Caribbean Flair – Cheap, Easy, Delicious

I can’t count the number of posts that I’ve started by way of saying that I was running late and hadn’t planned dinner well…  Well, I guess I could, but honestly I don’t really want to.  The simple fact is that planning is not my strong suit.  So how do I eat healthy food without breaking the bank? I keep a healthy pantry and that pantry allows me to start with the ingredients that I have and cobble together something that works for most of us most of the time.  (Learn more about our real food pantries here.)  So last night, running on about 3 hours of sleep and a miserable day of contract work I stood in front of my magic pantry and waited for inspiration.

And then it happened.  Oooh, sweet potatoes.  Oh right, I just got some quinoa!  Black beans, hot dog!  Chipotle, garlic, cumin, salt, coconut oil… oh and cilantro!  Oh yes, life is good.  Dinner for four in about 35 minutes featuring: Continue reading

Using Those Summer Veggies

It’s been a long time since I’ve had a windowsill like this. The last few gardening seasons I was beset by squirrels, bugs, overwatering, drought, and disease to the tune of losing the whole crop. For a Maryland gardener, the tomato crop makes the year. My lack of success with the red jewels made me swear on more than one occasion that I would not be gardening anymore – too much trouble, too disappointing over and over. This year has been better – I’ve still lost a lot of tomatoes to the whims of nature (my tomatoes are lined up ripening on my neighbor’s branch where the squirrels live), but have learned a bit more about proper watering and pest and disease control. So I finally have a crop. The windowsill has been full for the better part of the last month, and while I’d like to say I’ve been industrious enough to can some, I haven’t. We’re still not overrun by tomatoes, and so I’ve been enjoying them like the nightshade glutton that I am.

So we’ve had caprese salad, with dairy and without. We’ve greatly enjoyed this super combo of nectarines, tomatoes, and fresh basil from our pal at Emmy Cooks. We’ve made fresh tomato pasta sauce. We’ve had tomato sandwiches (with herbed naioli instead of mayo.   We’ve had them in a vegetable soup with fresh kale (which I can’t believe I haven’t posted before…I will.) We’ve done just about everything we can without baking or stewing them (I just don’t like it, there I said it). But our abundance and overplanning for a weekend lunch with friends again presented me with the situation where there was both produce that is at its peak and really demands to be eaten while it’s spectacular, and produce that really should be used before it goes to waste. And so, I give you…

Grilled Corn and Fresh Tomato  Summer Crudo

  • Kernels cut from 3 ears of grilled corn*
  • 2 large or three medium tomatoes, chopped coarsely
  • 1 can (drained, rinsed) or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas
  • 3 handfuls fresh spinach chopped coarsely
  • 1 small handful fresh basil chopped
  • a couple of handfuls of leftover peas (or whatever you have lurking in your fridge)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 T olive oil
  • fresh ground pepper to taste
  • 1-2 cloves garlic, made small however you like

No great complication here.  Just put it all in a bowl and stir gently to combine without destroying the tomatoes.  And then, when you realize it’s back to school night and you’ve failed to plan properly, you can put it on whole wheat penne with a dollop of sunflower cheese spread or parm…. Delish, as you can see from the picture I took when I remembered I wanted to take one AFTER I started eating, classy, eh?

The best part about  summer crudo?  You can use pretty much any vegetables you have to hand AND you can eat it with just about anything, on anything, under anything.  Totally flexible and yummy as demonstrated by my lunch the following day: summer crudo and mini-neatloaves. Delish on day 2 as well.

* A Note on Grilling Corn: When I asked around for opinions on the best way to grill corn, I was astonished at the number of responses I received. The variations on method were endless as well, some quite complex – husking the corn, soaking the husks, returning the cobs to the soaked husks and cooking them inside the husk. When presented with such a variety of opinions, I followed my usual inclinations and followed my own simple intuition. We shucked the corn, brushed it with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. Lay on a preheated grill and watched like a hawk. Cooking time is minimal and turning is recommended. Brown grill marks are yummy, blackening not so much. Feel free to make it more complicated, but we loved it just like this.