Now that our gardens have begun to fill with sensational fruits and vegetables, its time to start planning a fun summer menu to best utilize our efforts! There’s a pretty high probability that if you’re a gardener in New England, you’ll see the snap peas, cucumbers, green beans, strawberries and lettuce as some of the first arrivals. Later on in the season, eggplant, squash and my favorite, tomatoes will appear with gorgeous color signally that their time has come to impress upon your culinary skills. As the summer comes to an end, potatoes, corn, garlic and onions are ready to be added to the sauté pans to kick up the spice and zest of your favorite dishes! It all sound fantastic, but lets focus on the produce that we’ll be able to cook with now that will be great options for your warmer weather dining room tables. Here are my must-haves that have always pleased my entire family-including the kids!
Cucumber and Couscous
Couscous is a wonderful grain to get your little ones accustomed to as early as possible because the taste is mild with a low fat content and can be mixed with a variety of vegetables for a healthy dinner side. One of the first things I throw in the pot are chopped cucumbers seasoned slightly with Italian salad dressing. Stir the contents of a Near East pre-packaged couscous box and add chunks of the water- based succulent. You might even want to toss in a few cherry tomatoes to add more color and watch your family devour a healthy and fresh summer salad!
photo credit: bellaonline.com
Snap Peas and Sweet Potato
You would be surprised by the reaction of guests when you add a well-cooked sweet potato with a handful of raw snap peas to the dinner table. All you need to know is butter the spud lightly and add your desired seasoning such as thyme, white pepper, salt or rosemary once its been cooked to taste. Mash up the contents and generously shower with a bunch of fresh green snap peas. The texture is pleasant and allows an unusual but sensational blend of flavors. I highly suggest this as a featured menu item since the presentation is impressive when served with a grilled helping of swordfish or salmon.
There is no telling the possibilities when you can grow your own varieties of lettuce. You can use the roughage as either a plate garnish or create wonderful salads that will leave your mouth watering. If you’ve never eaten lettuce picked straight from the garden, you’re in for a treat. The crisp yet buttery consistency of the leaves allow a fun combination when paired with berries such as blueberries or strawberries and works well with breads for easy lunch options of pita or club sandwiches. One tip for the eager picker: make sure you wash the leaves thoroughly to evade dirt and soil smudges.