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bacon chimichurri salad with grilled corn, zucchini and potatoes.

This summer salad is brought to you by:  Bacon!  Because really, is there any dish it can't improve?  I always keep a little glass jar of bacon fat in my fridge, but I love coming up with recipes that use it right when you acquire it after frying up some sweet, sweet strips.  

Last Summer I fell in love with chimichurri.  We were getting insane amounts of parsley through our CSA and it was all I could do to come up with enough uses for it.  Meat is the traditional vehicle for this tangy, herbacious, spicy, garlicky condiment, but why stop there?  It seems to beg for an earthy grilled counterpart like the veggies in this salad.  Substituting bacon fat for olive oil really takes chimichurri to new heights of awesomeness.  The dressing has a bright tartness from the red wine vinegar but the bacon adds a rich, smoky, sexy flavor that really makes it shine.

Bacon Chimichurri Salad 

with Grilled Corn, Zucchini and Potatoes

serves 2


1 russet potato

1 zucchini

1 cob fresh corn

olive oil

1/2 a head of Romaine lettuce, chopped & washed

Bacon Chimichurri:

4 slices of bacon

3 T reserved bacon fat

1 T olive oil

1 cup chopped parsley

3 T red wine vinegar

2 garlic cloves, minced

generous pinch of red pepper flakes

salt and pepper, to taste

First, prep your salad vegetables.  Slice the potato and zucchini into 1/4 inch-thick diagonal rounds.  Toss them in a little olive oil to coat.  Brush the corn cob with a little more olive oil.  Place veggies on the grill and cook until a nice char forms on each side.  Remove from grill and allow to cool, slightly.  Cut veggies into smaller, bite-sized pieces and set aside.

Next, make your bacon chimichurri.  In a large pan over medium-high heat, fry bacon until crispy.  Remove bacon and allow to drain on a paper towel.  Chop or crumble bacon into bite-sized pieces.  Pour hot bacon fat into a small bowl through a fine-mesh sieve to filter out any burned bits (if desired).  Allow to cool until fat is just warm to the touch.

Meanwhile, place all your remaining chimichurri ingredients into a blender.  Pour 3 T of the cooled bacon fat into the mixture and blend really well, until the dressing becomes smooth.  Combine Romaine with grilled veggies and bacon and drizzle with desired amount of chimichurri (I used about half and stored the rest for later use).  Toss well and serve immediately.



How to Roast Any Squash

 It's squash season!  Let us rejoice!  There are so many things I love about squash, not the least of which is how sturdy they are!  We've been getting squash from our CSA for weeks and I'm building up quite a nice collection.  When stored in the proper environment, winter squash can keep for months.  Want it to last longer than that?  It freezes beautifully.

Some people like to peel the squash, dice up the flesh, and freeze it raw.  This is a perfectly decent method except for one thing - the prep work sucks!  Peeling squash with a vegetable peeler is darned-near impossible, and peeling it with a knife is difficult and time-consuming.  That's why my preferred method is roasting, scraping the flesh from the skin, and freezing it.  Having pre-cooked squash on hand is fodder for practically instant meals, makes squash soup or sauce a cinch, and even makes a great add-in for dog food!  Plus, it doesn't require any fancy knife work, which makes it faster and less dangerous for those home cooks who have less-than-great knife skills!

Whatever you decide to do with it, use these simple instructions as the base for all your various squash creations.  And with all that extra time you saved, you can throw yourself an impromptu dance party!

How to Roast Any Squash

Several lbs. mixed squash (Acorn, Butternut, Buttercup, Spaghetti, Kabocha, Pumpkin, etc.)
large roasting pan with inner-fitting roasting rack

Heat oven to 425 degrees.

Wash squash well, removing any clumps of dirt from the skin.  Using a good, sharp knife, slice a small layer from the base of the squash to give yourself a flat bottom.  Hold the squash firmly and slice in half.  Use a large spoon to scoop out the seeds and pulp.

Add about 2 inches of water to your roasting pan (so it comes to just below the roasting rack).  Place your squash halves cut-side down on the rack and place in the oven.  Roast for about 1 hour, or until the thickest part of the squash is cooked through (it should yield easily when pierced with a knife).

Scoop the flesh from the skin and place in a container or plastic bag.  Allow to cool in the refrigerator completely before sealing the container, then freeze, if desired.



Zucchini and Corn Pancakes with Brown Butter Yellow Tomato Sauce

When I was a kid, one of my favorite things to have for dinner was breakfast.  Every now and then my dad would make a huge mess of waffles or pancakes with jam-sweetened sour cream (it's a Scandinavian thing) and usually some bacon or sausage.  The prospect of a sweet, doughy treat in the evening was somehow even more exciting than when he made them for breakfast!

As an adult I still enjoy breakfast for dinner, or "brinner" as we like to call it.  This dish is a bit of a departure from your average breakfast but a simple meal of hot pancakes topped with sauce is still decidedly brinner-esque.  These gluten-free pancakes are crisp on the outside thanks to the brown rice flour and soft, toothsome and packed with vegetables on the inside.  You can make these with any ol' flour you have on hand, but I highly recommend giving the rice flour a try.  It's nutritious and it tastes great!

The tomato sauce in this recipe is a great way to use up all those late-summer tomatoes you may have on hand that are starting to get soft.  I used smallish yellow ones to yield a beautiful golden, buttery sauce but any kind of tomato will work well.  Just use a sharp knife to make an "X" on the bottom of the tomato, toss it in boiling water for a minute or two, then plunge into ice water immediately.  Once the tomato is cool it's a cinch to peel and you'll be moments away from this luxurious sauce.

Zucchini and Corn Pancakes with Brown Butter Yellow Tomato Sauce
makes about 8 large pancakes

1 medium zucchini, grated
1 medium yellow squash, grated
3 ears of fresh corn
2 large eggs
3/4 cup rice flour
1/2 cup milk
salt and pepper
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup chopped parsley

Tomato Sauce:
3 T salted butter
1/2 a yellow onion, diced
5 medium yellow tomatoes, shocked and peeled
salt and pepper, to taste

First, prep your vegetables.  Toss the grated zucchini and squash with about a teaspoon of salt and allow to drain in a colander for at least 20 minutes, periodically giving the squash a gentle squeeze to release the excess liquid.  Cut the corn kernels from the cob and toss with the squash.  In a medium bowl, whisk the eggs, flour and milk until smooth.  Heat a large, flat-bottomed pan over medium-high and add about 3 T of the olive oil (enough to coat the bottom thoroughly).  Add veggies to the pancake batter just before you are ready to fry the pancakes, season with salt and pepper, and mix well to combine.  Spoon the batter directly into the pan and fry each pancake until golden brown, about 4 minutes per side.  Add more olive oil to the pan as necessary and keep the pancakes warm in a 250-degree oven.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a medium saucepan over medium-high.  As soon as butter has melted, reduce heat to between medium and medium-high and cook until the butter is browned, stirring often, about 8 minutes.  Add onion and cook until softened, about 5 minutes.  Add the tomatoes to the pot and crush with a wooden spoon until a chunky sauce results.  Cook another 5 minutes (longer, if you like) and season with salt and pepper.  Serve pancakes with tomato sauce on top and garnish with chopped parsley.



Summer Pasta

These hot days of August are enough to make even the most passionate cook want to stay away from the kitchen.  When I find myself needing a simple, quick and delicious meal to put together because it's just too hot to spend a lot of time by the stove, I will often turn to pasta.  Sure, you have to boil water.  But that's literally the only heat that gets applied to this meal!  Once the pasta is cooked, your time near the stove is over (hooray!).  The warmth of the cooked pasta gently heats the zucchini and the rest of the ingredients get added after the pasta has cooled so they maintain their bright, raw flavors.

I used Maestri Pastai's Cavatelli pasta for this dish, but any small-shaped pasta such as macaroni, farfalle, or penne will do.  If you can't find mozzarella pearls (the smallest-size, fresh mozzarella balls can be found at Marczyk's in Denver and most Whole Foods markets) you can always dice up the larger versions.  Either way, be sure to add the cheese when the pasta is only slightly warm to the touch so it doesn't immediately melt and form your pasta dish into an unappealing cheese glob.  To turn this pasta into a meal, I topped it with a fried egg.  It would also be delicious with just about any added protein such as cannelini beans, chicken, or shrimp. 

Summer Pasta
serves 4

1 lb. Cavatelli Pasta
2 cups zucchini, grated (about 3-4 small zucchini)
2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes (about 1 pint)
1/4 cup parsley, chopped
2 T basil, chopped
juice of 1 lemon
3 T olive oil
salt and pepper, to taste
1 cup Mozzarella pearls
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and add pasta.  Cook according to package instructions, drain, and place in a large bowl.  Place grated zucchini in a colander and sprinkle with salt.  Toss well and squeeze the zucchini gently, allowing the moisture to drain.  While pasta is still hot, toss with grated zucchini.  Set aside.

Once pasta has cooled, slightly, to just warm, add tomatoes, parsley, basil, lemon juice and olive oil and toss well to combine.  Season with salt and pepper and add a little extra olive oil if necessary.

When pasta is only a little warm to the touch, add mozzarella and toss well to combine.  Serve with the parmigiano reggiano sprinkled on the top.



Goat Cheese Polenta with Zucchini and Chard "Ratatouille"

Ah, polenta.  The quintessential Italian comfort food!  Ok, maybe pasta is the quintessential Italian comfort food, but I feel a bit partial to the warm, creamy concoction that results from simmering frangrant, toasty cornmeal in water and mixing in some rich, tangy chevre (I used the always-delicious and Colorado-made Haystack Mt. Boulder Chevre).  Broil an egg on the top and you reach a whole new level of awesomeness!

To make this dish even more comfy-cozy, I topped it off with my take on a classic French comfort food, ratatouille.  This version is composed of all the delicious Grant Family Farms CSA ingredients I had on hand, although typically ratatouille is made with zucchini, bell pepper and eggplant.  This version packs in a healthy dose of just-cooked greens, instead, and gets a nice, bright punch of flavor from the addition of sun-dried tomatoes and freshly chopped parsley leaves.  Definitely not traditional but decidedly less fussy and totally delicious!

Goat Cheese Polenta with Zucchini and Chard Ratatouille
serves 6

6 1/2 cups water
1 1/2 cups polenta grain
4 oz chevre, softened to room temperature
salt to taste
6 farm-fresh eggs

2 T olive oil
3 cups mixed zucchini, diced
1/2 large red onion, diced
2 T garlic scapes, sliced
2 T sun-dried tomatoes, minced
1 28-oz can San Marzano whole tomatoes
2 cups chard leaves, chopped (about 4 large leaves)
salt and pepper, to taste
1/4 cup parsley, finely chopped

In a large pot, bring water to a boil.  Pour in the polenta in a slow, thin stream while whisking vigorously.  Switch to a wooden spoon and stir polenta until mixture returns to a boil.  Reduce heat to low and cover pot.  Cook polenta, stirring vigorously for 1 minute every 7-8 minutes or so, until grain is tender and most of the water has been absorbed, about 30 minutes.  Add chevre and salt to polenta, breaking up the cheese with the wooden spoon, and stir until chevre is incorporated, about 5 more minutes.

As your polenta is cooking, in a medium bowl, use your hands to crush the San Marzano tomatoes into rough chunks.  In another large pot, heat oil over medium-high.  Add zucchini and onion and cook until softened, about 6 minutes.  Add garlic scapes and sun-dried tomatoes and cook another minute.  Add the tomatoes with their juice into the pot and bring mixture to a boil.  Reduce heat to simmer and allow to cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture thickens, about 30 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Place your oven rack on the highest level (make sure there's enough room for your pan to fit below the burner).  Heat oven to broil.  Once polenta is cooked, spray a 9x13-inch lasagne dish (slightly smaller is OK) with cooking spray.  Pour polenta into the dish.  Crack one egg into a small cup and place the other eggs nearby.  Make a well in the polenta with your spoon and slide the egg into the well.  Repeat with remaining eggs, working quickly so the polenta doesn't solidify.  Place under broiler and cook (watching closely) until egg whites are set, up to 5 minutes.

When the ratatouille has cooked down, remove from heat.  Add chopped chard leaves and stir for a few minutes until the chard has wilted.  Allow polenta to cool and solidify (at least 10 minutes), then cut and serve with ratatouille and fresh parsley on top.