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