As the dog days of summer crest into the brisk air of autumn, nature’s bounty is at the peak of majesty. Farmers markets burst at the seams with ripe red, green, yellow, purple and orange tomatoes, glistening green zucchini and corn so fresh and sweet that you can taste sunshine in every bite.
Take advantage of the season and head to your local farmers market to pick up the ingredients for a meal based around summer bumper crops at the peak of tastiness. These dishes are made to highlight the tastes of summer: Tomatoes, sweet corn, zucchini, fresh basil and bright berries. Of course, for maximum flavor and nutritional value, we say always buy organic fruits and vegetables.
Sliced Tomato Salad
This simple and classic dish is popular in Europe and highlights the robust flavor of summer tomatoes. Choose hearty, firm tomatoes such as heart of beef or go multicolor for a pretty presentation – you will need one tomato per serving. Cut each fruit from the top down into ¼” slices, without cutting through the bottom of the tomato so that it can fan out, all in one piece. Between each slice of tomato, add a fresh basil leaf and a small slice of fresh, soft cheese that comes in ball form, like mozzarella or bocconcini di bufala. Drizzle balsamic vinegar and high-quality olive oil over each serving, and then dust with a touch of sea salt and cracked black pepper. Enjoy with fresh crostinis and a glass of crisp white wine.
Summer often brings barrels of zucchini and other summer squashes; make them into a meal when you add protein-rich garbanzo beans for a falafel-like fritter. Soak garbanzo beans aka chickpeas overnight, then simmer in fresh water for 60 minutes or until done. Mash one cup of cooked garbanzo beans until smooth, then stir in one grated zucchini, ½ cup of chopped onion, 1 egg, 1 cup of breadcrumbs and 1 teaspoon each salt and pepper. Form into small patties about ½ inch thick, then sauté until crispy, about 3 minutes on each side (OR you can bake them in a greased pan for 15-20 minutes at 350 degrees, turning once). Serve in warm, whole-grain pita bread with fresh lettuce, chopped tomato and plain, low-fat Greek yogurt.
Creamless Creamed Corn
(image: See Ming-lee)
Shucking corn is an end-of-summer tradition in many parts of the world; choose the freshest ears you can find for this easy dish. In a medium saucepan, heat 2 tablespoons of oil on medium-high heat and cook ½ cup chopped sweet onion and 2 sliced scallions for 2-3 minutes or until tender. Add the kernels from four ears of corn – just scrap them right into the pan so that the glorious corn juices all run into the dish. Add one cup water and continue cooking for 7-8 minutes or until the corn is tender. Remove from heat and add ½ cup low-fat Greek yogurt and salt and pepper to taste, then garnish with sliced scallions.
Berries & Crème Fraîche
You don’t want to ruin a fresh summer meal with a heavy dessert, so opt for this easy and bright berry dish. Choose your favorite berries at the farmers market. Wash them one hour before serving and let them sit outside the refrigerator (berries always taste better at room temperature). Top with a dollop of crème fraîche, a French dairy delight with a taste and consistency somewhere between cream cheese and sour cream. Garnish with a small drizzle of honey and a fresh spring of mint.