By Joe Stumpe
Turns out there is a cure for the summertime blues: Summertime food.
This is the time of year when less work means more flavor in the kitchen; let freshly grown produce and other locally produced foods be the stars of simply prepared, simply delicious meals.
These recipes come from an event hosted by the Butler County Farm Bureau, which last month took two large busloads of people on a tour of some of that county’s major food producers. Along the way, the lucky visitors stopped for meals prepared by two chiefs using all-local ingredients.
Louis Foreman, owner of the popular Louis Café in Rose Hill, served a lunch featuring panzanella, roast pork with sand plum jelly and a decadent Raspberry Cream Cheese bread pudding at Walters Pumpkin Patch north of El Dorado. John Michael, head instructor for Butler County Community College’s culinary arts program, and his students prepared a dinner of pasta with sautéed summer vegetables, roast beef with chimichurri sauce, pulled pork with Walnut River Beer-infused barbecue sauce and more at Fulton Valley Farms near Towanda.
It was the bureau’s biggest farm-to-fork event yet, but judging from diners’ reaction, it’s a record that will likely be broken next year.
Panzanella (Italian bread salad)
This dish originated in Itay’s Tuscany region, probably as a way to make sure old bread didn’t go to waste, but we have a hard time believing it could taste better anywhere than it does with freshly grown Kansas tomatoes and basil.
½ loaf Italian or French bread
4 medium to large ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 handful fresh basil leaves, minced
½ cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper
Cut bread into 1-inch cubes and place uncovered in bowl for several hours or until slightly stale. Make vinaigrette by whisking or shaking together olive oil, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. Just before serving, add tomatoes and basil to bowl, toss with vinaigrette and serve.
Cool as a Cucumber Salad
1 lb. cucumbers
½ large red onion, sliced
1/3 cup vegetable oil
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
Directions: Peel and slice cucumbers (or leave skins on if tender for added color). Add to bowl with red onion. Whisk or shake together oil, vinegar and sugar. Toss everything together and serve.
Walnut River Barbecue Sauce
This barbecue sauce features Warbeard Irish Red, brewed by the El Dorado-based Walnut River Brewing Co. It (and the beer) goes great with pulled pork and other slow-cooked meat.
2 cups ketchup
3 tablespoons chile powder
12 oz. Warbeard Irish Red beer
1 teaspoon paprika
1 tablespoon garlic power
2 tablespoons yellow mustard
½ teaspoon cayenne
2 tablespoons brown sugar
2 tablespoons molasses
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
Combine all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer about 10 minutes.
Sweet-spicy Variation: Substitute Teter Rock, a Kolsch style beer made by Walnut River Brewing Co., for the Irish Red beer. Add 4 peaches, peeled and sliced, along with 2 jalapenos, seeded and minced, to the mixture before cooking.
Sand Plum Glazed Roast Pork
Sand plum jelly, made from fruit that grows wild in Kansas, is widely available in area farmers markets. This year’s crop of sand plums is said to be good. If you can’t find it, substitute another tart jam.
1 bone-in pork shoulder, about 8-10 lbs.
1 gallon water
½ cup kosher salt
1 onion, chopped
5 cloves garlic, minced
Sand plum jelly
The night before cooking, place pork shoulder in a large bowl or resealable plastic bag. Stir together salt and water and pour over pork. Refrigerate overnight, occasionally turning pork shoulder in the brine.
Before cooking, remove pork from brine. Rub all over with cayenne pepper, then place in a large roasting pan on top of onion and garlic.
Cook pork in a 325-degree oven about 4-5 hours, or until internal temperature reaches 185 degrees and meat easily releases from the bone; cover pork with foil after the first hour of cooking. When done, remove from oven, reserving cooking liquid, and allow to cool before slicing. Reheat before serving, using cooking liquid to moisten meat, and brush melted sand plum jelly over pork just before serving.
Summer Squash Confit
Serve this jam-like concoction as sweet accent to dishes like roasted or grilled meat.
2 lbs. fresh summer squash, diced
1 large onion, sliced
4 tablespoons butter
4 tablespoons sugar
Melt half the butter in a large skillet. Over medium low heat, cook squash and onion together about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until vegetables are soft and beginning to break down. Add remaining butter and sugar, cooking until butter is melted. Serve slightly warmed or at room temperature.
Chimichurri sauce originated in South America as a table sauce for grilled meat. It also makes a fine marinade for steak and chicken.
2 shallots, chopped
1 jalapeno, minced
6 garlic cloves, mined
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 cups fresh parsley leaves
2 cups fresh cilantro, leaves and stems
2 tablespoons fresh oregano
1 cup extra virgin olive oil
¼ cup red wine vinegar
Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and puree until smooth.
Summer Veggie Pasta
This recipe makes a colorful, light summer meal that comes together quickly once the pasta and vegetables have been prepped. If necessary, use two skillets to finish the preparation.
½ lb. pasta such as spaghetti or linguini
2 lbs. zucchini, yellow summer squash, red bell pepper and red onion, cut into long strips
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons butter, divided use
1 teaspoon minced garlic
½ cup dry white wine, reduced by half
2 tablespoons fresh dill
Freshly grated parmesan cheese
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain, rinse under cool water and toss with a little olive oil to keep from sticking.
Toss vegetables with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast in a 425-degree oven 12 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from oven and set aside. Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, simmer ½ cup wine until reduced by half; set aside.
When ready to prepare dinner, melt 1 tablespoon butter in a large skillet over medium high heat. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds or until just fragrant. Add roasted vegetables to skillet and saute about 1 minute. Add reduced wine, cooking until nearly evaporated. Add remaining butter and dill, then stir in pasta and serve, topping with grated parmesan cheese if desired.
Mini Peach Pudding Pies
2 pie crusts, homemade or storebought
6 cups sliced peaches
1 cup syrup (1 cup sugar and 2 tbsp corn starch dissolved in 1 cup boiling water)
2 cups prepared vanilla pudding
Whipped cream, for garnish
Roll and cut pie crusts into 16 rounds big enough to fill cupcake tins. Fit into cupcake tins that have been lightly oiled. Bake 12 minutes at 400 degrees or until lightly browned. Remove from oven and cool.
Add peach slices to syrup and cook until soft and slightly gooey.
Fill pie crusts halfway with prepared pudding, top with peach slices and serve garnished with whipped cream.
Raspberry Cream Cheese Bread Pudding
1 bag hamburger buns, torn into pieces
1 package (8 oz.) cream cheese, cut into chunks
1 cup raspberry jelly (or other favorite locally produced jelly)
2 cups milk
¾ cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
Butter a 9 x 13 baking dish. Place half the hamburger bun pieces in pan. Spread chunks of cream cheese and dollops of jelly over bread. Cover with remaining bread. In a bowl, whisk together eggs, milk, sugar and vanilla. Pour mixture over bread. Bake in a 400-degree oven about 45 minutes or until top is browned but inside is still slightly moist.