Thursday, September 9, 2010

A Seasonal Meal Plan from Bret Beall of GOD-DESS

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, or call 773.508.9208, or email

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)


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.

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.

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.


Steak, tomatoes and corn … is there any more American combination?

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.

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.

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!


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.

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.

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


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.

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.

All of this should have been done on Monday; just remove from the fridge and serve on the freshly cooked rice.

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.

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.

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.

These soft tacos are adaptable to any number of ingredients.

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.

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.

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.


  1. The shopping list and recipes are for how many people?

    I live in central CT. Markets here do not sell pork steaks. What cut can I substitute in the fajita recipe?

  2. Good catch Kim! Four people, I'll note that in the plan. You could substitute pork tenderloins (cut into four pieces) for the saute recipe and really any pork cut, like chops, tenderloin or shoulder for the fajitas. I grew up on Long Island and had never seen pork steak. I get them now regularly in my meat CSA and they are cut from the pork shoulder.


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