Quick Summer Pickles

Later in the season, when the cucumbers, okra, and tomatoes have almost petered out, you can put up those special pickles for the holiday table, but peak summer vegetables make great quick pickles to have with your fresh vegetables. Do not–I repeat NOT–attempt this with vegetables you’ll find in a supermarket. The vegetables should be young and very firm. Slice or cube cucumbers, small okra, green tomatoes or squash. For every two cups of vegetables, add about a half cup of finely sliced white or yellow onion (red will bleed). Pack into a quart jar. In a bowl, mix a cup of water, about a third a cup of vinegar (apple cider, white, and rice wine are all good), 2 tablespoons sugar (optional), and 1 to 2 teaspoons salt and stir until dissolved. You can include a clove or so of slivered garlic, if you please. Let these sit for at least three hours before serving, overnight is better. They will keep in the refrigerator for a week, but they rarely last that long.

Easy Tomato Canapes

For thirty or forty, fry to a crisp and crumble 1 pound bacon, add a cup of mayo, and two cups finely-chopped green onion. Season with Tony Cachere’s Seasoning, spread on rounds of bread (I use Wonder), and top with drained tomato slices dusted with dill.

A Basic Gazpacho

One soup you’ll never find in a can is gazpacho, a king of cold soups, and an easily-made, refreshing and somewhat novel way to serve fresh summer vegetables. Older recipes of this dish always include bread as one of the basic ingredients, usually melded early on with oil, salt and garlic into something resembling a paste. While my recipe does not include bread at that juncture (I simply don’t like the texture), take it from someone who crumbles cold cornbread over a most any soup, bread is a great addition, and any well-textured bread will do.

Take two or three cloves of garlic, mince very, very finely and mash in the bottom of a glass or enamel bowl with a teaspoon of salt and about a half a cup of olive oil. If you want to try adding bread, now is the time, but I can’t make a recommendation as to what kind. Add in fine dice one yellow onion, three very ripe summer tomatoes, two peeled cucumbers, two ribs celery (with leaves), and a sweet pepper if you like, though the pepper can overpower the other vegetables; a sweet banana pepper works best. I don’t recommend hot peppers; this is a cooling dish, and should be refreshing, not pungent. Likewise, starchy vegetables such as fresh corn or peas seem out-of-place to me as well. Add another teaspoon of salt, a teaspoon of cumin, a teaspoon of fresh basil, a heaping tablespoon of freshly-chopped parsley, a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper and a bit more olive oil, perhaps a tablespoon. You might want to add some liquid, in which case I recommend a vegetable juice such as V8; tomato juice is too thick. Refrigerate overnight. An hour before serving, add more juice if needed, a fresh chopped parsley, adjust the salt and pepper, and top with a slosh of olive oil. Serve in chilled bowls with crusty bread.