When it comes to cooking at home, August is my absolute favorite month. It’s when my wood cutting boards – and you know I have more than a few – get the biggest workout. From tomato salads to zucchini dips to just plain old sliced fruit, this month offers up one golden cooking opportunity after another.
Here in Baltimore, there are dozens of farmers’ markets to choose from, and they’re all great. My favorite also happens to be the city’s longest-running market. The Baltimore Farmers' Market and Bazaar takes place every Sunday morning right downtown, underneath the Jones Falls Expressway (most locals call it the JFX Market).
The market vendors include tons of farms, plus a bunch of local food makers that have solid followings. Every week, the line for Zeke’s Coffee stretches down one aisle – it’s smart to hit the fresh doughnut stand for hot, sugary doughnuts first, so you have snack while you’re waiting for your coffee.
Of course, the real stars of the market are the farmers – especially in August. Right now in Maryland, we are in high season for tomatoes, peppers, peaches, zucchini and just about every other type of produce you can imagine. Our corn is sweet and crunchy, our herbs plentiful and fragrant and every bite of fruit is juicy. It’s heaven.
When so many glorious ingredients are available, it would be wrong to stay out of the kitchen. Ripe, fresh fruits and veggies make dinner easy – there’s nothing simpler than a super fresh salad – but even in August, it’s nice to mix up the menu every once in a while.
I have a handful of go-to recipes I rely on this time of year. They’re all easy to make (so you won’t spend too long in the kitchen) and delicious. Here are links to a few of my favorites:
This salad of tomatoes, peaches, basil and burrata, from the blog Two Peas and Their Pod, is so simple and fresh. I usually add a splash of olive oil to the mix, too. And I’ve even made it without the burrata. It’s not quite as creamy that way, but it’s still fantastic.
If you can find them at the farmers’ market – or if you happen to have some in your own garden – never say no to squash blossoms. I’ve often had them stuffed with cheese, as a restaurant appetizer, but at home, I like to keep it simple. I don’t stuff them at all. Instead, I just drag them through a light batter, fry them quickly and sprinkle them with chunky salt (this recipe is a good example of how I do it). Then, of course, I eat them right over the sink.
A few years ago, I ran across the Barefoot Contessa’s recipe for panzanella – a tangy, Italian-inspired salad of bread, tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers – and I fell in love. It’s hearty enough to serve as a main course and packed with flavor, thanks to a mustardy vinaigrette and a healthy dose of capers.
I love hummus and I love zucchini – especially this time of year when you can’t walk down the street without someone offering you a gigantic zuke, just harvested from the garden. (Seriously, these grow like mad in Baltimore. Everyone’s always trying to give them away. It’s great!)
This recipe for grilled zucchini hummus is a fun twist on the dip – it subs in the squash for the chickpeas. It’s easy to make and especially good with pita or carrots.
Finally, one of my very favorite summertime recipes is something my mom used to make when I was growing up, using zucchini and tomato from our garden: a quick zucchini, onion and tomato bake. It’s so easy, so good and so versatile – you can eat it alone, as a side or even with some scrambled eggs thrown on top (which is how I ate it this morning).
Zucchini, Onion & Tomato Bake
2-3 zucchini, evenly sliced
1 onion, evenly sliced
2 tomatoes, evenly sliced
Parmesan cheese, grated or shaved
Salt & pepper to taste
Preheat the oven to 350.
In a glass pan, create one layer of zucchini, onion and tomato, using about one-third of the vegetables. Sprinkle some salt and pepper over the top.
Add a few slices of butter and sprinkle parmesan over the top.
Repeat the layering, buttering and sprinkling process three or four times, depending on the depth of your pan.
Cover with foil and bake for 45 minutes to one hour, until zucchini is soft.
Of course, you could also be just as happy simple sautéing some pasta with chopped tomatoes, garlic and olive oil, or gorging on nothing more than sliced tomato, neatly scattered across a cutting board, sprinkled with Old Bay. It’s summertime. That’s what summer eating is all about.
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