Summer’s Bounty

Originally Written by Lynne Bahrami

Summer continues to roll along and all of those tomatoes and cucumbers are reaching maturity.  It really is a great feeling to see nature’s bounty grow and ripen, but after picking the twentieth tomato and the seventeenth cucumber, even the most creative cooks can grow bored with a tomato sandwich or pickling cucumbers.  Here are some of my favorite late summer cucumber and tomato recipes.

Panzanella salad is a great way to use both tomatoes and cucumbers and can pass as a main dish.  Chop up fresh cucumbers and tomatoes, seed them if desired, add some onion, cubed mozzarella, fresh basil, balsamic vinegar, olive oil, salt, pepper, and cubed bread.  The bread will soak up the flavors of the vegetables and vinegar while adding substance to a simple salad.  The salad is best eaten after sitting for about an hour, but it will still taste great immediately or the next day.

Shirazi salad is a standard Persian salad also made with cucumbers and tomatoes, but with a slightly different flavor than Panzanella.  Start with diced tomatoes and diced seeded cucumber.  Add red onion, red wine vinegar, salt, and pepper.  Now comes some creativity: add some chopped fresh herbs, any herbs you like.  Mint works well, as do dill or parsley.  Use whatever happens to be taking over the garden bed.  Serve cold to accompany warm grilled kabobs.

Refrigerator tomato jam is a great way to use either ripe tomatoes or green tomatoes.  Peel and seed the tomatoes, cook tomatoes, sugar, salt, and some herbs, basil for a traditional taste or try tarragon for something new, over medium heat, stirring often.  When it reaches the desired consistency, remove from the heat, cool and store in the fridge.  Spread it on crackers, add it to a grilled cheese sandwich, spoon it over fried eggs, or eat it straight out of the jar!

If there is an excess of green tomatoes, the standard choice is fried green tomatoes, but for something sweet, try a Green Tomato Upside Down Cake. This cake is a mirror of a pineapple upside down cake, but with slightly different flavors and, yes, green tomatoes instead of the pineapples.

Extra cucumbers are wonderful sliced in water or for something with a greater kick, try making a Pimm’s Cup.  Start with Pimm’s #1, add sliced cucumbers, sliced strawberries, sliced oranges (or any fruit that is sitting in the fridge), then top with ginger ale, lemon soda, or seltzer.  Pour over ice and enjoy during the hot afternoons or warm evenings.

Except for the Green Tomato Cake, none of these recipes require precise measurements, so use flavorings and quantities that seem right and modify as necessary.

Happy cooking!