A Midsummer's Night's Dinner

Zuchini & Tomato Sauté

Can you believe summer is half over? I know this not only from the calendar but the contents of our Beneficial Farms CSA box. Apparently, the recent heat spell signalled the end of the flood of greens (kale, collards, chard, etc.) or at least a pause until cooler weather this fall. I can't tell you how happy the sight of summer squash made me when it showed up this past week.

While I might eventually come to see summer squash as a menace, right now it has taken the place of spinach as a versatile vegetable. It also takes up less room in the refrigerator. I'm terribly excited to start having a variety of vegetables coming every week. While the greens where great, they made it difficult to structure dinner menus. I could make greens in some form and then what... It bothers me aesthetically to serve two greens in one meal. I'm trying to go for balance and variety. It's hard to fill your plate with colors, as suggested by nutritionists, when all you have is green.

So the first thing I did with my new selection of vegetables is serve a green meal. I chopped up the green zucchini and sauteed it with a few of the tiny tomatoes from our garden and mixed it up with pesto and served it with whole wheat linguine. Green and brown, drab but good.

In another drab but good meal, I made the Moroccan-Style Vegetable Stew (without the accompanying harissa yogurt sauce). The stew was good but really kind of ugly. It was kind of brown and chunky and stringy. I put the harissa in the stew since I didn't have plain yogurt for the sauce. I also skipped the flour listed in the recipe since I don't like the cloudy look that comes from using flour as a thickener. Whole spinach tends to look bedraggled when cooked in a moist environment and that was the case here. I did bump up the spices which moved this into the perfectly fine category. For once the commenters on Epicurious had a helpful suggestion besides "add cheese". All in all, it was fine and good and used up turnips.

I just haven't been terribly excited about cooking. Turning on the oven is foolish and even long cooks on the stove are not so great. It also took me a week to get organized again after a small vacation. After a few days of stuck together meals from the refrigerator vacation survivors, I headed back to the cookbook shelf. I dug up a few cookbooks I hadn't looked at in a while and found lots of great stuff. I've also vowed to pull the unusual ingredients I have in the pantry to the front and use them. The sushi nori has finally made it to the countertop and it has a good chance of becoming part of dinner in a few days. If I could only remember where I put the rolling mat. I also have a good stock of asian noodles and rice papers and bulgur. These plus vegetables are exotic international dinners waiting to happen. Also, my August issue of Sunset magazine just arrived and it has recipes for grilled pizza. I'm starting to perk up at the thought. Help is on the way for the summer weary cook and just in the nick of time.