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Simple Summer Plate

It’s been a few weeks since my last post so I haven’t really had a chance to talk about the amazing bounty of local Ontario produce that is now in supermarkets and at the farmers market. For the past few months, each week was characterized by the one or two fruits and vegetables that were coming into season; asparagus in early spring, rhubarb soon after, strawberries, etc. This is not the case in these last few weeks of summer which are characterized by an explosion of local produce! Everywhere you turn in the grocery store these days it seems you can find a sign proclaiming that this vegetable is from Ontario. I have been taking every opportunity I can get to fill my cart and fridge with this local produce while it is still around. Right now there is amazing zucchini, eggplant, broccoli, sweet corn and greens. Peaches and nectarines dominate the fruit landscape right now, but there are still other local treasures like some late berries and some of the best cantaloupes I have ever tasted (the secret to picking a good one is that the bud of the melon should smell sweet when you pick it up).

Since the ingredients are so fresh and flavourful, my meals these past few weeks have been, for the most part, incredibly simple. You just don’t need to do much to the produce when it is this fresh and this good! Eggplant just needs some salt, pepper, and olive oil to make it come alive under the broiler. Broccoli just needs a quick boil and then a toss in some olive oil or butter to make it stand out. For zucchini, nothing could be simpler than a quick boiling followed by some dressing with olive oil, salt, pepper, and fresh herbs (from your own window-box garden of course!).

So in the theme of summer I wanted to share a quick plate I put together the other week. It features some amazing fresh Ontario tomatoes, zucchini, fresh basil, and a simple quinoa salad (courtesy of mom from my last trip home…hey I am a student!). This plate features a wide variety of tastes but the overriding theme is simplicity, key for lazy summer afternoons where you don’t want to detract from your time outside! The tomatoes in this dish were real knockouts, the flavour is on a whole different level compared to those “tomatoes” you can buy in the off-season. These are sweet, rich, juicy, and flavourful, and much more nutritious for you then an off-season tomato that is picked while still green and hard.

Simple Summer Plate

Simple Summer Plate

For the zucchini:

Ingredients:

  • 2 medium zucchini, cut into medium size pieces
  • One onion or 3 shallots, chopped
  • 3 gloves garlic, minced
  • olive oil
  • 1 tbsp butter
  1. Heat some olive oil (about 1.5 tbsp.) in a saute pan over medium-high heat. Add the butter and let the foam subside. Add the shallots or onion and saute until slightly brown
  2. Add the zucchini and toss to coat. Continue to cook over medium heat until the zucchini cooks through and starts to crisp up a bit. Add salt and pepper to taste
  3. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Remove from the pan and serve
For the tomatoes:
Ingredients:
  • feta cheese (to taste)
  • 5 leaves basil, chiffonade*
  • 3 summer tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • balsamic vinegar
  1. Cut the tomatoes into medium-sized pieces (about 4-6 per medium tomato)
  2. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Season with salt and pepper to taste
  3. Place the basil on-top of the tomatoes and crumble the feta cheese on-top
For the Quinoa salad:
Ingredients:
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 1/4 cup silvered roasted almonds
  • 1/4 cup dried cranberries
  • 1/4 cup chopped chives
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  1. Bring 1.5 cups of water to a boil in a pot with a tight-fitting lid. Add the quinoa and cover the pot, bring down to a simmer. Allow to cook for about 15 minutes until the quinoa is fluffy. If lots of water remains, remove the lid and allow to evaporate.
  2. Transfer the quinoa to a bowl and allow to cool
  3. Mix in the chives, almonds, cranberries and orange juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Cover and place in fridge.
  4. Serve cold or at room temperature (keeps for about a week in the fridge if in a sealed container)
Overall this was a very simple and light dinner that really showcased the tastes of summer. The quinoa salad added some much-needed protein to the dish, however you could just as easily place some eggs on the side or a simply cooked chicken breast. Really this plate is about featuring some stellar in-season ingredients in a simple way.
Enjoy the amazing summer produce while it lasts!
-JR
* Chiffonade means to cut the herbs into thin strips. Take a look at this site for some pictures on how to do it. It’s quite easy and you can decided how thick or thin you want the pieces to be. One tip, make sure the herbs are patted dry after you wash them, it makes the cutting much easier.
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