Cooking with the Season

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As I explained a few months ago, my husband and I have been participating in a community-supported agriculture (CSA) program for the first time this year.

I can't recommend the experience strongly enough; if you have the chance to sign up for one in your area next year, do it! Our half-share worked out to cost less than $1 a day each—roughly the cost of a mealy apple from an office cafeteria, but a source of much yummier snacks.

The one we chose (Norman's Farm Market) has three 8-week seasons, and we're nearing the end of the second one now. Spring brought us gorgeous greens and small portions of treats like rhubarb and asparagus, while summer has been a more constant cornucopia: corn, zucchini, cucumbers, tomatoes, potatoes, onions, peppers, melons, peaches and nectarines.

Here are just a few of the simple ways we've found to eat our way through this seasonal bounty. I'd love to hear your favorite summer produce recipes as well!

Grilled Potato Packets

​I learned this trick from my mom; it's easy to make and clean up, and even easier to devour. For each packet, use at least a foot of tinfoil sprayed with olive oil. Thinly slice one medium potato, onion and pepper (I prefer red varieties of all three) and lay them out in overlapping slices on half of the foil, leaving a margin for folding up the edges. Tuck slivers of butter beneath a few of the slices, and sprinkle it all with salt, pepper, and a few crushed red pepper flakes. Fold the foil shut to form a packet,  and grill for about 20 minutes. (I like to let it all blacken a bit on the bottom, but if you don't, try 12-15 minutes.) In case I didn't explain that very well, there are similar recipes on other sites, including Delish and YumSugar.

Jalapeño-Dressed Watermelon and Tomato Salad

I discovered this at Mitsitam cafe, and was initially ambivalent about the combination of sweet, savory and spicy, but it's amazing. I don't know their exact recipe, but Epicurious has a simple jalapeño-lime vinagrette recipe that does the trick nicely; just toss it with chunks of ripe melon and tomato.

Simple Succotash

There's not really a recipe for this—just depends what you have on hand. I think we used a yellow squash, a red potato, a green pepper, half an onion and a garlic clove, plus the corn kernels stripped from two leftover ears. Heat a little olive oil in a skillet, saute the onions, garlic and potatoes for about five minutes and then add the rest for five minutes more. Sprinkle with salt, pepper and other seasonings to taste (I used a few shakes of a cilantro-and-ginger hot sauce called Uncle Brutha's No. 9, made here in DC).

Roasted Tomato Lasagna

My husband was the chef on this one (he doesn't mind standing in front of a hot oven in late August; one of his many fine qualities). First, he tossed tomato slices with olive oil and salt and roasted them on a baking sheet for about half an hour at 400 degrees. While they cooked, he prepped the other ingredients: no-boil noodles dipped in hot water, slices of zucchini and yellow squash, chunks of green pepper and rings of red onion. On a whim, he also threw in a few pieces of an unidentified hot pepper, though I made him stop after tasting it induced the hiccups. With a base of store-bought tomato sauce to add moisture, he layered on the noodles, roasted tomatoes, veggies, grated fontina cheese, fresh basil and oregano; ending with a blanket of fresh mozzarella. After 45 minutes in the oven, it was AWESOME. (Thinking back on it, he could have roasted all the veggies, but I liked the contrasting textures of the still-slightly-crispy green pepper and onion with the soft noodles, cheese and sauce.)

Grilled Corn on the Cob

We've tried two ways, and both work well to keep the corn from drying out. Either toss the unshucked ears right on the grill for 20-25 minutes, or shuck and wrap each ear in tinfoil with a little olive oil, grilling for 10-15 minutes. Remember to rotate the ears several times. Use tongs to remove and let them cool a bit before trying to husk/unwrap. For a lighter touch than butter, try rubbing a cut lime across the kernels, then sprinkling with salt and pepper.

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