Late summer treats

I’ve been cooking a lot lately–mostly because we belong to a CSA (Community Sponsored Agriculture) that delivers us a giant box of fresh veggies every week, and we have to either eat them or decide how to preserve them for eating later.  Here are a few treats I’ve formulated to help us deal with the bounty of late summer produce out here on the high plains.

First, inspired by a cocktail I had a few weeks ago on my birthday night out, I’ve figured out how to make cucumber and mint-infused gin and tonics.  (The photo at right really doesn’t do the drink justice–in real life, the drink has a kind of absinthe-greeny glow.)  Here’s the recipe for one–double, triple, or quadruple as you wish:

Cucumber and mint-infused gin and tonic

  • 5 slices cucumber
  • 6-8 mint leaves
  • 1 lime wedge
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 shot gin
  • tonic water

Muddle the cucumber, mint, lime wedge, and sugar in a cocktail strainer or large glass.  Really mash it all up to extract the cucumber and lime juices and mint oils.  Add a shot of gin and stir to combine.  Strain mixture into a highball glass with a few ice cubes in it, and fill with tonic.  Garnish with a slice of cucumber and a sprig of mint, and serve.  Cheers!  (I love veggies in cocktails–I made a really yummy bloody mary last summer with the same basic technique, lightly crushing garden tomatoes and herbs before adding the vodka.  Don’t strain that one–serve it with a spoon!)

Next, I made a shortbread crust plum and pear tart.  I skimped on the sugar, so the filling wasn’t quite as sweet as it should have been, but the crust turned out well, and the textures and juices were just right.  I guess I’ll just have to make another one to get it right!  We had dinner in-between the cocktail and dessert, which was a casserole of grilled eggplant, grilled zucchini, ricotta, and sausage–another good way to eat up the summer’s bounty.

What are your favorite late summer treats, or tricks for preserving or eating up your gardens before the first frost?

0 thoughts on “Late summer treats

  1. So …. “muddle” sounds like what I do with a *lot* of the different basic food groups, but exactly what does it involve, in an instructional context? Does “really mash it up” clarify this, or is that the next step?

    Wow, I really really wish I had one of those plum/pear tarts right now!


  2. A plum variation is this one, from Marian Burros’ NY Times recipe several years ago (she said it was the most popular she ever printed):

    1 stick unsalted butter, at room temperature
    1 cup granulated sugar
    1 cup all-purpose flour
    1 teaspoon baking powder
    2 eggs
    about 12 Italian prune plums (dark purple skin, greeenish-yellow flesh)
    cinnamon sugar

    Halve the plums and remove the pits. (Very easy with this variety.) Toss the halves with a little lemon juice and set aside while you make the cake batter. You may find 12 plums aren’t enough to cover the batter surface closely; I usually buy about 15 to be on the safe side and eat any I don’t use.)

    Cream together the butter and sugar. Add the flour and baking powder and mix. Add the eggs and mix. This batter is extremely thick and elastic–don’t be alarmed.
    Spread the batter in an eight-inch springform pan.

    Lay the plum halves, cut side up, on the batter in the pan. Sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. Bake at 350° F. for 45 minutes or until the top is well browned. (This may take longer; it’s worth the extra time to avoid having the center remain gummy. The caramelization around the circumference actually improves the final result.) Let cool, then run a knife around the outside to loosen the cake from the pan. Serve with a dollop of sour cream or as is.


  3. Our school CSA program has a blog where we share ideas and photos and such. It helps to be in touch with others in your CSA who are getting the same box.

    My rule of CSA is that practically anything can be shredded up and put on a pizza. So we’ve had kohlrabi pizza, and kale pizza, for examples. We boil and puree all the carrots–then carrot bread is quick to fix, and it adds well to soups and pancake batter too. I’ve been making a lot of tarts too–this weekend saw two squash/onion/ricotta tarts, and three tomato tarts, all with plenty of basil (which also came in last week’s box). And then there are beet cookies.


  4. That cocktail sounds amazing. Down here in the Dirty South, we’re still getting temps in the upper 90s, so mint and cucumbers (and gin!) will help keep me cool until the reasonable weather rolls in around Thanksgiving.


  5. My favorite variation on the gin-and-herb cocktail: same recipe as above, but use a tablespoon or so of fresh rosemary and a lemon quarter instead of the mint and lime. Hendrick’s is the best gin for that one.


  6. Rootlesscosmo’s plum cake recipe looks divine. I used regular (more sour) plums for this tart–but in the past I’ve had great luck with the Italian prune plums. (And they’re a damn sight easier to pit than the regular plums.)

    I forgot to add: that bloody veggie mary was also finished off with tonic, as I recall. (Otherwise, it would be more like a heavily spiked gazpacho!)

    Boston Scholar’s idea for the lemon and rosemary treatment is a good one. But, I don’t have any rosemary in my garden this year. (I wonder what a sprig of lavender leave would taste like?)


  7. You’re hereby invited as a guest. I’ll provide the gin, and you can make the cocktail. I’ll even do the crust for the tart, pie and tart crusts being something I like.

    My favorite late summer meal is pasta with a raw tomato sauce — just cut up tomatoes, add salt & pepper, garlic, basil, and olive oil; I’ve occasionally added a hot pepper for zing. Let it sit for a few hours. Cook pasta, and mix together, adding parmesan or similar cheese. If you use tortellini, that’s great; if you use fusili or penne you can throw in some fontina cheese as you mix it together. Serve with good bread and salad. Voila, dinner.
    What I love about this is that it makes a great lunch the next day, and the kitchen doesn’t get very hot!


  8. Lovely, lovely.

    Having worked a lavender festival every June for the last six years at a relative’s herb/lavender farm, I can tell you that lavender liqueur ain’t bad, that it does warm the taste buds when infused into alcohol, is pretty darn good in ice cream, and works extremely well in a creme anglaise that adorns any tart you wish to make. Historiann, if you’re interested in some lavender recipes, let me know and I’ll share.


  9. – pickle beets (many similar recipes exist)
    – burrito of green beans, quash and queso fresco
    – savory soup of peaches, squash and union
    – potato salad made of baked potatoes diced, cilantro, olive oils and lemon juice
    – tomato salad made of finely diced tomato, finely cut parsley and drops of olive oil

    For greens:
    baked collards with pinto beans and a can of fire roasted crushed tomatoes

    Caldo Verde, the national soup of Portugal, made of julienne kale, potatoes, chorizo, …


  10. Pesto! And I make a roasted red pepper and tomato tart with a yeasted tart dough (as opposed to a buttery-pastry dough) which is one of my favorite late summer feasts.

    But our evenings and mornings have become so unexpectedly cool that it’s feeling more like early autumn, and I’ve moved on to baking pumpkin bread and apple crisp.


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