Here in the deep south, the beginning of August is just about the end of the growing season due to the high temperatures. Peaches, summer squash, peppers, eggplant, tomatoes, watermelon, basil, and okra are at their peak but will be difficult to get locally in the next few weeks. Here are some of my favorite recipes to make with August fruits and vegetables.
Fresh Tomato Sauce
5 pounds of fresh tomatoes, quartered and seeded retaining as much pulp as possible
1/4 cup olive oil
1 large sweet onion, finely diced
2 celery stalks, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
2 large cloves of fresh garlic, finely minced
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes (chili)
1-2 teaspoons honey, if needed
Place the following herbs in a piece of cheesecloth and tie the cheesecloth closed.
1/3 cup fresh basil leaves
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1 sprig of fresh oregano
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of parsley
Pour the olive oil into a large stockpot over medium heat.
Add the onions, celery, garlic, and carrots.
Saute for 5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender.
Add the tomatoes and sea salt.
Simmer on low heat, covered, for about an hour until the tomatoes cook down.
Remove the pot from the heat and using an immersion blender, process the mixture until smooth.
Return the pot to the heat and add the herb cheesecloth package.
Taste the sauce to see if the tomatoes were too bitter. Add the honey, if needed.
Bring the sauce to a simmer and cook until reduced and thick, an hour to an hour and a half more. Remove the cheesecloth package and discard.
Pour the sauce into a refrigerator container and store the sauce up to 1 week, or freeze in batches.
Summertime Corn Chowder
For the corn stock ingredients
12 corn cobs (corn kernels removed and set aside for the chowder)
2 chive stalks
2 stems fresh parsley
2 stems fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
Put corn cobs, chives, parsley, thyme, bay leaf and cold water to cover in a large pot and bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce heat to low, cover the pot and simmer for 1 1⁄2 hours. Strain, discard the solids and measure the broth.
If you do not have 6 cups add water to make the 6 cups. Set aside the broth.
For the chowder ingredients
2 tablespoons butter
2 leeks, white and light green sections, chopped
3 celery stalks, cut into 1/2-inch dice
3 carrots, diced
1 bell pepper, stemmed, seeded and cut into 1/2-inch dice
1 jalapeno pepper, finely diced
1 lb potatoes, peeled and diced
6 cups fresh corn kernels, divided
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 teaspoon chili powder
1 cup half-and-half or evaporated milk
6 cups corn stock or vegetable broth if you don’t make the corn stock
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste
Grated cheddar cheese, chopped chives or crumbled bacon, for garnish
Heat the butter in a Dutch oven or large soup pot.
Add the leeks, celery, carrots, bell pepper, jalapeno, and potatoes to the pot and saute for ten minutes until soft.
Add 3 cups of the corn, the 6 cups corn stock, chili powder and the thyme.
Bring to a boil, lower the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for an hour. Remove the thyme branches.
Take the pot off the heat and puree the contents with an immersion blender.
Add the half and half, salt and pepper to taste and the remaining 3 cups of corn.
Return the pot to the heat and simmer the soup for about 30 minutes.
4 cups peaches, peeled and sliced (about 8 medium peaches)
2-3 tablespoons honey or agave nectar, depending on the sweetness of the peaches
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup oats
1/3 cup chopped pecans
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup vegetable oil
Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
In a large bowl, combine the fruit and honey. Spread the mixture evenly in an 8×8-inch baking pan.
In a medium-sized bowl, combine the flour, oats, pecans, brown sugar and cinnamon.
Stir the oil into the topping mix with a fork until you get a crumbly mixture forms.
Sprinkle this mixture evenly over the fruit in the baking dish.
Bake for 50 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the top is golden.
Quick Broiled Tomatoes
For each 2-person serving:
1 large beefsteak tomato
2 teaspoons prepared basil pesto
2 tablespoons dried Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Heat the broiler to high.
Cut the tomato in half and place in a baking dish, cut sides up.
Spread 1 teaspoon of pesto over each tomato.
Sprinkle each with 1 tablespoon of breadcrumbs and then the grated cheese.
Drizzle each with a little olive oil.
Place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes until the topping is nicely browned.
2-3 medium eggplants (about 2 pounds total)
2 large cloves of garlic
1/2 cup lemon juice, more if desired
1/3 cup tahini (sesame paste)
1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, more for serving
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley leaves
Preheat a gas or charcoal grill to medium heat and place the eggplants directly on the grill. Directions for an oven version below.
Cook, turning occasionally with tongs, until tender and charred on all sides, about 15-20 minutes.
The eggplants should be very tender.
Test the eggplants by sticking a skewer near the stem and bottom ends. If the skewer meets resistance, continue cooking.
When they are done, wrap the eggplants in foil and crimp the top to seal. Let the eggplants rest for 15 minutes.
Open the foil package, using a sharp knife slit open the eggplants and with a large spoon scoop out the soft flesh.
Transfer to a strainer set in a large bowl. Pick out any bits of skin and blackened flesh.
To roast in the oven:
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Pierce the eggplants with a fork in several places. Place on an oiled baking pan and roast until soft all over, about 20 minutes.
Follow directions as above.
Put the eggplant in a food processor, add the garlic, lemon juice and pulse until it is smooth and creamy.
Add the tahini and pulse again until it’s combined. With the processor turned on, slowly add the olive oil in a thin steady stream.
The mixture will be pale and creamy.
By hand, stir in the parsley, honey, smoked paprika and salt. Taste to see if you’d like additional salt or lemon juice.
Put the baba ghanoush into a serving bowl, drizzle with olive oil and serve with warm flatbread or vegetables.
Baba ghanoush can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to four days.
Let the eggplant dip warm to room temperature before serving.
1 pound small okra
Salt to taste
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Fresh thyme leaves
Freshly ground pepper
Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
Rinse the okra, drain and dry on a kitchen towel. The okra should be dry.
Trim away the stem ends and the tips and place the okra in a large bowl. Toss the okra with the olive oil until coated. Generously salt the okra.
Place the okra on a rimmed baking pan in one layer. Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, shaking the pan every five minutes.
The okra should be lightly browned and tender. If you don’t want them too brown, roast at 400 degrees F.
Remove the pan from the oven, toss with fresh thyme leaves and freshly ground pepper. Transfer to a platter. Serve hot.