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Simply Food: Cooking with Fresh, Local Produce

By Liz Bares

In the summer, when farmers’ markets and gardens are filled to the brim with delicious produce, dinners are usually light and fast and don’t need a ton of ingredients. Here are some techniques and ideas, rather than specific recipes, for cooking with local seasonal vegetables.

Green Beans: Delicious roasted. I usually toss a bunch in a baking dish with some olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper, a couple crushed cloves of garlic and roast them at about 400 degrees for 10-20 minutes. I constantly toss them and take them out when they look brown and feel tender, so I don’t have a set time.

Zucchini: Very versatile grilled. Sometimes I add grilled strips to pasta with feta cheese and tomatoes. Or, I add them to sandwiches. If I’m going to a party, I grill them then put a small dollop of ricotta cheese, salt and pepper and maybe a few sprinkles of bacon then roll them up into little rollups.

Tomatoes: So many possibilities! Tomato is my all-time favorite fruit … or vegetable … fruit … a nightly discussion at my house in the summer. I love to take a big tomato and slice it fairly thick then lay it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Next, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and add some feta cheese or a blue cheese or another crumbly, incredibly stinky cheese. Pop the baking sheet into the broiler for about 10 seconds. The cheese will be melted and the tomato just slightly cooked but not a soggy mess. So good!

For the small cherry tomato beauties, I like to roast them and put them on a homemade pizza with pesto. To roast, cut them in half or leave whole (depends upon your texture palate, I like them sliced in half) dump them onto a baking sheet lined with parchment. Turn your oven to about 450 degrees. Sprinkle the tomatoes with salt, pepper, 2-7 cloves of chopped garlic ( I LOVE garlic), a couple tablespoons of olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar. Toss everything together. Roast until the tomatoes pop (about 15 minutes). Again, I usually open the oven door and toss the tomatoes around a few times and don’t really time it. I judge by smell. If I can smell the garlic and balsamic vinegar, then I know they are close to being done.

Yellow Squash: While not my favorite vegetable grown, this variety of squash is really good stuffed. I stuff it with quinoa, roasted pine nuts or walnuts, feta or another soft stinky cheese, and truly any herb I have a ton of. Right now that is basil. So, cook the quinoa and roast the nuts. Then cut the squash down the center and scoop out the pulp. Chop the pulp and add it to a hot pan of oil and sautéed onion and garlic. Once the pulp is cooked, I add the quinoa, nut, herb and cheese mixture. Pop them into a 350-degree oven and cook for about 20 minutes. The top will be browned and the squash will be fork tender.

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