Homegrown produce profuse but culinary inspiration lacking a bit? Put some of the stars of your summer harvest — cukes, berries, bell peppers, onions, herbs — to delicious work with these tasty, healthy summer recipes.
The following is an excerpt from Clean Start by Terry Walters (Sterling Epicure, 2010). Eating in harmony with what’s in season in your region has a host of benefits: less processing, packaging and contamination, boosted flavor and nutritional value, and the satisfaction of nourishing yourself straight from nature’s menu. In this sensational cookbook, you’ll find recipes — organized by season — that use the healthiest ingredients available from your garden or local farmers market. Beyond its recipes, Clean Start is an encouraging, easy-to-understand guide to dining closer to the source, accessible even for those accustomed to eating processed foods.
“Eat more than you bring home” is our family rule of thumb for blueberry picking. By the time we’re done, we’re often left with tummy aches all-around and not enough blueberries to make more than a few muffins or pancakes. All I have to do is mention this tart before we start picking and our blueberry yield miraculously increases — and our tummy aches magically disappear!
2 cups almond meal
2 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp virgin coconut oil
Pinch of sea salt
1 tsp almond extract
1 cup apple juice
2 tbsp arrowroot powder
1/2 cup maple syrup
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 tsp almond extract
Zest of 1 lemon
Pinch of sea salt
2 cups blueberries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Lightly oil a 9-inch tart pan.
Prepare the crust: Place almond meal in a large mixing bowl. In a small skillet over medium-low heat, whisk together maple syrup, coconut oil and salt until oil melts. Whisk in almond extract and remove from heat. Pour this mixture over the almond meal and fold to incorporate all ingredients. Transfer dough to tart pan and press to form crust. Bake 15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove from oven and, using the back of a wooden spoon, gently press down any puffed areas of crust. Set crust on a wire rack to cool.
Prepare the filling: In a small bowl, whisk together 1/2 cup apple juice with arrowroot and set aside. In a medium Dutch oven over medium heat, combine the remaining 1/2 cup apple juice with maple syrup, lemon juice, almond extract, lemon zest and salt and bring to simmer. Add 1 cup blueberries and stir until the berries start to pop and the liquid turns red/blue. Reduce heat to low and, whisking continuously, pour arrowroot/juice mixture into berry mixture. When the liquid is thick, remove from heat and fold in remaining blueberries. Pour into crust, spread evenly and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to set. Serves 8.
Chopped salads add a splash of color to a meal. This one in particular is sure to wake up your palate with its varied tastes and textures, all complemented by the sweet blackberry vinaigrette. If you’re making this salad in advance, keep the salad and dressing separate and hold off adding the tomatoes and avocado until just before serving.
1 1/2 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 cup chopped green beans
1 orange bell pepper, chopped
1/4 cup chopped radishes
1/2 head radicchio, chopped
2 avocados, pitted, peeled and chopped
2 tbsp lemon juice
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
10 blackberries, halved
10 whole blackberries
1 shallot, minced
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp maple syrup
1 tbsp lime juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
In large bowl, combine chopped tomatoes, green beans, bell pepper, radishes and radicchio. In a separate small bowl, toss avocados with lemon juice to coat and then fold into salad. Set a fine-mesh strainer over a bowl, and place whole berries for dressing in the strainer.
Using the back of a wooden spoon, mash berries through strainer to separate juice from pulp and seeds. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons of blackberry juice, shallot, olive oil, red wine vinegar, maple syrup, lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle desired amount over salad. You may not need to use the entire amount of dressing. Top with pine nuts and halved blackberries, and serve. Serves 4.
For a lighter dressing, substitute strawberries for the blackberries and omit the lime juice.
In winter, you can substitute dried cranberries for the blackberries. Simply soak in hot water to reconstitute, drain well, add to dressing, and purée all dressing ingredients with a handheld blender.
In my garden, we grow pickling cucumbers that are crisp, firm, slightly sweet and particularly easy to grow. Nevertheless, there are a variety of cucumbers that are much sweeter, juicier and, frankly, tastier than mine. This recipe will work with whatever cucumbers you have, but if you find yourself at a farmers market confronted with ‘Sikkim,’ ‘Poona Kheera’ or ‘Lemon’ cucumbers, you’re in for a great treat, so don’t be scared away by their nontraditional appearance.
3 medium cucumbers, any variety
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 tsp chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves, torn
Coarse sea salt
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 tsp maple syrup
1 tsp lime juice
Cut cucumbers into bite-sized pieces. Place in bowl with onion, dill and mint. In a separate bowl, whisk together all dressing ingredients. Drizzle evenly over cucumbers, season to taste with salt, and serve. Serves 4.
Reprinted with permission from Clean Start, published by Sterling Epicure, 2010.