There’s nothing you can make with summer’s favorite homegrown vegetables and fruits that would be turned down by anyone this time of year.
And as the growing season slows down we are fortunately still enjoying these fresh summer flavors due to cooler temperatures in the spring and early summer.
Some of the farmers markets are still open and farm stands are starting to clearance their surplus. Now is the time to savor the flavor of whatever summer crop you love the most and get ready to bid farewell to its wonderful ‘peak of the season’ flavor until next year.
Readers, chefs and home gardeners throughout East Texas shared some of the ways they’ve enjoyed their favorite summer fruit or vegetable and some easy ways to keep enjoying the flavor until the last tomato, basil leaf and over-sized homegrown zucchini is gone.
Charlie Goff, Quitman:
My tomatoes were doing great and we were really enjoying them at almost every meal. Then the spider mites hit and by the time I got back out in the garden the tomato plants were pretty much gone.
The eggplant, however, are still doing pretty good, and there is nothing better than fresh from the garden. I pick them a little early so the seeds are very small. Sunday, a week ago, I made Moussaka (I worked in a hotel kitchen in Greece one summer) and Denise said it was great and I thought it was pretty good. Then this last Sunday I sliced up some eggplant and Denise (First-generation Italian American) made her famous Eggplant Parmigiana with her quick-fix tomato sauce. It was outstanding.
Another way we like to eat them is kind of a “make your own appetizer”. We bread fairly thin slices of the eggplant in egg, seasoned bread crumbs (with lots of garlic) and grated parmesan cheese and then fry them in olive oil. You then take some good Italian Provolone or Romano, sliced, and put it between 2 slices of eggplant. Wow, really good. If you want to take it over the top, spread some pesto on the inside of the eggplant. (See Charlie’s Recipe for Moussaka.)
Michele Merryman, Palestine:
I’ve been enjoying lots of tomatoes and basil with fresh mozzarella, lime infused extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. Also, I love a pasta sauce I created with yellow squash, onion, tomatoes and rosemary infused extra virgin olive oil. (See Michele’s recipe for Summer Squash with Fresh Tomatoes and Pasta.)
Carleen Dark, Tyler:
Definitely, tomatoes and jalapenos. I’m making lots of salsa, caprese salads, and one of my favorite tomato recipes – grilled tomatoes with fresh thyme in a butter and heavy cream reduction. Super-simple, quick and amazing!
Stephanie Schonefeld, Chapel Hill:
Tomato sandwiches – nothing says tomato season to me like it. Simply, tomato, mayo, salt and pepper. Reminds me of my mom making them as a kid.
My favorite thing I’ve been growing the last couple summers has been chili petin peppers. My husband introduced them to me. They are small but super hot. He eats them with everything, but he also makes the famous King’s Inn (from his hometown of Riviera, Texas) tartar sauce. It isn’t like normal tartar sauce at all, and we even eat it is as a dip. Delish.
Simon Webster, Chef/Owner, Sabor a Pasion:
This year I was excited to find seeds for a variety of cucumber I used to grow in New Zealand. It’s called an apple cucumber and looks like a white apple, but when you slice it the inside is just like a cucumber.
Once picked, they don’t last long in my refrigerator because they get eaten as soon as they’re cold. Just slice and season with salt and fresh black pepper and a drizzle of malt vinegar and olive oil.
Larkin Watson Forman, Owner of Ripe:
I found a recipe for herb salt on splendidtable.org. I made my own version with sea salt, chopped fresh sage and orange zest. After it sat for a couple of weeks I put it through the food processor to smooth out the zest a bit more. (See the splendidtable.org recipe for Tuscan Herb Salt.) Ripe is located at 12239 State Highway 64 West. They are closed until Sept 2 and will reopen with a variety of fall herbs and vegetables.
Something different I planted this year was Romanesco Zucchini. It’s a variety that is known for their blossoms, which are a nice addition to salads, and wonderful stuffed with cheese. They can be baked or fried. The actual zucchinis grew quite large. The last one I picked was almost three feet long and a circumference of 12 inches. When they get that large I am skeptical of the flavor, but was pleasantly surprised. I got out the ice cream scoop and hollowed out the middle and stuffed it with pasta or rice mixed with cheese and chopped vegetables. They took awhile to bake, but turned out delicious.
Tuscan Herb Salt
4 to 5 garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup kosher salt
About 2 cups loosely-packed, pungent fresh herbs such as sage, rosemary, thyme, savory, or small amounts of lavender
(For true Tuscan herb salt use a mix of fresh rosemary and sage leaves, 50/50 or whatever balance you prefer)
Food Processor Method: Cut each garlic clove lengthwise through the center, remove the sprout (if any) in the center and discard. In the work bowl of a food processor, combine the garlic and 2 tablespoons of the salt. Pulse until the garlic is chopped medium-coarse. Add the herbs and continue pulsing until the mixture is the texture of very coarse sand. Transfer to a sheet pan and toss with the remaining salt. Leave near an open window for a couple of days to dry. Store in clean, dry jars.
Hand-Chopped Method: Cut each garlic clove lengthwise through the center, remove the sprout (if any) in the center and discard. Mound the salt and garlic on a cutting board. Use a chef’s knife to mince the garlic, blending it with the salt as you work. Place herbs in a mound and coarsely chop them. Add the herbs to the garlic salt and chop them together to the texture of coarse sand. Spread the salt on a baking sheet or in wide flat bowls and leave near an open window for a couple of days to dry. Store in clean, dry jars.
Recipe from splendidtable.org
Summer Squash with Fresh Tomatoes & Pasta
Fresh pappardelle pasta, one nest
1 small yellow squash, sliced
1 small garden tomato, seeded and diced
1/4 yellow onion, diced
Rosemary infused extra virgin
1 tablespoon butter
Sprig of rosemary for garnish
Spicy seasoning salt (I mix together sea salt, rosemary, sugar, lemon peel, hot pepper flakes, fresh garlic. I make a batch, put in an air tight container and use it on almost everything!)
Heat oil and butter on medium/high heat in a medium saut￩ pan. Add onions. Once onions are translucent, add squash, tomato and season salt. Cook until squash is al dente. Meanwhile, cook pasta as directed. (Remember, fresh pasta cooks much quicker than boxed pasta.) Add pasta to vegetable mixture and toss. Serve immediately. Enjoy the taste of summer!
Recipe by Michele Merryman
3 to 4 eggplants, about 4 pounds total
1 pound potatoes
1 1/2 pounds ground beef (or lamb)
2 large onions, finely diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup red wine
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1 cup tomato puree (or crushed tomatoes)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 cups plain breadcrumbs
8 egg whites, lightly beaten (reserve yolks for bechamel)
1 cup grated Kefalotyri or Parmesan cheese
1 cup salted butter (2 sticks)
1 cup flour
4 cups milk, warmed
8 egg yolks, lightly beaten
Pinch of ground nutmeg
For the Vegetables: Using a sharp peeler, partially peel the eggplants, leaving strips of peel about 1 inch wide around the eggplant. Slice the eggplant into 1/2 inch slices. Place the eggplant slices in a colander and salt them liberally. Cover them with an inverted plate that is weighted down by a heavy can or jar. Place the colander in the sink so that excess moisture can be drawn out. They will need to sit for at least 15 to 20 minutes, preferably an hour. The salt also helps to remove some of the bitterness of the eggplant. Peel the potatoes and boil them whole until they are just done. They should not get too soft, just cooked enough so that they no longer crunch. Drain, cool and slice them in 1/4 inch slices. Set aside. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil and lightly grease. Add a splash of water to the egg whites and beat them lightly with a fork. Add breadcrumbs to a flat plate. Rinse the eggplant slices and dry with paper towels. Dip the eggplant slices in the beaten egg whites and then dredge them in the breadcrumbs, coating both sides. Place breaded eggplant slices on baking sheets and bake at 400 degrees for 1/2 an hour, turning them over once during cooking. When eggplant is finished cooking, lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
For the Meat Filling: In a large saut￩ pan, brown the ground beef (or lamb) until the pink color disappears. Add onion and saut￩ until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add wine to pan and allow it to simmer and reduce a bit before adding cinnamon, allspice, parsley, tomato paste, crushed tomatoes, and sugar. Allow the sauce to simmer uncovered for approximately 15 minutes so that excess liquid can evaporate. It should be a drier, chunkier, tomato sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
For the Bechamel Sauce: Melt butter over low heat. Using a whisk, add flour to melted butter whisking continuously to make a smooth paste. Allow the flour to cook for a minute but do not allow it to brown. Add warmed milk to mixture in a steady stream, whisking continuously. Simmer over low heat until it thickens a bit but does not boil. Remove from heat, and stir in beaten egg yolks and pinch of nutmeg. Return to heat and stir until sauce thickens.
Assemble the Moussaka: Lightly grease a large deep baking pan (lasagna pan). Sprinkle the bottom of pan with breadcrumbs. Leaving a 1/4 inch space around the edges of the pan, place a layer of potatoes on the bottom. Top with a layer of eggplant slices. Add meat sauce on top of eggplant layer and sprinkle with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Top with another layer of eggplant slices and sprinkle once again with 1/4 of the grated cheese. Pour the b￩chamel sauce over the eggplant and be sure to allow sauce to fill the sides and corners of the pan. Smooth the b￩chamel on top with a spatula and sprinkle with remaining grated cheese. Bake in a 350-degree oven for 45 minutes or until b￩chamel sauce is a nice golden brown color. Allow to cool for 15 to 20 minutes before slicing and serving. You can make this dish ahead up until the b￩chamel sauce and refrigerate. Make the b￩chamel sauce right before you intend to bake it.
Recipe by Charlie Goff