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Posts Tagged ‘local produce’

This is a really easy way to give fresh green beans a little extra flavor and crunch.

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Besides caprese salad, capris pants, flip flops, and sunburned shoulders, another summer classic not to be left out is basil pesto pasta. Or basil pesto anything. There the basil is – swaying in the garden, or sprouting in the window box, or bursting as a simple bouquet on the green grocer’s shelf. Use me now, it seems to say, because you’ll miss me when I’m gone.

My mom has made pesto every summer that I can remember. The master of winging it in the kitchen, it is hard to anticipate what Mom’s pesto batch will taste like. Sometimes it is sharp, or sweet, or bitter. But it always says fresh, as in right now.

I prefer predictability when it comes to pesto, even though the best cooks and chefs will say an adventuresome spirit is exactly what you need in kitchen. Search the Web and you’ll find no two pesto recipes alike. But I have one that I turn to again, and again, and again, like a loyal, boring friend. It includes parsley, which tempers the basil in my opinion, and not too much garlic. I won’t disappoint you, it whispers between the ingredients. OK, I’m joking. It doesn’t really say that. (more…)

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I got home from a family wedding over the weekend and discovered a bit of red poking out from beneath my tomato plant. Ripe tomatoes!

These cherry tomatoes look a bit more normal than what grew on my balcony window boxes last year. Along with my basil plant that survived the winter I knew I had the makings for a quick caprese salad to accompany fresh corn on the cob and a teriyaki salmon patty (courtesy of my corner store).

Everyone should make fresh caprese salad with summer’s red jewels as often as possible. It is fast, easy, and pretty to look at. Usually, one layers slices of full-sized tomatoes with overlapping rounds of fresh mozerrella cheese and basil leaves. But I found I could make do with the petite offerings from my balcony just fine.

Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt, and a few grinds of fresh pepper. Delicious. Hooray for summer! So what if the light is beginning to slip away earlier each evening. The tomato plant isn’t finished just yet. Thank goodness.

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Man is it HOT out. Heat wave hits the East Coast.

See my temperature barometer?

The 80 degree F. tag is floating close to the bottom. That means it is hotter than 80 degrees in my apartment even though the a/c has been blasting all day.

Turning on any electrical appliance to cook is just not an option. A watermelon salad is a perfect refreshment for a heat wave. Keep it in mind for your next backyard cookout.

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Everyone has experienced the disappointment of buying a lovely looking piece of fruit only to discover it is as appetizing as cardboard. Deborah Madison hopes to redeem the paradise-lost pleasures of truly ripe fruit. The cookbook guru has written a bit of a love letter to summer’s jewels with her new “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” (Broadway Books, $32.50). A perusal of the gorgeous photos alone will prompt you to rush to your nearest Farmers’ Market and load up your canvas shopping bags.

Madison wants us to rededicate ourselves to the fleeting joys of locally grown, seasonal fruit – even if it requires the discipline of putting those well-traveled strawberries back on the shelf in mid-December. Whether it is figs and raspberries elegantly presented unadorned or a recipe for a compote, “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” advises even as it tempts. “Don’t assume that everything from the farmers’ market or farm stand is stellar,” she cautions. “Be watchful, asks for tastes, sniff, ask questions, and be prepared to say, ‘No, thanks.'”

I was delighted that Madison includes a mention of pawpaws, a fruit native to the Midwest that some say should replace the carbon-footprint-ladened banana of the tropics. In fact, the pawpaw is a distant cousin of the banana. “Its bananalike notes are probably what account for its other names – prairie banana, Hoosier banana – and other banana appellations for every state where the pawpaw grows,” writes Madison. “[T]he pawpaw is the only member of the [Annonaceae] genus that doesn’t require a tropical climate to survive.”

How about them apples – er – pawpaws?

As always, Madison offers tips for preparing fruit, techniques for coaxing the best flavors out of your dishes, and advice on the best kitchen equipment to have on hand. “Seasonal Fruit Desserts” will set you up perfectly to enjoy the sweetness of slow summer evenings.

Read my article about shopping at Farmers’ Markets and listen to my interview with Deborah Madison by clicking here.

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