Summertime, and the eatin' is easy: The abundant season has arrived and what a joy it is.
Every year, we wait and wait and wait and then suddenly slip over a watershed and can barely keep up with the harvest. Farmers markets now have plenty of tomatoes, several vendors have Padron chiles and the first of the year's bell peppers made their appearance two weeks ago. There are so many cucumbers they are practically throwing themselves into our shopping bags. Gravenstein apple season is poised to begin any minute now, the extraordinary Arctic Gem peach is in the first week of its short season and soon there will be plenty of poblano peppers. There are local melons, too, juicy and sweet.
It is so easy to prepare delicious meals right now, even without recipes. Just select foods at their peak, prepare them simply and enjoy. It is hard to think of anything more delicious than a sliced heirloom tomato seasoned with nothing more than good salt, good pepper and a tiny splash of good olive oil.
That said, Seasonal Pantry is primarily about recipes, so today I am sharing some of my current favorites.
If you'd like to share some of your favorite ways to enjoy summer fruits and vegetables, visit Eat This Now at pantry.blogs.pressdemocrat.com.
Melon and prosciutto is a classic appetizer we've all had at some point. If the melon is good — that is to say, in season and harvested when ripe — it is delicious. I find it is even better when paired with black pepper and peppery arugula. Use the best black pepper you can find and be generous with it.
Melon with Prosciutto, Black Pepper and Arugula
Makes 3 to 4 servings
3 ounces (about 3 handfuls) small-leaved arugula
— Kosher salt
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil
— Black pepper in a mill
1 small muskmelon, cut into wedges, wedges peeled
8 to 12thin slices of prosciutto
Put the arugula into a bowl, season with salt, add the olive oil and turn gently. Add a few turns of black pepper and turn gently again. Transfer to a platter or to individual salad plates.
Arrange the melon on top of the arugula, season with black pepper and drape the prosciutto here and there on top.
Now that most of the pine nuts available in markets come from China, there's a problem with pesto, as pine nuts are a traditional ingredient. Chinese pine nuts can cause what is called "pine mouth," a persistent bitter taste that can last for several weeks, in sensitive individuals. Walnuts are a good substitute but pistachios are increasingly common these days. I had an extraordinary pistachio pesto a couple of weeks ago, so good that it inspired me to make my own.
Pesto with Pistachios
Makes about 1? cups
3 to 4 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
— Kosher salt
2 cups, moderately packed, fresh Italian basil leaves, chopped
1 cup, moderately packed, fresh Italian parsley leaves, chopped
? cup shelled pistachios, lightly toasted and coarsely chopped
2/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces (? cup) grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, Grana Padano or Vella Dry Jack cheese