No-Sweat Cooking, Day 1

just like honey

The heat has been relentless this summer. My friend Jan remarked to me on Saturday at the farmers’ market that last summer was so grey and rainy she forgot just how miserable the heat could be. Meal planning can be hard when the mercury climbs, even for a committed home cook like me, so I’m always on the lookout for dinnertime inspiration beyond salads this time of year.

I found it in Melissa Clark’s “No Sweat Cooking,” which appears in the August issue of Every Day with Rachael Ray magazine. She put forth some really appealing dishes to help folks beat the heat but still eat well, and for the next month, I’ll be cooking my way through them – 31 dishes in 31 days, all blogged here.

scallop ceviche, pre-citrus

I got started with last night’s dinner, taking advantage of Mike’s absence to indulge in something he’s not a fan of but that I love – fresh melon. It’s featured in a simple scallop ceviche, made bright and zippy with chilies and mint, the melon adding a subtle sweetness and lovely color to the dish.

scallop ceviche

I picked up the tiniest muskmelon I could find from Wishing Stone Farm, barely the size of a softball, and combined the diced flesh with my citrus “cooked” Bomster scallops. A little chopping and squeezing and about two hours’ time was all I needed to get this elegant, refreshing meal on the table, and as promised, I didn’t break a sweat. We’re off to a good start.

Get the recipe: Scallop-and-Cantaloupe Ceviche

Flower Girl

finally, squash blossoms

Mike’s away at Tales of the Cocktail, and I’m once again left to my own devices when it comes to dinner. I’ve had a bit of food-related “homework” to attend to, in preparation for a couple of things I’ll get to tell you more about soon, but aside from that, my main goal is to work through the rather excessive amount of gorgeous summer produce I brought home from the farmers’ market last weekend.

Like tomatoes, for instance. I’ll admit that the best tomatoes of the season are still a little way off, but I can’t resist loading up on the lovely local gems I’ve encountered at the markets in both Boston and in Providence. I slowly cooked these ones in a bit of olive oil with just a pinch of salt, splashing water in from time to time, gently crushing them as they softened and got almost syrupy sweet, and finally pressing them through a strainer to remove any skins and seeds, leaving behind a rich, jammy tomato reduction.

lined up

I stuffed my cleaned squash blossoms with my usual mixture of fresh ricotta, soft chevre, salt, lemon zest, and a good amount of finely chopped fresh herbs – in this case parsley, basil from the patio, and summer savory. After piping the cheese mixture into the blossoms (I use the super-fancy zip-top plastic bag with a corner cut off for this), I set the stuffed blossoms in the fridge for a bit to firm up before dipping them in flour, then buttermilk, then another dip in flour (a tip from our friend Derrick that gives my favorite crisp-light result). I fried them in a 2:1 mix of olive oil and grapeseed oil until crisp and golden, and instead of sprinkling flaky salt over them as they came out of the oil as I do for other fried goodies, I grated a little Pecorino Romano over the fried blossoms.

Dinner: July 20, 2010

I spooned the tomato reduction onto a plate and arranged my little golden flowers on top, adding a little finely chopped parsley for color and a pop of freshness. And then, I ate. And this doesn’t happen often, but I was pretty darned happy that I didn’t have to share.

Rainy Days and Mondays

morels on toast

The restaurant has only been open a week, but they have been busy every single night. It’s a good problem to have, I’m sure, but it has made for some long days and very late nights for my husband, and some bleary-eyed morning commutes for this restaurant widow. I was incredibly happy to have Mike home on Monday and to fix him a special dinner (complete with wine poured from an actual bottle), but as delicious as our starter of sauteed morels and main course of yogurt-marinated roast lamb loin were, I could barely bring myself to eat much of either.

I’ve actually been struggling to get myself to eat anything these days. I’m not sure if it’s caused by this persistent case of the blues, the crummy weather, the fact that I can not bear to look at one more runny egg or package of pasta in my kitchen, or something else. I’ve all but given up on breakfast. Lunches have been hastily gobbled, and more often than not abandoned midway through. I stood at the refrigerator when I got home from work last night trying desperately to figure out what to make myself for dinner, but I came up blank – no appetite, no inspiration.

With shaking hands I tore off a nub of pita and scooped up a bite of Shayma‘s wonderful (and contest-winning) Borani, followed that with a chunk of a cold, roasted creamer potato left from Monday night, then a dab of chevre and a slug of Bandit, and then I sat at the kitchen table watching the rain, counting the hours until next Monday. It can’t come soon enough.

Restaurant Widow

Dinner: March 18, 2010

This dinner for one brought to you by the serendipitous discovery of leftover cooked pasta, a conveniently open jar of Poblano Farm pasta sauce, the end of a log of olive butter, and a whisper of freshly grated Pecorino Romano. And then (as a wise woman once said), “we crack an egg on top.”

Fried pasta with egg is one of my favorite things to eat when I’m dining alone, and it was just what I needed to help me feel a little less blue. I promise to try a little harder once I’ve got the fridge and pantry re-stocked this weekend.