Our summer was so busy with trips, camping, carnivals, rodeos, and more that we weren’t able to do our normal Friday Funday potlucks with our neighbors. (Click here to learn more about Friday Funday) But we definitely made up for it at an end of summer birthday party. Our theme: go to the local farmers’ market and get what looks good. It’s amazing how many great ideas we came up with. But here’s what we “settled” on.
Caprices Salad: There’s really nothing to this salad. Layer farm fresh tomatoes, sweet basil leaves, and fresh mozzarella cheese. Then drizzle your masterpiece with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Finish with cracked black pepper. Simple, yet bursting with flavor.
Broccoli and White Cheddar Quiche: Okay, so my neighbor Dean asked for my pie crust recipe recently. I thought, if I’m going to share it with him I might as well share it with the world. Pie crust is something I mastered around the age of 25 after many failed attempts. But once you figure it out it’s so easy! To start, place 3-4 tablespoons of cold water in the freezer. Then, in a food processor fitted with a normal blade add 1 1/2 cups of all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup of cold, real butter (one stick) cut into tablespoon sized pieces. Pulse several times until you have a fine crumbly mixture. With the processor turned on slowly add the ice water from your freezer. Keep it running until a ball of dough is formed. Pull it out, dust it with a little flour, and form it into a ball. Wrap it in plastic wrap then press down on it to form a disk. Refrigerate it for 30 minutes (or up to 2 days). When you’re ready to make your Quiche pre-heat your oven to 350. Saute 1 1/2 cups of chopped, fresh broccoli, 1 minced clove of garlic, and quarter of a diced onion in butter for 1-3 minutes until slightly soft; set aside. Whisk 4 eggs, 1 1/2 cups milk, and salt and pepper; set aside. Dice or shred 1 cup of white cheddar cheese. Take out your disk of dough and roll it into a circle. If it’s difficult to roll, just let it warm up a bit. Place it in a pie pan, and, using a fork, crimp the outer edge and poke the bottom in several places. Spread out the broccoli mix along the bottom, top with three-quarters of the cheese, and then pour in the egg mix. Top with the remaining cheese, and then bake for about 40 minutes. The top should be set but still jiggle toward the middle. Let it cool and enjoy!
Zucchini Pasta with Garlic Cherry Tomato Sauce: For my birthday I bought myself a spiralizer, and I am so in love with that little baby! As a rule of thumb, you need a little less than one zucchini per person. For four adults and a few kids I’d recommend 3-4 large zucchini. Work the spiral magic and make a pile of zucchini pasta. (Note: We learned the strands are long and hard to dish out, so I would recommend cutting the spirals once or twice before you cook them.) Heat some olive oil a large skillet over medium heat. Add two cloves of minced garlic; saute for 1 minute. Add 2 cups cherry tomatoes; saute until they became blistered, about 3-4 minutes. Add pasta and season with salt and pepper. Cook everything together for about 3-4 minutes. Top with grated parmesan cheese. So simple, but so good.
Arugula Salad with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette: For the vinaigrette combine 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons good honey mustard, 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt & pepper in a mason jar. Put the lid on and shake to mix. Toss with arugula, Parmigiano, dried cranberries, pumpkin seeds, and sunflower seeds.
Blackberry Cheesecake: And now, for the finale! I can’t believe I am spilling all my secrets in this post. Pie crust and cheesecake are my “thing”; my niche; my pazazz. So, let’s do this. How does every baking recipe start? Pre-heat your oven, baby! For this, we need a 350 oven. For the crust, combine one package of graham crackers (about 9) and 2 tablespoons sugar in a food processor. Pulse to break up the crackers and then let it run until they are completely crumbled. With the processor on, add 4 tablespoons melted butter. Press this into a springform cheesecake pan and then put it in the fridge while you make the filling. For the filling, start by creaming 3 packages of room temperature cream cheese in a stand mixer (Before my KitchenAid days I used a hand mixer, and it works pretty much the same if that’s what you have). Keep the mixer running at medium speed and add 1 cup of sugar, then, one by one, add 3 eggs. And lastly, add 1 teaspoon fresh lemon zest. If you want a little more lemon flavor add 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice as well. Pour the filling into the chilled crust and pop it into the oven. Start checking your beauty after 30 minutes. You want it to be set but still jiggle in the middle. If you let it go too long the top will crack and the texture won’t be as creamy. Let it cool, then cover and refrigerate for at least four hours. I always make my cheesecake the night before and let it sit in the fridge overnight. For the blackberry topping, combine 1 1/2 to 2 cups freshly picked blackberries, 1/4 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup water, and about 1/2 teaspoon lemon zest in a small saucepan over medium low heat. Stir the mix occasionally, and, with a fork, press the berries to break them up. Cook for about 5-10 minutes, then set aside to cool. When you’re ready to serve, pour the blackberry sauce on top of the cheesecake and, with a spoon, push the sauce over the edges so it runs down the sides. It’s a beautiful way to end a delicious meal.
It’s amazing how much flavor can come from just using simple, whole ingredients. None of these dishes were particularly difficult or time consuming to make. But this dinner will definitely stand out in my memory for a while. Now go to your own local farmers’ market and get inspired – or just try one of these. And, please, make a cheesecake!