Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Cool and Easy Summer Side Dishes


  This spring I decided to grow my own vegetables. Starting with seeds and some starter pots, I planted green beans, peas and beets and some herbs and placed them in my garage near a sunny window. Amazingly (to me anyway) they started to grow and by May they were ready to be transplanted to my small garden. My backyard is mostly shady but I found a small spot that got morning sun and they continued to grow as the spring wore on. About two weeks ago I noticed the beans were out and ready to be picked. The peas are growing but not ready - the beets disappeared! 

  But since string beans are a favorite of mine I prepared my favorite dish and we had it for dinner that night along with some barbecued chicken breasts. 

  Looking through some old Martha Stewart Living magazines I found a cucumber recipe that's also really easy and can be used as a side dish or spooned over grilled salmon. I changed it up a bit to use the herbs I had in my small garden but it's really refreshing and so easy to prepare on these hot, hot days. If you try them, I'd appreciate any feedback you might have. Enjoy!

Sauteed String Beans

You'll need:
1 lb whole string beans
1/4c bread crumbs
1/8c extra virgin olive oil
kosher salt 

•Rinse beans and steam until the're tender with a slight snap to them, place in  serving dish.
•Give them an ice bath immediately to retain the bright color.
•In a frying pan mix olive oil and bread crumbs until moistened and golden in color.
•Add bread crumbs to beans and lightly loss to mix - add salt to taste.

They can be reheated in a microwave but they taste great cold or room temperature.

Cucumber Salsa

You'll need:
4 firm medium sized cucumbers (seedless preferably)
1 medium lime
Herbs: dill (2 tablespoons chopped) basil, parsley (about a 1/4 c of each)
Celery salt, kosher salt, pepper

•Wash, peel and dice cucumbers (cutting off ends) , place in serving dish.
•Add juice of one line, and finely chop herbs.
•Add a dash of celery salt and salt and pepper to taste.



  Over the winter I read the full series of books by author Lee Child.  Jack Reacher, Child's fictional main character, is a former army Major now a rootless adventurer who travels around the country like a modern day Robin Hood always finding a wrong that needs to be righted. 
  In one or two of the novels he calls an item in a motel room a 'counterpane'. Now, I knew what the word meant and it's a very British word by my thinking and I wondered why it was being used in this very American series of stories. So I googled Lee Child and discovered he was raised and educated in England though he lives in the U.S. now. 
  The reason I remembered the word 'counterpane' was from Robert Louis Stevenson's 'A Child's Garden of Verses' and a poem in that collection called 'The Magic Land of Counterpane'. It's a wonderful poem to read or re-read and think about in this electronic world that our children are growing up in. This recreates those days when simple toys and a giant imagination were all a boy or girl needed to get through the day.
  I would guess that if this was written today it might start with......

 'When I was sick and lay a-bed, I had an iPod on my head...' 

For the complete collection see this link. His poetry is truly wondrous!

And try Lee Child's 'Reacher' series - the latest one is '61 Hours' and it's on the bookstands now in hardcover. The others are available in bookstores or online in paperback. 

The Land of Counterpane
by Robert Louis Stevenson

When I was sick and lay a-bed, 
I had two pillows at my head, 
And all my toys beside me lay, 
To keep me happy all the day. 

And sometimes for an hour or so 
I watched my leaden soldiers go, 
With different uniforms and drills, 
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills; 

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets 
All up and down among the sheets; 
Or brought my trees and houses out, 
And planted cities all about. 

I was the giant great and still 
That sits upon the pillow-hill, 
And sees before him, dale and plain, 
The pleasant land of counterpane.

Tomorrow: Hyperventilating about Hydrangeas!

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