by Jenni McHugh
Like me, you are probably feeling just fine about leaving behind the rainiest June we’ve had in eight years. Several gardeners and farmers I know have either lost their gardens completely to flash-flooding or are far behind schedule in planting their later-season crops and cultivating weeds, standing water in the fields making it impossible to accomplish routine activities on a regularly scheduled basis. Some have been hit harder than others, but I think it’s safe to say that no one has been happy with June’s rainy onslaught. So here’s to a moderate transition into summer so that the soil can dry out long enough for all plant enthusiasts, whether growing a single tomato plant or a field of cabbage, to remember what they liked about getting their hands in the dirt in the first place.
Rain clouds or no, the June-July transition is a lovely time of year because one can literally taste the progress from spring into summer. We are still crunching into the bright green peas of spring, but also get to savor the sweet earthiness of red, ripe beets. Local lettuce abounds alongside new potatoes in all their creamy whiteness. With basil sending forth its pungent aroma, we know that fresh, local tomatoes can’t be far behind. Eating according to what’s in season has its disadvantages, most notably in the dead of winter, but at this time of year, all I can think about is what combination of local produce I can try next.
Pasta Primavera Gregory
Adapted from The Silver Palate Cookbook by Julee Rosso and Sheila Lukins
A light and lovely tangle of pasta and fresh vegetables… Feel free to substitute your favorite fresh vegetables and herbs in the appropriate quantities. [For instance, instead of peppers, try green beans or zucchini. If you don’t have raspberry vinegar, try red wine vinegar].
4 Tbs. salt, plus additional to taste
½ pound green fettucine
½ pound regular egg fettucine
1/3 cup best-quality olive oil
½ cup finely chopped purple onion
¾ pound snow peas
1/3 pound sugar snap peas
¾ pound sliced prosciutto, cut into coarse julienne
2 ripe plum tomatoes, quartered
2 sweet red peppers, stemmed, cored, cut into fine julienne
8 scallions, cleaned, trimmed, cut diagonally into ½-inch pieces
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbs. raspberry vinegar
¼ cup Parmesan cheese
1 cup imported black olives (any kind)
grated zest of 1 orange, 1 lemon or 1 lime
1.Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil in a large pot. Add 2 tablespoons salt and stir in the fettucine. Cook until tender but still firm, and drain immediately. Transfer the pasta to a large mixing bowl, add the olive oil and chopped onion, and toss gently to combine. Set aside to cool to room temperature.
2.Bring another 4 quarts water to a boil. Add 2 tablespoons salt, the snow peas and sugar snap peas. Cook for 1 minutes, drain, and plunge peas immediately into a large bowl of ice water. Let stand for 10 minutes. Drain peas and pat thoroughly dry.
3.Add peas to the pasta in the mixing bowl along with the prosciutto, tomatoes, red pepper, scallions and chives or herbs to taste. Season with salt and pepper, sprinkle on raspberry vinegar to taste, and toss gently.
4.Toss the pasta primavera with the Parmesan, taste, and correct seasoning. Arrange pasta on a serving platter. Scatter olives and citrus zest over the pasta and serve at room temperature.
Beet Salad in
From The New Vegetarian Epicure by Anna Thomas
Raspberry vinegar and a little honey give this salad a surprising delicacy. This salad used both the beets and their greens, so choose young beets that have fresh, crisp greens.
2 bunches young beets (1 ½ lbs. without tops)
8 whole cloves garlic, unpeeled
3 cups sliced beet greens, packed
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 Tbs. honey
3 Tbs. raspberry vinegar
1 large stalk celery, diced
¼ cup finely chopped red onion
salt and pepper to taste
garnish: ½ cup crumbled Roquefort cheese or feta cheese
1.Cut the greens off the beets, leaving about ½ inch of stem, reserve the greens, and scrub the beets well. Arrange the damp beets close together on a sheet of heavy-duty aluminum foil and scatter 8 unpeeled garlic cloves over them. Wrap the beets in the foil, folding over and crimping the edges to make a tight seal. Bake the beets in the foil packet in a 400 oven for about 1 hour and 15 minutes.
2.Meanwhile, wash the beet greens, discard those that are anything less than fresh and lovely, and cut off the stems. Slice the greens in ½-inch strips; you should have at least 3 cups firmly packed.
3.Heat the olive oil in a non-stick sauté pan, add the minced garlic, stir for ½ minute, then add the sliced beet greens and a sprinkle of salt. Toss over a medium flame until the greens are completely wilted and sizzling in the pan, about 5-6 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat.
4.In a small bowl, whisk together the honey and the raspberry vinegar. Drizzle 2 tablespoons of this mixture over the beet greens in the warm pan and toss to combine thoroughly.
5.When the beets are cool enough to handle, slip off their skins and cut them into slices or chunks. Squeeze out the soft garlic, mash itwith a fork, and whisk it into the remaining vinegar-honey mixture. Pour this over the beets ina bowl, and add the diced celery, chopped red onion, salt and pepper to taste, and the sautéed greens. Mix everythings together well.
6.Serve the salad warm or at room temperature, alone or on bed of tender young curly endive [or lettuce]. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of crumbled cheese.