It’s summer. It’s hot and it’s a wonderful time for cool dishes that are quick to prepare and/or keep well in the fridge.

Dishes that can be made in advance and enjoyed day-of or the next day. Don’t you find that some dishes taste better when the flavors have had a chance to rest?

Gayle

Gayle Okumura Sullivan

This past weekend Chef John Ash came to the peach farm and prepared a wonderful orchard dinner. We’ve been doing this for over a decade and it’s always a celebration of summer and all that is produced here in our county.

He prepared a bounty of dishes but one in particular that stands out is his summer succotash. It’s fresh, colorful and bursting with seasonal vegetables like corn, beans, peppers, onions, zucchini and herbs. Summer in a bowl. I grow some of these vegetables and I get some at farmers markets.

John Ash Summer Succotash

  • 2 cups green beans blanched in salted water, cut diagonally ½ inch pieces
  • 1 cup chopped red onion
  • 1 red bell pepper diced
  • 1 poblano pepper diced
  • 2 cups zucchini or summer squash diced
  • 2 cups fresh corn kernels
  • ¾ cups chicken or corn stock
  • ½ cups crème fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 3 tablespoons fresh herbs such as basil or parsley chopped for sprinkling

In a large skillet over medium heat melt oil and butter. Add onion and peppers and cook for a minute or two until they begin to soften. Stir in squash, corn, and blanched beans and cook for another minute or two. Add stock and crème fraiche and cook until vegetables are crisp tender and liquid has reduced to a creamy consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with herbs and serve on its own or alongside just about any protein like salmon, chicken or steak. Delicious.

Favorite Quick Tomato Onion Salad

This is my favorite summer salad and it can be made in about five to 10 minutes. My mother always made this for us. Growing up in Almaden (when there were still farms), we’d stop by the farm stands for fresh tomatoes and onions. You just layer sliced onions and tomatoes, then sprinkle chopped parsley, salt and balsamic vinegar on top. You keep layering the ingredients and finish with parsley. That’s it. We grow tomatoes, onions and parsley here, though you can find beauties at all the farmers markets this time of year, so the only additional ingredients needed are balsamic vinegar — we love DaVero’s — and salt.

Apples

The Gravenstein Apple Fair in Sebastopol is Aug. 17 and 18 and it is time to work with apples. We have a few trees in our yard, which are very productive right now. They ripen late July and early August — making it an early-to-market apple. The squat shape is distinctive, as is the coloring, which usually has a greenish yellow background, and red striping. Gravensteins are crisp and full of old-fashioned sweet tart flavor, a true all purpose fruit.

I have a bittersweet relationship with apples though, for I can’t help but think of my parents. They were born in Vancouver, British Columbia, and during the war were interned to the Okanagan Valley. They missed high school in the camps, and worked the apple orchards in the summer and fall. Every time I see an apple it just reminds me of that time for them. 

Fresh Green Apple Salad

  • Salad greens from the market — cleaned and chopped
  • Slice an apple with skin on, coat with lemon juice to prevent discoloration — many proclaim the benefits of eating the core and seeds, too
  • Local goat cheese like Laura Chenel
  • Sonoma county walnuts

In a small bowl make a simple salad dressing of one part vinegar of choice to three parts olive oil. Whisk. Salt and pepper to taste. Toss salad greens with dressing, then add sliced apples. Sprinkle with goat cheese and walnuts.

Next month: Zucchinis   

Gayle Okumura Sullivan is co-owner, with husband Brian, of Dry Creek Peach & Produce in Healdsburg.

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