Summer is by far my favorite time of year, and this summer has been one of my favorite summers I can remember. My measurement for "best summer" is different now in my 30's than it may have been when I was a kid vs. a teenager vs. a 20-something. As a kid, my best summer ever would mean a killer time at camp with few rainy days, lots of pool time, and maybe even an awkard summer crush. As a teenager, it would be measured by how many parties I got to go to, and how many friends collectively visited me on the lifeguard chair throughout the summer. In my 20's, it would be how many summer weekend get-aways could I fit in while staying within my (very tight) 20-somehintg budget.
Nowadays, my "best summer" goals are a little different. It's all about balance. Beach time vs. work time. Being healthy vs. partying. Me time vs. friend time. Knowing when to say "no" things that might throw off that balance, and "yes" more activities I might easily push aside like walks on the beach or bike rides to the farm stand. This summer, I feel like that balance is in check where I am having the right amount of fun and relaxation vs. the right amount of ..... you know, the busy people stuff.
This is the first summer that I have allowed myself to go to the beach early in the morning on a weekday, instead of going straight to my computer. I take a relaxing ride to Montauk, pick up a smoothie and the newspaper along the way, set up my towel and read and watch my husband surf for about an hour. When I do go back to my computer later in the morning, I feel refreshed, relaxed, and more ready to start the day. I look at it as a form of meditation..... something that's was desperately missing from my old routine.
I've also been saying "no" to eating out, so that I can say "yes" to cooking at home with the gorgeous produce I've been getting from the local farm stands. By cooking more at home, I feel healthier, more relaxed, and maybe even a little more creative in the kitchen. By eating as local as possible, I end up working with many of the same vegetables and ingredients over and over again, so it encourages creativity so we're not eating the same exact thing over and over again.
Eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes ...... there are so many ways they can be enjoyed, separately and together. This recipe I am sharing today is my favorite at the moment, and uses all three in the simplest way. Eggplant and zucchini is so tasty when it's been simply grilled or roasted with olive oil, salt and pepper. Tomatoes, raw, with little more added to them but sliced leeks, chili, olive oil and salt. Basically just throwing one simple classic preparation onto of another to make it feel a little more special. And if you're feeling ambitious and you are still able to find or harvest zucchini blossoms, this zucchini blossom marinated kale takes this lovely humble side dish or lunch salad to something really special.
grilled eggplant + zucchini | sungold tomato + leek salsa | zucchini blossom pesto marinated kale
for the salsa:
a pint of sungold (or any kind of small/cherry tomatoes), sliced in half
1 large leek, green and light green parts, sliced super thin (on a mandolin)
1 serrano chili, de-seeded and minced
a drizzle of olive oil
a pinch or two of salt
for the eggplant + zucchini:
8-7 small variety eggplant (japanese or fairytale, preferably), sliced in half lengthwise
2 zucchini, slized in half (or quarters) lengthwise, and then sliced in half
a few tablespoons of olive oil
salt + pepper
for the zucchini blossom pesto marinated kale (which is completely optional):
1 bunch of kale (about 10-12 leaves), ribs removed and roughly chopped
for the pesto ..... I followed this recipe, pretty much exactly, except I sautéed the blossoms in some olive oil over medium heat for about 3 mins on each side before adding them to the food processor.
Make the salsa:
- Combine the sliced tomatoes, leeks and chili in a small bowl. Drizzle with some olive oil and add a pinch or two of salt and give it a couple of tosses to combine. Set aside in the fridge while you prepare the rest.
If using, make the zucchini blossom pesto and marinate the kale:
- Heat the olive oil in a medium pan over medium heat. Cook the blossoms for 2-3 minutes on each side until they just start to wait. Do not overcook.
- Add the cooked blossoms to a food processor, and follow the instructions to make the pesto from the link posted in the ingredients.
- Pour the pesto over the chopped kale and massage it into the kale using your hands. Set aside to marinate until you're ready to serve. Taste, and feel free to add a squeeze of lemon if it needs some acidity.
Prepare and grill the eggplant and zucchini:
- If cooking in the oven, pre-heat your oven to 425º. If cooking over a grill, heat the grill to medium heat.
- Bush the sliced eggplant and zucchini with the olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
- If cooking in an oven, place the eggplant and zucchini onto a sheet pan, and bake for about 25 minutes, until golden brown on top. If cooking on a grill, cook the eggplant and zucchini for about 7-10 minutes on each side until very tender and brown.
Assemble and serve:
- To assemble the dish, using a large plate or bowl, lay the kale down first (if using), then lay the cooked eggplant and zucchini on top, and finish by adding the tomato salsa (using a slotted spoon so you don't add too much liquid). Enjoy immediately.