WALLA WALLA TABLE - No need to also swelter in the kitchen during those hot days


Who wants to cook -- especially when it's 100 degrees outside?

Not that we have been having a heat wave (I'm not complaining, 85 degrees is fine by me), but when it's still light out till 9 at night and warm, who really wants to spend hours in the kitchen getting a big meal ready?

Not me. I want to get out and enjoy it. So I have several recipes I keep on hand for those times when I need something quick or just a night without the stove or oven on.

Italians --and many other immigrants for that matter -- are very frugal people, especially the Italian immigrants who helped settle the Walla Walla Valley.

Let's face it, the onion is a very humble vegetable and so are those who farm them. It is only fitting that those who have little save much and know how to use up every last ounce of goodness from something.

How many of you remember being taught how to peel an apple or potato? Do you remember being taught to keep the peel really thin so you could almost see through it? Do you remember what happened when you didn't?

Well, I do and our punishment was a thinner slice of pie or a smaller helping of potatoes.

I remember my grandfather saying to me, "Well, if there had been just a little bit more apple in that pie you could have had a bit more, but we have to make it go around.

Each time I worked a bit harder on making sure I got that peel nice and thin.

So I am going to share with you some great recipes that will make your life that much easier when you just don't want that stove on.

Parents, you can get your kids involved in the meal preparation this way as well. Studies have found that kids who prepare their own food are less likely to go "ewww, gross!" to whatever it is you put in front of them.

Who remembers our pantry list from a few months ago? We are going to be using up some things from your larder this week so get ready. We are also going to show you how to use up those "lost" items that would otherwise be added to the compost or trash.

One of our first recipes is for Panzanella, or bread salad. This is one of those recipes that just makes sense. Using up your old crusty dried out baguette or batard that you might otherwise toss, and scraps from the pantry and garden to make something really special.

I love a good bread salad in the dog days of summer with a great dry rose. It just makes it all worthwhile. A salad from left over steak and potatoes is another dog-day favorite. They can be combined easily with a vinaigrette and some other garden veggies.


Damon Burke and his wife Colby own Salumiere Cesario, an award-winning gourmet grocery in downtown Walla Walla. They can be reached at wallawallatable@gmail.com.

Steak and potato salad

  • 4 to 6 oz. cooked cold steak, sliced thin.
  • 8 (or so) medium Yukon gold or other waxy potatoes, boiled and cooled. I prefer the ones left over from last night's dinner.
  • 1/2 Walla Walla Sweet Onion, medium diced.

Here's where it gets complicated. You can combine the ingredients and toss with a vinaigrette — extra virgin olive oil and lemon juice is my favorite — a little salt and pepper and you are set. Add arugula or other lettuce, whatever you want. This will be light enough for "salad" and still have enough meat to satisfy your local carnivore. I usually like to embellish mine with cherry tomatoes, chives or green onions and garden lettuce, usually arugula.

Here is my basic vinaigrette recipe:

  • 1 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • Juice of two lemons, seeds and pulp removed
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Whisk ingredients. If vinaigrette is not emulsifying add a teaspoon of Dijon mustard. At this point, you can also use balsamic, or mayo or add a fresh clove of garlic — whatever your heart desires.

Panzanella (Tuscan bread salad)

  • 1 loaf of 3- to 7-day-old crusty artisan bread. (Italian, French or sourdough). Cut or broken into half-inch pieces.
  • 4 tbsp. capers, preferably packed in salt, rinsed.
  • 3 cloves garlic, mashed and minced.
  • 1 bunch Italian parsley.
  • cup caperberries, stems removed
  • onion (the sweeter the better) finely diced
  • 1 Meyer lemon, for juice and zest.
  • lb. arugula
  • 4 to 5 tomatoes, the best you can find, chopped.
  • 1 cucumber, peeled seeded (optional), chopped
  • cup olives, (nicoise, picholine, lucques, work well), pitted and roughly chopped.
  • Extra virgin olive oil, preferably olio nuevo.
  • Red wine vinegar, (the best you can find)
  • Balsmic vinegar, condiment style (thick syrupy and sweet).

Soak bread pieces in water for two minutes. Drain and squeeze out excess water, set bread aside in large mixing bowl. Add all other ingredients except lemon, oil and vinegars. Combine ingredients in bowl thoroughly. Add olive oil until all ingredients are lightly coated. Add 1/8 cup red wine vinegar and mix again (add more vinegar if necessary to taste). Juice the lemon into salad and add 2 tsp. of zest (finely chopped) and mix. Add pepper and salt to taste. Drizzle with condiment style balsamic just prior to serving. Makes 8 servings.

This recipe can be embellished as you see fit. Try experimenting with other items that are sitting in your fridge or pantry — bits of salami, cheese, other vegetables (radishes, celery, herbs). Don’t be afraid to experiment when you cook, but don’t experiment on your guests!


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