It is difficult to do justice to the bounty of summer – produce stands in farmers’ markets and grocery stores are teeming with richly colored fresh fruits and vegetables, their bright colors and fresh scents accented with the earthy aroma of dirt. We contacted three local eateries, each known for their use of the freshest ingredients, to get their take on three summer favorites – juicy peaches, ripe tomatoes and sweet corn.
Of course, many of these items are available year ‘round thanks to a global economy, but chefs and nutritionists will unequivocally state two things – there is only a short time frame when these particular items are at their tasty peak. That’s because the long, sunny days help increase the sugar content in ripening produce. And, buying locally grown produce in season means decreased shipping times, which results in less starchy fruits and veggies.
You say to-may-toe, I say to-mah-toe. However you pronounce it, tomato aficionados spend a lot of time bemoaning the deficit of flavor found in fresh tomatoes. Now, however, is the perfect time. One thing to watch out for is tomatoes that are uniform in color, as that may indicate the fruit is hothouse grown. While, that’s not the worst fate a tomato can face, hothouse tomatoes can’t hold a candle to those grown outdoors in the elements.
Corn, nature’s original hand-held. Up north, legend has it that a sign of a good corn crop was that it was “knee-high by the Fourth of July.” Those of us who live closer to the Equator appreciate the earlier arrival of sweet, juicy Silver Queen corn. Field corn is OK too, but no matter the variety, all agree that no one has found a substitute as yet for fresh corn, picked at the height of the season and cooked as close to where it was harvested as possible.
Alan Ramirez, co-owner of Sea Salt Healthy Kitchen on St. Simons Island, has a fresh idea for corn – as the central ingredient in a pico de gallo.
“It’s a great fresh side dish, or just a great appetizer to share this summer,” he said of the versatile mix. “At Sea Salt, we use it in different dishes like the Mexican bowl, the black bean soup and the chipotle steak wrap.”
The Pimento Cheese (BLT)
• House-made pimento cheese
• Thick-cut tomato
• Apple-smoked bacon
• Challah bread
Assemble sandwich by spreading pimento cheese onto both slices of bread. Spread butter on the outside of one slice of bread and place butter side down on griddle or in skillet. Top with apple-smoked bacon, fresh tomato slices and arugula. Add other piece of bread. Cook until slightly brown and cheese begins to melt.
Roasted Corn Pico de Gallo
• 3 each vine-ripe tomatoes or any kind of tomatoes
• ½ red onion
• 1 jalapeño pepper
• 1 cup fresh corn kernels
• ½ bunch of cilantro
• 1 lime
• Salt and pepper to taste
Roast the corn kernels in the oven or toaster oven on the broil setting until dark brown. Then cool down before mixing with the rest of the ingredients.
Dice the rest of the vegetables into small pieces and add them to a medium-size bowl.
Add the cooled corn.
Add the juice of one lime on top of all the veggies.
Add finely chopped cilantro and then salt and pepper to taste.
Mix everything together and taste it for flavor.
You can always add more jalapeños if you like it spicy, or add diced avocado if you want to give it a different twist.
Served with corn tortilla chips.
Peaches – reunited, and it feels so good
For people who love peaches, there are few experiences that compare to biting through that fuzzy, yet crisp skin only to be rewarded with a burst of sweet, juicy nectar and tender flesh. Pyramids of peaches are lining grocery and market aisles, and Georgians are scooping them up as fast as they can. Just remember, when purchasing them, make sure it was ripened on a tree, not in a truck. Fresh is best.
This peach upside down cake, made by Chef Tim Lensch of Georgia Sea Grill, on St. Simons Island, is one of an infinite number of ways peaches can be enjoyed, from jams and salsa, as an ingredient in beverages, blended with homemade ice cream or just right off the tree.
Peach Upside Down Cake
• 12 Tbsp. butter, salted
• ¾ cup light brown sugar, packed
• 3 cups fresh peaches, peeled and sliced
• 1-1/2 cups, all-purpose flour
• 2 tsp. baking powder
• ¼ tsp. Kosher salt
• 1 cup granulated sugar
• ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
• 2 tsp. vanilla extract
• 2 eggs, separated
• ½ cup whole milk
• ½ tsp. cream of tartar
Heat oven to 350 degrees.
In a small saucepan, melt 4 tablespoons of butter over medium heat. Stir in the brown sugar and cook until molten and mostly dissolved.
Pour the sugar into a 9-inch round cake pan, and then add the peaches. Make sure they are evenly spread throughout the pan.
Next, in a
medium bowl, beat the remaining eight tablespoons of butter and sugar with a mixer on medium-high speed until pale and fluffy. Add the vanilla and egg yolks and mix until combined. Add dry ingredients, then the milk, and mix on low until you get a smooth batter. Do not forget to scrape your bowl from time to time with a rubber spatula.
In a clean bowl, add the egg whites and cream of tartar and mix until stiff they form stiff peaks. Using a rubber spatula, fold the egg whites into the cake batter until combined and spread cake batter over the peaches in the pan, smoothing the top.
Place in the oven and bake until a toothpick inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Takes about an hour.
Once done and out of the oven, place a cooling rack for five minutes. After that, flip the cake over onto a plate and let sit five more minutes. Remove pan and enjoy.