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Summer Vegetable Stampede

Summer Squash Stir-fry Summer Squash Stir-fry Photographed on Fiesta Dinnerware
by

We have reached that point during the summer where our gardens are producing fresh vegetables faster than most families can consume them. Even if you don't have your own garden, friends and neighbors who do may kindly press upon you bags bulging with tomatoes, okra, corn, onions and that most prolific of summer vegetables, the zucchini. What to do?

Well, don't get all stressed out about it -- cook it up! Let me count the ways:

First, there is a flavorful vegetable skillet dish called Confetti, a combination of onion, okra, corn and tomatoes. Not heavily spiced, Confetti relies on the flavors of gently sauteéd fresh vegetables. Okra is a hot weather crop commonly grown throughout the South, but it is starting to turn up in Northern supermarkets and is available frozen.

Then, the Summer Squash Stir-fry is a tangy and healthful way to enjoy all that garden-ripe zucchini, yellow squash and tomatoes. And if you have zucchini coming out your ears, bake some Zucchini Nut Bread to eat now or freeze for later.

Next is Green Beans and New Potatoes. For many children, as well as a surprising number of adults, green beans are the only acceptable "green" vegetable. As difficult as it is for me to relate to that, I have no trouble understanding why this dish has been present on the dinner tables of Texans for generations. Included in this recipe is an alternative preparation method that, for some of you, may be more in tune with healthy cooking.

Finally, for a real treat, get out that deep fryer and make a batch of Fried Onion Rings. You will have to guard these to keep them from being eaten before you get them to the table.

Vegetable lovers will have no trouble resisting the temptation to doctor up some of these recipes with cheese, sauces and spices. And while it is true that the Confetti and Summer Squash Stir-fry can be enlivened with the addition of chopped jalapeño or poblano chiles, try these dishes without resorting to fillers that add unwanted calories and mask the fresh goodness of summer's bounty.

Vegetable Confetti

  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 3 cups okra, rinsed, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 cups fresh corn (cut from cob)
  • 4 large ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices crisp bacon, crumbled
Melt butter in large skillet over medium heat; add the olive oil.

Add the onion and sauté for a few minutes; then add the okra, corn, tomatoes, salt and pepper. Stir and cover. Lower heat and simmer for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Before serving, sprinkle with crumbled bacon.

Makes 6 or 8 servings.

Summer Squash Stirfry

This is quick to put together and so delicious and healthful. Just rough-chop the vegetables and stirfry. You'll have it on the table in minutes.
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium zucchini, sliced
  • 2 medium yellow squash, sliced
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 large ripe tomato, peeled and chopped
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 1 teaspoon salt
Preheat a large skillet or wok for about 1 minute at medium heat, then add olive oil and continue to heat for 1 minute. Add the zucchini and yellow squash, onion and garlic, and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Add the remaining ingredients and reduce heat to simmer. Stirring occasionally, simmer 3 or 4 minutes or until vegetables are cooked, but not limp. Makes about 5 servings.

Green Beans and New Potatoes

This is how your mother and your grandmother prepared green beans for Sunday dinner. Don't get me wrong. I love green beans cooked this way. But see the notes at the bottom of the page if nutrition is your primary focus. And if you won't miss that lovely pot liquor.
  • 2 pounds fresh green beans, washed and snapped
  • 1/2 pound salt pork
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 6 or 7 medium new potatoes (red skin potatoes)
In a heavy Dutch oven, combine the beans, salt and salt pork with enough water to cover. Over medium-high heat, bring beans to a boil and cover. Reduce heat to low and cook for 1 hour.

Then, add the potatoes, cover, and cook for an additional 45 minutes. Remove lid, and cook over low heat until the liquid is substantially reduced and beans are very tender. Do not let the potatoes cook to pieces. (You can remove them if it becomes necessary, keep them warm and put them back in when the beans are done.)

Makes 6 or 7 servings. This recipe is an example of why Texans earned a reputation for cooking vegetables to death. Green beans, like all vegetables, retain more nutritients when they are cooked less.

To prepare a pot of fresh green beans with nutrition in mind, half fill a Dutch oven with water and bring it to a boil. Then add about 2 pounds of snapped green beans to the boiling water. After the water returns to a full boil, boil for 8 minutes; remove pot from heat and drain beans. Rinse beans with cold water to stop the cooking process. When you are ready to eat, reheat the beans with 3 or 4 tablespoons of butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Of course, if you refuse to have butter on your plate, you can substitute a little flavored olive oil.

Fried Onion Rings

Foods fried in oil that is suitably hot, 375°F, absorb surprisingly little oil. If you are not using an electric deep fryer with a preset correct temperature or thermostat, use a candy thermometer to test the temperature of your oil.
  • 3 very large onions
  • cold water
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 eggs
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 tablespoon canola oil
  • canola oil for deep frying
Peel the onions and cut into half-inch slices. Separate into rings. Put onion slices into a container of cold water and refrigerate for half an hour. Drain well; batter will not adhere to wet onion rings.

Mix together flour and salt. Add the eggs, milk and tablespoon of oil, and beat until smooth.

With tongs, dip onion rings into batter, allowing excess to drip off. Deep fry in hot oil (375°F), turning rings, until golden brown on each side, about 4 or 5 minutes. Be careful not to overcrowd your fryer. Drain on paper towels. Makes about 4 servings.

I strongly recommend that you not put off making these and other wonderful summer vegetable recipes. The season for home-grown vegetables doesn't last all that long. Carpe diem!

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