Tastes like summer – bright yet smokey

J says he dislikes May in California, because it seems so dreary compared to back East, where May is gloriously welcomed with sunshine, al fresco dining, skirts and open-toed shoes, and lighter fare.  We have had some beautiful days along the coast, though, so I think I may beg to differ.

Perhaps it is the tantalizing nearness of summer that led me to make a refreshing zucchini salad for dinner the other day.  Topped with smoky seafood spiced with paprika and garlic, it was a collision of the bright and bold flavors of summer.

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Corn and Zucchini Salad with Smoked Paprika Seafood (serves 2)

Ingredients

  • 2 ears of corn, husked
  • Kosher salt
  • 2 small zucchini (about 3/4 pound), thinly sliced lengthwise on a mandoline
  • 2 tbl coarsely chopped fresh basil
  • 2 tbl coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 2.5 tbl  olive oil
  • 2 tbl Meyer lemon juice
  • 1/4 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 cup seafood blend from Trader Joe’s, defrosted and patted dry
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 1/2 tbl olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp smoked paprika

Instructions:

  1. Cook corn in a large pot of boiling salted water until bright yellow and tender, about 3 minutes; transfer to a plate and let cool.
  2. Cut kernels from cobs and place in a large bowl.
  3. Add zucchini, basil, parsley, 2.5 tbl oil, lemon juice and red pepper flakes and toss to combine; season with salt and pepper.  Let sit for at least 10 minutes to marinate.  Divide between two plates and set aside.
  4. In a small skillet heat remaining 1/2 tbl olive oil over medium heat.
  5. Add garlic cloves and cook until just fragrant.  Add paprika and stir to combine.
  6. Increase to medium-high heat, stir in seafood and cook just until opaque and slightly caramelized at the edges.  Do not overcook.
  7. Top zucchini salad with seafood and serve immediately.
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To old friends and new salads

and SPRING, glorious spring!  Even in California, without ‘true seasons,’ it’s pretty obvious when spring arrives.  Sunshine truly becomes abundant, daffodils and hydrangeas fill the parks, and asparagus and strawberries pop up in abundance at farmer’s markets.  ❤

I met up with my old college roommates and their little mini-me’s (3 daughters between the two of them!  so cute!) for a picnic lunch yesterday.  I remember well how we all greeted spring in college – we’d find excuses to eat or sit outside ‘to study’ in Dunster House’s courtyard.  One year, after taking my MCAT, I came home after the 8 hr exam to be greeted by champagne and strawberries in the courtyard.

Yesterday’s picnic felt a little like old times, with some delightful additions: three little girls who liked to chase after ducks and risk a dunking in the pond in their curious pursuit of koi fish and turtles.  We had a delicious assortment of cheese, sandwiches, fresh strawberries and grapes, and I brought along two new salads to provide some vegetables: Grilled Zucchini and Leeks with Walnuts and Herbs and Asparagus with Meyer Lemon and Farro.  Both can be made nut-free for those with allergies, but the almonds and walnuts add texture and heartiness.

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A duo of salads packed for picnicking!

Grilled Zucchini and Leeks with Walnuts and Herbs (recipe from here) – serves 4

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup walnuts
  • 1 garlic clove, finely grated (I used a microplane)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh Meyer lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • Kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large leeks, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise with some root attached
  • 2 large zucchini (about 1 pound), halved lengthwise
  • 1/2 cup (lightly packed) fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves with tender stems

Instructions:

  1. Prepare grill pan for medium-high heat.
  2. Toast walnuts in a dry small skillet over medium heat, tossing often, until fragrant, about 5 minutes. Chop very coarsely.
  3. Toss warm walnuts with garlic, lemon juice, and 3 tablespoons oil in a large bowl; season with salt and pepper.
  4. Brush leeks and zucchini with remaining 2 tablespoons oil; season with salt and pepper.
  5. Grill vegetables, turning often, until tender and charred in spots, 5-8 minutes for leeks, 8-10 minutes for zucchini.  Try to keep vegetables al dente, or they will be floppy (not a desirable texture).
  6. Transfer vegetables to a cutting board. Trim roots from leeks and cut leeks and zucchini into bite-size pieces.
  7. Add vegetables and parsley to bowl with walnuts and toss to combine; season vegetables with salt, pepper, and more lemon juice, if desired.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

Asparagus with Meyer Lemon and Farro (recipe adapted slightly from here) – serves 3-4

Ingredients:

  • 4 ounces (5/8 cup) pearled farro (I used Trader Joe’s 10-minute farro)
  • 4 ounces (5/8 cup) pearl couscous or orzo or Trader Joe’s Harvest Grain Blend
  • 1 Meyer lemon, zested and juiced
  • 3/4 pound asparagus, trimmed
  • 2 tbl olive oil, plus extra for roasting
  • 1/2 cup sliced almonds, toasted
  • 2 ounces soft goat cheese, chilled and crumbled
  • Flaky salt and freshly ground black pepper

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
  2. Bring 3 cups of water to a boil in a 2-quart saucepan. Salt the water generously. Add the farro, cover, and simmer for 10 minutes or until al dente. (If substituting another grain such as spelt or wheat berries, follow package instructions or use this method: A No-Fuss Method for Cooking Almost Any Whole Grain.)
  3. Meanwhile, in another 2-quart saucepan, cook the pearl couscous or Harvest Grain Blend according to package directions.
  4. Spread the grains and pearl couscous on a large baking sheet and set aside to cool. Zest the lemons over the grains and stir to combine.
  5. Trim the asparagus and cut into 1-inch pieces. Toss w/ a little olive oil and season with a little salt.  Roast at 375 degrees F until crisp-tender — about 5-7 minutes, depending on how thick the stalks are.
  6. Toss the cooled grains with the asparagus in a large bowl.
  7. Whisk the Meyer lemon juice with olive oil and season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper. Taste and adjust. Pour over the grain salad and toss, along with salt and pepper to taste.**
  8. Just before serving, stir in sliced almonds and goat cheese.

**This salad lasts very well in the fridge; the herbal flavors of the Meyer lemons bloom nicely when it sits.