Simple & cheap ways to prepare summer vegetables

Midwest farmers suffered through a rough spring, but the past two months have been ideal for growing things.  Our CSA shares started out small, but we’re now getting more vegetables than we can eat in a week. Here’s what I’m doing with the vegetables in my weekly share.

Lettuce

Naturally, lettuce makes great salads - my favorite is a BLAT salad (also works on a sandwich).  Start with a big bed of greens, top with a bit of homemade balsamic vinaigrette, add some crumbled bacon, sliced avocado, and chopped tomato.  Finish with lots of freshly ground black pepper.  Serve with warm, crusty bread. 

Tomatoes

Red, ripe tomatoes are a treat this time of year.  I have been known to eat an entire garden fresh tomato with nothing more than some salt and pepper, and of course there’s the classic BLT, but one of my favorite ways to enjoy tomatoes is in caprese salad.  It’s super-easy to make and so refreshing. 

On a large plate, alternate slices of fresh whole-milk mozzarella, fresh basil leaves, and sliced, ripe tomato.  Sprinkle with salt & pepper and finish with a drizzle of balsamic dressing.  Serve with crostini or grilled slices of French bread.

I also make raw tomato pasta dish with Neman Ranch Italian sausage.  Prepare penne according to the directions, reserve a little pasta water.  Toss hot pasta with chopped heirloom tomatoes, fresh torn basil, and the reserved pasta water (if I have red peppers, I’ll blister them on the grill and add those to the ‘sauce’ as well).  Add salt, pepper, and grated parmesan cheese, top with grilled sausage slices, and enjoy. 

Potatoes

I love to cook potatoes on the grill.  We’ve been getting small, yellow-skinned potatoes in our share lately.  To prepare these, I simply scrub well, slice (leavings skins on), and throw in a buttered aluminum foil packet with sliced onions, salt, and pepper.  Grill sealed packet for 20-30 minutes and enjoy.  Don’t care for onion?  Try sprinkling the potatoes with dry ranch dressing and dill.  Yum!

Green Beans

My favorite recipe that features green beans is from my mom. Place a few strips of chopped bacon into a large frying pan with fresh green beans and sliced onions.  When the onions are translucent and the bacon is done, add a splash of apple cider vinegar.  Cook for another minute or so, remove from heat, hit beans with a bit of salt and pepper, and serve.

Carrots, Sugar Snap Peas, and Broccoli

Matt is a huge fan of Asian-influenced dishes.  I make a simple stir-fry by marinating diced chicken breast in soy sauce and lime juice (I just refrigerate it in a Ziploc bag for an hour or so).  Cook marinated chicken in a large, hot oiled skillet or wok.  Add carrots, peas, broccoli, water chestnuts, and onions to pan and cook until veggies are crisp-tender (add the veggies in this order: carrots first, then the onions, then the others).  I create a sauce out of whatever I have in my fridge - typically some combination of a few of the following:  oyster sauce, honey, teriyaki, soy sauce, red pepper flakes, peanut sauce, lemon or lime juice, rice vinegar, Thai chili sauce, hoison sauce, etc.

Other ideas

At the end of the week, if we still have lots of veggies sitting around the house - I’ll chop them up, drizzle them with olive oil, top with salt, pepper, parmesan, and fresh herbs (any herb will do - dill, thyme, parsley) - and then roast them on a jellyroll pan.   This works especially well for eggplant, summer squash, zucchini, onions, potatoes, and firm tomatoes.

Another easy way to use up vegetables is to make a giant pot of soup.  I’ll buy some tomato juice and dump it in a large pot (I don’t have enough tomatoes, or I might consider canning my own juice), add potatoes, corn, beans, peas, peppers, onions, celery, carrots, salt & pepper, and simmer slowly for a few hours (this is a great crock-pot dish).  You can also add beef, barley, noodles, or rice to the mix.  If there are extra greens in the house (kale or spinach), I’ll add them right before serving. 

Freezing is another possibility.  We don’t currently have a deep freeze, so we’re limited on what we can ‘put up’ - but our freezer does contain some corn and homemade tomato sauce.  Canning is also a great option if you’ve got the time and storage space.  When I was young, my mom and grandmothers canned everything from peaches to tomatoes to green beans - and I remember freezing tons of corn and strawberry jam.  Maybe I’m just too lazy, or perhaps I’m lacking the Suzy-homemaker gene, but I’ve yet to be tempted to take a stab at canning or freezing huge quantities on my own. 

Waste

I’d love to say that we never waste our CSA share, but I would be lying.  I threw out turnips early in the season because there were just too many, and neither Matt nor I much care for beets (we’ve been meaning to give them to his mom, but have forgotten week after week). 

Have any favorite summer vegetable recipies? Please share them in the comments section below.

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8 Responses to “Simple & cheap ways to prepare summer vegetables”

  1. My Daily Dollars Says:

    Great tips! I love to make a tomato salad with goat cheese, capers, tuna, olive oil and balsamic vinegar. We’ve got some meyer lemon oil and fig vinegar that makes everything extra yummy!

  2. JP Says:

    Here is a great recipe for a raw tomato sauce with basil and mint. You can make it without the ricotta/pine nuts and it still comes out great. Depends on your taste and ingredients you have. My kids love it. Enjoy!

  3. JP Says:

    Forgot the url - http://tastyplanner.com/recipes/88-mint-pesto-pasta

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