In light of the Indian Summer we are experiencing, I fled to Amagansett for one last post-Labor Day summer hurrah. The realities of a barren fridge yielded a much-needed trip to Balsam Farms to take advantage of the bounty of local produce. With temperatures approaching a sweltering 85 degrees (still), I felt myself resisting the inevitable transition to fall and clinging to bright summer flavors.
Lunch was my focus: a healthy dose of veggies grilled on the barbie, swooning about with some hearty grains and spiked with a super flavorful pesto. This particular dish was inspired by a recent trip to LA, but until I hit the farmstand I really had no idea how things would play out.
Balsam had an abundance of vibrant green zucchini, which I knew would become my star veggie (of course, my child’s tastes play a massive role in my veggie choices ). I already had some quinoa in the larder at home so that would be the base of the bowl. Purslane and arugula caught my eye, as did some shockingly curvaceous garlic scapes—it was likely the last of the scapes for this season so I felt compelled to snatch them up and utilize them somehow!
The beauty of purple and pink radishes swooned me as I left the farm: sliced paper thin for texture and crunch, their peppery bite is a perfect finishing element. I also grabbed a handful of tarragon, an herb I rarely use but have always adored for its unique flavor. The dish ahead of me had yet to be fully realized, and as I left the farm with armfuls of greens, I challenged myself to use each and every ingredient—to frolic with every last summer flavor.
I did feel a touch intimidated by the scapes and to be completely honest, I mostly bought them for their wildly beautiful, haphazard and curvaceous shape. However, once I sampled the thin curly stalk, I immediately recognized their unmistakable garlic flavor, only slightly more mild like a scallion or leek. Scapes were the base of my pesto along with arugula, pecorino, hazelnuts and EVOO, whipped into a verdant, creamy sauce. Next was my go-to seasoning for zucchini—simply a touch of cumin and pepper. Salt pulls too much water out of them and its absence allows these bad boys to retain golden grill marks.
When it comes to quinoa, one note: I always make a larger portion than needed as it stores so well in the fridge, and its all too easy to toss into any salad or veggie bowl. Actually, the same holds true for pesto, so double up on the herbaceous sauce to slather onto crostini or as dip for raw veggies. You can even toss over pasta or serve alongside a steak—it is without a doubt, the ideal accompaniment to just about anything.
Plating and a finishing touch is the key to beautifying your meal. I always love a crunch from a nut (toasted hazelnuts in this case), and a delicately shaved veggie (I slivered radishes on a mandolin), plus, leafy greens came in the form of purslane. Each element on the plate had its own quadrant for all of about 3 seconds until I dove in and the mélange of flavors united swooningly on my fork. So much vibrancy and bright flavor to savor, I’m hanging to summer on for just a little bit longer…