In a few weeks, many of the wonderful, locally grown fruits and vegetables will be gone for another season.
Now's the time to take advantage of the cucumbers, potatoes, peppers and eggplants that are plentiful at farmers markets and turn them into a multicourse meal.
And don't let the blackberry season end without making at least one cobbler or crisp.
We begin today's fresh-from-the-market menu with a cool summer soup. Cucumbers are the main ingredient in this pale green "white" gazpacho. It's spiced with fresh garlic and jalapeño, and jazzed up with a garnish of red tomato salsa. This recipe is fromThe Lee Bros. Simple, Fresh, Southern.
3 medium tomatoes, about 1 pound
1 small yellow onion, finely diced, about ½ cup
2 heaping tablespoons finely chopped fresh cilantro (about 6 sprigs)
2 tablespoons distilled white vinegar or white wine vinegar
Kosher salt to taste
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
4 medium cucumbers, peeled, seeded and cut into large dice, about 3 cups
2 small jalapeño chilies, seeded and finely diced, about 2 tablespoons
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth
2 cups plain yogurt
Set a strainer over a medium bowl. Core tomatoes, cut them in half crosswise and, using your pinkie finger, tease the seeds out of the cavities, letting them drop into the strainer. Tap the rim of the strainer against your palm for 30 seconds, until most of the flavorful gel clinging to the seeds dissolves and drips into the bowl. Discard seeds.
Finely dice tomatoes and transfer them to the bowl with the tomato water. Add onion, cilantro and vinegar, and toss. Season the salsa to taste with salt and black pepper, and refrigerate it. (Salsa will keep 3 days in refrigerator.) Place soup bowls you intend to use in the refrigerator, too.
Combine cucumbers, chilies, garlic, vegetable broth and yogurt in a food processor, and pulse until smooth. Season to taste with salt and black pepper, and chill at least 30 minutes and up to 3 days.
Divide soup among chilled bowls, and garnish each serving with a couple spoonfuls of salsa. Makes 6 servings.
You can grill thick slices of eggplant up to a day in advance, then assemble the eggplant, tomato and mozzarella "stacks" at the last minute for a refreshing side dish. To make stacks look symmetrical, use eggplant and tomatoes with about the same diameter. This recipe is from Eating Well magazine.
Grilled eggplant and tomato stacks
2 teaspoons plus 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 medium eggplant (3/4 to 1 pound), cut into 6 rounds about 1/2 inch thick
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt, divided
6 teaspoons prepared pesto
2 large beefsteak tomatoes, each cut into 3 slices about 3/4 inch thick
4 ounces fresh mozzarella, cut into 6 thin slices
6 fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
Preheat grill to medium-high or place a grill pan over medium-high heat until hot.
Use 2 teaspoons oil to brush both sides of eggplant slices; sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Grill eggplant slices for 5 minutes. Turn; continue grilling until tender and marked with grill lines, 3 to 5 minutes more. Transfer to large platter.
Spread each eggplant slice with 1 teaspoon pesto. Top with slice of tomato, slice of mozzarella and basil leaf.
Drizzle vinegar and the remaining 1 tablespoon oil over the towers; sprinkle with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and pepper. Makes 6 servings.
Sweet peppers are plump, bell-shaped vegetables featuring three or four lobes. Green and purple peppers have a slightly bitter flavor, while the red, orange and yellows are sweeter and almost fruity. All colors work well in this main dish recipe from Real Simple.
Couscous stuffed peppers
1/2 pound ground beef
1/2 cup couscous
4 sliced scallions
1 cup crumbled feta
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots
Salt and pepper
4 whole bell peppers, any color
Brown ground beef and drain. Cook couscous according to package directions. Mix beef, couscous, scallions, feta and dried apricots. Season with salt and pepper. Stuff mixture into 4 hollowed-out bell peppers and bake at 400 degrees, covered, until tender, 45 to 50 minutes.
We can eat green beans and potatoes year round, but nothing compares to the flavor of just-picked green beans and freshly dug tiny red potatoes. New potatoes are any variety of freshly dug young potato that hasn't been stored. This recipe is from Southern Living.
Green beans and red potatoes
1/2 pound smoked ham hocks
3 quarts chicken broth
21/2 pounds fresh whole green beans, trimmed
1 large onion, sliced
11/2 pounds small red potatoes, halved
1 to 11/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 bay leaf
Freshly ground pepper (optional)
Salt to taste
Bring ham hocks and chicken broth to a boil in a large Dutch oven; reduce heat to low, and simmer about 20 minutes.
Add green beans and next 4 ingredients; bring to a boil. Reduce heat, and simmer about 30 minutes or until beans and potatoes are tender. Sprinkle with freshly ground pepper, if desired. Add salt to taste. Makes 8 servings.
Blackberries don't ripen once picked, so choose ripe ones. Avoid packages with juice showing, or bruised or moldy fruit. As soon as you get the berries home, refrigerate them in their containers and use within a few days. This recipe is from Martha Stewart.
11/2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup light-brown sugar
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1 teaspoon coarse salt
23/4 pounds fresh blackberries, about 5 pints
2 tablespoons instant tapioca
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tablespoon grated orange zest, plus 1/4 cup orange juice
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. In a food processor, pulse flour, brown sugar, butter and salt until combined. In a large bowl, toss together blackberries, tapioca, granulated sugar, and orange zest and juice. Pour blackberry mixture into 2-quart baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with flour mixture. Bake until topping is golden and juices are bubbling, 50 minutes. Let cool 20 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.