Tuesday, August 18, 2009

fresh ideas: tomato, onions, squash

so as you know, i seriously love shopping at farmers markets, and this past week was no exception (by the way, the red onions i've had the past couple weeks are sweet and mild and lovely). part of my love for the experience is in talking to the sellers, in most cases also the farmers. and i love taking and sharing pictures of each trip, noting how the crops change over the course of the season.

what i've learned is that i have to think strategically when i'm making my purchases, otherwise i'll end up with bowls full of beautiful, fresh produce that go bad - the dreaded produce pressure (see my post on produce storage here). i need to do my thinking about what i'll do with each item before i buy it. some background -- during the week, i really don't cook at all because i find that it just kills the night - by the time we get home from work, it's already after 7, if not later, and to spend half the night cooking and cleaning is just not okay with me.

so we do all kinds of quick, no or low-cook things - sandwiches, tortillas filled with all sorts of things and quick-melted, brown rice, jasmine rice, quinoa (all microwavable, all from trader joe's), fresh veggies quick-cooked by steam or grillpan. but i mean quick. sometimes i pre-cook things like grilled veggies and chicken on sunday or monday nights and then it's done and available the rest of the week in the fridge. weekday dinners are, in my house, a 10 minute kitchen-to-table affair, and that's an outside figure. the added challenge is to make the dinners healthy and fast, not just fast, so fresh ideas from the farmers market are a great addition.

here is what i did with this week's fresh finds, and i highly recommend them both.

tomato and onion salad

pint of yellow grape tomatoes, halved (can use any kind of tomato)
half of a small red onion sliced in thin strands (can use shallots or scallions)
two tablespoons of fresh basil, rough chopped (can use cilantro or dill)
two tablespoons fresh parsley, rough chopped
a few pinches of kosher salt
one pinch of pepper
three tablespoons balsamic vinegar

combine all the ingredients except parsley and allow to sit in refrigerator so flavors combine nicely. the longer the better. add the parsley and toss right before serving.

with this recipe, really the amounts and vegetables are up to you, but i do think grape tomatoes work best because they don't get mushy or fall apart the way others do - they hold their shape.

this is a great dish because you can have it so many ways...i made a large container of it last night and and had it over herb greens (trader joe's has the best around), and tonight, i'm having it mixed up with some quinoa, and i plan on using it in a wrap with turkey tomorrow. it's sort of like a salsa or relish in that you can use it as a condiment, but it also is very much it's own salad-like side dish. you could easily add corn to this, or some cucumbers or olives and take it in a greek direction, or serve chicken or fish over it, even put it on a crust or dough and eat it as a pizza or bruschetta. you really can't go wrong with it, and it couldn't be healthier.

roasted vegetables

here's what i need to say about this - do not overroast. i swear, a couple weeks ago i roasted vegetables so hard i made them disappear - seriously, i was like criss angel or something.

i have now learned that you need only roast them for about 25 minutes to get a great result. SO....i put sliced yellow and green squash and sliced white mushrooms into a large mixing bowl, and tossed them with a few spritzes of olive oil, kosher salt, fresh pepper and garlic powder (better than fresh garlic in this case in my opinion). then i spread them out evenly on a large sheet pan and roasted them at 450 for 25 minutes. and they were all there when i took the pan out! amazing!

if you're cooking this for people who don't like one or the other vegetable, you can roast them on separate pans (as pictured) and then combine. you could totally add onions or eggplant to this dish too, just watch the different cooking times for each vegetable. what i liked about the squash and mushroom combo is that they cook similarly, so that they are of similar texture when done.

i have been using these as a side dish, but they're also great as a fixin on veggie burgers (you could do it for any kind of burger). you could also add it to salad room temperature or warm, or cut up in a pasta dish. i saw a recipe not too long ago (can't remember where) that was for an easy summer lunch - a piece of crusty bread, toasted and drizzled with a little olive oil and topped with roasted zucchini and goat cheese. seriously? i don't even really like goat cheese and that sounds really good.

what are your freshest ideas today?

squash and mushroom photos from www.farm.1.flickr.com

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