Now that summer’s bounty is here, what do you do with all those vegetables and fruits? We asked local farmers for suggestions, because who has more leftover squash to deal with than them?
Not surprisingly, many of them don’t really cook that much in the summer. They are just too busy to do much more than slice a tomato or shuck and boil corn.
But the truth is that it doesn’t take a lot of work for great, fresh veggies to shine. They already are packed with flavor and simple preparation lets it come through.
Steve Shepperson, who sells produce from farms in Boyle, Marion and Jessamine counties, said he doesn’t cook much, but he does like to make pico de gallo. His simple recipe: chopped red tomatoes, chopped sweet onion, chopped medium chili pepper, chopped cilantro, salt, pepper and a little chili powder, with a little lime or lemon juice.
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“Let it set a bit. It’s simple, but very tasty,” he said. He even likes to drink the juice left over.
Michael Wesley of Johnson Brothers Farms of Georgetown shared his recipe for a great meal of green beans (any kind will do, including half-runners, romas, goosenecks). In a big pot, layer 3 pounds of chopped ham, some chopped bacon, a couple of pounds of cleaned and broken green beans, new red potatoes and chopped onion. Add sea salt, cracked black pepper, a little garlic powder and fill with water to at least an inch over the top of the whole thing. Bring it to a boil, then reduce. Simmer for an hour and a half to two hours.
“Just slice up a tomato on the side,” he said.
He recommends serving the beans with his fried cornbread. His secret ingredient: crushed barbecue pork rinds. He adds them, along with a bit of chopped onion, to cornbread mix, then makes fried cornmeal cakes in the skillet.
“ If you want to make it really good, put a little cayenne pepper and ginger on top,” he said.
If grilling is more of your idea of a summer meal, Wesley suggested taking large banana peppers sliced in half longways and filling with a mixture of ground sweet Italian sausage and chopped onion. “Just put them on the grill,” he said.
If you’ve got a lot of just about everything to use up, try this roasted vegetables recipe from Elmwood Stock Farm: chop up a combination of vegetables such as tomatoes, onions, potatoes, squash, and zucchini. Mix vegetables together in a roasting pan with olive oil, salt and pepper. Cook in a 400-degree oven until the vegetables are tender (at least 30 minutes, depending on how much you are cooking), stirring occasionally. Tastes great served over yellow rice.
But you don’t have to cook to enjoy the garden goodies.
Cucumbers can be sliced and refrigerated in watered down vinegar, with a little salt and pepper, for instant pickles. Or shred the cucumbers and half an onion, mix into softened cream cheese with lemon juice and a little salt and pepper for a great dip or spread.
Mary Tyler of Winchester, known as “The Peach Lady,” suggested this alternative to peach cobbler: Peel and slice ripe peaches in a bowl, douse with brown sugar and let them sit at room temperature until the juices come. Then stir and refrigerate. Serve with pound cake and vanilla ice cream.
She also recommended her version of “fried” corn: shuck and de-tassel about a dozen ears of corn. Cut the corn off the cob, then scrape the cob in a bowl to get the juice. Put kernels and juice in a skillet with just enough water to almost cover. Add a teaspoon of sugar if you like, then cook for about 10 minutes, stirring throughout. Add milk if you like creamed corn.
“It freezes wonderfully, too,” Tyler said. “I make three big batches every summer: one for Thanksgiving, one for Christmas and one for Easter.”
Still got leftover tomatoes? Try this tomato pie recommended by my colleague, Linda Blackford, who shared this recipe from her late mother, Bettina.
1 ready-made pie crust or make your own
4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes, roughly 4-6 medium tomatoes
1/2 red onion, diced
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 cup panko crumbs
1/2 cup grated cheddar
1/2 cup grated mozzarella
2 tablespoons mayonnaise or to taste, depending on how Paula Deen you’re feeling.
Bake pie crust at 350 degrees; bake until just set.
Chop tomatoes, put in colander, let drain for a few minutes. Salt and pepper to taste. Add finely chopped onion, and basil.
In a bowl, combine panko, cheeses and mayonnaise.
Put tomato mixture into pie crust. Top with rough paste of panko and cheese. Bake at 350 about 20-30 minutes or until crust starts to turn brown and bubble. Cut into messy slices and enjoy.