By Catherine Morba
We have waited patiently, our farmers have worked tirelessly, and the Upstate New York soil has recognized the efforts and responded with annual generosity. Market tables are beginning to overflow with rainbows of fresh vegetables, fruits, and herbs. With so many ingredients for the taking, cooks can indulge in cravings for juicy peaches, leafy greens, and heirloom tomatoes of all sorts while paying homage to the local lands that bore them.
This special season deserves cooking that is equally so. The ideal recipe is light, refreshing, and a celebration of all summer has to offer. Another consideration is temperature. During the dog days of summer, the less time spent inside with ovens ablaze the better. When heat is required, a grill can be a saving grace. Grilling up a large batch of fresh vegetables tossed in a simple marinade such as minced garlic, lemon juice, and good quality olive oil provides options for the next several meals. I use a grill basket, skillet, or shish kabob set depending on the vegetable but prefer to put them right on the grate for the coveted grill marks. Serve them as-is, then combine leftovers with grains like bulgur, quinoa, or rice. Grill whole bell peppers and stuff with any of the above, or beans and cilantro for a Southwest take. Experiment with fresh herbs, cheeses, kinds of vinegar, and seasonings to round out the dishes.
This week, try Polenta with Grilled Eggplant, Tomatoes and Basil. While the grate is still hot, make way for a dessert of Grilled Peaches with Browned Butter and Cinnamon Crumbs. The options for different flavors, textures, and pops of color are endless and impressive, but not time-consuming. Meals that are quick to come together allow for more precious moments in the backyard with feet kicked up, full plate in hand, and family and friends abound.