Summer is upon us, and I have a confession to make. I don’t cook much from June thru September. I blame the longer days and the evening activities that come with them. Cocktails after work with friends on the downtown mall, a few hours weeding and picking and training in the garden, fetch with the dogs and wine on the deck. By the time I start to think about dinner the sun has fallen in the sky and its past 8pm.
The fresh produce this time of year holds some of the blame as well. When you’re picking sugar snaps straight from the vine outside your kitchen door and have an abundance of fresh lettuce at your feet its hard to imagine doing anything but going straight inside, dumping it all into a bowl and drizzling it with a simple vinaigrette. Or, when you’ve just pulled perfect little beets from the ground and realize that you still have some carrots from the farmer’s market in your fridge, images of simply roasted root vegetables sprinkled with salt + pepper laid across a bed of lettuce start dancing in your head and eventually wind up on your plate (pictured above). It can’t be helped, really. And how about brown rice pasta with quickly-sauteed squash from the market? The quick and simple possibilities are endless.
And then there is my attempt to follow Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 diet, although I hate to call it that. The d-word has such negative connotations and forces thoughts of deprivation into my head, when this new way of eating doesn’t make me feel deprived in the least. I’ve simply been reducing my intake of processed foods and animal products by following a Vegan diet from the time I wake up until dinner time, when anything goes. If you’ve read about me, you’ll know that Brian and I are very conscious of what we eat and where it comes from, and strive to eat as sustainably as possible. I’ve found that switching to a Vegan diet for two out of three meals a day (and many days for all three!) has been a very easy transition because of the way we’ve thought about food for some time now. And its especially easy in the summer when my appetite leans towards light salads rather than stick-to-your ribs casseroles.
So, that was a lot of excuses to say that, basically, I like to eat simply in the summertime. I love salads that I can make on Sunday and eat for lunch the rest of the week, and simple breads that become the star of the meal with very little effort put forth. The plate above was assembled on an evening when we had a few of those salads in the fridge, fresh lettuce from the garden on the counter and 30 minutes to spend making flatbread. The roasted red pepper, chickpea and quinoa salad is simple, delicious and filling…just my kind of meal. And trust me, even on a low-effort dinner night the extra 30 minutes is worth it, because this flatbread is incredible.
I haven’t shared the curried tomato salad because I screwed it up the first time we made it and wasn’t completely happy with the results. The concept is a good one though and I assure you that as soon as local tomatoes grace the booths at the market I’ll be trying it again.
The lentil + brown rice salad can be found here.
Whole Grain Flatbread
slightly modified from Mark Bittman
- 1 cup whole wheat flour (I also tried this with 1/2 cornmeal and 1/2 white whole wheat and didn’t like it nearly as much)
- 1 tsp salt
- 1-1/2 cups water
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1/2 large onion, thinly sliced
- 2 garlic cloves, minced
- Sift the flour and salt together in a bowl. Slowly add the water and whisk to eliminate lumps, the batter will resemble thing pancake batter. Cover with a towel and let sit while your oven preheats, or up to 12 hours.
- When ready to bake, heat your oven to 450 degrees. Put the oil in a 12″ skillet (if you use a smaller skillet use less oil and give the bread more time to cook), along with the onion and garlic. Put the skillet in the heated oven and let the oil get hot, but not smoking. It should just take a few minutes – you’ll know when the oil starts to get fragrant.
- Carefully remove the skillet from the oven, give the onions and garlic a stir and then pour the batter and return the pan to the oven.
- Bake 30-40 minutes (I took mine out at 30 and will probably give it just a few more minutes next time) until the flatbread is well browned, firm and crisp around the edges. Let it rest for about 5 minutes and then slide it from the pan onto a cutting board to cut into wedges.
Roasted Red Pepper, Chickpea and Quinoa Salad
modified from A Year in a Vegetarian Kitchen by Jack Bishop
- 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
- 1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
- 6 oz drained jarred roasted red peppers, diced (about 1 cup) – I didn’t have any so just roasted a fresh red bell pepper
- 2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
- 3 tbsp lemon juice
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
- 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- First, if you don’t have jarred roasted red peppers, roast your own. I sliced 1 bell pepper thinly, placed it in a small baking dish, drizzled it with olive oil, sprinkled it with salt and pepper and roasted it for about 30 minutes.
- Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Add quinoa and bring back to a boil. Lower heat to a simmer, cover pan and let cook for about 15 minutes, until quinoa is tender but not mushy. Remove from heat, drain any excess liquid and place quinoa in a medium-sized heat-tolerant bowl.
- Whisk together the lemon juice, honey, cumin, cayenne and 1/2 tsp salt together in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil until the dressing is smooth.
- Add the chickpeas, roasted red peppers and parsley to the bowl with the quinoa and stir to combine. Drizzle the dressing over the mixture and toss to combine.