Last taste of summer

You know that summer is ending when you live in a college town and you make the mistake of going to Target in late August. I made it out alive, but I was nearly lost in the stacks of mini fridges. You know how it is.

Anyway, I was just thinking that it might be nice to do a little roundup of some of my favorite summery recipes while it’s still warm enough to make them.

Aunt Lark’s tabbouleh salad is a great way to use ripe tomatoes, and it’s a perfect potluck side dish.

This fresh cucumber salsa is also a tomato love fest.

You’ll need some trail mix for hikes, bike rides, and other adventures.

Sadly, I am not overrun with basil this year, but if you are, make pesto Genovese for your pasta and sandwiches. It’s great on roasted potatoes, too.

Or spread some pesto into this zucchini pesto bake. Surely you have some zucchini baseball bats to use up.

If you can still find rhubarb, you have to make this bright pink rhubarb lemonade.

And do not let summer go by without making this nectarine tart. It has to be one of my favorite desserts of all time.

I’m excited for all those acorn squash and pumpkin recipes that come with fall — more of those soon!

Tilapia fish sticks

How’s this for a retro recipe?

I would just like to say that you are never too old to eat fish sticks. But making them yourself is the way to go.

This was another thing I found in Real Simple. I really heart that magazine. I pulled out the ’10 things to do with tilapia’ feature, because I know it’s one of those things we buy a lot even though we’re not sure what we’re going to do with it.

Here’s the basic technique. You can definitely season up your breadcrumbs to make it more interesting, or whip up a yummy dipping sauce. (I made a simple tartar sauce with light mayo, pickle relish, and a little black pepper.)

Cut 3 large tilapia filets into sticks. I got roughly 8 from each piece of fish.

Set up 3 pans for your batter station — I like to use cake pans because I have so many of them from the wedding cake project!

• 1/2 cup flour
• 2 beaten eggs
• 1 1/2 cups panko bread crumbs

For the frying part, you can use a skillet, but I like to use a saute pan. Fill it up to about 1/2 inch with vegetable oil. I used a mix of olive and canola oil. You want this on medium-high heat.

You could also bake these in the oven. But you won’t get that pretty golden color, and you won’t get the same crunch you get with frying. This is definitely one of those recipes where you’re going to have to turn on the portion control to make up for the full fat. But I’d still rather do that than make something that doesn’t taste good.

OK, so when you’ve got a few sticks breaded, drop them into the oil and cook for 3-4 minutes, turning them over if one size isn’t getting browned. Scoop them out and drain them over paper towels.

Serve with cole slaw, salad, oven fries, or just about any summery side.

Zucchini orzo salad

Apologies for the long absence! After we went to Big Sur, Mike and I spent a lovely day in wine country at an office retreat. And then I came down with something (again!) and spent the rest of his parents’ vacation in bed. I had all these plans to share photos of our travels, but it was not to be.

The last six weeks have been the busiest and best for me since I quit my job in 2009. But sometimes you pay for overworking yourself, I guess.

So anyway, I am feeling like myself again, and I have some yummy recipes to share.

The first is this super easy orzo salad. I believe I cut it out of a Real Simple magazine a few months ago. It seemed so light and summery. And even though this has been the chilliest summer of my life (we actually made hot chocolate the other night), I decided to make it anyway.

Zucchini orzo salad
adapted from Real Simple

8 ounces orzo
3 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for sauteeing
3 tablespoons red wine vinegar (or white)
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
3 medium or 4 small zucchini, cut into half moons
salt and pepper to taste
3-4 ounces crumbled feta cheese
1/2 teaspoon dried dill

Cook the orzo according to package directions and drain under cold water to cool it down. (By the way, I had the hardest time finding orzo at the store. I finally just bought this one because it looked close enough).

While your orzo is boiling, heat up a couple tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Saute the zucchini pieces with salt and pepper until they start to brown a little. The original recipe didn’t call for cooking the zucchini, but I love that extra layer of flavor.

While that’s going, whisk up your vinaigrette (3 T olive oil, 3 T vinegar, and red pepper) in a big bowl. After you turn off the zucchini and let it cool a little, add it to the vinaigrette and let it marinate about 20 minutes.

Finally, add the orzo, feta, and dill to the zucchini and toss it all together.