There are few things I believe in more strongly than seasonal eating.
Many fruits and vegetables are not available year round, but that doesn’t mean they are actually at their peak. For instance, did you know that citrus is best in the winter?
When you eat in season, produce is full of flavor, vitamins, and freshness. It’s cheaper, too!
Summer is a time of plenty in your supermarket produce aisle. Today I will show you what is at its best right now, all summer long. I’ll also share with you the secrets to telling if tricky produce is ripe, and all kinds of ways to cook and prepare the goodness that summer has to offer.
They don’t keep long, so do not wash them until you are ready to eat them, and use within a week of purchase. Blackberry Mojito Recipe.
With kids young enough, you can convince them they are candy. I speak from experience here. Smash some up in a vodka lemonade for one hell of a summer (not for the kid, for you!). Oh my, look at that. Not every usage suggestion here will be alcohol-based, I promise.
Also known as prickly pears, the juice from these things is delicious with…booze. And many other things. They can be slightly intimidating to cut and prepare, but it’s really quite easy when you know how. Here’s how, and a few fab recipes to boot.
This is a truly underused root. It holds its own beautifully with other root vegetables. Similar to a turnip, this non-starch root is great in place of potatoes in less hearty warm-weather recipes. Smashed Celeriac by Jamie Oliver.
Celery is an aromatic that is used in a mirepoix, the combination of onions, celery and carrots that forms the base for a great many recipes. It adds a great crunch to egg, tuna and chicken salads, and of course there is the ever-popular-at-our-house ants on a log. Celery is always in our fridge.
Alton Brown is a country boy from Georgia (and my giant geek crush), and he knows his collards. Pot O’Greens recipe by Alton Brown.
Corn is one of the best parts of summer. To get the little bits of silk from between the kernels, give it a brush with an (unused) toothbrush. If you want to get all awesome with it, bust out this Mexican Street Corn.
Cress (like watercress) is a light and slightly peppery green. I love it in place of lettuce on egg salad sandwiches because it balances the egg and mayo richness so well.
Oh cucumber, so cool and refreshing. You have the magical power to turn into a pickle in a brine. And you also go so well with booze. Try a cucumber puree with peach juice and gin. Summer cocktail heaven.
In French, eggplants are called “aubergines.” Of course there is always eggplant parmesan, but I like mine silky and smoky in Baba Ganoush.
Although dried figs are available year round, there is nothing quite like a perfectly cooked pork tenderloin with a balsamic reduction and caramelized fresh figs. Done.
Green beans should never see cans. I absolutely cannot eat them canned, because they are gross. Fresh green beans that still have some bite after cooking, especially fresh from the garden as we have them all summer, are simply perfection. Serve with butter and toasted almonds, or lightly dredge and fry them up, then serve with a spicy Asian dipping sauce.
How do you know if a melon is ripe? It does vary depending on the type, but a good indicator is if it sounds hollow when you thump it.
Mustard greens are slightly spicy and chock full of good-for-you. You can wilt them into almost any recipe, like a soup or pasta that could use a little green. I like them with balsamic-glazed chickpeas.
Stonefruit, when ripe, is perfection. When it isn’t, it’s mealy and gross. So how do you tell? Squish is not the answer, although just the slightest bit of give is a good sign. Instead, look at the cleft. It should be well-defined, and smell sweet at the stem.
Okra does not get a lot of love. Mostly because, in my humble opinion, it’s slimy and gross. But did you know that it’s that very slimy grossness that makes it the perfect thickening base for gumbos everywhere?
Peach is my favorite flavor in the world, hands down. Peach everything, yes please.
Plums are one my favorite summer fruits. Fresh is always so good, but if you were so inclined, they are fantastic in Cobblers, Crumbles and Pies.
I first got to try pluots (an plum and apricot hybrid) at Marché Jean-Talon in Montréal. Such a delicious summer stonefruit.
I never cook with raspberries. Honestly, they never make it farther than the container, and then my mouth.
Strawberry rhubarb pie. Need I say more?
There are too many good things to do with summer strawberries to list here, so I’ll just tell you about the coolest one. Freeze them quick with liquid nitrogen. When you thaw them out in the winter, they will still be as perfect as fresh.
Have you ever wondered why restaurant food so often tastes better than home cooked food? According to Anthony Bourdain in the epic Kitchen Confidential (one of my favorite books of all time), it’s the shallots. They just add GOOD. Cook them down gently in extra virgin olive oil with fresh oregano, then add some extra uncooked EVO and hunks of good quality feta. Let it sit overnight, bring back to room temp and scoop up the goodness with a baguette.
Summer squash should be harvested when it is still on the small and immature side. Be careful if you are growing it in your garden – one, maybe two plants will do you just fine. There is a reason there is a “Sneak Zucchini Onto Your Neighbor’s Porch Day” in August. Need some summer squash recipes? Here’s a ton of them.
Tomatillos are so damn cute with their little papery wrappers. The are a staple in Mexican cuisine, and Shawanda over at Confection of a Foodie Bride made some Tomatillo Shrimp Fajitas recently that I can’t get out of my mind.
Oh tomatoes, how you scream Summer! From tiny cherry tomatoes to big ugly heirlooms, they come in countless delicious varieties. Make BLTs, or simply slice thick and pile on toast with a drizzle of extra-virgin olive oil and a sprinkle of fleur de sel. This is my favorite one in the whole wide world. Pair with fresh basil and fresh buffalo mozzarella, some shallots, garlic, EVO and penne for the world’s best pasta salad.
I hope this post got you excited to try out some new fruits and vegetables. Farmer’s markets ahoy!