Beet & Carrot Salad with Golden Raisins & Pistachios

Beet & Carrot Salad with Golden Raisins & Pistachios

When summer begins, you always have such good intentions.  You think you’re going to be super fit, eating nothing but fresh produce and jogging every morning.

And when September arrives, you realize your summer has been full of excuses: it’s too nice to do anything but grill steaks and sit in the backyard, it’s too warm out to run but it’s summer and you just can’t bear to lock yourself in the gym, it’s too hot to eat anything other than ice cream for dinner.  You realize you’d better get a grip on your habits before entering serious baking and braising territory.

You, of course, is actually me and I’m feeling like my summer livin’ is catching up with me.  I’m feeling ready to acknowledge the fact that the weather is absolutely perfect for jogging and long walks and that I’m ready to make salads a big part of my life for the next couple of weeks.

I really shouldn’t act like it’s a huge sacrifice.  This salad is kind of amazing–julienned red beets and carrots jazzed up with golden raisins, crushed pistachios, and mint.  It’s a recipe I found in Bon Appetit with a few of my own touches, namely fennel and orange zest (big surprise!).  It’s crunchy, refreshing, and addictive, not to mention down-right beautiful.  But, enough talk, let’s put this salad together.

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Quinoa & Tuna Stuffed Tomatoes

Quinoa & Tuna Stuffed TomatoesAs I was plodding home from where I abandoned my broken-down car, I was thinking about how I’d grade the past week.  D, I’d give it a solid D.

Then I got home and uploaded my food pictures for the week and realized I had totally forgotten about these little gems!  Somehow I’d forgotten about a really enjoyable weeknight dinner on the patio of roasted stuffed tomatoes and an arugula salad.  I’d forgotten the lovely little cheese plate with plum jam that followed and the bottle of white wine that washed it all down.  Suddenly, things came in to focus; I remembered what actually mattered instead of thinking of the ailing car, the struggles with a half-broken website, crusty burnt sugar-covered pans, and anything related to work.

So let’s push past what could be just another crappy Monday/Wednesday/week/month/et cetera and put together a dinner that will be worth remembering.  We’re going to stuff tomatoes with quinoa, tuna, and capers and roast them ’til they’re a little shriveled and way too cute.  We’ll eat them outside while it’s still the season to dine al fresco.  We’ll open a bottle of wine just for the fun of it, forget about the crud that’s going wrong, and focus on what’s going right: dinner.

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Fig & Rosemary Schiacciata

Fig & Rosemary SchiacciataThis, for the record, is exactly what my dreams are made of.

It’s a warm slab of schiacciata, studded with fresh figs, sprinkled with rosemary, sea salt, and sugar.  It covers all of my crave bases: sweet, salty, carby, plus it reminds me of my one of my favorite cities.

Il Duomo di Firenze

Schiacciata is, in my estimation, the official snack of Florence.  It’s a dimply flatbread, a lot like focaccia, that’s really loaded up with olive oil.  You can stop in to a panificio, stand in line with kids being treated to an after-school snack and old women on their grocery run, and hold your hands up to indicate just how big a slab of schiacciata you’d like.  You might think you’ll bring it home, save it for later, but once it’s in your possession and you can feel that it is indeed still warm, you have no choice but to eat it right there, street side.  It’s okay, you’ll be in good company.  I can’t imagine anyone, young or old, being able to walk home without nibbling at least a corner.

So that’s regular schiacciata, but come fall another sort of schiacciata descends on the lucky Florentines: schiacciata all’uva.  That’s the one I’m riffing on today.  Normally, it’s made with grapes, but because I don’t live under the Tuscan sun and do not have access to good, flavorful wine grapes, I’m making it with fresh figs instead.

Sound good?  Shall we get started?

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Pork Tenderloin with Roasted Italian Plum Jam

Pork Tenderloin with Roasted PlumsYou’ve probably already picked up on this little tidbit about my taste buds, what with the recipes for pork chops with rhubarb & fig compote and the bacon & nectarine sandwiches: I have a mad weakness for pork paired with fruit.  And on the subject of food weaknesses, I’ve got to mention Italian plums.  This time of year, I just cannot get enough of them.  I’ll throw back half a dozen just trying to get them home from the grocery store.  I should really put my shopping bag in the trunk; the plums and baguettes would be much safer.

But yesterday, I showed a little restraint.  I managed to get a whole big bag of the plums home and turned them into a sweet-savory jam to serve with a roasted pork tenderloin.

I’m happy to say it was well worth the sacrifice.

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Zucchini-Basil Soup with Parmesan & Walnuts

Zucchini-Basil Soup with Parmesan & WalnutsI seem to have the same problem every time I head to a cabin for a couple of days: I use taking a few hikes as an excuse to eat like a lumberjack.

Matt and I spent Labor Day weekend along Lake Superior’s North Shore.  We worked up quite an appetite, sitting by the lake, reading and half-heartedly fishing, so having a total meat-fest felt totally deserved.  Ugh…that is, felt deserved until I woke up at home, still smelling faintly of campfire, with a mad meat-hangover.  Suddenly, the idea of a grilled steak or breakfast sausage seemed revolting.  I needed vegetables.  Greenery.  Nothing smoky.  Something light, fresh.  Zucchini, basil.  Soup.  Soup heals all.

Sailboats in Grand Marais Harbor

In addition to being a worthy antidote to a meat-heavy holiday weekend, this zucchini soup is a good transition between summer and fall eating.  We’re still going to use our summer produce and a light hand, but the cool mornings and evenings are pushing us towards fall flavors so we’ll opt for a few crushed walnuts and shavings of parmesan to garnish.  It’ll be good, it’ll be easy, and it’ll the perfect cure for my over-meated-belly.

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