THE WASHINGTON POST – Summer produce rolls in so prolifically, seemingly all at once, that I am more than a little greedy for it. A wagon originally given to me to cart around my large toddler is now devoted to carting around an even larger farmers market haul. Every weekend, my red wagon bounces along the sidewalk back to my house full of promise and enticing aromas.
Sometimes I know exactly what I’m going to do with the cornucopia of peaches, corn, tomatoes, zucchini, peppers and more. Sometimes I don’t. What I do know is I don’t want a single bit of it to go to waste. I want to enjoy every last bite because I know the pleasures of summer fruit and vegetables are available for only a limited time.
Today, I’m sharing highlights that cover three stars of summer: tomatoes, corn and peaches.
Hot tip: Yes, you can refrigerate tomatoes! It’s OK! The caveat: Make sure the tomatoes are fully ripe, and put them in the fridge for no more than three days. There will be very little loss of flavour in that short period, and the texture won’t suffer either. For optimum flavour, bring the tomatoes back up to room temperature for one hour to one day. More advice:
– Choose tomatoes that are firm, fragrant and heavy for their size. Ripe ones will give to slight pressure, but if they haven’t reached their optimum texture or colour, you can finish ripening them on the counter.
– Tomatoes produce the ripening hormone ethylene and are sensitive to it as well, so consider storing them separately from other fruits (avocados, bananas, etc) that respond similarly.
– Tomatoes need a little salt to make them truly shine, especially in a salad.
– When faced with a bounty, consider canning your own crushed tomatoes to create one of the most versatile pantry staples out there.
– Thinly slice heirloom tomatoes for a kind of carpaccio, using several different colours laid on a plate and covered with chopped chives, shallot, oil, salt and vinegar.
– Green tomatoes pair well with spices and work just as well in sweet dishes as they do in fried or pickled recipes.
Hot tip: Instead of peeling back everything for sale at the farmers market, pick your corn by looking for husks that are mostly bright green, silks that are not too dried out and ears that are heavy for their size. More advice:
– Steaming in the microwave is the easiest method for shucking corn. Run under water, microwave on high for two minutes, let cool slightly and then cut the stalk end off through the first row of kernels. Hold by the silk end and push or shake out the ear – no silks.
– If you’re grilling corn, shuck them and steam them in foil with a few ice cubes over high heat for 20 to 25 minutes. Then remove them from the foil and cook them on the grate, turning every two minutes until you get your desired colour and smokiness.
– Raw summer corn is just as delightful as cooked. It’s especially lovely in salad, where its sweet, juicy texture will play well against other ingredients that are crunchy, creamy or spicy.
Hot tip: Peel peaches by blanching them in boiling water for 30 seconds, then remove and let them cool for a few minutes. The skins should slip right off with a paring knife. More advice:
– It’s also totally OK to not peel your peaches, if you can’t be bothered. To remove excess fuzz, soak in cold water and gently scrub with a dish towel.
– Choose peaches that are smooth, plump and blemish-free. You can let peaches ripen on the counter until they yield to a little pressure, then store them in the refrigerator fruit drawer. A good scent indicates good flavour.
– Peaches are great additions to savoury salads, too. Like tomatoes, they walk the line between sweet and acidic, giving you many options for complementary or contrasting ingredients that go in a lot of directions, whether that includes fragrant spices, bold fish sauce or fresh herbs.
Like all stone fruit, peaches pair particularly well with almond extract in desserts, so consider it in recipes for cakes, puddings and pies that would otherwise use vanilla extract.
We’ve also used amaretti (almond cookies) in peach ice cream.