Farmer's market bread salad

What a week, friends. We're staring down the barrel of a huge house move and the world seems to be devolving into complete chaos. To combat all of this uncertainty, I'm organizing. Or, organizing as much as possible when life feels like a giant snow globe: One flick of the universe's wrist and everything that makes me feel grounded will be flying around every which way.

As someone who claims to be unsentimental about "stuff" and who has become pretty cutthroat about culling after 15 years of living in one, two, or three-room (not bedroom, room room) apartments, we still have a lot of unnecessary crap. Why do I have receipts for jeans I bought two years ago? Why are there face creams I've never used in my medicine cabinet? I'm not terribly worried about getting rid of things because we're moving to a house with plenty of space, but seriously future self: STOP BUYING PARENTING BOOKS YOU WILL NEVER READ. No one has space on their nightstands or in their brains, house or no house. 

I've also been trying to keep the food easy and nutritious since we don't have time or energy to cook anything complicated and I don't want to feel terrible after a heavy meal when we have so much to do. Enter, bread salad with fresh raw veggies from the farmer's market and a quick basil dressing. I am the queen of buying bread that looks great, forgetting about it, and realizing it's there a week later when it's hard as a rock. Bread salad is the perfect way to resurrect stale loaves and is a great alternative to leafy salads. You can make a huge batch of bread salad and eat it all week without worries about wilting. Also, I've never met a toddler who wanted to tear into a salad of leafy greens. But a salad that features bread and tomatoes and can be eaten with your fingers is a win with my kid.

A couple of notes: I tend to make this salad with heavy, thick whole grain bread, but it can easily be made with a stale baguette or something lighter. Use your discretion with the amount of dressing you add to the bread: A thicker bread will require more dressing while a lighter, airier bread will turn to mush with the same amount of liquid. The goal of adding dressing to the bread is to revitalize it with liquid without turning it into a liquid. So, start with 1/2 of the dressing and add more depending on how dense your bread is.

I like to eat this salad as is for lunch, but for dinner, feel free to add cheese, grilled chicken thighs, shredded rotisserie chicken, hard-boiled eggs, or grilled shrimp to make this into a more well-rounded meal.

 

Farmer’s market bread salad

8 oz very stale bread
2 ears corn
1 medium zucchini or other summer squash
½ large red onion
1 pint cherry tomatoes

For the dressing:
2 large handfuls of fresh basil leaves (I used about 75 leaves, or about 1 cup slightly packed)
½ cup olive oil
½ cup red wine vinegar
1 large garlic clove
2 tsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp salt

Make the dressing: Blend all dressing ingredients in a food processor until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Check for seasoning and set aside.

Chop the bread and place in a large bowl. Add ½- ¾ of the dressing (See note above to determine how much dressing) and toss. Set aside.

Chop the rest of the raw veggies and add to the bread mixture. Mix well and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. When ready to eat, drizzle with leftover dressing before serving.

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Cucumber and watermelon juice

I food shopped last weekend as if we aren't moving 2 weeks from today. And we're not moving a few blocks away where we can schlep our leftover mayo in a cooler and voila, have a restocked fridge. We have an overnight in between moving out and moving in and somehow, I don't think the Hampton Inn's mini fridge can accommodate our haul of condiments. Call me crazy.

So, operation clean-out-the-fridge has begun and I completely forgot that I tossed a mini watermelon and a cucumber into my farmer's market bags last week. Before they went bad, I whizzed them up in the blender, added some lime juice for zing, and ran the whole thing through a fine mesh sieve. M was begging to bring it to school in his water bottle, but luckily he drank it all before we left the house, so I didn't have to break his heart by saying no.
 

One note: If you want to skip the sieving, look for a seedless watermelon and a hothouse or English cucumber for this recipe. Depending on your family's tolerance for pulp, you may also want to peel the cucumber too.

Cucumber and watermelon juice

2 oz cucumber
8 oz watermelon
1 Tbsp lime juice (Juice from 1 large lime)

Combine all ingredients and blend for 1 minute. If desired, pour juice into a fine-mesh sieve and press out liquid into a glass.

Yield: 1 serving (about 1 cup of juice)

DIY Stonefruit crumble

What's better than a summer crumble, amiright? It's the easiest dessert because you don't have to deal with a finicky pie crust or fish out any special kitchen gadgets (or even non-special ones like the mixer). However, the downside of a crumble is that it often requires 40-50 minutes in the oven and most recipes call for extra ingredients such as sugar or cornstarch to soak up the fruit juices.

This "crumble" lets the ripe seasonal fruit be the star- it's just chopped and mixed with a little lemon juice to prevent browning- while a quick bake of the healthier crumble topping adds crunch and a fresh whipped cream using honey instead of white sugar adds a little creaminess. And ALL of this is toddler approved, especially the part where you get to DIY the toppings. He can't keep his hands out of it:

The crumble topping was a bit of an experiment. I started with a recipe from King Arthur Flour because to me, they are the gold standard of baking recipes and tools. Initially, I used all coconut sugar and tried to sub in coconut oil for the butter, but it burned almost every time and tasted burned even when it wasn't quite baked yet. Gross. The proportions I ended up with are definitely healthier than the original, but are still buttery and caramel-y and form a crispy cookie that gets broken up once it cools.

 

DIY stone fruit crumble

3.5-4 lbs mixed stone fruit (I used 6 peaches, 6 plums, 5 nectarines, and 6 apricots)
1 large lemon or 2 Tbsp lemon juice

Chop the fruit (leave the skins on) and cover with lemon juice to prevent browning. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.

 

For the crumble:
Adapted from King Arthur Flour

½ cup melted butter
½ cup coconut sugar
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
¾ cup whole wheat or white whole wheat flour
½ cup old fashioned rolled oats
1 tsp cinnamon
½ tsp salt

Preheat oven to 300. Melt the butter in a large bowl. Add the dry crumble ingredients to the bowl and mix well. Spread onto a baking sheet in a thin, even layer, leaving some small gaps in the center. Bake for 15-20 minutes, checking every 5 minutes to prevent burning.

Yield: 3.5 cups crumble

 

For the honey whipped cream:
2 cups heavy whipping cream
2 Tbsp honey
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
pinch of salt

Whip the cream until soft peaks form, about 5-6 minutes. Add the honey, vanilla, and salt and whip for 3-4 more minutes, until the cream has reached your desired consistency. Don’t overmix or the cream will turn into butter.

Yield: 3 cups

Serves: 6-8

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Guacamole skewers

One of the most frustrating things about feeding a toddler is that one day's favorite food is the next day's reject. M used to eat guacamole by the spoonful until it was suddenly dead to him. But he still eats the components with no problem. So, I made a skewer out of it and let him pull off pieces and helped him cut them up. And he ate it.

This deconstructed guac is also a way to showcase your seasonal produce. I like hiding sub-par tomatoes and onions in my favorite green gloop, but this way, the still-warm-from-the-sun tomatoes can go right from the farmer's market to a skewer to your table. Feel free to double the sauce recipe if you want some leftovers: This bright, tangy sauce is a perfect topper for chicken, dip for veggies, or sauce for eggs.

The only (and I do mean ONLY) tricky thing about these skewers is timing the avocado right. But isn't that always the way? Too ripe, and the avocado can fall right off of the stick, but using not-ripe-enough avocados is very obvious here because there's no camouflage of mushing and lime juice.

Guacamole skewers

For the sauce
1 bunch cilantro, well-soaked
4 Tbsp avocado oil or other neutral oil
3 Tbsp lime juice
2 generous pinches of salt and more to taste
1 large clove garlic

Roughly remove the stems from the leaves of cilantro (but a few stems are fine). Blend ingredients in a food processor until smooth. Taste for seasoning and add more salt or lime juice, as needed.

For the skewers
Red, orange, and yellow cherry tomatoes
1 large avocado (halved, quartered, and then chopped into fours to get 16 pieces)
2 limes (halved and quartered)
1 red onion

Yield: 16 skewers

Sweet potato peanut noodles

I love love love peanut noodles, sesame noodles, and basically any noodle with a creamy, nutty, salty sauce, as does my child. He likes to pretend he can use chop sticks (he's actually pretty good, considering) and make a huge mess. It's adorable.

But peanut noodles don't exactly make a "feel good" meal. So I swapped out the soba or lo mein noodles that are the usual base for this dish and used swoodles instead and they're fantastic. A little bit crunchy and just a tiny bit sweet to balance out the salty sauce. Yum. The toddler agrees.

I like to saute the noodles briefly with a little olive oil and a hot pan. Really, you just need a few minutes to take away the rawness of the sweet potatoes. I don't look for any color, just a slight opaqueness. You aren't really cooking the noodles, just making them not raw, if that makes any sense. I'm guessing you could eat them totally raw and it would be fine, I just haven't done it. I also feel like swoodles beat zoodles in a "could this pass for pasta" contest, hands down. And vegetables! If you don't have a spiralizer, you could just use a vegetable peeler to make long, thin noodles. 

I've tried many different recipes and have winged it many times in making peanut noodles, but I always come back to Smitten's recipe. It's a little lighter than your typical peanut sauce because Deb swaps in some tahini for peanut butter. I always want to add tahini to this dish, but never seem to get the right balance when adapting other recipes. I add one more Tbsp of peanut butter and use an even 4 Tbsp of soy sauce because I really like peanut butter and salt. I also use half of the sugar because the sweet potato noodles are already sweet, but other than that, I use the recipe as written. I love it.

This base is also perfect with just some crisp cucumbers on top, but you could also add edamame, leftover protein, dried seaweed, toasted sesame seeds, and ANY other raw, steamed, or roasted veggies. You could kind of use this as a base for a noodle bowl. This is also the perfect accompaniment to turkey dumplings.

Sweet potato peanut noodles

1 extra large sweet potato (about 1 lb), peeled and spiralized
1 Tbsp avocado or other neutral oil
2 Tbsp toasted sesame oil
2 Tbsp tahini
2 Tbsp peanut butter
4 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp rice vinegar
½ Tbsp brown sugar
1-inch piece of peeled fresh ginger
1 medium garlic clove

Heat 1 tbsp of avocado or other neutral oil in a pan over medium flame. Add the sweet potato noodles and sauté for 5 minutes until the potatoes are slightly opaque. Flip the noodles and cook for about 5 minutes more. Let cool.

In a food processor or blender, combine all the ingredients from sesame oil to the garlic and blend until smooth.

Toss the noodles with the sauce and serve. Also, this dish lasted for quite some time in the fridge and maintained its crunch and freshness for at least 1 week.

Yield: about 4 servings