The third installment in our alternative meal plans comes from my friend Bret Beall. This series takes full advantage of the farmers' market bounty of late summer. I love the fact that Bret considers the season not just in ingredient choice, but also kitchen technique - suggesting oven-free dishes for the often hot days of early September.
Bret S. Beall, MS, PhD (Cand), is the Founder and CEO of Global Organic Designs – Discovering Earth’s Science & Spirit, or GOD-DESS. Thanks to his often-insane parents, Bret has been a locavore for most of the entire half century of his life, first in the San Francisco Bay area, then in St. Louis, then on a farm in southern Missouri. As an undergrad he continued to mooch off of his parents’ homegrown, home-raised and home-prepared foods, preferring his own cooking to typical collegiate fare. As a grad student at The University of Michigan, Bret quickly found the farmers market and became a regular there. Since moving to Chicago in 1987, he has haunted local farm stands and farmers markets all over the Midwest. With formal education in evolutionary paleontology, biology, ecology and geology, plus over a decade in healthcare management, Bret now uses this diverse background to teach others how to live fantastic lives with minimal time, effort or money. For more information, visit www.god-dess.com, or call 773.508.9208, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The following menu plan is a collection of prime summer recipes. That means that they take advantage of farm fresh, in-season produce and require minimal cooking times (and no oven usage; once the temperature gets over 75 degrees, the oven stays off … it’s earth-unfriendly to have air conditioning, and then require it to work overtime because you’ve turned on the oven in the middle of summer. These recipes have been simplified in most cases to minimize the numbers of ingredients; once you become familiar with the techniques, feel free to enhance these recipes to make them your own!
You may also notice some common elements through some of the week’s recipes. This is to take advantage of perishable ingredients that have been bought for one recipe, so that they don’t go to waste. You could choose to prepare some of these ingredients for freezing, but that is beyond the scope of this meal plan, so I’m just going to help you use these perishable ingredients.
Shopping list for the week: One small bottle of peanut oil (16 oz) One small bottle of olive oil (8 oz) One small bottle of red wine vinegar (8 oz) One small bottle of balsamico (industriale) (8 oz) Two pounds of salmon fillet, skin-on but scaled, but into eight ¼ lb portions Two pounds of London broil Two pounds of pork steaks Five ears sweet corn on the cob One jar/bag Garlic Powder One head Garlic Six limes Two medium zucchini Seven medium onions Two jalapeno chiles Seven tomatoes, ideally red and yellow, or heirloom One small (preferably seedless) watermelon One jar or bag oregano One bottle hot sauce One-half pound mushrooms, sliced Three red bell peppers One medium cucumber One stick butter One pound rice (long grain) One small bag of sugar One small bunch of cilantro One small bunch basil and/or mint One small jar peanut butter (at least one cup; crunch or smooth) Four bay leaves One jar/bag pepper corns, or ground pepper One container salt One package of small flour tortillas (12 tortillas)
SUNDAY PAN-SEARED SALMON WITH ITALIAN FLAG ZUCCHINI AND A SIMPLE SALAD
PAN-SEARED SALMON four ¼ lb portions of salmon fillets 3T peanut oil salt and pepper to taste Heat skillet to medium high. Add peanut oil. While oil is heating, salt and pepper the fillets on all sides to taste. When oil is hot, place the four fillets in the skillet side-by-side, skin down, and cook for about four minutes. Do not disturb. After five minutes, use a spatula to completely turn over the fillets, and cook another three minutes. Remove to a paper towel lined plate, and hold until the Italian Flag Zucchini are done.
ITALIAN FLAG ZUCCHINI 1.5 medium zucchini (about 8"), halved, cut into half moons (save the remaining half zucchini for Wednesday’s dinner; wrap in cellophane and refrigerate) 1 small onion (about 3" diameter), peeled, halved lengthwise, cut into thin half moons 3 tomatoes (about 3" in diameter), peeled, coarsely diced 1 medium clove garlic, finely minced 1 T oregano, dried 2 T extra-virgin olive oil 1 T red wine vinegar (there is no alcohol in wine vinegar, so it's fine for children) 1 t salt 20 grinds black pepper Heat the olive oil in an 8" sauté pan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent and slightly browned, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the zucchini, garlic, salt, pepper and oregano to the onions and stir to combine; sauté about 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and red wine vinegar, stir to combine, and cook until the zucchini are tender, about 5 minutes. NOTE: this recipe is really flexible and multipurpose. You can use it as a pasta sauce, as a sauce for pan-seared fish (such as salmon) or chicken (including boneless, skinless breasts for a low-fat meal), or pan-fried pork chops, lamb chops or beef steak, or as a topping on a hamburger or hot dog. Double or triple the recipe so that you have leftovers for other applications. It freezes well.
SIMPLE SALAD Please remember that “vinaigrette” has only THREE syllables … the word is NOT “vinegar-ette.” These are proportions for 4 servings: ¼ c olive oil 1 T plus 1 t red wine vinegar (use wine or citrus as alternates) Salt to taste (up to ½ t) pepper to taste (20 to 40 grinds) 8 c greens, torn into bite-sized pieces. Combine all of the ingredients except the greens in a large bowl that can hold all of the greens loosely. Using a fork or a whisk (I hate cleaning whisks, so I use a fork), vigorously whip the ingredients until the vinegar is emulsified evenly in the oil, as if you were scrambling eggs. Add the greens and toss gently, ideally with your hands. Gently lift the dressed greens out of the bowl and onto the main plate with the steak and zucchini side; serve immediately.
MONDAY PAN-ROASTED LONDON BROIL WITH MUSHROOM SAUCE, SLICED TOMATO SALAD AND CORN ON THE COB
Steak, tomatoes and corn … is there any more American combination?
PAN-ROASTED LONDON BROIL AND MUSHROOM SAUCE 1 lb London Broil, cut into ¼ lb portions salt and pepper to taste 1 t garlic powder (optional) 2 T peanut oil 8 oz sliced mushrooms ¼ c balsamico Heat large medium skillet to medium hot. While skillet is heating, season the London Broil with salt, pepper and garlic/chipotle powder (if using). Once the meat is seasoned, and the skillet is hot, add the peanut oil, turn the skillet to spread the oil around, and add the meat. Let the meat sear for one minute, then cover the skillet, and continue cooking for another two minutes. Remove lid, turn meat over, and cook for one minute, then cover and cook for another two minutes. Remove the meat, and let it rest for 10 minutes while you work on the tomato salad and the corn on the cob, and prepare the mushroom sauce. Mushroom Sauce: To the hot, empty skillet, add the sliced mushrooms, stirring as they begin to wilt and release their moisture into the skillet; when the mushrooms are limp, add ½ c water and ¼ c balsamico; as the liquid boils, scrape the bottom of the skillet to remove any crusty bits (the fond). Allow the mixture to reduce until syrupy. NOTE: you purchased another pound of London Broil. Go ahead and cook it as above, and let it cool; after dinner, prepare it for use in Thursday’s Thai dinner, and go ahead and prepare the cucumber salad for Thursday as well.
SLICED TOMATO SALAD Four medium tomatoes, sliced into about eight slices each; using red and yellow tomatoes, or heirlooms, will add interest 2 T chopped fresh mint and/or basil 2 T olive oil 2 t balsamico salt/pepper to taste Spread the sliced tomatoes on four plates attractively; evenly distribute the salt and pepper. Sprinkle one quarter of the mint and/or basil on each of the tomato plates. Serve immediately. NOTE: if you prepare extra tomatoes, you can chop up the leftover salad, and use with cooked pasta as an easy sauce, or on bruschetta, or as a sauce on meat, poultry or fish.
CORN ON THE COB 4 ears corn, husks and silks removed ¼ c salt Butter, salt and pepper to taste Bring one gallon of water to boil in a large pot. Add salt and return to a boil. Add the ears of corn to the boiling water, and boil for three minutes. Remove the ears and drain on toweling. Serve immediately with butter, salt and pepper.
To serve, place one piece of steak on each plate, drape each meat portion with ¼ of the mushroom sauce; to each plate, add one fourth of the tomato salad, and one ear of corn. Enjoy!
TUESDAY SAUTEED PORK STEAKS WITH NOODLES WITH PEANUT SAUCE/RED BELL PEPPERS/ ZUCCHINI PLUS WATERMELON SALAD
SAUTEED PORK STEAKS 4 pork steaks, about 1 pound total salt and pepper to taste 1 t garlic powder (optional) 3 T peanut oil Add the peanut oil to a large hot skillet over medium/medium high heat. While oil is getting hot, season the pork steaks with salt, pepper and garlic powder. Arrange the steaks in the hot oiled skilled in a single layer, and cook for approximately five minutes. Turn the steaks using a fork, and cook for another four minutes. Remove from the skillet to a plate covered with paper towels.
NOODLES WITH PEANUT SAUCE 1 c peanut butter (smooth or crunchy); if allergic to peanuts, use soy or sun nut butter ½ c water 2-3 garlic cloves, finely minced (up to 1 T) up to 4 T hot sauce ½ - 1 t salt 1 T sugar, preferably brown sugar juice of one lime ½ zucchini, sliced into rounds and then into matchsticks ½ red pepper, cut in half and then into matchsticks (save the remaining half for Friday’s dinner) 1 pound of your favorite pasta, any shape, but long noodles like linguine or fettuccine are best. ¼ c salt While the pork steaks are cooking, heat a large pot of water; add ¼ c salt; when the water is boiling, add the pasta or noodles, and cook until done, about 8 to 10 minutes. Peanut Sauce: Place the first seven ingredients in a large serving bowl and stir to blend; if sauce is too thick, add some of the pasta cooking water to loosen. When cooked, transfer noodles to the peanut butter mixture, and stir to coat; add the matchstick zucchini and red bell pepper. Serve as a bed or side for the pork steaks.
WATERMELON SALAD ½ small watermelon, peeled, seeded and cubed into ½” pieces ½ c cilantro leaves ¼ c balsamico ½ t salt 10 grinds black pepper Combine all five ingredients in a large bowl; stir/toss to combine ingredient flavors. Serve as a side to the pork steaks and noodles.
Any leftovers make great lunches
WEDNESDAY POACHED SALMON WITH SIMPLE SALAD
POACHED SALMON You can prepare the salmon the night before and refrigerate it if you want cold fish. The poaching liquid is known as a court bouillon. 1 lb salmon, divided into ¼ lb portions 3 bay leaves 1 t salt 1 T black peppercorns, or 2 t ground black pepper 1 small onion, coarsely chopped Place salmon fillets in a frying pan. Add water to just cover. Add the bay leaves, salt and pepper, and turn on heat to high. When the water reaches a boil, turn the heat down to a simmer, and continue cooking for about 10 minutes, until salmon fillets are cooked through. Remove fillets from the water and drain on paper towels. Remove skin, and chill salmon if desired, or leave at room temperature while you make the salad.
SIMPLE SALAD See instructions for Monday’s salad; if you want a heartier salad, you can add cheese, nuts, or fruit, but since these are optional, they are not included in the shopping or ingredient list.
With leftovers, make a salmon hash with fried potatoes and onions for breakfast.
THURSDAY THAI BEEF SALAD WITH CUCUMBER SALAD AND RICE All of this should have been done on Monday; just remove from the fridge and serve on the freshly cooked rice.
BEEF SALAD 1 lb London Broil, pan-seared and cooled, sliced 3 cloves finely minced garlic (about 1T) 1 medium onion, cut in half, then in half moons 1 jalapeno chile, seeds and membrane removed, finely diced 1 c chopped cilantro ½ c red wine vinegar 1 T salt Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Allow flavors to marinate for at least 24 hours.
CUCUMBER SALAD One large English cucumber, halved, seeds removed, and sliced into half moons Juice of one lime 1 T sugar 1 t salt Combine all ingredients in a bowl. Allow the flavors to marinate for at least 24 hours.
RICE 2 cups rice 1 T salt 4 cups water 1 bay leaf Combine all three ingredients in a pot with a tight fitting lid. Bring to a boil with lid on the pot. Reduce heat to a low simmer without removing lid, and cook for another 20 minutes. Remove lid, check tenderness of the rice, and continue cooking until kernels are tender.
To serve: Place two ½ c mounds of cooked rice on each plate. Spoon the Beef Salad onto one mound, and the Cucumber Salad onto the second mouth.
Leftovers salads are great for lunch. The leftover rice should be retained for Friday’s dinner. If you make even more rice, it freezes really well, and will save time and energy in the future.
FRIDAY PORK STEAK FAJITAS TACOS WITH MEXICAN RICE AND WATERMELON SALSA These soft tacos are adaptable to any number of ingredients.
PORK STEAK FAJITAS 1 lb pork steaks, trimmed from the bone, with most of the fat removed, cut into ¼” strips 2.5 red bell peppers, cut longitudinally into ¼” strips 2 medium onions, halved and cut longitudinally into ¼” slivers ¼ c hot sauce ¼ c balsamico 1 t salt 20 grinds of pepper (or about ½ t) 6 T peanut oil, separated 12 flour tortillas Combine the pork strips, hot sauce, balsamic, salt and pepper, mixing to combine; ideally, this can be done the night before. Head a large skillet on high heat. When hot, add 2T peanut oil. When hot, add the pork strips to the skillet, and cook as a stir fry, continually moving the strips until they are cooked and slightly browned. Remove the cooked strips to a bowl. Add an additional 2T peanut oil, and the onions; cook until the onions are limp and slightly browned/caramelized. Remove the onions to a bowl. Add the final 2T peanut oil, and the peppers; cook until the peppers are limp; remove to a bowl.
MEXICAN RICE: 2 c cooked rice (from Thursday night) 1 ear sweet corn, completely husked, kernels cut from the cob 1 red bell pepper, finely diced 1 medium onion, finely diced 2 cloves garlic ¼ c cilantro leaves 1 lime 2 T peanut oil In the skillet used to cook the pork, over medium heat, add 2T peanut oil. When hot, add the onions and red bell peppers, and cook until the onion is translucent. Add the garlic and corn, and cook until the garlic is aromatic, about three minutes. Add the rice, stir to combine, and continue cooking until hot. Add the juice of one lime, and the cilantro, and remove to a bowl.
WATERMELON SALSA ½ small watermelon, peeled, seeded and cubed into ½” pieces 1 jalapeno, halved, seeds and membranes removed, cut into fine mince 1 clove garlic, finely minced 1 lime, juiced ½ t salt Combine all of the ingredients, and stir to evenly distribute all ingredients.
To serve: place three flour tortillas on each plate. Evenly divide the pork strips on all tortillas. Evenly divide the rice on each tortilla. Evenly divide the watermelon salsa on each tortilla. Enjoy!
You can increase the proportions of all of the parts in order to create leftovers for burritos or quesadillas for lunches
The above recipes are extremely flexible. They emphasize techniques rather than specific ingredients, so give them a try, adapt them to your own palate, and become a Master of your kitchen.