A few weeks ago, I shared some tips for storing and using summer produce because I had been asked so many times at the market how to “cook” this or “store” that. I’m back this week with more ideas for you as you shop the summer market.
Let’s start with peaches. They should be left at room temperature to ripen just a little more. I put mine out on a baking rack so they do not sit on the counter, and I check them every day. If you are buying them to eat out of hand next week, buy them a little less ripe, as you should not refrigerate them if you do not have to. If you want them for a cobbler or dessert, buy the riper ones. Ask Max or Chester how to tell which are ripe for immediate use.
The best way to protect berries for later is to spread them on a rimmed cooking sheet and place them in the refrigerator with a tea towel over them. They will not begin to soften as quickly or to mold. And don’t wash them at all if you do not have to. This is the same process you should use if you want to freeze them. Freeze on the tray and then place them in a Ziplock bag.
Tomatoes need never be refrigerated, and they will continue to ripen on a sunny windowsill. Cherry tomatoes can be kept cool, but even that is not necessary. Tomatoes lose not only flavor in the refrigerator but some nutrients, too. And they will not ripen either. Ask your farmer for advice on which tomatoes to buy depending on when you want to use them.
For optimum flexibility and creativity, the summer kitchen should include good olive oil and red wine vinegar, which is why we invite Olio2Go to our markets. Also have lots of lemons at all times, garlic, and a variety of fresh herbs such as Italian parsley, basil, rosemary, thyme, and oregano. Even the dried versions of those herbs will enable you to create sautés, sauces and salads that taste like a Mediterranean summer. For spicier cuisine, you will need fresh and dried chilies, cumin, chili powder, limes in abundance, and even more of garlic. And don’t forget the Asian basics such as good soy sauce, sesame oil, fresh ginger, and, yes, more garlic!
In case you missed it earlier, here is a recipe for preserving garlic that will help you to be both flexible and creative in the summer kitchen.
This is also the time of year when I pass along the recipe for my favorite cold tomato sauce for pasta, which can be enhanced with herbs, cheese, or even leftover corn on the cob, which you can scrape off the cob and add for a hint of sweetness. If you have these ingredients on hand, you can whip up a summer dinner in 30 minutes.
I will continue to update you on quick tips and tricks and more fast and easy ways to use the best of the summer markets. Learn to buy at the peak of the season and make use of the bounty while you can. And later this summer we will teach you how to can so you can enjoy the bounty of summer all year long. Sign up to receive more information about our canning classes.
Photo by Sarah Sertic