Summer Vegetable Ragout

I've been in a cooking slump. Work has been crazy, school is insane, the garden is demanding, the kids' activities have us running all over. Between work, yardwork and homework, Panda's class and rehearsals, my class and rehearsals, Redman's games and practices, I'm in no mood to make dinner. Let's just order Chinese Food. 

But suddenly, Panda's two recitals were finished, and last week was her last ballet class in Ridgefield. And suddenly I have Monday, Tuesday and Thursday nights free. Welcome back, Kotter! I can actually plan a dinner. I can plan a week of dinners and there will be people here to eat them! We can eat on the deck! I can put flowers on the table on the deck while we eat the dinner I planned!

Life is great.

So all my cookbooks are stacked up next to my bed again and I'm getting reacquainted with some old friends. Diving back into one of my very favorites, Fast, Fresh & Green, here's a simply awesome recipe for Summer Vegetable Ragout with Zucchini, Green Beans and Corn. This is a lemon-bright, elegant succotash of sorts. I doubled the recipe below, substituted asparagus for green beans because it's what I had around, and I used frozen corn instead of fresh. A little bit of prep time goes into this, but then it's 1-2-3 in the skillet and just totally delicious. Redman really liked it, which surprised me. Then again, he's always surprising me.

Summer Vegetable Ragout

  • 1 tsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/4 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 2 tbsp heavy cream (I used half-and-half)
  • 1 tbsp Canola or Olive oil
  • 1 cup fresh corn kernels
  • 3/4 cup sliced baby zucchini (slice baby zucchini straight across; if you don't have baby, use regular, sliced lengthwise in quarters and then straight across)
  • 3/4 cup sliced slender green or yellow wax beans (I used 1/2 bunch of asparagus, cut on the diagnol into 1" pieces)
  • 1 cup medium-diced yellow onion (I used a red onion because I had half a one hanging out in the fridge)
  • 1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 tsp finely chopped garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped fresh herbs (I used parsley, basil, chives, thyme and just a little bit of mint)
  • Freshly ground black pepper

Combine the lemon juice, lemon zest, and Worcestershire sauce in a small bowl. In a liquid measuring cup, combine broth and heavy cream. Set these aside.

Heat oil in skillet over medium-high heat. Add the corn, zucchini, green beans, onion and salt. Cook, stirring frequently, until the bottom of the pan is browned, 4 to 6 minutes. Add the garlic and cook, stirring, just until well combined. Turn the heat to low, add the broth-cream mixture, stir well to scrape up the browned bits from the bottom of the pan, and cover. Simmer until the liquids have reduced to 1 or 2 tbsp, about 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the stove, and stir in the lemon juice mixture and most of the fresh herbs. Season with pepper and stir again. Transfer to a serving dish and garnish with the remaining herbs.

This and a cranberry-radish slaw, along with two rotisseries chicken, were dinner on the deck.

Brown Butter Summer Squash "Linguine"

Unless you have exceptional knife skills, you do need a julienne peeler for this recipe from Fast, Fresh & Green. I got mine in a set of 3 peelers from Panda last Christmas, but a single one is not expensive and quite a worthy investment. Consider asking Santa for one.

As usual I was a little short of a few key ingredients: I didn't have any chopped almonds or hazelnuts that were called for, so I went in a more Italian direction by using chopped garlic and adding some halved cherry tomatoes as well. To be honest, I was a little underwhelmed by the finished dish. The recipe cooking time is 2 minutes but both Jeeps and I found it sort of undercooked. I also may have used too much lemon. But I loved the very concept of it, and it will definitely be something I fool around with.

Brown Butter Summer Squash Linguine

  • 1 1/2 lbs summer squash, mix of yellow and green
  • 2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped almonds or hazelnuts
  • 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh parsley or tarragon
  • 1/2 lemon

Wash and dry the squash and trim off the ends. Using a julienne peeler, peel the squash lengthwise all the way around, dropping the strips into a bowl. Continue peeling until you reach the seed core. Discard the core and peel the other squash in the same fashion. Give all the strips a little toss in the bowl and separate any that are clumped together.

In a straight-sided saute pan, melt the butter over medium-low heat. Add the almonds and swirl the butter around in the pan. Cook the butter until it reaches a nutty brown color, about 2 minutes. Immediately add the squash and salt. Toss the squash gently with tongs until it is well coated with the butter. Continue cooking just until the squash becomes slightly limp, about 1 minute.

Remove the pan from the heat, stir in half the chopped herbs and a squeeze of lemon. Toss, taste, and add more lemon if desired. Transfer to a serving dish, sprinkle with more of the herbs, and serve.

Again, it was good, but not quite right. This strikes me as a very summery dish. It cozied up fine to a baked potato here, but I began to imagine blanching the julienned squash, just to get the right consistency, then tossing it with a vinaigrette and serving at room temperature with grilled shrimp.

Hmm... Hold that thought.

Herbed Garlic Toasts

These are quick to make and fabulous to have on the side of soup or as an appetizer. In a small bowl mix 2 tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, and 2 minced cloves garlic.

Place 12-16 1/4" slices Italian bread on baking sheet. Run under the broiler for 60 seconds to lightly toast.

Remove from oven and spread garlic mixture on each slice.

Run under broiler again for another 60 seconds.

If desired, top bread with shredded mozzarella cheese and broil an additional 15 seconds until cheese is melted.