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Mid-summer and the family gatherings, reunions and other get togethers arein full swing.
The grill has most likely been fired up every weekend, and now, those of us who grow gardens are beginning to see the results of all our hard work.
String beans are nearly ready for picking, lettuce and spinach have been regulars on the menu for a few weeks, and scallions, parsley and a bit of basil are ready to flavor salads and other hot weather meals.
More wonderfully fresh produce will be ready for the feasting in a few short weeks, adding even more nutrition and great taste to summer.
The temperatures have skyrocketed at times, tempered by an occasional thunderstorm and pouring rain. So far this summer, my garden has had about the right amount of rain and sunshine. I’m looking forward to abundant crops, unless the cycle drastically changes and the insect pests don’t beat me to the produce.
I love this time of year when the freshest vegetables begin producing and are only a couple of hundred feet outside the front door. Can’t get much more local than that!
For those who don’t grow vegetable gardens, farmers’ markets have popped up nearly everywhere, and sometimes, family gardeners offer their extra produce by the side of the road for really reasonable costs.
However you get your vegetables, now’s the time to enjoy them.
For those of us heading out to potluck gatherings of friends and family, here are a couple of dishes to bring along.
Dry beans are one of the most nutritious, and relatively low priced foods available to us. This first recipe uses some of them along with fresh scallions, peppers, and cilantro as well as healthy barley.
Good-For-You Bean Salad (serves 6)
One-half cup pearl barley simmered in two cups water for about 45 minutes.Let cool.
One-half cup brown rice simmered in 1 and a half cups water for 25 minutes. Let cool.
1 cup canned black beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup canned corn, drained
one-half cup fresh scallions or green onions, sliced
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
one-quarter cup chopped fresh cilantro
One-quarter cup red wine vinegar
2 large garlic cloves, minced
one-half teaspoon salt
one-quarter teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
one-quarter teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
one-half cup olive oil
Combine all salad ingredients in a large bowl. In a separate bowl or covered container, combine all dressing ingredients
and stir or shake well. Pour over salad. Chill for at least two hours before serving.
Chickpeas or garbanzos are also wonderfully nutritious and combine well with many ingredients.
Chickpea Salad (serves 4; may be doubled)
1 15-ounce can chickpeas, drained rinsed and patted dry
one-half cup finely diced red onion
one-half cup ripe tomatoes, diced
one-half cup green bell pepper, seeded and diced
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
3 tablespoons garlic, minced
3 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons olive oil
Carefully combine all salad ingredients in a bowl. In a covered container, combine the dressing ingredients and shake well.
Pour over salad. Let stand at room temperature for an hour or so. Refrigerate any leftovers.
And finally, here’s a simple, tasty pasta salad.
Rotini and Vegetable Salad (serves 6)
One-half pound rotini, cooked, drained and chilled
5 plum tomatoes, diced
8 ounces shredded mozzarella cheese
1 can corn, drained (optional)
1 green bell pepper, seeded and diced
handful of fresh basil, chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Mix all ingredients except the olive oil and vinegar and salt and pepper in a serving bowl. Slowly mix in the oil and vinegar, stirring well. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. This salad is best when made several hours ahead of time, then refrigerated.
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