4 Best Uses for Summer Produce

Have you been to the farmers’ market lately?

Delicate squash blossoms, sweet ears of corn, and zucchini on zucchini on zucchini.

It’s kinda overwhelming. And if you’re anything like me, you end up with a giant bag of produce on your counter. A bag that just stares at you wistfully until it’s eatin’ time or bust.

I gotchu. But let’s do this–for reals. Don’t let another bunch of kale go bad. And heaven forbid the peaches turn to mush.

Grab your paring knife, a bowl, and let’s get this show on the road.

**4 Best Uses for Summer Produce**

1. Take it to the salad.  Got vegetables? Salad, of course, is naturally the first option that comes to mind. If you think I’m talking about a sorry plate of limp greens, think again. And don’t you dare call it rabbit food, unless you’re prepared to compare yourself to a bunny with five-star treatment. When it comes to salads, a variety of tastes and textures is key. Try pairing something sweet with creamy and crunchy—peaches with roasted walnuts and goat cheese or perhaps beets with balsamic and tahini. For a salad with some serious staying power, add the holy trinity of YUM to your salad: protein, grains, and healthy fats. If you’re feeling bored by regular lettuce as a canvas, opt for kale or mesclun greens as your starter. Or alternatively, go beyond greens altogether with roasted fruit or pasta salads. What are you calling rabbit food, anyway?

2. Grillin’ & Chillin’. The union of vegetables and a barbecue is sort of like introducing a 16-year-old to his/her first car. One ride together, and the duo become practically inseparable. Sturdier vegetables like mushrooms, corn on the cob (farmers’ markets, get at me), artichokes, and zucchini will work best, but feel free to kebab-ify tomatoes or any softer vegetables too. As an extra plus. grilling vegetables totes has “bang for your buck” written all over it. Gorgeous grill marks, smoky flavor, and perfectly soft texture after only a few bucks and just five minutes on the ‘cue? Hellooo beautiful, let’s get on that bandwagon. If you’re planning on embarking on this smokin’ hot joy ride, I’d advise using a stainless steel vegetable grill basket to ensure that your veggies aren’t relegated to the fiery pits of barbecue hell.  And tongs. For the love of God, don’t forget the tongs.

3. Thirst Quencher. I say vegetables, and you grab a fork. WAIT. Think again. Release your inner hipster; put on a second coat of sunscreen; turn up the tunes; eat a cupcake (because you can); and then mosey on over to the cabinet with a big ‘ole glass. Okay, are you ready? Let’s make a journey to the blender. Start with whatever liquid you’re using—fresh orange juice or a splash of trusty milk. From here, things get sweet and fabulously fruity. Throw in diced nectarines for a summery dream or raspberries, if you’d like to be tickled pink. Or both. Because you’re all sorts of snazzy. Now for the kicker. GREENS. Grab a handful (or two) of spinach or kale, and don’t look back. Add some ice, ice baby and then blend your little heart away…or until smooth. Snag a straw from that takeout bag still on your counter from last week, a paper umbrella if sass is the name of your game, and then sip like a rockstar. Preferably while singing “California Gurls.”

P.S. Smoothie confusion? Try these recipes to hone your skills.

4. Plain Jane.  Fruits and vegetables. On their own. No frills or thrills. You’re probably looking at me right now like I’m a complete doofus. While that may be totally valid, hear me out. Watermelon with feta and mint is a foodie all-star dish of sorts. But there’s something to be said for biting into a huge crimson-pink slice of watermelon as in the golden days of childhood.  When allowed to do so, fruits & vegetables totally steal the limelight. They’re simple and unassuming, but like Audrey Hepburn’s little black dress, they’re totally timeless and classy too. So while telling you that eating summer produce “as is” may seem like either a ridiculous or obvious suggestion, I entreat you to do it anyway. Eat a handful of Bing cherries on the beach while laughing with friends; make simple cut tomatoes and basil for a tapas soiree; or let your tastebuds tango with a peach as juice runs down your arms. Soak in the sunshine, and drink up the sweet, simple pleasures of summer.

Lexi Cotcamp is a rising sophomore at Georgetown University and an unabashed lover of fruits and vegetables alike. When not serving up coffee on campus, bagging groceries, or learning about million dollar budgets, she finds time to stroll around farmers’ markets with no particular destination in hand. Read more here

Originally posted on Tuesday, July 31st, 2012

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