Some of us are mourning the end of summer (yours truly) and some of us are jumping for joy now that the kids are back in school. Our son just went back to college, and I had to borrow a gas mask from the Navy SEALs to even enter his room to clean, so I feel your joy.
Perhaps it may take a week or two to organize again, after all the pool-park-zoo days, but you are going to reclaim your refrigerator. And when you do, the produce is bountiful and waiting for you.
Oh, yes, I know we all have been eating the fabulous Indiana corn, beans and tomatoes, but now you will have more time to make a few more intricate and grown-up side dishes. Don't get scared, vegetables are never complicated; that is the beauty of them. But you can combine and spice, cut and chop to your heart's content.
These are great ideas to go with the Summer Fete list of main courses I wrote about in the last article. They are posted online at http://bit.ly/DropDeadCulinary if you need to reread anything.
•Potato salad. I recently ate (devoured) a version of potato salad in which I fell in love. My mom made delicious potato salad, and I always felt I must make hers or it wasn't right. But I am sure she would understand as I finally expand my repertoire, at this tender age.
The new discovery had myriad colored potatoes and types: purple (my favorite), red skin, new, butter — all with their skins on. Also included were green beans, cut up in about 1/2 -inch pieces. Red onion was in there as well. So I was seeing color and texture, which translates to freshness as far as food is concerned.
When you make this kind of potato salad, where the actual potatoes are the stars, leave the skins on for color and also for protection from the boiling water, cutting them after they are cooled. Cook until they are tender, but no more because you want them to hold their shapes and not be mushy when you cut them. You are not making mashed potatoes, right?
In this salad, the green beans were very soft, but I would switch to haricot verts and have them crunchier in my version. This dressing was more like a German potato salad dressing, with vinegar. It was light, refreshing and yummy.
Asian slaw. I am all about Asian slaw this summer. I cannot get enough. Google Asian slaw and you will bring up lots of recipes. I have a favorite, but I add a few things to it to La Dolce Vita it. I like a little bit of peanut butter mixed in the dressing sometimes, and sometimes not.
The key is using sesame oil and rice vinegar. Domestic vinegar and balsamic will not do. I know it is customary to use black sesame seeds, but your guests will fear that they will get them stuck between their teeth, so use plain. They may still get stuck, but no one will know!
Purple cabbage is the key here. So bright and fresh, it is a beauty to look at on your table or buffet. We have all winter to eat a tossed salad (which I adore), so now is the time to amp it up.
Quinoa salad. Save it for winter.
Watermelon salad. Big and bountiful, there is more to watermelon than just slices. While I love the purity of unadulterated watermelon, there are some interesting, delicious recipes out there. Goat cheese goes well with watermelon.
Grilling it all. Nothing is safe from the grill these days!
Try grilling your corn straight on the racks. Oil your grill first to clean it, though.
Grill your eggplant, even stone fruit, like peaches.
And the baskets are ingenious for holding all your mixed, late summer veggies to grill. But you knew that.
Foil. I am still keen on the Boy and Girl Scout way of putting things in foil, brushing with olive oil and cooking them. OK, I know the Scouts buried their foil-wrapped food in the coals, but we can adapt their ideas for a gas grill, n'est pas?
Here is my Asian slaw recipe.
1 head purple cabbage
1 bunch scallions
1 chili or jalapeno, seeded and minced (leave seeds and ribs on for more heat)
2 inches fresh ginger root, minced
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tablespoons cilantro, minced
3 tablespoons sesame seed oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tablespoon peanut butter
Toasted peanuts and sesame seeds for garnish
Chop cabbage. Peel and chop jicama into thin julienne strips. Chop carrots into coins. Chop scallions into coins, white and most of green part, until it gets floppy. Chop cilantro.
Add these ingredients all together.
For dressing, add ingredients. Toss veggies with this and add the peanuts and sesame seeds. This is super with grilled chicken or thinly sliced steak over it for a main course.
Please let me know your favorite way to use the bounty of summer. I love new ideas.
Laura Wilson, owner of La Dolce Vita in Roanoke, is a Le Cordon Bleu-trained chef. She answers questions in The News-Sentinel every other Tuesday. Have a question for Laura? Submit it to firstname.lastname@example.org or call 461-8284. We'll pass on questions to Laura. This column is the personal opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views or opinion of The News-Sentinel.