Solve the eternal ‘What’s for dinner?’ question with these delicious recipes
It’s hot, you’re sweaty and, dammit, you’re hungry.
Summer is a great time for eating, especially because there are so many fresh fruits and vegetables available. The best cooks, everyone knows, use produce that’s in season and bought straight from the grower, so head down to the Farmers’ Markets on Thursday evenings and Saturday mornings to stock up on the freshest strawberries, corn, tomatoes, peaches and peppers you’ll find anywhere.
Then head straight home and cook them up with these handy-dandy recipes. Keep in mind that all amounts given are approximate—I’m the kind of cook who uses the “Little bit of this, little bit of that” theory of cooking, and I don’t usually measure exact amounts. So get creative, and enjoy.
Summer Corn Salad
5-6 ears of corn, shucked and boiled for about 5 minutes.
1 small red onion, chopped small
3-4 tbsp. cider vinegar
3-4 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper
1 small bunch fresh basil, chopped
After the corn has cooled, slice the kernels off the cob. Be careful! Using fresh corn makes this a bit more difficult to put together, but it’s absolutely essential. Canned or frozen corn doesn’t taste nearly as sweet as the fresh stuff.
Toss the kernels in with the rest of the ingredients. It’s best at room temperature and served with something from the BBQ, like pork ribs smothered in sweet-tangy BBQ sauce. Perfect for a summer night.
Chopped Veggie Salad
3-4 carrots, sliced
1 red bell pepper
1 yellow bell pepper
1 green bell pepper
1 bunch green onions, chopped
1 bunch cilantro
1 can corn
2-3 tomatoes, chopped
1 avocado, chopped
4 cooked chicken breasts, chopped
bottled Italian dressing
Simply chop all ingredients (except the corn, of course), and toss in bowl. Mix in Italian dressing, to taste. I use Bernstein’s Cheese Fantastico. Tastes best at room temperature. This is as easy as cooking gets. For those with vegetarian sensibilities, this is just as good without the chicken.
Grilled Salmon Salad
2 lbs. salmon fillets
2-3 stalks celery
1 small red onion, minced into tiny pieces
2 tbsp. fresh dill, minced
2 tbsp. capers, drained
2 tbsp. raspberry vinegar (you can use cider vinegar, too)
2 tbsp. olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
My mom used to make this when I was a kid. She’d buy a whole salmon (since they’re so much cheaper than the filleted and skinned steaks) and cut them up and skin them herself. My sister and I thought the process was gross but loved the results.
Rub the salmon fillets with a good olive oil and some salt and pepper. Grill for several minutes on each side, but keep the fish rare. You don’t want to overcook, or the salad will be dry. Remove from grill and chill the fillets until they’re firm and cold.
Break the fillets into meaty flakes in a bowl. Add the celery, capers, onion, herbs, oil and vinegar. Salt and pepper to taste. This, too, tastes best at room temperature, and the leftovers are fabulous on sourdough for sandwiches.
12 carrots (give or take)
3 tbsp. good-quality olive oil
generous pinches of salt and pepper
2 tbsp. parsley
This is as easy as it gets. Slice the carrots in large chunks, and diagonally. They should be about 2-inch slices. Toss the in a bowl with the oil, salt and pepper and parsley. Spread on a cookie sheet in a single layer (this is important!) and roast in the oven for 30 minutes or so. Carrots will be browned, spicy and just a little bit soft when they’re done. Perfect for snacking!
Best Pecan Bars
1/4 lbs. butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 tsp. vanilla
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp. baking powder
1/4 tsp. salt
1 lb. butter
1 cup good-quality honey
3 cups light-brown sugar
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. orange zest
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 lbs. pecans, coarsely chopped
Everyone knows that Butte County grows a lot of almonds, so you can substitute them for the pecans if you want to help support our local economy. For that matter, you can use whatever kind of nut you want for these delicious bars!
First, preheat your oven to 350 degrees. To make the crust, beat the butter and sugar in an electric mixer until it’s light and creamy, about 3 minutes. Add the eggs and vanilla. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt, and mix into the butter and sugar mixture. Mix just until it comes together (not too long!!) and then press evenly into a large, ungreased baking pan. Bake for 15 minutes, until crust is set but not brown, and allow to cool.
For the topping, mix the butter, honey, brown sugar, and citrus zests in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Melt butter, then raise the heat and allow to boil for 3 minutes or so. Remove from the heat and stir in cream and pecans. Pour over the crust. Bake for 20 minutes, until filling is set. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
You can make these even more delicious by melting chocolate and dipping half of your refrigerated bars into the melted chocolate before serving. They’re just as good without it, though, so follow your bliss!
Peach Raspberry Crisp
4 to 5 lbs. fresh, ripe peaches
1 1/2 cup sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1/2 pint raspberries
pinch of salt
1 cup quick-cook oatmeal
1/2 lb. cold butter
There are two kinds of people in life: those who like fresh peach crisp in the summer and those who love fresh peach crisp in the summer. I’m one of the latter, and this is the best peach crisp I’ve ever eaten. Key to this recipe is the use of fresh peaches, so make sure you buy yours straight from the grower at the Farmers’ Market (or pick them off your own tree).
If you don’t want peach skins in your crisp, immerse the peaches for just a few seconds in boiling water, and the skins will almost fall off by themselves. Slice the peaches (skinned or not) into thick wedges and put them a bowl with some orange zest, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar and two tablespoons of flour. Mix well. If there’s a lot of liquid, add another tablespoon or two of flour.
In another bowl, mix up 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oatmeal and the cold, diced butter. It works best if you do this with a Kitchenaid mixer, until your mixture is a loose crumble.
Pour the fruit into a baking dish, sprinkle the crumble on top and bake for an hour, until the top is brown and the fruit juices are bubbling over the top.
Best eaten with a dollop of vanilla ice cream while sitting on a porch on a hot night.