The Tastes of Summer
Updated: Jul 24, 2022
Summer is ripe with different tastes and smells. Homegrown grape tomatoes might be my favorite, juicy and still warm from the sun. Or crisp corn kernels fresh off the cob. Grilled corn on the cob is the best, and our local stand will sell it in bundles until they run out.
Aside from being delicious, fruits and veggies have many health benefits (whether fresh, frozen, or canned). I embrace the fresh produce of the season whenever possible though, as the taste is next level. Attempting to garden and/or supporting local farmers is a bonus.
Tomatoes are high in lycopene (which gives them the red color), potassium, vitamins B and E, and other nutrients. Lycopene absorption is better with fat and cooking (add some olive oil and do a quick sauté, or make some pasta or pizza sauce to stash away). I prefer fresh though, which can still boost immune function, lower "bad" cholesterol (LDL), ease tired eyes after screen time, and may be helpful for those with asthma or emphysema.
Ways to Eat Tomatoes:
-Right off the vine (grape and cherry)
-Salsa: diced with onions, pepper, cilantro, olive oil, lime juice...go for it!
-Sautéed with olive oil, salt, pepper, oregano and puréed for pasta or pizza
-Bruschetta: diced with olive oil, salt, pepper, and chopped basil on top of toasted baguette
-Caprese: sliced with fresh mozzarella and basil (add olive oil and balsamic vinegar)
Corn gets a bad reputation because it is high in natural sugar and carbohydrates. It is subsidized by the government which makes it cheap to grow and its derivatives (often not that great for you) are used in many processed/packaged foods, which are better avoided if possible. BUT, corn does have health benefits.
Corn has vitamin C, an antioxidant that can help prevent cancer and heart disease. It is high in fiber to keep you full between meals, and feeds healthy bacteria in your digestive tract. Popcorn is a great snack that can help prevent pockets in your colon (diverticulosis). Did you know corn comes in many colors? Yellow, white, blue, purple, red, and even black. The darker colors have more antioxidants (think blue corn chips or taco shells).
Ways to Eat Corn:
-On the cob: lightly coat with olive oil and season, then grill
-Mexican Street Corn: Top grilled corn with crema (I use 2% plain greek yogurt for less fat/more protein) and sprinkle with Cotija, grated Parmesan, or crumbled feta cheese. Finish with some cilantro and lime. Can add chili powder and/or cayenne pepper for a kick.
-Cowboy Caviar: Cut kernels off the cob and mix with bell peppers, tomatoes, black beans, lentils, red onion, and cilantro. Dressing of olive oil, white vinegar, salt and chili pepper.
-Popcorn: not fresh, but still great. Air pop and drizzle with olive oil and season, or find a microwave bag without added butter (and lightly salted).
-Corn chips/tortillas: also not fresh, and usually deep fried, so eat in moderation. But so yummy with fresh tomato salsa (or Cowboy Caviar). Try a blue corn chip for fun, and look for baked for less saturated fat.
Recipe for Cowboy Caviar
-1 (15oz) can black beans, rinsed
-1 (15oz) can lentils, rinsed (or kidney beans, black-eyed peas, pinto beans, etc)
-1 red onion, chopped
-2 bell peppers, chopped (use different colors)
-3 or 4 roma tomatoes, chopped
-2 ears of corn, shave kernels off (uncooked). Or 1 cup of frozen or canned corn, rinsed
-1 cup cilantro (1 large bunch), chopped
-limes to taste
-1/2 cup olive oil
-1/4 cup white wine vinegar
-1 tsp salt
-1 tsp chili powder (can add dash of cayenne pepper for a kick)
-1 or 2 Tbsp honey to taste
Whisk dressing and set aside. Mix other ingredients in large bowl and add dressing. For best results prepare the night before and keep in the refrigerator until ready to eat. Serve with corn chips, tortillas, use as topping for salads/bowls, or eat right out of the bowl!