Locally Yours: Keeping it simple is key when it’s sizzling outside

By: Carol Arnold
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Images from Steinbeck’s Salinas Valley come to mind. The air above the pavement is shimmering from the heat. It is hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk. It is hotter than the Fourth of July. It is hotter than Hades. Welcome to summer in the Gold Country. We decided not to ease into it this year. Why bother with the 90s, let’s just hit triple digits and call it really hot. I am not a big fan of the heat. That is an understatement. Despite my discomfort, I have, over the years, learned to cope. First I take it easy the first couple of days after the weather turns really hot. I let my body get used to the change. I switch gears and slow my life down. I start reading mystery novels and try to swim every day. I relax any ideas I might have about how to feed the family. Sorbet for breakfast, lunch, or dinner? Fine by me. Someone want peach pie for dinner instead of a square meal? That’s OK too. I read somewhere that whenever it is over 103 degrees everyone should just take a nap. I agree but I’ll take that one step further. After your nap you should eat whatever sounds good. A nice green salad or a smoothie? That’s about all our bodies want to digest when it is so hot outside. You can understand why I was skeptical about cooking on Sunday. It was close to 105 outside. Who cared about food? But what to do about all of the great food I bought at the market on Saturday? I had flat iron steaks from Flying Mule Farm thawing in the fridge. I had the smallest, freshest green beans I have seen at the market. The fresh baby arugula needed to be used as soon as possible. I also had peaches that were getting too ripe and blackberries from Brenner Ranch. The only way I could manage in the heat was to keep the cooking very simple and, once again, rely on the quality of the ingredients. I am so glad I did. On Sunday morning it took me about 10 minutes to turn the blackberries into sorbet. I peeled the peaches and added some lemon juice to preserve them. They will go into smoothies as needed or maybe a cobbler. I haven’t decided yet. While I was watching a movie Sunday afternoon I cleaned the green beans and snapped them into short pieces (find the recipe at I brought the steak to room temperature, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, doused it with olive oil and heated the grill. In the time it took me to grill the steak I quickly sautéed the beans, tossed the arugula with a little homemade vinaigrette and the resulting meal brought us out of our heat doldrums. The arugula was peppery and made a perfect foil for the sliced steak. My family loves the flavor of the salad when the juicy meat is placed on top of the greens. The green beans were tender and sweet. It was a perfect summer meal and one you might want to re-create for the Fourth of July. Just a quick note. Flying Mule Farm brought the best beef I have tasted in years to sell at the market on Saturday. After dinner on Sunday night, I promptly called Dan Macon, the farmer, and ordered enough steak to get us through the summer. I Tweeted, and Facebooked, and encouraged everyone I could to buy this grass-fed beef. It is prime quality in a sub-prime world. The exquisite green beans and arugula from Jim’s produce and the sweet berries and peaches from Brenner Ranch are the finest you will find anywhere. Looking for an old-fashioned treat for Fourth of July? The Auburn Old Town Farmers’ Market is open Saturday. Stop by and pick up the freshest produce and finest grass-fed meats available for your celebration. It will remind you of the way things used to be, when our food always came to us fresh from the farm. Carol Arnold is marketing manager for the Foothill Farmers’ Market Association. Reach her at foothillfarmersmarket@gmail. com. Grilled Flat Iron Steak with Arugula Salad For the steak: 6 ounces flat iron steak per person Olive oil Salt and pepper For the salad: 2 ounces baby arugula per person (a large handful) 4 cherry tomatoes, halved, per person, optional For the dressing: 3 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar Salt and pepper Salt and pepper the steak generously. Drizzle with olive oil. Grill over high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side. Do not overcook. Grass-fed beef cooks in less time and is best when enjoyed medium to medium rare. (according to me!) Remove from heat. Allow to rest while preparing the salad. Rinse and dry the arugula. Mix together dressing ingredients. Salt and pepper the dressing to taste. Dress the arugula. Place the dressed salad on an individual serving plate. Scatter cherry tomatoes over the salad. Slice steak thinly and place on top of salad. Enjoy. Simply Green Beans 1 pound green bean 1/4 cup water Salt Pepper 1 tablespoon butter Remove ends of the green beans. Break beans into bite sized pieces. Cook quickly in a sauté pan with water until tender crisp. All of the water should be gone. Toss quickly with salt, pepper to taste, and butter. Enjoy. ***The green beans can be enjoyed with the flat iron steak and salad or served as a side dish another time.