I love summer! I love to play in my vegetable garden and get my hands dirty. I’m no Martha Stewart when it comes to gardening. I get my hands covered in dirt, and my legs and probably my arms and face too! It is great exercise, I get to be outside in the sunshine and I get to harvest beautiful vegetables to make delicious and healthy meals for my family.
We eat a lot of vegetables. So to supplement my own garden, I get a Community Sponsored Agriculture (CSA) Share. If you are not familiar with a CSA, it is a community supported farm where members pay the farm at the beginning of the growing season for a share of the anticipated harvest. Members then received weekly shares of vegetables, fruits and sometimes even meat. I actually split a share with another family since I have my own garden and at this point, it is just the right amount of produce.
I always look forward to Tuesdays since this is my share day (every other Tuesday actually). Since I love to cook, it is always fun for me to come up with different meals each week featuring the vegetables from my garden and in my share.
This week I made a Roasted Beet Salad and a Chinese Five Spice Zucchini Bread. Both sound a little simple and they are simple to prepare but they are both delicious and are perfect for a brunch with friends. The zucchini bread is kid friendly too!
For the Roasted Beet Salad you will need:
4 medium beets
4 oz Goat cheese (or your favorite soft cheese)
¼ C Balsamic vinegar
¼ C Olive Oil, plus about 1 Tbs for beets
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
I love roasting beets. It is the best way to eat them and it is simple to do. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees. Wash the beets and cut off the greens. Save the beet greens to sauté or you can even add them to the salad. If you haven’t had sautéed beet greens you must try them. I believe they are one of the best things to eat, EVER! Mmm, mmm… Do not peel the beets. You’ll peel them after they cook.
Take a large sheet of aluminum foil and place the beets in the center. Drizzle 1 Tbs of olive oil over the beets and wrap in the foil, making a little packet. Roast for 50 minutes to 1 hour. You’ll want to be able to stick a knife easily into the beet.
(I only used 3 beets since I wasn't making salad for 6 people)
Prepare the balsamic vinaigrette. You can use store bought, but really, this is so simple and so tasty there isn’t a good reason to use store bought. All you have to do is pour the olive oil in a mixing bowl and whisk the balsamic vinegar, mustard and salt and pepper together. Once you start making your own dressing you’ll realize you don’t need to buy bottles of dressing anymore.
Once the beets are cooked let cool just enough to handle. I peel beets by running them under cold water while rubbing the skin. They come off easily. Sometimes there are a few spots that are tougher and I use a paring knife to get the rest off.
I like to prepare the salads on individual plates but you could make it in one large serving dish. Place your field greens on the bottom and add wedges of the beets to the salad. I think four medium sized beets are good for up to six people.
Now for the cheese. I love goat cheese but you could also use blue, gorgonzola or any soft cheese that you like. My son, who is almost eight years old, picked out a black pepper crusted goat cheese at the farmers’ market. My son is my little foodie. We love going to the farmers’ market together to sample the different foods and bring home new finds. The black pepper Chevron was perfect for the beet salad. Simply crumble the cheese over the salad and then drizzle the balsamic vinaigrette over everything. Simple, but delicious! We enjoyed it with a glass of Italian Pinot Grigio!
The Chinese Five Spice Zucchini Bread
This recipe is based on the recipe from At the Farmers’ Market with Kids by Leslie Jonath and Ethel Brennan. I made a few changes to make it healthier such as less sugar and half whole wheat flour as well as to use the spices and items that I have in my pantry.
3 small zucchini
¾ cups all purpose flour
¾ cups whole wheat flour
¼ cup ground flax seed
¾ cup sugar
1 tsp baking soda
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
2 tsp Chinese Five Spice
1/3 cup olive oil (yes, olive oil in a baked good)
2 eggs, beaten
1/3 cup water
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
¾ cup chopped nuts of your choice.
Preheat over to 350 degrees and oil a 9x5 loaf pan (or you can make muffins or mini loafs). Grate the zucchini and place in cheese cloth and squeeze out all water. You shouldn’t skip this step otherwise the bread will be too moist. Over the years I tried to skip this step and always regretted it!
In a large mixing bowl, sift together the flour, sugar, baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices. Add the Flax seed. In a separate bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, water, lemon juice and vanilla. You might be thinking that I am crazy for using olive oil. I know olive oil has a strong taste but you really can’t taste it in this bread. I don’t buy a lot of canola oil and I save that for when I really don’t want the oil to change the taste of the recipe. You can use whatever oil you like best. Mix the flour mixture and the wet ingredients. Fold in the zucchini and nuts. Normally I would add walnuts or pecans. But I didn’t have either of those. What I did have in my pantry were almonds and pistachios so I used a mixture of both. They worked perfectly. Don’t be afraid to make substitutions!!
Pour the batter into your loaf pan and back for about 50 minutes to 1 hour for a loaf or about 25 minutes for muffins. You’ll want a toothpick to come out cleanly when inserted into the center of the loaf.
This bread is so good. The Chinese Five Spice adds a different and welcomed flavor compared to regular zucchini bread. I use Chinese Five Spice from Penzeys Spices but you can get it just about anywhere. You many never want to make plain zucchini bread again after tasting this! The bread was a big hit when I brought it camping and it is absolutely kid friendly. Just ask my son!