Tag Archives: summer

Summer breakfast

summergranolaONE OF MY FAVORITE THINGS about summer is my everyday breakfast. It’s simple: plain yogurt, topped with fresh fruit and granola. But each day I enjoy it with seasonal fruit– raspberries, blackberries, blueberries, apricots, peaches, plums or pears — and I consider it a treat!

Some years ago I wrote here about a granola made with very little oil and some applesauce, to reduce the granola’s usual high calorie count. Well, I have to say, that granola was good, but it was just a little too spartan! (for granola, that is. Muesli, which doesn’t have oil, would be a good alternative if you’re seriously watching weight — and it’s also good with yogurt and fruit.)

These days I just make a more classic granola, using a mixture of oil, maple syrup, vanilla and cinnamon to coat the oats, and add a healthy dose of nuts and seeds. It’s not the richest granola you will ever taste (I know someone who makes granola with butter rather than oil, for example) but it’s pretty darned good.

Oh– and is it caloric? Yup, I’m sure it is, but if you just use it as a topping, you can justify that little luxury, can’t you?

This recipe will just about fill a quart jar of granola. Or put some in a zip-lock bag and take it with you on a road trip, on the plane or camping. Make a double batch and share with friends. You can easily adjust the nuts, seeds, spices and dried fruit to your taste (for example, I don’t use almonds as Steve is allergic to them; but hazelnuts or walnuts are great alternatives).

With this recipe and some fresh fruit, it just may be summer all year long!

Summer Morning Granola

  • 2 1/2 cups oats (preferably organic)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 Tablespoon (more or less to your taste) cinnamon,  or other spice (cardamom, ginger, etc.) or mixture
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup coarsely chopped nuts
  •  2 to 4 Tablespoons seeds (sunflower, flax, sesame)
  • 1/4 cup oil (I use grapeseed)
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1 Tablespoon water
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • optional: dried fruit such as raisins, dried cranberries, dried apricots
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees

  2. Combine the oats, salt and spice(s) in a large bowl.

  3. Stir in nuts and seeds to distribute.

  4. In a small pan (or microwave bowl) combine oil and maple syrup and gently heat to warm. Add water and vanilla; whisk together and pour over the oat mixture.

  5. Spread out the mixture evenly on a rimmed cookie sheet and bake for about 30 minutes or until a toasty golden brown. (It’s a good idea to check the mixture after 25 minutes.)

  6. Let cool in the pan atop a rack, then add raisins or other dried fruit if desired. Store in a quart glass jar or other container.

 

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A plum welcome to summer

plumsontowel

I HAVE WRITTEN BEFORE about the marvelous Santa Rosa plums of early summer, and my gratitude to Luther Burbank for developing them. But again I feel the need to praise these plums. If I were to have just one fruit tree, it might have to be a Santa Rosa plum, not only for their deliciousness at the start of summer, but also because they are so hard to find in the market.

I had enough, briefly, to eat plenty of plums au naturel and to make British cookbook writer Nigel Slater’s brilliant plum tabbouleh. (I did substitute a pinch of crushed red pepper for the small red chile he calls for). I even made some plum crumble with a topping of butter, brown sugar, flour and hazelnuts.

plumtabbouleh

The plum tabbouleh drew me back to one of my favorite books, Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard, and to Nigel Slater’s lovely homage to plums.

“When I find the perfect plum, jelly-fleshed and incandescently ripe, its golden skin flashed with crimson freckles, I make a great fuss of it,” he writes. “I have even been known to get out a small plate and a napkin. I eat slowly, imagining time stopped. More usually, I come across such a fruit without warning, having little alternative but to eat it from the hand, spitting the pit into the long grass below.”

And why are these plums so hard to find? Although Slater is speaking of Britain and not of Santa Rosa plums, I think his sentiments could apply to the U.S. as well.

“It breaks my heart to think of the plum orchards we have lost in the last two decades,” he writes, “but what else can a farmer do when the crop is no longer profitable, consumers have more interest in peaches and nectarines, and the stores continue to sell imports even during our own brief season? I salute the British plum grower.”

Well, I salute all plum growers, and in particular my friends John and Cathy who gave me the pleasure of a few days full of plums from their Santa Rosa plum tree. What a happy welcome to summer!

plateofplums

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A fresh summer jam session

I’m in love with fruit, and summer is a great celebration of it.

The other day I went to a you-pick farm “out in the county” and picked eight pounds of strawberries in hardly any time at all, while Steve took a nap in the car.  We ate a lot of fresh strawberries over the next few days, and gave some to friends and put them in our yogurt and granola and in our salads too.

But I still had plenty left over to make a small batch of fresh summer jam.

Anybody who’s made jam knows that it takes an appalling amount of sugar. Even the low-sugar jams require a significant amount, needed to preserve them.

But if you plan to eat it right up, you can make a nice loose summer jam — between a sauce and a jam — with just a little bit of sugar. I was inspired by Nigel Slater’s marvelous book, Ripe: A Cook in the Orchard.

So, I crushed about a pound-and-a-half of strawberries in a good size pot, added a quarter-cup of sugar (you can add more to your taste — Slater uses 1/2 cup) and a couple squeezes of fresh lemon juice.  I cooked it over medium heat for 15 or 20 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming off the pink foamy stuff. When it thickened up (it doesn’t really set like regular jam) it was ready.  It kept well in the fridge for a few days, but I liked bringing it to room temperature or even warming it up to serve.

I swirled this crimson strawberry jam into vanilla yogurt for dessert (it would be lovely with whipped cream or ice cream as well) and served it on buttered toasted baguette to our friends.  I put a little jar of it in the freezer to see if I could thaw out a taste of summer sometime in November.

Now there was just enough jam left for breakfast this morning.

That jam seemed to call on me to make a batch of biscuits.

A Sunday morning in summer, with biscuits and fresh strawberry jam. Yum.

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End of summer……..

"Peaches in a White Ceramic Basket," Fede Galizia, c. 1600-1605

Well, summer is nearly officially over, a poignant marker. There’s something a little sad about the turning of seasons. Goodbye to summer’s great bounty, to all those things you didn’t do or wish you could do again….

I never wrote “Summer Fruit, part two” which was supposed to be about peaches, plums, nectarines, more blackberries, and such. I never made a peach pie, which is rather shocking (though I am still eating fresh peaches, and with all the peach varieties, you can eat peaches from mid-summer to early autumn).

But I did eat rhubarb well into August and  I did make some of those nice dill pickles in brine, with fresh dill. I had a good summer kitchen day with Aviva: She made canned pickles and the two of us made a nice big batch of blackberry jam.

Aviva surveys results of the pickle-and-jam marathon

Grey days and rainy weather are setting in again, and there never were enough warm sunny days here this summer — but I just returned from the Midwest, where people were complaining about too many hot days!

Mario's Lemonade, Chicago

In Chicago, we went to Mario’s Lemonade on Taylor Street,  just before the stand closed for the season– how’s that for marking the end of the summer? And we talked to Mario, who has never used a computer or a credit card, and still sells a small iced lemonade for only $1.

Delicious icy lemonade, complete with rind

Back home, on a cool day, and still thinking about lemons, I made a simple supper of roast chicken, bulgur pilaf and green salad.

The roast chicken with lemon is one of the many slow-roast dishes I make in cool weather (that’s most of the year here): You set the oven to 300 degrees, stuff one or two lemons (pricked all over with a fork, to let the juices out) into the cavity, put a little olive oil over the chicken and sprinkle salt and pepper and paprika on the top, then let it roast for 2 1/2 or 3 hours.  You can baste a lot, or not, turn the chicken over halfway through or not — the long slow cooking will make it tender and juicy. Let it sit for 10 or 15 minutes before you cut it, and squeeze the lemon juice over it.

And the salad of course, had a simple olive oil-lemon-salt dressing….

For dessert? Now, the blackberries have sadly come to an end, but before they were gone, I discovered an easy dessert with some leftover pie dough I had: mini pies in ramekins.

I just mixed the berries with a little sugar and lemon juice and a bit of cornstarch to thicken, then cut a couple circles of dough with my biscuit cutter and laid them on top, brushed with a little milk and sprinkled sugar on top.  I turned the oven to 400 degrees and baked till the tops were golden. I bet this would work with frozen berries too.

"Apples and grapes" Claude Monet, 1880

Now it’s time to welcome those fruits of fall!

The Jewish harvest festival of Sukkos is just around the corner, and one of its primary symbols is the citron, or esrog (or etrog), the ancestor of the lemon. It’s considered a sacred fruit, and does indeed smell divine, but is not too good to eat….

What I always want to make and eat around this time of year is a simple yeast dough covered in delicious and beautiful Italian plums. Soon I will be making Zwetchgenkuchen!

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Keeping it simple

It’s hot here — finally. I know the rest of the country has been baking, but it’s taken till mid-August for it to feel like summer around here. It’s not the best time to be turning on the oven, and we don’t own a grill, so besides making the usual bulgur salads, I’m cooking a little less and keeping things simple.

Who says you can’t have a meal of mostly vegetables along with a good slice of bread? (I love carbs). Corn on the cob, new potatoes, fresh string beans with a little lemon zest….to me, that’s a great summer supper.

This was my idea of a buffet lunch: crackers and cheese, marinated artichokes and olives, melon and blackberries, and a little salad of green beans and garbanzo beans with red pepper and lemon and olive oil dressing.

About the most complicated (i.e. not very) dish I made recently was a lemon-basil recipe that I adapted from Nigel Slater.

I love what Slater writes about lemons:

“Few sights lift the spirits like a crate of lemons with their glossy leaves intact. Lemons are as much a part of the kitchen as pepper and salt.”

I didn’t have linguine so I made it with fettucine in the photo above. Delicious, but the linguine is even better at soaking up the sauce — I tried it later. I’m still adjusting the recipe proportions, so if you try it and think it needs a little more or less of something, please let me know.

Lemon and Basil Linguine (serves 2)

  • 1/2 pound of linguine
  • grated zest and juice of one large lemon
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 to 1/2 cup grated Parmeggiano or Pecorino cheese
  • handful of basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • salt and pepper

Bring a big pot of salted water to the boil and cook the linguine until done (7 or 8 minutes).

Meanwhile, put the lemon juice, olive oil and zest in a warm bowl and whisk till emulsified; then add the torn basil and the cheese and whisk again. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the linguine, and toss together with the sauce until each strand is coated evenly with the sauce. Serve immediately.

I made this version without the cheese, and added some sauteed chicken pieces and cherry tomatoes

Pasta cooks quickly so it’s a good choice for a summer evening, and this is also a nice way to use fresh basil especially when those fresh tomatoes are in short supply….

One could finish such a supper with the best summer dessert of all: fresh fruit (with or without vanilla ice cream).

Bowl with Peaches and Plums, Giovanna Garzoni (1600-1670)

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