Summer's last hurrah: Three recipes to savor the season

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Labor Day is just around the corner, if you can believe it, and you know what that means: Summer's over.

Not officially, maybe -- the autumnal equinox isn't until Sept. 22 -- but it certainly feels like the beginning of fall. Many area kids already are back in school or are soon to be, and on a run through Washington's Landing this past weekend, I saw more than a few dead maples leaves piling up on the edge of the sidewalk.

Sigh. Cool days and even cooler nights can't be too far behind, what with backyard barbecues giving way to tailgate parties, and cookies and sandwiches being packed into school lunches instead of picnic baskets.

Happily, grocery stores, roadside stands and farmers markets still are flush with fresh veggies in every color of the rainbow. From giant zucchinis to luscious peaches to tart-sweet raspberries to red, green, yellow and orange tomatoes, there's a bounty of flavors yet to be sampled before this year's cycle of sowing and harvesting starts to wrap up.

In other words, there's still time to get cracking with a farm-fresh meal.

Inside, we offer three great recipes that will let you enjoy one last great taste of summer. They're fresh takes on some of the season's all-time favorites: Corn, tomatoes, zucchini and peaches.

Corn Pancakes with Tomato, Bacon and Lemon-Chive Cream

PG tested

I'm always on the lookout for the next best pancake, and this recipe is a definite contender. Because of the addition of cornmeal, they're a little grainier and not as sweet as a traditional breakfast pancake. But what a great way to put those extra ears of sweet corn to good use.

Pair the pancakes with the juiciest, ripest tomatoes you can find. To cut down just a bit on calories, I used bacon turkey. You can reheat any leftover cakes in the toaster.

  • 1/2 cup light sour cream

  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives

  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

  • 2 1/4 ounces all-purpose flour (about 1/2 cup)

  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal

  • 1 teaspoon sugar

  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 1/8 teaspoon ground red pepper

  • 1 1/4 cups fresh corn kernels (about 3 ears), divided

  • 2/3 cup low-fat buttermilk

  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted

  • 1 large egg

  • Sliced heirloom tomatoes

  • 6 slices cooked bacon, crumbled (I used bacon turkey)

Combine sour cream, chives and lemon rind in a small bowl; chill.

Weigh or lightly spoon flour in a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour and cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt and red pepper in a medium bowl. Place 1 cup corn kernels, buttermilk, butter and egg in a blender; process until coarsely pureed. Add pureed corn mixture to flour mixture, stirring until just combined. Fold in 1/4 cup corn.

Pour about 2 tablespoons batter per pancake onto a hot nonstick griddle or nonstick skillet; spread gently with a spatula. Cook 3 minutes or until tops are covered with bubbles and edges look cooked. Carefully turn pancakes over; cook 3 minutes or until bottoms are lightly browned. Arrange 2 pancakes on each of 6 plates; top each pancake with sliced tomato, bacon crumbles and 1 teaspoon lemon-chive cream. Serve immediately. Serves 6.

-- Adapted from "Cooking Light Pick Fresh Cookbook" (Oxmoor House, 2013, $21.95)

Zucchini ripini

(Cheese-stuffed zucchini)

PG tested

My favorite way to prepare zucchini usually is to slice it, then throw it on the grill with a little olive oil and kosher salt. This simple celebrate-the-season recipe is nearly as easy, equally tasty and goes just as well with sliced meats, salads and bread. Plus, because it's meant to be dished up at room temperature, you can make it ahead.

Serve either as antipasti or as a vegetarian main course.

  • 6 medium zucchini

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided

  • 1 shallot or small white onion, very finely chopped

  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

  • 1 cup fresh tomato sauce (recipe below)

  • 6 tablespoons dry bread crumbs (I used panko)

  • 1 egg, beaten

  • 3/4 cup finely grated parmesan

  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped flat-leaf parsley

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Cut zucchini lengthwise. Remove soft, fleshy center with a spoon and set aside, so that you are left with long canoe shapes. Put these onto a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Bake for 10 minutes in the oven. Remove and set aside.

Meanwhile, chop the zucchini flesh finely. Heat 3 tablespoons of the remaining oil in a frying pan and cook zucchini flesh, the onion and the garlic, stirring constantly, or until softened. Set aside.

Spread the tomato sauce over the bottom of an ovenproof dish large enough to hold all the zucchini. Add the bread crumbs, eggs, parmesan and the parsley to the zucchini flesh. Season with salt and pepper and mix together. Stuff the zucchini with the mixture, pushing it down to secure the stuffing inside each hollow. Place the stuffed zucchini on top of the tomato sauce. Season lightly again and drizzle with remaining olive oil. Bake for 20 minutes, or until cooked through and golden brown.

Serves 6 as a starter or 4 as a main course.

-- "The Italian Cooking Course" by Katie Caldesi (Kyle, May 2013, $29.95)

Fresh Tomato Sauce

PG tested

  • 2 1/4 pounds fresh, ripe and very red tomatoes

  • 4 sprigs (10 leaves) basil, divided

  • 1 medium red onion, peeled and quartered

  • 5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and lightly mashed

  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

  • 1 heaping teaspoon sugar (optional)

Put tomatoes, 2 sprigs basil and onion in a large heavy-bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Cover pan with lid and leave on heat for about 45 minutes, shaking pan frequently, until tomatoes have released their juices and softened. Remove basil leaves.

Remove pan from heat and pas sauce through a food mill or sieve, to remove tomato skins and most of the seeds. Alternatively, use a hand blender and puree tomatoes, skins and all (my preferred method).

Heat oil in pan and add garlic cloves. After a couple minutes add tomatoes and remaining basil. Adjust seasoning to taste with salt and pepper and, if necessary, the sugar (if tomatoes are sweet, you will not need the sugar). Bring to boil, then lower heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for 30 to 45 minutes, until mixture has reduced and the flavor has become more concentrated.

Makes 6 to 8 servings.

-- "The Italian Cooking Course" by Katie Caldesi (Kyle, May 2013, $29.95)

French Toast with Grilled Peaches and Blueberry Syrup

PG tested

Yes, it's possible to make breakfast on the grill. This easy recipes marries 2 of summer's sweetest tastes -- blueberries and peaches.

  • 1 1/2 cups fresh blueberries

  • 3/4 cup maple syrup

  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

  • 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, divided

  • 4 firm but ripe peaches, each cut in half

  • 4 large eggs

  • 2/3 cup half-and-half

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

  • 8 slices day-old challah, each about 3/4 inch thick (I used day-old Mancini's Italian bread)

  • Unsalted butter for griddle

Prepare grill for direct cooking over medium heat.

In a saucepan over medium-high heat, combine blueberries, syrup and lemon zest and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and simmer for 3 minutes. Remove from heat and keep warm.

Combine melted butter and 1 tablespoon sugar and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Brush peach halves all over with 1 tablespoon of the butter mixture. Grill over direct medium heat, with lid closed, until they are browned in spots and warm throughout, 8 to 10 minutes, turning every 3 minutes or so. Transfer to a cutting board. When cool enough to handle, cut into wedges. (I slipped off the skins.)

Preheat a grill-proof griddle over direct medium heat for about 10 minutes. In a baking dish whisk the eggs, half-and-half, the remaining 1 tablespoon sugar, vanilla extract, cinnamon and salt until thoroughly combined. Working in batches, place bread in egg mixture, soak for 2 minutes, and turn once. Butter the griddle. Using tongs, remove bread from egg mixture, allowing any excess to drip back into the dish. Place bread on the griddle and cook with the lid closed, until golden brown on both sides, 6 to 8 minutes, turning once. Remove from griddle and keep warm. Repeat with remaining bread.

Serve the French toast topped with grilled peaches and blueberry syrup. Serves 4.

-- "Weber's New Real Grilling" by Jamie Purviance (Sunset, April 2013, $24.95)

food - recipes

Gretchen McKay:, 412-263-1419 or on Twitter @gtmckay.


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