Monday, August 18, 2014

Eating Omily: Veggie Summer Love–Flavors that Belong Together

Have you been reading this blog long? Like, were you around last Summer? Because, if so, I don't have to tell you. But, in case you weren't, I will.

IT'S SUMMER!!! The time of plenty is here! Every delicious thing you can imagine is waiting for you at the Farmer's Market!

Tomatoes, blueberries, summer squash, string beans, peaches, chili peppers, raspberries, eggplant, corn, shelling beans, apricots, black berries, watermelons, nectarines, sweet peppers, cantaloupes, currants, potatoes, herbs, (the earliest) apples, okra, winter squash (ironically enough), radishes, and sundry heat-tolerant greens, just to name a few.

THIS is the time of year when you can eat (just about) anything you want. This is the time of decadence, of bringing home your bags of produce and feeling like Scrooge McDuck swimming in his money vault!
So, now that everyone knows this, what are you waiting for? Are you perhaps paralyzed by choice? Unsure what to do with this crazy beautiful bounty? Ok, here are a few of my favourite summer time combinations. Some of them are no-brainers: flavor combos that are so woven into our culture that you may not have realized you can eat them separately, and others are a bit more exotic. You should try them all.

Tomatoes and basil: Topping the obvious list, this particular veggie love affair began in Italy, and spread far and wide. You can punch it up a notch by adding mozzarella cheese (they've got it at the Farmers' Market, at Central Valley Farm, Union Square, Monday and Friday), olive oil, and balsamic, but you can also just chop our tomatoes and toss them with torn basil and a little salt for an easy, honest Summer salad that no one will think anything is missing from.
Leeks and stringbeans: My wonderful friend Karen (who just started a rad Etsy shop; you should check it out) makes the most delicious green beans. I've always enjoyed green beans cooked with a light touch: crisp, and vegetal, but her recipe cooks them down until they caramelize, and show off a complexity I didn't think string beans possessed! When I picked up a few leeks at the market on Saturday, I realized that their sweet, mellow oniony flavor would be a perfect partner for deeply cooked green beans. And are they ever! If you're like me and blanch (that's boil briefly, then plunge in ice water) lots of string beans for freezing and drying, you'll also appreciate knowing that the dish is just as good with caramelized leeks, and blanched and chopped green beans. The juxt a position of crisp beans, and smooth, sweet leeks is one guaranteed to not leave leftovers.

Watermelon and radishes: Lunch just got planned. Slice up a watermelon. Slice up some radishes. Chop the radish greens. Toss all of the above, perhaps with some nuts or goat cheese. YES, you can eat radish greens, and you should! I've seen this combination bandied about, but I get my version from Candice Kumai's Pretty Delicious.

Corn and tomatos: You know when you get home on a hot Summer night, and the idea of cooking makes you think starving might be preferable? No worries. This is a dinner-caliber salad you can throw together in just a few minutes. Shuck your corn, and slice it off the cob. Slice cherry or grape tomatoes in half. Toss together with salt, and optional olive oil, or for a richer flavor, pumpkin seed oil. Nope. No cooking. I know! It feels scandalous to eat corn raw, but damn, if it's wrong, I don't want to be right! It's sweet, crisp, and juicy!
Blueberries and basil: I know. Sounds crazy. Just relax. Throw some blueberries and a splash of water into a saucepan with a few whole basil leaves. Simmer. Crush the berries. Keep simmering. Depending on your level of patience (and the level of pectin in your berries) you'll end up with a thinner blueberry basil sauce, or a thicker blueberry basil jam, and you'll be happy either way. The sweet, refreshing, licorice notes in the basil do such happy things for the sweet/tart, almost medicinal qualities of the blueberries. Nom!
Summer squash and radishes: This one comes straight from The New Green Market Cook Book, where the principle ingredients are sliced on a mandolin and tossed, raw, with an herbaceous and lemony vinaigrette. It makes a big batch, but don't worry: it only gets better as it sits, and it will all get eaten.
Don't forget the big, Summertime combo dishes! Those seasonal dishes designed for this time of plenty: ratatouille, and gazpacho.

What are your favourite Summer time flavor combos? You know, besides mint and lime, or you and the beach? Think you'll give any of these combos a try? Try experimenting with some of your own, too! Just remember: What grows together goes together!

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