The best of Long Island’s summer treats available throughout local markets.
When you’re amidst conversion to more locavore-like shopping behavior, one must occasionally painfully remember that patience is a virtue. It doesn’t take an expert to know that freshly picked, seasonal fruits and vegetables can’t be compared to their off-season, store-bought counterparts. Since Long Island is conveniently located in the Northeast, you have to either have a heated greenhouse or magic powers to grow summer produce throughout the winter.
While I love a nice squash soup or hearty kale in late fall, I’m sure most of us agree that the most abundant and diverse range of produce fruits in the summer. Freshly picked fruits and vegetables are higher in vitamins and minerals, as they have more time to mature on the vine/branch/stem. Shopping at farmers markets is the best way to buy the freshest produce, as much of it is harvested the day of market and only travels a few hours. Buying directly from producers is also a great way to learn about how your food is produced.
Without a doubt, tomatoes are my favorite summer vegetables. Many Long Island farmers markets offer unique heirloom varieties. You’ve also got your cucumbers, eggplant, peppers, zucchini, sweet peas, sweet corn, garlic, beets, lettuce, onions, string beans and basil in season. If you’re feeling adventurous this summer, try from among the more particular local produce, like hot peppers, shelling beans, fennel, zucchini blossom, figs, acorn squash or golden beets. You can even forage wild blackberries if you find a good spot. Watermelon and cantaloupe can also be found in the markets, while August is the start of pick-you-own peaches, pears and apples in local orchards.
As an island famous for our coastal beaches, summer also brings an exciting array of fresh seafood. If you’re not the type to test your sea legs and reel ’em in yourself, you can find local fishermen selling their catch at most local farmers markets. Increasing awareness of declining fish populations over the past few years has led to more intense conservation efforts, such as stricter catch requirements and regulation for some of the tastiest fish. Locally caught fluke, striped bass, porgy, lobster, bluefish and the prized black sea bass are all available throughout the summer. Indulge while you can since procrastinating might mean having to wait till next summer as our fishermen must respect the limits of the island’s aquatic bounty. Remember that there is no such thing as “fishy” fish if it’s fresh.
This time of year many Italians are also on the prowl to catch a cultural favorite at the farmers markets—zucchini blossoms. Indeed, if you’re Italian you have long summer’s days spent canning tomatoes for the winter’s sauce ahead. However, more immediate treats are in store as well. Every summer my Nonna makes fiori di zucca, or fried zucchini blossoms. Sweet and fluffy, they melt in your mouth and are the perfect representation of the delicacy and lightness of summer treats. They are even more enjoyable with the addition of honey, as local, raw and unprocessed honey wards off the ailments of allergies while sweetening our taste buds.
Share your favorite summer recipes with friends and family to create your own memories that complement the smells and flavors of everyone’s favorite season.
FRESH PEACH TARTLETS
By C. Prather
Made with Long Island peaches and honey, these tartlets taste like summer. The tartlet shells can be baked well in advance, adding the filling and peaches just before serving for an easy dessert after a barbecue.
Pistachio Shortbread Crust
1 cup salted, shelled pistachios
1¼ cups flour
¾ cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract
Peaches with Mascarpone & Honey Filling
4 ripe peaches, pitted and sliced
11/3 cups mascarpone
2 or 3 tablespoons local honey
Splash of rosé, if you happen to have a bottle open
Preheat oven to 350°. Pulse pistachios in a food processor until finely ground but not a paste, about 30 seconds. Add the flour, sugar, butter and vanilla; pulse until mixture is the consistency of cornmeal. Press dough into the bottoms and sides of 4 small tart pans. Bake until golden brown, about 10 to 12 minutes. Transfer to wire racks; cool completely.
In a small bowl, gently toss the sliced peaches with a drizzle or two of honey; set aside. In another small bowl combine mascarpone, a drizzle or two of honey and a splash of rosé. Add a dollop of filling to each tartlet shell and spread gently. Arrange sliced peaches over the mascarpone filling and garnish with mint leaves, if desired. Serve immediately.
NONNA’S ZUCCHINI BLOSSOMS IN A HONEY LEMON GLAZE
By Cristina Cosentino
2 cups zucchini flowers, stems trimmed, stamen removed, blanched
3 tablespoons aged pecorino cheese, grated
2 cups self-rising flour
3 eggs, slightly beaten
1 bag yeast
5 cups non-GMO vegetable, coconut, sunflower, or olive oil
Salt, to taste
1 cup raw local honey
¼ cup fresh orange zest
Warm oven to about 150°. Melt yeast according to directions on packaging. Combine cheese and flour in a large mixing bowl. Add eggs and mix. Add flowers and yeast and stir to combine. Cover bowl with a dish towel and let sit in warm oven until mixture doubles in size. Once risen, remove from oven. Heat oil in a large heavy pot to 375°. If you don’t have a thermometer, you can check the oil temperature by dropping small drops of water into the oil. If it simmers upon contact with the water droplets, it is hot enough. Scoop ½ cup of blossom mixture and gently drop into hot oil. Do not crowd blossoms, and allow enough room to flip. Flip over blossoms when edges are golden. Remove from oil when evenly golden brown and place on paper towel to drain. Season with salt. Drizzle honey on top of blossoms and top with orange zest. Let cool and indulge!