Katie Ferraro by Katie Ferraro
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Summer is peak season for fresh produce. If you’re a fruit or vegetable lover, the year’s hottest months are the time to cash in on nature’s nutritious bounty. Here are a few ways you can get your hands on fresh, in-season produce. 

1. Farmers’ Markets

No matter where you live, there’s likely a farmers’ market going off in your neighborhood. Chat with local farmers to find out what’s fresh and in season. You’ll likely find these are the best deals and tastiest produce, too. 

2. Grow Your Own 

One of the easiest ways to reap the benefits of fresh produce is to grow your own. Even if you weren’t raised on a farm, you can plant and tend your own garden. For small-space home growing, check out square-foot gardening, hanging tomato plants or hydroponic vertical gardens.

3. Become an In-season Savant

In our 24-hour, on-demand food environment, it’s easy to take for granted the abundance and variety of foods available to us. But fruits and vegetables taste best—and are often the best value—when they’re consumed in season. Check out the list of what’s in season this summer from Fruits & Veggies: More Matters.

Recipes 

Once you’ve secured your fresh summer produce, check out these simple recipes for using those tasty fruits and vegetables:

Cucumber Slices With Dill 

Stay cool with this easy summer dish. Keep the skin on your cucmbers for slightly more fiber and adjust the salt and red pepper to taste.

Ingredients 

  • 4 medium-sized cucumbers, diced
  • ½ onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tablespoon dried dill weed
  • ¼ cup white sugar
  • ½ cup white wine vinegar
  • ¼ cup water
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes 

Instructions 

  • In a medium-sized bowl, combine cucumbers, onion and dill.
  • In a separate medium-sized bowl, whisk together remaining ingredients until sugar is dissolved. Pour liquid over cucumbers and refrigerate for at least one hour before serving.

Yield: Four 1/2-cup servings 

Rigatoni Primavera 

Whole-wheat pasta and fresh summer produce combine in an easy weeknight dinner dish. Kick up the heat by subbing fire-roasted canned tomatoes. 

Ingredients 

  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons diced onion
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/8 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 1 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, no added salt
  • 2 eggplants, diced with skin on
  • 2 zucchini, diced with skin on
  • 1 pound whole wheat rigatoni
  • ¼ cup shredded Parmesan cheese 

Instructions 

  • To prepare the sauce, add 1 tablespoon olive oil to skillet over medium heat. Add onion, 2 minced garlic cloves, oregano, dried red pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon salt. Cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
  • Stir in tomatoes and their juice. Increase heat to high, bringing tomato mixture to a simmer. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until tomato mixture thickens, about 15 minutes.
  • While sauce simmers, place skillet over medium-high heat and add 2 tablespoons olive oil and heat until shimmering. Add diced eggplant, stirring frequently until browned, about 7 minutes. Add zucchini and cook for another 5 minutes.
  • While eggplant and zucchini are cooking, heat water in a large saucepan and cook pasta according to instructions. Drain.
  • Combine tomato sauce, eggplant and zucchini and pasta. Top with shredded Parmesan to garnish and serve. 

Yield: Eight 2-cup servings 

Grilled Stone Fruit With Balsamic Drizzle 

Switch it up on the grill by cooking with stone fruit. Substitute traditional balsamic vinegar with white balsamic for an interesting twist. Look for freestone fruit for easiest access when cutting in half. 

Ingredients 

  • 5-6 pieces of stone fruit such as plums, peaches, nectarines or apricots
  • ½ cup balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 2 cups arugula
  • 2 tablespoons goat cheese 

Instructions 

  • Cut fruit in half around the stone and remove stone.
  • Clean grill and coat with oil or spray stick to avoid sticking. Heat grill to high.
  • Place fruit with cut side down on the grill and cook until soft and warmed through, about 5 minutes. Turn fruit over and using a brush, baste fruit with balsamic vinegar, reserving some vinegar for drizzle.
  • Place arugula on serving dish, top with grilled fruit, season with salt and pepper to taste. Drizzle with remaining balsamic vinegar and top with crumbled goat cheese. 

Yield: Five two-piece servings

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