Sumptuous Summer

The farmers markets are full of colorful, bright, and fresh produce right now…. so I am taking advantage of summer’s bounty! When using farm fresh produce, there is no need for heavy seasonings or altercations of flavor. What you see is what you get, and it’s nature’s best representation of the season. Here are some of my favorite summer ingredients in both sweet and savory creations…

Strawberries
Although I first used ripe, sweet strawberries in this recipe in the late spring, I’ve been making this throughout the summer as well with equal success. The sweet fruit shines and is perfectly accompanied by the heat of black peppercorns, and the acidity of the vinegar. Perfect topping for toast or for goat cheese bruschetta! – Credit to old school Gourmet Magazine and Sejal for introducing me to this recipe! Strawberry Preserves with Black Pepper and Balsamic Vinegar: In a small heavy saucepan, combine 2 cups strawberries (trimmed and quartered,) 1 1/2 cups sugar, 3 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons water, and 1 teaspoon cracked fresh black pepper. Simmer the mixture, skimming the foam occasionally, for 15 minutes or until thickened. Let cool completely – this will keep, covered, for up to a month.

Sour Cherries
While I love snacking on the sweeter bing or rainier cherries throughout the summer season, these tart little gems only have a 2 to 3 week season here in NY/NJ (early July) and are the perfect ingredient for pies, tarts, and preserves! I experimented with a sour cherry salsa which unfortunately accentuated the tart, astringent flavor. More successful was the sour cherry preserves that I made – a great topping for ice cream, or wonderful even in savory appetizers (placed on top of a toast with melted robiola cheese.) One of my favorite desserts is Sour Cherry Turnovers (click here for the recipe.)

Blueberries
We picked blueberries at a local farm the other day – there really are only a few things that can compare to beautiful, ripe, NJ blueberries in July! So, naturally, we brought our stash home, proceeded to snack on them throughout the rest of the day, and stuck a few cups-full in the freezer. I made this blueberry smoothie the next morning – so delicious and the perfect anti-oxidant rich breakfast for my family! Creamy Blueberry Smoothies: Combine in a blender (I use my vitamix for a very smooth texture) – 1 cup frozen blueberries, 1/4 cup skim milk, 3/4 cup plain or vanilla lowfat yogurt, 1 teaspoon honey. Blend until completely smooth, and enjoy immediately! (Throw in some flax or chia seeds for an extra healthy boost!)

Shishito Peppers
I don’t often find these in the markets in NJ, but every now and again I will stumble upon a gorgeous batch of shishito peppers at one of the Manhattan open markets… No matter what my menu is for that evening, I somehow find a way to incorporate these delightful, slightly spicy little peppers! The entire pepper is usually eaten, seeds and all – and the way that I prepare them is just a little olive oil, sea salt, and a hot skillet – blistering them slightly all over. I am getting hungry just typing this! This is a very general recipe – the qty of the ingredients depends on the size of the pan you are using… Blistered Shishito Peppers: Heat a skillet over medium high heat, and add a good amount of extra virgin olive oil to coat the pan. You want the oil to be pretty hot… Add the peppers, and make sure that they are coated with the oil. Then, leave the peppers alone for a minute or two per side. They will blister and after about 4 to 5 minutes total cooking time, they are done. Transfer them to a serving plate and immediately add some flaky sea salt, keep a small empty bowl nearby so that you can discard the stems as you eat… Enjoy!

Sweet Corn
Every summer around this time, I think of the sweet corn that one of the farmers at the Ithaca Farmers Market sold to us a few years ago… He took his pocket knife, cut off a little section of yellow and white kernels from the cob, and offered it to us to taste. It was by far the sweetest, and most savory corn I ever had – RAW too, to top that! We as a group proceeded to buy what seemed to be a truckload of corn from him, and the recipes that week were endless. Click here for a recipe for Summer Corn Pesto that is a great accompaniment to any pasta of your choice. Click here for a fabulous sweet corn soup recipe… I topped it with the meat of grilled langoustines, but you could just roast off some corn kernels to top, or any other accompanying vegetable on top would be great too…

And the list goes on… mangoes, and pineapples, eggplant, ┬ásummer squash…… I’ll leave those to my next post – I’ve got to choose amongst a dozen or so tomato recipes so stay tuned! :)

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