Deborah Brooks on June 29, 2017
The poet William Carlos Williams wrote:
“In summer, the song sings itself.”
And it’s true, there is something effortless and bountiful about the colorful vegetables and fruits flowing into the market, and hopefully also our grocery carts and kitchens. Every time you turn around, something else is in season – sweet local strawberries, ruby red chard and glossy zucchinis have already made their appearance.
Most of us don’t live or work on farms any more. But we can still mark the passing of the seasons by what foods are fresh and local, things that didn’t have to hitch a ride in a refrigerated truck from another time zone to get to us.
Fruits and vegetables are overflowing with anti-oxidants and other nutrients that are energizing and healing for our bodies. In the summer, it suddenly seems easy and fun to eat more of them. Lettuce and mesclun greens are everywhere, so why not make a meal out of a fresh mixed green salad topped with avocado and chicken or feta cheese? Fragrant basil makes its way into zesty pestos to top whole wheat pasta. Corn on the cob and peaches practically define picnics and other summer celebrations. And we haven’t even talked about tomatoes yet! I have a whole collection of recipes I only make in the summer.
You can inspire yourself with the waves of seasonal produce coming from our local farms by visiting a farmer’s market; there’s an excellent one every Sunday morning in the city parking lot off Beacon Street in Squirrel Hill. Buying your food right from the farmer is so fun and satisfying, and you are likely to find little gems and treasures that won’t even show up on the shelves of the grocery store.
You can tune in to the song of summer with some of these lovely seasonal recipes from my collection. Feel free to share some of your own – I’d love to hear about what you are cooking! You can reach me at: [email protected]
CUCUMBER AVOCADO MINT SOUP
½ hour to prepare. Serves 6. This is a perfect soup for dog days of summer when cucumbers are in season and you don’t want to cook. It’s cool and refreshing. This is my own recipe.
3 cucumbers ½ t. dry mustard
1 c. Greek yogurt 1 pinch of cayenne or dash of hot sauce
2-3 scallions, chopped ¼ c. chopped fresh mint leaves
½ t. salt 1 avocado
Place the cucumbers in a food processor (if yours is small you may need to make this in two batches). Puree. Add the remaining ingredients and puree together until smooth. Chill. Can garnish with more fresh mint
QUICK GARDEN ZUCCHINI
Serves 2-3. 10-15 minutes to prepare.
1 large onion handful of fresh basil
1 large zucchini medium-sized very ripe tomato
1/4 c. bread crumbs feta cheese
olive oil (about 1 t.) salt & freshly ground black pepper, to taste
Slice onion and zucchini. Fry in olive oil until soft and limp. Add salt & pepper. Add bread crumbs. Remove from heat and add basil, tomato and cheese.
RICK’S ELEGANT PASTA SALAD
This salad from a chef I worked with has become something of a go-to recipe for me. Quick and easy.
1# whole wheat bow-tie pasta ½ c. pine nuts
10-oz bag fresh baby spinach 1/3 c. dried cranberries
1 1/4c. crumbled feta cheese 1/3 c chopped green onion
½ c sliced olives salt & pepper to taste
¼ c extra-virgin olive oil 3 T. champagne vinegar
Cook the pasta until al dente. Combine well with remaining ingredients. Other options are endless, including sun-dried tomatoes, shaved fresh parmesan, red onion to replace the green, and toasted walnuts.