Just For The Halibut

The sweltering hot summer months find me steering away from preparing heavier cuts of meat such as beef or chicken for dinner and opting for more seafood entrees. Fish and shrimp are super quick and easy to prepare so you're in and out of the kitchen in a flash and not slaving over a hot stove for so long. I was even surprised to learn that some of the flash-frozen fish can be cooked from a frozen state, so thawing is not necessary. Am I the only person who didn't know this?

And you guessed it ~ this is yet another recipe containing fresh garden vegetables (I seriously think my squash is multiplying like rabbits.)  Halibut is my fish of choice for most recipes because it's firm and mild in taste, but feel free to use any firm, white fleshed fish in this recipe from an old back issue of Cooking Light.   I like sea bass too, but since it's over-fished and politically incorrect to buy I have to keep that little secret to myself.  When I see it on a restaurant menu, I sometimes order it just for the hell of it. 

Halibut with Summer Vegetables

Serving Size : 4
Categories : Seafood

Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
4 - 6 oz. striped halibut fillet
1/2 teaspoon salt -- divided
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1 tablespoon olive oil -- divided
cooking spray
1 cup yellow squash -- julienned
1 cup zucchini -- julienned
1 cup carrot -- julienned
1 cup red onion -- vertically sliced
3/4 cup fennel stalk -- julienned
1/4 cup fresh basil -- chopped
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
3 cloves garlic -- minced

Sprinkle fish with 1/4 tsp salt and black pepper.

Heat 1 tsp olive oil in large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until hot. Add fish; cook 3 minutes on each side or until fish flakes easily with a fork. Remove from skillet; keep warm.

Combine 1/4 tsp salt, 2 tsp oil, squash, and next 8 ingredients and toss well. Wipe skillet with paper towel; recoat with cooking spray. Add veggie mixture; and saute 4 minutes or until crisp-tender. Serve fish over veggies.

"Cooking Light"

Fresh from the Farm

One of my most favorite summertime side dishes to prepare is this fresh Farmstand Saute, not only because it's easy and versatile and compliments everything but because it uses the over-abundant vegetables from my garden.  Feel free to use whatever combination of veggies and herbs you have on hand (I even use a sprinkle of dried Italian seasoning in the rare instances where I don't have fresh herbs on hand), but don't leave out the "secret" ingredient ~ the splash of vinegar at the end of cooking.  Vinegar elevates the flavor of the veggies and adds just a bit of Oomph!

This recipe is just a guideline so let your imagination run wild and use fresh corn cut from the cob or maybe even green beans.

Farmstand Saute
Serves 4

2 teaspoons olive oil
2 medium yellow squash, sliced on the bias
2 medium zucchini, sliced on the bias
1/2 cup onion, vertically sliced
1 bell pepper (any color), sliced
1-1/2 cup tomatoes, chopped & seeded (if you use cherry tomatoes, just slice them in half)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh basil or parsley
salt & pepper, to taste
2 teaspoons white wine or rice wine vinegar

Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.  Add squash, zucchini, onion and bell pepper and a saute approximately 7 minutes.  Add tomatoes and season veggies with salt and pepper.  Saute approximately 2-3 minutes more or just until tomatoes are heated through.  During the last minute of cooking, add vinegar and stir well.  Remove from heat and add fresh herbs.  Taste for seasonings.

All Ramped Up

Listerine's next ad campaign

When I tell all of my city slicker friends that I went home to Tennessee for the Ramp Festival, they have no clue what I'm talking about. I think they envision me on a gnarly skateboard doing some smooth Tony Hawk moves on a steep ramp in a bitchin' park. Either way, their expression is just as perplexed as if I were actually doing just that. Maybe you know the ramp as Allium tricoccum, but I bet not. How about a wild leek or wild onion? Yeah...now you're getting the picture.

A ramp grows in the wild in North America as far south as South Carolina all the way up into areas of Canada (but only on the somewhat shady northern side of the areas where it's found to be growing) and is harvested in the spring. There are festivals, websites and even Facebook pages dedicated to "The King of Stink" and it has recently made a resurgence into upscale restaurants and local cuisines. Where I come from though, we don't worry about fancyin' up no ramps when we eat 'em!  We fry 'em up in some grease with some taters and serve 'em alongside pinto beans, chow chow and streaked meat.  (In order to appear as if you really know what you're talking about here, you have to make the word "streaked" into two syllables.  Say it with me:  Stree-ked.  "Stree" with a long "e" sound and "ked" just like the shoes. )

Streaked Meat

That's some good eatin' right there, my friends!

For those of you who've never tried them before, there is one caveat when it comes to ramps ~ when cooked, they are as mild and delicious as a what we know as a scallion or onion or shallot but when consumed raw....well, I feel sorry for anybody standing within a 10-foot radius of you. Raw ramps are potent as evidenced in this setup for the ramp eating contest. Each contestant gets a pack of gum to help alleviate the after effects. One brave woman volunteered to enter the contest much to the horror of her husband because he knew he'd have to enter too just to be able to tolerate her for the next few days! My grandmother tells a story of my uncle eating ramps when he was young, coming home and going into his room for bed and shutting the door behind him. When she opened the door the next morning to wake him, the fumes nearly knocked her down.

In addition to delicious, down-home cooking, the ramp festival held in Flag Pond, TN featured music from local musicians, t-shirts for purchase and a chance to catch up with people I haven't seen in ages. It was an excellent trip home and a chance to get back to the roots of my heritage.

Even after 40+ years of blissful, happy marriage there are some things even my mother won't do for my dad.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

This year, I planted a vegetable garden for the first time in many years. A few years of living in a condo with no space for a garden coupled with spending several years married to someone who stroked out at the mere thought of someone walking on his precious grass, let alone striking a shovel into the ground pretty much put my green thumb on the back burner.
But now I have my own yard and I can stomp on the grass if I want or I can dig up a corner of the back yard and plant a garden if I damn well please. And that is exactly what I did. My dear friend Chris spent an afternoon helping me till up the rock-hard ground and putting together a 4x4 raised garden bed that I bought from Home Depot ~ well, actually he did all the work and I watched because he had just
given me a lecture some friendly advice about needing to appear more vulnerable and alot less stubborn and independent. When all was said and done, I acted so pitiful and helpless that he ended up using some scrap lumber and maxing out my garden space. Is he awesome or what??

When I bought my plants back in the spring, I'll admit to being overly excited because it had been so long since I'd planned a garden. In hindsight, I'm thinking 5 eggplant plants were about 4 too many and now that I'm afraid that I'll be strangled in the middle of the night by one of my rogue yellow squash plants, I'll scale back to only one plant next year. I have serious thoughts of tossing squash into the car windows of passers-by just to get rid of them! Some of the veggies did exceptionally well while some weren't as plentiful as I had hoped and I grew broccoli for the first time ever. I'm looking so forward to researching things for a winter garden as I've never done that either. In the meantime, enjoy some quick and easy recipes that show off your garden bounty, starting with Panzanella. Panzanella is also an excellent way to use up leftover bread that may be lingering on your kitchen counter or taking up precious space in your freezer!

Panzanella Bread Salad Recipe
from Simplyrecipes.com

As you cut the tomatoes, remove some of the seeds and liquid. Your panzanella will be juicy enough. Leave the crusts on the bread chunks; they will stay chewier and give the panzanella more substance.

4 cups tomatoes, cut into large chunks
4 cups day old (somewhat dry and hard) crusty bread (Italian or French loaf), cut into chunks the same size as the tomatoes*
1 cucumber, skinned and seeded, cut into large chunks
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 bunch fresh basil, torn into little pieces
1/4 to 1/2 cup good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
* If you don't have hard old bread sitting around, you can take fresh crusty bread, cut it into big cubes, lay the cubes out on a baking sheet, and put in a 300°F oven for 5-10 minutes, until the outer edges have dried out a bit (not toasted, just dried). If you use fresh bread without doing this, the bread may disintegrate into mush in the salad.

Mix everything together and let marinate, covered, at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, up to 12 hours. Do not refrigerate or you will destroy the texture of the tomatoes.

Serve at room temperature.

Yield: Serves 6-8.

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