This Week at the Farmers Market: Summer Squash Pizza

If you’ve ever tried growing your own summer squash then you understand how quickly they can multiply and become overwhelming. Even inventive cooks can grow weary of its abundance before the dog days of August, and they are now all over the farmers markets. But with mild flesh and edible skin, yellow squash is easy to use in a variety of ways: cooked or raw, grilled, steamed, sauteed or baked. When picking out your squash at the market avoid spongy, flabby or overgrown ones and choose ones with taut skin, about 8 inches long or less.

This is a perfect way to enjoy veggie “pizza” without a ton of calories. You can make this light, tasty meal in the toaster oven on hot days when you don’t want the added heat in the kitchen. You can also eat it cool, rolled up as a wrap.

Summer Squash Pesto Pizza Roll-Ups

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100 Ways to Use Beer in Food and Drink #8 and #9: Black and Tan Beer-Infused Garlic Pesto

To all you naysayers out there: you lose! Yet again I  accomplish both #8 and #9 of my quest to use beer in 100 different dishes. This time, I wanted to make something versatile, that could go with various meals, so I opted for a pesto that is amped up with flavor of a black and tan beer….plus beer-infused garlic, so I knock two items off the list.

Hopefully you realize that black and tan is a reference to a mix of two tasty and contrasting beers. The mix of beers varies depending on where you get it and from whom, but is generally a dark beer with a pale ale or lager. This time, I used Yuengling’s version: a mix of their porter and their premium beer. I was hoping the porter part of this would bring out the nutty flavor of the pine nuts, but because it’s only half porter, wouldn’t turn the pesto dark.

The black and tan did bring out the pine nuts, while also giving the pesto a bit of the bite when mixed with the garlic. I put one slice of sun-dried tomato in the mix and it lent a very subtle taste that again, I believe was brought out by the beer. I served this as a snack on toast, topped with a slice of sun-dried tomato. Then, for dinner we put it on our burgers, along with the beer-infused ketchup! OR you can make an open-faced tuna sandwich and top it off with some pesto (see above). You’re welcome.

Beer-Infused Garlic

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Eyes Before Taste Buds: Panzanella Salad

Sure, it’s great when food tastes good, but any food blogger will tell you that what’s really important is presentation. Colorful, vibrant food is instantly appealing. Looking at a wall of penny candy or a heaping bowl of fruit, you are mesmerized by the abundance of color. If it’s appealing to the eye, it must be appealing to your taste buds, right? We felt this way when we first created this summery, visually enticing side dish. Panzanella salad, a classic Tuscan summer dish, celebrates fresh garden produce.

Classic panzanella incorporates stale, unsalted Tuscan bread. Since we do not keep stale bread on hand (who doesn’t finish bread before it goes stale?) we decided to char a fresh French baguette. The toasted baguette inside the dish absorbs the vinaigrette while maintaining its crunch alongside the fresh cubed vegetables. The married flavors are a kaleidoscope of color and texture.

Panzanella Salad

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This Week at the Farmers Market: Savory Citrus Roasted Asparagus with Tofu

This tender spring veggie is celebrated in festivals across the country this time of year, but even if you can’t attend one of the many super exciting events honoring these green stalks, you can buy some really fresh right now at most farmers markets and have your own party. Asparagus is made up of vitamins E, A, and C, folate for a healthy heart and cell regeneration, and potassium, which can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. Plus, fresh and locally grown asparagus just tastes way better than store-bought, although with the price of sand. Smart Tip: Genius neo-chef and farmer Dan Barber warns that you should blanch your farmers market asparagus before using to get it fully clean.

Just so happened my mom was having a vegan dinner party this weekend, so I offered up this dish — my tribute to the asparagus gods — and it was a hit.

Savory Citrus Roasted Asparagus with Tofu

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Killer Crowd-Pleaser Pasta

Lots of wine, lots of friends, lots of food… what can be better than a big dinner party? Being the convivial hostess that I am, I’m constantly gathering friends together for festive meals. I love experimenting with new dishes and ingredients, but sometimes I’m looking for a reliable go-to recipe — especially when I’ve gotten a bit ambitious with my guest count. In scenarios like this, I have an easy pasta recipe I’ve perfected over the years that guarantees dinner party success. Every time I make this I receive nothing but rave reviews. Not trying to brag, y’all, I’m just being honest.

If you’re having a load of guests over for the holiday season, give yourself a break and make a gigantic pot of this rigatoni with gorgonzola and sun-dried tomatoes. It’s simple and quick to put together, but the flavor is richly layered, and the vibrant colors of the tomatoes and basil lend a lively aesthetic to the dish.

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Gridiron Grub: Gearing up

This has been an odd year to be a football fan. With college football ending last January and the NFL lockout lasting through the summer, sports fans have heard incessant talk about the sport but seen very little of it until the last few weeks of preseason games. Because of this, I was ecstatic that I was able to spend last Saturday at the home opener for the Penn State Nittany Lions. I am from Northeast Pa. and Saturday pilgrimages to Beaver Stadium are practically a birthright. The early morning wake-up; the drive through pristine mountains and countryside until the stadium appears on the horizon; thousands of tailgaters sharing food, drinks and stories…..there is nothing quite like it.

Tailgating was in full swing at 9am, the university band was blaring, crowds were cheering and even the first kick-off was returned for a touchdown. There was really only one thing missing at last week’s game: fall weather. At kickoff the temperature was peaking at 90 degrees and felt even hotter with 100,000 of my closest friends packed around. Besides an opening day win, the only thing that made the heat easier to bear was the vendors climbing up and down the stadium stairs with water and fresh-squeezed lemonade for sale. Which got me thinking.

Spiked Basil Lemonade

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Cocktail O’Clock: Tequila + Balsamic

Who says tequila is made for margaritas only? This sweet and savory summer cocktail mixes the hard stuff with fresh strawberries, basil, lime juice and — for an extra foodie touch — balsamic vinegar. We approve.

Corzo Italian Sipper

1 ¼ oz. Corzo Silver
2 strawberries
1 sprigs of fresh basil
4 drops of balsamic
1 oz. Fresh lime juice
2 oz. distilled water
2 packets of Splenda or similar or 1 oz Agave Nectar

Serve over the rocks in an 8 oz. glass

Method: In a mixing glass muddle fresh strawberries and basil, add the rest of the ingredients with ice, shake 20 times and serve in a rocks glass with fresh ice. Garnish with a fresh spring of basil.

Find more summer-y cocktail ideas in Endless Cocktails.

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