Ever run out of ideas on what to make for dinner? Late summer is the best time of year for light and delicious seasonal treats.
“There are more choices right now than during any other season,” says FreshDirect Chef Tina Bourbeau. Below are some easy ideas to get you going in the right direction. Rule of thumb: “It’s hard to go wrong with your favorite cheese and your favorite stone fruit,” she says.
Tina stresses that summertime is THE time for stone fruit. She also encourages cooks to mix popular summer fruits and vegetables. Tomatoes and avocados are both fruits that pair beautifully with stone fruit.
Never short on culinary inspiration, Chef Bourbeau can easily toss out a dozen combinations. Among her favorites: tomatoes, melon and goat cheese.
“Your favorite cheese is a great starting point for a meal, snack or pre-dessert course if you’re going fancy,” says Chef Bourbeau. Using your favorite cheese sparks your imagination for what else you’d like to taste alongside it. In fact, it’s likely that great combinations will happen naturally if you stay seasonal and start with one ingredient you know well. “If you already have one food you cherish on your plate, your meal is off to a tasty start,” she says.
Cooking fruits, like cherries, in red wine, sugar or honey and adding your favorite spices can kick up a relatively ho-hum cheese plate and give it zest. Cooked fruits can also serve as colorful garnishes for roasted duck, pork or lamb. These types of garnishes cut through fats and deliver balance to the palate.
“I love to do big salads that have protein as the centerpiece and then surround that with the ripest fruits, vegetables and lettuces, a sliver of cheese and a hunk of bread. It’s really the loveliest meal; not only delicious, but varied and interesting,” she says.
Whatever you do, remember to add the salt, even to fruit preparations. “Salt enhances the flavor of everything and ‘wakes up’ the flavors of your ingredients. Proper seasoning transforms ingredients from good to great,” says Chef Bourbeau.
Classic combos like lettuce, a raw vegetable and a simple lemon and olive oil dressing can satisfy hunger in minutes and become the base for all your favorite ingredients and the starting point for a seasonal entrée. Similarly, a roasted or grilled meat, sweetly cooked fruit and simple grain salad provides a fast and easy last-minute solution.
For example: baby arugula (dressed in a drizzle of lemon and olive oil, sea salt and pepper), paper-thin sliced fennel, red wine-braised cherries (with cinnamon, a pinch of chili flakes, some coriander and mustard seeds), sliced or crumbled goat cheese and a rare-cooked lamb loin are a fabulous combination. A sprinkle of roasted and salted almonds or pistachio add great texture too.
A few of Chef Bourbeau’s tips for cooking with fruit:
- Every part of the meal needs to be seasoned so that when it comes together, it’s balanced.
- If you are cooking fruits, try to do so the day before so that all of the flavors have ample opportunity to mingle.
- Fruit compotes that are stored in their cooking liquids have a long shelf life, so make extra if you can.
At this time of the year, you can’t go wrong with avocado, cucumbers, peaches, cherries, nectarines, apricots, tomatoes, blueberries and baby lettuce.