Labor Day is here and this indicates for many folks the end of summer. In New York it has been a dry, pleasant summer with mild humidity and not too many pounding hot days. There was adequate rainfall here and there. In fact, temperature-wise it has been what many of refer to as an Indian summer over the last couple of weeks. An Indian summer presents a short span of hot weather along with low air humidity and drought that occurs normally mid-autumn.
What’s in the vegetable garden in the next few weeks
Let's see what's coming in from the local vegetable garden. I spoke to a bunch of farmers at the market and it is predicted that we'll have plenty of corn, which should last until the end of September. The end of the corn season will give a high five to much anticipated Brussels sprouts. A variety of Brussels recipes are already brewing up in my mind. I have seen already local fall squash at the farmers market. The squash was tender textured and its thin skin came off easily with a vegetable peeler. The butternut squash I tried lent themselves for raw, thin shavings in a salad. Apropos salad, lettuce grows this time of the year beautifully. Mild, sunny temperatures during the day and cool nights let salads grow without yellowing and unusual curling. The same with broccoli, which tends to have a growth spurt this time of the year. It's deep saturated green color without yellowing outer-clusters looks unreal. Also, kale likes the cooler nights, and hence the bitterness gets milder. I have been tasting a mild vegetable sweetness to generally bitter leaves.
Indian Summer Salad - Tender Greens w/ Butternut Squash and Walnuts
(recipe makes four salads)
8 oz or 1 small piece butternut squash
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
10 grindings black pepper from the mill
3/4 cup or 3 oz crushed walnuts
1 green apple
16 oz local greens, rinsed and torn into mouth-sized pieces (such as oak-leaf salad, mixed greens, or arugula)
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1) Peel the skin off the butternut squash and throw out. Peel/slice the squash into a bowl with the vegetable peeler. Heat vinegar in a small pot and pour over the squash, then add salt and pepper. Stir mixture and let sit for 10 minutes.
2) Toast walnuts in a skillet over medium heat. Constantly move the skillet back and forth to prevent torching the nuts. Add the still-warm walnuts with the butternut squash mixture and toss.
3) Cut apple into 1/8-inch cubes.
4) Combine greens with apples and the squash/nut mixture. Pour olive oil over salad and toss. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper as desired.
Chef's Tip: Crumble 2 ounces of blue cheese over the salad just before serving. My favorite blue cheese is Fourme D'ambert. It’s a little pricey and rather rare to find, so try it for a special salad preparation. Maytag blue cheese is more commonly available and will hit the blue cheese flavor notes perfectly.