Grain bowls, herbed yogurt, magic melons
This summer has been too hot to cook a proper pot of beans, so as the seasonal starch for vegetables du jour, I’ve been enjoying hearty grains, served chilled: kamut, farro, buckwheat, bulgur. Get them from Bob’s Red Mill and Camas Country Mill.
As with beans, I cook a batch of grain once a week and use it as the base for quick lunches and low-effort dinners. The trick is using a rich condiment to tie together the austere nutty grain with whatever I’ve raided from my garden or scored at the farmers market — specifically, yogurt mixed with herbs, garlic, salt, and lots of olive oil.
Everything I know about using grain in this style, I learned in Grains for Every Season and its predecessor, Six Seasons. Together, these cookbooks changed the way I think about my diet. Highly recommended.
My basic recipe:
2 cups full-fat greek yogurt
½ cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (parsley, mint, chervil, whatever you have)
¼ cup good olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced, about 1 tsp
Salt to taste
½ cup grated cucumber, peel removed (sort of tzatziki)
¼ cup golden raisins, soaked in hot water for 10 minutes
good black pepper, like this stuff from Reluctant Trading
Combine the ingredients in a container with a tight lid, and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours before using.
Lazy grain bowl
1 cup cooked, cooled grains, tossed with olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper. Maybe add some pesto if it’s fresh.
If you’ve got canned garbanzos, marinate them in olive oil and vinegar and a dash of maple syrup, and put those on the side. Sort of a one-bean salad.
Chop veggies, toss with more olive oil, assemble with grains and garbanzos in bowl, and slap a generous bit of herbed yogurt on the side. Add olives, green onions, mint flowers, sliced patty pan squash, whatever looks good. Drizzle with more olive oil. Done.
Tomato and zucchini with basil oil
This reminds me of a fresh ratatouille. The texture of thinly sliced veg with pillowy cheese is unbeatable. I had it for dinner tonight and I did not share with anyone.
Thinly slice a tomato, then cut an equal number of thin zucchini slices. Try to keep slices under an eighth of an inch.
Alternate the slices in a wide dish and dress them with basil-infused olive oil, plus salt to taste. Chiffonade some fresh basil and sprinkle it on. Then use a microplane grater to shave a generous volume of cheese over the top — more than you think you need, because it’ll compact as you eat. I used manchego here, but almost any mild hard cheese would probably work. Grind some pepper over the cheese and top it with a bit more infused olive oil.
To make the infused oil: wash and dry perhaps 10 large basil leaves, slap each one firmly between your palms, drop them in clean jar, and pour in enough olive oil to just cover, maybe a half cup. Let it sit on the counter for a few hours, then use it in this salad.
The small aromatic melons that I always assume are Charentais, but are probably in fact any number of similar-looking varieties, are in season now. They have a deep, musky, almost skanky smell when ripe, and while they look a lot like conventional cantaloupe, the taste is something else entirely.
Try them while you can — ask Plum Tummy Gardens at the Thursday farmers market. There really is something magic about fruit so good yet available for such a short time. I’m told the really good ones only last about 3 days off the vine.
Another melon to not miss: the reasonably-sized watermelons from St. Joseph Acres, also at the Thursday market. Perfectly textured, not so large you’ll have to worry about where in your refrigerator to store it, the one I ate last week was the best watermelon I’ve ever tasted.