By Susan Nye What’s not to love about summer eating? The markets are filled with gorgeous fresh fruits and vegetables. With our short growing season, it is a real treat to have local produce. Locally grown can also mean big savings. If you didn’t plant a vegetable garden, you might want to put it on your list of things to do next spring. You don’t have to plow up the entire yard. Plant a few of your family’s favorites and support the local farmers for the rest of your shopping list.
Thinking ahead, it’s a good idea to take advantage of summer’s bounty and preserve some of the harvest for the long winter ahead. You can freeze, can, dry and pickle many fruits, vegetables and herbs. You can also make jams and jellies to use throughout the winter. Homemade preserves make great and inexpensive holiday gifts. The National Center for Home Food Preservation (www.uga.edu/nchfp/) has an excellent web site to help you get started.
For Now: Fire up the grill for an economical cookout filled with local produce. Sweet and delicious blueberry cupcakes complete this outdoor feast. Enjoy it all for less than $12.
Grilled Sausages with Zucchini and Couscous Salad There are lots of different sausages available in the market. Experiment and find your favorite. Complete your dinner with a couscous salad. Served a room temperature or even chilled, it is a real kid pleaser! Serves 4
Olive oil 1 T. fresh lemon juice 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste 1 c. couscous 2 zucchini, sliced lengthwise about 1/2-inch thick 1 red onion, cut in 1/2-inch strips 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut in 1/2-inch strips Salt and pepper 1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley leaves, chopped 2 T. fresh mint, chopped 1 T. fresh oregano, chopped 4 sausages of your choice
Put lemon juice, 1 T. olive oil and garlic in a large bowl; whisk to combine.
Prepare the couscous according to package directions. Add to the bowl with the lemon and olive oil vinaigrette. Toss to combine.
Preheat grill to medium high.
Put the onion and pepper in a large bowl, drizzle with a little olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Cook in a grill basket until tender crisp, 5-8 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Lightly brush the zucchini slices with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss. Cook the zucchini on the grill 2-3 minutes per side.
When cool enough to handle, roughly chop the vegetables. Add the chopped vegetables to the couscous, sprinkle with herbs and toss. Set aside while you grill the sausages. (The Zucchini and Couscous can be made ahead and refrigerated until ready to serve.)
Place the sausages on the grill and cook through, turning every 5 minutes for 10-15 minutes or according to package directions.
Blueberry cupcakes Some might call these muffins, but even without frosting, these lovely little gems are more dessert than breakfast.
Makes about 32 cupcakes
3 1/2 c. sifted flour 5 tsp. baking powder 1 tsp. cinnamon 1/2 tsp. nutmeg 1 tsp. salt Grated peel from 1 lemon 1 1/2 c. (3 sticks) butter 1 c. granulated sugar 1 c. brown sugar 2 eggs 1 1/2 c. milk 1 pint blueberries tossed in 1T. flour
Line muffin pans with paper liners. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Sift together flour, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Whisk in the grated lemon peel.
With an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar together. Add egg and beat on high speed until smooth. Reduce speed to low and add the flour mixture and milk in two batches, alternating and beginning and ending with flour and mixing until just combined.
Toss the blueberries with 1 T. flour and fold into batter. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full with the batter. Bake at 400 degrees for 18-20 minutes.
Control you budget and your waistline by freezing the extras for future desserts. Defrost at room temperature. If you’d like, gently warm and crisp in a 350 degree oven for 3-5 minutes. For Later: I don’t do a lot of canning or pickling but every summer I freeze a good supply of fruits, vegetables and soups for use throughout the winter.
Tips for freezing berries Pick more than you need and reap the benefits of seasonal prices by freezing some for later. Use them in yogurt shakes, muffins and pies for a taste of summer all year long.
Rinse the berries in a large colander; remove any stems or stray leaves and drain. Place a clean, dry dish towel on the bottom of a rimmed nonstick baking sheet, add the berries in a single layer and gently pat dry. Remove the towel and again arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet in the freezer. Once the berries are frozen solid, remove the berries from the baking sheet and transfer to plastic, re-sealable freezer bags or air-tight plastic containers and return to the freezer. Susan Nye lives in New Hampshire and is a regular contributor to several New England magazines and newspapers. She writes about family, friendship and food and shares many of her favorite recipes on her weekly blog at www.susannye.wordpress.com.