Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook

Now that summer has given us a big blast of produce, it’s time to get serious about preserving it to have tastes of summer year ‘round. I confess to NOT loving canning. It’s not only the laborious process, but I just prefer my produce to taste a bit fresher-you know, like “just picked”. That’s why I’m a big advocate for dehydrating and then freezing.

Today the focus is on dehydrating. Drying foods is one of the most ancient methods and most efficient. I’ve tried both airing the food in the hot sun-while covered with a screen to prevent insects or using a handy small, tall layered dehydrating machine which just plugs away with no fuss.

Tomatoes, zucchini, chile peppers, peaches, apples, pears, figs all came out beautifully. For the majority of items, I cut into smaller pieces as in tomatoes or slice the vegetables and fruits.

 

 

You don’t have to follow set recipes although I’m sure they exist. It’s much more fun to “wing” it and remove the items when they are to your liking of soft or firm. For storing, the dried items can be placed in zipper freezer bags or freezer containers. Simple-eh?

If you follow the very dry technique, rehydrate by soaking in a flavorful liquid-juice, broth, booze or water and the fruit or veggie will come back to life. That’s how the dried peaches were treated for the shrimp dish. In the recipe for lentils (below), the tomatoes were still juicy when removed from the dehydrator; they tasted a bit concentrated and rich but were pliable and  soft. In that case, no rehydrating was necessary. It is fun to plunge these tomatoes in garlic infused olive oil and keep a nice batch stored in the refrigerator.

When the holidays roll around, those of us who have saved summers bounty will be very popular with our Gifts From the Garden.

Red Lentil Dal with Dried Tomatoes

Serves 4

We should stay on alert for healthy beans and pulses recipes. Why not? They are inexpensive, so beneficial for health and globally loved. I wonder why I often forget about them. Some of the best recipes are found from other cultures. This one has shades of India and was inspired by Cooking Light Magazine September 2012.

The dish can serve as a vegetarian entree or hors d’oeuvres or even as a sandwich spread.

  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 3/4 cup dried small red lentils
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • 3/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 tablespoon minced peeled fresh ginger
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon curry powder
  • 2 serrano chiles, minced
  • 2 ounces spinach (about 4 cups loosely packed)

To prepare dal, combine 3 cups water and lentils in a bowl. Let stand 20 minutes; drain.

Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Add 1 tablespoon oil; swirl to coat. Add the chopped onion; sauté 3 minutes. Add ginger and next 6 ingredients (through serranos); sauté for 30 seconds. Add lentils and remaining 2 cups water to pan. Bring to a boil; reduce heat, and simmer 23 minutes. Stir in spinach; cook 2 minutes or until spinach wilts.

To assemble: Place the dal on a platter or individual bowls and surround with dried tomatoes.

 

Shrimp with Champagne Peach Sauce 

Serves 4

Here you have an example of those beautiful summer peaches, rehydrated in champagne (or white wine). Sounds delectable, doesn’t it?

  • 3/4 cup chopped dried peaches
  • 1 cup champagne or dry white wine
  • 3 tablespoons chilled unsalted butter, use divided
  • 1/2 cup chopped sweet onion
  • 3/4 cup black olives; Niçoise or Greek, rinsed, pitted and coarsely chopped
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest plus 1 1/2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 teaspoon capers, rinsed, drained and squeezed dry
  • 1 teaspoon finely chopped fresh lemon thyme
  • 1 pound large shrimp, peeled, cleaned, sauteed and kept warm

Cover the peaches with the wine and let steep for 30 minutes.

In a small saute pan heat 1 tablespoon of the butter over medium-high heat. When golden, add the onion and saute for 2 minutes. Add the peaches and wine, increase the heat until boiling and reduce liquid by half.

Reduce heat to medium and add the olives, lemon zest, juice and lemon thyme; cook gently for a minute and add the remaining butter slowly over low heat so as it melts,  it forms a creamy sauce. Add the shrimp to the warm sauce to heat.

Serve by placing shrimp on individual plates and topping with the sauce.

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