July 25, 2014

The simple pleasures of summer farmers' markets

It's the season of bounty at farmers' markets.

It's the season of bounty at farmers' markets.It’s the season of bounty at farmers’ markets.In August, the farmer’s market is a joyous place, filled with succulent sweet corn, fat, ripe, juicy tomatoes and baskets brimming with shiny purple eggplant, bright green zucchini and cucumbers of all sizes.

How wonderful that in the scorching summer heat, cooks can prepare cooling, uncomplicated dishes with just a few simple ingredients. When one feels slightly wilted, nothing refreshes like the vibrant flavors of freshly picked produce.

Local corn is so incredibly sweet this season, there is scarcely a reason to subject it to steaming hot water. Simply strip the sugary, milky kernels off the cob and mix with buttery chunks of avocado, organic canned black beans, lime juice, olive oil and chopped cilantro for a festive summer salsa. Or try adding those corn kernels to chilled soups such as gazpacho: The petite, golden nuggets will add a nice layer of texture and sunny color.

Crunchy cucumbers, perfect summer tomatoes and fiery hot peppers can be sliced thin and layered onto delicious breads for super simple, yet sumptuous, summer sandwiches.

Add a smear of goat cheese, cream cheese or a beautifully runny brie to each side of the bread before stacking on the veggies and savor the flavor!

If one is feeling ambitious enough to set a pot of water to boil, cook up a pound of angel hair or spaghetti, drain and let cool a bit. Drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Take a firm, fresh zucchini or two and slice into thin slices. Several handfuls of cherry tomatoes of different varieties and colors come next: slice each in half and add to the pasta along with the zucchini.

Season with sea salt, black pepper, plenty of thinly sliced basil and another good drizzle of olive oil. A little chopped garlic and chopped cherry pepper can be added to satisfy those with a craving for spiciness.

If the grill is on, rub ciabatta bread, or another hearty country bread, on both sides with a little olive oil and grill on both sides until very lightly charred. Rub a cut clove of garlic on one side of the bread slices, then top bread slices with zucchini, sliced razor thin, and parmesan shavings. A squeeze of fresh lemon juice and a grinding of black pepper and you have a most charming and simple summer hors d’oeuvre.

Summer vegetables, fresh from the farm, are bursting with life-enhancing nutrients and a multitude of natural benefits that will help protect your skin, heart, eyes and immune system. Prepare your delicious life with the stimulating flavors of simple summer pleasures.

Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP is a passionate food professional who specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to adults and children, as well as presenting healthy food and lifestyle workshops. For more information, go to theconsciouscook.net.