Since birthdays should be about indulgence, I did take Greg out to his favorite spot for an imported beer and followed our lunch with a trip to a new ice cream shop in the village where they make small batches of ice cream from local ingredients and freeze it with liquid nitrogen while you wait. The salted caramel was transcendent and Greg's mint chip tasted like the mint was picked right from the garden.
Aside from the birthday treats, I have been packing our menu with veggie delights. Partially because I am trying to harvest and eat everything ripe in the garden before our trip and also because eating light vegetarian meals is one of the delights of summer. I love the feeling of contentment but not being overfull that I have following a summer garden meal. Hopefully we'll feel slim and confident when we slip on our bathing suits next week, that would be an added bonus to eating all of these delicious veggies.
We have been harvesting lots of these yellow summer squash that I planted from seed. The variety is called cube of butter, an apt name as they are very rich and delicious. Strangely shaped but crisp and flavorful cucumbers have been plentiful on the vine and a few cherry tomatoes are starting to ripen.
Sometimes a sizable salad is all you need for lunch or dinner in this persistent heat. We enjoyed this blend of arugula, spinach and lettuces with tomato, avocado, pickled red onions, pine nuts and a little pepper cheese from the Cheese Cave!
One day for lunch (I love having the summers off and being able to prepare delicious and healthy lunches), I prepared an oversized tomato and cucumber salad with fresh mozzarella, an avocado stuffed with a hardboiled egg and drizzled with balsamic, and a melon half with strawberries from our garden, musk melon from the farmer's market and some apricots drizzled with a honey lime dressing.
Somedays are more brunchy than lunchy. I often gather ingredients from the garden and fridge to make a quick scramble. Today's was chopped leftover grilled yellow squash, cherry tomatoes, pickled onions, basil, a chiffonade of squash blossoms, some grated pecorino cheese and a few california capers (pickled nasturtium pods) to top it off. Of course this dish would be nothing without the beautiful eggs from pasture fed chickens we get at the farmer's market each week.
About once a week in the summer, I serve up eggplant another way. I always grill it (too hot to cook on the range or in the oven). Sometimes I cut it in long slices and roll it up with some ricotta inside, mimicking cannelloni pasta. Often I marinate the eggplant in a mix of garlic, balsamic and olive oil before hitting the grill. This week I plated it with a few slices of fresh mozzarella and tomato sauce, piled it high with some garden squash mixed in, shaved some fine alpine cheese on top and squeezed a tiny salad of greens and tomatoes on the side and sprinkled it all with pine nuts. I forgot to add green olives but those are great as a garnish.
For a delicious dinner we enjoyed grilled mushrooms topped with blue cheese (very reminiscent of steak), grilled squash and green beans from the yard, a twice baked potato and grilled corn and tomato from local farmers. The corn was grown in Chino and was super sweet!
And because sometimes, we need a little protein, here is my grilled trout with steamed summer squash, a twice baked potato, cucumber tomato salad and an artichoke basted in a balsamic vinaigrette and finished on the grill.
I hope this post has inspired you to pile your plate high with summer veggies and explore new and different ways to prepare them!