The Conscious Cook: For the love of labor
“Before the reward there must be labor. You plant before you harvest. You sow in tears before you reap joy.” — Ralph Ransom
All summer long, gardeners and farmers have toiled to produce a harvest that will be gratefully consumed by conscious cooks. These labors have resulted in a glorious bounty that will grace the tables of many a Labor Day celebration.
An ideal time to appreciate the fleeting days of summer, Labor Day is an appropriate occasion to enjoy a bevy of magnificent summer fruits, vegetables and herbs. For the best backyard bash, include plenty of the season’s deeply flavorful, sun drenched tomatoes, crunchy cucumbers, tender zucchini and summer squash, crisp green beans and fragrant peaches and melons.
Picnics, parties, barbecues and boating trips will be all the more luscious when local produce is on the menu. This is the ideal time to enjoy the stunning simplicity of super fresh crops, such as sweet corn, each perfect kernel an absolute miracle.
Cut thick slices of big, beefy, tomatoes to create the essential summer sandwich, with two slices of good bread and a liberal application of mayonnaise and a grinding of sea salt and black pepper. Eat slowly…the memory of this juicy jubilation will have to sustain you for months to come!
Cut up cucumbers and pack them up for transport to party locations.
Add a dash of cider vinegar, black pepper and a scatter of minced herbs to your container. Or roast summer beets, both red and gold, slip off their skins when cool, slice and add to cucumbers with raspberry vinegar, chopped mint, basil and chives, season with salt and pepper, and add creamy goat cheese crumbles, if desired.
Zucchini and summer squash, cut thick and grilled, along with onion slices and eggplant planks, are an excellent make-ahead dish for your Labor Day crowd. Arrange your veggies on a big platter, drizzle with olive oil and balsamic vinegar and sprinkle with plenty of chopped herbs. Consider adding chopped hot peppers and slices of fresh mozzarella.
At their absolute peak of perfection, local vegetables and fruits are loaded with vitamins, minerals and nutrients, particularly vitamins C and A, essential for repairing skin damage from the summer sun, invigorating hair and nail growth and providing internal cellular protection. But the greatest benefit is the opportunity to taste food in its’ purest and most potent form.
We are truly blessed to reap the benefits of an excellent harvest, grown by those who love to labor in the garden. We cannot prepare a delicious life without them.
An early wish for a happy Labor Day.
Peel, then cut 6 perfectly ripe peaches into wedges. Place peaches in a bowl and sprinkle with 1 tablespoon of almond extract, 1 teaspoon of cinnamon and 1 ½ tablespoons of brown sugar. Toss gently until wedges are coated. Let rest until peach juices are released. Serve with vanilla ice cream, crème fraiche, mascarpone or just enjoy right from the bowl. Chopped toasted almonds may be added if desired.