Summer Celebrations

fireworksI always consider the 4th of July the middle of summer (although with the weather we’ve been having the past couple of months, I hope that isn’t the case this year!). It’s a perfect time to get outside, cook on the grill, and make fruit pies. A few of weeks ago, my 11-year-old nephew made a blueberry pie for Father’s Day and after having a slice (which was delicious), I said I needed the recipe. About 10 minutes later he returned with a copy, which came from the Better Homes & Gardens cookbook. This cookbook, with its red and white checked cover, is what I grew up learning how to cook from; it has excellent recipes that are easy to follow. When my nephew spent the weekend and I was in a mood to make a rhubarb pie, we went into the kitchen.

I honestly don’t know if rhubarb can be found in other parts of the country or the world. Is it, dear readers? I’d love to know! Here in Vermont, it is a springtime staple. I usually buy many stalks, chop, and then freeze it–sometimes for up to a year. I had some leftover rhubarb in the freezer, so I just took it out and defrosted it before making the pie.

This recipe is super simple, 4 cups of rhubarb, 1 cup sugar, ¼ cup flour. I had some fresh Vermont strawberries on the counter, so I added about a half-cup sliced. It wasn’t until after it was ready to go in the oven that I realized I normally add a bit of spice, some cinnamon and nutmeg, vanilla, or grated orange rind to the fruit mixture. But it didn’t matter, this was a perfect rhubarb pie; a little tart, a little sweet. You can use a pre-made crust, or make the one I always use from The Joy of Cooking: 1 ½ cups of flour, ½ teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon baking powder, 6 tablespoons of butter, and ice water (add by the tablespoon until the dough is ready to roll out). There are two times of the year I made pies, summer and Thanksgiving. Hands down, pie is my favorite dessert, there is just something special about a homemade pie.
rhubarb pie

I’m going to take next week off to get out of the kitchen, so here is a great selection of past MVK recipes that are perfect to make for your 4th of July celebration and beyond this summer!

Macaroni Salad

Potato Salad

Szechuan Cucumbers

Red White and Blue Salad

Gigi’s Chicken Salad

Black Bean Salad with Shrimp

Crumbly Peach Pie

Blueberry Pie

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Black Bean Salad with Shrimp

 

So are the lazy, hazy days of summer, when dinners are the quickest to make so we can enjoy those last few moments of the day before the sun goes down. Suppers of late have been ridiculously easy, so easy I thought twice about offering you this salad; I made it one night and takes about 15 minutes from start to finish, hardly a recipe! You have protein from the shrimp and beans, combine that with the sweetness from the tomatoes and the zing of the lime juice and you have a healthy and delicious meal in minutes! You can always add more vegetables, cucumbers and corn would be especially tasty, some creamy chopped avocado, and you could serve it on a bed of fresh lettuce. For vegetarians, you could substitute another bean, perhaps a high protein grain (quinoa, brown rice, or farro), or some sautéed tofu. And it’s healthy enough you won’t feel badly about going back for seconds!

Black Bean Salad with Shrimp
Some people have an aversion to cilantro, so that is an optional addition to the end of the dish. I had some leftover from the farmer’s market and it was a delicious addition to what was already a tasty dish! 

2 cups of black beans or a 14 oz. can, drained and rinsed
1-2 cups (depending on the size) of shrimp, poached
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 tsp. oil
½-¾ cup of grape tomatoes, sliced in half vertically
⅓ cup or so of chopped scallions
1 jalapeno, seeded (if you want less heat) and minced (optional for those who don’t like it hot)
Juice of one lime
Salt and pepper, to taste
Cilantro, for topping (optional)

1. In a small skillet, warm about a teaspoon of oil. Add the garlic, saute until soft. Add the shrimp and cook over low heat until they turn pink. Set aside.
2. In a bowl, add the beans, tomatoes, scallions, and jalapeno and stir. Mix in the shrimp and garlic, add the lime and salt and pepper to taste. Top with cilantro, if using.