By Jan Roberts-Dominguez
I was enjoying the hushed little boy conversation between two 4-year-old buddies on the neighbor side of my back fence as I tended my tomatoes. But it didn’t take long for so much uncharacteristic silence to trigger Trish’s maternal radar.
“Nigel? Are you and Ben in the strawberry patch again? They aren’t ripe yet, honey. Please leave them alone.”
Nigel (his mouth full of underripe berries): “OK!”
Ben: “You’ll find us in the blueberries!”
Which is where they headed, still chatting heatedly about the wonders of gardening.
“Have you ever heard of cherry tomatoes?” Ben said.
“Of course!” Nigel said.
And so it went. This would be a wonderful summer of discovery for those two little boys.
With summer in full swing, the only mistake you can make in the kitchen is to underutilize or overcook what nature has so generously provided.
A favorite niece came to town for a short visit and our best meal was the most impromptu, made from an armload of produce.
We quartered the new potatoes and Walla Walla Sweets, and scattered them on a large baking pan, along with some trimmed young green beans and some fresh heads of garlic that I halved horizontally. We gave the whole affair a light drizzle of olive oil along with a bit of salt and pepper before popping it in the oven.
Meredith sliced an heirloom tomato and added rich droplets of balsamic vinegar while Mom sliced the Big River Pugliese bread.
Once the vegggies were almost done, which only took about 30 minutes, steaks went on the grill and Tyee Estate Barrel Select Pinot was opened and poured.
That’s all it takes this time of year to wow a crowd, or a couple of 4-year-olds like Nigel and Ben.
The only thing that would have made it better? A marionberry cobbler chaser.
Green beans and sweet onions in vinaigrette with blue cheese and roasted hazelnuts
1pound green beans, trimmed
1/2cup diced Walla Walla Sweet onion
1/2cup sliced black olives
Dijon vinaigrette (recipe follows)
1/2cup crumbled blue cheese
1/3cup chopped roasted and skinned hazelnuts
1 1/2cups of local cherry tomatoes, halved
Fresh basil leaves for garnish
In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the beans uncovered until tender-crisp, 6 to 7 minutes.
Drain immediately and plunge into cold running water to stop the cooking process and set the color. Drain well, then place the beans in a medium bowl, along with the onion and the vinaigrette. Toss well to coat. Cover and refrigerate several hours or overnight. (Note: The beans will not retain their bright green color.)
To serve: Drain off the marinade and place the beans on a lovely serving platter. (Be sure to reserve the drained dressing for another use.)
Sprinkle with blue cheese and nuts, then arrange the tomatoes around the perimeter of the platter. Add a few basil leaves for garnish.
Makes enough for 4 to 6.
2tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2tablespoons white wine vinegar
1tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
2teaspoons Dijon mustard
2cloves finely chopped fresh garlic
1teaspoon granulated sugar
About 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2cup canola oil
In a bowl, whisk together the lemon juice, vinegar, basil, mustard, garlic, sugar, salt, pepper and oil.
Makes about 3/4 cup.
Adapted from “The Big Book of Potluck,” by Maryana Vollstedt
Jan’s marinated and grilled veggies
For the marinade:
1/3cup red or white wine vinegar
1/4cup dry red wine (such as Zinfandel, Cabernet or Pinot Noir)
2tablespoons soy sauce
1teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1/4teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3cloves finely minced garlic
2/3cup extra-virgin olive oil
Vegetables for grilling:
1/4pound mushrooms (halved or whole, depending on size)
1red bell pepper, seeded and cut in strips
1yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut in strips
1whole sweet onion, cut into thin strips or rings
Other fresh vegetables such as summer squash or asparagus (remove tough lower portion, then cut into 1-inch pieces)
Combine the vinegar, wine, soy sauce, Worcestershire sauce, salt, pepper, garlic and olive oil. Place the vegetables in one large container or two re-sealable plastic bags. Pour the marinade over the vegetables and marinate for 1 to 2 hours.
When ready to cook, remove the vegetables from the marinade (the marinade will keep for a couple of weeks, so refrigerate in a sealed jar for another round of veggies within that time-frame).
Place the grill pan on top of the grill grate over hot coals or gas flame and let it heat through. Add the vegetables and let them cook, turning and tossing the veggies sort of as you would for a stir-fry, only slower, until they’re lightly golden and cooked through.
Remove from heat. Delicious with a pot of hot Jasmine rice, or roasted polenta, or even in a sandwich. If you want to introduce a bit of meat into the festivities, try them along side a grilled tenderloin, served on a bed of baby arugula with olive oil and shaved Parmesan.
Makes 4 servings
The McAdams family dumplings with marionberry sauce
1quart frozen marionberries, thawed
Pinch of salt
1cup sifted flour
1 1/2teaspoons baking powder
2tablespoons butter or margarine
1/2cup milk (more if needed)
Good quality vanilla ice cream
To prepare the sauce, drain the juice from the whole marionberries. Combine the sugar, cornstarch, and salt with the juice in a saucepan. Stirring constantly, bring the juice mixture to a boil and simmer gently until it thickens. Fold in the whole berries and simmer gently while preparing the dumplings.
To prepare the dumplings, sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and sugar. Cut in or rub in the butter. Add the milk and vanilla to the flour mixture, stirring to make a thick batter (however, if it seems too thick, add a little bit more milk).
Drop by spoonfuls into the boiling sauce, then cover and steam the dumplings gently in the sauce for 20 minutes (do not lift the cover during the steaming process. Serve the dumplings and sauce warm with good-quality vanilla ice cream.
Makes 4 servings.
2cups marionberries, or other caneberry, such as blackberries, loganberries, or raspberries
Sugar to taste
2cups vanilla ice cream, softened
6tablespoons orange-flavored liquor (such as Grand Marnier or Cointreau)
1cup heavy cream, whipped
Whole berries for garnish
Gently smash the berries with a potato masher or back of spoon, leaving about one-third of the berries whole. Sprinkle with granulated sugar to taste. Place the ice cream in a large bowl, then stir to soften and smooth it out. Reserve one cup of the berries and stir the rest into the softened ice cream, along with the liqueur. Gently fold in the whipped cream.
Quickly divide the reserved cup of berries among 4 dessert glasses (clear glass is the most elegant because you will be able to see the layers). Spoon the cream mixture into the glasses, top each serving with one or more whole berries and serve.
Makes 4 servings.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis, Ore., food writer, cookbook author and artist. Readers can contact her by email at email@example.com, or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.