It’s a grand time to be a vegetable lover. Local supermarkets highlight fresh, crisp greens and slender summer squashes from nearby farms. Signs advertise weekend farmers markets selling heirloom tomatoes, baskets of rainbow carrots, peppers and farm-fresh eggs. Come August, enterprising teens sell sweet corn from makeshift stands.
Overflowing stalls at farmer’s markets create the illusion that folks in the United States have always enjoyed maitake mushrooms, leeks and fingerling potatoes; older cookbooks tell a different story.
A 1997 community cookbook tucked on a shelf in our cabin near Galena, Illinois, offers a glimpse into vegetable cooking of the era. “Cooking With A’ Peal” features mostly frozen vegetables flavored with tinned soup and shredded cheese. Only a few recipes call for fresh vegetables, mostly cucumbers and carrots. No doubt there’s “a’ peal” in the readiness of bags of shucked peas and frozen broccoli florets.
To lure cooks away from frozen vegetables, fresh vegetable recipes need to deliver big taste and texture.
A post-market sandwich can set the tone. The simplest is butter-slathered bread topped with sliced radishes and salt. When the leaf lettuce and tomatoes peak, a slightly more complex ELT sandwich beckons. I stir fresh basil into mayonnaise before slathering it on toasted bread. Then layers of fresh lettuces and vine-ripened tomato are ready for a fried egg.
A sheet pan of colorful curried carrots and potatoes lends itself to a celebratory vegetable-based dinner. The whole tray can be cooked in advance and served warm or at room temperature as a main course accompanied by a cheese platter and good bread. Or, grill a couple of lamb or pork chops for a meat side.
Sweet corn pudding, with its soufflé-like lightness, will stand out at a barbecue. I make it with fresh eggs purchased from the farmers market or the honor stand near our cabin. Cold leftovers taste delightful at lunch with sliced ripe tomato.
Assorted fresh mushrooms, sautéed with the sweetest onions, make a fine accompaniment to almost anything from the grill. I save a few spoonfuls to stir into softly scrambled eggs the next morning. Same with a skillet full of sautéed chard!
Fresh herbs boost the flavor of everything they touch, even those retro frozen veggie-based dishes. Shower your hash brown casseroles and frozen vegetable soups with fresh chives and basil for a real taste of summer farm stand goodness. After all, cooking with the season is one of the 50 foodie things you need to do this summer.
ELT Sandwiches With Basil Mayonnaise
One of our favorite uses for summer tomatoes are classic BLT sandwiches. But sometimes bacon is just guilding the lily. Here, a runny fried egg shines along with tomatoes, lettuce and a summer basil mayo that you’ll want to slather on everything.
Curry Roasted Carrots and Fingerling Potatoes
This is one of those rare recipes that feels as seasonal in summer as it does in winter. And it would be a welcome side to everything from roast chicken to grilled salmon to steak to tofu. Our recipe tester absolutely raved about this combo of flavors and textures.
Sweet Corn, Green Chile and Cheddar Pudding
Souffle can sound intimidating, so we’ll call this pudding. Either way, this light yet creamy side highlights sweet summer corn that pairs with melty cheddar and hot pepper. This is also one of those recipes that use up a lot of eggs if you are looking to put a carton to use.
Sweet Onions and Mushrooms From the Skillet
Onions and mushrooms may be available yearround, but they are extra delicious in the summer. Cook these indoors or on a cast iron pan on the grill and serve with steak, loaded potatoes, salad and more.
Sautéed Chard With Garlic
If you haven’t eaten Swiss chard, have you even experienced summer? This seasonal staple grows across the country and is full of nutrients. Here, it gets the super simple treatment so you can have a delicious side on the table in 15 minutes flat.