Sunday, August 19, 2012

Summer Lovin' : My Affair With Fresh Produce

For all my fellow foodies out there, you know what the best part of summer is: Fresh Produce. The whole gambit of food options finally opens up for us, nice and cheap, often organic and even, dare I say, BETTER TASTING than the produce throughout the rest of the year. Especially winter. I mean, I've got nothing against apples and oranges... but there's a time when a girl needs some strawberries and peaches. Am I right?

Well, in any case, the sad part is that summer is almost over, at least up here in New England. *SIGH*  Now all I can think of is a dreadful, cold, rainy winter that is almost sure to show up... even if it won't be for another few months. (Maybe I should just be happy I don't live in Seattle.) What's making things worse is our fridge is acting up. As in, the freezer is way too cold and the fridge part isn't really cold at all. Since I'm not any good with technology, I'm leaving all those problems up to my Dad. Since we're too cheap to just call a repairman, this is what our kitchen currently looks like:
Kind of a mess. Basically, there are frozen foods sitting around in the sink, all over the counter tops, on the island, blocking the stove... it's not really ideal. But, hey, if it fixes the fridge, I'm all for it. Because with the fridge NOT working, all our saved up summer produce, frozen and fresh, is going bad. And having just done an entire project on food safety, I'm pretty sure we'd be violating restaurant health code (if we were in the restaurant biz).

But I like to problem solve. I'm a geek, remember? Having a chemist and an engineer as your parents as well as a sibling majoring in biology and another majoring in economics, you just kind of can't help but develop a bit of an OCDish tendency here and there. For instance, my quirks include:

  • Sorting out all the crayons I own into individual bags based on color groups
  • Organizing the spice cabinet alphabetically
  • Not opening one package of something until all the open boxes have been finished
  • Tearing off those annoying 'fringies' when you take paper out of a notebook
And that's just a few. Believe me, though, I don't hold anything against anyone with OCD. I have a bit of it myself and some of my best friends struggle with it. It's a real mental illness. So please don't take offense. I try and write with a bit of levity on serious situations. It's an attempt to lighten the mood. But moving on...

My problem solving.
So, here we have all these lovely fresh fruits and veggies just NEEDING to be eaten, and here we also have a hungry, teenage, vegetarian trying to think of something for lunch. Do you see where this is going?
A Summer Lovin' Salad!

I really love salads. You can put almost anything in them, and they're nearly impossible to mess up. Today's creation did not disappoint. That being said, it was a new experience for me. Usually, my salads are pretty plain-o, jane-o, boring. Lettuce, tomato, pepper, cucumber, peas, carrots, and a healthy drizzle of Italian vinaigrette. Well, I know a lot of people swear by putting fruit on their salads, but it always sounded gross to me. The sweet flavors combined with the hardier, saltier ones? Hmmm. I was skeptical. Especially since I had added in a veggie burger as a protein source. Berries plus veggie burger in the same forkful? I was reluctant to try. But those berries were getting old, and they were just SCREAMING my name. So into the salad they went.

And it was good. I'm a believer (yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeeahhhh). The veggie burger paired with blueberries is actually an excellent combination, if anyone is interested. I may have to expand on that idea at some other time... But back to the salad.

1 portabella mushroom cap
Splash Balsamic Vinegar
Dash of Rosemary
About 10 leaves Romaine Lettuce (?)
1 Frozen Veggie Burger (or homemade)
1/4 cup FRESH blueberries
3 FRESH strawberries
1/3 cucumber, sliced
 Red Pepper, cut into strips
1 T. Red Wine Vinegar
1/2 T. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch Sugar

Drizzle the Portabella cap with balsamic vinegar and sprinkle generously with rosemary. Place on top of the frozen veggie burger and microwave on high for 2 minutes (cooking times may vary). Meanwhile, toss up your salad with remaining ingredients. You can arrange them artfully if desired, because pretty things sometimes seem to taste better :)  When portabella/burger are done, take them out and slice them up. Place on top of rest of prepared salad. Mix together vinegar, oil, and sugar, then pour over salad.
And... as always... ENJOY
Another View....

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