Thursday, June 30, 2011

Summertime Suppertimes II


Fresh Pea & Watercress Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Whole Wheat Pasta Tossed with Lemon, Olive Oil, and Parmesan
Cod Cheeks Fried in Olive Oil
Fresh Pita 
Strawberry Shortcake

What do I love best about summer?  Maybe it's fresh local vegetables and fruit.  No, not maybe.  Definitely.  I took some of these photos as soon as I came home from the Portland Farmers' Market yesterday.  The peas are in--and they are gorgeous.  Dinner had to feature them, along with local radishes, watercress, scallions . . . and so much more.  

And so a salad was in order.  First, the vinaigrette.  When I know we'll be eating the whole salad in one sitting, I usually make my dressing right in the bowl.  I always use the same cracked, well-loved, wooden bowl.  This recipe is for a large salad for two or side salads for three or four.  

First, I smash a garlic clove and rub it all over the inside of the bowl.  I set the clove aside and save it to chop up for another dish.

Next, I squeeze in the juice of half a lemon.  To that I add 2-3 tablespoons of really fruity extra virgin olive oil.  I love Aria for salads.  It's a Greek oil that's fruity and just a little grassy.  It goes well with lemons.  Then I spoon in a teaspoon or so of dijon mustard and a half teaspoon of raw honey.  

Season with sea salt and fresh cracked pepper, then whisk.   

The result is a creamy, tangy, and slightly sweet dressing.  If you always use the same wooden bowl for your salads, and you rub it with garlic each time you make dressing (rather than adding minced garlic), you will get incredible depth of flavor in all your dressings.  I make many kinds of dressing, but this lemony one is my favorite in summer.  To it, you can add any herbs you like as well.  I tend to leave my fresh herbs in large pieces and I toss them right in with the salad.

So, on top of the dressing I added lots of watercress, a few handfuls of quickly blanched peas (I blanch them for about a minute then shock them with ice water to stop the cooking), thinly sliced radishes, roughly chopped mint and basil, a chopped scallion, and some shaved parmigiano reggiano.

Finally, I toss the whole thing to coat.  Confession: when it's just Mr. Magpie and me, we share it straight out of the bowl.  Who needs plates?

And last night we dipped in our dressing the most amazing pita bread I've ever eaten.  Just look at those pillows of floury goodness!  They are made by a local Portland baker, Ariel's Hummus, so if you live in Maine and want some incredible pita and hummus, stop by their table at the Wednesday market in Monument Square.  

Along with the salad and pita, I floured some cod cheeks and fried them in olive oil (not extra virgin, just ordinary cooking olive oil).  I kept them simple, just seasoning them with salt and pepper and squeezing a little lemon over them at the end.  I know it sounds weird to eat cod cheeks, but I promise you that they are delicious, tender, and flaky.  About the size of scallops, they have a very mild flavor that won't smell or taste "fishy," even to people who are a little afraid of seafood.  You can get them at any good fish market.  I buy mine at Harbor Fish Market

Last, but definitely not least, we had the quintessential summer dessert: strawberry shortcake.  For me, this means the strawberries go on top of biscuits--not cake, not sweet biscuits.  Just buttermilk biscuits.  And I have to whip my own cream with a little sugar and vanilla.  No cream from a spray can.  I'm a control freak purist.  

These strawberries came from Jordan's Farm in Cape Elizabeth.  That place is a little piece of heaven.

Speaking of heaven, we've got more strawberries in the kitchen, so I'm off to eat some straight from the bowl. Wishing my American friends a Happy Fourth of July weekend!  We have a houseful of nieces and nephews coming.  There will be baseball, two sets of fireworks, the beach, and, I'm sure, many, many practical jokes.  Should be a blast--literally and figuratively.  Hope you have a happy, safe holiday.  

xo Gigi 


  1. I'm making that salad this weekend! And maybe the strawberry shortcake, yeah, definitely the strawberry shortcake. ;)
    Did you make the biscuits too? xo jen

  2. My goodness, those pictures, that salad, the shortcake.

    This is one fabulous summertime post.

    Enjoy your weekend.

    xo Jane

  3. Yum. A feast for the eyes, the stomach, and the senses.

  4. Perfectly simple and wonderful summer meals!!

  5. Oh, I'm sooo HUNGRY now--what luscious photos! Wonderful summer menu, Gigi... I love the simplicity of summer food. Wishing you & yours a Fab 4th Weekend :o) ((HUGS))

  6. What a gorgeous post!!! I want to come to your home for dinner!!! You have inspired me!!! That salad looks divine and more importantly, doable!

    Thank you for the feast for the eyes!


  7. my eyes are swimming
    in sweet goodness.
    yummy share....thanks!

  8. Now that you got my stomach rumbling I want to wish you a happy happy weekend and 4th of July too!

    Have I told you lately how much I love your photos!!

  9. Your meals looks amazing! BTW I am right now making the watermelon salad. I realized it had red onions marinated in lime juice. I have some in the refrigerator already because I love them on Mexican food and on sandwiches too. They are too good! I just love red onions like that, so now I know I will love this salad.

  10. Gosh...I love it here...
    Thank you for all these beautiful posts...
    If it were possible to move into a blog space for the summer I'd live here...
    Always read but rarely comment!
    Happy weekend.

  11. Fabulous and scrumptious, Gigi! xxoo :)

  12. I will most definitely be trying this salad on the weekend Gigi...I love the sound of your dressing...I am too much in the same habits lately with my vinaigrette, so this is the prompt I need to be more creative....Delicious recipes, thank you....xv

  13. i LOVED every delicious bit of this...that salad !!!! the fish !!!! Jordan Farms !!!! the strawberries !!!!

    thanks for a jolt of MAINE for me out here in california

    i LOVED it so much !!!

    sending summer love,
    kary and teddy

  14. Scrumptious post, every single item! We share the same salad dressing, to the tee. Really stunning food photos, very impressed, not an easy feat!

  15. thanks for sharing this deliciousness!

    I have always loved your blog so much,
    thanks for all you share with us.

    a fellow creative writer and magpie :)

  16. I've said it before, but I can't WAIT to eat a meal you've prepared some day. Just think of all the great chat we'll share.


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