Cucumber, red and yellow tomato, breakfast radishes, scallions, fresh basil and feta in a basic red wine vinaigrette will help you plow through a grant proposal when you are already twelve hours into your workday. That and a beer.
I am generally the one working the fancy fundraiser, so the Prospect Park Alliance‘s annual Summer Soiree is a real treat for me. This year I managed to exercise restraint at the bar and at the silent auction table. (It occurs to me as I type this that the two might be related.) I could not, however, pass up the cotton candy–the embodiment of all that is forbidden to those of us who grew up with hippie parents.
Despite having imbibed only moderately, I felt a little funky this morning. Good quality nutrients were in order in the form of kale fajitas.
I brought a cast iron skillet up to medium heat with a tablespoon of olive oil. In went a small onion, cut pole to pole, and a thinly sliced jalapeño pepper. When the onions and pepper has started to blacken, I added a bunch of freshly rinsed and chopped kale. The water that clung to the kale steamed it a bit. And the relatively small quantity of oil allowed the leaves to crisp and char at the edges, much as chicken or steak would in traditional fajitas. I finished it off with a bit of oregano, some smoked salt (to heighten that chargrilled effect), and a good dose of freshly-ground black pepper. I then toasted some tortillas in the same pan and plated the fajitas up, garnishing them with a mild feta cheese and some pickled radishes I made this past winter. Tomatoes, salsa or avocado would have been great, but I didn’t have any on hand.
Yesterday was the longest day of the year–and a glorious one at that. A classmate, neighbor and new friend joined me for a wine-soaked celebration of the season’s bounty. Turns out we have even more in common than expected. This includes an inability to pass up a farmers market. Between our mutual addiction and our individual CSA shares, we had quite a few vegetables on hand. We also had some lovely pork chops thanks to Lewis Waite Farm.
Several glasses of wine and a couple of hours of gossip later, we sat down to a bulgur-kale pilaf with garlic scapes, green onions and parsley; coriander, cumin and fennel-crusted pork chops; and a green salad with celery, carrots, turnips and a goat milk yogurt vinaigrette.
We rounded the night out with a little rum and some armchair astrology circa 1980.
This morning found me downing a cup of coffee before dashing out to run errands. A friend was in the area with her dog, which led to more coffee (iced this time) and a little too much sun. Naturally, I had to swing by the Grand Army Plaza Greenmarket for yet more vegetables. By the time I arrived home, it was after 1:00 and I was in serious need of some food to cushion all of that caffeine.
Luckily, in my tipsy state, I had still managed to pack up the leftover bulgur-kale pilaf. (Even better, Sara had done ALL of the dishes.) I replicated last night’s vinaigrette, using two tablespoons of goat milk yogurt, one tablespoon of white wine vinegar, one tablespoon of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some freshly-ground black pepper. I tossed this in a bowl with some green leaf lettuce, the leftover pilaf and an ounce or so of crumbled feta. You could do the same with leftover rice, quinoa, or pretty much any grain and whatever vegetables you have on hand. This makes an ideal light summer lunch that you can whip together in minutes.
It was 95 degrees when I arrived for tonight’s 7:00 CSA work shift. We checked members off on a list, restocked vegetables and loaded the unclaimed food into a car for transport to a local food pantry. As it happened, all four of us were nonprofit workers, so we talked shop–and sweat. By 8:30, we said our goodbyes and headed off in search of air conditioning, dinner and (at least in my case) a cold beer.
My tote contained my weekly share of red and yellow tomatoes, scallions and more of those delightful cucumbers. In the fridge at home I had some fresh dill and Greek yogurt left over from this past weekend’s Russian extravaganza.
Dog Day Salad
1 large cucumber, seeded and diced
2 large tomatoes, diced
3 Tbsp fresh dill
3-5 scallions, minced
2 ounces crumbled feta or farmers cheese
1/4 cup Greek yogurt
1 Tbsp creamy Dijon mustard
1 Tbsp olive oil
2 Tbsp white wine vinegar
Pinch of salt
Fresh-ground black pepper
Juice of 1 lemon
Crack open a cold beer. Toss the above ingredients together in a small mixing bowl, taking swigs of the beer as needed. If you’re not starving, chill this in the fridge for a bit. If it’s all you’re eating, you might want to toast some whole wheat flatbread, tear it up into bits and mix it right in.
I found that this paired well with a Dogfish Head Raison D’Etre and Dog Day Afternoon, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. Make this salad or not; I don’t really care. But, if you’ve never seen Al Pacino in his prime, do yourself a favor.
The tomatoes are here! Tonight’s CSA share included basil, cucumbers, scallions and some truly glorious tomatoes. I had a wedge of red cabbage left over from the five-spice kale and cabbage slaw I made for a Fourth of July Party. And I has some feta–yet another great emergency protein source.
Mid-July CSA Salad
- Finely slice a quarter of a head of red cabbage and toss with a teaspoon of salt in a wooden bowl. The salt will start to break down the cabbage, allowing it to wilt and more fully merge with the rest of your salad. (Fun fact: sauerkraut is just cabbage, salt and, possibly, seasonings that have been left to ferment.)
- Peel a few cucumbers, slice them up in half and scrape out the guts, which will make your salad too watery. Then dice them and add them to the bow.
- Add a couple of diced tomatoes. Some folks would have you de-seed these as well, but there was no way I was wasting any of that glorious tomato goodness.
- Add a few thinly sliced scallions and some basil chiffonade. Chiffonade is fancy chef speak for thinly sliced. I find the best technique is to stack the leaves (about 10 in this case), roll them into a spiral and then slice the whole stack.
- Crumble two or three ounces of feta and toss that in too.
- Drizzle with a tablespoon of good quality olive oil, a couple of tablespoons of red wine vinegar and some fresh-ground black pepper and toss it all together.
You could toss some toasted whole wheat pita bits or some quinoa in if you’re looking for something a little more filling. If you are a patient person, you could let it sit for a bit so that the flavors meld. Alternately, you just could pour a glass of Vinho Verde and get to work.