Summer Salad with Tapenade

We’ve officially entered my favorite month of the year. And I do mean entered, because my favorite month is not August, but mid-August through mid-September. In my mind the best produce isn’t limited to calendar months, but this last third of summer. While we’re still enjoying cucumbers, zucchini, and green beans, tomatoes start to come in hot, as well as eggplant, peppers. Sweet corn kernels burst off the cob, melons are ripe, berries are still in full swing. Greens love the relief from the hot weather, and then we start to see some fall veg come in. There really aren’t enough meals in the day to eat all the goodness.

This salad is a bounty in a bowl. Take whatever veg you have and toss it with a bold tapenade for an easy dinner. The mix of cooked and raw vegetables makes for an interesting salad, and it’s vegan if you leave out the anchovy. Add in some additional protein like beans, hard-boiled eggs, or cooked meats if you want to bulk it up.

My full share this week was potatoes, husk cherries, tomatoes, scallions, fresh onions, hole-y arugula, carrots, holy basil, zucchini, shishito peppers, melon, and a few tiny eggplant. For lunch one day I made egg salad sandwiches with arugula and tomato. Half a giant zucchini, a tomato, and some onions went into a savory galette inspired by this one and this one, served with blistered shishitos on the side. My remaining zucchini and scallions are going alongside this Yakitori-style salmon (NYTimes link). Holy basil is going into Pad Kra Pao. I highly recommend embracing the slightly lower temps to turn on your oven for roasted eggplant and cherry tomato pizza or Athena bowls.

Summer Salad with Tapenade

Serves 4

Adapted from Dinner: Changing the Game by Melissa Clark

  • 1 medium eggplant (or about 6 fairytale)
  • 1 medium zucchini (or half a large one)
  • 1 lb new potatoes
  • ½ lb green beans
  • 1 bunch of arugula (about 4 oz), chopped
  • 1 large tomato
  • ½ pint cherry tomatoes
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil, divided, plus more fore drizzling
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 ¼ cup pitted Kalamata olives
  • ½ cup chopped parsley (a large handful)
  • 2 tablespoons drained capers
  • 1 anchovy
  • Juice of ½ a lemon, plus extra wedges for serving
  • 1 anchovy filet
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 400F. Chop the eggplant and zucchini into 1/2 inch cubes. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus salt and pepper. Toss to coat and spread in a single layer on a baking sheet. Roast for 30-35 minutes, tossing halfway through, until completely soft and browned at the edges. Let cool.

While the eggplant and zucchini are roasting, place the potatoes in a pot and cover with water (we’re going to cook the beans with the potatoes in the came pot, so make sure it is big enough for both). My potatoes were quite varied sizes, so if that’t the case cut the larger ones in half or quarters so they match. Bring to a boil over high heat and cook for 10-15 minutes, or until a fork can easily pierce all the way through. In the last minute of cooking put the green beans in the pot. Drain both and let cool.

Chop the tomatoes and halve the cherry tomatoes. Combine them in a bowl and drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper, and stir to combine.

In a food processor fitted with the S-blade, start the motor and drop the garlic clove in from the top. When you can’t hear it bouncing around anymore stop the machine and wipe down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Add in the olives, capers, parsley, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, juice from 1/2 a lemon, and anchovy fillet. Pulse a couple times, then scrape down the sides. Pulse again until the olives are uniformly chopped but not pureed.

Build salads with a base of arugula, topped with potatoes, roasted eggplant and zucchini, green beans, a few scoops of tomatoes, and a dollop of tapenade. Finish with olive oil, lemon juice, salt, and pepper to taste.

Cauliflower Arugula Bleu Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese was my gateway to loving cauliflower. Growing up I only experienced it as a raw vegetable left sad and lonely as the last thing eaten on a crudités platter. But in my quest to revisit vegetables I dismissed in my youth I made Jamie Oliver’s Macaroni and Cauliflower Cheese Bake and never turned back. It’s no revelation that any vegetable in mac and cheese is lovable, but cauliflower is especially so. Will had been flipping through How To Cook Everything: The Basics and bookmarked the Cauliflower Gratin with Bleu Cheese, which intrigued me but I didn’t have other elements to make it into a meal.  The Jamie Oliver recipe is delicious, but creme fraiche is more expensive and not an ingredient I always have lying around. Marisa from Food in Jars posted a more basic veg mac and cheese last month that inspired me to work on my own basic mac recipe that I can adapt to whatever is in season or in my fridge.

My version has some different steps, including roasting the cauliflower (but if in a rush you could cook it with the pasta like Marisa does). Arugula is not a green I usually have around, and I might have otherwise used kale, chard, or spinach. There was a bit of cheddar sauce leftover from last week’s baked potatoes, and since the new sauce I’m making was essentially the same thing and I didn’t want to let it languish in the fridge I just added it on in. I think with this basic cheese sauce recipe I could make mac and cheese out of just about anything now.

Cauliflower Arugula Bleu Mac and Cheese

Adapted from Food in Jars. Serves 6.

  • 8 ounces short pasta, like fusilli or penne
  • 1 head of cauliflower
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • 1.5 cups whole milk
  • 4 oz bleu cheese, crumbled (or 8 ounces of a less intense cheese)
  • 2.5 ounces arugula or another green
  • ½ teaspoon salt, plus more for the cauliflower and pasta water
  • ½ teaspoon pepper
  • ½ cup bread crumbs (optional)
  • ¼ cup parmesan cheese (optional)

Preheat the oven to 425F. Chop the cauliflower into small florets that mirror the size of your pasta. Toss in the oil and a sprinkle of salt, and then spread onto 2 baking sheets (so there is enough room for them to brown and not just steam). Roast for 25-30 minutes, tossing and switching the pans once.

Put the water on for the pasta, and start your sauce by melting the butter over medium heat in a small saucepan. When it is starting to bubble, add in the flour and whisk to combine. Continue whisking while the flour and butter cook for about 3 minutes, until it smells a little nutty. Slowly add in the milk, whisking in between additions (or while someone else pours, if you have an extra set of hands).When all the milk is added let it cook over medium heat (or slightly lower if it starts to bubble a lot) for 5 minutes. The sauce should be visibly thicker at this point. Add in the bleu cheese and whisk to combine. Add in the salt and ground pepper and turn off the heat.

When your cooking water is boiling, salt it and add in the pasta. Cook until al dente, about 6 minutes. Reserve ½ a cup of cooking water before draining the pasta. Then return the pasta to the pot, add in the roasted cauliflower, the arugula, and the blue cheese sauce and mix it all up. You can stop here and enjoy a stove top mac and cheese with a nice creamy sauce.

To bake, grease a 9″x13″ pan and add in the pasta and veg mixture. Top with parmesan cheese and bread crumbs. Bake in your oven (still at 425F from roasting the cauliflower) for 15 minutes. Let cool for a couple minutes then dive in.