Enjoy the last taste of summer gardens

Published 2:11 am Saturday, September 3, 2011

Labor Day is an American national holiday designed to recognize the achievements of workers and their accomplishments. This day also traditionally marks the end of the summer season as well. (We, in the deep South know better.) I think it is the perfect time to serve those vegetables left in the garden such as peppers, zucchini, peas, beans, okra and corn. I have decided to grill a steak, hamburger, or a piece of fish and serve these side dishes using what is left in the summer garden.

Corn and Zucchini Orzo Salad

Serves 6

6 medium zucchini, diced (You can use different summer squashes; mix them up to give more color.)

Coarse salt and ground pepper

1 pound orzo

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

5 cups corn kernels (from 6 ears of corn)

1 small red onion, chopped

1 Jalapeño seeded and diced

1 tablespoon lemon zest, plus ¼ cup fresh lemon juice (from 3 lemons)

1 cup fresh basil leaves, torn

4 ounces feta, crumbled (2 cups)

Place zucchini in a colander and toss with salt. Place colander in sink and let sit 20 minutes. Meanwhile, in a pot of boiling salted water, cook orzo according to package directions. Drain and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking; transfer to a large bowl.

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon oil over medium heat. Add corn and cook, stirring occasionally, until just tender, 4 minutes. Add to pasta along with zucchini, 3 tablespoons oil, onion, jalapeño, and lemon zest and juice; season with salt and pepper. Stir in basil and feta. Will keep in an airtight container for up to 2 days.

Three-Pepper Slaw

Serves 4

1 tablespoon white-wine vinegar

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

Coarse salt and ground pepper

4 medium bell peppers (1 red, 1 yellow, 2 green), stemmed, seeded, and thinly sliced lengthwise

1 celery stalk, halved crosswise and thinly sliced lengthwise

¼ teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

In a large bowl, whisk together vinegar, mustard, and oil; season with salt and pepper. Add bell peppers, celery, and thyme; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve.

I did this recipe from Frank Stitt’s cookbook, Southern Table. At that time I sautéed a piece of white fish and placed on top of the succotash. The succotash was so good we ate it as a salad the next day. A piece of grilled fish or meat would be great in top of this lady pea succotash.

Lady Pea Succotash

Serves 4

½ small red onion, cut into 1-inch-thick slices

1 cup cooked lady peas (or substitute pink-eyes, crowders, or cranberry beans), ¼ cup pot liquor from the peas reserved. We grow both Pink-eyed Purple-hulled and Whippoorwill peas.

2 tomatoes, seeded and cut into ¼-inch dice

2 ears corn, husked, boiled for 4 minutes, and kernels off the cob

½ small shallot, finely chopped

4 basil leaves, torn into small pieces

4 sprigs dill leaves, coarse shopped

A few chives, finely chopped

1 tablespoon sherry vinegar

Kosher salt and freshly ground white pepper to taste

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling is desired

To make the succotash, prepare a hot grill or preheat the broiler. Grill or broil the onion slices, turning once, until lightly charred on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side. Let cool, then cut into ¼ -inch-dice.

In a large bowl, combine the charred onion, peas, tomatoes, corn, shallot, basil, dill, and chives. Stir in the sherry vinegar and season with salt and pepper. Stir in the olive oil, taste, and adjust the seasoning. Set aside.

This can be served at room temperature or heated through before serving.

This a great little find for an okra recipe. Found it in Southern Living, August 2011 issue. It would be great for an appetizer.

Nutty Okra

4 servings

1 lb. fresh okra, cut into ½-inch pieces (1 16-oz.) package frozen cut okra, thawed, may be substituted

1 tsp. salt

1 egg white, lightly beaten

1 cup all-purpose baking mix

½ cup finely chopped salted dry-roasted peanuts (Pulse in the food processor)

½ tsp. pepper

Peanut oil

Toss okra with salt, and let stand 20 minutes. Add egg white, stirring to coat. Stir together baking mix and the next 2 ingredients in a large bowl. Add okra, tossing to coat; gently press peanut mixture onto okra, shaking off excess.

Pour oil to a depth of 2 inches into a Dutch oven or cast-iron skillet; heat to 375 degrees. Fry okra, in batches, 2 to 4 minutes or until golden; drain on paper towels.

Have a good weekend. We’re looking for some much needed rain here.