by Jolene Lamb, coordinator, LLCC Culinary Institute
It is a hot and humid day when I sit down to write this article. By publication time the weather is predicted to change to a more fall-like pattern with daytime temps in the mid to upper 70s and cool crisp nights in the 50s.
I know I start off by mentioning the weather quite often in my articles. I do it party because I love the science of weather forecasting, and mostly because it affects what types of foods I want to prepare and eat. The drastic temperature shifts central Illinois experiences in late summer/early fall have me wearing shorts and flip-flops, eating simple dishes composed of garden heirloom tomatoes before quickly switching over to eating a bowl of hearty succotash while wrapped in a cardigan sweater.
So as unpredictable as the weather can be at times, it’s pretty easy to predict that the seasons will soon start to battle it out, with autumn pushing in early and summer trying to hang on late. Here are a few of my go-to recipes to make when it’s blazing hot one day and cool and crisp the next. Enjoy!
Sesame Tomato and Cucumber Salad – perfect for hot late summer day
1 pound tomatoes, thinly sliced crosswise
1/2 cup thinly sliced English cucumber
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon rice vinegar
2 teaspoons olive oil
1 1/2 teaspoons granulated sugar
2 medium scallions, dark green parts only, thinly sliced
1 medium serrano or jalapeno chile, thinly sliced crosswise
2 teaspoons toasted sesame seeds
Arrange tomato and cucumber slices on a platter.
Whisk together soy sauce, vinegar, olive oil and sugar in a small bowl until sugar dissolves.
Drizzle 2 tablespoons of dressing over tomatoes and cucumbers, and top with scallions, chile and sesame seeds.
Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
Serve immediately with remaining dressing.
Summer Succotash – Serve warm on a fall like late summer evening
2 cups fresh or frozen lima beans (see note)
4 slices of bacon
1 sweet onion, chopped
4 ounces zucchini, seeds removed and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
corn kernels from 4 ears
1 ¼ teaspoons kosher salt
½ teaspoon ground pepper
3 Tablespoons butter
5 ounces cherry or grape tomatoes, cut in half
¼ cup basil, thinly sliced
Place lima beans in a medium saucepan, and add water to cover. Bring to a boil over medium-high. Reduce to medium-low, and simmer until beans are just tender, 8 to 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.
While beans simmer, place bacon slices in a large cast-iron skillet over medium. Cook until crisp, about 8 minutes, turning once after 5 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels; crumble and set aside. Reserve drippings in skillet.
Add chopped onion and garlic to skillet over medium and sauté stirring often until onion is just tender about 5 minutes. Stir in fresh corn kernels, fresh zucchini, salt, pepper, and drained beans and cook stirring often until corn is tender and bright yellow about 5 to 6 minutes. Add butter and cook stirring constantly until butter is melted about 1 minute. Remove from heat.
Stir in halved tomatoes and basil; sprinkle with crumbled bacon, and serve immediately.
Note: Lima beans are traditional, but any beans can be used. I like black-eyed peas and I also add some hominy to my succotash. Any squash can be used, but you will need to adjust the cooking time for hard squash like butternut so add it in with the onions and garlic or roast separately and it and add at the end.
Zucchini Fritters – Hot day/cold day, these are great anytime!
Squeeze out as much liquid from the grated vegetable as possible. The little bit of cornstarch that the recipe calls for in the batter also helps these zucchini fritters get nice and crispy.
Soy Dipping Sauce
3 tablespoons unseasoned rice vinegar
1 tablespoon reduced-sodium soy sauce
1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
Crushed red pepper flakes
1 1/2 pounds zucchini (about 3 medium), grated
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt plus more for seasoning
1 large egg
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives
1 tablespoon cornstarch
Freshly ground black pepper
1/3 cup vegetable oil
Mix vinegar, soy sauce, sugar, and a pinch of red pepper flakes in a small bowl until sugar is dissolved. Set aside.
Place zucchini in a colander set in the sink and toss with 1/2 teaspoons salt. Let stand 10 minutes, then wring zucchini dry in a clean kitchen towel. Place zucchini in a large bowl and gently mix in egg, flour, chives, and cornstarch; season with salt and pepper.
Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 batches, drop 1/4-cupfuls zucchini mixture into skillet, flattening slightly; cook until golden and crisp, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer fritters to a paper towel–lined plate; season with salt. Serve with soy dipping sauce.
DO AHEAD: Fritters can be made 30 minutes ahead. Keep warm in a 200° oven.
Lincoln Land Community College offers credit programs in Culinary Arts, Hospitality Management, Baking/Pastry, and Value Added Local Food, and non-credit cooking and food classes through our Community Learning Culinary Institute. LLCC is now offering culinary classes online through the Community Education Department. For more information, visit our website at www.llcc.edu.