7.31.14 Eat Your Vegetables

First harvest 790 xxx
photos by gluttonforlife
It's the last day of July. Summer is peaking! And I'm about to bid you farewell as we drift into the dog days of August. It's been strangely cool in these parts and the nights have been downright chilly, which makes for some powerfully good sleeping under a fluffy duvet. But the garden needs a lot of heat right now to keep producing—those tomatoes especially!—so I'm hoping it's just a blip. Speaking of the garden, ours is featured on Gardenista today; come for a visit here. Even if you don't have a vegetable-producing garden of your own, summer produce is abundant at farms and farmers markets. I stopped in at the Union Square market last week and came away with a big bag of red okra (I love it sliced and pan-fried, sprinkled with salt and cayenne pepper), another of English peas and 6 ears of sweet corn. These tastes really define the season for me and I can't seem to get enough of them!
Tostada 790 xxx
the perfect tostada
That photo at the top captured the very first harvest from our garden: some string beans, one tiny tomato, a few kirbys and a handful of shishito peppers. You could make a meal of that—sautee the beans and tomato with a little onion; peel and chop the cucumbers and dress them with a vinaigrette; blister the shishitos in a hot skillet and shower them with good olive oil and crunchy seas salt. Voilà!

For that delicious dish, above, I tossed together a juicy salad of cherry tomato halves, fennel, avocado, poached shrimp, lime juice and cilantro. Brush corn tortillas lightly with oil and pop them in a 350-degree oven until they're quite crisp. Pile the salad on the tostadas and you're done.
Zucchini flowers 790 xxx
fresh flowers
Once the first zucchini blossoms appear, I can't stop thinking about frying them up. I got fresh ricotta and eggs from our local farm. If you've never made these, stop telling yourself it's too hard. They are actually a cinch and the perfect thing to serve when you're having friends over for cocktails.
Fried zucchini flowers 790 xxx
battered and friend
You can follow this recipe, but it's as easy as stuffing the flowers with whatever you like—soft cheese, anchovies, pesto, etc—then dipping them in egg and rolling them in flour or cornmeal or masa harina. Drop them into a couple of inches of hot oil (peanut or sunflower work well) and take them out when they're golden and crisp. A little sea salt, maybe a squeeze of lemon and you're in heaven!
Fresh peas 790 xxx
give peas a chance
It may seem like an awful lot of work to shell all those peas, but it's really fun to do with someone you want to sit down with for a nice long chat. It took me about an hour to shell all these and I wish I'd had a girlfriend to keep me company.( I think I was watching The Good Wife, actually.) In the end, eating sweet peas—and I love them raw—is its own reward. They freeze great and you will love pulling a ziploc bag of them out of the freezer in winter when you're making chicken pot pie.
Minted pea soup 790 xxx
cold comfort
For now, cook a couple of cups in a little water just until tender, then toss them in a blender or Vitamix with lots of fresh mint, a little lemon juice, some buttermilk and salt. Puree this until it's velvety smooth, then chill it. Serve it icy cold with a dollop of crème fraîche and a mint garnish. Unbelievably delicious. (Save the pods and use them to make stock. Subtly sweet and wonderful as the basis for this or other soups.)
Pea pod salad 790 xxx
pod people
Love the pea taste but too lazy for the shelling? Fine, just buy sugar snaps and thinly slice them. Toss with slivered mint, chopped preserved lemon, champagne vinegar, olive oil and sea salt for a divine salad. Or try the version they make at the Nomad, again thinly sliced but tossed with bits of crunchy pancetta and shaved pecorino. Also irresistible.
Fennel 790 xxx
crisp & refreshing
You know what to do with fennel, but what about those long luxurious green fronds that come attached? Seems a shame to waste them. Use them to stuff a fish before grilling. Chop them into your next salsa verde.
Fronds 790 xxx
light & frothy
Or discover what I've taken to calling "fennel frond tea." Just heat the fronds gently in a big pot of water. Let them steep as it cools, then strain. Try the tea chilled, lightly sweetened and with a twist of lemon, and savor the subtle hint of anise. Waste not, want not.
Eggplants 790 xxx
egg plants
You can really see why they're called eggplants, right? If you see these little white ones, nab them. They're a bit sweeter and milder than others. Try roasting them whole, or make a curry.
Eggplant salad 790 xxx
all tangled up
Or, for the definitive summer salad, make this classic from the Silver Palate. It's just cubes of eggplant roasted, then combined with lots of golden-brown onions, tons of basil, lemon juice and olive oil. It's wonderful with lamb kabobs or alongside some grilled haloumi cheese.
Beets 790 xxx
My husband grew me these beautiful cylindrical Forono beets, and they were all for me since he doesn't like them. They have a sweet, mild flavor and a wonderfully silky texture.
En cocotte 790 xxx
tender young things
I roasted them in a little casserole—en cocotte—with just a bit of water. While they were in the oven, I stir-fried the greens in bacon fat.
Beets2 790 xxx
say cheese
Then I dressed it all with a little sherry vinegar and plopped some more of that fresh ricotta on top. The pepper is piment d'espelette, a Basque variety that we grew last summer. We're growing them again because I'm in love with their spicy flavor.

I hope this gets you thinking about eating more vegetables, in new ways and old ways and always. What's your favorite summer vegetable?


This post gave me so much joy. I didn't plant a garden this summer but I will be on the lookout for California produce this weekend to make some of your beautiful creations. Thank you!
Tamiko on July 31, 2014 at 3:27 pm —
Tamiko, you Californians are lucky in produce all year long!
laura on July 31, 2014 at 4:54 pm —
Good stuff! Me, I'm cooking smothered cabbage really really slowly as I write this. I had to harvest my cabbages when they were still pretty small because the squash were about to choke them out completely... They seem pretty sweet and tasty so far. xoxox E.
Eliza on July 31, 2014 at 4:35 pm —
Multiple cabbages—look at you with your green thumb! xo
laura on July 31, 2014 at 4:55 pm —
What a lovely confirmation of gardening and good eating--and who can pick one favorite? The variety is what is so special, as your array of herbs shows! Loved seeing your garden. Have a wonderful vacation!
val on July 31, 2014 at 4:54 pm —
Thanks, Val! And totally agree - love them all...
laura on July 31, 2014 at 5:00 pm —
This post is so perfectly you, it's crazy. This is what I love about your cooking--you can figure out something unusual to do with ANYthing.
Lisa on July 31, 2014 at 11:15 pm —
I'm guessing you're talking about those fennel fronds - you've got to try it!
laura on August 1, 2014 at 6:42 am —
My head is swimming—thanks. these are all such great ideas. I'm anxiously awaiting my zucchini blossom !! ENJOY your time off!
bonnie on August 2, 2014 at 4:39 am —
Saw your exquisite garden on Gardenista and couldn't resist clicking on your blog. Thanks for all the combination ideas to eat. However, I'm left with a question about espellette, which I love. What peppers does one need and where can the seeds be found? And are the shishito peppers anything like the Spanish padron pepper? They look very similar. You may know these tiny peppers are Russian roulette as to hot. Very hot. Are the Japanese peppers hot? And where can those seeds be found? Enjoy August!
Antonia on August 8, 2014 at 5:01 pm —
Hi, Antonia, and thanks for visiting! The piment d'Espelette is its own variety, largely cultivated in the Basque country. I got my original plant—and also the shishito, which is indeed quite similar to the padrón pepper—at a local nursery that specializes in unique heirloom varieties, but I've definitely seen seeds for both available online. Or email me directly at gluttonforlife@gmail.com and I may be able to send you some!
laura on August 8, 2014 at 5:25 pm —