As the summer season slowly comes to an end (booo!), the farmers markets are full of amazing produce (yay!). Take advantage of these flavor and nutrient packed foods while they last. They require only simple preparations – a simple tomato salad with lots of fresh basil, grilled zucchinis and bell peppers tossed in olive oil or a delicious and light ‘pasta’-like dish with noodles made of zucchini tossed in lots of freshly made pesto! If you’re feeling extra frisky – why not cook up a big batch of the tasty vegetables to freeze or can to enjoy later.
Brightly colored bell peppers are loaded with antioxidants, including vitamins A and C. With a satisfying crunch and a delicious sweet taste, they are delicious just raw as a snack or in salads. They are also perfect to add to the grill and work well for canning. Roasting will bring out a lot of their sweet flavor too!
These purple beauties are in season from August to October and have a fun spongy texture that make them delicious grilled, baked or sautéed. Ideally, sprinkle the sliced eggplant with salt and let some of the water drain off before cooking for an even better texture. Eggplant is also great for making dips such as babaganoush. It too is a great source of antioxidants and dietary fiber!
This might be a staple in many people’s diets – but we all know that the ripe freshly picked summer tomatoes are in a category of their own. They are so delicious you can eat them whole as a treat,or make a simple salad with nothing more than tomatoes, sea salt and olive oil. Lovely! Cooked tomatoes – as in what we use for pasta sauces, stews and soups is also particularly high in lycopene – a powerful cancer-fighting antioxidant. Avoid the canned (cans can contain harmful BPA chemicals!) and make a big batch of tomato sauce now to freeze and save for later.
The saying cool as a cucumber really has something to it. On hot late summer days, let cucumbers come to the rescue! They are loaded with water and have a cooling effect on the body – and they contain silica, which does wonders for the skin. Cucumbers are great as a snack and wonderful chopped into salads. Or try making tzatziki! An amazing Greek dip made with cooling yogurt and cucumber and a healthy dose of garlic. It’s delicious!
Okra is used a lot in Southern cooking as well as in Indian and African dishes. It’s a green vegetable with little pods full of seeds inside. It’s a great addition to stews and a great side dish when boiled or grilled (try a skewer!). It’s a great source of folic acid, B6, vitamin C and a range of minerals.
This versatile vegetable is as delicious when grilled as it is baked into muffins or cut into noodle shapes and served as a pasta substitute. It is low in carbohydrates and calories but has a really satisfying mildly sweet flavor and soft texture. It contains vitamin C and lutein – a phytonutrient that is great for your eyesight!
This is one of my absolute favorite side dishes that works well with pretty much anything – baked fish, chicken, a veggie burger or pasta. This classic French dish is conveniently loaded with those late-summer vegetables; eggplant, red peppers, tomato and zucchini as well as lots of olive oil, herbs, garlic and onion. It’s is one powerful antioxidant boost!
The traditional pesto is made with basil, pine nuts and olive oil, but who says you can’t make your own version! Cashew nuts, almonds or walnuts work great – and a mix of different herbs or just lots of parsley if that’s what you happen to have on hand is delicious too. Have some for dinner, then freeze the rest in ice-cube trays for easy flavorings and stir-ins later.