Welcome to Late Summer Vegetable Heaven
Food lovers, this is it. The best time of the year. The crown jewels of summer produce are here: tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, corn, peaches and all the stone fruits, delicious melons, basil and parsley and herbs galore. Everything tastes like the sun.
Why is this produce so special? Probably because its season is so fleeting, and we associate the taste of it with the weeks before school starts, so it has a kind of deeply bittersweet resonance. If I were a magician, I would make these fruits and vegetables be “in season” year round - that’s how much I love them. Of course, this would make them instantly less desirable.
When I opened my vegetable CSA box from Sol Flower Farm today, I was thrilled to see our first tomatoes of the year, another incredible seedless red watermelon (one CSA member called last week’s watermelon “the best I have ever eaten,”), some gorgeous green and red peppers, three kinds of variety peppers (Cubanelle, Hungarian Hot Wax, and Antohi), two different heads of lovely lettuce, a perky bunch of mustard greens, and more delicious onions.
The first thing I did when I came home was select a tomato. I picked the ugliest one, because they are usually the best tasting. I washed it, sliced it, and sprinkled sea salt and a bit of Spanish olive oil on it. I ate it nearly naked like that, and marveled.
Then, I took a bit of parsley from the box, and crunched it between my teeth.
All of it tasted like the essence of itself in a way that supermarket produce never does.
Then I started dreaming of the things I will do with this produce, and that’s what I want to share with you.
I posed about a watermelon, olive and feta salad last week that rocked my world. In the same vein, I’ve been amazed by a dozen versions of this watermelon/tomato salad, which may sound off to you, but is deeply refreshing when the fruits are perfect. As they are right now.
I came home and made this instantly. Delicious! But a note about portions: the entire generous bunch of mustard greens in our box reduced to about a cup of cooked greens. That’s enough for one person, but not more. If you want to make this recipe for more than just yourself, acquire additional mustard greens.
3. Variety peppers (Cubanelle, hot wax, and antohi)
I sautee diced peppers like these in butter (mellows them out) and then use them in omelets, scrambled eggs, and frittatas. We don’t typically get enough of a single variety to make a formal recipe with them, but I’ve collected some samples anyway in case you’d like to augment what’s in your box with additional peppers, and go crazy.
A million Cubanelle and Hungarian Hot Wax recipes are here.
A fussy poached egg with cubanelle puree recipe is here.
You can also sautee the peppers with a bunch of sliced onions, caramelize the whole mess, and enjoy it on top of burgers or hot dogs. If you like Italian-style sausage and peppers, you can substitute some of the sweet peppers in the sautee with hot ones (being judicious according to your tolerance for heat.)
The Hungarian hot wax peppers can also be substituted in any recipe that calls for jalapenos - like fresh salsa, which you should absolutely be making right now.
Well, that’s it for this week’s recipe cache. I’m off to Pennsylvania for the weekend to indulge in a a couple of culinary projects: making tomato jelly with Mom (a Pennsylvania Dutch specialty I haven’t had in many years), a church picnic (please let there be shoo-fly pie!) and some trials of paleo Romesco sauce (you need this, trust me.) Be good, you crazy kids.