It’s garden season! Through the latter part of July and certainly into August, all the efforts of nurturing and tending the summer gardens start to bear fruit. It’s a happy sight to see tomatoes ripening from green to red, the many squash blossoms transitioning into zucchini and yellow squash, cucumbers elongating, green beans seemingly sprouting overnight, herbs at their peak, lettuces ready for harvest, and blueberries bursting with flavor! And even if you don’t have a garden, Farmer’s Markets and grocers are stocked full with local seasonal produce, all at its prime!
Many cultures still follow a seasonal-based diet. This keeps the body attuned to the natural rhythm of nature around you, eating what is available during the present season, such as cooling fruits and vegetables in the summer (melons, berries, corn, cucumbers) and warming fruits and vegetables in the fall and/or early winter (apples, pears, broccoli, winter squashes). The body understands this rhythm and comes into greater energetic and nutritional balance when eating based on the season. When you can eat produce directly from the Earth (versus packaged and shipped or imported), it brings you in closer connection with the environment where you live, it reduces the carbon footprint, and you enjoy the optimal nutritional value of the fruits and vegetables harvested at their peak levels of antioxidants, vitamins and minerals. Fresh produce does the body good!
With the summer’s abundance of fresh vegetables, fruits, greens and herbs, it can be fun to experiment with new recipes and combinations! Here are a few favorites I’ve recently enjoyed pulling together, and I’m excited to share these simple recipes with you! Each of the recipes is vegan, gluten-free, chock-full of flavor and will make up to 4 side-dish size servings. I hope you enjoy ‘chef’ing it up!! ~ Jen Rizza
Garden Vegetable Salad
This makes a delicious side-dish for a picnic, can be enjoyed as a healthy snack, or could be a nice vegan lunch option! Keep the salad refrigerated and remove about 5-10 minutes before serving. The salad will hold for roughly 4-5 days when covered and stored in the refrigerator.
2-3 medium yellow squash
2 medium cucumbers
16-20 cherry tomatoes
1/3 cup diced red onion
1/3 cup toasted pinenuts
Greek seasoning to taste
Salt, pepper, oregano
1 Tbsp olive oil
Start by cutting yellow squash into bite-size (1/2 moon or 1/4 moon) pieces. Place in a covered microwave-safe container and season with salt, pepper and oregano. Squash has a high water content and the salt helps to soften the pulp and draw out some of the excess water. Add about a Tbsp of water, cover container and microwave for 90 seconds to par-cook the squash (and take out the bitterness of the raw vegetable).
Cut cucumbers into similar bite-size pieces and place in a large bowl. Cut cherry tomatoes in half and add to the bowl. Lightly season cucumbers and tomatoes with salt and add Greek seasoning, just enough for light flavor.
Add the diced red onion and the par-cooked yellow squash to the bowl.
Generously season entire ‘salad’ with Greek seasoning and fold/mix all components together.
Add 1 Tbsp olive oil, very lightly coating the vegetables and fold/mix again. Add more Greek seasoning as needed. The water from the squash, cucumbers and tomatoes will naturally help to build a ‘dressing’ for this salad.
Place 1/3 cup of raw pinenuts in a non-stick skillet and slowly heat over medium heat, stirring frequently to prevent burning. Once at least 1/3 to 1/2 of the pinenuts have a darker color to them, remove skillet from heat and allow pinenuts to cool slightly. When ready, add these to the salad.
Enjoy this truly garden-fresh salad!!
Vegan Nicoise-style Salad
This is a delightful dish on its own or as a complement to a larger meal. Packed with protein and singing with flavor, this is a delightful vegan dish in tribute to the classic Nicoise-style salad with tuna. Once prepared, store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
1-1 ½ cups of clean and hand-torn lettuce (Bibb and/or red leaf lettuces are so nice together!)
1 cup sauteed green beans
12-16 cherry tomatoes
10-12 marinated pitted olives (Kalamatas, Bella Cerignolas or Spanish green olives are delicious!)
1/2 ear cooked corn, kernels cut off
1/4 cup diced red onion
1 cup cooked red kidney beans
Salt, pepper, granulated garlic
1-2 Tbsp dried or fresh chopped oregano
1-2 Tbsp dried or fresh chopped parsley
1-2 tsp powered ginger (or you could use powdered mustard)
1-2 Tbsp olive oil
Start by de-stemming fresh green beans. Over medium heat, warm 1 tsp of olive oil in a skillet. Once warm, add the green beans and lightly season with salt, pepper and granulated garlic. Cover skillet and check green beans every so often, gently turning them with a spatula or tongs to cook evenly. Once cooked, remove from the skillet and cut green beans into thirds. Set these to the side.
In a small pot over medium heat, prepare pre-soaked or cook-ready red kidney beans and heat until warm and cooked through, but not boiling. Beans are best with a slight al-dente texture.
Prepare your half ear of corn – the easiest way is to bring a pot of water with a little salt to a boil, then add the ear(s) of corn, cover with a lid and remove the pot from heat. Allow corn to sit for up to 10 minutes. Remove the 1/2 ear of corn and cut off the kernels. Season kernels with salt, pepper, garlic and dried or fresh oregano. ***As an aside, you can check out my grilled corn recipe below, and use corn prepared in this style – it’s oh so scrumptious!!!
In a large bowl, place torn lettuces.
Cut cherry tomatoes in half and lightly season with salt and pepper. Add these to the bowl.
Cut pitted marinated olives in half or in quarters, lengthwise. Add these to the bowl.
Add diced red onion, seasoned corn kernels, and cut green beans to the bowl.
Drizzle 1-2 Tbsp olive oil over the salad, and season with oregano, parsley and powdered ginger (or mustard – if using mustard, definitely start with a little and taste, and then increase as you prefer).
Fold/toss all the ingredients together.
Add slightly warm red kidney beans and mix salad once again.
Grilled Summer Sweet Corn
To grill or not grill corn – and with or without the husk – these are frequently asked questions! And the answers are really – what’s your preference? Personally, I LOVE grilled corn, and particularly when it’s cooked with seasoning. If you have husked corn, you can peel back the husks but not remove them, and make sure to discard any of the cornsilk. If you don’t have husks or prefer a cleaner method, you can use foil to wrap the ears of corn. Cooking corn on the grill is such a nice summery thing to do, especially if you have burgers or other vegetables you’re already grilling. It also makes clean up VERY easy!!
Fresh ears of corn – husked or unhusked
Earth Balance ‘butter spread’ – or use regular butter if you eat dairy
Salt, pepper, granulated garlic, Italian seasoning
Foil and/or cooking twine (if using cooking twine, soak it in water)
Bring grill to roughly 350-400 degrees.
Remove cornsilk from the corn. You can keep the outer husks attached if you want to use them as your ‘wrap’ for the corn, or you can remove them and use foil instead.
Generously coat the corn with Earth Balance ‘butter’ or with regular butter.
Roll the corn in a mixture of salt, pepper, granulated garlic and Italian seasoning.
If using the husks, pull them back up around the corn, covering the seasoned kernels, and use the pre-soaked cooking twine to tie the husks together at the top (pre-soaking the twine helps it not burn – be sure to cut any long strings after tying it off).
If using foil, place 1 ear of corn diagonally in a square of foil. Fold the corners of the foil on the ends of the corn towards the middle, and then the corners on the long side of the corn and create a folded over ‘handle.’ Try to not wrap the foil tightly around the corn. You want a loose, but closed, fit with the foil.
Place corn on the grill so that it has indirect heat. Cover grill and allow corn to cook for about 20-25 minutes, using tongs to turn the corn a few times throughout to prevent hot-spots and burning.
When ready, remove corn from the grill and allow to sit and cool for a few minutes. Then, get ready to dig in!!
Peach & Blueberry Fruit Salad
The first time I enjoyed peaches and blueberries together was when I stayed at a beautiful AirBNB in Silt, Colorado. It was August and the famous Palisade peaches were at their peak ripeness – it’s said that Georgia has the best peaches, but the cool nights and warm dry days of the Western slope in Colorado leave Palisade peaches as a STRONG rival! Fresh summer peaches and blueberries are a delightful combination, and adding mint gives this salad a refreshing complement!
3-4 fresh peaches, cut into bite-size pieces or wedges
8-10 oz fresh blueberries
2 Tbsp roughly chopped fresh peppermint (I strongly recommend using actual peppermint, not the ‘mojito’ mint nor spearmint, as the peppermint has a more delicate flavor). **Be sure to pick mint leaves from the stems before chopping to avoid a 'woody' quality.
1-2 tsp agave nectar
Add peaches, blueberries and chopped peppermint to a bowl.
Gently fold/mix the fruit and mint together.
Drizzle agave nectar over the top and fold/mix once more.
Serve immediately. This can be served over vanilla yogurt, ice cream or whipped cream (dairy or non-dairy versions), or by itself! If preferred, prepare the salad a couple hours in advance, just remove from refrigerator 20 minutes before serving for optimal flavors. Fruit salad can be stored covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.
Tis the season to eat local fruits and vegetables! Get out there and support your local farmers, or enjoy the fruits of your labor from your own garden. Make haste and seize the day, serve your body well and nourish yourself with environmental, nutritional and soulful balance!
By Jen Rizza, Founder of Newtown Wellness Collective, Reiki Master, Yoga Teacher, Healthy-Living Guide and Health Advocate