A Sweet and Savory Summer

 

By: Brianna Bates

 

The summer months are flavored with more than just barbecues, melted popsicles and margaritas by the pool. The farmers’ markets and produce sections of your local supermarkets are absolutely brimming with fresh and unbelievably delicious produce. Despite the sweltering heat, Florida still generates a bounty of fruits and vegetables that should be gracing your summer table. Just because you don’t have your own vegetable garden outside your back door does not mean you can’t have the freshest of ingredients for your favorite recipes. Gainesville hosts its very own farmers’ market every Wednesday from 4 to 7 p.m. downtown. You can find fresh produce and even other homemade specialties such as honey, jam, cheese and some baked goods. Drop by and pick up the ingredients for these next few recipes that are sure to make you and your family happy in the summer months.

Tomatoes

Tomatoes are at their absolute peak during the hot summer months, and there are so many delicious varieties to choose from. Most people stick with tomatoes as their go-to sandwich topping or garnish for a fresh salad, and while both uses are great, I have the perfect recipe that showcases the tomatoes in an undeniably delectable way. Southern Tomato Pie, a mouthwatering dish that is the perfect addition to any summer-time meal. The tomatoes are stacked on a flaky pie crust and topped with a creamy, cheesy filling that is out of this world. Serve a slice with a small green salad for a perfect lunch, or serve as a side to your next dinner on the grill. This pie is also a great item to whip up and bring along to your next potluck or neighborhood block party.

Southern Tomato Pie

You will need:

1 9-inch pie shell

5 large tomatoes, sliced to about 1/2-inch thick

1/2 teaspoon each of salt and pepper

1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder

3/4 cup grated cheddar cheese

3/4 cup grated mozzarella cheese

3 tablespoons of freshly chopped basil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup mayonnaise

4 strips bacon (optional)

Bake the pie shell at 375 degrees Fahrenheit for 10 minutes. Layer the sliced tomatoes on the shell and sprinkle with the salt, pepper, garlic powder and the chopped basil. Mix together the cheese, onions and mayonnaise and spread the mix over the tomatoes. Bake for 30 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit until the top is brown and bubbly. Top with crumbled bacon if desired. Slice and enjoy!

Zucchinis

I’m not sure whoever decided to put zucchinis inside bread batter, but Zucchini Bread is absolutely one of my favorite ways to enjoy this fresh vegetable. Not only are zucchinis abundant during the summer, but they also have the best flavor and texture at this time. We always have some zucchini plants growing in our family garden, and you wouldn’t believe how large they can grow! This recipe is one of my favorites. It’s from an old, tattered cookbook of my mother’s from Tennessee, where she grew up. Zucchinis are full of water and make bread unbelievably moist and tender. This bread is flavored with cinnamon and vanilla, and the crushed pineapples add a surprisingly sweet note. My favorite way to enjoy this bread is straight from the oven and slathered with butter. It’s the perfect treat!

Spiced Zucchini Bread

You will need:

3 cups all purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking soda

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

3/4 cup finely chopped walnuts (optional)

3 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup vegetable oil

2 teaspoons vanilla

2 cup grated zucchini

1 8 oz. can crushed pineapple

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and grease and flour two 9x5x3-inch loaf pans. Grate two cups zucchini either with a large cheese grater or using a food processor. In a large bowl, mix together the flour, baking soda, salt, baking powder, ground cinnamon and nuts. In another large bowl, lightly beat the eggs with a mixer. Add the sugar, oil and vanilla and beat until creamy. Stir in the grated zucchini and the crushed pineapples. Add the zucchini mixture to the flour mixture and stir until moistened. The batter will be thick. Spoon evenly into both loaf pans and bake for 1 1/2 hours. Let cool slightly and then slice and enjoy!

 

Corn

Another vegetable that needs to be at the center of your table this month is fresh, yellow corn. There are many different ways to prepare the vegetable, but my favorite way is simple. Grilling the corn over a hot grill really highlights the flavor while lending a smoky note that is fitting for the hot season. To really jazz up the dish, however, I like to make a variety of different compound butters to smother over the steamy corn. Flavored butters are a cinch to make and add a sophisticated element to any simple recipe. Let your family or guests choose which kind of flavor they want, and you have a meal tailored specifically for them. Don’t leave out this staple vegetable this summer!

Grilled Corn with Compound Butter

You will need:

12 ears fresh corn, shucked

Grill the corn over a medium hot grill for 10 minutes, turning occasionally.

Lime-Cilantro Butter

1 stick unsalted butter, room temperature

1 tablespoon freshly squeezed limejuice

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Mix the butter with all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Wrap in plastic wrap and let harden. Serve immediately over the grilled corn.

Chipotle and Sun-Dried Tomato Butter

1 stick of unsalted butter, room temperature

3 sun-dried tomatoes in oil, chopped

1 chipotle en adobo, chopped

1/2 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro

1/2 teaspoon lime zest

1/2 teaspoon salt

Mix the butter with all of the ingredients in a small bowl. Wrap in plastic wrap and let harden. Serve immediately over the grilled corn.

Strawberries, Blueberries and Peaches

When it comes to fruit this summer, there are so many varieties to choose from. To maximize on flavor and make sure I’m not missing out on anything, I like to incorporate them all in one recipe. This Fruit Tart does just that. I learned how to make this recipe in Italy. Let me tell you, they sure do know how to make a dessert! Everything about this dish is tailored around the fruit so their flavors are not diminished or covered up. My favorite combination is a mixture of sliced strawberries, blueberries and peaches, but you could easily add some blackberries, raspberries or kiwis. These are all delicious fruits that are in season during the summer. Short crust pastry dough is baked until golden and puffed then covered with a sweet, vanilla pastry cream. Top with the sliced fruit and sprinkle with some sugar and you have a refreshing and juicy dessert perfect for the end of any hot summer day. Mix and match the fruits that you want, and you really can’t go wrong!

Fresh Fruit Tart

For the short crust pastry dough:

1 1/3 cup flour

1/2 cup of sugar

2/3 cup cold butter, chopped into small cubes

zest of one lemon

1 egg + 1 yolk, beaten

a pinch of salt

Sift the flour into a large bowl. Add the sugar, salt, and lemon zest and mix together. With a pastry cutter or your hands, work the butter into the flour until the mixture resembles coarse cornmeal. Add the eggs into the mixture and work into the mixture until just moistened. Do not overwork. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least an hour. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin into a rough circle then place in a 9-inch pie dish. Press into the surface and around the edges. With a fork, puncture holes into the dough. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 8-10 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool.

For the pastry cream:

2 cups of milk

1 vanilla pod or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

4 eggs yolks

2/3 cup of sugar

1/4 cup of flour

Bring the milk and vanilla to a slow simmer in a saucepan over low heat. When simmering, remove the pod and take off heat. In another bowl, mix together the yolks, sugar and flour until incorporated. Pour the hot milk over the eggs slowly, whisking constantly to temper the eggs. Return the mixture to the pan and heat slowly until the mixture thickens. Set aside and let cool.

When the pastry cream and pie shell is completely cool, fill the pie with the pastry cream. Decorate the tops with sliced fruits any way you like. Sprinkle with sugar. Slice and enjoy!