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Summer Harvest

Summer is a special time of year for Italian families to reconnect. And as temperatures climb, what typical Italian families do most is share with family and friends the bounty of produce from their backyard and rooftop gardens. You don’t have to be in Italy to enjoy your produce, thanks to the fresh produce in farmer’s markets across the country. Even if you buy produce from your local grocery store, preparing fresh recipes can be as rewarding as it would be if you were cooking in Tuscany.

Garden Abundance, Bertolli® Style

Convenience foods are popular in Italian outdoor markets and grocery stores, but the mantra “fresh ingredients, simply made” is one that holds true as Italians are committed to cooking with ingredients they often buy in the morning and cook that evening.
By the end of the summer, however, there are usually a few vegetables that overflow from everyone’s garden, or are always so available at the market that people have run out of ways to prepare them: particularly corn, peppers of all kinds, squash, and tomatoes. Bertolli® offers a trove of recipes that can help you think of new ways to use some of these crowd-pleasing vegetables during the summertime and any time of year.

Corn

Purchasing. Corn can keep in your refrigerator for up to three days if you peel it and place it in a plastic bag that zips. Some stores allow you to husk it in the produce section (which saves a mess at home). Choose ears that are heavy for their weight, and have green, healthy looking husks.
If you are using cut corn from the cob for a recipe, it may be helpful to know that one medium-size ear yields about a half cup of kernels.
Preparation. Served on the cob, cut from the cob into another dish, or roasted on the grill in their own husks, corn is a versatile summer treat.
Steaming corn in a large pot with just a few inches of water yields a sweet and tender kernel (typical cooking times are less than you think: take care not to cook past five minutes). Grilling it in its husk imparts a smoky flavor and the kernels have a detectable chew. Leave it on the grill until the husks become charred. When ready to serve, peel the husk and roll the cob in butter and then grated Pecorino Romano cheese for an undeniable saltiness. For another twist on grilled corn, try Bertolli’s® Fresh Corn with Garlic recipe.

Peppers

Purchasing. Red, green, poblano, banana…the peppers selection is wide; but the ones you will typically see as ingredients in Italian summer recipes are the red and green bell variety. Like most vegetables, select ones that are heavy for their weight and don’t show signs of bruising. Ones that are firm and deeply colored will last a little longer in your refrigerator, so choose accordingly if you’re not going to use them right away.
Preparation. In addition to their texture (crisp), color (vibrant), and taste (sweet), the vitamin C in peppers also makes them as healthy as they are tasty, whether julienne or diced. When grilled, roasted, sautéed or slightly charred, they become even sweeter.
Use this quick side to accompany summertime entrees of fish, chicken or meat, or even burgers or sandwiches. Raw Corn Salad with Peppers: combine raw corn, diced red pepper, chopped sweet onion, a handful of cilantro, the juice of a lime (amounts can all be to your liking), a sprinkle of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. For a dish that puts peppers center stage, try Bertolli®’s Chicken with Peppers and Goat Cheese.

Zucchini and Summer Squash

Purchasing. Zucchini and summer squash come in all shapes and sizes, but in their case bigger is not better. Look for small to medium size zucchini and squash, which tend to be sweeter, however if you’re cooking something that requires long strips or wide round slices, pick the biggest vegetables you can get.
Preparation. The end of the summer usually brings an overload of zucchini and squash. The good news is that their consistency makes them a chameleon-like ingredient in dishes ranging from sauces to kabobs because they can be pureed smooth, grated into a patties, or left in large chunks to be roasted or grilled with onions, peppers and tomatoes.
Zucchini and squash make great additions to salsas which can be used as delicious toppings for pastas, meat, poultry and fish. With the abundance of squash and parsley you’ll see in August farmer’s markets or at your local grocery store, try Steak Tagliata with Fresh Vegetable Salsa. Or, use up your delicious zucchini by making Bertolli®’s take on this classic Italian salad, Buffalo Caprese with Grilled Tomato and Zucchini.

Tomatoes

Purchasing. When you have more tomatoes than you know what to do with it’s easy to want to store them in the refrigerator to keep them at their peak the longest. However, tomatoes keep best in a cool and not cold area, or at room temperature. The chill of your refrigerator will rob them of much of their delicate taste.
What this means is you must use what you buy sooner than later…which in the summer should not be a problem. Many Italians swear they will not let a tomato pass their lips after the last one is picked from the vine in late summer or early fall, deeming out-of-season fruits inedible (and yes: the seeds in tomatoes make them fruits though we treat them as vegetables).
Preparation. With tomatoes, often the simplest preparation is the best. Fresh slices served with a drizzle of Bertolli’s extra-virgin olive oil and some balsamic vinegar, a pinch of salt and a grind of fresh pepper is a delicious side for any meal. Sliced tomatoes are also a treat with a simple sprinkle of sugar (this is also a good trick for tomatoes that aren’t quite as perfect as you’d like). For a more structured recipe, try Bertolli®’s ready-in-a snap summer dish, Freshest Summer Spaghetti.