When you show kids where vegetables really come from (no, not the grocery store), they might actually try something new. These down-to-earth dishes take advantage of summer's best produce.
Mr. Tomato Head Hollow out a tomato, saving the top slice. Fill with cooked couscous mix, top with shredded basil, and cover partially with reserved tomato top, as shown. Rest black-olive slices on tomato ledge for eyes. Cut a piece of provolone cheese in the shape of a mouth and place it right on the tomato -- it'll stick.
Fancy Grilled Cheese Top a piece of sourdough bread with tomato slices, spinach, sliced white-cheddar cheese, and deli-style turkey. Spread another piece of bread with a little honey mustard. Sandwich together and brush with olive oil. Grill until cheese melts.
Greek Pasta Combine 1/2 pound cooked penne with 2 fresh chopped tomatoes, 2 tablespoons olive oil, 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese, 1 tablespoon each fresh oregano and dill, and 2 tablespoons toasted pine nuts.
Pesto Green Beans Cook green beans for 7 to 8 minutes. Drain and toss with tomato wedges and store-bought pesto.
Easy Antipasto Arrange tomato slices in a shallow dish. Top with fresh minced garlic and balsamic vinegar.
Heirloom Tart Line a 9-inch tart pan with refrigerated piecrust and trim to fit. Cover the entire crust with aluminum foil and bake at 450 degrees F. for 8 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for another 5 minutes. Layer crust with provolone cheese slices, a mixture of 1/2 cup light mayo and 2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese, and overlapping slices of colorful heirloom tomatoes. Bake at 375 degrees F. for about 25 minutes.
Five-Star Pizzas Cut squash slices into star shapes, then saute them in oil and minced garlic for 3 minutes. Top mini crusts with sauce, cheese, and stars. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 12 minutes.
Meatless Tacos Saute 1 cup cubed potatoes in oil for 8 to 10 minutes; add 2 cups cubed zucchini during the last few minutes of cooking. Stir in 1/2 cup corn, 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes, 1 teaspoon chili powder, and a dash of salt and pepper. Fill 12 heated taco shells.
Yellow Submarines Saute 1/2 cup chopped peppers in hot oil for 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons parsley, salt and pepper to taste, 1/4 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese, and 1 tablespoon Parmesan cheese. Fill four hollow yellow squash halves. Sprinkle with more Jack cheese; bake at 350 degrees F. for 15 minutes.
Grilled Zucchini Mix 2 tablespoons red-wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons olive oil, and a pinch each of chopped thyme, salt, and pepper. Brush onto 3 zucchinis cut into quarters. Grill over medium coals for 6 minutes, turning a few times.
Squash Nuggets Dip sliced squash into Italian dressing then in a mixture of seasoned bread crumbs and Parmesan cheese. Arrange on a parchment-lined baking sheet and bake at 450 degrees F. for 10 minutes, or until browned.
Veggie Frittata In a 10-inch skillet, saute slices from 2 squash in oil for 2 to 3 minutes. Add 6 eggs lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon each fresh parsley, basil, mint, salt, and pepper. Cook for 3 to 5 minutes, or until set.
Very Veggie Caterpillar Remove husk and silk from corn, brush with olive oil, and grill 15 to 20 minutes over medium heat, turning occasionally. Cut off both ends and slice cob into three chunks. Arrange on plate with cucumber and squash slices and grape tomatoes to form a caterpillar. Add carrot slivers for antennae.
Rainbow Salsa Mix 2 ears cooked corn sliced from the cob with a chopped nectarine, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1 to 2 tablespoons lime juice, salt, and a dash of crushed red pepper.
Mexican Maize Remove silk from corn and grill it in its husk directly over medium coals for 20 minutes, turning occasionally. Spread with light mayo blended with a dash of chili powder.
Crunchy Curry Chop half of a medium onion and saute it in canola oil. Add 3 ears of corn sliced from the cob; cook 2 minutes. Stir in 1 teaspoon curry powder and 1 cup light coconut milk. Simmer until thickened, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with chopped nuts.
Corny Relish Mix 2 ears cooked corn sliced from the cob, 1/2 cup quartered grape tomatoes, 1/4 cup chopped red onion, 1 tablespoon each olive oil and cider vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon over 4 hot dogs.
Healthy Nachos Arrange whole-grain tortilla chips in a shallow baking pan. Top with corn kernels, canned black beans (drain them first), and shredded cheddar cheese. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 10 minutes, or until cheese melts.
Cucumber Water Cut slices of cantaloupe in the shape of a flower. Thread melon and cucumber slices on a toothpick, coffee stirrer, or skewer and put them in a glass of cold water. Garnish with mint.
Mild Gazpacho In a large bowl, stir together 2 cups each chopped cucumber, chopped tomatoes, and tomato juice along with 1/2 teaspoon finely chopped jalapeno pepper, 1 tablespoon cilantro, a dash of red-wine vinegar, and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon the mixture into bowls and put a cucumber spear on the side.
Lettuce Rolls Line Bibb or romaine lettuce leaves with Havarti cheese and several thin cucumber slices. Roll up, and serve with reduced-fat ranch dressing as a dip.
Super-Cool Burgers Combine a 6-ounce container of plain low-fat yogurt, 1/3 cup finely chopped cucumber, 1/2 teaspoon ground cumin, and salt and pepper to taste. Spread the topping on grilled lamb burgers.
Guac and Roll Mash an avocado with a splash of fresh lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Spread mixture on a whole-grain tortilla; top with cucumber slices, baby spinach leaves, and snow peas. Roll and slice crosswise.
Tuna-Topped Cukes Spread cucumber slices with some softened reduced-fat herb cheese. Spoon on drained canned tuna and sprinkle with a pinch of fresh dill.
Tasty Tic-Tac-Toe Peel an eggplant and cut lengthwise into sticks. Toss in a bowl with 1 egg and 1/4 cup milk, then coat with bread crumbs. Bake at 400 degrees F. for 20 minutes. Arrange strips like a tic-tac-toe board and fill in with cherry-tomato halves and broccoli.
Roasted Pasta Cut an eggplant into cubes and a red onion into wedges; toss in oil and roast at 400 degrees F. for 25 minutes, stirring once. Mix with 4 cups cooked pasta and 1/3 cup pesto sauce.
Confetti Rice Brush a sliced eggplant, sliced red onion, and 3 plum tomatoes cut in half with oil. Grill over medium coals for 10 minutes. Chop veggies and toss with 2 cups cooked brown rice, salt, pepper, and 3 tablespoons each olive oil and lemon juice.
Rockin' Ratatouille Saute 2 cups cubed eggplant, 1 cup cubed squash, 1 cup chopped tomatoes, and 1 tablespoon garlic in oil until tender, about 6 minutes. Stir in 2 tablespoons fresh basil, and salt and pepper to taste. Serve over cooked polenta.
Fun Focaccia Dip eggplant slices in flour, then in a mixture of an egg and 1/4 cup milk, and then in bread crumbs. Cook in oil on both sides for 8 minutes, turning once. Sandwich eggplant, tomatoes, and lettuce between slices of focaccia.
Veggie Volcano Season eggplant slices with salt and pepper; saute in hot oil for 8 minutes. Stack with slices of tomatoes and mozzarella cheese. Top with basil and drizzle red-wine vinaigrette down the sides.
Originally published in the August 2008 issue of Parents magazine.