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July Cottage Cooking Club, Celery and blue cheese bruschetta

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Welcome to our July edition of The Cottage Cooking Club where we gather to share our preparations from the cookbook, “River Cottage veg everyday” by British author and television cooking personality, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Our fearless and talented leader, Andrea, of the Kitchen Lioness, Notes from a Very Small German Kitchen  coordinates, out of Bonn, Germany the details of our lively online food and travel bloggers group, including providing the current month’s list of selected seasonal recipes.  Members then commit to preparing their choices from among these dishes over the following four weeks, meeting up again on the 28th of each month sharing together our findings and experiences on each of our chosen preparations.

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A big theme of the group is getting folks to eat more fresh vegetables, along with a focus on what is seasonal. If you are looking for an easy vegetable centric cookbook providing lots of good recipes River Cottage veg everyday!” would be it. Personally, I’ve enjoyed most every recipe prepared from this cookbook thus far, including those that I might typically prepare as part of my own home cooking repertoire, such as my first dish of the month, Green beans, new potatoes and olives.

Everyone enjoyed this green bean/new potato version though my eldest, Sooky the Stylist, reminded me that I already on occasion make “potato salad” with green beans and Kalamata olives using fresh herbs from our deck. True. I rather enjoy this sort of Provencal ingredient combination and as such like this recipe that perhaps reflects a classic food style while being easy to prepare. Most of the books recipes suit well for those looking for inspiration, or just plain out, simple and colorful, great tasting vegetable dishes. Green beans, new potatoes and olives scores positively high in this month’s preparation.

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Summer Couscous Salad. As many of you know, when my youngest, Alex the Athlete, played college field hockey, we twice weekly for somewhere around four and a half months of the year, for four years, prepared food for huge crowds as part of our Team Family Tailgates. I kid you not, there is pretty much no vegetable, bean, nut or herb I’ve not included in any version of a pasta, rice, or couscous thus hardly exhausted to the end over those years, and so much so, that I almost didn’t prepare the dish. But then I had some plain pearl couscous in my pantry, and not having prepared it in a while figured what the heck? Why not?

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In this recipe Hugh offers some flexibility choosing your own fresh vegetable offerings. Growing more than abundantly in my garden are zucchini (courgettes) and golden summer squash so I sauteed these to use with the day’s pearled couscous combined then with fresh snipped herbs; parsley, basil, mint, and cilantro from the pots on my deck outside the kitchen. Tossed with a bit of lemon juice, olive oil, garlic and seasoned with salt and pepper the flavors blended together nicely. I liked the additional recommendation using cherry tomatoes but these were not quite ripened on my vines at the time. Today, I’m sweating it out wondering where I am going to find the time to prepare the well multiplied tomatoes now red ripened in my garden somewhere into the hundreds.  On today’s home menu, creamy roasted tomato soup.  

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‘Cucumber Salad,’ as we call it in my corner of the east coast, is one of those salads served on most every summer buffet, even by, or perhaps especially by, the most inexperienced or unimaginative cooks. It’s almost like the saying, ‘serve them cake,’ but in this case, serve them cucumber salad.  It’s a traditional standard. The recipe goes like this: equal parts sugar and vinegar, add in some small sliced red onion, chill, and serve. What I like about Hugh’s recipe using one medium large cucumber for today’s Marinated cucumber with mint is his reduced amounts of sugar, mainly the ratio of one teaspoon of cider vinegar to a pinch of sweet, then combined using a tablespoon of olive oil. Pop! The use of fresh chopped mint is completely brilliant giving a whole new creative outlet on the summer standby.  Batting three for three thus far into the month.

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Now we all do well with a bit of humor now and again eh? And so, I admittedly got my jollies on this months ‘Bready Things’ category selection, Celery and blue cheese bruschetta. Honestly, I looked at this dish and practically roaring thought to myself, he wants us to use what on what? Sliced celery on bread. I could only see this as something to cause a big chuckle embarrassing guests having bits and pieces of celery and crumbled blue cheese toppling off their toasted baguettes onto their chins and assorted pieces of clothing before landing onto the floor while dutifully apologizing for being such a mess.
As always, I took the high road. I also hastily sautéed up some extra mushrooms in the fridge topped with some fresh grated Parm on additional toasted baguette slices, for those not so daring. First to be wiped off the appetizer tray of the evening, Celery and blue cheese bruschetta. They were all the hit. No one expected to like them all that much, but instead, everyone thought they were delicious and uniquely amazing. So there you have it.

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 A large rectangular sign with bold letters says GENE’s Garden and Farm Center located just off of the Black Horse Pike to and from the South Jersey shore. One feels the crunch of the tire wheels when pulling into the black graveled parking lot facing a broad selection of cream colored cement garden planters before reaching the door where set on wooden slats displays various sizes and shapes colored with the bright blue hued clothing on statues of the Blessed Virgin. The shaded open cover interior features limited fresh vegetables, specialties of New Jersey, grown on the local farm near the premises including vine ripened tomatoes, fresh garlic, stacks of just picked corn on the cob, assorted melons and blueberries, and green cardboard boxes brimming with just about the most perfect green beans one could imagine, ever.

To give you an idea of how good these green beans (runner beans) are, well, once cooked in boiling salted water until just tender, I drain them in a colander, invert them into a bowl placed onto the table where everyone eats them, as is, with no butter or added seasoning. So although this month’s fifth selection of Runner Beans with tomato and garlic was enjoyed, well, believe it or not, when compared to the plain ‘appetizer’ as it has sort of become, winning this round, plain boiled beans from GENE’s.

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Still, when it came to the green beans from GENE’s these complemented quite nicely with my sixth and final preparation of the month, Summer stir-fry with egg fried rice. A lovely combination of flavors, I did double the soy sauce from the recipes recommended 1 teaspoon, perhaps even a bit more, given that more than half of my family is Asian we tend to favor that soy sauce and sesame oil flavor around here. I also used Korean rice rather than the indicated basmati or Jasmine. Topped toasted sesame seeds and freshly chopped mint made a lovely finish all combined.  This quick and easy dish provides for versatile, fresh, flavor filled possibilities for any family meal over the summer months while being a terrific means for maximizing a nice variety of warm weather vegetable abundance.

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This little rabbit has also been enjoying the abundance in my garden.

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This beautiful collection of caterpillars was the fascination of my grandson, the J-Dude, and me on Sunday. That is until Monday. A sum of 5 caterpillars literally ate all the parsley off this entire plant in one day, leaving only the stems.

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And this baby bird just learning to fly perched atop the corner of my deck. A dove swept in and set beside causing the baby to hop onto the square just above, and finally, spreading its wings, working really hard, it fluttered, then finally flew to the tree next door landing on a leafy branch.

The long light days of summer seem to be going by so quickly and before you know it we shall be counting down the weeks before those root vegetables will once again begin making their appearance on the market stands. Goodness, do I dare to mention it? I’ve been so enjoying the sunny days, evening rains luckily watering my garden. Hope you too have been able to maximize and treasure each among your favorites in the plentiful abundance of the hot weather season, including plenty of fun with family and friends in the mix. Thank You to Andrea and all of our members for yet another lovely month Cooking Along with the Cottage Cooking Club. You can read what other members have prepared over the past four weeks from “River Cottage veg everyday!” here.

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16 Comments

  1. Posted July 28, 2015 at 8:16 pm | Permalink

    Hi Peggy, looks like these summer veggies completely agree with you. Enjoyed your photos and comments with each one.
    cheri recently posted…Cottage Cooking Club JulyMy Profile

    • Posted July 30, 2015 at 9:58 am | Permalink

      Hi Cheri, thank you and these summer vegetables are agreeing with me, well, all but the stress of working at rapid speed to keep up with all of the flourish in my garden, oh my goodness, must have picked 25 pounds of tomatoes yesterday. You know its not like the magazines where all the vegetables miraculously appear on one day readied for canning! Enjoy August and I look forward to seeing what you are up to over the month, and then on the CCC as we move toward month 16. Where does the time go?

  2. Mary Hirsch
    Posted July 28, 2015 at 10:38 pm | Permalink

    Great post, Peggy. You did a lovely job with all the recipes. About the celery/blue cheese bruchetta. I had exactly the same thoughts regarding the recipe. The only reason I made it was because I was so curious about why anyone would put it in a cookbook. We both agree, as does Andrea, that the combo was delicious. The cheese bits didn’t roll off as I expected and I think the honey was really the “icing on the cake” to blend it all together. You are more nervy than I because I would have never put that on a appetizer tray to serve to company. Just couldn’t get my arms around the fact that it might be good. I also made the cucumbers, Stir-Fry and faux-potato salad. I make a Provençal salad from Patricia Wells that is quite like that so I knew I would like it. I enjoyed reading your post, as always. So happy you are having a good summer.

    • Posted July 30, 2015 at 9:54 am | Permalink

      Thanks so much Mary, so happy we were on the same page, and Andrea too, on the celery and blue cheese bruschetta though Andrea used fennel, they were indeed terrific. Loved your cucumbers and stir-fry, but most of all your gorgeous globe artichokes which looked sensational along with your beautiful nature photos. See you over the month and on CCC as we move forward to our August recipes. Big Hugs!

  3. Posted July 29, 2015 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Peggy, I love your writing in this post–it’s so evocative and I can picture, say, driving up to GENE’s farm stand. Also, the pictures are gorgeous. When I saw the caterpillar and the rabbit my immediate thought was, “those stinkers are likely eating stuff in your garden!!” Glad you enjoyed the recipes this month. I did, too! Enjoy the last days of July and the beginning of August!
    Katie recently posted…CCC July: 7 Fantastic Veggie Dishes!My Profile

    • Posted July 30, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

      Hi Katie, thanks so much and you would no doubt love Gene’s and all of the fresh Jersey produce at its height of perfection! Oh yes, those little critters are enjoying some culinary delight off of the garden to be sure. Loved your Post and the fun party for your daughter, the Gumbo sounded awesome! More good recipes coming up in August, I’m sure. See you soon.

  4. TheKitchenLioness
    Posted July 29, 2015 at 4:24 pm | Permalink

    Peggy, my dear friend, your writing style always leaves me in awe – you certainly have a unique style of commenting on all those amazing dishes that you prepared this month – I tend to feel a tad awkward then with my school English but I so enjoy reading each and every word you write. And you accentuated your post with these adorable pictures of the little critters that seem to feel right at home in your lovely garden.
    You made all the dishes that you prepared sound delicious and I can almost taste those fresh beans sans any adornment but, as you know, it is not always that easy to get one´s hands on very fresh produce and so we enjoy the French beans with the grated tomatoes. The Bruschetta was a true surprise and I love that you served them to your guests – who would have thought?! And your stir-fry has the most delightful green color and your summer couscous is making me extremely hungry, although I did have dinner already!
    What an abundance of delicious food and what a fabulously written post with all those great comments!
    Thank you for participating with such enthusiasm again this month – let´s just hope that August will move a little slower than July did!
    Liebe Grüsse and “see” you soon,
    Andrea

    • Posted July 30, 2015 at 9:48 am | Permalink

      Dear Andrea, thank you so much, and for all that you do to make our CCC so special, including all those small details unseen. Your English is so lovely, and many compliments that it also seems to suit quite well with those of the Americans in the group, so there you have it, great success! The little critters have been amusing if not entertaining with my grandson. The one photo I was not able to capture, but shared with Mary was a Blue Heron that opened its wings full span and flew over my driveway as I was off to take my grandson to camp, we, and the development landscapers completely stopped in shock and quite mesmerized- a National Geographic moment to be sure. I enjoyed the selection of recipes this month and look forward to August and another fun month Cooking Along with the Cottage Cooking Club, see you soon. Big Hugs to You!

  5. Posted July 29, 2015 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    What a wonderful variety of recipes you chose to make this month Peggy and it sounds as though you enjoyed them all. I made many of the same and had a similar reaction. I’m really surprised by how successful the celery bruschetta was, a dish I didn’t try but now will based on everyone’s glowing reports. And much as I liked the beans in tomato sauce, I agree that if you’ve got a great bean to start with – or any other vegetable – a simple preparation is often the best. Looking forward to August and the produce that month brings….
    zosia recently posted…Cottage Cooking Club – July 2015My Profile

    • Posted July 30, 2015 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      Hello Zosia, thanks so much and pleased that you enjoyed the recipes as much as I did. Yes, it is a funny thing on that celery bruschetta and Mary Hirsch put it best with celery never being the main show. The simple plain green beans do work best in my case with the beautiful green beans from Gene’s near the Jersey shore. Enjoyed seeing your post and look forward to our upcoming month preparations. See you soon.

  6. Posted July 31, 2015 at 5:41 am | Permalink

    Peggy, I cannot shy away from the fact that I detest green beans. It’s the only vegetable I will even pick out of canned soup. However, the beauty in cooking, over baking for example, is the interchangeable ingredients. With anything besides green beans, I’m in.

    Warm hugs from Spain. ☀️
    Kelly recently posted…Lovely Seaside Charm in York Beach, Maine: Two Sisters InnMy Profile

    • Posted July 31, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

      Oh my goodness Kelly! What a delight to hear from you in Spain! You must have felt my across the sea antenna as I was literally thinking of you just this morning wondering how you were!!! Hope you and Antonio are enjoying a grand time! So sorry you detest green beans- but so happy to hear from you on this Friday who cares? Plenty of other offerings and hope you are enjoying the local specialties in Galicia. Salud! Big Hugs out there to you!

  7. Posted August 3, 2015 at 9:34 pm | Permalink

    What an amazing lineup, Peggy! You make everything look wonderful, even the ones I made and didn’t like so much. I think for the stir-fry, you found the secret (more soy sauce!) Everyone’s potatoes, green beans, and olives look so good, I picked up some potatoes today to make that one.
    Based on the celery/blue cheese bruschetta, I want to share with you a recipe with similar flavors that I tried last week. Celery salad:
    http://www.tastingtable.com/cook/recipes/celery-salad-recipe-how-to-make-mayonnaise-chris-jaeckle
    I was surprised how it good it was — sort of like buffalo chicken wings without the chicken wings. I didn’t plate this as described, but mixed everything, including a spoonful of mayo into the celery. Homemade mayo is overkill for this one
    I love seeing all the nature scenes from your yard! Have a great August!
    Betsy recently posted…Cottage Cooking Club: July 2015My Profile

    • Posted August 4, 2015 at 10:58 am | Permalink

      Hi Betsy, so great to see you and thank you. I did enjoy the recipes of the month and look forward to our selections ahead. Thank you too for the interesting Celery Salad recipe which looks terrific and I shall definitely prepare it, I love the addition of the chile oil and also tied in with the orange juice in its end combination! Can’t wait to give it a go in the next few days. Wishing you a great August too, see you soon.

  8. Posted September 1, 2015 at 9:45 pm | Permalink

    I m happy to have a partner in crime on the celery and blue cheese bruschetta which really was unexpectedly quite good though I had to laugh at your comment on my serving it to guests- they went over quite well. July just flew by and I cannot imagine it is already August, so much yet to see and do in these final weeks of summer, including keeping up with the garden bursting forth with all sorts of vegetables, and, countless tomatoes.

    • Posted September 2, 2015 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      Thank you Humberto, how about that, it does seem that this combination has turned out to be quite appealing, at least among those who have sampled. It was fun to serve to guests and I’m happy to have done so for now they have also experienced something just a bit different that most folks don’t think of otherwise. Well, its off to the garden, thank you for stopping by.

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  • Hi, I'm Peggy. Welcome to our Shared Table at Spiced Peach Blog!
    Subscribe here for my fresh, seasonal recipes with an international twist.