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First week of school dinners

As promised, I thought I would share some weeknight dinner menus that I'm planning. (Links to some recipes provided.) This week we transition from the unstructured days and later evenings of summer into the start of school (Wednesday).  Here's the plan, beginning after the long weekend:

TUESDAY: Last night of summer. Quick roasted fish, heirloom tomato salad, corn on the cob* (If I'm feeling more ambitious, or it is very hot, I'll do a corn-based salad.)

WEDNESDAY: Green salad, shrimp and grits. (A favorite of my son) Grilled peaches. Smoky Shrimp and Grits from Food & Wine magazine (photo: Quentin Bacon)

THURSDAY: Lentil + vegetable salad (I like David Waltuck's in Staff Meals from Chanterelle). With some mezes picked up from the store: stuffed grape leaves, babaganoush, pita bread, and clean-the-vegetable bin crudités.

FRIDAY: Movie night. If we don't order in, then rotisserie chicken, herby green salad, popsicles.


Recipes that don't need a recipe: Confetti salad

It's hot here, and I've been buying vegetables and fruits like they are going out of style (which, I guess some of them are). Inevitably, there are a few odds and ends by Sunday night: One cob of corn, a quarter of a giant red onion, more apricots than we can consume before they turn to mush. So tonight: confetti salad, which doesn't follow a strict recipe. Quinoa confetti salad, recipe by Allison Adato

Start with a base of a cooked, cooled grain or cous cous. I used quinoa, which cooks in just 15 minutes and is a good source of protein. But you could use bulgar wheat or barley or wild rice or even cold leftover rice from a take-out dinner.  Here's what went in to my most recent version, but feel free to vary at will with different raw vegetables, fruits, nuts and herbs.


serves 4

2 cups cooked, cooled quinoa. (to cook: use 3:1 water/quinoa. bring water to boil, add quinoa, cover, lower heat, cook for 15 minutes until water is absorbed but before the grain goes mushy. drain and run under water to cool, or chill in the fridge if you have time).

kernels stripped from 1 ear of corn

1/3 of a large red onion, finely chopped

small orange pepper, chopped into small pieces

1/3 cup shelled pistachios

2 apricots, pitted and chopped

handful each of chopped fresh mint and basil leaves

juice of half a lime

two tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper to taste

In a big bowl, combine the grain, vegetables, fruits, nuts and herbs.

Dress with the olive oil, lime juice, salt and pepper. Toss gently and serve.




Homemade chips

Potato chips are one of the packaged foods that I stopped eating long ago. But I missed them! So I started making them (mine, shown here) and just about as often as I want to fry potatoes is about as often as I should be eating them -- by making them slightly less accessible than just reaching for a bag, they are back in my life in the right proportion.

And, here (click thru): a link to two potato chip recipes from the clever folks at FOOD52.COM.


Michelle Bernstein's Watermelon-Tomato-Feta salad

  • 2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 tsp. garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp. onion powder
  • 1/4 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp. za'atar (optional; available at Middle Eastern markets)
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
  • 1/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
  • 4 cups diced (1/2-inch) seeded watermelon (about a quarter of a medium-size melon)
  • 2 large beefsteak tomatoes , each cut into 8 wedges
  • 1 small English cucumber , peeled and cut into 1/4-inch-thick diagonal slices
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese , preferably French (about 4 ounces)
  • 1 cup pitted Niçoise olives
  • 2 Tbsp. fresh dill
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
Note: The vinaigrette can be refrigerated in an airtight container for up to 3 days; if you make the salad the night before, don't add the watermelon or dressing until ready to serve.

To make vinaigrette: Put vinegar, garlic powder, onion powder, oregano, and za'atar (if using) in a small bowl. Whisk in olive oil with salt and pepper.

To assemble salad: Put watermelon, tomatoes, cucumber, feta, olives, and dill in a large bowl. Drizzle vinaigrette and toss gently, taking care to not break up the fruit and vegetables. If desired, add salt and pepper to taste. Divide among salad plates and serve.

Adapted from Michy's restaurant and Cuisine à Latina by Michelle Bernstein. Copyright © 2008 (with permission from Houghton Mifflin).

Wolfgang Puck's summer recipes