Putting new twists on summer produce to the test



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Summer is a great time to stock up on an assortment of fruits and vegetables. But how can you prepare zucchini, peppers and watermelon without getting bored with them a couple of days after buying them? By putting new twists on them! Try these simple but exciting dishes that let the flavors, textures and colors of these beautiful foods shine.


Busting carbs and boredom

Photo by Jessica Mendez

Ree Drummond, better known as The Pioneer Woman, brings out the best flavors of zucchini, a summer staple, with the Carb Buster Breakfast, a quick sauté that also includes onions, accompanied by grilled tomatoes, poached eggs and, the food that makes pretty much everything taste better, cheese. This dish, which is Drummond’s take on New York restaurant Fireside’s dish of the same name, is filling without weighing you down, and the egg yolk adds an extra layer of richness. Drummond says that any veggies and cheese will do for this dish, so it’s a perfect opportunity to use what you have. I took a cue from Better Homes and Gardens’ Pita, Cheese and Veggie Grill recipe and sprinkled my veggies with crumbled feta. That extra salty bite is phenomenal and complements the mild sweetness of the vegetables really well. Also, after totally screwing up my first poached egg, I tried Alton Brown’s method for poaching eggs and was successful. This is an easy, elegant meal.

Stuffed peppers are a classic food, but traditionally, they are baked. For those days when you’re cooking on the grill, try this recipe for Grilled Vegetable Stuffed Bell Peppers at eRecipeCards. Onions and zucchini are joined by corn, another summertime favorite, to create a delicious filling. Serve alongside some protein for a satisfying meal that is both savory and sweet.

If you’re in a baking mood and want an easy, tasty vegetable dish, put your oven to good use to make Savory Summer Cobbler from Good and Cheap: Eat Well on $4/Day, Leanne Brown’s free downloadable cookbook for those living on a budget. Check out HellaWella’s recent roundup of savory recipes inspired by desserts, and Brown’s brilliant cobbler recipe, which pairs summer veggies with a flaky, rustic biscuit topping, would fit right in. You can experiment with different vegetables based on what you have in your veggie haul. Brown suggests swapping eggplant for zucchini, and I added red peppers to my veggie base. I also omitted the cheese from the biscuit topping, opting instead to serve the cobbler with a medallion of herbed goat cheese. The flavors and textures of this dish are astounding. You get soft, crispy, crunchy and creamy, with notes of sweetness and earthiness, and the black pepper in the biscuit topping gives the whole dish a little added kick.  


Adding zing to watermelon

Photo by Jessica Mendez

Seedless watermelon is the quintessential summer dessert, but I am not its biggest fan. However, I’ve found two ways to transform this mild melon into an exciting summer taste sensation. The first, and easiest, option? Freeze it! Rachael Ray’s Watermelon Ice Cubes recipe is quite possibly the easiest recipe you will ever encounter in your life. Toss the cubes into sparkling water for a light, fizzy treat. They will also come in handy if you want to try making Good and Cheap’s recipe for a Melon Smoothie, which is definitely more of a slushy, as Brown says in the book. A splash of vanilla extract gives this icy, not-too-sweet treat a slightly richer, almost creamy taste and is just the refreshment to enjoy on a hot summer day.

The other way to really ramp up the flavor of your watermelon is to throw it on the grill. Food writer Mark Bittman championed grilling watermelon in a 2011 article for The New York Times, saying, “Grill a watermelon slice, and it dries out and sobers up, losing its sloppy sweetness, and it takes surprisingly well to savory accompaniments.” I grilled my slices and, inspired by Skinnytaste’s Watermelon Feta and Balsamic “Pizzas” recipe, topped them with black olives and crumbled feta. This may just be my new favorite way to eat watermelon. The grilling deepens the flavor of the melon so the toppings enhance rather than overpower the taste. I’m excited to try Bittman’s suggestion to use grilled watermelon as a substitute for the common veggie burger.

Next time you return home with a tote full of produce, try some of these great recipes and let us know how they turn out!