Recipes for Late Summer Bounty

In the abundance race playing out in the late-summer kitchen garden, eggplant, peppers, tomatoes and corn are vying for first place, easily outdistancing mid-summer’s zucchini, cucumbers and green beans.  Much as I love all summer vegetables, this quartet of deep summer flavors and rich colors is my favorite.  So are the recipes that showcase their flavors.

It’s hard to beat caponata or sheet pan ratatouille to meld eggplant, peppers and tomatoes along with onion and garlic into the perfect late summer meal.

Eggplant caponata

Ratatouille roasted on pan

Narrowing the field to peppers and tomatoes, pepper stew concentrates the flavors of sweet peppers into a warm vegetable confit of peppers, onions and tomatoes.

Pepper stew

For raw peppers alone, there is sweet pepper salad, thinly sliced peppers in a spicy red wine vinaigrette.

Pepper salad

And for the pure flavor of eggplant, there is Charred Eggplant and Tahini Spread, our go-to sandwich spread and appetizer dip.

Eggplant spread

I’ve been returning to all of these recipes in the past weeks, serving them as often as I can as a way to hold on to summer even as the daylight shifts and daylight shortens.

I’ve also been making new favorites that have been working their way up my list of best late summer recipes.  Last year, I took advantage of an abundance of sweet corn and shishito peppers to make Spicy Corn and Shishito Salad, repeating this dish as long as corn and peppers lasted.  This year, I eagerly watched the ripening corn until I could pull the first ears and make it again with the green and turning-to-red shishito peppers in the pepper bed.  The other night, we served it with fresh crab. Perfect!

Spicy Corn and Shishito Salad

corn shishito salad

YIELD 4 servings

In this recipe, shishito peppers are sliced, lightly sautéed, then tossed with raw summer corn and a cumin-lime vinaigrette for a summer salad that’s crunchy, smoky and a little spicy. Traditionally used in Japanese and Korean cooking, shishitos are small, thin-skinned green peppers that have become increasingly popular in the United States. They are typically mild in flavor, but the occasional pepper packs a spicy punch. If you can’t find them, use diced green bell peppers in their place. Finally, cilantro-averse cooks can substitute fresh mint.

3 ½  tablespoons olive oil

2  tablespoons fresh lime juice

¼  teaspoon ground cumin

Kosher salt

⅓  cup diced red onion

1  garlic clove, minced

3  cups fresh corn kernels (from 4 to 6 ears of corn)

6  ounces shishito peppers, stemmed and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch slices, or green bell peppers, stemmed and diced

1  large jalapeño, seeds and ribs removed, diced

¼  cup grated Cotija or crumbled feta cheese (optional), or to taste (goat cheese works too)

¼  cup chopped fresh cilantro leaves and tender stems, plus more to taste

  1. In a small bowl, whisk 2 tablespoons olive oil with the lime juice, cumin and 3/4 teaspoon salt. Stir in the red onion and garlic and set aside until ready to use. (Do this step first so the onions and garlic have time to mellow slightly in the dressing.)
  2. Place the corn kernels in a large bowl and set aside. In a medium (10-inch) sauté pan, heat the remaining 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil over medium heat. Add the shishitos, jalapeño and a pinch of salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until the peppers are tender and beginning to brown, 4 to 6 minutes.
  3. Add the peppers and dressing to the bowl with the corn and toss well. corn shishito salad getting shishitosAdd the cheese, if using, and toss. Garnish with cilantro.

My friend Nancy makes beautiful tomato pies, so this year I tried one, following a recipe for Heirloom Tomato Tart.  It was beautiful and delicious, fresh tomatoes melting in a custardy, basil-flavored base.

tomato tart heirloom

I’ll make it again, and I’ll also try a few more of the many tomato pie recipes out there. It’s hard to beat a simple plate of sliced tomatoes, but my husband would argue that one way to do it is to wrap those tomatoes in pie crust.

We’ll keep eating late-summer food until it runs out. And after that?  Luckily, there are fall and winter vegetables growing steadily in the kitchen garden, ready when we need them to feed us in the darker, cooler days ahead.

Heirloom Tomato Tart

Vallery Lomas

Yield: 4 to 6 serving

Time: 1 and 1/2 hours

INGREDIENTS

  •  Dough for a 9-inch single crust pie, or use store-bought, rolled into an 11-inch round (see Note)
  • 1 ½ pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes (about 4 medium)
  • ¼ cup store-bought pesto
  • ¾ cup shredded mozzarella (about 3 ounces)
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano
  • 3 large eggs
  • ⅓ cup heavy cream
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

PREPARATION

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Fit the rolled-out dough into a 9-inch tart pan, allowing the edges to rise about 1/4 inch above the rim of the pan. Prick the dough all over with a fork.
  2. Line the dough with aluminum foil and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake for 15 minutes until beginning to brown at the edges. Remove from the oven and carefully remove the foil and weights. Increase the oven temperature to 375 degrees.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the tomatoes into 1/2-inch slices. Place in a colander to drain excess tomato liquid for 20 minutes.tomato tart crust and tomatoes
  4. Spread 1/4 cup pesto in an even layer over the parbaked tart crust. Sprinkle the shredded mozzarella over the pesto. Sprinkle the fresh basil and oregano over the cheese.tomato tart gettng pesto, mozz
  5. In a medium bowl, prepare the custard: Whisk together the eggs, cream, salt and pepper until combined.
  6. Place the sliced tomatoes evenly over the cheese and herbs in overlapping concentric circles.
  7. Pour the custard evenly over the tomato slices. Swirl the pan to evenly distribute the liquid. Bake until the filling is set and won’t jiggle when shaken, about 35 minutes.
  8. Remove from the oven and let cool slightly before serving warm. This tart can also be served at room temperature.

Sweet Pepper Salad

The red, orange and yellow peppers—Revolution, Gourmet, and Flavorburst—in my kitchen garden are ripening finally, their dark green giving way to bright colors, and with these colors come their sweet and spicy flavors.  They are delicious raw, sliced length-wise for snacks or lunch, as scoops for dips or piled into a bowl as a quick side dish for a casual dinner.  The other night, though, I wanted a more interesting presentation than the simple slices so I turned to a source that never fails me: Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables (1996).

I’ve used this cookbook for years but it still surprises me with new recipes that I’d overlooked.  This time, the discovery was pepper salad.  It’s one of those recipes that Waters in her introduction classifies as a snapshot: “narrative descriptions that leave much to the imagination and intuition of the cook.” In this “album of possibilities for vegetables,” these snapshots are scattered among more formal portraits that list specific quantities of “ingredients and step-by-step instructions.” (p. xx)

Under the title “Pepper and Onion Salad” she writes: “Seed and slice thin some peppers of different colors and varieties.  Slice a small to medium sweet red onion very thin and toss together with the pepper slices, some pitted nicoise olives, and a spoonful of capers rinsed of brine.  Make a vinaigrette with red wine vinegar and good olive oil, and season with chopped garlic and jalapeno pepper and red pepper flakes.   Taste and season with salt and pepper.  Cut basil leaves into a chiffonade and sprinkle over the salad.  This salad should be spicy and robust.”

My dining companions and pantry shaped my first version of this salad. I left out the raw onion because some people dislike it and used capers but not nicoise olives because I didn’t have any.  I added lots of red pepper flakes and garlic but no jalapenos because, again, I didn’t have any.  And I added lots of basil.  I used my food processor to slice the peppers.  The 2 mm blade made thin but still crunchy slices, and the pepper juices released by the slicing blended wonderfully with the vinaigrette of red wine vinegar and olive oil. I took the salad to a potluck where the featured dish was crab rolls, an end-of-crab-season treat. This beautiful and delicious pepper salad was a perfect substitute for coleslaw.

Next time I make this salad, I’ll try adding red onion, perhaps pickling it first before mixing it with the peppers and I’ll add some kalamata olives if I don’t have nicoise.  I might also toss it with some green beans, boiled three to five minutes until tender and cooled.  The colors and flavors would pair perfectly.

As the pepper harvest continues, I’m going to look more carefully at Waters’ other pepper recipes.  The Stuffed Roasted Red Peppers with breadcrumbs, herbs and sheep’s milk cheese tempts me.  It’s a formal portrait recipe but I’m anticipating that there will still be plenty of room for the cook’s imagination.