What’s cooking in August? Tomatoes! Also zucchini, peppers, basil and blueberries, but mostly tomatoes.
We have been eating tomatoes with pretty much every meal. Having such wonderful ripe, juicy tomatoes on hand sure makes lunch easy. Think of all the sandwich possibilities. Classic BLT, of course. Tomato, avocado and basil. Plain tomato with homemade mayonnaise. Open-faced tomato and cheddar, broiled. Chopped tomato with vinegar and olive oil on bruschetta. Tomato and egg salad. And the ever-popular three tomato sandwich. That’s just in the last week alone.
This week I might make stewed tomatoes and tomato sauce for freezing. Then, I must contemplate all the herbs before they go to seed. And we picked a few pounds of blueberries yesterday. I’m thinking blueberry frozen yogurt.
So, what are you cooking out of your garden?
Here are a couple more delicious summery recipes I found on the Internet that I might make this month:
Yes, it’s that time of year, when we start wondering what we’re going to do with all this zucchini (and why did we plant so much in the first place). Here’s a fresh idea I got from Sara Foster’s Fresh Every Day cookbook: zucchini slaw. The main component is zucchini, of course, but this is a fairly adaptable recipe in which you can easily mix up the vegetables to accommodate what you have on hand. I made a few substitutions myself. I enjoyed the sweet-tart flavor of the dressing, which made for a much lighter slaw than the traditional mayonnaise-dressed versions. This slaw would make a great side dish for grilled hamburgers or chicken, a relish for hot dogs or sausages, or pack it in a picnic basket.
Time to make: ~20 minutes (less if you use a food processor to shred the vegetables)
Yields: 4 servings
- 1 lg. or 2 med. zucchini
- 2 carrots, peeled
- 2 scallions
- 2 sm. sweet or hot peppers — I used an Italian hot yellow pepper, which added a nice subtle heat
- ¼ cup apple cider vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- salt and pepper to taste
Trim off the ends of the zucchini and carrots. Cut in half or quarters, depending on the length. Then cut into matchsticks, or julienne using a mandoline, or shred using a food processor. (I used the food processor, which made short work of this task.) Set aside in a large bowl.
Trim the root ends and dark green stalks from the scallions. Cut lengthwise into thin strips and add to the bowl.
Halve the peppers and remove the seeds and stem. Cut into thin strips and add to the bowl. Mix the vegetables well.
In a jar mix the vinegar and sugar. Close tightly and shake vigorously until the sugar is dissolved. Add salt and pepper to taste. Pour over the salad and toss well. Serve immediately after dressing.
Baby with homemade strawberry popsicle.
Popsicles are a great hot-weather treat, but the ones from the grocery store have a lot of sugar, artificial flavors and artificial colors. It’s just as easy to make your own from whatever seasonal fresh fruit you have on hand, and you control the sugar content. The whole family loves these.
I’ve found that pretty much any sorbet or granita recipe also makes good popsicles. However, you don’t really need a recipe if you follow this method.
Fresh Fruit Popsicles
Time to make: 10 minutes + time to freeze
Yields: 8 popsicles
- 2 lbs. fresh fruit, such as berries, melon or peaches
- 1/3 cup sugar, or to taste
- 1 tsp. lemon or lime juice
- pinch of salt
- water to thin (up to 1 cup)
- popsicle molds
In a blender or food processor, puree the fruit with the lemon or lime juice, salt and enough water to thin the mixture to pouring consistency, between ¼ and 1 cup. More watery fruits, like watermelon, will require less water, naturally. Mix in the sugar to taste. Riper, sweeter fruit will probably need less sugar. Pour into popsicle molds and freeze.
This bistro-inspired salad is designed to take advantage of all the lovely greens and herbs that are in season right now, at your local farmers market or possibly even in your garden, if the deer haven’t gotten to it first. I used a mixture of greens I bought and herbs and arugula from the garden. Any combination of salad greens will work, but look for the tender baby greens to get the full wow factor.
The rest of the salad is fairly straightforward, but with salads, simplest is best. This was delicious alongside smoked turkey and a potato salad for an early summer evening meal on the patio.
Mixed Summer Salad
Time to make: ~30 minutes, including time to boil the eggs and make the croutons
Yields: 8-10 servings
- Selection of mixed baby greens and herbs, washed and dried — I didn’t measure this out, just filled up my large salad bowl with greens. Be creative in the selection, and include lots of fresh herbs, such as basil, flat-leaf parsley and arugula.
- 3 carrots, peeled
- 1 generous tsp. Dijon mustard
- 4 tbsp. good-quality red wine vinegar
- 6 tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
- salt and pepper to taste
- 2 eggs, hard-boiled
- 2-3 cups day-old French bread, cubed
- olive oil and coarse salt for the croutons
Julienne or shred the carrot using a mandoline or food processor — you’re aiming for fine shreds. Toss with the greens and herbs in a large salad bowl.
Whisk together the mustard, vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper. Toss the dressing with the mixed greens until the leaves are just glistening. (You may not need all of the dressing. Reserve the remainder for passing at the table.)
Peel the hard-boiled eggs and chop small. Toss with the greens.
Heat a generous amount of olive oil over medium-high in a large skillet. Add the bread cubes and sprinkle with coarse salt. Brown the cubes on all sides, stirring frequently, until crisp. Add to the salad and serve immediately.
Note: All of the salad components can be prepared ahead of time. However, do not dress the salad or add the egg and croutons until just before serving.
This minestrone recipe is designed to take advantage of whatever is growing fresh in your garden right now. While you may want to stick to the combination of root vegetable, squash, beans and greens, substitutions can and should be made depending on what’s available. What makes this soup really tasty is the “garnish” of bacon, shallot and garlic that is swirled in right at the end.
This recipe is very adaptable. It can made ahead of time and then reheated before serving. Extras can be frozen, so make a big batch.
Time to make: ~45 minutes
- 1 quart chicken stock
- 2 carrots, diced
- 2 sm. summer squash, diced
- 1 tbsp. olive oil
- 3 oz. bacon or prosciutto, diced
- 1 shallot, sliced thinly
- 1 garlic clove, minced
- 1 can any beans, drained and rinsed, or the equivalent of cooked beans
- 1 bunch arugula, chopped
- 1 handful parsley, minced
Add the stock, carrots and squash to a large soup pot. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, heat the olive oil over medium. Add the bacon, onion and garlic. Cook slowly until the bacon is crisp and the onion is translucent, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat.
Add the beans to the soup and let heat through, about 5 minutes. Add the arugula and parsley. Stir in the bacon mixture. Warm through about 5 minutes to wilt the greens and blend the flavors. Serve with crusty Italian bread.
- Risotto is one way to use up a multitude of fresh veggies; I made a very tasty batch with summer corn and fresh tomatoes (pictured above), adding the fresh veggies just before the rice finished cooking.
- It’s the time for harvesting basil, so I am making batch after batch of pesto and using it in everything I can think of, as well as freezing some for winter.
- Now is the best time to turn that last batch of tomatoes into sauce for freezing; my husband has plans for a long sauce-making session today.
- I have harvested a few chiles, so I might also save some tomatoes for one last bowl of salsa.
- While you’re at, you may be looking for ways to use up the last of the summer squash and zucchini.
- A great way to take advantage of late-summer fruits and still warm nights is by making sorbet; I have a watermelon that seems destined for the ice cream maker.
Here some other recipes for the season that are on my “must make” list:
We are officially in the dog days of summer. I don’t know about you, but around here, it’s been 90+ degrees, hot, sticky, with thunderstorms in the afternoons. The other day when I was walking the dog, I detected the lovely deep summer scent of wet dish towel in the air. This is why air conditioning was invented.
Folks who have been visiting my blog have been digging up my summertime recipes, so I thought I’d highlight the top hits to make it a bit easier on you. For deep summer cooking, you want to keep the oven off as much as possible and take advantage of all that fresh garden goodness.
My garden is turning out tons of cherry tomatoes and a few of the bigger ones. We’ve got lots of green ones, so August will be a big month for tomatoes, I predict. The basil plant is huge this year — I can’t use it up fast enough. And at the farmers’ market, I predictably came home with a larger watermelon than my husband and I could ever possibly eat.
Here are some ideas for a tasty summer menu:
- As a starter or for snacks, I’ve been making a lot of bruschetta to use up the tomatoes and basil from my garden. Almost any fresh veggies — roasted or raw — make good bruschetta toppings.
- Salsa is another good snacking option that takes advantage of juicy ripe tomatoes.
- I’ve been experimenting with variations on caprese salads, as well as making it the traditional way, to consume even more basil.
- Herb butters and pestos are simple, fresh accompaniments for grilled chicken, steak and fish.
- You’re probably swimming in summer squash and zucchini; here are some ideas for how to use them.
- Got watermelon, or any other abundance of fresh fruit? Use them up in a sorbet. I’ve been freezing pureed fruit as popsicles, as well, for low-cal treats.
Here are some summer recipes around the Web that I am drooling over:
Potatoes are low maintenance too. Mature potatoes will keep one to two months when stored in a dark place (not the refrigerator). To prep, scrub them well, cut out any green spots, eyes or sprouts, and peel if you’re so inclined. Figure on ¼ pound or ½ medium potato per serving.
There are basically three types of potatoes: waxy, starchy and all-purpose. Each is best suited for a particular type of preparation. Here are my favorite ways to cook each type of potato:
- Fingerlings: I like to simmer these tiny potatoes in just enough stock to cover until they are tender. Then raise the heat, add some butter and stir until the liquid boils away. They are great garnished with fresh herbs.
- New potatoes: These waxy potatoes are best boiled and tossed with butter before serving. I like to boil them in water with mint leaves for an interesting, subtle taste.
- Red potatoes: Also a waxy potato, these are great for cutting into wedges and roasting at 425 degrees. They also go well on the grill.
- Russets: These are starchy potatoes and are best suited to baking. Poke holes in the skin first with a fork, but do not wrap in foil, as that will steam the potato instead of baking it. In a 350-degree oven, a russet can take anywhere from 30 minutes to 1½ hours to bake.
- Yukon Golds: These are the go-to potatoes, perfect for any potato recipe. Try slicing them thinly and sauteing them in a mixture of olive oil and butter.
Don’t forget you can also mash or oven-fry your potatoes. Oh, how could you forget?
For more on potatoes, including “breaking potato news” as well as recipes, check out Potato Goodness Unearthed.
I paired the pasta with steamed asparagus sprinkled with Parmesan and a little olive oil. (Just run it under the broiler until the Parmesan melts.)
Pasta with Lemon and Herbs
Time to make: ~10 minutes
Yields: 2 servings (double or triple as desired)
What you need:
- 1 garlic clove, sliced thin
- 2 tbsp. olive oil
- the zest and juice of 1 small lemon
- 2 tbsp. butter, softened
- ¼ cup fresh herbs, minced (good choices are basil, parsley and oregano)
- crushed red pepper flakes to taste
- grated Parmesan to taste
- 8 oz. tortellini or other fresh pasta
- Cook the pasta in well-salted boiling water.
- Heat the olive oil in a small skillet over medium.
- Add the garlic and saute just until golden, then remove from the heat.
- Combine the garlic and oil with the lemon juice, zest, butter and herbs in a large bowl.
- Toss with the cooked, drained pasta until the butter is melted and the pasta is well coated.
- Sprinkle with red pepper flakes and Parmesan as desired.
Note: Reserve some of the pasta cooking water and mix in a tablespoon or two if the sauce needs a little liquid.
This is my entry for Presto Pasta Nights, hosted this week by Once Upon a Feast.
The problem with going to the farmers market is that it is all too easy to yield to temptation and grab up way too many fresh vegetables than you can possibly eat in a week. What better way to take advantage of all that bounty than to make a huge pot of soup? You can eat some of it for dinner and freeze the rest for when you need a quick meal. Since the produce comes from the farmers market, each batch of soup will reflect the seasonal goodness of that particular visit.
This is not a recipe. This is just a blueprint for how to make a hearty vegetable soup with all that good stuff you might bring home from the farmers market. You should feel free to vary this any way you see fit to produce the soup you want to eat. I made my version in the slow cooker, so I am providing instructions for both slow cooking and stovetop cooking below.
Farmers Market Vegetable Soup
- Go to the farmers market and pick out an assortment of fresh vegetables. For instance, this time of year, you might choose sweet or spring onions, cabbage, tender greens, baby potatoes and carrots.
- At home, chop the vegetables into roughly equal pieces and toss into the slow cooker or pot.
- Salt to taste.
- Pour in just enough chicken stock to cover. (You may want to use more liquid if cooking on the stovetop, because some will boil away; use at least 4 cups.)
- If you have it on hand, for extra flavor stir in a tablespoon or two of pesto, a couple of rashers of cooked bacon or a Parmesan cheese rind (I keep them in the freezer for making soup).
- In the slow cooker, cook 4-6 hours on low, until the vegetables are tender. Add fresh herbs, pepper and other desired seasoning during the last hour of cooking.
- In the pot, bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the vegetables are tender, 30-60 minutes.
- To serve, garnish with croutons and/or shredded cheese. Remove the Parmesan rind before serving.