How to Pick and Prepare Summer Fruits and Vegetables
Keep corn sweet.
Corn is a classic kid fave. Buy and cook fresh corn soon after it's picked; the natural sugars quickly begin to convert into starch. If you've got more ears than you can eat in a day or two, blanch them to preserve their sweetness, then reheat them when you're ready.
Put berries on your "buy organic" list.
When you're looking for ways to get the biggest bang for your organic-only buck, consider that conventionally grown strawberries and blueberries are high in pesticide residue. If they're your kid's favorite fruit, go organic.
How to Select, Store & Cook Summer Produce
Keep root vegetables crisp.
Buying carrots, beets, and turnips with perky leaves lets you know you're getting these root veggies at their freshest. But those telling tops will continue to draw moisture from the root so be sure to cut off the leaves before starting.
Make more fun eggplant crust.
Fire up the grill for mini "pizzas" that don't require using a rolling pin. Simply slice a medium eggplant crosswise into 1/2-inch rounds and brush both sides with a little olive oil. Grill, turning once, until firm but tender, about 7 minutes. Top with a dollop of tomato sauce and part-skim shredded mozzarella; grill, covered, until cheese is melted.
Pick a perfect melon.
Before you thump, squeeze, or shake, smell! As most melons ripen, they give off a strong (but pleasant!) scent. Store them at room temperature until ripe (watermelons actually retain more of the antioxidant lycopene this way) and at that point, go ahead and pop the fruit into the fridge.
Get smart about stone-fruit storage.
A mealy peach is sure to have your kid begging for a less-healthy snack. Avoid the lackluster texture by keeping under-ripe stone fruits out of the fridge. Instead, store peaches, nectarines, and plums in a shady spot on the counter or even in a paper bag, until they reach a stage of ripeness where the flesh gives slightly (peach and nectarine skin will be deep red and butter yellow). At that point, they're ready to refrigerate.
Slow down tomato season.
Getting the most out of summer's tomatoes feels like a race against the clock. But here's a delicious way to extend your enjoyment: Halve and seed tomatoes. In a casserole dish, sprinkle with chopped garlic, dried herbs, and salt; then drench in olive oil. Roast low and slow (250° F for 2½ hours), stirring once about halfway through, until caramelized and jammy. Freeze.
Don't let fresh herbs go to waste.
In summer, you can score oversize bunches of herbs for a steal. While hearty herbs such as rosemary, thyme, and oregano can be dried for future use, ones like cilantro, basil, and parsley are excellent used for a summer pesto (go light on the garlic for a kid-friendly sauce) or kneaded into compound butters. Serve butters on the side with grilled fish or veggies, and freeze extra for use in the fall.
Basic compound butter: Mix 2 Tbs. chopped herbs into ½ stick creamed butter.
Cure a kid-friendly pickle.
Kirby cucumbers are crisp, solid, and thin-skinned, with fewer seeds than the everyday cukes, so they're ideal for quick pickling: Rinse, thinly slice, salt and let sit in colander until wilted, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, dilute one part sugar in two parts distilled vinegar. Rinse kirbies and squeeze out water. Marinate them in the vinegar mix for at least an hour and pile them on top of sandwiches. If not eating pickles within a few hours, boil the vinegar mix before pouring it over cukes.
Minty Beef Lollies and Cucumber-Carrot Raita
These cute kabobs also make great party food, from a kids'-birthday snack to your cocktail-hour hors d'oeuvre.
Pizza With Salami and Kale
Give pizza night a makeover. A kale spread and salami slices provide a kick of flavor, plus vitamin A, protein, and fiber.
Salmon With Peachy Quinoa
Chunks of sweet summer peaches will entice kids to dive into salmon and quinoa.
Fresh Blueberry Pie
The graham cracker crust in this summer standby will win over picky eaters and become a summer must-have.
Little ones will love this fun, fruity treat made with fresh honeydew. Freeze chunks of melon ahead of time and their frozen favorite will be ready in just few minutes.
Originally published in the June 2013 issue of Parents magazine.
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