuminated by fireflies sparkling through the trees. Nature is truly at its peak.
This midsummer magic is also seen during the day at the farmers market when tables literally overflow with summer squash, zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant, which is a bonanza for shoppers but only if you know what to do with it all when you get home.
Ratatouille originates from southern France and roughly translates from a verb meaning, “to stir up,” which is what this dish entails. Although very easy to make, Ratatouille accommodates many vegetables and therefore requires some prep, although only a rough chop of vegetables into cubes. A traditional Ratatouille recipe states that each vegetable is sautéed in its own pan, which is too fussy for me on most days. I find that this One-Pot Ratatouille is simply delicious when the vegetables simmer together.
That bottle of herbs de Provence you have in your pantry works very well in Ratatouille, as do fresh herbs, of course. The vegetables simmer until they soften and gently meld together.
Ratatouille can handle all of your summer vegetables and gladly accepts any duty you impose…whether it is a side dish for grilled meats or seafood, a main dish served over pasta, rice or couscous, or mixed with a drained can of white beans. I often enjoy it served as a salad atop mixed greens. Regardless, it is always served with an extra glug of great olive oil. Just like almost all of our dishes this summer, Ratatouille holds up to the heat and tastes best at room temperature but is just as satisfying warm as it is cold.
Versatile and easy, One-Pot Ratatouille manages to make something special out of simple ingredients. It is the true magic of the season.
- 3 Tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
- 1½ lbs. zucchini and/or summer squash, peeled with ends removed
- 3 medium tomatoes (about 1 lb.), peeled, seeds and core removed
- 1 medium eggplant (about 1 lb.), peeled with ends removed
- 1 lb. green and/or red peppers, cored
- 1 medium onion, peeled and chopped
- 4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
- 1 handful basil (1 cup leaves), roughly chopped
- 1 teaspoon sea salt, plus more to taste.
- ½ teaspoon pepper
- 2-3 thyme sprigs OR 1½ teaspoons herbs de Provence (dried herb blend available in the spice aisle)
- Prep all of the vegetables in advance by cutting into ½" cubes.
- Heat the oil in a large casserole pot or fry pan over medium heat.
- Add onion. Once onion begins to soften, add the peppers.
- Lower heat to medium low and cover (you should hear a slow sizzling)
- Cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 7 minutes
- Add the eggplant, stir to coat with oil. (add more oil if pan drys out)
- Cook for about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally to make sure they gently simmer. (You do not want to vegetables to sizzle in a dry pan. The pan should always have oil and, soon, juices from the vegetables.)
- Once the eggplant begins to soften, add the squash and/or zucchini
- Stir and cook until squash begins to soften, about 3-5 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes, stir and add salt, pepper, thyme sprigs or herbs de provence
- Drizzle with another glug of olive oil and stir to combine. Let simmer gently uncovered until vegetables are tender and sauce starts to thicken. About 20-25 minutes.
- Set a large ceramic or other heatproof bowl next to the stove top and remove the vegetables to the bowl using a slotted spoon.* Remove and discard thyme sprigs, if using.
- Leave all of the juices in the pan and increase the heat to high and bring to a boil. Let boil for about 5- 7 minutes until liquid reduces by half and begins to thicken.
- Return vegetables to the pan, add basil, and stir to combine. Let sit until almost room temperature to allow flavors to meld, then serve.
- If not serving immediately, refrigerate and when serving, allow time for ratatouille to warm almost to room temperature, about 35-40 minutes should do it.
*Top with crumbled feta, goat or fresh cubed mozzarella atop of greens for a salad.
*Traditionally, ratatouille is often served rolled up inside plain crêpes and topped with parmesan or gruyere cheese then heated until bubbly under a broiler.
*Top with a fried or poached egg and a tossed salad on the side for brunch.
*Serve as a sauce atop pasta, rice or couscous
Sinking into the deep summer days of seemingly unyielding heat that saps any desire to cook at the end of the day, I find myself again turning to the Mediterranean for a dish that can be prepared in advance and accommodates the heat. Tabbouleh is a traditional Lebanese dish I almost always order out and thought too fussy to make at home. I finally gave it a try and am glad I did.
With tomatoes and cucumbers in abundance this time of year, sliced cucumber and tomato salads, and gazpacho are constants so it is nice to add one more dish to a repertoire to make the most of the season. Tabbouleh is primarily a parsley salad with tomatoes and cucumbers mixed with bulgur wheat. Quinoa is easily substituted and both just need boiling water to prepare.
I found the key to making this dish successful is salting the vegetables before mixing them into a salad. So many summer vegetables like zucchini, summer squash, eggplant, and cucumbers are sometimes best if you salt when raw then incorporate into a dish. It prevents a dish from becoming too watery, which will definitely happen with Tabbouleh after a day. Salting just entails placing your chopped vegetables into a strainer set over a bowl and sprinkling the vegetables with salt. Let sit then stir around occasionally. After about 15 minutes, if you give a stir, the juices will dribble into the bowl and leave the vegetable still crisp. The bonus is that you can now take these juices and heat them with water to prepare the bulgur, which adds so much flavor.
Premium quality olive oil is your best asset this summer so make sure you have a bottle…or two. The choices for olive oil is vast and many are poor quality. When in doubt, the bottle should have on the label a “crush” or “harvest date.” The current date should be within 6 months of that date. Many farmers markets now have vendors with their own press of olive oil. Vordonia Athenolia Extra Vigin Olive Oil is a frequent vendor at the Great Falls Farmers Market, offering pressed olive oil fresh from the family’s olive fields in Greece.
We also have a vendor at the Great Falls Farmers Market, Tyme Foods, who sells an amazing za’atar blend with wild thyme. I featured it here over the winter but we find ourselves using it even more in the summer for grilled meat and vegetable kabobs. The pairing of wild thyme with the lemon in the Tabbouleh makes this dish very special and different. *
While adding za’atar is a special touch, the salad is also wonderful without it. Soaked in olive oil and lemon it is almost thirst quenching and surprisingly filling on hot days when it’s hard to work up an appetite.
I add a handful of sliced almonds to my Tabbouleh just before serving. You could also add goat cheese or feta to make this a little more hearty. Adaptability and flexibility are key this summer and Tabbouleh checks all the boxes.
*I receive no compensation for mention Tyme Foods’ za’atar or Vordonia Athenolia. I occasionally like to share new discoveries, which is part of the fun of shopping at a farmers market!
- ½ cup bulghur
- ½ lb. ripe tomatoes
- 1 medium cucumber, peeled and cubed
- 2 bunches parsley (about 3-4 cups leaves without stems), chopped
- 1 handful mint leaves, chopped
- 1-2 spring onions or a small red onion, chopped
- 1 large lemon (or more, if desired)
- ¼ cup olive oil (or more, if desired)
- 1-2 Tablespoons za'atar
- Sea salt
- 1 small head of romaine (optional)
- Peel the tomatoes with a serrated tomato peeler or using a sharp knife, score an "x"
intothe bottom and place in a heatproof bowl, pour overboiling water and let sit for a few minutes until skin begins to lift off. Remove from bowl and cool only long enough until you can handle, then pull off the skin.
- Cut out the core and cut tomato(es) into quarters. Scrape out the seeds.
- Chop tomato into cubes.
- Place the tomato and cucumbers into a fine mesh strainer set over a large glass mixing bowl. Sprinkle all the cubes with salt and give a stir. Let sit in the strainer, stirring occasionally, for about 15-20 minutes. Press gently to extract as much liquid as you can without crushing. Reserve the liquid.
- Add enough water to the glass measuring cup to reach 1½ cups. Bring to a boil in the microwave or on a stove top. Add the bulghur and cover. Let sit for about 30-40 minutes until soft and fluffy.
- In a large bowl, mix together the cucumbers, tomatoes, parsley, mint, onions, and bulghur. Add the juice of one lemon, 1 Tablespoon of za'atar to taste (or more) and olive oil. Mix gently to combine. Adjust seasoning, if necessary by adding more lemon or za'atar.
- Layer a plate of romaine leaves as a bed for a salad. Or, if you have baby romaine, they make excellent scoops when serving as an appetizer.
- Can be served immediately or keeps well in the fridge for at least 4 days. (If using romaine lettuce, add just before serving)
I believe every Mediterranean country has its own summertime recipe for green beans and tomatoes. It is a classic dish served throughout the region during the spring and summer and is most commonly prepared with Romano green beans. While Romano green beans (also known as runner beans) are flat and a little paler than traditional green beans, seek them out in your local farmers market. But if they are not available, this recipe is still wonderful with the bright green string beans of summer.
Many years ago we spent a week in Istanbul where every restaurant, without exception, served the exact same preparation of Romano green beans and tomatoes, and always at room temperature. It is a dish almost identical to the Romano green beans and tomatoes served by my Italian side of the family. When the flat green beans are in the market, this is what you make and eat until the season ends.
I sometimes think our American obsession with food can be too overwhelming and intimidating in that we feel we need to make something different with every ingredient. Cultures that have been around much longer than ours often have one preparation for a seasonal ingredient. Romano green beans at the market? It is always Romano green beans and tomatoes. No need to research and try something new. We prepare the dish as it has always been prepared.
The key to green beans and tomatoes is to abandon any desire for crisp-tender beans. The green beans in this dish are meant to soften and meld with the tomatoes and garlic until they become almost a thick stew. It is glorious in its simplicity. Best made in advance, I make this dish when I return home from the market and store in the fridge to enjoy later in the week.
I’ve started to toy with tradition, adding white beans halfway through the cooking to absorb the flavors and transform this side dish into a vegetarian meal. Whatever you decide, Green Beans with Tomatoes is a classic summer dish you will make often throughout the season and when the season ends, you won’t see it again until next year, as it should be.
- 2 Tablespoons olive oil
- ¾ lb.-1 lb. green beans, (about 4 cups trimmed beans)
- 1 1b. tomatoes (about 3 medium tomatoes)
- 2 teaspoons fresh garlic, chopped (about 2 cloves)
- 1 teaspoon granulated cane sugar
- 3 teaspoons sea salt, divided
- Handful fresh basil (about 1 cup), divided, chopped
- 1 can of canned white or Cannellini beans, rinsed
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Bring a medium pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add 1 teaspoon salt and the green beans. Cook for about 5 minutes until crisp tender, drain.
- Meanwhile, prepare the tomatoes. Bring a kettle of water to boil. With a sharp knife, slice an "x" in the bottom of each tomato.
- Place tomatoes in a heat proof bowl, pour over hot water. Let sit for about 3-5 minutes until you see the peel start to pull away. Drain tomatoes and rinse with cold water so they can be handled.
- Pull away the peel, remove the core and scrape out the seeds. Chop tomatoes roughly.
- In a large frypan, heat the oil over medium heat, add the garlic and sauté for 30 seconds.
- Add the tomatoes, sugar and 1 teaspoon salt. Stir to combine.
- Lower heat to medium low.
- Add drained Romano beans and half of the basil. Stir to combine.
- Cover fry pan and simmer gently over medium low to low heat for about 40 minutes. Check occasionally to make sure they are gently simmering and stir to break up tomatoes. Also check seasoning and more sugar or salt, if needed. The taste of tomatoes widely varies.
- After about 15 minutes, add the drained white beans. Stir to combine.
- After 30 minutes, check and if the green beans are completely soft and slightly thickened, then they are ready. If the beans retain any crispness, keep simmering. Once softened, taste and adjust seasonings with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with remaining basil.
- You can serve immediately but I recommend giving an additional drizzle of olive oil and storing the entire dish for later in the week. Serve at room temperature.
While I might be inclined to credit a recent trip to Italy as inspiration for today’s Zucchini Frittata with Basil and Garlic Scapes, the truth is I have been making frittatas forever and been enjoying them since childhood. My Mom would make them often and now so do I. A frittata also is in keeping with my desire this summer to create simple dishes that can be made in advance and are just as enjoyable hot or cold. Or, even better, at room temperature.
Frittatas easily accommodate different vegetables, depending on the season. I will include a recipe here but a basic technique and ratio enables you to incorporate frittatas into your routine. Soon you will make frittatas often and never with a recipe.
A must-have is a fry pan that can go from stovetop to oven. I use a Lodge cast iron pan, which is inexpensive and indestructible. Vegetables need to be cooked first and I almost always cook in the same pan so there is just one pan to clean. You will need enough eggs to cover the vegetables, which is usually about 7-8 large eggs for a 10-inch pan. The eggs also need to be beaten well until completely liquified. This is just to ensure the frittata rises and cooks evenly. You can give the eggs a blitz in a blender but it’s really not necessary. Just whisk vigorously for a few minutes.
As a child, my family always enjoyed frittatas with a little side of tomato sauce. Here is a recipe I posted a few years ago for roasted tomatoes and garlic. At the end of the recipe, pour your roasted tomatoes and garlic with a swirl of olive oil into a blender and blitz until smooth. Season to taste with salt, pepper and a pinch of sugar, if desired.
It’s that wonderful time of year when the options for putting dinner on the table are as unlimited as the vegetables at the market. Enjoy it all and relax this holiday weekend. When you have the best ingredients, keeping it simple ensures the best meals. Happy Independence Day!
- 2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
- 2-3 garlic scapes, finely chopped
- 1 medium zucchini, thinly sliced (I use a mandoline for best results but can be sliced by hand)
- 7-8 eggs
- 2 Tablespoons milk
- 1 handful basil
- ¼ cup parmesan
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Preheat oven to 400 degrees and move the rack to the top.
- Melt the butter in a 10-inch oven-safe fry pan over medium heat. Cast-iron pans work great.
- Once the butter begins to foam, add the zucchini and toss to coat with butter, add garlic scapes.
- Stir and turn occasionally until the zucchini slices are softened and beginning to brown, about 10 minutes. (the zucchini won't lay flat in one layer in the pan, just keep tossing gently. It will shrink and soften as it cooks)
- While zucchini is cooking, whisk together eggs and milk until completely combined into a thin liquid.
- Once zucchini is softened and beginning to brown, scatter the basil leaves over the zucchini and pour egg mixture into pan to completely cover vegetables evenly.
- Sprinkle evenly with the parmesan cheese.
- Cook on the stovetop until the eggs begin to set on the sides of the pan.
- Place the fry pan into the oven for about 10 minutes until the top is brown and the frittata is set.
- Let sit for about 10 minutes before serving. Or, even better, once cool, place into the fridge and serve the next day. Bring to room temperature before serving.
- Serve with a tomato sauce on the side, if desired. Click here for jarred tomato recipe that can be blitzed in a blender until smooth to form a sauce.
This week finds us just past the summer solstice marking when Spring hands over the reigns of the season to Summer. The farmers market reflects this perfect intersection. Spring green vegetables still in their prime next to summer’s first batch of green beans. This week, we meld Spring and Summer with an English Pea, Fava and Green Bean Melange with a Lemon Garlic Scape Sauce, scattered with radishes and spring onions.
After spending several weeks trekking through Italy, I was left with great memories of beautiful art, history, sites, and, of course, food. Simplicity rules the meals, as it has for centuries. Beautiful produce needs little to make a delicious meal and often what grows together, makes great sense together on the plate, too.
As temperatures and humidity continue to rise, I find I not only avoid hot meals but I never want anything stark cold either. This dish works with any temperature but is meant to be served at room temperature when flavors really shine. It is an almost elegant side dish that is still laid back enough to make sense aside any BBQ. It also can be a main dish with the addition of white beans and maybe some smoked fish or best-quality tuna in olive oil.
A visit to the farmers market this summer makes it hard to say no to anything. With this dish, we don’t need to. It all works together in its simplicity now and always. Mangia!
- 1 lb. green beans, trimmed
- ¾ lb. fava bean pods (1/2 cup shelled fava beans)
- ¾ lb. English pea pods (1 cup shelled peas)
- 2-3 radishes, trimmed and sliced thinly
- 2-3 spring onions or scallions, white and light greens sliced thinly into long strips (vertically)
- 4-5 thin and tender garlic scapes, roughly chopped (about a ½ cup chopped)
- 1 lemon juiced (about 2 Tablespoons lemon juice)
- 2 Tablespoons white balsamic vinegar or white wine vinegar
- ¼ cup olive oil, or more, if desired.
- Sea salt and pepper, to taste
- Large handful pea shoots or watercress leaves
- Heat a large stock pot half way with water and bring to a boil. *I find it easiest to use a pot that has a strainer insert as we will be cooking the vegetables quickly in batches.
- Fill a large bowl with cold ice water and place on the counter, next to the pot, if possible.
- Remove fava beans from the pod. They will still have a shell covering the bean. When water comes to a boil, place fava beans in water and boil for about 3 minutes. Remove and place into ice water immediately.
- Place shelled peas into the boiling water, cook for 2 minutes.
- While the peas cook, gently squeeze the fava bean out of its shell jacket and place the emerald green beans into a large bowl. Discard the jacket. (I won't lie, it may seem tedious but is so worth it! A few extra family hands and this takes just a minute or two.)
- Using the strainer, remove peas from the water and place into the ice bath.
- Place green beans into the hot water. Cook for 5 minutes or until crisp tender.
- Using a slotted spoon, remove peas from ice water and add to the fava beans in the large bowl.
- Remove green beans and place into ice water (you may need to add a little more ice)
- Remove from the ice bath to a dry towel and mop up any excess moisture. No need to be thorough, they just shouldn't be dripping wet.
- In a blender, combine the chopped garlic scapes, lemon juice, vinegar and olive oil
- Blend on high until garlic scapes are almost completely dissolved. The result will be a thick sauce. If you like, add additional olive oil to thin into more of a vinaigrette.
- Season to taste with salt and pepper.
- To serve, place green beans on a plater and scatter with the pea and fava bean mix. Toss with the pea shoots and scatter radish and scallions on top. Drizzle with a bit of the sauce and serve remaining sauce on the side. Or, you can toss it all as a salad.
I first appreciated and recognized seasonal eating about 15 years ago while visiting Europe in the Spring. Every night, at every restaurant, the specials were shared, and no matter where we went, the list ended with great reverence as they told us about the very special asparagus season, particularly white asparagus. The asparagus was always served with a hard-boiled egg and parsley vinaigrette, often prepared table side.
I loved this celebration of the season and respect for tradition. They celebrated the arrival of asparagus as a very special event, savored the season with traditional preparation, and let go of the season when asparagus stopped appearing at the market. When a vegetable is out of season, you wait until next year.
So it is with this reverence that we celebrate the asparagus season another week with Grilled Asparagus drizzled with a Green Herb and Hard Boiled Egg Vinaigrette. This dish is perfect hot or cold and is a very special side dish for any BBQ main served this weekend. It also travels well. Grill the asparagus in advance and prepare the vinaigrette, then drizzle just before serving. It is best at room temperature.
In a deviation from European tradition, mint is added to Italian flat leaf parsley. I like the spring kick it provides and, as anyone who has ever grown mint can appreciate, you will always have an abundance at hand as it grows like a predatory weed.
So, celebrate the opening season to summer and the tapering season of the asparagus. Then take a moment and remember what this weekend is really all about. A salute and deep bow of appreciation and remembrance for those who sacrificed so much to protect us throughout history.
We will be remembering Grandaddy who bravely flew helicopters during the Vietnam War, and recently departed Uncle Pete who, at the age of 18, stepped off a boat on the Normandy coast and made it home alive, never able to discuss his experiences for another 50 years. The bravery of these men humbles me. I hope to never face the horrors they have seen and I will take this weekend to remember that the life I enjoy today carries a very heavy weight by all of those who fought to protect it.
Now….go enjoy your asparagus…while it is still here.
- 1 lb. fresh asparagus, remove rough ends and rinse
- 4 scallions or spring onions, ends and rough tops removed, finely chopped
- 1 cup loosely packed Italian flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
- ½ cup loosely packed mint leaves, finely chopped
- 1 Tablespoon capers in brine, drained (or may substitute chopped cornichon pickles or dill pickles), roughly chopped
- 2 teaspoons (or more, to taste) white wine vinegar or sherry vinegar
- 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
- 2 hard boiled eggs (about 15 minutes to make sure yolk is fully cooked and almost powdery)
- 1 cup olive oil
- Salt and pepper, to taste
- Coat the asparagus spears in oil and season with salt and pepper.
- Grill over hot grill until lightly browned but still holding their shape. (Or, you can grill in a griddle on a stovetop or broil in a 400-degree oven.)
- While the asparagus is cooking, remove the egg yolks and place in a bowl with the vinegar and mustard. Mash the yolks together with the vinegar and mustard until smooth.
- Chop the egg whites finely and set aside.
- While stirring constantly, whisk in the olive oil. Blend until emulsified. (Or, you can place it all in a mason jar to shake to combine, or use a hand-held blender.)
- Add the parsley, mint, egg whites, scallions, capers and gently stir.
- Add salt and pepper to taste, and more vinegar, if desired.
- To serve, drizzle vinaigrette over asparagus and put the vinaigrette in a bowl with a spoon on the table for guest to add more (and they will add more!)