(Words in bold indicate recipes or recipe ideas provided below.)
It’s about this time of the season that I get culinarily antsy. My desire to live—and eat—in the moment is matched only by my awareness of the shrinking sunlight, signaling the imminent end of tomatoes and basil. The weather in the Northwest this year hasn’t helped much, with a rainy, cool June that delayed produce, cramming our consumption of earthly summer delights into a smaller window of time.
I’ve eaten a mere two ears of corn (two for $1 at the Thursday NW 23rd Market) turning them into a quick creamed corn with basil. No melon has seen my breakfast table, as I haven’t yet enjoyed my fill of peaches (great in pancakes or fried in butter…really). Can’t peaches and melon be eaten simultaneously? Of course! But what seasonal eating has done to my brain is cause me to want to freeze the asparagus or berry moment so that I can savor it before the coming distraction of, say, sweet Italian peppers (pepperonata). Instead I might have to settle for simply freezing the berries. Which I did (then you can make berry crisp or sorbet).
The baby artichokes (marinated for antipasto) I would normally have consumed by this time have been limited to two bags. I remind myself that, weather permitting, we could enjoy these addictive thistles till Thanksgiving (See June 2009 newsletter about artichokes). So I can just settle down and focus on beans, for example, perhaps stewed in tomatoes. A caveat about waiting: I once planned for my grandmother’s stuffed artichokes to be the centerpiece of a mid-November birthday dinner party only to arrive at the market gaping at the hole that was once DeNoble’s booth. They’d been stuck in the mud in Tillamook due to heavy rains. Proof that seizing the moment is a necessity, no matter what day it is. That my meal was derailed by the vagaries of the elements made it that much more adventurous.
And so, in no particular order, this incomplete list will hopefully inspire you to get it—and eat it—while it lasts. Each recipe or idea takes very little time to prepare, except maybe ketchup.
• Spa water—sliced cucumbers in a pitcher of water (better in gin). Some fresh mint makes it a winning combination, adding some pizzazz to plain old tap water. Hint: cheaper than juice or soda.
• Tzatziki—Add the same combo above (minus the gin, of course) in plain yogurt with some garlic, salt and cumin to top grilled chicken, rice, beans or grilled vegetables.
• Add to watermelon feta salad (see below).
• Saute slices in butter till brown and top with a squeeze of lime and crumbled feta cheese. This came in handy when I accidentally cut open an unripe peach.
• Marinate peach halves in red wine and honey and then grill. Top with vanilla ice cream. As fate would have it, I once found myself with these ingredients while camping.
• Pancakes—simply add sliced peaches to your favorite pancake batter recipe and a touch of nutmeg.
• Creamed corn—shave kernels off the cob, sauté without oil till kernels brown, then add cream, salt, pepper and torn basil.
• Tomato, corn, avocado salad—dress with olive oil, balsamic, salt, pepper and cilantro.
• Roasted corn soup—saute a little onion, potato and chili flake while shaved kernels roast in a skillet till brown. Add stock, corn, salt and cook about 30 minutes. Puree till smooth, adding cream if you like. Top with chopped tomatoes and strips of basil. The variations are mind boggling. Improvise!
• Fagioli in umido, or stewed green beans—let green beans simmer in tomato sauce with olive oil, a little slivered garlic and some red chili flake till tender. Serve as a side dish or on top of polenta.
• Green bean and pesto potato salad—blanch green beans till tender, cut into 1-inch chunks and toss, together with potatoes, and pesto (minus the cheese). Add garbanzo beans if desired and grated lemon zest.
• Oven roasted—toss the Romano beans—a flat, wide, tender bean—with olive oil and salt and pepper, spread on a cookie sheet and bake till lightly browned at 400 degrees.
• Watermelon feta salad—cut watermelon and feta in chunks, add kalamata olives, drizzle with a little good olive oil and sprinkle with torn fresh basil or mint. Try also tossing with a little arugula.
• Substitute watermelon for tomatoes and pair with the same flavors go well with tomatoes, like pine nuts, shaved parmesan, balsamic vinegar or mint.
• Sweet basil pesto—a sweet version using honey and lemon, and no garlic or cheese, to add to sorbet, ice cream or fresh fruit.
• Deep fried basil leaves—it can only help that antipasto platter with the marinated baby artichokes
• In limoncello—have a bottle in your freezer? If so, serve with a small basil leaf in the glass.
• Sorbetto—Cathy Whim’s of Nostrana gives this recipe for blueberry sorbetto.
• Berry Crisp—the best dessert, especially if you don’t like to bake. Fresh or frozen berries both work.
• Whole steamed—try tucking some chopped fresh herbs and garlic into the leaves before steaming.
• Baby marinated artichokes—you can serve immediately or pack in olive oil in the fridge for several weeks. Serve with olives, cheese and roasted peppers as antipasto.
• Freeze for later—can’t wait a whole year? Prep as you would above but let dry after boiling and put in freezer bags (pre-freeze on cookie sheet).
If you missed it, check out a previous post all about the overabundance and what to do with said abundance of summer squash.
• Ketchup—this year I plan to make my own and this recipe is from Dave Barber of Three Square Grill.
• Panzanella—otherwise known as tomato-bread salad is perfect for a picnic or barbecue.
• Pasta with fresh tomatoes—saute cherry tomatoes in a skillet with olive oil and garlic just till they burst. Don’t overcook! Toss with fresh basil, salt, pepper and shaved ricotta salata if desired. Lightening fast dish and super easy.
• Pepperonata—lots of variations, but one is to cut yellow and red bell peppers in very thin strips and saute on low heat till soft. Salt and pepper to taste and toss with fine breadcrumbs. Serve with bread as an appetizer.
• Roasted—follow any basic roasted red pepper recipe, and then puree to make a dipping sauce, or toss with pasta, or put in a sandwich…endless possibilities.