In this week’s box:
1 dozen eggs
28 ears of corn
1 flat of peaches
2 half pints raspberries
2 half pints blackberries
1 bag of heirloom tomatoes
1 pick your own bouquet of sunflowers
3 seedless watermelons
We really are in the peak of summer, when the vegetables are so good and require so little in the way of cooking. A favorite side salad of mine these days involves popping an ear or two of corn in the microwave for 2:15 (4 minutes for two), removing the kernels from the cob and then adding some chopped tomatoes, salt, pepper and olive oil. Serve aside scrambled eggs or grilled meat for a simple summer supper.
And don’t relegate fruit to desserts and breakfasts. A simple bowl of berries and chopped peaches would taste great next to a char-grilled chicken breast. Maybe add a few slices of tomato on the side. See? Nothing fancy going on in my kitchen these days. With peak produce like this, there’s no need to let cooking get in the way of setting up the backyard sprinkler or kiddie pool and watching the little ones go wild.
What to do with eggplant? The beauty of eggplant is its ability to transform from its raw state, which can resemble the texture of a pool noodle, to its cooked state of creamy, custardy goodness. I was recently inspired by this post on Alexandra’s Kitchen, a local blog profiled in The Free Lance-Star. I did not follow her recipe exactly, but I did throw the whole eggplant on the grill for about 25 minutes total, let it cool a bit, peeled it and let the water drain out in a colander for about 10 minutes. I roughly chopped the cooked eggplant and added about a quarter-cup of chopped basil, a tablespoon of tahini, the juice of one lemon, one chopped garlic clove and salt and pepper. I meant to add olive oil, but it never happened, and I didn’t miss it. I beat this mixture up with a wooden spoon until all the flavors had melded. It was great atop fresh-made homemade pizza the first night. The second night I used it as a dipper for cheese-and-corn quesadillas. I highly recommend throwing your whole eggplant on the grill, burning its skin and then using the cooked inside with whatever flavorings your heart desires. Even just simple olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper wouldn’t be bad.
Peaches need to be eaten at their peak ripeness, so if you don’t think you’ll be able to get through yours before they start to spoil, take the time to freeze some sliced peaches for later. Last year, I used the method outlined in this tutorial from Better Homes and Gardens with great success.
Peaches and blackberries pair beautifully in baked dishes. Nearly everyone has their favorite cobbler, clafoutis or pie recipe, but on busy weeknights, I almost always go for a crisp recipe that’s easy to throw together at the last minute. You can use this with just about any fruit, fresh or frozen. This is a relatively healthy dessert, so if it ends up being the only thing your kids eat for dinner one night, you don’t have to kick yourself too hard…
Peach and blackberry crisp
3 peaches, peeled and sliced
4 to 6 large blackberries
1/2 cup whole-wheat flour
half stick of unsalted butter, diced
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup old-fashioned oats
pinch salt (omit salt if you use salted butter)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup walnuts or almonds, chopped (optional)
Spray a 2-quart baking dish with cooking spray. Place fruit in baking dish. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place flour, butter, sugar, oats, salt and cinnamon in a large mixing bowl. Work this mixture with your (clean) fingers until it attains the texture of coarse wet sand. This has the added benefit of exfoliating your hands. If using nuts, mix them in lightly after the rest of the ingredients are already incorporated. Gently place this mixture over the berries. Bake 45 minutes to an hour (closer to an hour if you’re using frozen fruit), until fruit bubbles and the topping is slightly browned. If you use really ripe fruit, it will need no adornment, but if it’s less than peak, try tossing the fruit with a bit of honey and cornstarch before placing it in the baking dish to help the juices and flavors come out. Serve with vanilla ice cream.