SUMMER SIMPLY

As the summer days melt together, I’ve grown increasingly lax in my blogging duties. My indolence stems partly from the season. Why bother planning meals when I can be frolicking outside? But the other problem is that Mom’s recipe box has very little to offer in the way of summer meals.

At first, I kept shuffling through her notes certain I missed something. What I found were a handful of fruity dessert recipes from friends and family, but nothing to frame a meal around. Tasty as Graham Kerr’s Mango Whip sounds, it doesn’t do me much good on a random Tuesday night. Then I remembered Mom’s typical summer menu –hamburgers on the grill, corn on the cob, and salad. Summers were simple. No recipe required.

Instead of looking to the past for inspiration, I decided to share some of my favorite ad hoc summer meals. I’ll start with last night: I made broiled fish, a zucchini/tomato salad, and old-fashioned potato salad. No formal recipes came into play. However, the meal reflects my efforts to eat seasonally and –when I can make it to the Farmer’s Market—buy local produce. I know, I know! Cue the eye roll. No one wants to read another preachy article about “Why I am a better person for eating ecologically.” But guess what? Summer –not to mention fall, winter, and spring— is more fun when you eat mostly what’s in season. Come mid-July, I get to visit the Farmer’s Market, spot a stalk of zucchini, and say: “Ooooh, it’s zucchini time!” Feels sort of like unpacking Christmas ornaments each December, an annual event to be anticipated and savored.

Also, one of the cool things about New York City is that Greenmarkets pop up all over. (For locations: http://www.cenyc.org/ourmarkets) Sometimes when I’m in the midst of a good aforementioned frolic, I’ll run across a Farmer’s Market. Like the one on 97th Street, between Amsterdam and Columbus Avenues on Fridays! Who knew? Sort of like a game.

Anyway, seasonal food is best when minimally prepared. Even better. As Jeanne would say: “It’s too %! to cook anyway.” She then might even grow impatient with me, and demand: “Enough preaching. Let’s eat!” Without further adieu, here’s what I made:

ZUCCHINI-TOMATO SALAD
• 1 zucchini, sliced thin
• 1 yellow squash, sliced thin
• 2 tomatoes, sliced into inch-wide strips (I used heirloom, which are rare, expensive, and awesome. But soon, good tomatoes will be plentiful.)
• Handful of fresh basil, coarsely chopped
• 1 Tbsp of olive oil
• 2 tsp of Balsamic vinegar (or enough for a 2-second drizzle)
• Salt and pepper

Heat oil in skillet
Sautee zucchini and squash until softens, add salt and pepper
Let cool, so warm not hot
Toss zucchini and squash with tomatoes and basil
Drizzle Balsamic vinegar over mixture
Serve as salad or on top of fish or chicken

OLD-FASHIONED POTATO SALAD
This is basic potato salad with one twist: Instead of sour cream, I used nonfat plain yogurt. Cuts down on the fat a bit, but maintains a creamy texture.

• 3/4 lb small potatoes
• 1 stalk celery, diced
• ½ red onion, diced
• ¼ cup mayonnaise
• ¼ cup nonfat plain yogurt
• 1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
• 1 Tbsp cider vinegar (rice vinegar is also nice)
• 1 tsp celery seed
• Salt and pepper

Boil potatoes until cooked through, but not too soft
Let cool, and then slice in halves (I often cook them in the morning, and then make the salad closer to dinner)
Combine mayo, yogurt, Dijon, and add cider vinegar while mixing. Add celery seed, salt, and pepper
Toss potatoes with celery and onion
Pour dressing over potatoes and toss well.

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