At this time of year the farmers’ markets, roadside stands and supermarkets are bursting at the seams with fresh grown produce. Take advantage of all these good things and create some seasonal recipes around fresh July produce. Here are a few ideas.
These little bites are delicious for lunch or for a summer appetizer.
- 2 medium cucumbers, peeled
- 1/2 cup chive and onion cream cheese
- 1/2 cup carrots, finely shredded
- 1/4 of a green bell pepper, finely chopped
- 1 small banana pepper or other spicy pepper, finely chopped
- 2 tablespoons relish
- Sweet paprika for garnish
Cut cucumbers lengthwise. With a spoon, scoop out seeds to form a hollow center.
Combine the carrots, green pepper, spicy banana peppers, relish and cream cheese.
Spread the mixture into the center of the cucumbers. Sprinkle the top with paprika.
Cut each cucumber half into 4 pieces. Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.
- 1 medium to large eggplant, peeled and cut lengthwise into ¼ inch slices
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon dried Italian herbs
- Olive oil
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1 egg
- Salt & Pepper
- 1/4 cup minced fresh herbs (parsley, basil)
- 1/4 teaspoon garlic powder
- 2 cups Marinara (tomato) sauce
- 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Combine the flour, salt, pepper and dried herbs in a shallow dish. Heat enough olive oil to cover the bottom of a large skillet.
Dredge the eggplant slices in the flour mixture and place in the skillet.
Cook until brown on both sides. Drain on paper towels and let cool until room temperature.
Mix together the filling ingredients and distribute evenly over the sautéed eggplant slices.
Roll up the slices from the short end and place in a greased casserole dish. Pour the Marinara sauce over the rolls and sprinkle with the grated Parmesan cheese.
Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 30 minutes.
Big Batch Summer Vegetable Chowder
Makes plenty to freeze for future dinners and lunches.
- 12 ears fresh corn
- 2 quarts water
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 carrots, diced
- 1 green bell pepper, diced
- 3 cups southern field peas
- 3 medium red potatoes, peeled and diced
- 2 celery stalks, diced
- 8 cups chicken or vegetable broth
- 2 teaspoons dried Italian seasoning
- 9 oz pkg fresh spinach tortellini
- Chopped fresh herbs for garnish
Slice the kernels from each corn cob into a large bowl. Set aside.
Break each corn cob in half and place in a large Dutch oven or stock pot. Cover the cobs with 2 quarts of cold water. Bring the water to a boil and turn the heat to low.
Simmer, uncovered, for 40 minutes.
When the corn cobs have finished simmering, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium low heat.
Add the onions and cook until soft, approximately 2 minutes, then add the garlic, salt, pepper, dried Italian seasoning, reserved corn and remaining vegetables.
Cook for several minutes until the corn is soft, stirring frequently.
Once the corn cobs have finished simmering, remove the cobs from the broth. Add the corn broth to the soup pot. If the corn broth has reduced to less than 4 cups, add more water to equal 4 cups.
Add the chicken broth and tortellini. Bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer the ingredients together over medium heat for an additional 15-20 minutes, covered.
- One 9 inch refrigerated pie crust, at room temperature
- 3 small to medium vine-ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced 1⁄4″ thick
- 1 1/2 cups shredded cheddar cheese
- 4 oz cream cheese, softened
- 1 shallot, thinly sliced
- 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped chives
Spread tomatoes in a single layer on a double thickness of paper towels. Sprinkle with salt and let drain for 1 hour. Blot dry with more paper towels.
Heat the oven to 425°F.
Place the dough in a greased 10 inch pie dish or tart pan. You can also place the dough on a baking sheet on parchment and form the tart like a galette.
Spread the cream cheese over the crust, leaving a 1 inch border. Sprinkle the cheddar over the cream cheese.
Top with tomato and shallot slices, overlapping each slightly. Sprinkle with black pepper and chives. Fold overhanging crust up and over the edge of the filling.
Bake until golden brown, 40–45 minutes. Let the tart rest for 5 minutes before serving.
Regular or Gluten-Free Strawberry Peach Sponge Cake
The recipe for this cake can be made as a gluten-free cake or as a regular sponge cake. Any fruit filling works in this recipe – just use what is in season.
Simple Sponge Cake Mixture
- 6 eggs, separated
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup cake flour
Gluten-Free Cake Mixture
- 8 oz butter, softened at room temperature
- 1 cup sugar
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon light rum
- 1 ½ cups King Arthur or Bob’s Red Mill Gluten-Free All Purpose Baking Flour (not gluten-free flour)
- 1 tablespoon baking soda
- 2 tablespoons milk
Regular or Gluten Free Cake Filling
2 tablespoons light rum for sprinkling on the cake layers
1/2 cup strawberry syrup or jam (recipe for strawberry syrup)
6 strawberries, cut into thin slices
1 medium peach, peeled and sliced thin
12 whole small strawberries, stems removed
Whipped Cream Topping
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1/2 cup powdered sugar
- 1 tablespoon light rum
Cut parchment or wax paper to fit two 9 inch round cake pans. Spray the pans with cooking spray and place the parchment circles in the pans. Spray the paper. Set aside.
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Directions for making the simple sponge cake:
Separate the eggs, putting whites in the large mixer bowl and the yolks in a small mixer bowl.
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the whites and beat until very stiff.
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the yolks and beat until very thick and light yellow in color.
Fold egg yolk mixture into the egg whites.
Fold flour in using 1//3 cup each time until well mixed. Do not over mix.
Pour evenly into the prepared pans.
Bake for approximately 30 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out dry.
Cool for a few minutes, remove from pan and remove paper. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.
Directions for making the gluten-free sponge cake:
Cream the butter and sugar together in the large electric mixer bowl. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the rum.
Fold in the baking flour and baking soda, a little at a time. When completely mixed, add the milk slowly until the batter is fluid.
Pour into the prepared cake pans and bake until lightly brown and a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean, about 20 minutes.
Let cool in the pans for 10 minutes and transfer to a cooling rack. Sprinkle each layer with 1 tablespoon of rum. Cool completely.
Directions for making the whipped cream topping:
Combine the ingredients in an electric mixer bowl and with the whisk attachment beat the mixture until stiff.
Directions for assembling the cakes:
Place one cake layer on a cake plate and top with the strawberry syrup. Arrange the sliced fruit on top of the strawberry syrup layer. Spread half of the whipped cream over the fruit.
Place the second cake layer on top of the whipped cream. Spread the cake layer with the remaining whipped cream. Place the whole strawberries evenly in a circle around the cake.
Chill in the refrigerator until serving time.
Parma is a province in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy. Parma is famous for its Prosciutto di Parma. The whole area is renowned for its sausage production, as well as for Parmigiano Reggiano cheese and some kinds of pasta like gnocchi di patate, cappelletti (or anolini) in brodo and tortelli with different stuffings (potatoes, pumpkin, mushrooms or chestnuts). Prosciutto or Italian ham is an Italian dry-cured ham that is thinly sliced and served uncooked. This style is called prosciutto crudo in Italian and is distinguished from cooked ham, prosciutto cotto.
There’s a reason why these foods developed in the Emilia region. It’s one of the few areas of Italy that isn’t mountainous, so there are plains and pasture. The farmers of the region were able to raise cows and therefore produce milk and with milk came butter, cream and cheese. Add ham to the dairy ingredients and you have the central core of the region’s cuisine.
Parma is also home to one of Italy’s longest established pasta factories, Barilla. The Barilla Center for the Propagation of Gastronomy has several state-of-the-art kitchens for demonstrations and a large auditorium for lectures, as well as a huge library of books on food and cooking, some as early as the 15th Century.
Prosciutto is made from either a pig’s or a wild boar’s hind leg or thigh. Prosciutto may also be made using the hind leg of other animals, in which case the name of the animal is included in the name of the product, for example “prosciutto cotto d’agnello” (“lamb prosciutto”).
The process of making prosciutto can take from nine months to two years, depending on the size of the ham. First, the ham is cleaned, salted and set aside for about two months. During this time, the ham is pressed, gradually and carefully, so as to avoid breaking the bone and to drain it of all liquid. Next, it is washed several times to remove the salt and is hung in a dark, well-ventilated area. The surrounding air is important to the final quality of the ham and the best results are obtained in a cold climate. The ham is then left until thoroughly dry. The time this takes varies, depending on the local climate and size of the ham. When the ham is completely dry, it is hung to air, either at room temperature or in a controlled environment, for up to 18 months.
Prosciutto is sometimes cured with nitrites (either sodium or potassium), which are generally used in other hams to produce the desired rosy color and unique flavor, but only sea salt is allowed in Protected Designation of Origin hams.
Under the Common Agricultural Policy of the European Union (EU), certain well-established meat products are covered by a Protected Designation of Origin (PDO). The two famous types of Italian prosciutto are: prosciutto crudo di Parma, from Parma and prosciutto crudo di San Daniele, from the Friuli-Venezia Giulia region. Prosciutto di Parma has a slightly nutty flavor from the Parmigiano Reggiano whey that is sometimes added to the pigs’ diet. The prosciutto di San Daniele is darker in color and sweeter in flavor.
Sliced prosciutto crudo in Italian cuisine is often served as an antipasto, wrapped around grissini or melon. It is also eaten as accompaniment to cooked spring vegetables, such as asparagus or peas. It may be included in a simple pasta sauce made with cream or in a dish of tagliatelle with vegetables. It is used in stuffings for meats, as a wrap around veal or chicken, in a filled bread or as a pizza topping. Saltimbocca is an Italian veal dish, where thin slices of veal are topped with a sage leaf before being wrapped in prosciutto and then pan-fried. Prosciutto is often served in sandwiches and sometimes in a variation of the Caprese salad with basil, tomato and fresh mozzarella.
Parmigiano-Reggiano is a hard, granular cheese. The name “Parmesan” is often used generically for various versions of this cheese. It is named after the producing areas, which comprise the Provinces of Parma, Reggio Emilia, Bologna, Modena (all in Emilia-Romagna) and Mantua (in Lombardy). Under Italian law, only cheese produced in these provinces may be labelled “Parmigiano-Reggiano”, and European law classifies the name as a protected designation of origin. According to legend, Parmigiano-Reggiano was created during the Middle Ages in Bibbiano, in the province of Reggio Emilia. Its production soon spread to the Parma and Modena areas. Historical documents show that in the 13th and 14th centuries, Parmigiano was already very similar to the product produced today, which suggests its origins can be traced to an even earlier time.
Traditionally, cows have to be fed only on grass or hay, producing grass-fed milk. Only natural whey culture is allowed as a starter, together with calf rennet. The only additive allowed is salt, which the cheese absorbs while being submerged for 20 days in brine tanks saturated with Mediterranean sea salt. The product is aged an average of two years and cheese is produced daily. Parmigiano-Reggiano is made from unpasteurized cow’s milk. Whole milk from the morning milking is mixed with naturally skimmed milk (which is made by keeping milk in large shallow tanks to allow the cream to separate) of the previous evening’s milking, resulting in a part skim mixture. This mixture is pumped into copper-lined vats.
Starter whey is added and the temperature is raised to 33–35 °C (91–95 °F). Calf rennet is then added and the mixture is left to curdle for 10–12 minutes. The curd is then broken up mechanically into small pieces and the temperature is raised to 55 °C (131 °F) with careful control by the cheese-maker. The curd is left to settle for 45–60 minutes. The compacted curd is collected in a piece of muslin before being divided in two and placed in molds. The remaining whey in the vat is traditionally used to feed the pigs from which “Prosciutto di Parma” is produced.
The cheese is put into a stainless steel, round form that is pulled tight with a spring-powered buckle so the cheese retains its wheel shape. After a day or two, the buckle is released and a plastic belt, imprinted numerous times with the Parmigiano-Reggiano name, the plant’s number and the month and year of production is put around the cheese and the metal form is buckled tight again. The imprints take hold on the rind of the cheese in about a day and the wheel is then put into a brine bath to absorb salt for 20–25 days. After brining, the wheels are then transferred to the aging rooms in the plant for 12 months. Each cheese is placed on wooden shelves and the cheese and the shelves are cleaned manually or robotically every seven days. The cheese is also turned at this time.
At 12 months, the Consorzio Parmigiano-Reggiano inspects every wheel. The cheese is tested by a master grader who taps each wheel to identify undesirable cracks and voids within the wheel. Wheels that pass the test are then heat branded on the rind with the Consorzio’s logo. Those that do not pass the test used to have their rinds marked with lines or crosses all the way around to inform consumers that they are not getting top-quality Parmigiano-Reggiano; more recent practices simply have these lesser rinds stripped of all markings. The average Parmigiano-Reggiano wheel is about 18–24 cm (7–9 in) high, 40–45 cm (16–18 in) in diameter and weighs 38 kg (84 lb).
Parmigiano-Reggiano is commonly grated over pasta dishes, stirred into soups and risottos or eaten sliced as an appetizer. It is often shaved over other dishes like salads. Slivers and chunks of the hardest parts of the crust are sometimes simmered in soup.
Prosciutto Parmesan Pasta
- 8 ounces fresh fettuccine pasta
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 1/2 pound prosciutto, sliced thin
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 1 cup frozen peas, defrosted
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente; drain.
Heat the oil in a large skillet and cook the prosciutto in the skillet over medium heat until just brown, 3 to 5 minutes. Remove the prosciutto from the skillet and set the prosciutto aside on paper towels. Drain the skillet of any remaining fat.
Add the cream the skillet and heat on low. Slowly stir in 1 1/2 cups Parmesan cheese in small amounts. When all the cheese has been melted, stir in the peas and prosciutto.
Allow to heat for 2 minutes more. Add the drained pasta and toss lightly. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the remaining 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese.
Cheese and Prosciutto Panini
- 4 whole slices Italian bread
- 1 1/2 cups finely grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
- 4 thin slices Prosciutto di Parma
- Coarsely ground black pepper
- Unsalted butter
Cover two slices of the bread with a layer of grated cheese. Generously grind black pepper over the top. Place two slices of Prosciutto di Parma over the cheese. Place the remaining slices of bread on top.
Cook in a panini maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions or:
In a large frying, add enough butter to provide a generous covering, about 2 tablespoons. Heat the butter over medium-low heat until foamy.
Add the cheese sandwiches, pressing them onto the pan; slowly fry, regulating the heat so the butter does not burn.
Once light brown, turn the sandwiches over and press down with a spatula to compress slightly. Brown the other side.
When done, transfer the sandwiches to a paper towel to drain. Cut in half diagonally and serve.
- 1 pound prepared pizza dough, at room temperature
- All-purpose flour, for dusting
- Cornmeal, for dusting
- 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
- 1 clove garlic, grated
- 1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
- Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1/2 cup part-skim ricotta
- 1 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
- 4 cups baby arugula
- 1 small shallot, thinly sliced
- Juice of 1/2 lemon
- 3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
- Shaved Parmesan cheese, for topping
Place a pizza stone or an upside-down baking sheet in the oven and preheat to 450 degrees F. Roll out the dough on a lightly floured surface into a 12-inch round.
Transfer the round to a cornmeal-dusted pizza peel or another upside-down baking sheet; slide the dough onto the hot pizza stone or baking sheet. Bake 8 minutes.
Combine 2 tablespoons olive oil in a small bowl with the garlic, rosemary and salt and pepper to taste.
Remove the pizza from the oven, brush with the olive oil mixture and top with the ricotta and mozzarella.
Return the pizza to the oven; bake until the cheese is golden and bubbly, about 6 more minutes. Remove from the oven.
Toss the arugula and shallot in a large bowl with the lemon juice, the remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.
Top the baked pizza with the arugula salad, prosciutto and shaved parmesan cheese. Cut into slices and serve.