Do you walk by all the beautiful, fresh summer produce at the farmers market or the grocery store and want to dive right in, but are not quite sure what you’d do with it? I know that I’ve found my vegetable crisper filled with things I bought ‘spur of the moment’ and realized that there was no way we’d be able to eat everything while it was still fresh. Oops! Based on this, my first piece of advice is to be realistic about how much you can actually eat. But I have some other ideas if you’re trying to figure out how to make the most of what you’re seeing at the market right now.
Tomatoes are all over the place, and summer is the best time of year to enjoy them. It can be as simple as slicing and serving them as a side with salt and freshly ground pepper, or putting the slices on really good bread with a slather of mayonnaise. You can also cut them into chunks with some sliced or torn basil leaves and dress with red wine vinegar and some good olive oil and serve as a salad (adding some nice pitted olives is great too). This last one is also a great summer pasta sauce – nothing wrong with a room temperature sauce on a hot day.
Speaking of room temperature, you can make a nice salad by blanching green beans (boil salted water, put the cleaned beans in for 3-4 minutes, then put the drained beans in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking) and dressing them with your favorite salad dressing. If you’re feeling decadent you can garnish with some crumbled cheese. Nuts like almonds or pine nuts add a nice crunch.
While you have the grill fired up for burgers, hot dogs, steaks, etc., why not throw some sliced zucchini or pepper slices on too (brush with oil first so it doesn’t stick). And of course both of these (along with the green beans) are great thrown into a stir fry or add them to an omelet. And it might sound a bit odd, but there is something really tasty about a good zucchini curry. Replace the meat with an equal amount of zucchini, add some cashews for a nice textural touch and bingo – zucchini curry.
However, when it comes to produce, the fruit is much easier. Who couldn’t just eat fresh peaches every morning for breakfast, or covered with fresh cream each night for dessert? But if you’re looking for ways to branch out with fruit I can give you a couple of ideas. Have you ever tried grilling things like plums or peaches or nectarines? Delicious. You can add a little brown sugar to sweeten them up a bit if you feel they need it; or add a bit of mascarpone or ricotta or cream. Maybe add some thinly sliced mint or basil to fancy it up a notch. You can also sauté your fruit in butter until it almost turns into a sauce and serve it over ice cream. Make it more adult by adding a bit of your favorite liquor while it is cooking down. This is lovely with all sorts of berries. And finally, the world’s easiest cobbler is below. I love this dessert, and it really is very easy and you can play with whatever fruits you have available. My favorite mix is nectarines and pitted cherries; though my husband likes plain blueberry.
Easy Summer Cobbler
4 cups of fruit (you might want to peel the fruit if necessary, and definitely pit anything that needs it; mix and match as you like)
2 cups sugar
½ stick butter
¼ cup flour
½ teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
¾ cup milk
Preheat the over to 375.
In a medium bowl toss the fruit with 1 cup of the sugar and let sit for 20 minutes.
Stick the butter into a 13 x 9 inch baking dish or casserole and put in the oven until the butter melts (about 5 minutes). Remove from oven.
Whisk together the flour, salt, baking powder, and the other cup of sugar. Add the milk and stir until just blended. Pour this batter over the melted butter and spoon the fruit over the batter. Bake until cobbler is golden brown — about 40 minutes.
Serve with ice cream or whipped or heavy cream. Worth heating up the kitchen!