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From the Seasonal Kitchen (07/11/2010)
by Jenah Hensel

I really love summertime. Its not only because I loathe winter so much, although I have to admit thatís a lot of it. I get excited when summer rolls around because I get to go the pool and enjoy the sunshine. One of the best parts of summer, however, is all the yummy food that this season brings. The strawberries and asparagus have popped and I am eagerly awaiting the tomatoes, sweet corn, and of course, the watermelon.

I grew up in the 80s and 90s and to be honest, the idea of eating seasonally is sort of a new idea to me. I mean, when you wanted to eat tomatoes in the middle of January, you did. No matter how pink or flavorless they were. And I didnít really know what a farm stand was, unless it meant the kids selling sweet corn out of the back of their dadís truck. I also spent most of my childhood disliking fruit. And thinking it was sort of gross.

That is, until I spent a summer in Italy doing my college internship. My eyes were suddenly opened to what fruits and vegetables were supposed to taste like. I actually got excited about fruit. I loved it. It didnít taste like the inside of a cardboard box. It was juicy. It was flavorful. And there was something interesting about the way we ate. What we ate was a lot of the same things over and over again. Because it was in season.

Being that we live in Minnesota, we are definitely at the mercy of the seasons. We do have to get a little creative in the middle of January, but that is why I love summer so much. We can march right down to the farm stand and purchase something that most definitely does not taste like the inside of a cardboard box.

Here are a couple recipes that use some yummy summertime treats.

Rarebit Risotto

from Moosewoodís Simple Suppers

1 quart broth (vegetable or chicken)

1 tablespoon olive oil

1Ĺ cups Arborio rice

12 oz beer (1Ĺ cups)

3 cups chopped broccoli

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

10 ounces grated sharp Cheddar cheese (about 4 cups)

2 cups chopped tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes

sprinkling of black pepper

In a saucepan, bring the broth to a boil and then reduce heat to maintain a gentle simmer.

Meanwhile, in a large, heavy saucepan on medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the rice and stir until well coated with the oil. Add the beer and stir until the rice has absorbed the liquid, a couple of minutes. Ladle the simmering broth a cup at a time, stirring often. Let the rice absorb most of the broth before adding the next cup, usually this takes about 5 minutes between additions.

While the rice is cooking, steam the broccoli until bright green and just tender. Set aside.

When the last of the broth is absorbed, the kernels of rice should be al dente and the risotto moist. Add the mustard and cheese to the risotto and stir until the cheese is melted. Stir in the broccoli and tomatoes, season with black pepper and salt. Serve hot.

Serves four. Total time: 40 minutes. If you have been afraid of ristottos, try this one. Itís pretty forgiving and awfully good. Kids love this dish, too. Bonus!

Spinach and Artichoke Wrap

From Everyday Food Magazine (a Martha Stewart publication)

1 can (15 ounces) artichoke hearts packed in water, well drained

2 whole-wheat sandwich wraps (12 inch size)

8 slices provolone cheese (4 ounces)

1 red bell pepper (ribs and seeds removed), cut into strips

1 cup baby spinach, packed

coarse salt and ground pepper

Wrap artichoke hearts in paper towels; squeeze out liquid and coarsely chop. Set sandwich wraps on work surface. Lay 4 cheese slices down the center of each, leaving a 1 inch border at top and bottom. Diving evenly between wraps, layer artichoke pieces, bell pepper, and spinach on top of cheese. Season with salt and pepper.

Fold in tops and bottoms of wraps about 1 inch, then roll tightly from one of the open sides to enclose filling. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Refrigerate until ready to serve, up to overnight.

If youíre gluten-free, like I am, you could use corn tortillas in place of the whole-wheat wraps.

Makes two. Place in a cooler with some refreshing drinks on ice and youíre ready for a fun adventure. In my opinion, this sounds like the perfect pool-side, summer food. Cíest mangnifique!



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