If there's one time of year when it's darned near impossible to wreck a meal, it has to be summer.
Summer, when the overwhelming array of colorful, flavorful produce assaults your lucky senses at every turn.
Summer, when the trunk of your car after a trip to the farmers market resembles the produce row at Pike Place Market, but a day later you're kicking yourself for not picking up "just a few more berries and cukes."
Summer, when the only mistake you can make in the kitchen is to underutilize or overcook what nature has so generously provided.
Summer, when the best thing you can do is very little, short of bringing a few exquisitely flavored fruits and vegetables together on the same platter then standing back to let the commingling flavors and textures work its magic on your lucky palate.
Indeed, this is the time of year when understatement is the best statement, and wowing a hungry crowd is as easy as grilling half a big ol' Walla Walla Sweet with a zesty glob of pesto on top.
So roast those peppers, boil that corn, steam those green beans and toss a bounty of salad greens. It's that simple. It's that good.
Simple ways with summer produce
- Freeze berries in a single layer on cookie sheets until hard, then store in the freezer in resealable bags so you have them available for your morning smoothies.
- Make berry purees by blending in a food processor (press the puree through a fine sieve to remove seeds), sweeten to taste and freeze in ice-cube trays. Berry purees are great, quick sauces under a slice of pound cake, over ice cream or alongside cobblers and crisps (swirl in a bit of heavy cream for color and contrasting flavor).
- In the morning, thinly slice a couple of cucumbers and marinate with a bit of red-wine vinegar (with a splash of water), plus chopped green onions.
- Summer Tomato Vinaigrette — A peeled and seeded tomato enriches any of your favorite oil-and-vinegar dressings, even the bottled varieties. Simply puree in a blender or food processor one medium- to large-sized tomato with about 11/2 cups of dressing.
- Pesto tossed with or spread on anything this time of year is fabulous — Spread on halved Walla Walla Sweet onions and broil; toss with freshly cooked pasta; combine with chunks of grilled chicken breast for a quick salad or sandwich filling; combine with shredded cheese, then spread on a split loaf of French bread and broil.
- Make pizza bread — pat out a glob of raw pizza dough (available in most well-stocked supermarkets these days) into a 1/2-inch-thick rectangle (or oval or round) on a lightly oiled baking pan, then smear with a bit of pesto. Layer on some really flavorful bottled pasta sauce, then some thinly sliced Walla Walla Sweets and a layer of thinly sliced cheese of choice (I love havarti); bake in 350-degree oven until golden and nicely browned on the bottom and around the edges, for about 30 minutes. Serve hot, cool, or at room temperature.
- Combine Walla Walla Sweet onions with cooked and sliced new potatoes, thinly sliced celery, red bell-pepper rings and a bit of mayonnaise and Dijon mustard that you've thinned with some white-wine vinegar.
- For a unique salad, cut fresh, summer corn on the cob into 3/4-inch-long rounds then cook until tender, for about 3 minutes. Drain, then toss with a bit of your favorite vinaigrette and let stand until cool. Eat it using your fingers!
- Lightly steam and chill young green beans, then nap them in a bit of vinaigrette.
Jan Roberts-Dominguez is a Corvallis food writer, artist and author of "Oregon Hazelnut Country, the Food, the Drink, the Spirit" and four other cookbooks. Readers can contact her by email at email@example.com or obtain additional recipes and food tips on her blog at www.janrd.com.