Today’s post is about more than good food. It’s also about some good news, and giving you a little preview into what you can expect from The Stout Sprout in the coming year… and it’s a big year! This fall our Stout Sprouts are entering Pre-K and 1st grade, respectively, and I’m now working in a new position that has me commuting in to Manhattan regularly.
Kitchen time and writing time is now more limited than it has been in prior months, but we’ve been making the most of the time we do have together, visiting farmer’s markets, playing at the Jersey shore, and eking as much time out of our weekends together as we possibly can. Our crunched schedule also means that in addition to focusing on seasonal, kid-friendly dishes, we’re also focusing on convenient meals. Things we can make together and enjoy together without a crazy investment of time or ingredients.
Fresh Jersey corn – nothing better
What this also means is that we have a backlog of easy weekend and weeknight recipes that make excellent use of the riot of fresh produce that summer has delivered. And while the farms and gardens are churning out juicy, ripe tomatoes, sweet summer corn, crisp bell peppers and cooling cucumbers, we’re busy putting it all to good use.
Take, for instance, one of my favorite summer suppers: gazpacho.
This creamy gazpacho with grilled corn is amazing
Gazpacho is the kind of dish that uses all that market bounty. Refreshing and cooling, it’s vegetarian and vegan and, when served with a slice of hearty grilled bread, is still as satisfying as any protein-packed main dish. It comes together quickly and can be made hours in advance of mealtime. There is little real cooking required – just a bunch of chopping and a little blending (and in our case, a little bit of grilling).
Normally, I’m not quite so smug. Because normally, whatever it is that I’m being smug about has a way of coming back to bite me. And this may yet. But, for now you’ll all have to indulge my happy dance because, well, my child* ate lentils.
Lentils are not only one of the oldest food sources on the planet, but also one of the healthiest. They are protein-packed, iron-rich and have plenty of vitamin B1, folate, and fiber. And for those of you whose lentil knowledge begins and ends at the failed casseroles Neil cooked on the British sitcom The Young Ones (please tell me I’m not the only one who gets that 1980s reference), I’m here to change your mind…and hopefully your supper plans, too.
A perfect vegetarian brunch, lunch or dinner – French Lentils with Poached Eggs
These little toasts have a lot going for them, starting with their name. As if “crostini” weren’t inviting enough — roll that “r” and you’ll even sound Italian — few kids I know would pass up toast. And little toasts…well, I hardly have to say more.
Anyone who has ordered a bruschetta appetizer is familiar with this concept: toast up a slice of bread and top it with something yummy. True peasant fare, which is probably how these tidbits became popular in the first place. Economizing with meat or vegetables piled on leftover toasted bread in the absence of elaborate place settings. In the middle ages, after all, you were lucky if you owned a fork and knife, let alone a bowl or plate.
Suffice it to say that the concept of crostini have been around for a very long time. I, however, credit the Italians for elevating this dish by improving upon the toppings (see the afore-mentioned bruschetta as an example) and serving it, frequently enough, with a glass or two of wine.
Now, the kids in the house will have to substitute their favorite non-alcoholic beverage for that wine, but they can easily partake in both the crostini making and eating. And here’s an observation: you may even persuade a non-veggie eater to try something new if you pile it on top of toasted bread smeared with a healthy dollop of creamy ricotta cheese.
The ricotta is a star ingredient, and this ricotta from Fulper Family Farmstead is fresh and fantastic
This year’s crop of famous — and some might say infamous — Jersey corn is still only about waist-high, but those fledgling stalks already have me dreaming of all things corn. We probably have another month to wait until the early ears hit the farmer’s markets and I’m counting down the days.
Same with summer’s bounty of cherry tomatoes. And even though I know I’ll be rewarded if I wait it out, I couldn’t help picking up a pint of grape tomatoes at the grocery store recently to roast with the ultra-convenient frozen corn we nearly always have on hand.
Corn — or maize, as it’s known in many countries — is an ancient grain which is believed to have originated in Mexico. It quickly spread along trade routes into the Americas and Europe — and beyond — due largely to its ability to thrive in extremely diverse climates. The Americas are still responsible for the majority of corn production, both the sweet corn that we prefer to eat and the feed corn that is grown for livestock. Since I’m a believer, as I’ve said before, in the maxim that “things that grow together go together,” it’s little wonder that we’ve paired tomatoes with corn in this dish. Tomatoes, too, originated in Mexico and followed similar exploration and trade routes to become the world-wide crop they are today.
Before the roasting: corn, tomatoes, thyme leaves, olive oil and salt
This dish qualifies as super simple — a side that comes together so quickly you hardly have to think about it. It’s succotash’s more kid-friendly cousin (nary a lima bean in sight), roasted in the oven to give it a sweeter, slightly more smoky flavor. It’s vegetarian, vegan, and one of those dishes where the quality of the produce really stands out. For those of you concerned about genetically modified ingredients, seek out non-GMO corn and tomatoes and make sure your olive oil is non-GMO too. In my opinion, purchasing produce that hasn’t had its genes played around with means you’ll get the real deal — juicer tomatoes, cornier corn (though perhaps a bit less sweet, but more flavorful!), and olive oil that tastes like the olives from which it was pressed.
Isn’t this a pretty dish to set before…well…anyone? Roasted corn and tomatoes with basil.
We’ll keep things short and sweet today, which seems appropriate considering that we’re writing about Pineapple Coconut Smoothies. Simple ingredient list (three, including ice cubes); simple steps (put ingredients into the blender and purée). But we deserve simple because today is the first day of The Stout Sprout’s summer vacation.
The last day of the 2013-2014 school year was this past Tuesday and both our Sprouts are treating this first day of summer break like Christmas morning. No alarm clock, no lunches to pack, no backpacks to load up. Ah, the life…at least until summer camp begins.
What better way to celebrate the day than with a tropical treat combining fresh, sweet pineapple with creamy coconut milk. Thrown in the blender with some ice cubes and the resulting smoothie is a G-rated drink reminiscent of a piña colada but specifically tailored to the under-21 crowd.
We’ve all heard the old adage: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” And while the idea of turning something sour into something sweet is a great lesson, what happens when life gives you more than lemons? What if it gives you, say, strawberries? Lots and lots of strawberries? Because — let’s face it — seldom do we get only bad news. More often than not, life doles out lemons and strawberries in equal abundance (though, seasonally, not always at the same time). The trick is not to focus on each exclusively, but to look at them together.
This is a recipe that balances the tart with the sweet — a great example of how refreshingly complex things can be if you open yourself up to the possibilities of what is in front of you. June’s own little example of yin and yang. Strawberry Lemonade.
We are lucky to live as close as we do to Kennett Square, PA, a lovely suburban community not far from Philadelphia that is also known as — wait for it — The Mushroom Capital Of The World. Lucky because purveyors from Kennett Square frequent local farmer’s markets — like the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market, a fantastic Saturday market just minutes from our home — with pint after pint of both common and exotic varieties throughout the year. We’re never far from fresh, flavorful mushrooms and the farmers who are excited to talk about the varieties they grow.
At the West Windsor Community Farmer’s Market with Davidson’s Exotic Mushrooms and Shibumi Mushroom Farm
Since mushrooms are used in dishes around the world and have long been served at mealtimes on all contents, they seem like the perfect ingredient for this globally-inspired family. I’ve been on a bit of a mission to get The Stout Sprouts to try mushrooms under the presumption that trying may eventually lead to liking. Mushrooms, I’ve found, are one of those foods that improve with age…and by that I mean there is a direct correlation between age and likelihood to consume mushrooms, with the lowest correlation occurring at the youngest ages (some might even say there is a negative correlation during those early years, with mushrooms actually repelling the youngest eaters with a polarizing force akin to an atom splitter).
Sure, we could simmer the mushrooms in a kid-friendly cream sauce or mince them finely and hide them in a burger, but my husband and I want our daughters to experience mushrooms as mushrooms. To appreciate their rich umami taste and the flavor variations of different mushroom types. And, after having cooked up several batches of my favorite sautéed mushrooms with shallots and thyme already this year, we made another batch this weekend specifically for them to try.
A dish that is welcome on any table: sautéed mushrooms with shallots and thyme