Other simple ideas for using your Farmer’s Market purchases…
Beets, roasted: Cut the greens off of 2 lb or so of not-huge beets, leaving about an inch intact to prevent bleeding. Scrub the beets well, and dry with paper towels, leaving them whole. Cut 7 to 10 large shallots in half, without peeling, and toss the beets and shallots with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread them out in a baking dish at least an inch or two deep (not a baking sheet) and add salt and pepper. Cover tightly with foil and roast at 400 degrees for 45 to 60 minutes, until the beets are tender. When cool enough to touch, skin the beets and shallots and cut into pieces, and place in large bowl. (Wear rubber gloves or remove the beet stains by rubbing your hands with a cut potato.) Add another tablespoon of olive oil, plus — and this is the important part — 1 to 2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar. (The slightly sweet sherry vinegar works beautifully with beets, but if you have a different favorite vinegar, try it!) Toss it all with more salt and pepper to taste (you peeled off most of the pre-roasting sprinkle), and maybe put a sprig of thyme or mint on top for pretty. You can serve these as hot as you can stand to handle the beets, but theyíre also great at room temperature.
Butternut squash, roasted: Peel and cut it into half-inch cubes. Toss the squash with olive oil, salt and pepper, and your favorite herb. (Finely chopped fresh rosemary is great, but don’t overdo.) Roast at 400 degrees for 40 minutes or so, until the squash is soft and even caramelized a bit. This is another veggie that’s great just as it comes out of the oven, or you can add a bit more olive oil and a dribble of balsamic vinegar before serving.
Cauliflower, roasted: Cut the head into medium florets and toss lightly with olive oil, then salt and pepper. At this point, you can also add minced garlic, lemon juice, red pepper flakes — whatever grabs you. Put the cauliflower on a baking sheet in a single layer and bake at 400 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes, tossing it around with a spatula a few times. Serve it hot from the oven, maybe topped with parmesan for flavor, toasted bread crumbs for texture, chopped parsley for color, or pasteurized cheese product out of a squeeze bottle to get the kids to eat it.
Cider: The peach cider from Shobers becomes a light, refreshing treat for the dog days of summer when topped off with sparkling water or club soda. Add it to iced tea for quickie peach tea or to lemonade for a whole new taste sensation. As to the apple cider, drink it straight, warm it up with mulling spices, or slice in an apple or two and boil it until it thickens and reduces to about a third of its original volume then use it in place of maple syrup on pancakes or French toast. You’ll be thanking us for that last idea.
Corn, grilled: Shuck the ears and soak them in cold water for a few minutes before popping them on a medium hot grill. Turn every few minutes as grill marks appear. After about 10 minutes, brush the ears with butter (flavored with garlic and lime juice for extra oomph), turn them once more, and then serve.
Corn salad: Cut grilled or steamed corn off the cob, add some diced garden tomato and green onion, mix in chopped cilantro and crumbled feta, and then toss it all with a little olive oil and balsalmic vinegar. Vary by replacing the cilantro with basil. Or, leave out the herbs and add chopped baby spinach and blue cheese, and use red onion in place of the green.
Eggplant parmesan summer-style: Cut the eggplant into even 1/2-inch-thick slices, lightly olive oil and salt both sides, and cook on a hot grill for 4 to 5 minutes on each side until the slices are browned on the outside and are soft, not solid, when tested with a fork. Meanwhile, heat minced shallots or garlic in olive oil, then add 4 cups of chopped ripe tomato and heat for 5 minutes, and toss in a dozen torn basil leaves when you remove the pan from the heat. Layer the hot eggplant slices, shredded mozzarella (fresh is best), tomato sauce, and a sprinkling of grated parmesan and toasted breadcrumbs for a prettier, lighter, quicker, fresher, more healthful eggplant parm.
Mushrooms, marinated: Combine 1/2 to 1 lb mushrooms with a half cup of olive oil, 3 tablespoons of red wine vinegar and 1 tablespoon of lemon juice or balsamic vinegar, two cloves of minced garlic, some finely diced red pepper and olives or capers (if you like olives or capers), and chopped fresh herbs (thyme, oregano, parsley, tarragon — pick one or two), plus a little salt and black pepper and some red pepper flakes. Let marinate in the fridge at least 4 hours. If you have one, keep it in a clear quart jar with a lid — it’s pretty and you can just flip it over and back to distribute the marinade. If you want more of a salad, add some finely diced celery and chopped olives.
Peaches: Slice one or two and toss with a little sugar and some lightly mashed blackberries, let that sit for a couple minutes to get syrupy, and then layer with vanilla ice cream. Let’s call it Peach Thelma, Peach Melba’s more laidback country cousin.
Red peppers, roasted: Place whole red peppers over a hot grill (or under a broiler on high) and give them several minutes to really char; turn them as they blacken until the entire pepper is well covered with blackened skin. Place in a paper bag (this helps loosen the skin) until cool enough to handle. Then remove the skin and seeds, and slice the peppers into wide strips. (Having a bowl of water nearby to dip your hands into as needed eases the skinning and seeding.) Toss the peppers with a few cloves of minced or sliced garlic, maybe some parsley, a little salt, and then a goodly coating of olive oil.
Spaghetti squash, steamed: tab the squash well all over with a long-tined fork, place it on a paper towel, and microwave on high for 5 to 7 minutes for a largish squash. Turn it over (careful, it’s hot) and nuke for another 5 to 7 minutes. Let it stand for 20 minutes to steam inside and cool a bit. Then cut it in half, remove the seeds, and scrape out the “spaghetti.” Now you have a couple quarts of vegetable spaghetti that’s low carb, gluten free, and low calorie (35 kcal per cup as opposed to pasta’s 170 kcal) and that you can use just like pasta, adding jarred sauce, your own pesto, or whatever you choose. Make spaghetti squash au gratin by layering the strands with sauteed onions and mushrooms, chopped fresh thyme and tomato, cheese, and buttered bread crumbs, and then baking the dish for about 20 minutes. Add crumbled bacon for some decadence.
Sweet potatoes, roasted: Scrub well and then bake in a 425-degree oven for 45 to 60 minutes. Eat them straight out of the oven, naked and steaming, or add a little butter and salt. An even simpler way to enjoy sweet potatoes is to cut a raw one into matchsticks and add it to a green salad.
Tomatoes, green, fried: Slice firm green tomatoes a third of an inch thick, then dredge in flour, beaten egg, and a mixture of cornmeal and salt and pepper, shaking off the excess of each coating before applying the next. Fry in about a quarter inch of hot oil for just a few minutes, until the tomatoes are tender when poked with a fork and the crust is lightly browned. If you want more zip, add some cayenne pepper and garlic powder to the cornmeal mixture.
Watemelon, frozen: Cut into chunks and freeze, then drop the chunks into a blender with other fresh fruit for a lucious frozen smoothie or with a little sugar and rum for a delicious watermelon daiquiri.