Good things from a late summer garden

August 21, 2013 

The heat of late summer can stymie the abundance of vegetables that Southern gardens produce earlier in the year.

But even with the heat and humidity of late summer, it's still a good idea to visit one of our certified farmers markets to find fresh and locally grown food for your family's table.

You will still find a few tomatoes, and there's always something delicious that can be made from those beautiful red ripe fruits (yes, scientifically speaking, tomatoes are fruits).

A Caprese salad with tomatoes, basil and fresh mozzarella cheese -- the colors of the Italian flag by the way -- is always welcomed on summertime tables. If you are a true son/daughter of the South nothing could be better than a tomato sandwich with a good dollop of mayonnaise and a sprinkle of black pepper.

If you want to make this sandwich something special make the mayonnaise into an aioli with the addition of lots of garlic.

If you're really lucky you might find a few green tomatoes that can be fried and topped with lump crab for a real show stopper. But tomatoes are not the only late-summer offering that can be found.

When okra is being sold by the bushel you can be sure the dog days of summer have arrived.

There is some dispute over where okra was first cultivated, but most vote for West Africa.

It is certainly a popular ingredient in many parts of the world, including Egypt, Iran, India, Caribbean, and even Japan.

But it is a primary ingredient in perhaps the most famous of Deep South dishes -- gumbo. In most recipes it is used not only for flavoring, but also as a thickener.

It stands out in other preparations such as pickled, chopped and added to cornbread or hushpuppies, and crispy deep-fried. Some people even add okra to maque choux, which came to us through a combination of Cajun and Native American efforts and is a delicious combination of corn, bell peppers, tomatoes and onions.

Many varieties of hot peppers that are now ripe. In truth, Southerners have not been very imaginative with this varied and spicy treat and only a few recipes come to mind; hot pepper vinegar, chow-chow and hot pepper sauce. But in the Southwest, peppers are charred over an open fire and can then be turned into myriad good things to eat, most notable chile rellenos and the famous green chile stew.

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES WITH CRAB REMOULADE

For the crab remoulade:

1 cup best quality mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Creole mustard

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 cup chopped red onions

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

2 tablespoons finely chopped green onions

Salt, freshly ground black pepper, 1-2 pinches red pepper flakes

1 pound lump crabmeat, picked over carefully

FRIED GREEN TOMATOES

2 pounds green tomatoes cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 cup all-purpose flour

3/4 cup yellow cornmeal

3/4 cup buttermilk

2 eggs

Oil for frying

Combine the mayonnaise, mustard, lemon juice, onions, basil and green onions and stir to incorporate completely. Remember to season as you go. Add the crabmeat and gently stir but do not break up the lumps of crab. Refrigerate until ready to use. 

Season the sliced tomatoes with plenty of salt and pepper. Put the flour and cornmeal in a large bowl, season again with salt and pepper if you like and mix well. Add the eggs and buttermilk in a second bowl and combine. One by one dip the tomatoes first in the wet mixture, then the dry; fry over medium heat for about 2 minutes on a side. Remove when nicely browned, drain on paper towels and then plate and garnish with the crab remoulade.

SIMPLE CAPRESE SALAD

2 cups balsamic vinegar

3-4 whole ripe tomatoes

1 pound fresh buffalo mozzarella cheese

12-16 fresh basil leaves

Olive oil, best quality

Salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a small sauce pan reduce the balsamic vinegar over medium heat to make a thick syrup. Slice the tomatoes, but not too thinly and arrange on an attractive serving platter (this should be served family style). Slice the cheese a little thicker than the tomatoes (wipe the blade clean after each cut to make it an easier job) and place one slice on top of each tomato, add a basil leaf or two and drizzle with the reduced balsamic vinegar. Serve chilled with a glass of Pinot Grigio or a dry Riesling,

SOUTHWESTERN GREEN CHILE STEW

1- 1/2 pounds beef sirloin, cut into cubes

1- 1/2 cups diced onion

1 tablespoon finely minced garlic

6 cups chicken broth (homemade is always best)

1 pound red potatoes cut in 1/2-inch cubes

2 cups roasted, peeled, chopped green chile (if you want it really spicy add more chiles)

3 tablespoons diced red bell pepper

2 tablespoons chopped cilantro

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil for cooking

Season the meat and then brown in plenty of hot oil (a black cast iron skillet would be perfect), then remove and drain. In the same pan sauté the onions for 5 minutes and then add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the meat, potatoes and stock to the pan and simmer for about an hour, but do not overcook the potatoes. Add the chiles and the bell pepper and simmer another 15 minutes. Garnish with the cilantro just before serving.

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