A little secret about Maya: she is in an exclusive club of two. Maya and Triple A are the only ones that send me mail that I actually don’t mind opening. About a year ago, she sent me The Kitchen Diaries, A Year in the Kitchen with Nigel Slater, through Amazon, along with a message that it reminded her of our first combined cooking experience. The book, which reads like a food blog, is always sitting out somewhere in my house. It contains both recipes and prose focused on the seasonal food in the life of Nigel Slater. Not a book to read cover-to-cover, The Kitchen Diaries provides in-the-moment inspiration. With beautiful writing and photographs, this is a great book to randomly send to a friend. (Thanks, Maya!)
On Monday, I had a few guests over for dinner and it was clear that I needed to use the produce piling up from my CSA and garden. The book was the perfect source for recipes. I read all of the entries for June, July and August and came up with my menu: Roasted Beet Salad with Orange Dressing (an internet find), Roasted Vegetable Soup and Peach and Blueberry Sour Cream Cobbler.
The striped beets from my CSA – the largest ones I’ve seen locally this year – made up the guts of the salad, with spicy mixed greens (from a pot on my back porch), an orange-spiked vinaigrette and goat cheese working as supporting flavors. The recipe for the vinaigrette is here.
Nigel’s recipe for the soup is a guideline of sorts, a use-whatever-you-have sort of thing. And so I did. My summer squash found a home within this soup, and I was thrilled that for once, I didn’t need to spend an hour in the grocery store to entertain. This garden thing finally paid off.
The cobbler was definitely the winner, though, sadly, the ingredients did not grow in my yard or come in my weekly grab bag. The blueberries were from Holland, Michigan – the town where I spent my childhood summers. They’re local if only in my heart. Nigel’s simple recipe allowed the fruit to shine; it wasn’t overloaded with sugar. A simple tablespoon of powdered sugar was more than enough for the entire dish.
I’m eager to use The Kitchen Diaries as a guide as the season and Wayward Seed Farm dump more vegetables into my lap. With gorgeous photography and unconstricted recipes, this book gives me a sneak preview to what’s in store.
A Soup of Roasted Summer Vegetables
1/2 lb. tomatoes
a medium onion
2 or 3 small summer carrots
a small bulb of fennel
2 large cloves garlic
3 generous TB. olive oil
medium zucchini, thickly sliced (I also added summer squash)
hot vegetable stock (I used chicken)
2 bay leaves
1 cup small dried pasta
cabbage (I omitted)
1 oz. Parmesan
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees. Remove the stalks from the tomatoes and discard them, then put the tomatoes in a roasting pan. Peel and roughly chop the onion, then slice the carrots into short lengths, halve and slice the fennel and add all to the tomatoes. Peel the garlic and slice it thinly, then toss it with the vegetables and the olive oil. Roast for forty to forty-five minutes, till the vegetables are soft and pale gold.
Tip the vegetables into a deep saucepan, add the thickly sliced zucchini (and summer squash!) and pour over the stock. Season with salt, pepper and the bay leaves. Bring to a boil, then turn down to a simmer and leave to cook for twenty minutes.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it and add the pasta, letting it cook until it is tender but still has some bite – probably about nine minutes or so. Shred the cabbage, grate the Parmesan, tear the basil into pieces. Check the seasoning of the soup, then stir in the cooked and drained pasta, the cabbage and half the basil. Continue to simmer for five minutes or so. Ladle into warm bowls and scatter over with the remaining basil and grated Parmesan.
Peach and Blueberry Sour Cream Cobbler
3 ripe peaches
3 1/2 cups blueberries
the juice of one lemon
1 TB. powdered sugar
1 TB. flour
For the crust:
1 1/2 flour
a pinch of salt
2 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 TB. powdered sugar
6 TB. butter
4 oz. sour cream
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. For the cobbler crust, put the flour, salt, baking powder, sugar and butter in a food processor and process for few seconds, until the mixture resembles soft, fresh breadcrumbs. Tip into a bowl.
Slice the peaches, pulling the stones out as you go and dropping the fruit into an oven-safe dish. Toss the sliced peaches with the blueberries, lemon juice, sugar and flour.
Mix the sour cream into the crumb mixture. You will have a soft dough. Break off walnut-sized pieces and flatten them lightly. Lay them on top of the fruit. Dust the rounds of dough with sugar, then bake in the preheated oven for twenty-five minutes. till the cobbler is golden and the fruit is bubbling.