HEARTY SUMMER SALADS WITH WHOLE GRAINS: Summer is the perfect time to wed whole grains to fresh herbs, vegetables and fruits for a hearty lunch or quick dinner. Take them to potlucks, deliver one to a sick friend or pack for a picnic. Whole grains stand up to time, are fast to assemble and accompany nearly any other menu item. Here is a blueprint for making a variety of whole grain salads that match a cuisine you love.
GARDEN SOUPS--Soups transform garden produce in the freezer or pantry into extravagant lunches. Companion veggies you love that fit well together, choose favorite spices or herbs, a broth of your choice. Cook until soft and blend. Lunch is ready. Here are two soups: one based on cauliflower, the other on winter squash.
SOUFFLÉS -- For light fare, soufflés spin their golden web around most crops in season: asparagus, chard, spinach, zucchini or eggplant. A spoonful of ratatouille folded into a soufflé transforms whipped egg whites into a sophisticated main dish. And, a soufflé is far faster and easier to make than you may believe.
QUINOA -- a pseudo grain rapidly gaining popularity in the United States, requires cool nights and warm days below 90 degrees to set seed. Although the high San Luis Valley of Colorado is one of the few areas in North America that can support quinoa, the end result was far different from the original seed that was introduced. Secrets to cooking this nutrient-rich food. By Debbie Whittaker
ON THE TRAIL OF ANCIENT BEANS -- When archaeologists discovered dried beans stored in a pottery bowl dating to thousands of years in an Anasazi dig, it clinched their theory. Beans were a staple in the diet of those ancient people. "I’ve seen those small brown beans," says agricultural extension agent Dan Fernandez, of Dolores County in the Four Corners area of Colorado, "and while they wouldn’t have viability to germinate now, they’re an example of why beans grow so well around here today." Ancient beans are still alive in Dove Creek.
WINTER SALADS -- On a bright, not too cold Colorado day, you can almost hear the lettuce growing—the tiny sword-shaped leaves standing at attention. But it’s only the imagination at work. Winter is locked in and the leaves of foxglove and sweet William lie hunched, hugging the earth.
THE ROASTING OF THE GREEN -- A haze of smoke hangs in the air in southern Colorado after the harvest. On street corners and in parking lots the pop of the gas torch signals the season of roasting. Vendors twirl wire baskets to sear the thin skins of Anaheim or Pueblo green chilies. Men wearing cowboy hats and boots stride to their trucks laden with boxes of the roasted chilies that will be frozen for winter stews and sauces.
AN AUTUMN WINDFALL OF APPLES, PEARS AND SOUR CHERRIES - The word windfall is associated with sudden, unexpected bounty--the image of ripe fruit blown from trees. Windfall is the perfect word for autumn when there’s a chill at night. Apples, pears and sour cherries show up in the farmers markets as if a cool gust has blown them in from the Western Slope.
HARNESSING THE SUN -- The road east to Wiggins, Colorado, is straight and narrow--slicing through wheat, corn and sunflower fields. Surely this isn't tomato and sweet pepper territory. Or is it? Russell and Cindy Shoemaker are growing spectacular vine-ripened tomatoes and pulpy giant sweet peppers in greenhouses. The brilliance of the Colorado sun makes it all possible, they say.
CORN IS KING in the summer. Even confirmed vegetable haters will drool over fresh sweet corn slathered with butter, salt and pepper. It's a beloved seasonal past time—what truffles are to the French and mussels to the Belgians. We'll visit the Western Slope, which is home to Olathe Sweet corn.
SWEET CHERRIES AND APRICOTS - As a prelude to Western Slope peaches, sweet cherries and apricots open the season for fruit desserts. David and Mary Morton from Morton's Orchards in Palisade are two you'll meet in the farmers markets. Their organic cherries are picked at the peak of ripeness when fruit is sweetest. Recipes include sweet cherries in whipped cream with chocolate shavings. Then try a rustic cherry and apricot pie.
THE OVERLOOKED SPRING VEGETABLES - We're in a gardening lull when it comes to vegetables. Chard and spinach, scallions, peas, broccoli and lettuce will make way soon for corn, tomatoes, peppers and squash. But before we overlook this spring bounty, let's celebrate a forgotten beauty, the humble beet.
HONEY isn't just a substitute for sugar. It's a delicacy in its own right. Honey caramelized peppery walnuts spice up a winter greens salad with blue cheese. Combine honey and brown sugar to caramelize salmon, or honey and lemon for Cornish hens. Classic honey butters complete the recipes for roasted carrots, sweet potatoes and onions.