Tomato-Basil Soup

For the cooking classes I teach at the Mooreland Free Fair each summer, I always try to highlight some fresh, in-season produce since Indiana has such fantastic garden fare in August.  Even though our overall harvest has been a bit lackluster so far this season, our basil has been beautiful.  I am not sure how many times I’ve made this soup (or a version of it) this summer, but it’s been quite a few.  Today’s batch was generously garnished with some yummy queso fresco.  Mmmm!

2-3 T. oil or butter
1 sweet onion, diced
1 can diced or crushed tomatoes (or 2-ish cups fresh, diced)
1/2 c. fresh basil, sliced into thin ribbons
1 t. salt
1 t. sugar
1 (15-oz.) can chicken broth (about 2 cups or so)
1/2 t. freshly-ground pepper
1/2 c. half & half or whole milk

In oil, saute onion until translucent.

Add tomatoes, basil salt and pepper; bring to a simmer.

Add broth and pepper; stir.

Blend until smooth.  (Make sure to cool mixture adequately if pouring into a blender with a plastic pitcher.)

Stir in half & half; add more salt and pepper if needed.

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Corn and Zucchini Medley

Yum, yum and YUM!

2-4 sliced bacon, sliced
2 c. diced zucchini
2 c. corn
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic
1/4 c. shredded cheese
pepper to taste

Fry the bacon in large skillet until cooked.  Drain and set aside, reserving  1 T. of drippings.

In reserved drippings, saute zucchini, corn and onion until tender-crisp.  Add garlic and saute for additional minute.  Season with pepper, if desired.  Top with bacon and cheese.

Better-with-Bacon Summer Squash

Summer squash is often the gift that keeps on giving in our neck of the woods.  And, even though I have dozens of tried-and-true recipes on-hand, I find myself looking for new ways to prepare it.  This is especially true because one of my kiddos pretty much loathes the stuff.  She will eat it when it’s served, but only because she’s hungry.

Since so many things are better with bacon, we’ve added it to our summer squash this year in the hopes of finding another recipe that we can all get excited about.  Even if it doesn’t pass muster with her, I look forward to having this with some fresh corn on the cob and thick-sliced heirloom tomatoes.

You can use any type of summer squash in this recipe:  zucchini, yellow squash, patty pan or even 8-ball zucchini.  It really doesn’t matter.  This can even be served with rice or over pasta if you want to bulk it up a bit.

4-6 strips bacon, diced
2 small zucchini, thinly sliced
2 small yellow squash, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, halved and thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
salt & pepper to taste
1/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese, if desired

In large skillet, cook bacon over medium heat until crisp.  Remove bacon and carefully drain grease, keeping 2-3 tablespoons in skillet.

In the bacon drippings, saute summer squash and onion for 6-8 minutes or until crisp-tender.  Add minced garlic and stir for 1-2 more minutes until garlic is cooked.

Sprinkle with cheese if you want (and why wouldn’t you?).

Shredded Zucchini Saute’

6-ish c. shredded zucchini
1 T. cooking oil
1 T. minced, fresh basil
salt & pepper to taste
2 t. butter
2 T. grated Parmesan cheese

Squeeze moisture out of zucchini by wrapping in a cotton towel and twisting to remove moisture.  Scrape zucchini into a bowl.

Heat oil in large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add zucchini, basil, salt and pepper.  Saute’, stirring often until crisp-tender–maybe 5 or so minutes.

Dot with butter and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

Coleslaw Perfection

Okay, I understand that perfect coleslaw is a matter of opinion.  I can accept that.  However, I want to add that I get lots of compliments from folks when I fix this–sometimes from people who don’t even really care for coleslaw!  So there must be something lovely about this recipe.

I sometimes add finely-diced sweet peppers or cucumbers to this before dressing.

scant 1/3 c. sugar
3/4 t. salt
1/2 c. mayo (the real stuff, please)
1/2 t. pepper
1 T. vinegar
2 T. lemon juice
small sprinkling of celery seed, if desired

Combine above ingredients and let sit while you chop the following:

1 medium head cabbage
2 normal-sized carrots
1/2 onion

Pour dressing over veggies and stir well.  Cover and refrigerate for a minimum of four hours, or even overnight.  Stir well before serving.

Serves 12 or so.

Stuffed Zucchini

About this time every year, I am looking for new ways to use zucchini.  This recipe is easy and tasty, and it uses another veggie that I have plenty of right now–Swiss chard.  If you don’t have Swiss chard, feel free to use spinach.

6 smallish zucchini, halved lengthwise
4-5 c. Swiss chard, sliced and packed
1/2 c. onions, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 T. oil
1 T. fresh basil (or 1 t. Italian seasoning blend)
1 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
2 T. dry bread crumbs (or cracker crumbs)
4 T. grated parmesan, divided
2 T. butter

Scoop out the pulp of the raw zucchini halves.  Chop the pulp coarsely.

Cook the Swiss chard, then drain and squeeze out as much liquid as possible.

Saute the onions and garlic in the oil until soft.  Add the spinach, zucchini pulp, herbs, salt, pepper, bread crumbs and half of the cheese.  Mix well.

Place the zucchini shells in a baking dish and stuff with spinach mixture.  Melt the butter and drizzle over the top.  Sprinkle with remaining cheese.  Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees.

NOTE:  These can be completely cooled, wrapped in plastic wrap or wax paper, then placed in a freezer bag for freezing.

Bacon Ranch Broccoli Salad

Not too long ago, my friend, Jimmy, made this salad for his family and me for dinner.  I thought that kids across America would enjoy broccoli more if it tasted like this!  I asked for the recipe and was told that it was just broccoli and ranch dressing.  Hmmm.  “Surely it’s more complicated than that!” I thought.  I finally gave it a whirl yesterday, and no, it’s not complicated in the least.

Incidentally, this would be good with cauliflower, carrots, peas and many other garden veggies.  What an easy lunch to pack for the job!

1 bunch of broccoli, raw or barely blanched, cut in bite-sized pieces
bacon, cooked and crumbled (I think I used 4 or so slices.)
cheese, grated (I think I used about a cup.)
ranch dressing (from the bottle, from the packet or from scratch–your choice, as much as you want)

Combine above ingredients and refrigerate until ready to serve.