Cooking with Summer Vegetables
There are few better ways to spend a summer evening, in my opinion, then relaxing in the back yard with good friends over a sizzling grill. Preferably someone else’s back yard as I don’t fancy cleaning out the grill.
As a vegetarian, however, this lovely summer evening is sadly more often a fantasy than a reality. Everyone loves grilling steaks, burgers, and chicken wings, but not enough people appreciate the joy of a juicy, savory portabella mushroom cap or tender bunch of asparagus. Summer is one of the best times of the year for vegetables, and grilling is one of the healthiest and most flavorful ways to prepare them. Here’s a brief guide to some of summer’s most delicious bounty, with suggestions on how to serve them at your next cookout.
It’s technically a fruit, but I couldn’t resist including avocado on this list as it is my very favorite. Creamy, delicious and super nutritious, high in fiber and heart-healthy “good fat”—there’s nothing I don’t love about avocados. Avocados require little in the way of preparation. You can just peel them, salt them, slice them up and toss them on salads or mash them up to make guacamole or relish. When selecting your fruit, look for avocados that are firm but with some give and have smooth, unblemished skins.
Depending on the variety you choose, arugula complements almost any meal. Not only is it highly nutritious, it ranges in flavor from mild to almost spicy, and is particularly flavorful with paired with a lemon or red wine based vinaigrette dressing.
Eggplant is another amazing and hearty summer vegetable. Full of fiber and antioxidant promoting phytonutrients, eggplant is a staple of vegetarian diets as it functions as an effective meat substitute in many dishes and sandwiches. It’s also delicious and easy to cook. Eggplant Parmesan might be a little too heavy for summer, but eggplant on the grill brushed with olive oil and some salt and pepper makes a great snack.
Peppers are one of the most versatile vegetables around. Stir fry them, grill them, stuff them, chop them up for salads, salsa or guacamole—the ways to enjoy these colorful veggies are endless.
Finally, I couldn’t decide between cucumber and zucchini, so instead I’m going to duck that choice and recommend you indulge in some squash this summer! That way I can encourage you to seek out my newest obsession, cucumber lemonade (just blend together fresh squeezed lemon juice, cucumber and a little sugar) and tell you about the fantastic zucchini, lemon, and goat cheese pizza that was a big hit at a dinner gathering at my place last month. Mix about 4 oz of goat cheese with lemon, salt and pepper, spread on rolled out unbaked pizza dough and top with zucchini slices (alternating between yellow and green creates a lovely visual effect) and some fresh basil leaves. Drizzle with olive oil, salt and pepper, bake for 10 to 15 minutes in the oven at 450 degrees and take your pizza and a glass of Pinot Grigio out on the back porch to enjoy a cool summer breeze with your dinner.