Conscious Cook: Eating local and loving it
“Summertime is always the best of what might be.” — Charles Bowden
How scintillating is summer? These few glorious months provide conscious cooks with the most satisfying and invigorating recipes, prepared with the simplest of ingredients. Utilizing the freshest of vegetables, fruits and herbs as the foundation of fantastic summer meals provides a multitude of healthy pleasures.
Search out your local farmer’s markets, where you will find an explosively colorful vista of produce just waiting to be turned into appetizing dishes. Buying locally grown produce is a tremendously healthful way to nourish yourself and your family, as well as supporting your local farmers. There is absolutely no substitute for the incredible quality and tantalizing taste of eating with the season.
Who can resist freshly picked peaches, filling the air with their lush, intoxicating scent? Embellish your morning cereal or yogurt with these ripe, succulent beauties, or prepare a simple summer dessert by placing peach slices in a pretty bowl, pour a bit of prosecco over them and garnish with a mint leaf. Sublimely simple, yet so sensuous.
Fat, juicy tomatoes are piled high at the farmer’s market, clamoring to be slow-cooked with onions, peppers and garlic into an aromatic marinara sauce or pureed into a silken soup, or spiked with plenty of chopped garlic, basil and oregano for a bracing bruschetta.
Corn on the cob is at its peak, the candy-like kernels bursting with the sweet soulfulness of summer.
Fresh corn is sensational in corn and lobster chowder, roasted corn salsa or a sassy salad sparked up with cilantro, jalapenos and black beans.
Fresh peppers are like the fireworks of the farm market. Brilliant orange, lantern shaped habaneros are full of intensely heated flavor, while scarlet cayennes are a bit less flush-inducing. Plump cherry peppers add passion to sandwiches, pizza, and sauces, and sweet peppers in a rainbow of colors are perfect for stuffing or scattering over salads.
Heads of cauliflower and broccoli have their own lumpy loveliness, giant heads of kale offer plenty of powerful antioxidants in their frilly leaves, and glossy, dark purple eggplants are also found at the farmer’s market. While eggplants are not as nutritionally dense as other fruits and vegetables, they are a good source of fiber, low in calories and quite filling.
Eggplants absorb other flavors quite willingly, making them ideal for ethnic dishes. An Asian stir fry with garlic, ginger, chili paste and sesame oil is sensational, as well as Greek moussaka, a casserole that includes ground lamb, red wine, herbs and a bit of cinnamon, or, of course, Italian dishes such as parmesan, rollatini and lasagna are all exceptional when made with fresh, local eggplant.
Make visiting your local farmer’s market a summer ritual as you prepare your delicious life!
Farm Market Ratatouille
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 large sweet onion, sliced
6-7 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 medium-size eggplants, washed but not peeled, cut into 1 inch chunks
1 each sweet yellow, red and purple pepper, washed, and cut into chunks
2 banana peppers, washed, and cut into chunks
2 large cherry peppers, washed and chopped finely (optional)
1 zucchini, washed, cut into cubes
1 summer squash, washed, cut into cubes
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh oregano
handful of fresh basil leaves, minced
handful of fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons chopped fresh marjoram
24 ripe cherry tomatoes, cut in half (or quartered plum tomatoes)
- Heat the oil in a large pan over medium high heat and sauté onion for 10 minutes.
- Stir in the garlic and sauté until fragrant, do not let burn. Add eggplant cubes and let cook for 15 minutes.
- Add peppers, zucchini and summer squash, sprinkle with half the herbs and a pinch of salt and pepper.
- Cover the pan and simmer for 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
- Add the cherry tomatoes and cook for 10 more minutes. Sprinkle the remaining herbs over the vegetables.
This dish can be served hot or room temperature. Superb with grilled lamb.
Robin Glowa, HHC, AADP, “The Conscious Cook”, is a passionate food and wellness professional who earned her certification in holistic health counseling from the Institute for Integrative Nutrition and Columbia University Teacher’s College. She earned her cooking experience in the kitchen! Robin specializes in teaching healthy cooking classes to children and adults utilizing, fresh, natural ingredients and simple, delicious recipes. She conducts cooking demonstrations for many local organizations and is available for cooking parties and private instruction as well. For more information go to www.theconsciouscook.net. Robin’s blog is confessionsofaconsciouscook.blogspot.com.