The Language of Summer

Now in Season Summer 2010 Issue

The Language of Summer

By Terese Allen | Photos By Jim Klousia and Carole Topalian 0

If vegetables could talk, they’d be loquacious in summer. Sweet corn would gossip and green beans would babble. Zucchini, those cheeky over-achievers, would be the loud-mouths in the group. Like party-goers on a Friday night, summer vegetables are ripe and ready for action. They’re all dressed up with some place to go—your kitchen.

It’s the same with fruits…and fresh herbs, cheese, meats, dairy.  There’s so much plush choice, so many ingredients chattering for attention that a cook hardly knows where to begin. Here in Wisconsin, we call that a good problem.

While the options for raw materials are near-daunting, cooking methods are serendipitously at their simplest. Put away the stew pot and fetch the big salad bowl. Make a chop-and-go mélange, one not dictated by a shopping list, but roused by the blizzard of colors and smells at the farmers’ market.

Peak season is the perfect excuse to get friendly with a cast iron skillet. Think inside the box—the CSA box, that is. Heat chubby cherry tomatoes and chive flowers in hot butter. Saute melon wedges with curry powder. Let cucumber rounds flash-dance in a pan with fresh dill.

And grill, baby, grill. Chops, steaks, chicken legs. Eggplant, fennel.  Swab them with olive oil and bring on the salt and pepper. Have you ever tried blanched, grilled broccoli? Try it. (Plunge those caramelized beauties into a garlicky dip.) Please don’t follow recipes exactly. “Grilling has mostly to do with intuition, experience, touch…,” wrote culinary savant Richard Olney.” Indeed, as cooking seasons go, summertime is the right time to be laid back, to let it happen.

Just listen to your ingredients. They’ve found their voice. They’ll be happy to tell you what to do.


Visit our Eat Seasonal page to find out what foods are in season right now, and make good use of the season's bounty with these delicious summer recipes:

Farfalle Toss

Grilled Zucchini Curls

Sweet Corn and Bulgur Salad

Fruit of the Season Clafouti


Terese Allen has written scores of books and articles about the foodways of Wisconsin, including the award-winning titles "The Flavor of Wisconsin" and "The Flavor of Wisconsin for Kids." She is co-founder and a longtime leader of the Culinary History Enthusiasts of Wisconsin (CHEW). If you want to get Terese going, just ask her the best way to fix an old-fashioned, how to hunt for morels, or why fish fries thrive in our state.

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