There is nothing like the summer to renew our spirits and our minds. With the call of the outdoors in our collective subconscious, we get excited when the weather warms up and it’s time to start planning our gardens and think about summer produce.
This year, I had the wonderful opportunity to work with WLTX Meteorologist, Alex Calamia, to bring the outside in, using seasonal produce.
We used common produce that can be found in WLTX’s Gandy’s Garden, and in any supermarket or your own garden! We created some easy, flavorful dishes in the Northeast Teaching Kitchen using ingredients that signal that the summer has arrived. We hope you have fun making these dishes at home!
Chicken, Scallion and Zucchini Yakitori with Teriyaki Glaze
Yakitori is a Japanese term meaning grilled and it usually refers to grilling marinated chicken that’s been skewered, but it can be literally anything. And when I say anything can be yakitori I mean anything can be yakitori. There’s heart, liver, gizzards, chicken breasts, chicken skin, mushrooms, scallion, bok choy, the possibilities are endless.
We used chicken thighs for our yakitori recipe because we wanted to go with a more traditional introduction to this simple, yet flavorful dish. For a vegetarian version, you can use mushrooms instead. A nice cremini or button mushroom would do.
2 pounds boneless, skinless chicken thighs, cut into bite-size pieces
2 cups scallions, cut into 2-inch pieces, white parts mainly
2 cups zucchini, cut into 2-inch pieces (roughly same size as scallions)
½ cup soy sauce
½ cup water
½ cup red wine vinegar
¼ cup orange juice
½ cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon lemon zest
1 teaspoon pepper
To make the glaze: Add all ingredients to a saucepan on medium high heat. Bring ingredients to a boil then down to a simmer. Allow glaze to reduce by half. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly.
Soak the wooden skewers in warm water for about 10 mins so they don’t burn when grilling.
Assemble the skewers: To the chicken, season with salt and pepper before assembling the skewers. Arrange on each skewer in an alternating pattern; the chicken, zucchini and scallions until all the ingredients are used up.
Heat grill pan on medium heat. Alternatively, you can grill outside (it is summer after all!). Grill each yakitori for about 10 minutes, rotating every minute or so to keep from burning. One minute before removing from the grill pan, brush each side of the yakitori with the teriyaki glaze. Cook until chicken gets a nice golden brown char and the juices in the chicken run clear when cut. Add to a serving platter and brush with glaze once more.
*Note: You can substitute sake or mirin (Japanese wine and a sweet Japanese wine) for the rice wine vinegar for a more traditional teriyaki sauce, but since red wine vinegar is a more common household ingredient, we chose to use it instead.
Tips for Cooking Yakitori:
For the yakitori, push all the ingredients together on the skewer so less moisture will be lost.
Japanese restaurants generally offer two options for flavoring their yakitori, salt and white pepper or a soy sauce-based glaze usually made with mirin or sake, Japanese wines. Get creative and experiment with different spices and flavors, like Sichuan peppercorns or chili pepper.
Traditionally, you use a yakitori grill which is designed specifically for the perfect rotation of the skewers. Alternatively, you can use a grill pan like we did, or you can grill these outside (it is summer after all!).
When adding the teriyaki glaze to the yakitori, make sure to carefully watch them to make sure they don’t burn on the grill. The sugars in the glaze burns easily at very high temperatures. And burnt sugar is gross y’all.
Roasted Tomato and Zucchini Bruschetta with Balsamic Vinegar
Bruschetta is a traditional Italian garlic bread. It's toasted, rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil. If you don’t have garlic cloves you can sprinkle a little bit of garlic powder on your toasted bread or just go au naturel and use salt and pepper.
In our version of bruschetta, we topped our warm toasted garlic bread with grape tomatoes and zucchini that’s been roasted and marinated with garlic, shallots and basil. We topped them with a little balsamic vinegar to give our bruschetta a kick of tanginess. The tomatoes and zucchini work so well together and are the perfect summer vegetables to make this recipe shine.
This dish can be a quick snack that can turn into a summer staple and a easy way to use your garden vegetables.
2 pints grape tomatoes
2 zucchini, diced into bite-size pieces
½ shallots, diced finely
2 cloves garlic, diced finely
2 tablespoons basil, diced into ribbons or chiffonade
Fresh oregano to garnish (optional)
Balsamic vinegar to garnish (optional)
4 tablespoons olive oil
1 baguette cut into 1-inch thick slices
1 garlic clove, peeled
Roast the tomatoes and zucchini first. This will draw out any excess water and bring out the natural sweetness in the vegetables. Wash and dry your produce. In two separate bowls, add the tomato and zucchini. Toss each vegetable with one tablespoon olive oil and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange the zucchini and tomatoes in single layer on separate sheet pans lined with foil. Roast the zucchini for 15-20 mins at 375 degrees until lightly browned. Roast the tomatoes for a little longer, 25-30 minutes.
Remove from oven and allow the vegetables to cool slightly.
To a sauté pan, add butter and olive oil and cook on medium low heat until melted. Add the garlic and shallots and sauté until fragrant but not brown. In a bowl, toss together the zucchini, tomato, shallots, garlic and basil. Let it marinate for 10-15 minutes uncovered.
Meanwhile, you can toast the bread. Lay the slices in a single layer on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Brush each piece lightly with olive oil. Bake for 5 minutes at 375 degrees, then flip bread over to toast the other side, an additional 5 minutes.
While still warm, brush each piece of bread with a clove of garlic and drizzle with a little more olive oil.
To assemble, top each slice of bread with the roasted vegetables and garnish with fresh oregano and balsamic vinegar.
We made our bruschetta in the oven, but alternatively you can fry the bruschetta on the stove.
Topping them with balsamic vinegar is optional. If you don’t have balsamic vinegar, just squirt a bit of lemon juice on each bruschetta to add a little brightness. It’ll be delicious either way.
Don’t limit yourself to just using tomatoes and zucchini... since it is summer you can experiment with any vegetables growing in your garden.
Watermelon Agave Refresher
I don’t think I’ve ever met someone who doesn’t love watermelon, especially in the summertime.
Our watermelon refresher contains delicious ingredients like mint, agave syrup, lime juice, club soda and we cannot forget about the watermelon.
Seedless watermelon is a good choice, but if you can’t find it just use regular watermelon. Either way, we are going to strain everything to just get the fruit juice that we then top off with club soda. For an adult version, alternatively you can use champagne instead of club soda.
Mint is more plentiful in summer months but supermarkets carry it year-round. Store stem down in a cup of water with a plastic bag covering the leaves in the fridge for up to a week and change out the water frequently. Mint can be used in both sweet and savory dishes.
Agave is a type of succulent that grows in the southwest, Mexico and Central America. It's poisonous when raw, but has a sweet flavor when baked or made into syrup.
½ watermelon, seedless preferably, diced into large chunks
¼ cup agave syrup (can substitute with simple syrup* or honey)
2 tablespoons lime juice, one lime
1/8 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoon mint leaves (reserve some sprigs for garnish)
club soda (anything sparkly you have on hand will do)
Blend all ingredients except club soda in a blender or food processor. Pass through a strainer into a pitcher. Chill mixture for at least 30 mins before serving. Serve by pouring the watermelon mix into a cup filled with ice. Finish with a splash of the club soda. Garnish with the reserved sprigs of mint.
Measure 1 part sugar and 1 part water and add to a saucepan. Cook on medium heat until sugar had dissolved. Do not allow mixture to boil. Remove from heat and allow mixture to cool. Store in a sterilized airtight container in the fridge for about a month.
*Note: You can use any type of fruit you want, but try and use fruit that has a high water content (peaches, oranges, pineapple, etc.) so it can yield enough juice for your mocktail.
Tips for the Watermelon Agave Refresher:
If you don’t have agave syrup you can use honey, or a simple syrup which is equal parts sugar and water that’s been heated just until the sugar dissolves. Get extra fancy and steep some hibiscus or tea leaves in your simple syrup to give it an extra depth of flavor.
When shopping for watermelons, look for a yellow belly. Awesome tip I learned from my mom growing up. A large, yellow spot means it’s had more time to ripen on the vine and will usually be sweeter.
All parts of the watermelon are edible so don't throw anything away. You can roast the seeds and pickle the rinds.
We hope you enjoyed these recipes just as much as we did in the Northeast Teaching Kitchen!
Find more recipes, blogs and cooking resources from the library, here.