Now is the time that many home gardeners start looking for signs that summer vegetables are ripe for picking.
For some, cherry and grape tomatoes are turning red. Peppers are growing. Zucchini is on its way.
And other vegetables, such as sweet corn and eggplant, are plentiful in the stores.
Once the harvest begins, it can get overwhelming as to what to do with your bounty. It's easy to fall back on steadfast recipes, and there's always canning and freezing.
But, there is so much room for creativity. Russ Parsons of the Los Angeles Times has gathered 20 fresh and short recipes for five common vegetables to use in salads, as appetizers, with pasta and as a main dish.
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 3/4 cup chopped green onion. Make a vinaigrette with 3 tablespoons lime juice, 2 tablespoons oil, 1 minced garlic clove and 1 3/4 teaspoons ground cumin to dress the salad. Just before serving, fold in 1 1/2 cups chopped cilantro.
Appetizer: Grilled corn with tequila-lime butter -- Beat together 1/2 cup softened butter, 3/4 teaspoon minced jalapeno, 1 teaspoon each lime zest, lime juice and tequila, 1 tablespoon minced cilantro and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Form it into a log and chill until solid. Soak 8 ears of corn in their husks, then grill over a medium fire until golden and tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Husk the corn and pass the butter at the table.
Pasta: Sweet corn and shrimp "risotto" -- Saute 3/4 cup diced Spanish chorizo in 1 tablespoon butter, then add 1/2 cup each chopped green onion and red bell pepper; cook until tender. Add 4 cups diced zucchini and shelled shrimp. Add 1/2 cup white wine and reduce to a syrup. Add 5 cups corn kernels and then add 1 cup shrimp stock 1/2 cup at a time, finishing with 1/4 cup whipping cream and 3 tablespoons slivered basil.
Main dish: Green chile, corn and zucchini frittata -- Cook 1 chopped zucchini, 1/4 cup chopped green onions and 1/3 to 1/2 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 1/3 cup grated Monterey Jack. Return the mixture to the skillet and cook over low heat until it begins to set. Scatter over another 1/3 cup cheese and broil until the top is puffed and brown.
Salad: Lentil salad with tomatoes, zucchini and arugula -- Salt 1/4 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 1/2 pound halved cherry tomatoes. Dress with 2 tablespoons olive oil and the juice of 1/2 lemon. Fold in 1/2 cup torn arugula leaves and 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts just before serving.
Appetizer: Crostini with roasted tomatoes and goat cheese -- Slice 4 pounds plum tomatoes in half lengthwise and place in a single layer in a baking dish with whole peeled cloves from a full head of garlic. Pour over olive oil to halfway up the pan and roast at 300 degrees until the tomatoes are golden on top, at least 2 hours. Smear fresh goat cheese on a toasted baguette slice and mash a roasted tomato on top.
Pasta: Rice salad with shrimp and arugula -- Really? You need a recipe for pasta with tomatoes? How about this: Cook 2 cups Arborio rice, then drain and pat dry. While warm, dress with 3 tablespoons each olive oil and lemon juice and add 1/2 pound cooked small shrimp, 1/4 cup minced red onion, 1 cup diced tomato and 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar. Fold in 1 1/2 cups torn arugula and 3 tablespoons toasted pine nuts just before serving.
Main dish: Swordfish with tomatoes and fennel -- Saute 4 swordfish steaks with 1 clove thinly sliced garlic and 1 1/2 teaspoons fennel seeds in 3 tablespoons olive oil, about 5 minutes per side. Add 1/2 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.
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, 1/2 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 a tomato half, then season with olive oil and slivered basil.
Appetizer: Zucchini fritters -- Shred 1 pound zucchini, salt and set aside to drain. Rinse and squeeze thoroughly dry with your hands. Combine with 1 teaspoon each cumin and coriander seeds, ground, a chopped green onion and 3/4 teaspoon minced jalapeno. Stir in 2 tablespoons flour and a beaten egg. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoon mounds into hot olive oil and fry until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and serve with Greek-style yogurt.
Pasta: Free-form zucchini lasagna with lemon-thyme cream -- Slice 1 pound zucchini lengthwise; grill on both sides. Cook 1/2 cup diced onion in 2 tablespoons olive oil, add 3 tablespoons white wine, 1 minced clove garlic and 1/4 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 lasagna 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 tian -- 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 tablespoons 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 1 1/2 hours.
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, 1/2 cup olive oil, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 teaspoons salt, 1/2 teaspoon minced rosemary and 1/4 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.
Appetizer: Grilled eggplant with walnut-cilantro pesto -- Combine 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1/2 cup olive oil; set aside. Puree 1 teaspoon minced garlic and 1 cup walnuts to a paste. Add 1 teaspoon paprika, then slowly beat in 3/4 cup olive oil. Stir in 3 tablespoons chopped cilantro and 2 tablespoons lemon juice. Slice 1 1/2 pounds eggplant, brush with the flavored oil and grill until tender. Arrange on a platter and dress with the walnut mixture.
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 1/4 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes in 1/4 cup olive oil. Add 1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes, 3 tablespoons capers and 1/2 cup white wine. Cook 1 pound fusilli and add to the skillet along with 1/2 cup pasta water and slivered basil and cook briefly. Serve with sliced or grated Ricotta.
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 1/4 cup olive oil. Add 3/4 pound lamb stew meat, then the eggplant. Add 1 cup crushed tomatoes, 1/4 cup pine nuts and 1/2 cup chopped parsley. Spread 1 sliced onion and 21/3 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.
Salad: Quick pickled peppers -- Cut a slit in each of 3/4 pound of shishito peppers. Simmer 2 1/2 cups rice vinegar with 3 lightly smashed cloves of garlic, 2 teaspoons kosher salt, 1 tablespoon sugar, 2 teaspoons dried oregano, 1/2 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.
Appetizer: Roasted peppers stuffed with goat cheese -- Stir together 1 cup ricotta, 2 tablespoons chopped capers, 1 tablespoon olive oil, a pinch crushed red pepper, salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and 1 tablespoon minced chives. Cut roasted peeled red and yellow peppers into strips about 2 inches wide. Place a scant tablespoon of ricotta filling at one end of the pepper and roll it up end to end, pressing gently to keep everything together. Drizzle lightly with more olive oil and serve.
Pasta: Spaghetti with wilted peppers -- Cut 1 onion and 4 slices of prosciutto into 1/4-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 3/4 cup chopped tomatoes, 5 chopped roasted, peeled and seeded bell peppers and 3/4 cup red wine, and cover and cook until tender. Puree 1/2 chopped jalapeno and 2 cloves of garlic, add 1 cup chopped basil leaves and 1/4 cup chopped parsley, and then 3 tablespoons olive oil to make a loose paste. Stir the sauce into the peppers and heat through.
Here are two more complete recipes for those mentioned above.
FUSILLI WITH SPICY EGGPLANT
1 pound eggplant
1/4 cup olive oil
1 cup diced onion
4 cloves garlic, sliced
1/4 teaspoon to 1 1/2 teaspoons dried red pepper flakes
1 1/2 cups chopped tomatoes
3 tablespoons capers
1/2 cup white wine
Slivered basil leaves
1 pound fusilli
1. Cut the eggplant into one-half- to three-fourths-inch cubes and place them in a colander. Salt liberally and put a heavy bowl on top to press down. Place in the sink or in another bowl and set aside for at least 1 hour.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onion and cook until it is soft, about 5 minutes. Add the sliced garlic and dried red pepper flakes, and cook an additional minute or two.
3. Rinse the eggplant and pat dry in a kitchen towel. Add to the olive oil and cook until it is tender, about 10 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and the capers, and cook until any moisture cooks away, about 5 minutes. Add the white wine and simmer until it reaches a thick sauce consistency, about 5 minutes.
4. Cook the fusilli in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and add to the skillet with the eggplant mixture along with one-half cup of the pasta cooking water. Continue cooking briefly and add the slivered basil.
5. Divide among 6 warmed pasta bowls and top with crumbled ricotta salata.
6 servings, each serving, minus cheese, with 419 calories, 12 grams protein, 67 grams carbohydrates, 6 grams fiber, 10 grams fat, 0 cholesterol, 7 grams ugar, 130 mg sodium.
SPAGHETTI WITH WILTED PEPPERS
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, sliced in 1/4-inch half-moons
4 slices prosciutto, cut in 1/4-inch ribbons
6 red and yellow bell peppers
1/2 teaspoon salt
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley
1 pound spaghetti
Grated Pecorino Romano
1. Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat, add the onion and prosciutto, and cook until the onions have softened but not browned, 6 to 7 minutes.
2. While the onions are cooking, clean the peppers: Cut off the tops and bottoms and remove the seeds and core. Cut into lengthwise quarters and trim away the ribs. Cut into one-fourth-inch crosswise strips. Add the peppers to the skillet with one-half teaspoon salt and reduce the heat to low.
3. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are limp, about 45 minutes. The prosciutto will be frazzled and the onion caramelized. Add the garlic and parsley, and continue cooking while you prepare the pasta. 4. Cook the spaghetti in a large pot of rapidly boiling salted water until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and add to the skillet with the peppers. Stir to mix well and divide among 6 warm pasta plates. Dust generously with grated Pecorino Romano and serve immediately.
6 servings, each, minus cheese, with 405 calories, 66 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fiber, 9 grams fat, 8 mg cholesterol, 7 grams sugar, 386 mg sodium.
Here is a pair of extra recipes that make good use of summer vegetables.
This is a great sauce to let bubble away while you are home (or in and out of the house for errands). But to make this extra easy for a week day, prep all the ingredients and cook the meat the night before you want to make this. In the morning, before you head out for work, toss it all in the slow cooker, set the timer and go, knowing that all you have to do when you get home is cook the pasta.
RICH AND HEARTY SLOW-COOKED PASTA SAUCE
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 pound turkey or pork Italian sausage (bulk or removed from casings)
1 pound lean ground beef
6-8 garlic cloves, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
2 medium carrots, quartered and cut in large dice
2 medium zucchini, quartered and cut in large dice
2 14.5-ounce cans diced, fire-roasted tomatoes, with juice
1 14.5-ounce can tomato sauce
1/4 cup tomato paste
1/2 cup capers
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1. Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil to pan; swirl to coat. Add sausage and beef to skillet; saute 6 minutes or until browned, stirring to crumble. Mix in garlic and cook for 1 to 2 more minutes.
2. While meat is cooking add remaining ingredients to slow cooker. Once cooked, add the meat to the slow cooker.
3. Cover and cook on low for 8 hours.
4. Serve sauce with your favorite cooked pasta; top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese if desired. Yield: 6-8 servings.
Orange County Register
In this dish, the eggplant, zucchini and onion slices are brushed with a flavorful garlic-herb oil and grilled, then immediately transferred to a bowl and sealed in with aluminum foil to finish the cooking. Roasted bell pepper and vinegar help balance the flavors. Use the oven's broiler if you don't have a grill.
Grilled Ratatouille Salad
1/4 cup coarsely chopped garlic
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup coarsely chopped fresh oregano
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1/2 cup olive oil
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound thin-skinned eggplant, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 pound zucchini, trimmed and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch slices
1 medium sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch slices
1 medium red bell pepper, roasted, seeded and peeled, then cut into generous 1/4-inch pieces (see NOTE)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar, or more to taste
Prepare the grill for direct heat. If using a gas grill, preheat to high (500 degrees). If using a charcoal grill, light the charcoal or wood briquettes; when the briquettes are ready, distribute them evenly in the cooking area. For a very hot fire, you should be able to hold your hand about 5 inches above the coals for 1 or 2 seconds. Have ready a spray water bottle for taming any flames. Lightly grease the grill rack with cooking oil spray and place it on the grill.
Combine the garlic, parsley, oregano, chives and oil in a blender or mini food processor. Puree until fairly smooth. Season with salt and pepper to taste, pulsing to incorporate. It's not important that it's perfectly pureed. If you don't want to use a blender or food processor, you can finely mince the garlic and herbs and mix them with the oil, and salt and pepper to taste.
Lay out the eggplant, zucchini and onion slices on aluminum-foil covered baking sheets or large platters. Brush the vegetables with the garlic-herb mixture on both of the cut sides.
Working in batches, place the vegetables on the grill. Close the lid and cook for about 3 minutes, until the vegetables have good grill marks. Adjust the heat as needed to keep the vegetables from burning. Turn them over, close the lid and cook until the second sides have good grill marks.
Transfer the cooked vegetable slices to a large bowl and cover tightly with aluminum foil. Repeat until all the vegetables are grilled, then let them rest, covered, for 15 minutes.
Cut the vegetables into 1/2-inch pieces. Combine the eggplant, zucchini and onion with the roasted bell pepper and the vinegar; stir to combine. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Note: To roast bell peppers, arrange them on a piece of aluminum foil under the broiler, about 4 inches from the flame. Let the peppers become blistered and charred on one side, then rotate so a new side is exposed. Continue until most of the skin is charred. Don't worry if the peppers lose their form. Place the peppers in a zip-top plastic bag or a bowl covered with plastic wrap to sit for 15 minutes. When the peppers are cool enough to handle, discard their skins.
Makes about 4 1/2 cups (6 to 8 servings), each serving (based on 8): 80 calories, 2 grams protein, 9 grams carbohydrates, 5 grams fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 40 mg sodium, 3 grams dietary fiber, 4 grams sugar.
The Washington Post