Awash in the harvest: Great ways to cook fresh summer vegetables

06/17/2013 4:21 PM

06/17/2013 4:30 PM

When the garden or the market offers up corn, tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and peppers, try these creative ways to bring that seasonal bounty to the table.

Here are some fresh recipes for the wonderful produce that herald's the start of summer:

Corn

SALAD: Quinoa salad with grilled corn, tomatoes and cilantro — Cook 1 cup quinoa, cool and pat dry. Toss with kernels from 2 ears of grilled corn, 2 cups chopped tomatoes, 1 chopped serrano pepper and ¾ cup chopped green onion. Make a vinaigrette with 3 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 minced garlic clove and 1¾ teaspoons ground cumin to dress the salad. Just before serving, fold in 1½ cups chopped cilantro.

PASTA: Sweet corn and shrimp "risotto" — Sauté ¾ cup diced Spanish chorizo in 1 tablespoon butter, then add ½ cup each chopped green onion and red bell pepper; cook until tender. Add 4 cups diced zucchini and shelled shrimp. Add ½ cup white wine and reduce to a syrup. Add 5 cups corn kernels and then add 1 cup shrimp stock ½ cup at a time, finishing with ¼ cup whipping cream and 3 tablespoons slivered basil.

MAIN DISH: Green chile, corn and zucchini frittata — Cook 1 chopped zucchini, ¼ cup chopped green onions and ª to ½ cup chopped peeled green chile in 2 tablespoons butter. Add 1 cup corn kernels. Beat 6 eggs and stir in the vegetable mixture and roughly ª cup grated Monterey jack cheese. Return the mixture to the skillet and cook over low heat until it begins to set. Scatter over another ª cup cheese and broil until the top is puffed and brown.

Tomatoes

SALAD: Lentil salad with tomatoes, zucchini and arugula — Salt ¼ pound diced zucchini and drain for 30 minutes. Cook 1 cup lentils until tender, then drain and pat dry. Rinse the zucchini and pat dry and add to the lentils along with 3 tablespoons minced chives, 1 minced clove garlic and ½ pound halved cherry tomatoes. Dress with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the juice of ½ lemon. Fold in ½ cup torn arugula leaves and 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts just before serving.

PASTA: Rice salad with shrimp and arugula — Cook 2 cups Arborio rice, then drain and pat dry. While warm, dress with 3 tablespoons each olive oil and lemon juice and add ½ pound cooked small shrimp, ¼ cup minced red onion, 1 cup diced tomato and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Fold in 1½ cups torn arugula and 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts just before serving.

MAIN DISH: Swordfish with tomatoes and fennel — Sauté 4 swordfish steaks with 1 clove thinly sliced garlic and 1½ teaspoons fennel seeds in 3 tablespoons olive oil, about 5 minutes per side. Add ½ cup white wine and 1 pound whole cherry tomatoes, cover and cook until the fish is done. Uncover, transfer the fish to a platter and raise the heat to high. Cook until the juices have reduced. Add 2 tablespoons slivered basil, spoon over the fish and serve.

Zucchini

SALAD: Woven zucchini with fresh goat cheese — Cut 4 zucchini in very thin lengthwise strips. Salt generously and set aside to soften. Rinse and pat dry. Whisk together 3 tablespoons olive oil, ½ clove garlic, minced, and 1 tablespoon lemon juice. Cut 12 cherry tomatoes in half. Brush the zucchini with the dressing, then weave 3 strips crosswise and 3 strips lengthwise to make a raft. Top each raft with a dollop of fresh goat cheese and the tomatoes and season with olive oil and slivered basil.

PASTA: Free-form zucchini lasagna with lemon-thyme cream — Slice 1 pound zucchini lengthwise; grill on both sides. Cook ½ cup diced onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil, add 3 tablespoons white wine, 1 minced clove garlic and ¼ teaspoon thyme; add the zucchini and remove from the heat. Heat 1 cup cream with thyme sprigs, lemon zest and 1 tablespoon Parmesan. Lightly coat a cooked pasta square with the cream and place it on a plate. Top with ricotta and a few zucchini strips, then another creamy pasta square. Dust with more Parmesan and serve.

MAIN DISH: Zucchini bake — Cook a sliced onion in 3 tablespoons olive oil with a minced garlic clove. Arrange in an oiled baking dish. Arrange 2 zucchini cut into rounds in overlapping rows on top of the onions. Scatter 20 quartered cherry tomatoes and 3 table- spoons chopped pitted black olives on top. Crumble over 4 ounces fresh goat cheese, drizzle with olive oil and bake at 350 degrees until the zucchini has softened and the mixture is dry, about 1½ hours.

Eggplant

SALAD: Silken eggplant salad — Remove the stems from 2 pounds Asian eggplants and steam the eggplants until tender. Cool to room temperature. Whisk together 1 tablespoon minced garlic, ½ cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, ½ teaspoon minced rosemary and ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes. Cut the eggplant into bite-sized pieces and toss with enough dressing to coat lightly. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and serve.

PASTA: Fusilli with spicy eggplant — Dice an eggplant, salt and drain for at least 1 hour. Rinse and pat dry. Cook 1 cup diced onion, 4 cloves sliced garlic and ¼ teaspoon dried red pepper flakes in ¼ cup olive oil. Add 1½ cups chopped tomatoes, 3 tablespoons capers and ½ cup white wine. Cook 1 pound fusilli and add to the skillet along with ½ cup pasta water and slivered basil and cook briefly. Serve with sliced or grated ricotta salata.

MAIN DISH: Eggplant stuffed with lamb and pine nuts — Cut 3 eggplants in half lengthwise and remove and chop the flesh. Cook 1 chopped onion and 2 tablespoons minced garlic in ¼ cup olive oil. Add ¾ pound lamb stew meat, then the eggplant. Add 1 cup crushed tomatoes, ¼ cup pine nuts and ½ cup chopped parsley. Spread 1 sliced onion and 2ª cups crushed tomatoes in an oiled baking dish. Arrange the eggplant shells in the dish and spoon in the filling. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees for 45 minutes. Dust with grated pecorino and bake until browned.

Peppers

SALAD: Quick pickled peppers — Cut a slit in each of ¾ pound of shishito peppers. Simmer 2½ cups rice vinegar with 3 lightly smashed cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, ½ teaspoon whole black peppercorns, 1 small onion sliced thin and 2 small dried chiles. Blanch the shishito peppers briefly, pat dry and put in a container. Cover with the vinegar mixture and let stand 8 hours.

PASTA: Spaghetti with wilted peppers — Cut 1 onion and 4 slices of prosciutto into ¼-inch strips and cook in 3 tablespoons olive oil. Cut 6 bell peppers into strips and add them. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are quite limp, about 45 minutes. Add 3 thinly sliced cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons chopped parsley and continue cooking while 1 pound of spaghetti is boiling. Add the cooked spaghetti to the skillet and mix well. Finish with grated pecorino.

MAIN DISH: Peperonata — Cook 1 sliced onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Add ¾ cup chopped tomatoes, 5 chopped roasted, peeled and seeded bell peppers and ¾ cup red wine, and cover and cook until tender. Purée ½ chopped jalapeño and 2 cloves of garlic, add 1 cup chopped basil leaves and ¼ cup chopped parsley, and then 3 tablespoons olive oil to make a loose paste. Stir the sauce into the peppers and heat through.

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