Two Herbal Citrus Summer Refreshers

IMG_6963 (3)When I picked up my share this week Paul (friend and farmer at Potter Hill) handed me two bunches each of lemon basil and holy basil and said “Here is your challenge for the week!” Apparently a lot of his customers aren’t sure what to do with these wonderfully fragrant herbs, so challenge accepted! My go-to preparation takes advantage of each of their unique flavors to make quick, but impressive summer refreshers: lemonade and limeade. These aren’t sugar packed, pucker-inducing ades, but truly refreshing summer beverages. They are easily adapted with different herbs, like mint and lemon verbena, or even heartier herbs like thyme and rosemary (for those I would scale back to ¼ cup). For a drink more like a soda use seltzer in place of the water, or turn them into cocktails by adding some gin or vodka. 

My entire share this week was the basils, lettuce mix, cherry tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, bok choy, fresh onions, and a bunch of carrots. The cherry tomatoes and bok choy went into a tofu curry from Melissa Clark’s Dinner (a very similar recipe is here). I used the zucchini and peppers in this wonderful, summery pasta with fried lemons (lemon basil would be great here too). The remaining peppers and onions were sauteed and served atop cheddar grits with some Short Creek poblano and cheddar sausage. The carrots are about to go into an Indian stir fry with coconut from Vegetarian India to be paired with dal.

Still looking for basil ideas? Summer rolls are one of my favorite hot weather meals, especially when paired with peanut sauce. Holy basil is an essential ingredient in classic Thai chicken stir fry Pad Kra Pao. Or give your pesto a twist by using lemon basil. And don’t forget to serve a refresher alongside!

Lemon Basil Lemonade

Serves 4

Adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison.

  • zest from 1 lemon
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup lemon basil (regular basil can be substituted)
  • ½ cup lemon juice
  • 4 cups water

In the bottom of a pitcher muddle the lemon zest, sugar, and lemon basil until the basil is very fragrant, but the leaves are still intact. Add the lemon juice and water and stir to combine (make sure all the sugar isn’t sitting on the bottom). Chill for at least 30 minutes, and strain to serve.

Holy Basil Ginger Limeade

Serves 4

Adapted from Vegetable Literacy by Deborah Madison.

  • zest from 2 limes
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • ½ cup holy basil (regular basil or Thai basil can be substituted)
  • 2 tablespoons grated ginger (peel before grating)
  • ½ cup lime juice
  • 4 cups water

In the bottom of a pitcher muddle the lime zest, sugar, holy basil, and grated ginger until the basil is very fragrant, but the leaves are still intact. Add the lime juice and water and stir to combine (make sure all the sugar isn’t sitting on the bottom). Chill for at least 30 minutes, and strain to serve.

Zucchini salad with herb yogurt dressing

IMG_6902 (3)If you have been slow to accept zucchini as noodles – I hear you. I was too, and I am still very wary of vegetable noodles completely replacing traditional pasta in dishes. But (but!) vegetables noodles have their own place in the world. Especially raw, they have great crunch and can hold dressing well, making a mean summer salad that will have you wishing for more zucchini instead of lamenting another one.

The Sprouted Kitchen salad that inspired this recipe was the first time I accepted zucchini noodles into my kitchen, and here they are to stay. Sara’s recipe calls for an anchovy or capers, and once I decided to use up the two anchovies I had left in a jar (because would 1 more make that much of a difference?). Well, that is now the infamous fishy salad that I will likely never live down. So, capers it is for us.

My full share this week was a head each of cauliflower and broccoli, carrots, two bunches of basil, a zucchini, fresh onions, and pea shoots. I simply stir fried the cauliflower and broccoli to serve alongside this fiery kung pao tofu. The pea shoots, some carrots, and a cuke leftover from last week went into cold Sichuan sesame noodles. If you have leftover broccoli stem this salad is a summer favorite. This is not a CSA related recipe, but since we are heading into a HOT weekend I want to point you towards by favorite popsicles that are just three ingredients (coconut milk, lime, and honey!).

Zucchini salad with herb yogurt dressing

Adapted from Sprouted Kitchen

Serves 4-6 as a side

  • 2 lbs summer squash (I used one large zucchini)
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 garlic clove
  • ½ cup whole milk plain Greek yogurt
  • 2 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • ½ cup thinly sliced onion greens or scallions (this was .7 ounces for me, about ½ the greens from one fresh onion)
  • 1 cup chopped basil (this was 1 ounce for me and came from one small bunch of basil)
  • 1 tablespoon drained capers

If using a mandolin, you may want to cut the squash in half and scoop out any of the middle that is especially seedy and spongy. Julienne peelers and noodle makers cut from the outside in, so this isn’t necessary with them.

Using a mandolin with a julienne attachment, a julienne slicer, or a vegetable noodle maker, turn your squash into long, thin, noodle-like strips. Put the strips in a colander, toss with the 1 teaspoon salt, and toss to coat (note that a lot of water will drain off the squash, so you will need to put a bowl or plate under it to catch the liquid). Let sit for 20 minutes.

While the squash is draining, make the dressing. Turn on a food processor with the S-blade and drop in the garlic clove. When the clove stops bouncing around turn off the food processor and scrape down the sides with a spatula. Add in the yogurt, lemon juice, vinegar, onion tops, basil, and capers. Process until smooth and taste for seasoning. Alternatively, finely mince the garlic and herbs, chop the capers, and whisk to combine with the yogurt, lemon juice, and red wine vinegar.

Squeeze any extra liquid out of the squash, and when ready to serve toss with the herb yogurt dressing. Once dressed the salad will last a day or 2 in the fridge, but it is best immediately.

Watermelon, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad with Feta and Lemon Basil

IMG_6336What is more summery than this salad? Ripe berries eaten off the bush? Kids running through a sprinkler? Fireflies? There may be a few contenders, but the list is short. One step further than eating each of these ingredients straight (which is a wonderfully summery thing to do as well), this simple salad plays up each component’s attributes by contrasting with the others. Crunchy cucumber, meaty tomato, and sweet watermelon, are excellent foils to fragrant lemon basil, slightly pickled onions, and salty/creamy feta bound together with fruity olive oil.

This is my Potter Hill CSA recipe for the week, and everything in the salad except the cucumber is in the share (the cucumber is also from Paul, I just bought it separately). The rest of the share was 2 pints of cherry tomatoes, husk cherries, purple potatoes, and savory. I’m going to use the rest of the lemon basil and red onion in these soba noodles (and I’m going to sub nectarines for the mango). I used the cherry tomatoes and leftover bok choy from last week in a Thai curry with tofu from Dinner (which is almost identical to this recipe, but with shiitake mushrooms instead of crimini, and cherry tomatoes and bok choy instead of the snap peas). The husk cherries just got eaten as a snack, and I’m not sure what the fate of the purple potatoes is yet. Maybe potato salad? Or over Dijon lentils?

Watermelon, Tomato, and Cucumber Salad with Feta and Lemon Basil

Serves 6

I listed quantities for each ingredient, but don’t worry about sticking to them too strictly. Use what you have, and just try to balance the ingredients.

  • 1/2 a small watermelon (~4 cups once chopped)
  • 1 lb of tomatoes (I used one monster yellow tomato, but 2-3 normal sized ones would be plenty)
  • 1 small cucumber (1/2 lb)
  • 1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion (1 very small onion)
  • 1 tablespoon rice vinegar
  • 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (this is the time to bring out the good stuff)
  • 4 ounces of feta, cubed
  • a large handful of lemon basil (regular basil or cilantro would also work)
  • 1/2 teaspoon flaky sea salt

Put the sliced red onion in a small bowl and top with the vinegar. Stir to coat.

Cut the tomato and watermelon into 1″ cubes. Chop the cucumber. Arrange the watermelon, tomatoes, and cucumber on a platter. Scatter the red onion on top, and sprinkle the leftover vinegar over the salad. Top with the feta and basil, and then drizzle the extra virgin olive oil over the whole salad. Finish with the salt and serve.