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Weekend Inspiration

Spring Summer has arrived!

Not so long ago, it was still spring.  Between a glorious weekend of perfect late spring weather (a true rarity in DC, let’s be honest), and a fully functional kitchen for the first time in weeks… very long weeks… I got a *bit* excited at the farmers market & took full advantage.  So this is a mish-mash of what resulted.

IMG_5594For me, the bounty of farmers markets in spring and summer mean one thing: simple dishes that come together quickly, without extreme effort, and let the fresh flavor of the produce come through.

IMG_5621Zucchini and I have a very uneasy relationship.  Well, most squash and I, really. So often it’s prepared to the point that it’s so squishy, I just can’t like it.  Though, I keep trying.  (My Italian college roommate’s fried zucchini has pretty much been the only exception to this… but let’s be honest, I haven’t met a battered & fried vegetable I didn’t like… and once battered and fried, does it still count as a vegetable? Either way, they’re delicious!).  I have found, through trial and error, that the secret for me to enjoy summer squash is to barely cook it.  Tossed with fresh blossoms as well, this has become a fast favorite of mine.  A quick sauté of the vegetables, gently mixed with pasta, olive oil, and parmesan cheese… dinner is served!  (and teaser: meaty version to come in future post).

IMG_5620

I was in San Francisco this fall, and picked up a great cookbook: The San Francisco Ferry Plaza Farmer’s Market Cookbook. It’s a great resource for ideas, and what to do with those things I find at the farmers market, and just don’t know how best to use.

IMG_5616The Shaved Raw Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette and Beets with Blue Cheese and Candied Walnuts were a grand success.  I made a smaller version of the beets, and served over a pile of arugula.

IMG_5619I hope your weekend has been full of happy times and tasty dishes.

Summer Squash Blossom Pasta
Ingredients
8-10 squash blossoms, sliced in half lengthwise, or quarters
2 large, or 6 baby squash sliced or diced to your preference
2 Tbsp Olive Oil
1/4 cup freshly shaved parmesan cheese
1/2 lb pasta

Directions
While pasta boils, gently saute sliced squash in a skillet with 1 Tbsp olive oil for about 2-4 minutes. Add blossoms for 1 minute.
Drain pasta, and toss with additional Tbsp olive oil & squash. Sprinkle with cheese and enjoy.

Shaved Raw Asparagus with Lemon Vinaigrette
Ingredients
12 medium spears of asparagus, touch ends snapped off
2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup olive oil (I used less, maybe 4 Tbsp)
salt & freshly ground black pepper
2 oz parmesan cheese

Directions
Using a mandoline, slice the asparagus spears thinly. (or, if you don’t have a mandoline, like me, just slice as thin as you can without slicing your fingers in the process). Toss the asparagus slices with the lemon juice, olive oil, salt & pepper. Shave parmesan over top, and serve.

Beets with Blue Cheese and Candied Walnuts
Ingredients
6 to 8 medium-sized beets, greens removed
1 shallot, minced
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
salt & freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup candied walnuts, roughly chopped
arugula leaves (about 4 cups)

Directions
Preaheat the oven to 400 deg.
Wrap the beets individually in aluminum foil, twisting the ends, and place them on a baking sheet. Bake until a fork easily pierces the flesh, about an hour, depending on their size.

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the shallot, vinegar, salt and pepper. Let stand at least 5 minutes or up to a few hours, then whisk in the olive oil to make a vinaigrette.

When the beets are ready, remove them from the oven and unwrap. Once cool enough to handle, peel off the skin with your fingers or a small knife. Slice the beets into wedges or thick rounds and place in a bowl. Add the vinaigrette and toss to coat evenly.

Spread beets over arugula, sprinkle on the cheese and walnuts, and serve.

Candied Walnuts
Ingredients
1/2 cup firmly packed brown sugar
1/2 cup water
1 pound walnut halves
2 Tbsp unsalted butter
pinch of salt

Directions
Preheat the oven to 250 deg.
In a large, heavy skillet, combine the sugar and water over medium-high heat and cook, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar dissolves and the syrupy mixture comes to a boil.  Add the walnuts, butter, and salt and turn the walnuts continuously until it thickens and almost no liquid remains.

Spread the walnuts on a rimmed baking sheet in a single layer. Place in oven and toast for 15 to 20 minutes until good and crunchy.
Cool completely on the pan. Store in a jar with tight-fitting lid for up to 2 weeks, or use immediately.

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