As August winds down, get thee to a farmer’s market! It’s your best source for flavorful tomatoes and fresh corn—perfect for whipping up quick salads and sandwiches for a lazy, end-of-summer meal. I like to indulge (yes, stuff myself) on these ripe, seasonal foods, since I know I’ll have to wait, forlornly, through the fall, winter and spring for next summer’s harvest.
The choice to use local produce is actually a great topic for discussion at the dinner table. Although our ancestors were forced to eat locally, now we can get food from every corner of the world, at any time of the year. But is that necessarily a good thing? What are the pros and cons of buying food that comes from thousands of miles away? If eating non-seasonal produce from the grocery store (lettuce in December, for example), allows you to eat healthier, does that justify the environmental cost of shipping food from somewhere warmer? These are just a few questions you can ask your kids to prompt them to think about where their food comes from, and how food consumption impacts the planet.
The fact remains, though, that August and September are lovely months for enjoying local vegetables and fruits. So, when your kitchen is too hot and you feel tired, try some of these easy recipes for a lazy dinner.
- Good French bread
- Pesto, either homemade or from a jar
- Ripe tomato, sliced
- Fresh mozzarella, sliced
- Fresh basil, stems removed
- Optional: prosciutto or good sliced ham
This sandwich includes protein, dairy, vegetable and a grain. That’s a super healthy combo!
Cut the bread into four or five inch lengths, then slice each piece horizontally. Spread about a tablespoon of pesto on one side of the bread. Layer as follows: tomato, mozzarella, a whole leaf or two of basil, and prosciutto. Serve with the corn/tomato salad or tabbouleh (recipes below).
CORN AND TOMATO SALAD
- Fresh corn, kernels cut off
- Cherry tomatoes, washed and dried
- Basil leaves, chopped fine
- Good olive oil
- Lemon juice or Balsamic glaze
- Salt and pepper
- Optional: goat cheese, sliced scallions
This is a totally forgiving recipe, which is why I didn’t include amounts. To start, put a whole ear of corn, husk and all, into the microwave and cook on high for 4 minutes per ear (this summer I got super lazy and have been microwaving corn). If the husk is too long to fit into the microwave, cut off the end.
Take the corn out, let it cool for 5 minutes, and then easily pull off the husk and silk. Using a sharp knife, slice all the kernels off. Here is a cute video from the New York Times that demonstrates how to do this.
Put cooked corn kernels and cherry tomatoes into a bowl. Add basil, small chunks of goat cheese and/or optional scallions. Mix thoroughly with a simple dressing of oil and lemon or balsamic glaze (I recommend the glaze—Trader Joe’s sells it for about $3 for 8 oz, and it lasts several months in the fridge). Add salt and pepper to your taste. Voila!
Kitchen helper tasks:
- Pick the herbs from the garden (it’s okay to use basil, parsley, or whatever herb you like)
- Husk the corn after it is cooked
- Mix the salad dressing
- Help taste test
- 1 cup bulgur, rinsed under running water
- 1 ½ cups boiling water
- 1 big cucumber or 2 small cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
- 2 scallions, chopped
- 1/2 cup chopped parsley
- 1/2 cup chopped mint
- 1 to 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- Salt and pepper
- 1/3 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 cup olive oil
- Optional: chopped tomatoes
This is a Mid-East staple, and a great way to include a whole grain into your diet. It includes bulgur, which is whole wheat that has been cut into smaller pieces and parboiled to make it easier to cook (look for bulgur in the “bulk foods” part of your market, or in the section where rice is sold).
Bulgur comes in different sizes, and it doesn’t matter what size you get, fine or coarse. To start, rinse the bulgur for 45 seconds under running water in a sieve. After the bulgur is drained, put in glass bowl and add boiling water. Let it sit half an hour (if too dry, add 1/4 cup more water; if too wet, toss in sieve and drain). Add cucumber, scallion, tomato and chopped mint and parsley.
Mix the dressing of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper. Pour onto bulgur and mix, then season it to taste. You can make it tastier with salt and more lemon or oil or herbs. Keep adjusting this yummy summer salad until it tastes just right to you.
This dish is great with hummus, olives, and pita bread. It also pairs well with a hamburger or chicken breast, as a delicious side dish.
Kitchen helper tasks:
- Older children, versed in knife skills, can easily make this all by themselves.
- A younger child can also make it, if you prep and chop. Have them mix the salad dressing, or the salad itself!