Spring and summer vegetables are some of my all-time favorites. They evoke memories of the garden that my mother, sister and I use to have on our farm where we would grow squash, cucumbers, tomatoes, melons and various peas. Since I don't have a garden now in uptown Charlotte, I have been buying up all the vegetables I can get my hands on at area farmers markets and, probably to my boyfriend’s chagrin, making lots of all-vegetable meals.
There are so many things you can do with Spring and Summer vegetables that I could literally start a whole separate blog about them. I have instead included a handful below of my favorite, easy ways to highlight the freshness and nutrition of these foods. Houston Farms, the Lomax Incubator Farm, Muddy Boots Farm, Bell's Best Berries, are all selling summer vegetables at the Atherton Market among others in the Charlotte area.
1: Pan “Fried” Summer Squash (V)
This side dish recipe I made even more local by using the rendered pork fat I’ve been gathering each time I use ground pork from Windy Hill Farm. This worked fantastically taste-wise but be careful – when the liquid gets hot, it tends to dance around in the pan and jump out at you when you flip the squash slices!
2-3 zucchinis or squashes, sliced long-ways, ½ inch thick
3 tablespoons olive oil (or rendered fat drippings)
Salt, pepper or your favorite Indian spices to taste
- Heat oil on high in large skillet
- Carefully place squash slices in oil and cook until the bottom edges are slightly brown (it helps to put a cover on the skillet to minimize oil splash and cook more evenly)
- Flip each piece and cook through
- Add seasoning and serve right from pan
Note: Even though I used ground pork drippings in place of oil in this recipe, I don’t think there was that much fat in the finished product. You could also argue (as I am) that the drippings were better because they are not complex fats like butter and some oils. Of course, another good reason is that the pork from which I got the fat was also local!
2: Sautéed Summer Squash (V)
The easiest way to showcase these vegetables is to simply heat olive oil, sauté garlic and onions and add the squash. However, I have been playing around with some seasonings to spice up this easy dish. Here is my new favorite way to eat these, inspired by half a leftover lime I found in our fridge.
2-3 zucchinis or squashes, sliced no more than ¼ inch thick
½ onion, sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons olive oil (best to use olive oil for this one)
Juice from half a lime
1-2 teaspoons chili powder
- Heat oil on medium in large skillet
- Add all vegetables and garlic, sauté until soft
- Add lime juice and chili powder
- Simmer on low for 5 minutes to let juice soak in
Suggestion: serve in a bowl so that you retain the great oil-lime-chili liquid.
3: Tomato and Cucumber Salad (v, LPO)
Tomatoes have been amazing already this year. Many farmers grow them in the late Winter or early Spring in their greenhouses which means you get fewer blemishes while still being able to eat local and organic. Cucumbers have just come to the market in the past two weeks in both the large and small varieties. In addition to the veggies, I got amazing blue Chevre cheese from Simply Local which is incredible on any salad.
1 tomato, cut into ½ pieces
1 large cucumber, cut into ½ pieces
2-3 tablespoons blue Chevre cheese
3-4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- Combine tomato and cucumber, refrigerate for 30-45 minutes
- Just before serving, drizzle vinegar and add cheese
- Gently turn over entire mixture once, serve cold