What to cook in August: Every part of every vegetable

A tomato is the heart of summer in your hands.

A tomato is the heart of summer in your hands

triptych of three dishes. left: overhead shot of Squash Yogurt Dip on a blue plate; middle: a platter of Kale Salad with Tahini Ranch Dressing; right: a plate with Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomatoes
(Photography, left: Eric Wolfinger; middle: David Bagosy; right: Gabriel Cabrera)

My Greek grandparents on my father's side babysat my little brother and me all the time when we were children. Their semi-detached house in the suburbs of Montreal was another world, where we spoke a different language and my seamstress grandmother made us costumes on her industrial sewing machine. We watched the few English movies they had over and over (Amadeus, Enter the Dragon, A Fistful of Dollars), banged on the piano, ran around the little apple and pear trees in the yard and generally went wild under their doting supervision. There were many "bad" behaviours we picked up there that my less lenient parents would complain about having to undo. But there's one I don't think they ever knew about.

When we were in the grocery store and I thought no one was looking, I'd take a tomato from one of the giant piles and steal as big a forbidden bite as my little mouth could handle. Then I'd sneak it back onto the pile bite-side down. 

Where did a five-year-old learn to do that? In my grandparents' garden. My grandfather was the steward of the large rectangular plot that magically yielded many of the staples of their Mediterranean diet — cucumbers, tomatoes, peppers, zucchini — and my grandmother would alchemize them into all kinds of Greek classics. But what I remember most vividly is eating things right away, with our hands, to their core (and sometimes that too). We'd pluck the green peppers and devour them whole, still standing in the box of earth; the tomatoes as well. At the kitchen table, we'd all count to three before taking a big bite of cooked corn on the cob: "Ena, dyo, tria" — chomp! There were marigolds too: I took them to school to use as bouquets for my classmates to "get married" at recess. 

This training in summer feasting was surely the origin of my grocery store thievery. And I think August in particular is the time of year when things are beautiful and delicious and you must have a bite. 

Wander the markets, gardens, fields and grocery stores to find beautiful jewels to crown your pizzas, pickle in old jars, transform into entirely new textures, and use in salads and wedding bouquets. A single radish can be the beginning of a great adventure — just read Rapunzel or Nadiya Hussain's recipe for radish ceviche. I encourage you to find inspiration from everything edible at its peak and to be ravenous in both your consumption and creation. These recipes might help.

Nadiya's Radish Ceviche 

(Credit: Hungry Gap Productions Ltd.)

Kale Salad with Tahini Ranch Dressing 

(Photo: David Bagosy, Styling: Melissa Direnzo)

Grilled Radicchio Salad with Tahini & Chive Dressing

Swiss Chard Stem Spread, Kale Stem Pesto, and Baked Broccoli Stem Dip

(Photography by Leila Ashtari)

Borani-yeh Kadoo | Summer Squash Yogurt Dip 

(Photography by Eric Wolfinger)

Stuffed Daylilies with Fresh Tomato Sauce

(Photo: Gonna Griffith)

Sweet And Sour Quickled Peaches, Tangy Quickled Cherry Tomatoes and Quickled Pizza Mushrooms

(Photography by Leila Ashtari)

Cauliflower Fritters

(Photography by Betty Binon)

Spiced Chicken Salad Stuffed Tomatoes 

(Photography by Gabriel Cabrera)

Orange-Basil Watermelon Salad with Grilled Calamari

(Photography by Michael Gozum)

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