I was going to post a pasta dish this week – it’s really good and summery but still creamy and light – but I just couldn’t bring myself to suggest that you turn on both your oven and your stove. I don’t know about you, but we are in the middle of a heat wave. It’s another heat wave, or maybe it’s the heat wave we’ve kind of been having all summer despite a couple days last week. We have established a system of closing our windows around noon when it starts to get really hot outside, turning on the air conditioning when the inside temperature gets unbearable, and then opening the windows in the evening once the outside temperature is lower than inside or maybe if there’s a slight cool breeze blowing by.
On days like this, I can’t imagine eating anything hot. In fact, I would prefer that everything I ate was cold and crunchy, preferably also maybe juicy or with a little tang or spice to it. These toasts almost fit that bill – no juiciness really (unless you include the cucumbers that I GREW IN MY OWN GARDEN – sorry, I’m excited), but lots of crunch from the sliced vegetables and tang from the miso cream cheese. You do have to turn on your toaster, but it’s worth it, I promise.
It’s inevitable. This time of year especially. You go to the farmers market and drool over the rainbows of produce. The rhubarb has that perfect blush that begs you to bag up more than you could ever use at once and cart it home. The ruby strawberries glimmer, covering tables, overflowing from their containers. You can just imagine how red they are on the inside, and you take one from the little sample bowl to confirm your suspicion. They taste almost as much like candy as they do like fruit, they are so sweet and perfect in every way.
So you haul it all to your car and then to your kitchen. And then reality strikes. It’s Monday again and no, you’re not going to get around to making that strawberry pistachio pie you’ve been pining after, or pickling that rhubarb to go with the pâté you brought home from the market. You feel guilty, seeing those sad fruits softening by the day every time you open the fridge.
When it comes to fruit that is beginning to turn, I used to turn to compote (the rhubarb) or freeze them smoothies (the strawberries), but this summer that all changes. I started making shrubs, aka drinking vinegars. It’s painfully simple, goes perfectly well with just sparkling water on those long warm days when you want something fruity and tangy and refreshing, and can welcome a taste of your favorite gin or tequila when those long summer days turn into warm evenings and you want a cocktail to sip while you light up the grill.
It seems shrubs are the fancier version of my dad’s old “it’s-too-hot-out” beverage: a Perrier with an entire lemon juiced in. Tart and bubbly and immediately cooling. They take a little forethought, yes, but in all they take about 15 minutes to make and your friends or guests or whomever is lucky enough to partake will be impressed and thankful. I promise.
Soba noodles have become a staple in my kitchen. I have always liked them, but as the weather has been slowly getting warmer, and there’s lovely produce all around, they have been appearing more often in my kitchen. I love them with a light sauce made of rice vinegar and lime juice. But the true beauty of soba noodles, to me, is that they are delicious cold. The day after you make them, and they’ve been sitting in whatever sauce you’ve tossed them with, they become ultra flavorful and refreshing. I am a big fan. And I think you should be too.
Jonah came home this week, on Monday actually, and I had a feeling that cooking might not be exactly what he wanted to do the moment he stepped of the plane. So on Sunday night I made a big batch of soba noodles tossed with roasted zucchini, fresh mango, and a light citrus-y sauce. I ate a small bowl, and threw the rest in the fridge, knowing that it would be delicious the next day for dinner with some roasted green beens (also in the fridge).
I love how colorful this dish is, how summery it is, and how packed with flavor. I think it’d make a great cold side dish for a summer party (4th of July, anyone?), and it makes great leftovers to take to the office for lunch. You can add some seared tofu, or maybe even some grilled chicken.
Soba Noodles with Summer Squash and Mango
2 zucchini, julienned
2 summer squash, julienned
1 9-oz package buckwheat soba noodles
3/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp salt
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 jalapeño, finely chopped (and seeded, if you’re not feeling the heat)
juice and zest of 1 lime
1 Tbl sesame oil
1 ripe mango, peeled and julienned
~1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
~1/4 cup fresh mint, chopped
optional but recommended: chopped peanuts to top (I used about 1/4 cup), lime wedges
Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Toss the julienned zucchini and squash with olive oil and salt. Spread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Roast for 20-30 minutes, until lightly browned, tossing halfway through. Set aside to cool.
Cook the soba noodles as instructed on the package. Usually, this means boil them for about 4 minutes, drain them, rinse them with cold water, drain them, and spread them out on a dish towel to try.
While boiling the water for the noodles, combine the rice vinegar, sugar, and salt in a small pot over medium heat, stirring until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and add garlic and jalapeño. Allow to cool, then add the lime juice and zest as well as the sesame oil. Whisk to combine. Put the soba noodles in a bowl, and toss with the dressing. Add the squash, mango, herbs, and nuts to the noodles, tossing to combine. Garnish with a sprinkle more of chopped peanuts and a lime wedge. Enjoy with a light beer on a hot day.
A few weeks ago, my dad and Darla came down to Portland for my cousin Lia’s oral thesis defense. I really wanted to go to the farmer’s market before brunch, and Dad came along. My dad is a lover of produce. I cannot tell you how excited he got about the range of items available at our market (and how decently priced everything was compared to his fancy Seattle market). I’ve never seen someone so excited over nettles before.
Anyway, between the two of us, we bought 3 bunches of radishes. My dad, needing to drive back to Seattle with a large dog in the car, was trying to minimize his load as much as possible, ripped the radishes from the greens, and left the greens to me. A la Tamar, I knew I could use them, I just had to figure out how. And then it hit me: pesto.
I have since made 2 batches of the stuff, and people LOVE it. And you can use greens other than radish tops: kale, kohlrabi greens… anything green and leafy. The other beautiful thing about this recipe is that it’s not really a recipe – it’s more like guidelines. Use whatever you’ve got around (ergo the all-in title: you can put it all in), and put it on anything and everything. We started with pasta and went from there: we used it as a rub for a whole chicken and potatoes that we roasted, ate it with cheese and crackers and charcuterie, and (my favorite) topped some crusty bread with fromage blanc, the pesto, and a soft boiled egg.
Radish tops, stems picked off, and rinsed
A hard salty cheese, like pecorino romano or parmesan
Pine nuts or shelled pistachios (or any combination of the two)
Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
In a food processor combine all ingredients. It’s best to start with all of your greens, but about half of everything else, so that you can adjust flavor and texture to your liking. Pulse until smooth, and enjoy!