Signs that summer is wrapping up are everywhere. Kids have gone back to school; NFL games are underway; night temperatures are dropping; and prices of strawberries and blueberries have climbed back up.
Soon yellow squash and zucchini will be giving way to their cool-weather cousins such as butternut and spaghetti, and apples will rule the fruit shelves. But before that happens, celebrate the last two weeks of summer with one last hurrah, using produce that best defines the season.
Toss ripe nectarines and grapes with cucumbers and carrots. Then drizzle the salad with lemon juice and speckle it with cilantro for a no-frills, colorful and delicious mixed summer salad. As an alternate option, substitute nectarines with plums.
For a burst of vibrant flavors, prepare a mango-peach salsa that is spicy, tangy and sweet in equal measure by mixing chopped peaches, mangoes, yellow peppers, tomatoes, jalapeño, onion and lime juice. Finally, sprinkle some cilantro to give the dip an earthy flavor.
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You cannot let the season slip away without checking out baked tomatoes stuffed with beans and carrots mixed with a bechamel sauce, and topped with panko crumbs and a dab of butter. The stuffed tomatoes are a model of simplicity and pure, and are summer on a plate.
If your garden has gone a little zucchini crazy and has yielded more than you need for bread or fritters, make zucchini scones with the squash. With the addition of grated zucchini and Parmesan cheese, the classic English scone gets a savory makeover.
Capture the sweet strawberry sensation in an easy-to-make white chocolate-strawberry pie that will build a reservoir of goodwill instantly. The striking appearance is matched with a luxurious chocolate, creamy filling.
White chocolate-strawberry pie
Adapted from “The Big Book of Pies & Tarts” by Betty Crocker.
One 9-inch pie crust, store-bought
4 squares white baking chocolate (4 ounces)
3 tablespoons milk
8 ounces (1 package) cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 cup heavy cream, whipped
3 cups fresh strawberries, sliced
1 teaspoon apricot preserves
1/2 teaspoon water
Heat oven to 400 degrees. Cook pie crust as directed. Cool completely on rack.
In a small bowl, microwave 4 squares of white chocolate and milk uncovered, for about 2 minutes, or until softened and chocolate can be stirred smoothly. Cool to room temperature.
In another bowl, beat cream cheese, powdered sugar and orange peel with electric mixer on low speed until smooth. Beat in white chocolate. Fold in whipped cream.
Spread filling in baked shell. Arrange strawberry slices on filling in a concentric circle with points facing outward.
Heat preserves and water; mix well. Brush on top of strawberries.
Refrigerate about 2 hours, or until set.
Adapted from “Peaches” by Kelly Alexander.
11/2 cups tomatoes, chopped
3/4 cup pitted, diced peaches
1/2 cup red onion, diced
1/2 cup yellow pepper, diced
1/2 cup mango, peeled and diced
2 tablespoons jalapeño, finely diced
11/2 teaspoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon cilantro, minced
Tortilla chips for serving
In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, peaches, onion, yellow pepper, mango, jalapeño, lemon juice and cilantro. Stir gently. Add salt to taste.
Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours before serving.
Serve with tortilla chips.
From “Baking Step by Step” by Better Homes and Gardens.
21/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup butter
2 eggs, slightly beaten
3/4 cup whipping cream
1 cup shredded zucchini, water squeezed out
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Using pastry blender, cut in butter until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture; set aside.
In a medium bowl, stir together eggs and whipping cream. Add to flour mixture. Squeeze water from zucchini (one method: wrap in a clean dish towel and twist) and add to flour mixture. Then add cheese. Stir just until moistened.
Turn dough onto lightly floured surface and knead until dough is nearly smooth. Divide dough into half.
Pat half of the dough into a 6-inch circle. Cut into 6 wedges. Repeat with the remaining half.
Place wedges 2 inches apart on an ungreased baking sheet. Bake for 15 minutes or until golden. Remove scones from baking sheet and serve warm.
Makes 12 scones
Mixed summer salad
Recipe from Suganthi Subramaniam (mother of Arthi Subramaniam).
1 cup ripe nectarines, diced
1 cup grapes, sliced
1 cup cucumbers, diced
1 cup carrots, diced
1/4 cup sweet onion
1 teaspoon cilantro, finely minced
2 tablespoons lemon juice
Salt to taste
In a large bowl, gently combine nectarines, grapes, cucumbers, carrots, onion, cilantro and lemon juice. Add salt to taste.
Refrigerate for 1 hour before serving.
Recipe from Suganthi Subramaniam.
4 tablespoons butter, plus 2 tablespoons for topping
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups (2 percent) milk
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Salt to taste
3/4 cup corn
3/4 cup carrots, finely cut
3/4 cup green greens, finely cut
3 large, firm tomatoes, cut in halves
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
3 tablespoons panko breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
Over medium heat, melt butter in a small pan. Then add flour and keep stirring to avoid it from becoming lumpy. Add milk; continue stirring to form a smooth paste. Season with pepper and salt. Add vegetables and mix well.
Cut tomatoes in half; scoop out pulp. Coat outside of tomatoes with oil. Fill with vegetable mixture.
Top tomatoes with breadcrumbs and cheese. Dot with remaining butter. Bake tomatoes for 45 minutes, or until well cooked.