Saturday, September 12, 2009

End of Summer


Labor Day is behind us and the rich reds and golds are beginning to come out on the leaves.  My tomatoes are clinging to the vines against the occasional fall breeze, and my herbs are begging to be picked before the first frost.  Incorporating garden herbs and vegetables into recipes this time of year brings back the sunny days of summer right to your table. Having the children realize the full cycle of life when they are reminded these vegetables they are (finally!) eating are from those tiny little seeds they helped plant last spring.

I strongly feel that children with special dietary needs have an advantage over those that can blissfully eat the typical American diet without caution.  Celiac or allergic children need to read labels carefully, ask questions, and often have to turn to homemade alternatives (i.e., baked goods) rather than plastic wrapped convenience foods.  They will go into adulthood with a headstart on good nutrition practices.  The recipes below are brightly flavored and full of texture to please palates of all ages.  They are also fun for little ones to help prepare.  The polenta rounds are reminiscent of mini pizzas, and the quinoa salad is an extremely healthy alternative to the mayonnaise laden side dishes that turn up at barbecues and picnics all summer long.

This quinoa salad is my favorite, and comes from one of my favorite cookbooks, Cooking the Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello. Ms. Pirello's book takes macrobiotic to a new and user friendly level. She uses has a variety of gluten free recipes, and uses alternative grains like millet.

 Lillie helping me make quinoa salad

Quinoa Salad
from Cooking the Whole Foods Way by Christina Pirello, p. 54
2 cups water
pinch of sea salt
1 cup quinoa, rinsed well
1 cup fresh corn kernels
1 cup fresh green peas
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded and diced
1 to 2 celery stalks, diced
Juice of 1 lemon
Juice of 1 orange
7 or 8 fresh mint leaves, minced
3 to 4 fresh basil leaves, minced
soy sauce
2 Tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Bring water and sea salt to a boil over medium heat.  Add quinoa and bring back to a boil.  Cover, reduce heat, and simmer about 30 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed and the quinoa is fluffy.
Bring water to a boil in a pot over high heat.  Add corn and boil 2 minutes.  Remove with a slotted spoon and cool in iced water.  Drain and set aside.   Add peas to boiling water and boil 30 seconds.  Drain and cool in iced water.  Drain and set aside.  Toss the quionoa with corn, peas, cucumber, and celery in a large bowl.
Whisk together the lemon and orange juice, mint and basil to taste, soy sauce to taste and the olive oil in a small bowl.  Pour dressing over hot quinoa mixture and toss to combine.  Serve immediately or the quinoa will take on too much moisture and become soggy.
Yield:   4 to 5 servings
The following recipe is my own creation, and makes use of the lovely summer bounty in my garden. It is quick, easy, and can be used as an appetizer or side dish. The kids like putting these together, as they resemble mini-pizzas. 

Tomato-Basil Polenta Rounds
1 tube prepared polenta
1/4 cup olive oil
3 vine ripe or plum tomatos, thinly sliced
salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped finely
1/4 cup grated parmigiana cheese (optional)
Slice polenta into 12 pieces.  Brush both sides of polenta with olive oil, and place on a non-stick baking sheet.  Place 1-2 slices tomato on top of polenta rounds. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and basil.  Sprinkle cheese, if desired.
Place baking sheet under low broiler for 8-10 minutes, or until lightly browned.
Serve warm.
Yield:  12 servings 

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