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Steak & Cucumber Lettuce Wraps

Next Friday we’re skipping town and heading to the motherland. I cannot wait. Every inch of my body is dying for a break. I feel like the past few months have been nonstop. Nonstop work, yes, but also nonstop everything else. Summer is a busy season for us between water ballet and other social engagements and the result is two very drained Hoerrs. More than just feeling like we haven’t had any time to ourselves I’ve just felt so… burdened. The littlest things, like writing a blog post or sending in my article for Menuism (sorry Nikki!) have felt like too big a task. I just want to sit. Sleep in. Sip bloody marys and read silly books. Thankfully, that’s exactly what we’re headed for.

My biggest challenge the past few months has been coming up with things to eat every day for dinner. Dan and I tend to dive headfirst in love with a dish, eat it once a week for a month or two, and then say goodbye forever. Or at least until we can reinvent it a few years later. This summer we got sick of our old favorites quickly and it has been mentally exhausting coming up with new things to eat every day, new recipes to add to our rotation. I know, what a silly problem to have.

I decided to try my hand at homemade lettuce wraps after a few of my favorite bloggers wrote about going paleo. Now, I have no desire to go that route (biscuits being an integral part of what we do here at biscuits and such) but we have been reducing the amount of certain foods in our diets these past few months, so the concept appealed to me. For a while Dan and I have been opting for a vegetables & dip based lunch, and I thought it would be fun to extend the style of cooking into our dinner plans. At the very least, I figured it would mix things up a bit, perhaps even give us a new go-to recipe.

Based on what we had going on in the garden and what I was craving (grilled steak) we whipped up these quick and incredibly easy lettuce wraps. They were delicious, so good I believe they’ll be on the rotation for the rest of the summer. They were light, refreshing, and so packed with fresh vegetables that it was hard not to feel good about what we were eating. In a summer where cooking has felt like a chore, I needed the win. Lettuce wraps, you might be the new taco in this house.

Steak & Cucumber Lettuce Wraps

1 medium skirt steak

1 cucumber

1 tomato or a handful of cherry tomatoes

1/2 red onion

1 jalapeño

1/4 cup crumbled gorgonzola cheese

Head of lettuce

1/2 cup chopped cilantro

1/2 cup chopped green onions

3 limes

Chop cucumber, tomato, onion, jalapeño, cilantro, and green onion. Toss together with lime juice and cheese. Set a side.

Sprinkle steak with salt and pepper. Over medium heat on a grill or in a pan, cook the steak for 5-7 minutes per side, depending on its thickness. Let rest five minutes, then slice.

Peel leaves of lettuce off the head. Fill each leaf with a few pieces of steak and some of the salad. Serve.

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Grilled Squash Salad

Lately it seems like a lot of my plants are leaving me for the big organic farm in the sky.  I’ve said goodbye to a few tomato plants, three squash plants, and a cucumber.  The only thing looking fat and happy in these ridiculous temperatures are my okra.  Note to self: when it gets so hot that almost nothing will grow, figure out more ways to cook okra.

Despite the untimely demise of half my garden, I have been able to harvest quite a bit of fruit and vegetables.  This past weekend I had a party to go and the squash was piling up on my counter (and I couldn’t imagine turning on my oven to make a pie), so I threw together this quick grilled salad.

 

I was pleased with how it turned out.  It was light and refreshing with a burst of lemon and some good charred grill flavors.  It’s so rewarding to finally start cooking with what’s growing out back, it makes all the hard work worth it, a thousand times over.

Grilled Squash Salad

2-3 medium size squash, whatever variety you prefer

1 red onion

1 cup chopped cherry, yellow pear, or grape tomatoes

Juice of two lemons

4-6 okra

Salt

2 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil, plus more for brushing on the vegetables

Fresh basil and oregano, chopped

This salad is great because it can really be made up of whatever you have on hand.  Slice your squash and okra and brush with oil.  Grill for 2-4 minutes on each side over medium heat.  Remove, chop, and combine with chopped tomatoes, lemon juice, oil and vinegar, salt, and herbs.  Chill for 2 hours before serving.

 

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Pickled Tomatoes

I love pickles. Pickled okra, pickled cucumber, pickled onions, pickled squash, pickled tomatoes, pickled peppers, pickled you name it. Year round they are my go to hit-the-spot salty treat. I can’t imagine a world without pickles. This summer I planted five or six yellow pear tomato plants. Unfortunately, two of the ones planted in our backyard garden have already died because of the record high temperatures and others are looking pathetic. At the community garden, however, it’s a different story. Two have merged to form a giant mega tomato bush. It’s at least 5 feet in diameter and has overtaken three or four other plants. It has literally hundreds of tomatoes growing on it and I could not be happier. It’s my mega-mater. I’ve named him Ernest.

Since we’re drowning in tiny yellow tomatoes I decided do some small batch pickling. Two or three jars at a time I’m throwing these suckers in a spicy vinegar bath to stew until sometime midwinter when I’m sick of potatoes and all I want in my life is a burst of tomatoey goodness.

*If you’re a Baltimorean and around this weekend you should come see Fluid Movement perform at Patterson Park. I’m in the Boom Boom Room, come find me after the show!

Pickled Tomatoes

*This recipe will work for small ripe tomatoes such as these or any variety of green tomato

Enough tomatoes to fill all your jars

6 pint sized canning jars with lids and bands

3 1/2 cups apple cider vinegar

3 1/2 cups water

6 tbsp red pepper flakes

12 cloves garlic

2 tbsp salt

6 tsps whole mustard seeds

6 tsps whole cumin seeds

1 jalapeño, sliced

Begin by sterilizing your jars. About an hour before you want to can fill two large pots with water. I recommend that you have some canning equipment, at the very least a large pot with a rack and a pair of tongs. You’ll need a separate pot for sterilizing your jars and lids. Bring both pots of water to a boil. In one pot (the one without a lid) place your jars and the lids (not the screw bands). Allow them to boil for at least 10 minutes, but keep them in the pot until right before you fill them.

In a non reactive sauce pan heat vinegar, water, and salt.

Rinse the tomatoes. In each sterilized jar, place two cloves of garlic, one slice of jalapeño, 1 tbsp red pepper flakes, 1 tsp mustard seeds, 1 tsp cumin seeds, and as many tomatoes as you can pack in tightly. Ladle vinegar mixture into each jar, leaving about 1/4″ headspace. Wipe the rim down, place a clean lid on each jar, and screw band on tightly. Process in your large pot (with rack) for 10 minutes. Remove from water, give the band another squeeze, and allow to sit. Once the jars have sealed (you’ll know if you can’t pop the lid up and down), set them in a cool, dark place for at least two weeks. They will stay for up to a year.

**As with any preservation process, there are risks. If you notice anything abnormal, discard the pickles immediately. Botulism is no fun.**

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