We’ve waited so long for summer to come this year that now it feels like an embarrassment of riches with locally available produce. Berries, stone fruits, asparagus, zucchini, peas and tomatoes are all readily available, beautifully ripe, and at the best price of the season.
It’s easy enough to eat fruits and vegetables in season raw, but there are many preparation options available to help you enjoy summer’s bounty easily in unexpected ways
Beyond Fruit Salad
Growing up, we were often served a bowl of fresh fruit cut up with some sugar. Now, we can look to ways of enhancing cut fruit which are a bit unusual.
Dress freshly cut strawberries with a drizzle of balsamic vinegar and freshly ground pepper for an unusual twist on an old favorite. Make it more restaurant-like with a scoop of vanilla ice cream with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. This may sound strange, but it’s worth it.
If you’re a Wimbledon fan, you’ll have heard about the British tradition of strawberries and whipped cream. You might not have tried the original- Strawberries (or currants, or blueberries, or cherries) and Devon Cream, which is available in the dairy case at all major chain grocery stores. A dollop of Devon Cream can make tart berries sing.
Hot and Cold
We often classify produce by how we prepare it. Most cucumber recipes made in North America serve the vegetable cold, but in Asia, cucumbers are just as likely to be stir fried with meat, or served hot with chili oil.
More and more chefs are serving salad greens off the grill. The caramelization that occurs on the greens adds a deeper dimension to the flavour of the vegetable, and is a good counterpoint for spicy or citrusy dressings (try it with a lemony, peppery Caesar dressing if you’re unsure.
Consider other ways you can play with hot and cold. Try adding chili flakes, lime juice, and salt to watermelon. The spiciness adds a new dimension to the flavor. Want to make it a salad? Add some feta cheese and mint. The counterpoint of these flavors makes the dish greater than the sum of its parts.
Don’t shy away from combining meat or fish and fruit. Blackberry glazed ribs, Peach bourbon salmon, and cherry duck are all popping up on restaurant menus. Experiment.
Upgrade your Medium
Consider using various unusual canvases for your summer produce. Whether it’s quinoa, groats, dutch baby pancakes, clafoutis, pound cake or sabayon, the ingredients you choose to host your produce, be it sweet or savory, can drastically change the flavor. Switch out the medium, and you have completely different tastes.
If you’re a fan of creme brûlée, consider trying a savory custard base with zucchini flowers. If you love making pasta salads, consider a sweet twist on it with berries and quinoa.
Summer produce does not need to be overwhelming. Step out of your tried and true recipes to discover all the ways, hot, cold, sweet, spicy or sour to enjoy fresh produce at its absolute peak.