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Vegetable centric cooking

Apple-nectarine crisp w/ fresh ginger

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Fruit cobbler with vanilla ice cream is my favorite summer dessert.  The fresh ginger adds nice heat and aroma. You can use many combinations of apples, pears and stone fruit.   It’s a great way to use mediocre or overripe fruit; I was happy to find a use for a big bag of disappointing summer apples I got at the farmer’s market.

Serves 4

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Beet pickles

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Okay, I admit it.  I live in Brooklyn, and I pickle things.  Bring on the Portlandia jokes.  Usually, I do a quick pickle — salt + vinegar + overnight in fridge.  This is the first time I have used boiling brine.   This recipe would work with many vegetables, such as green beans, red onion, fennel, or cauliflower.   You don’t need to cook most vegetables; rather, cover in hot brine, let cool, cover and refrigerate.  But do boil more toothsome vegetables such as beets or carrots for about 10 minutes, until they are just crisp-tender.   These are not a shelf stable pickle — the jar is not airtight or sterilized.   Keep in fridge, and eat within about two weeks.  We tend to finish ours in a few days! 

Makes 5 or 6 servings, as a side

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Corn pesto

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I am hooked on yet another summer pasta, a vegan pesto of fresh raw corn pureed with parsley.  The result is creamy and incredibly bright.  Parsley is underrated.  I like it for many reasons — it’s cheap, it keeps well and it adds a fresh note to dishes. Cooking the corn cobs in pasta water is a nice touch here that adds starchiness and flavor to your sauce.

Serves 2

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Summer pasta w/ salsa cruda + roast eggplant

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This summer pasta could not be simpler.  Roast eggplant tossed with fresh tomatoes and basil.  Although it is absolutely delicious vegan, it is even better topped with a little creamy Bulgarian feta.  I wish I could make this dish in gloomy January.  If only tomatoes were nice year-round!

Serves 2

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Seared tuna sandwich w/ pickled onions, avocado and wasabi

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When it’s 90 degrees, I mostly want to eat salad and grilled things.  Although we don’t own a barbecue, we did receive a lovely Staub grill pan for an engagement present.  It is about the most beautiful thing in our kitchen, and it seared a thick tuna filet in exactly four minutes.  As usual, err on the side of undercooking — remove tuna when still quite pink.  In other words, do as I say, not as I did. Damn! The tuna was still delicious; I just wish I had cooked it a minute less.  The toppings are a wonderful mix of fresh, crunchy, sour, spicy and creamy.

Serves 2

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Grilled peach salad

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Grilled peaches are one of my favorite summer fruits.  They are wonderful atop this salad, where they slightly warm the feta and wilt the arugula. Although a grill is ideal, a cast iron pan works well too. If the radish greens are tiny and fresh, you can add them to arugula or even use as a substitute.  If the greens are a little tough, save to saute for another dish.

Serves 2

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Summer rice noodles

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There are only about six things I can stand to cook in summer in a New York City apartment.  Rice vermicelli fit the bill.  That is, you barely need to cook them — just soak a few minutes in hot water. These days, I like to eat them room temperature, topped with grilled tofu and a mix of grilled, blanched and raw vegetables.   Swapping a poached egg for the tofu is a delicious variation.

Serves 2

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Ceviche w/ habanero and mint

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Ceviche with beer is incredibly refreshing on a hot day.  This recipe is easy and flexible. White-fleshed fish + citrus + spicy pepper + crisp vegetables + fresh herbs = ceviche.   Habanero is an extremely spicy pepper that I happened to have in my fridge. Feel free to use half a pepper or to substitute a couple of jalepenos or serranos, which are much milder.  Start by pulsing in two peppers, then mix into juice and add peppers to taste. But do use mint rather than the more traditional cilantro — it adds a wonderful cooling note that balances the peppers’ heat.  Chilling the dishes is a nice touch.

Serves 4 as an appetizer, 2 as a light main dish

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Cold roasted zucchini soup w/ tahini

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I love zucchini when roasted slowly at a low temperature.   I adapted this recipe from the charred zucchini soup in Love Soup, a vegetarian cookbook by Anna Thomas.  She serves hers hot, and topped with a generous amount of yoghurt.  This one is chilled and vegan, with extra richness and smokiness from tahini.  Use a ton of dill — it adds brightness and makes the soup a lovely deep green.

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Green gazpacho w/ almonds and grapes

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New York weather spins on a dime in May.  Memorial Day weekend was disappointingly cold and rainy; last week was hot and humid.  My taste is suddenly all about the summer — refrigerator ice tea, corn on the cob, grilled pizza and lots of radishes and tomatoes.   And I am obsessed with finding a quick and nourishing recipe for green or white gazpacho, without fillers like white bread.

I adapted a recipe that Los Angeles Times published from Martha’s Vineyard’s Sweet Life Cafe, adding hot peppers, making the dairy an optional topping and skipping the step of straining soup.  The result is a cool and refreshing soup with a touch of heat — toppings such as almonds and feta make it a light meal.  There you go, a weeknight gazpacho!

Serves 2

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