Produce harvested at its peak is your sure bet for flavor and freshness.
By Barbara Kobsar | Illustration by Charmaine Koehler-Lodge
Dense in texture but mild in flavor, cauliflower offers endless possibilities in salads, pastas, soups, snacks, sauces, hummus, and even mac and cheese. We find it in a myriad of colors these days: orange, purple, green, and the familiar white. Green cauliflower (aka broccoflower) is a cross between broccoli and cauliflower, and the variety with the spiraling lime-green florets pointing in every direction is Romanesco. All are easy to bake or steam whole or broken into florets. Quality is not affected by size in cauliflower, so choose heavy, compact heads with crisp green leaves. It’s always best to use cauliflower when it’s fresh.
Pass the peas, please! Loaded with fiber and rich in vitamin C, peas are members of the legume family. The most common peas on our tables are the ones we call garden peas, English peas, shelling peas, or simply green peas. They arrive at market with full (but not bursting) pods, and when popped free from their pods, the peas should be glossy, bright green, and smooth, all signs that they are fresh, tender, and sweet tasting. It’s okay to store garden peas in their pods for a few days in the refrigerator, but hold off on shelling until you’re ready to use them.
Bright-green sugar snaps and snow peas are good to eat pod and all since they are harvested before reaching full maturity when both pod and pea are tender. The pods of snow peas are flatter and translucent enough that you can see the immature peas inside. Enjoy snow peas whole or sliced in salads or in quick stir fries. Sugar snaps, a cross between snow peas and garden peas, have thicker pod walls and plumper peas. They are a welcome addition to crudité platters.
Arriving much earlier than other summer produce, locally grown zucchini is always welcome when it shows up small, slender, and green at the farmers’ market. Also known as Italian squash or courgette, zucchini is prolific and can grow rapidly to two feet or more in length when left on the vine, but the squash are usually harvested at the tender six- to eight-inch range. This summer squash is completely edible and exceptionally versatile in the recipe department. Many people love it baked into zucchini bread, but it’s more often sautéed, baked, grilled, stuffed with cooked rice or sausage, or used in lasagnas and soups. Lately, it’s become a star when spiralized to serve as a gluten-free “noodle.” ♦
Barbara's Zucchini Noodle Salad
3 medium zucchini
½ cup chopped green onion
2 or 3 radishes, trimmed and sliced thinly
2 cups blanched Romanesco florets
1 cup English peas
1 cup cottage cheese (for a mild dressing) or 1 cup crumbled blue cheese (for a bold-tasting dressing)
¼ cup buttermilk
Zest of 1 lemon
Fresh ground black pepper to taste
Prepare zucchini “noodles” using a spiralizer or a julienne vegetable peeler. Do not use the seeded area in the middle of the zucchini. Place noodles in a medium bowl with chopped green onion and sliced radishes.
Bring a pot of water to a boil and drop in the Romanesco florets to cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove to a bowl of ice water, and when cooled, add to the zucchini.
Cook the peas in the same pan of water for 2 to 3 minutes and remove to the ice water. Drain when cool and add to the zucchini.
Just before serving, gently toss with dressing.