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Friday, 28 August 2015 13:42

Summer is fading, but its flavors are still fresh

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The peaches have been terrific this year -- it’s a taste of summer you can jar up and enjoy on the coldest winter day.

Peach is one jam I prefer to cook (instead of using the no-cook method, called freezer or refrigerator jam). The reason is that cooked jam is a bit thicker than the freezer jam, and peaches are not one of my favorite things to freeze -- they just don’t retain the same flavor and texture. 

I like to use the jam for toppings on cheesecake, coffeecake, crepes, pancakes and ice cream or yogurt. Oh yeah, and for toast. Pear jam can be made with this same recipe.

Peach or pear jam

Makes 3-1/2 pints

4 cups prepared peaches

2 Tbsps. fresh lemon juice

1 Tbsp. butter

1 package granular pectin (1.75 oz Sure Jell or equivalent)

5 cups sugar

Prepare the peaches by washing, removing any bruised portions, peeling and pitting. Finely chop the peaches but do not use a Cuisinart or food processor --- it makes them too mushy. 

Put the prepared peaches into a heavy stockpot and add the lemon juice, butter and pectin. Bring this mixture to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. 

Add the premeasured sugar all at once and return to a full rolling boil, stirring constantly. Boil one minute, remove from heat and immediately fill sterilized pint jars and seal. 

You could substitute an equal amount of pears for the peaches.

Garden greens

That’s right, don’t toss those beet leaves and greens to the compost pile. They’re loaded with potassium, calcium and vitamin A. They are simple to cook. The young leaves are the best. Just wash thoroughly and cook in just the water that’s left on them. Microwave them for even faster results.

Fresh picked beet greens, chard, endive or escarole

Olive oil

Sesame seeds

Balsamic vinegar

Wash the beet greens and let drain in colander, while you heat the oil in a large fry pan. Toast the sesame seed for just a minute in the oil, then add the beet greens and cover tightly. Cook until tender, about 15 to 20 minutes. Splash with balsamic vinegar and serve.

Carrot salad

This is one of those salads that I fell in love with when I used to manage a deli -- a few years back, I admit. But with purchased salads, you end up with preservatives you don’t need and this is one salad that is much cheaper to make than buy. And everyone has carrots in their vegetable bin or, if you garden, in your harvest basket.

Serves 8-10

2 cups coarse, grated or chopped carrots*

1/2 lemon

1 cup crushed pineapple, well drained

1/2 cup raisins

1/4 cup sour cream

1/2 cup whipped cream or substitute

3 Tbsps. honey

Grate or chop the carrots and squeeze the juice from 1/2 lemon over carrots and mix -- this keeps them from turning dark. Combine the carrots with remaining ingredients and refrigerate until well chilled. 

*The trick with this salad is to get the right cut of carrot pieces -- too fine and the salad is mushy, too coarse and the flavors don’t mingle like they should. I use the coarse cutter on my Cuisinart. You could try that or even a hand grater. You want tiny stick shapes for the best flavor.

Zucchini

It’s the most prolific vegetable of summer, so a couple more recipes won’t hurt. Even so, you’ll probably have more than enough, so try freezing some for winter.

I?like to grate the zucchini, leaving the skin on, and freeze two cups per Ziploc bag. Then in the middle of winter, I can make fresh zucchini muffins -- thaw, but do not drain the frozen zucchini and substitute for the two cups of fresh in this recipe.

Zucchini muffins

           

Makes 12 muffins

4 eggs

2 cups sugar

1 cup salad oil

2 cups zucchini, freshly grated, skin on

1 tsp. vanilla

1 tsp. salt

1-1/2 tsps. cinnamon

1 tsp.baking soda

1-1/4 tsps. baking powder

1-3/4 cup flour

Cream together eggs, sugar and oil. Add zucchini and vanilla and blend together. Sift together dry ingredients and add to mixture gradually until well blended. Scoop into 12 paper-lined muffin cups. Bake at 350 F. for about 20 minutes or until the top bounces back when you push it down slightly.

Zucchini salad

Serves 6

4 Tbsps. olive oil

3 small zucchini (about 1 pound)

1 clove crushed garlic

1 red pepper -- green is OK, but red is prettier

1 small red or white onion

3 or 4 plum tomatoes or 1 large slicing tomato

1/2 lemon

1 Tbsp. red wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

1 tsp. dried, crushed Italian herbs

In a saute pan, heat the olive oil. Wash, but do not peel the zucchini. Slice into thin rounds. Slice the red pepper and onions into thin strips. Saute the zucchini, crushed garlic clove, red pepper and onions briefly -- just until the zucchini wilts a little. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Slice the plum tomatoes into thin rounds and add to mixture. Squeeze the juice of one half lemon over all, straining to remove the seeds. Sprinkle the vinegar, herbs and salt over all and mix everything together. Refrigerate for several hours before serving.

Tomatoes on the grill

These make a good side dish for any food you are cooking on the outdoor grill. Grill tomato halves, cut side up, 3 inches from heat about five minutes or until hot all the way through. Dot with butter, season and sprinkle with crushed herbs. Any combination of parsley, dillweed, basil, thyme or savory works good. 

Tomatoes, like apples, give off a natural ethylene gas, which hastens the ripening of fruit. You can take advantage of this by taking the not-quite-ripe fruit and enclosing it in a brown paper bag -- the gas gets trapped and helps to ripen the fruit even faster. You can hasten the ripening of other fruit with the same method.

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