Story and Recipes by Terese Allen, Food Editor
Can you hear that rumble in the distance? Sounds like thunder, but it's not--it's the summer stampede of fresh fruits and vegetables making its way towards market stands and grocery stores. Indeed, as we sweat out nature's annual heat surge, the mid-season harvest is of near indecent quantity and quality. But ironically, ninety-degree temperatures and a plethora of produce aren't always a good mix. Nobody wants to boil beans or saute broccoli on the stovetop when it's hot enough to fry an egg on the sidewalk.
So when the heat is on, the oven goes off. Yet there's still plenty of cool ways to enjoy Summer's bounty--and now's the time for dishes that require little or no cooking. Think chilled soups, stacked sandwiches, salads-in-the-raw, and easy, breezy freezer desserts.
When you're layering ingredients between slices of bread or tossing them with crisp greens, start with at-its-peak local produce, and look to provocative but convenient touches like herbs or lemon zest to give a burst of flavor. Keep it light but make it satisfying: use leftover bread or soaked grains as the base for a main-course salad, or pair hunger-satisfying cheese with fresh fruit and nuts. Consider a new technique like slicing fennel ultra-thin for juicy crunch, or try a variation on an old theme, like combining carrot strips and string cheese in a new-age "cole slaw."
To start the meal, go for an eye-catching fruit soup, something to whet the appetite without wilting the cook. And for an icy finish, create a quick sundae or a float with homemade frozen yogurt. From a simple chop-and-toss sauce for couscous to a refreshing cinnamon-spiked punch, there's no need to sweat. Just check out this month's recipes...and keep your cool in the kitchen.