August 28, 2013

The Maine Ingredient: Use that ripe produce pronto because summer's closing the window

By BROOKE DOJNY

Tomatoes, squash, peppers, eggplants, sweet onions, herbs, stone fruits -- all are now here in beautiful abundance in our gardens and at the farmers markets, and it's imperative to work as many as possible into each and every meal. Here are a couple of ideas.

GRILLED SUMMER VEGETABLE SALAD WITH BALSAMIC VINEGAR

Vegetables are tossed with garlicky olive oil, grilled and drizzled with rich balsamic vinegar. Although this is billed as a salad, and is great as a side to grilled steak, fish or chicken, it could also stand alone as a main course, sprinkled with feta cheese and sandwiched between wedges of focaccia.

Servings: Six

1 teaspoon salt

2 garlic cloves

6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 small eggplants or 1 larger eggplant (about 1 pound), unpeeled, sliced about 1/2-inch thick

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 11/2-inch-wide pieces

2 medium yellow squash (about 12 ounces), sliced about 1/2-inch thick

2 zucchini (about 12 ounces), sliced about 1/2-inch thick

1/2 cup coarsely chopped fresh herbs -- oregano, parsley, basil, thyme or a combination, plus sprigs for garnish

Freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Coarsely chop the salt and garlic, then use the side of a large chef's knife to mash to a paste. Stir into the oil and set aside for at least 1 hour to blend flavors.

Build a medium-hot charcoal fire or preheat a gas grill. Combine vegetables and the herbs in a large bowl and toss with the oil to coat well. Grill, turning once or twice, until vegetables are nicely charred with grill marks and are quite soft, about 15 minutes.

Transfer vegetables to a platter, cut into more manageable size pieces if desired, grind pepper over, drizzle with the vinegar and garnish with herb sprigs. Serve warm or at room temperature or cold.

SHINGLED TOMATO AND NECTARINE WITH OLIVE VINAIGRETTE

Make this beautiful salad now, at the height of summer, when tomatoes and stone fruits are at their peak of ripeness.

Servings: Four to six

1 pound (4 medium) ripe tomatoes, cored and sliced

2 medium nectarines or peaches, pitted and sliced

One quarter of a sweet white onion such as Vidalia, thinly sliced

About 16 basil leaves

3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/2 cup chopped imported black olives

Arrange the tomatoes, nectarines, onion and basil leaves overlapping on a platter. Refrigerate until ready to serve.

Whisk the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper together in a small bowl. Whisk in the oil and stir in the olives. (Can be made up to a day ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Spoon the dressing evenly over the salad and serve.

Brooke Dojny is author or co-author of more than a dozen cookbooks, most recently "Lobster!" (Storey, 2012). She lives on the Blue Hill peninsula, and can be contacted via Facebook at facebook.com/brookedojny

 

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