Greenpoint: Serving, saving summer’s rewards

Summer’s abundance is perfect for making sauces and salsas. (Margaret Hartley)

Summer’s abundance is perfect for making sauces and salsas. (Margaret Hartley)

It’s garden abundance season right now, whether you pick your dinner from your own yard, receive gifts of surplus from a gardening friend, or find your abundance from roadside vegetable stands or farm markets. And with all this fresh and home-grown food available, eating your way through summer is a breeze.

For gardeners, this is reward season, the time of year when your dinner was still growing an hour before you sat down to eat.

We’ve been eating our garden raw — in salads of kale and cucumber; sliced fennel or chopped beans tossed in lemon and oil; or tomatoes and corn, cut fresh off the cob. Or we’ve been throwing everything on the charcoal grill — thick slabs of squash, whole carrots, skewers of cherry tomatoes, onions, baby potatoes and slices of fingerling eggplant — all marinated in vinegar and herbs. Or whole corn, still in the husk, or bigger potatoes parboiled and sliced for the grill.

With our third or fourth heat wave of the summer, it’s nice to be cooking and eating outdoors.

When it’s not so hot, we’ll roast vegetables in the oven, both for dinner and to freeze for the winter. I cut firmer vegetables — onions, potatoes, winter squash, cauliflower, carrots — toss them in oil, salt and pepper, and spread them on a baking sheet to start roasting. Then I do the same with softer veggies — leeks, broccoli, peppers, summer squash, green or ripe tomatoes, tomatillos — and add them for the second half of roasting.

That’s a full dinner on its own, but it’s even better if I’ve made paneer with the goat’s milk, and cubed and roasted it along with the vegetables. Paneer is lovely in a roast veggie meal because it doesn’t melt. It browns and takes in the flavors it’s cooked with, adding a hearty protein to the mix.

Roasting is my favorite method for making salsas and sauces, too. It’s simple, fast, intensifies all the flavors and is far less watery than boiling sauces. Plus, you don’t have to stand over a hot stove and stir.

For red salsa, I chop and roast tomatoes, onions, garlic and hot peppers together. For green salsa I use tomatillos, which are thriving this year in all the heat. I prep the jars in their boiling water bath while the vegetables are roasting, then add vinegar and herbs to the roasting dish, and put it back in the oven so everything is boiling hot. Then I fill the jars and process them in the boiling water bath.

I make tomato sauce the same way, or just roast chopped tomatoes and can them. If you want a thick sauce, roast your tomatoes, skin and all, for about 45 minutes at around 450. Parchment paper helps with cleanup, and the longer you roast the thicker the sauce. You can pour the roasted tomatoes into a pot and blend them — with an immersion blender or even just a whisk. You can strain out any remaining seeds or skin, but everything pretty much melts together in the roasting process so it’s not really necessary. Then ladle into hot canning jars and process in a boiling water bath. Or, if you’re not into canning, cool and freeze the sauce.

Or just eat it right away. That’s what summer is about.

Greenpoint appears every other Sunday. Look for it next on Aug. 29. Reach Margaret Hartley at [email protected] or @Hartley_Maggie on Twitter. Opinions expressed in Greenpoint are hers and not necessarily the newspaper’s.

Categories: Food, Life and Arts

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