Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook
The end of August and the time when gardens are full to overflowing and friends bring sacks of squash, tomatoes and cukes to share with growing surplus. It's also the time to have meals focused on this produce front and center. The very loaded salad makes use of raw and grilled produce. It's perfect as is for vegetarians, while others may want to add protein in the way of chicken or seafood.
Fattoush or Peasant Salad is a great Middle Eastern salad of fresh vegetables, a bright dressing, with added texture of crunchy pita crisps. Easy, light, yet filling - it's a great addition to grilled dinners or as a main course salad. The addition of two special ingredients makes this salad a fattoush rather than merely a Middle Eastern version of Italian panzanella: deep rich pomegranate molasses and lemony sumac. Sumac grows wild everywhere but you can find these two ingredients in our area at Whole Foods Market or Middle Eastern groceries.
These delectable fresh fig bites take a little preplanning, but no worries when you are a fig aficionado especially the fresh version! The delicious olive oil pastry is redolent with Kalamata olives and can be made in advance. My figs are especially sweet (and abundant) this year so the fragrant topping pairs well with the crust and rosemary. A bit of light white wine is accompaniment.
- Fresh Fig Tart Hors d’oeuvre
Fresh Fig Tart Hors d’oeuvre
Makes 16 (2 1/2” bar pastries)
These pastries are savory/sweet and salty, with olives and rosemary adding slight hints of herbal earthiness to balance figs’ sweetness. Inspiration came from Tastes Like Home: Mediterranean Cooking in Alaska where they were sweeter and actually called cookies. I reduced the sugar and traded the butter in the pastry for olive oil. Now they can be an hors d’oeuvres or a European style (less sweet) dessert paired with a soft rich cheese.
- 1/3 cup pitted Kalamata, finely chopped and blotted dry
- 1 Tbsp. grated lemon peel
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
- 2 tablespoons. cornstarch
- 1 1/2 cups flour
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/3 cup olive oil
- 1 egg
- 3/4 pound figs
- 1 tsp. minced rosemary
- 2 Tbsp. crystallized or granulated sugar
Preheat oven to 350 °F. Rinse and dry olives;mince.
Put lemon peel, sugar, and cornstarch in food processor, and process until ingredients are well mixed. Add flour and process again. Add cold butter and process in short pulses until mixture resembles cornmeal and no large pieces of butter remain. Add egg and process in short pulses until egg is well incorporated into dough. Pour mixture into bowl, add minced olives, and toss until olives are evenly distributed.
Line 10×10” square pan with foil, leaving overhanging edges of foil on two sides of pan. Lightly grease bottom and sides of foil with butter (the used wrapper from stick of butter works well for this). Evenly press dough into foil-lined pan.
Slice figs into 1/4” slices and arrange on top of dough. Mix minced rosemary and crystallized sugar, and sprinkle over figs. Place pan in preheated oven and bake for 35-40 minutes, or until crust is set in center and lightly browned around edges.
Let cookies cool in pan on wire rack. When cool, grasp overhanging edges of foil and lift cookies out of pan. Cut into 1 1/2″ to 2 1/2” squares, and serve.
At the height of the summer produce, I’ve added more goodness with grilled summer squash and steamed local purple beans. As an extra special treat, I brined and smoked a whole sustainably raised chicken and adorned the salad.
- 2 cups shredded lettuce (arugula or romaine)
- 1 large or 2 small cucumbers, diced
- 2 medium tomatoes, diced
- 1/2 cup parsley, leaves only, fjnely chopped
- 1/4 cup mint leaves, fjnely chopped
- 1 red bell pepper, diced
- 1 medium zucchini, grilled and diced
- 1 medium crookneck squash, grilled and diced
- 1 medium eggplant,sliced in rounds, grilled and diced
- 10 small green onions, finely sliced
- 1 teaspoon sumac
- 4 cups picked smoked or roasted chicken
- 2 rounds of pita bread toasted until golden brown, broken into pieces about the size of a quarter
- 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 2 tablespoons (or more) pomegranate molasses
- 2 large garlic cloves, minced
- 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
Mix all salad ingredients except for pita chips in a large bowl. Add 3/4 of dressing; toss to coat, adding more dressing by tablespoonfuls as needed. Season with salt. Add pita, toss and serve.