Saturday, July 23, 2011

Summer Cooking Challenge

For me, summertime is just different than the other times of year. Sure, I still go to work the same, have the same responsibilities and duties, see the same people and for the most part stick to the same schedule, but it's still different. Days are longer, more time is spent outside, the BBQ is fired up more often and it seems there's a bevy of birthdays to celebrate, so see, summer really is special.

To make this fleeting time even more memorable, I thought I'd be intentional about challenging myself in the kitchen. I've created a sort of "summer cooking bucket list" that I want to try to complete between now and Labor Day. That list includes:

1. Caprese Salad.
It's too simple. Tomato, fresh mozzarella, basil and a swirl of vinegar and oil. There are several different variations out there, but all have the same basic ingredients. The Pioneer Woman has a beautiful recipe here.

This picture is my version. I used olive oil and balsamic vinegar and a sprinkling of salt and pepper. I thought it was quite delicious and will be making it again, especially when our garden tomatoes are ripe. Dan (a despiser of fresh tomatoes) didn't care of the Caprese Salad and Lana took a bite, removed it from her mouth and gave it back to me, saying politely, "Here go Mommy." I guess she didn't care for it much either. Oh well, more for me.

2. Marshmallows.
Have any of you ever actually made your own marshmallows? I've been seeing this a lot lately in food magazines and cooking blogs, and really, it doesn't look too tough. Here's one easy-sounding recipe I've looked over. Although if I can successfully make marshmallows, I don't know that I'd be okay with them being toasted on a bonfire.

3. Vegetarian Dinners.
No, we're not going all herbivore on you. We just aren't going to have a freezer full of beef until the latter part of August, so I need to get creative. Sure, I could buy beef at the grocery store, but dang, that gets expensive. So we've been rationing out our remaining beef and including more pork, chicken, and yes, the occasional meat-free meal. So far I've made a veggie pasta primavera, a Mario Batali inspired homemade vegetable marina sauce with fresh pasta, and black bean chili. But those were my only three good ideas, so any recipes or ideas you have would be much appreciated. Lana has eaten these meat-free meals just fine and Dan commented on the lack of meat while eating two out of the three - not bad, I'd say.

4. Lemon Cheesecake.
Doesn't that just sound like the perfect summer dessert? Anyone have a trusted and tried recipe?

5. Turnips.
Our garden overfloweth with turnips. According to what I've been reading on food blogs, turnips are the root vegetable du jour, so apparently we're trendy. Yay us! So far I've made a roasted vegetable dish loaded with turnips, carrots, potatoes and onions.

We all liked it and Lana even asked for more at dinner, "More bege-ables please!"
I also made a broccoli-potato-turnip mash on Friday and it was a hit. However, we've got a ton more turnips to use up before the summer is over. Does anyone know how to preserve turnips?

So, what foods do you like cooking in the summer? Any other items you'd add to my summer cooking challenge?
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