Thursday, July 9, 2009

Get Ready To Pick A Fresh Crop Of Summer Recipes

SEASON TO TASTE(my monthly food column for Heartland Women)
July 2009

I think seasonal fresh vegetables are the big reward for enduring the oppressive heat of summer. They are so valuable, in fact, that it is difficult not to buy them with eyes bigger than tummies. Who doesn’t feel rich with a big basket of homegrown vegetables or a tote bag full of colorful treasures from the farmers’ market? Thank goodness it is summer again and vegetables and fruits can take center stage at mealtime.

I’ve never really met a vegetable I didn’t like. Turnips and bamboo shoots are not high on my list, but I respect their place in certain cuisines. The feast of fresh vegetables in the supermarkets, farmers’ markets and roadside stands this time of year is almost overwhelming; but I love to collect them, arrange them artfully in baskets around the kitchen, and eat them in thousands of different ways.

I still remember the day in North Carolina when I became acquainted with a classic Southern specialty and the answer to what to do with all that stuff from the garden. When you hit the garden mother lode, just skip the meat and enjoy a vegetable plate for dinner. Four or five of your favorites and I guarantee you won’t even miss the meat!

Much of my time, as you may have guessed, is spent researching recipes. Between writing this column and keeping up, I am always searching for something different and interesting and delicious. My exhaustive research has created a towering stack of vegetable recipes that I am not so patiently waiting to try this summer. And now the time has come to see which ones will make the cut this year and join the golden goodies from seasons past.

Many of my favorites have already been published here over the past four and a half years and won’t be reprinted, even though I can’t wait to prepare them this summer. But I will indulge in a bit of shameless self-promotion and encourage you to visit to see all those recipes, discover some you may have missed and learn what’s new every week of every season, all year long. There are also some features to inspire your cooking and great links for your own recipe research.

My original website grew out of cooking classes I began conducting for friends, based on recipes I learned at classes I took in New Hampshire and California. When my classes became popular, we designed a logo to go along with the seasonal fresh foods that were at the heart of the recipes and I named my cooking "school” Season To Taste.

Just as a seed begins a process of growth, so did Season To Taste. Not long after I began teaching my classes, I also began writing this column, and it seemed only natural to call it Season To Taste also. Before long, I was up to my eyes in columns and recipes and it seemed like I was always printing or emailing them to someone who didn’t live in the circulation area of Heartland Women.

A website seemed the perfect way for readers to keep up with my work and to print recipes for themselves. That’s when my husband purchased the domain name, designed that first website and set everything up for me. All I had to do was write the columns and he would make my words magically appear on the Internet on my very own website!

Season To Taste, the website, continued for a couple of years and worked quite well; but, just as we were considering plans to expand the site, both of our computers were stolen! Without the computer we used to publish the website, it came to a screeching halt. I carried on my column, of course, but without the huge recipe collection I stored on my computer. Rebuilding the website went on the back burner while we contemplated the possibilities for improvement and growth, and I began the huge project to recreate my recipe file.

The task of reinventing the wheel that would become my new website was almost overwhelming, and by then we were well into last summer’s wedding-on-our-lawn project. If I wanted to preserve my place in cyberspace, I was going to have to take the matter into my own hands. I needed to be able to do the writing and the website publishing myself. A full-time flying job and work on the lawn were enough for my webmaster/husband. But with computer knowledge that began with e-mail and ended with Google, I had absolutely no idea how to create a whole website!

Blogs and Blogspot!

When frustration turned to inspiration one day, I created my very own website/blog on Blogspot—all by myself! It was easy to do with their templates and simple-to-add widget features. In just a couple of hours, I was back online. The name Season To Taste was already taken, so I quickly decided on Cora Cooks! Two years later, Cora Cooks is still my website—I write, design, publish and maintain it, all with the help of Blogspot.

I mention all of this for those of you who have read about my website at the bottom of this column every month but may not have been there yet. My Heartland Women columns and recipes from January 2005 through July 2007 are all still available at the old website, But all columns and recipes from August 2007 to the present are now at this new address— They haven’t moved from Blogspot’s sponsorship, but I now own the domain name and new address, How about that! I am a dot com!

So now that you know all about growing a website from a passion for cooking, teaching and writing, you are ready to see how and can work for you. First, I’ve spent hours reviewing my stack of up-and-coming recipes to try and chose some tempting ones for your summer vegetables. There’s only room for a few of them here, but there will be new recipes added every week throughout the summer, and forever, at

Next, take a look at the list of some of my favorite summertime recipes. These are some “Best of’s” from previous columns at and And, of course, there are also a couple of new recipes below from my stack of researched “Must Try’s.” Cooking and food are about community; so let me know what you like by leaving a comment at! And just as sharing comments is the lifeblood of blogs, sharing recipes is fundamental to the traditions of family, community and regional and national cuisines. We are what we eat!

This column has grown into something I never imagined could come from my love for cooking and good food. Later this month, I’ll be attending a conference in Chicago, sponsored by the BlogHer network for women bloggers. I’ll miss the deadline for my August column, but you will be able to read all about the conference and the food bloggers I meet at!
Eggplant Torta
Grilled Vegetable Packets
Sally's End-of-the-Summer Vegetable Torte
Denise’s Zucchini Pancakes
Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Asian Coleslaw
Adapted from
3 tbsp. rice wine vinegar
3 tbsp. vegetable oil
2 ½ tbsp. creamy peanut butter
1 ½ tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. brown sugar
1 tbsp. minced fresh ginger root
2 tsp. minced garlic
3 cups thinly sliced green cabbage
1 cup thinly sliced red cabbage
1 red bell pepper, thinly sliced
2 carrots, julienned
4 green onions, chopped
¼ cup chopped fresh cilantro

In a medium bowl, whisk together the rice vinegar, oil, peanut butter, soy sauce, brown sugar, ginger, and garlic.
In a large bowl, mix the green cabbage, red cabbage, Napa cabbage, red bell peppers, carrots, green onions, and cilantro. Toss with the peanut butter mixture just before serving. Serves 4-6.

Gnocchi and Tomato Bake
Adapted from Good Food magazine
2 tbsp. olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
4 large tomatoes + juice, chopped
1 16-oz. box gnocchi
salt and pepper to taste
½ c. torn basil leaves, loosely packed
1 8-oz. ball fresh mozzarella, diced

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. In a medium frying pan, heat olive oil over medium heat; add onion and red pepper and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and continue to heat for 1 minute (do not brown garlic!). Add chopped tomatoes with juice and gnocchi; simmer for 10-15 minutes until sauce thickens. (Add a small amount of water if not enough tomatoes and juice to make sauce with gnocchi.) Season with salt and pepper. Add basil and half of diced mozzarella and stir to blend. Pour into a large ovenproof dish. Scatter remaining mozzarella over top and bake for 15-20 minutes until cheese is melted and sauce is bubbly. Serve as a side dish with chicken, pork or veal, or as a vegetarian dish. Serves 4 as a side dish.

Oven-Roasted Beets with Orange Gremolata
Adapted from Fresh & Fast, by Marie Simmons
4-6 medium-size beets

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Trim the beets, leaving about 1 inch of the leaf stem on the top. Wash and dry the beets. Place a large sheet of foil on a sheet pan, lay beets on foil and fold to enclose the beets. Place pan in oven and roast for 1 - 1 ½ hours. Remove pan from oven and allow beets to cool. Unwrap the beets and rub them to remove the skins. Cut them into ¼-inch slices and set aside.

1/3 cup packed fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley leaves
zest from ½ an orange
1 clove garlic, chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil

Combine the parsley, orange zest, garlic, salt and pepper in a food processor and process until finely chopped. Add the oil and pulse food processor quickly to blend.

Arrange the beet slices by overlapping them on a large plate. Top with the Gremolata and serve at room temperature. Serves 4.

Oven-Roasted Carrots with Lemon and Olives
Adapted from Fresh and Fast, by Marie Simmons
1 lb. fresh baby carrots, rinsed
4 garlic cloves
4 thin slices of lemon, cut in half
2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
¾ cup pitted Kalamata olives, cut in half
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Gently smash garlic cloves with the flat side of a knife and remove skins. Combine carrots, garlic, lemon slices and olive oil in a shallow baking dish. Stir to blend. Bake, stirring occasionally, until the carrots are tender and lightly browned, about 45 minutes. Remove from oven and add olives. Return to oven to bake for 10 minutes longer. Season with salt and pepper and serve. Serves 4.

Corn and Lima Beans with Cream, Tomatoes and Basil
Adapted from Fresh and Fast, by Marie Simmons
1 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 cup chopped onion
2 cups fresh (or frozen) lima beans
2 cups fresh raw corn kernels (4-6 ears)
½ cup heavy cream
1 fresh, ripe tomato, cut into ½-inch pieces
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
2 tbsp. thinly sliced fresh basil

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Stir in the onions and cook until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the lima beans and corn; cover and cook for 5 minutes. Remove lid and continue to cook for 5 more minutes. Add the cream and heat just to boiling. Stir in the tomato, salt and pepper and simmer gently for 2 minutes. Sprinkle with basil, just before serving. Serves 4.

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