End of Summer Salad

So this is it, the “end of summer” post. The chance to bid farewell to hot days, long nights, and amazing food. It really hit me last weekend. I was browsing around the farmer’s market and everywhere I looked there were hints of fall. Squashes of all shapes and sizes were mounded at every stand from quintessential round, orange pumpkins to my favorite bell-shaped butternuts, to the oddest assortments of lumpy, crooked, and cankered looking things that I’m not even sure how to cook. I even spotted some emerald heads of broccoli that I sorely regret passing up. But the buzz of the market came when one long-awaited truck pulled up late, harboring the very last supply of the summer’s sweet corn. I swear I’ve never seen such a rush of market-goers in my life elbowing to the front of the line for their cherished two-dozen ears. It was sheer mania. And yes I did get some, three plump ears for a mere dollar. They made for an outstanding lunch. I boiled them up, cut he kernels of the cob and tossed them with a simple mix of butter, parsley, cherry tomatoes, feta, and salt and pepper. I used the knife to scrape ever bit of warm, milky sweetness from the cob into my bowl which melted and mixed with the cheese to make a salty and tangysauce. It was a great way to end the harvest.

But now its fall, which is actually my favorite season for both the food and the weather. I love the root vegetables. I absolutely love the apples and pears. I love hot coffee on crisp mornings and warm pies on cool evenings. I love the hues of rust red, ochre, and goldenrod. I love corn mazes and pumpkin patches and apple cider and mulled wine. Fall is my elixir. And though the transition into the season in compliance with tropical storms galore made this past week miserable cold and drizzly, I sit here with my just purchased fall issue of Food Network magazine patiently waiting for the typical Autumn days. School has begun, stress has settled in, Senioritis is nagging at me, but fall will get me through. It always has.

But I’ll leave you with one last hurrah for summer. A semi-recipe that makes use of the leftover bits and bobs of summer produce. It’s a meatless nicoise salad of sorts made from leftovers and essentially made to suit your tastes and whatever is in the house. The dressing is just an estimate in terms of amounts but use your own judgment to make it how you think you would like it. So here it is.

Last of Summer Salad for One

Salad Ingredients
A handful of leftover potatoes, chopped roughly
A handful of leftover green beans, chopped roughly
1 boiled egg, chopped (reserve half the yolk for the dressing)
Toasted almonds, chopped
Real Parmesan cheese shavings

Dressing Ingredients
2 parts olive oil
2 parts white wine vinegar
1 part plain yogurt or sour cream
½ part Dijon mustard
The reserve half of the egg yolk
Salt and pepper

Mix the salad ingredients expect the Parmesan together in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the dressing ingredients until the egg yolk broken up and well incorporated. Pour the dressing over the salad and toss to coat. Top with the Parmesan and extra salt and pepper to taste. Enjoy outside, in the sun, with a cool glass of wine or sparkling fruit juice.

Harry Potter and an English Supper

I know that this is a food blog, and yes there is a recipe at the end of all of this, but I simply cannot neglect to mention the fact that just on Friday a legacy and phenomenon finally came to an end. Of course many of you know that I am talking about the release of the last Harry Potter movie which I saw at for the midnight showing. In terms of the Harry Potter craze, I was of the lucky group of people who were 10 years old when the books came out and 17 when they finished, so I literally grew up along with the main characters. This has made them special to me in a way that younger generations, who did not endure the 2 year long waits for the next books, will never understand. So now, with the release of the last movie, the end of it all is a bit sad.

The movie itself was enjoyable, but I cannot pretend it was my favorite. Unlike Hallows Part 1, full of suspense, tension, and darkness, Part 2 was filled with much more slapstick humor than I really thought necessary, turning moments where I wanted to be one the edge of my seat, biting my nails, into those where I don’t know if I should laugh or not. That along with Ralph Fiennes’ awkward performance, the slightly non-impressing special effects, and the fact I was in a theatre full of immature pre-teens in costume that whispered incessantly, the big bang I wanted to end with was a bit stunted. It was a good movie regardless and I highly applaud the hard work that went into it, but while the world seems to be ranking it as their favorite, I’m placing it about 3rd or 4thon my list.

On a more food related note, however, I was very pleased to see fellow food bloggers taking advantage of the Harry Potter excitement by recreating some of J.K Rowling’s better known HP food inventions. I saw some delicious recipes for pumpkin pasties, chocolate frogs (apparently you can buy frog shaped moulds somewhere), some adorable chocolate cauldrons that look like they took forever to make, and of course Butterbeer. I only saw this child-friendly version, but I’ve tried one with cream soda and butterscotch schnapps that definitely fulfills that warming-of-the-stomach factor.

Though I did not partake in this Harry Potter treats fiesta, I did, however, recently make a British-style Sunday supper complete with roast beef, gravy made from the drippings, roasted potatoes and carrots, and Yorkshire puddings. Don’t ask me what prompted this move…it was about 90 degrees outside and by the end of things my hair was a frizzled mess and my face greased from the excess number of steam blasts. But in hindsight, its deliciousness makes that issue unimportant.

However I warn you that a full Sunday supper, regardless of the time of year that you make it, is a time-consuming, arduous, sweat-inducing, and messy ordeal. It dirties nearly every dish in the house, as well as every countertop, and leaves no time for cleaning while cooking. Those British mothers really have quite a task for themselves every Sunday. My respect sincerely goes out to Mrs. Weasley…imagine doing this for a family of nine plus the many guests usually present at the Burrow. Though I guess a little magic probably eases the task.

This dinner’s preparation is almost a game of strategy and necessary of extraordinary time-management skills. The roast goes in the oven first, followed 30 minutes later by the vegetables. By the time the roast is cooked the veg should be halfway done, ensuring enough time to make the Yorkshire puddings while the potatoes finish. And while all of this is going on gravy bubbles away on the stove top, waiting to be messily strained through a sieve. Phew! But, I imagine when made in late fall and in the winter, the result would be welcome and comforting, and the experience, probably not much different from the beginning of term feast in the Great Hall of Hogwarts. And the thought of the leftovers the next day makes cleaning much more bearable.

Sunday Roast Supper
I have Jamie Oliver, king of British food, to thank for the recipes and his guidance as he led me to make a meal that I believe Mrs. Weasely would be proud of, Due the complexity, however, I’ll link you to the recipes for the roast, the gravy, and the Yorkshire pudding, and leave you to figure out the time management. I will however give you the roasted potato and carrot recipe, as it has become a new favorite way of preparing vegetables in our house and seasonally more appropriate. We’ve used the technique many times since and have found it a perfect way to prepare the summer’s delicious potatoes and other vegetables. Eat them on their own or as a side dish and the leftovers are great used in something like a frittata the next day.

Roasted Potatoes and Carrots
2 lb potatoes
6 carrots
3 sprigs fresh rosemary, plucked from the stalk
olive oil
salt and pepper

First, wash and peel your vegetables and preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Cut any large potatoes in half and cut the carrot in half lengthways. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the potatoes and carrots and let them rapidly boil for 8-10 minutes. Drain in a colander and let the vegetables steam dry for a minute.

Pluck out the carrots and set them aside. For the potatoes, however, shake them around in the colander until the sides are really scuffed up on every potato. The uneven edges will crisp up amazingly. Set these aside as well.

Put a large roasting pan on the stovetop over medium heat. Add about 3 or 4 lugs of olive oil into the pan and let it heat up. Add the sprigs of rosemary and mix them around for a second. (You can even add a few unpeeled garlic cloves at this point too if you want some garlic flavor). Finally, toss in the carrots and potatoes and stir them around so they are well coated in the oil. Add a little more oil if they look too dry. Add the salt and pepper, give everything a stir, and position the vegetables so that they are in an even layer in the roasting pan. This will allow then to roast and become crispy rather than steam. Place in the oven for one hour or until golden, giving the vegetables a turn or flip about every 20 minutes so all the edges crisp evenly.