Cooking Summer's Bounty
Ways To Cook Tomatoes, Zucchini and Peaches
Late summer is a wonderful time to cook, but still, there are challenges. If you have a CSA share you know what I mean when I ask, who doesn't get sick of zucchini? But that's nature's way and in the coming weeks we're going to see more of them, plus more tomatoes, peaches, and red peppers. We're also going to see their prices drop as supply rises.
So buy them, can them, freeze them, eat them, and enjoy them now because forecasters are saying that this summer's middle-of-the-country heat waves have damaged many crops, which in coming months will lead to even higher food prices. You may prefer to spend Saturday afternoons at the beach, but if you devote just one to capturing some end-of-August ingredients by turning them into sauce, jam, chutney, pickles, etc., come February you will be thanking me.
Even though I'm taking a little holiday, I don't want to abandon you at a critical home cooking time of year, so here are ideas for cooking some of August's most bountiful foods. See our list of links to recipes for many of these.
- What could be easier or better than a Caprese salad of sliced tomatoes with pieces of fresh mozzarella, basil, and extra virgin olive oil?
- Tomato sandwiches -- thick slices of New Jersey beefsteaks on good bread with a smear of Hellman's, eaten quickly before the bread gets soaked.
- Make your favorite tomato sauce. Freeze it in portion-sized containers for winter eating. Those little freezer zip bags work perfectly for this.
- Pasta with raw tomato sauce.
- Watermelon and tomato salad is a summer favorite for many.
- Easy tomato salsa as a snack or spooned alongside a favorite fish or plain chicken.
- Tomato and goat cheese tart. See our link to one from Ina Garten.
- Panzanella is a satisfying salad made with ripe fresh tomatoes and chunks of stale bread. Saveur.com has a half-dozen different versions.
- Tomato bruschetta is a favorite summer hors d'oeuvre or snack. Just core and remove the seeds and juice from a perfectly ripe tomato, cut it into small dice (if you leave on the skin it will hold together better), add a little olive oil, salt, pepper and minced basil or chives, and spoon on toasted bread. You can also add a layer of ricotta beneath the tomatoes or use toasted squares of polenta in place of the bread.
- Tomato crisp can be made year-round with cherry tomatoes but it will taste best with summer tomatoes.
- Stuff tomatoes by slicing the top off of ripe tomatoes, remove the seeds and pulp, and stuff the cavity with tuna salad, goat cheese mixed with fresh chives, or rice salad.
- Grilled cheese sandwiches made with farmhouse cheddar, a layer of sliced ripe tomato and pieces of smoky bacon -- this is the stuff that food memories are based upon.
- Pasta with zucchini can be as simple as tossing rigatoni with zucchini rounds that have been sautéed with sliced garlic and flecks of red pepper flakes, and finishing with a dusting of grated Parmesan.
- Zucchini risotto. Creamy, soft and pale green with extra Parmesan that won't overwhelm the stronger flavor of summer zucchini.
- Zuchini gratin -- flavorful served both hot and at room temperature, which on some summer days is also hot.
- Zucchini salad -- what the Italians call zucchini carpaccio is paper-thin slices of raw zucchini tossed with curls of Parmesan or Pecorino cheese and drizzled with olive oil and a squeeze of fresh lemon.
- Zucchini tea bread to have with a glass of icy cold watermelon juice.
- Zucchini fritters -- pan fried as if they were zucchini latkes.
- Zucchini cut into chunks and sautéed with red onion.
- Ratatoille is a classic pairing for roast leg of lamb.
- Zucchini and tomato soup with Arborio rice -- this freezes really well.
- Sliced peaches tossed with watermelon balls and served alongside room temperature roasted red beets and a spoonful of Greek yogurt (inspired by a small plate at Chef Tom Colicchio's CraftBar).
- Peach chutney -- perfect preserving choice to serve year-round with roast pork, chicken or fish.
- Peach ginger crisp.
- Peach cobbler -- my recipe was in last week's newsletter.
- Peach pie.
- Broiled, grilled or baked peaches when added to granola and yogurt makes the best breakfast ever.
- Peach tart tatin is made as you would an apple tart tatin, but remember that peaches are juicer than apples and you'll need to drain the juice before flipping it over; otherwise you'll have a very sticky mess all over your stove top.
- Peach cake, with the peaches either on top or as an upside down cake.
- Peach ice cream.
- Peach and red onion salad -- almost like a deconstructed peach salsa, combining thick slices of peaches with thin slices of red onion and a drizzle of olive oil.
You can also use these lists to create a menu based on your CSA share or what's best at the farmer's market. For example, a dinner made up of ziti with raw tomato sauce and zucchini carpaccio, with peach ginger crisp for dessert.
Add a glass of cold rosé and turn off all personal devices except your iPod, so to listen to Lani Hall or perhaps Gene Bertoncini playing Jobim, and enjoy a summer evening at home in the city. That's what I'm doing.