Cooking with foods at their seasonal peak means creating the most flavorful and nutritious meals, as well as impressing family and guests with your “secret” touch. Summer and fall produce gives you a virtually endless canvas for creativity, which also allows you to keep your family healthy without squawks and complaints.
Tempt Them With Tomatoes
Plump tomatoes fresh off the vine are irresistible. For a light and simple lunch dish, slice the tomatoes and layer them with slices of fresh mozzarella. Add a sprinkle of basil, a dash of salt and pepper, and a drizzle of cottonseed oil to capture the best of summer. Cottonseed oil is light and nutty in flavor, and most closely meets the American Heart Association’s 1/3-1/3-1/3 recommendation of the amount of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated and saturated fats found in the oil.
For heartier fare, remove the seeds from a nicely firm tomato and fill it with cooked quinoa or mixed whole grains, your favorite herbs, and a handful of toasted pumpkin or sunflower seeds. Top it with crumbled feta or gorgonzola cheese and broil until everything is gooey and hot throughout.
Serve Up Some Summer Squash
Some joke that you shouldn’t leave your car windows down or your front door unlocked because you’ll end up with large bags of squash. Yes, squash can be that abundant in the hot months of late summer and early fall. The cucurbit family members lend themselves to all kinds of delectable preparation.
Slice your squash diagonally and drizzle the slices lightly with cottonseed oil. Sprinkle some of your favorite spice blends on the veggies and pop them into the toaster oven or on the grill until they are just turning tender.
Zucchini bread is a popular way to use excess squash, but did you know that you can slice yellow crooknecks and zucchini into rounds and make pickles from them? Use the same recipe that you would for cucumbers for a colorful variation on a standard treat.
Keeping It “Corny”
Freshly picked corn doesn’t need much embellishment. Clean the ears and place them in a deep saucepan that you’ve filled with milk. Add butter and heat everything to a simmer. When the corn is tender, pull it out of the pan through the layer of floating, melted butter, for a little taste of heaven.
Fruity Finishes to Your Backyard Feast
Stone fruits, like peaches, plums and nectarines, make luscious toppings for ice cream or sponge cakes. Just slice or cube them, sprinkle them with a tiny bit of sugar, and let them sit for a few minutes before spooning them over your dessert base. Serve them as is, or top them with a dab of whipped cream.
To concentrate the flavors for a truly incredible taste treat, cut the fruit in half, remove the pit, and lay the pieces on your indoor or outdoor grill cut side down. Cook them until they are tender and the natural sugars have caramelized. Serve them plain, with a light dusting of confectioner’s sugar, or with a dollop of whipped cream.