You can tell it’s summer by the vegetables

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, June 6, 2017

By Deirdre Parker Smith

You know summer is unofficially here when the tomatoes show up at the Farmer’s Market.

We went from gorgeous lettuces, all shades and flavors of greens and radishes to squash, zucchini, cucumbers, even cabbages and cantaloupes.

There’s still some lettuce out there, and kale, Swiss chard, collards. Now you can find beets. Fix the greens and boil or roast the deep, dark roots for a great treat.

The tomatoes are almost ready for sandwiches, but if you’re impatient, go for it.

It’s time to use those ingredients in some fresh recipes.

Too often, we pick up chard or zucchini and think, OK, I’ll sauté the chard tonight, and we can have grilled zucchini with the chicken.

Why not think of how all these veggies can enhance just a little bit of protein in one recipe, like a stir fry, or a homemade pizza?

And not all salads have to have lettuce for a base. Cruise around the market and find bok choi, pea shoots, Napa cabbage, onions large and small, sweet or strong. Top it with one of the many varieties and sizes of cucumbers available, and one of those tomatoes. Persian cucumbers are small and flavorful, without any bitterness. White cucumbers, lemon cucumbers, pickling cucumbers and your standard grocery-store size cucumbers are all there. Make a dressing using some of the herbs available, like basil and cilantro, dill or parsley.

Make cucumber sandwiches, using a little salted butter on white bread — a cool treat that doesn’t have to be fancy. You can use the rest of the white bread for your tomato sandwiches.

Think about a quiche with sauteed squash and zucchini and a little Italian sausage from Two Pigs Farm or Thomas Family Farm.

Pizza! It’s easy to make your own dough, find dough in the grocery store or use something like Naan bread. Skip the tomato sauce for now. Try a white pizza.

Stir fry. With all those veggies, the hardest thing about stir fry is cutting them up. Mix flavors and start with the firmest vegetables first, finishing off with some Napa cabbage and green onions.

Here’s what we tried this weekend.

White Pizza with Chard and Mushrooms

1 pizza crust

8 ounces alfredo sauce (jarred is fine)

4 ounces ricotta cheese

6 ounces mozzarella cheese

2 Tbsp. olive oil

1 bunch Swiss chard, stems reserved for another use

8 ounces white button mushrooms

2 ounces sun-dried tomatoes

1 tsp. dried oregano or 1 Tbsp. fresh oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Sprinkle a baking sheet with some cornmeal, set aside. Roll out pizza crust to desired size and place on the baking sheet.

Mix ricotta and alfredo sauce until smooth. Slice mushrooms. Slice chard into thin strips and blanch for 2 minutes in boiling water. Drain well and pat dry. Slice mozzarella — you can use fresh mozzarella or regular.

To assemble, pour the olive oil on the crust and spread in an even layer. Season with salt and pepper. Spread alfredo-ricotta mixture evenly over the pizza. Add mushrooms and sun-dried tomatoes, topping with the mozzarella cheese. Sprinkle oregano and Swiss chard over the top — the chard will get crispy in the oven. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until crust is browned and cheese has melted. Serves at least 4 people.

Veggielicious Stir Fry

1 bunch bok choi

1 cup pea shoots

1 cup snow peas

2 carrots, sliced thin

1 can water chestnuts, drained

1 1/2 cups sliced mushrooms

2 green onions

1 Tbsp. grated fresh ginger

1-2 tsp. minced garlic

1 Tbsp. canola oil

1-2 tsp. toasted sesame oil

1 chicken breast (optional)


1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce

1/4 cup plum sauce

1 tsp. toasted sesame oil

2 tsp. rice wine vinegar

2 tsp. corn starch

Wash the bok choi and pea shoots, then cut into slices. Set aside. Peel and slice carrots. Remove strings from snow peas and cut in half. Slice green and white parts of onion and reserve the green parts for garnish.

Prepare sauce. Mix soy sauce, plum sauce (available in the Asian food section), rice vinegar, toasted sesame oil and corn starch in a small bowl, stirring well to dissolve the corn starch. Set aside.

If using chicken, slice a boneless, skinless chicken breast into thin strips. Cook in a wide frying pan with the canola oil and 1 tsp. toasted sesame oil. Cook 5-6 minutes, until done. Remove from pan and set aside.

Add carrots and water chestnuts and cook 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add garlic, white part of onions, and ginger. Add snow peas and mushrooms and cook until mushrooms release some of their liquid.

Add another teaspoon of toasted sesame oil to the pan and stir in bok choi and pea shoots. Top pan with a lid to wilt greens for about 1 minute. Mix sauce ingredients again and pour into pan. Stir to thicken sauce. Remove from heat and stir in green onion tops.

Serve with steamed white rice or soba noodles. Serves 4.

This next recipe started out as one of those “Uh-oh, what do we do now” things. We had bought and fixed fresh beets before, but because we tend to wing things and not follow strict recipes, we looked up how to roast beets and figured we could sauce them up once they were cooked.

The instructions were to cut the tops off the beets, wrap them in foil and roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for 1 hour. We did that, and they were still very hard. So, we peeled them and sliced them and put them on the stove to boil for a while, but we wanted to make a sauce at the same time, so I made this up on the spot and it turned out very well.

Beets with Orange Sauce

4-6 medium beets, tops removed

salt and pepper to taste

1 cup water

1 cup orange juice

1/4 cup brown sugar (or more, to taste)

1 Tbsp. apple cider vinegar

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wrap beets in aluminum foil and place on a baking sheet. Roast for 1 hour.

Remove beats from oven and open foil. Let cool slightly, then peel off the skin. Slice beats in 1/4-inch slices. Place in a saucepan with the water and the orange juice, add brown sugar and vinegar. Boil for 30 minutes, adding water or orange juice to keep pan from drying out. The sauce will thicken as the beets boil and become soft. Check tenderness with a fork. Serve warm.