Summer Grazing

Seasonal Cooking with Rita Calvert~The Local Cook 

Now this go round, I’m not referring to the grazing of pastured animals but those of us, the human beings, who find pleasure in those small plates of luscious summer harvest.

We can also graze our way through Homestead Gardens most popular, Crapemyrtle Festival this weekend with lots of food for Ladies Night on Friday Eve and then samplings through the weekend of fresh watermelon salad, peach crisp, peach salsa and other food products and fresh produce Bonnie will have to offer. Many of the food items will be available for those myrtle bucks!

The Abondigas sound exotic and actually they are with the smoked salt and smoked Spanish paprika, however this is the Spanish word for meatballs. Here they are tiny-just bite-size with a smoky red sauce from the seasonal tomatoes-red and yellow.

The rest of the grazing menu is brilliant in that the recipes are basically simple assemblies. All of the dishes are perfect a room temperature which makes them beautiful to tote for an al fresco event. Each dish can be skewered so you may want an assortment of fun different sizes or even those small wooden forks that you can see in the photo below of the Flank Steak Spirals.

Abondigas with Smoky  Spanish Sauce

Caprese Salad Bites

Flank Steak Spirals with Tomato Basil Mayonnaise

Liqueur Grilled Peaches, Plums and Cantaloupe



Tapas, Ground-Beef Albóndigas with Spanish Sauce 

Tapas are always alluring but especially so if you have visited Spain, where they originated. And who doesn’t love a healthy meatball smothered in a zesty red sauce chock-full of tomatoes?

The meatballs—albóndigas—are small and difficult to sear on the grill rack, so use a greased sheet of heavy foil or an additional grilling pan for these smaller pieces of food.

serves 4 as an entrée, 8 as hors d’oeuvres

for the meatballs:

  • 2 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 1 large garlic clove, minced
  • 1 pound pastured ground beef
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 /3 cup plain fresh bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground cumin seed
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon or spicy mustard
  • 2 tablespoon fresh parsley, minced
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

Warm the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. Sauté onion and garlic until soft and let cool. Place the ground beef in a bowl and add the egg, bread crumbs, lemon juice, cumin, mustard, parsley, salt and pepper, and then the sautéed onion and garlic. Mix well and roll into very small meatballs—about 1 inch in diameter. Cover the meatballs and place in the refrigerator to let cool 1 hour.

for the smoky Spanish sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 pound fresh tomatoes, finely diced with juices, or 1 14-ounce can of puréed tomatoes
  • 2 tablespoons dry sherry
  • 1 teaspoon Spanish paprika
  • Pinch of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon cayenne or to taste
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • Freshly chopped parsley, for garnish


Place the olive oil in a sauté pan over medium-high heat. When hot, add the onion and sauté for 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, sherry, paprika, sugar, cayenne, salt, and pepper, and simmer 20 minutes. Now add the garlic and simmer 5 more minutes to infuse the flavor.

For grilling the meatballs:

Preheat heat the grill to high.

Grill the meatballs 5 to 10 minutes to sear, turning frequently until evenly browned. Place them in the hot sauce, heat another 10 minutes, and serve hot topped with a sprinkle of parsley.





Flank Steak Spirals with Tomato Basil Mayonnaise

  • Tomato Basil Dip mix (at Homestead Gardens)
  • 2 tablespoons white balsamic vinegar
  • 1/3 cup mayonnaise
  • 12 very thin slices cooked flank steak (3”x1”)
  • 3 small crookneck or zucchini squash shaved lengthwise (see photo)
  • 2 roasted bell peppers, cut into thin strips
To make sure the squash slices are pliable, sprinkle both sides of each slice with salt and place in a colander. Let sit for 15-20 minutes. Test and the blot dry with a paper towel.
To Assemble:
For each spiral, on a flat work surface, layer a steak slice, then the squash. Place a slice of roasted red bell in the center and fold the steak up and over to enclose. Secure with a long toothpick or short skewer. Repeat for each spiral.



Caprese Salad Bites

The famous Caprese salad of slices of tomato, fresh tomato and basil has hit a high note worldwide. It’s fun to make this bite size version portable.

Makes 12

  • 2-8 ounce balls fresh mozzarella, cut into 12 very thin slices
  • 12 slices fresh tomato
  • 12 fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 cup pesto for dipping

To Assemble:

Make each bite by placing 1 slice of mozzarella, tomato and 1 basil leaf and secure with a skewer or long toothpick. Place on a platter surrounding a small bowl of the pesto.

Liqueur Grilled Peaches, Plums and Cantaloupe

All the fruit amounts are approximate measurements, so mix and match as you like. Since peaches and plums are often sprayed with pesticides, it’s advisable to buy organic or make sure your farmer grows pesticide free produce.

Here you are not looking to cook the fruit but to grill quickly to caramelize the sugars.

  •  3 peaches
  • 4 plums
  • 1 medium cantaloupe
  • Hazelnut liqueur almond or orange liqueur
  • ice cream, if desired

Preheat the grill to medium-high.

Leave the fruit in large pieces to prepare for the grill and blot very dry with a paper towel. Place some of the liqueur in a small bowl along with a brush suitable for the grill.

Brush the fruit just before placing on the grill. Place on grill and cook until grill marks appear. Brush the top side and then flip. Grill a few minutes.

Place on each serving plate and top with ice cream, if desired.