Posts tagged ‘summer’

August 25, 2012

Last Night’s Dinner: Summer vegetable and goat’s cheese bruschetta

Until recently there hasn’t been much summer round these parts, which means we haven’t done what we usually do with our dinners at this time of year.

But… the sun has started making occasional appearances and thoughts have turned to lighter meals that make the most of delicate summer flavours and fragrances. And bruschetta – we haven’t made bruschetta in, well, ages. Certainly not since we moved from London last year.

Bruschetta. Stuff on toast. Wild mushrooms and thyme; roasted cherry tomatoes, mozzarella and basil; sweet roasted peppers with chilli and parmesan; chargrilled aubergine, ricotta and pesto… all with a good hunk of lightly toasted bread, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with a good olive oil. Yum.

We had none of the variations above on this occasion. What we had was half a loaf of bread from the Village Deli in Wivenhoe (they do good bread, I try not to look at it as I pass – I’d eat little else), plus a few leftovers from our weekly veg box and recent trips to the supermarket. Which meant we had courgettes, beetroot, broad beans, a green pepper, some grilled globe artichoke hearts, a mild red chilli – and a nice block of crumbly-ish, creamy goat’s cheese (again, from the aforementioned Deli).

The only method with this is to treat each ingredient with respect: so, the peppers and beet are roasted separately, in a little olive oil, and chopped into chunks; the chilli goes with the pepper and is then sliced; courgettes get sliced and cooked on a griddle; broad beans are shelled, blanched for 4 minutes and slipped from their pithy skins; artichokes, already cooked, are ready to go.

When it’s all done, toast the bread, rub it with garlic while it’s still hot, and pile up the veg on top, attractively if possible, interspersed with the broken-up goat’s cheese. And then drizzle with a little olive oil.

Does bruschetta really require a recipe? I don’t know: it’s just toast with stuff on it. Nice stuff though. And nice toast. And a nice, light, summer’s evening meal.

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April 11, 2012

Today’s lunch: Broad bean, radish and parmesan salad

It hasn’t known whether it was winter, spring or summer today. Today’s delivery of a veg box, however, proclaimed that the sun must shine and brought us broad beans, a luscious lettuce and bright pink radishes among its many treats.

I fully admit that when we receive radishes in a veg box they often wilt for a week in the fridge and get thrown. I don’t know why, because a radish is a lovely little thing that can add a peppery bit of zip, crunch and warmth to many a plate of food. Rather than let them go to waste this week, I decided to use them straight away in a simple salad.

First, de-pod the broad beans and simmer them in a small pan for four minutes. Once drained, let them cool for a couple of minutes before slipping the bright green beans from their tougher outer skins and set aside.

Next, top and tail the radishes with a sharp knife and half them lengthways before giving them a quick rinse. Next, melt a little butter in a large frying pan and add the radishes, turning them once in a while until they just start to brown at the edges. Add the broad beans and cook for one more minute.

While the radishes are cooking, roughly chop some sturdy salad leaves (gem or rocket, for example, will both do fine) and dress them with a little olive oil and lemon vinaigrette. Place the leaves in the bottom of shallow bowls then add the radishes and beans. Top with shavings of a good parmesan or pecorino.

It almost feels like summer.

September 6, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Chilled fennel soup with halloumi croutons

Wednesday 17 August

As I type this the wind is rattling the windows and the skies are a deep grey – a kind that Elle Deco would probably say is very fashionable for an accent wall right now. Yes, the sky is all rather Farrow and Ball.

It was a lovely evening when I made this soup, however. Ella was late coming home and I was pottering about after a day’s work. The recipe, here, is by Yotam Ottolenghi and would also make a fab lunch – perhaps with a light glass of Vinho Verde. I made rather a lot of croutons, as you can see. But I do like halloumi! And I know, fennel, chilled, soup? Give it a go – especially if you’re fond of a hearty gazpacho or almond based ajo blanco.

September 4, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Summer quinoa salad

Wednesday 10 August

Beans, beetroot, courgettes… all grown in a local allotment and looking for a home… All we wanted was something that could bind these summery ingredients together… a bed for them to rest in, but one that would allow their individual flavours to shine.

I popped up to the deli and nabbed some quinoa and a tin of chickpeas and got to work. We would once have made this light meal with cous cous, but as we’re avoiding too much wheatiness quinoa is now our preferred alternative.

The method? As straightforward as it looks: cook the quinoa as per the packet instructions, roast the beetroot whole (for about 50 minutes) and then peel and chop into segments (like a Terry’s chocolate orange), shallow fry a chopped onion and courgette, slice the beans into 3cm sections then boil for 4 or 5 minutes and drain.

When everything is ready, combine in a large bowl with the drained chickpeas, drizzle over a little good extra virgin olive oil, and mix through. A simple way to use up some late-summer ingredients from the veg patch.

August 16, 2011

Recipe: Pasta and Fried Zucchini Salad

Yes, you read right. We were looking for a quick pasta and courgette dish, given my earlier comments regarding the abundance of those deep green, erm, truncheons at this time of year. First up on the internet came a recipe from our old friend Yotam Ottolenghi, although from a not very local source, namely the New York Times.

The recipe, which in a British translation is for Penne with Courgette and Mozzarella, is here and very good it looks too.

August 16, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Puy Lentils with Roast Courgettes, Green Beans and Parsely

Sunday 7 August

Courgettes are everywhere in early August and, I confess, it’s only in the last couple of years that we’ve really taken to eating them. Earlier this year we tried them as fritters, rather like the corn ones in the post before this. The courgette fritter recipe is here.

This Sunday we wanted a fairly hearty supper with some summery flavours to boot and this was a simple solution.

First, for two people, slice 2-3 medium courgettes into thumb-sized batons. (What? Okay, halve the courgettes lengthways, then halve them across their middles, then halve them lengthways again.)

Place the courgette batons in an ovenproof dish, lightly toss them with some olive oil and some salt and pepper and place them in a preheated oven until they’re golden of flesh but not completely browned.

While you’re doing this, in a large saucepan boil around 2 cups of puy lentils in vegetable stock until they’re tender – about 25 minutes. Also, very finely slice a large onion and fry until translucent in a little olive oil.

Next, roughly chop some fresh green beans – we had a mix of runner and french beans (okay, and some yellow and black skinned beans too) – and steam them for 4 minutes before refreshing them under a cold tap.

When the lentils are cooked (drain them if there is much water left and return to the pan), add 2 tablespoons of red wine vinegar, stir and leave for 2 minutes. Then stir in the onion. Next stir in the courgettes.

Finally, stir in the chopped fresh parsley, season if needed, and eat.

August 8, 2011

Recipe: Brown rice, courgettes and mint

On first glance I thought this recipe, here, for brown rice, courgettes and mint had two things going against it.

First, as you might have realised, I don’t always trust Nigel Slater’s cooking. Amongst other things, I often feel he misses a trick and rejects obvious ways to pep up his food in favour of his own nostalgia-filled peccadilloes.

Second, I firmly believe anything you might want to call ‘risotto’ should be made with a proper risotto rice.

So, this recipe fails twice before we’re even off. But… it looks rather nice. Nutty, summery, rustic, with a hint of old-skool veggie health food that suddenly looks almost vogueish. I think we’ll try it.

August 8, 2011

Last Night’s Dinner: Roast tomato and pepper broth with potato, butter beans and greens

(Our last home-cooked meal in London)

Believe it or not this hearty yet summery supper came about as a way of emptying our fridge and store cupboard before our impending move from the city. It’s typical that we would have a couple of peppers, some tomatoes, a few old spuds and half a cabbage (or similar) lying around. It’s also typical that this is the kind of thing we’d end up making with those ingredients.

The first job was to roast a red and a yellow pepper, just coated with a little olive oil, along with a couple of chillis and three cloves of garlic, still in their skins. Also into the oven went a small tray of halved tomatoes, skin side down, drizzled with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper. They both need to roast at around 190 degrees for 25 minutes or maybe a little longer. The tomatoes should be starting to collapse and the peppers’ skins almost blackened in parts.

When done, drop the peppers into a plastic bag, tie it and leave to cool/steam for a few minutes – this will help loosen the skins a little. Leave the tomatoes to cool a little, in their roasting tray.

After 5 minutes or so, take the peppers from the bag, slice them open, deseed them and peel as much skins from them as you can (but don’t worry too much if some skin remains). Slip the garlic cloves from their skins and chop the stalks off the chillis. Tip all the roasted veg into a food processor and blend until smooth.

Next, pour the roast veg sauce into a large saucepan/stockpot and add 400ml of water or vegetable stock. Heat until it comes to a boil and then leave on a slow simmer. It should look like a rustic tomato soup.

Now, take your potatoes and boil them until just tender and steam whatever greens you have (dark green cabbage, kale or cavolo nero), stalks removed, for around four minutes or, again, until just tender.

Tip the potatoes and greens into the soup along with a tin of butter bins (other white beans would be fine here but the size of the butter beans is good with this) and simmer for five minutes.

Serve, if you like, with crusty bread.

Depending on the exact amount of ingredients this will turn out more like a stew or more like a soup. I don’t think it really matters. What counts most of all is the deep, rich flavour and aroma of that roast tomato and pepper broth.

One final thing: we’ve described this as summery. Why? Well, because ripe summer tomatoes and the ‘new’ potatoes we used seem to shout of that season. But this is a dish that translates to autumn or winter too. I’d try to make it more ‘stewy’, less ‘brothy’ for those darker months.

August 4, 2011

Last night’s Dinner: Greek salad

Wednesday 3 August

…yesterday’s lunch, actually, and in contrast to this very wet morning, yesterday the sun was wilting the leaves of the hydrangea we brought from London with us and the skies above the Colne were an unbroken blue. What better for lunch than a Greek salad al fresco?

I’m sure everyone has their own way with a Greek salad. Even we make better ones and worse ones. It really depends on the quality of the ingredients. Ours, here, benefited from a mix of perfectly ripe little cherry, sungold and plum tomatoes from Cansdale Ross & Co, up the road in Wivenhoe. The very essence of a summer lunch.

I halved the smaller tomatoes and kept the larger ones variously chunky to add some range to the look and feel of the salad. Red onion? Yep – slice it finely and soak it for 10 minutes or more in a little red wine vinegar to take the sting from it. I didn’t use olives but did add a few shredded leaves of a little gem lettuce (‘Heresy’ I here you cry). Cucumber should be roughly diced and then all the ingredients mixed together ready to be topped with some large chunks of feta cheese (you can break it up with your fork as you eat). I’ve seen some people add fresh mint to a Greek salad and, don’t get me wrong, mint and feta are a good match, but it feels a somewhat contrived concoction and surely the best – and most traditional – herb to add at the end is a small scattering of dried oregano. Dress with a little olive oil and lemon vinaigrette.

On such a hot and sunny day we could easily have accompanied this with a refreshing glass of Vinho Verde from the Village Delicatessen (which I saw temptingly described as a good ‘lunchtime wine’). But we had work to do and the wine had to wait.

Need more inspiration? There’s a good account of Greek salads in the Guardian, here.

August 3, 2011

A summery pavlova to celebrate!


Welcome readers, to Earth to Plate’s new home in the pretty little estuary town of Wivenhoe in Essex. And please, help yourselves to a slice of summer berry pavlova with a passion fruit sauce. Go on, you know you want to.

Yes, we’ve upped sticks and travelled the 60 or so miles from central London to the countryside. And what does this mean for ETP Towers? It means a whole new way of living and sourcing the ingredients for this vegetarian blog.

In our new home it’s no longer easy to make daily trips to Waitrose, or order an Abel & Cole veg box every week. And is there life beyond metropolitan habitudes? Of course! There’s a lovely little independent grocer, Cansdale Ross & Co, up the road from us, a fantastic little deli that does a good line in cheese, amongst many things, and the East of England Co-op, which supplies a good selection of locally grown fruit and veg, including gorgeous summer fruits from Fiveways Fruit Farm, just outside of Colchester.

So, expect more of the usual servings of veggie food as we get the blog back up and running again, plus a look at shopping local and avoiding the big supermarkets.

Oh, and the pavlova? We were eating a lot of Denis Cotter recipes before we left London. It’s one of his – from For the Love of Food, I think. Can’t be certain though, as we were packing up when we made it. It was delightful, but in the midst of the removals chaos we forgot to eat most of it. What a waste. Please don’t do the same.