By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Summer, in all its glory

We’ve been relying heavily on the garden and the farmers market for meals lately, and the result has been delicious.

In the last week or so, we have enjoyed eggplant Parmesan, pesto in tomato sandwiches and tucked into little whole-wheat dinner rolls, big green salads with herb vinaigrette, freshly dug baked potatoes, corn on the cob, roasted green beans with garlic, peach pie, blueberry muffins — life just does not get much tastier.

The fact that all the produce except the peaches and corn came straight from the garden was immensely satisfying, although the local farmers market is so absolutely stuffed with wonderful things to eat that it can be a hazard to visit.

Friends have been making all sorts of incredibly delicious-sounding things, too: savory zucchini pancakes, green tomato and carrot pancakes, sliced zucchini marinated in olive oil and lemon juice with red pepper flakes and Parmesan, green beans sauteed with garlic and herbs, zucchini frittata with basil, green beans with lemon zest and garlic — I’m ready to start visiting them just in time for supper. Maybe each of them in turn, through the week.

Summer can be a fantastic season for cooking; everything is so fresh and good, it’s hard to go wrong. Simple meals taste like gourmet fare.

Often in recent weeks, it’s been too hot to cook much, but that’s when big supper salads come to the rescue. I especially like to chop a faux chicken patty and saute it in olive oil to add hot to the top of the salad, before adding vinaigrette. Cold tuna on salad is good, too. Deviled eggs are useful to keep on hand, for adding protein to simple cold meals, or for snacking.

In addition to green salads, there are all kinds of other variations; tomato salad with good bread. Bread salad, with lots of tomatoes, a hint of onion and plenty of basil. Pasta salad, featuring your favorite seasonings.

You might consider serving a plate of luscious tomatoes and cucumbers with olives, hummus and pocket bread some night when the temperature is unreasonably high. Some roasted eggplant dip would be delicious as well.

Pesto tomato sandwiches are perfect for hot weather. Thinly sliced provolone or sharp cheddar can only add perfection.

Eggplant Parmesan is one of my favorite summer suppers, and every year, I slice, batter and cook up a few eggplants to freeze, so that we can quickly put it together on a few cold winter nights. I also like to freeze at least a few pints of corn for warming winter chowders. The cold season seems far away, but when it arrives, it will be good to have some things tucked away to see us through.

Some years, I also freeze or can fresh fruit: brandied peaches to serve with whipped cream or almond cake, blueberry chutney for special occasions, perhaps some frozen blueberries or raspberries for mid-winter muffins.

For enjoying right now, a raspberry-ginger muffin and a ripe peach may be the perfect breakfast for a hot morning when you don’t want to turn on the stove longer than it takes to boil water for coffee or tea. When the forecast calls for soaring temperatures, make a big batch of muffins some evening to store in the refrigerator or freezer, and you’re set to go.

Whatever your meal plans, make the most of summer’s goodness.

 Nicole Montesano can be reached at

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