What to cook in August: New ways to tackle tomatoes, corn, peaches — even underripe ones — and more
Urgent cooking inspo for peak summer produce!
This article was originally posted August 2, 2018 and was updated August 7, 2019.
Walking through a farmers' market in August, it's easy to forget that the ground, for many of us... will be covered in snow in four months. Sorry to bring that up! BUT it's only to remind you how important it is that you get out and start celebrating what's happening RIGHT NOW In your own backyard. Or at least in a field close to you.
Get ahold of those local tomatoes, eggplant, corn, and peaches ASAP. And if you aren't lucky enough to be picking blackberries from dusty roadside bushes, be sure to scoop a pint or two up on your next trip to the market. It all tastes as it was meant to taste right now. And that memory, the one that'll form as you're biting into a juicy peach or slicing through a sweet-smelling tomato, might be the memory that's gonna get you through winter. We'll stop saying winter now. Here are some glorious ways to celebrate SUMMER, and what you must pick up in August!
Tackle those tomatoes
This is peak tomato time! Look for interesting varieties in all kinds of colours if you can find them. How to serve? As simply as possible.
Eat them raw!
Make a tomato sandwich with nothing more than mayo and a little salt to top your slices.
Do as the Spanish do and slice a piece of bread — thick, brush it with olive oil, and toast in the oven or on the grill until it's golden and crisp. Rub it with a raw clove of garlic and grate fresh tomato onto it using a box grater (like you would with cheese), discarding the skin. Sprinkle it with some olive oil and salt.
Slice them up into different shapes; some thick, others in wedges, or cut into cool tube shapes with an apple corer. You want an assortment to scatter playfully around a torn piece of fresh mozzarella like fior di latte cheese or mozzarella di bufala. Drizzle with your best olive oil and a splash of saba — an ingredient that's sweeter than balsamic and worth seeking out. Sprinkle with flaky sea salt and you've got an Instagram-worthy dish to brag about.
And if the cherry-tomato style catches your eye, maybe in a fancy heirloom variety, use them in fruit salad to give brunch a fresh twist. They are technically a fruit, anyway.
But don't stop there — chop them up for a tomato chutney or go gourmet with a savoury tomato tart.
Just remember the best place to store tomatoes is on the counter, as they tend to go mealy in a cold fridge. If fruit flies get at them, pop them into an air-tight container and keep them sealed up, but keep them at room temp.
Cool ways with corn
We don't have to tell you how to enjoy corn on the cob, but there are so many other ways to enjoy them in the height of their sweetness.
Try your hand at grilling corn and slathering it in zesty herb butter. Scrape the grilled kernels off the cob and mix them with diced tomatoes, feta, olive oil, salt, and ribbons of fresh mint.
The best way we can think of to get kernels off the cob without them flying all over the place is to set a small mixing bowl upside down in a larger bowl. Cut the protruding end of the cob off the corn to create a flat surface and stand the corn upright. Holding it in one hand, scrape the kernels off with the other with a chef's knife. The big bowl will catch the kernels.
And don't forget that August is the time to make corn chowder to eat now or freeze.
Eggplant is for more than mashing
You may not believe it, but eggplant is technically a tropical fruit! Be sure to play around with them for the brief time the local ones come out. Sure, their mushy flesh begs to be muddled into a dip, but it's worth seeking out other ways to present them too.
Turn it into a vegan pizza topping. Sweating two diced onions in olive oil with two peeled tomatoes (mark an x in the top and blanch them and pull the peel off), seasoned with salt and a pinch of sugar. Cook them until they are soft and golden, but not brown. While that's cooking, roast an unpeeled eggplant and red pepper in the oven until their skins blacken and their flesh is cooked. Wait for them to cool before peeling and chopping up. Season with salt and pepper. Spread the onion mixture onto store-bought or homemade pizza dough and scatter the eggplant and pepper bits on top. Bake the pizza until the crust is done.
And these aubergine delights make beautiful breakfast food, too. Slice them in half lengthwise and roast 'em up, topped with baked eggs and delicious toppings for an impressive vegetarian brunch.
Batty for blackberries
Blackberries add a wild edge to dishes and what's selling locally at the market stands now is the real deal. Your only limit is your own imagination when it comes to what to do with them.
Try swapping them in for blueberries in any baking recipe. They pair nicely with all the other fruit that's ripe right now, so mix them with your faves and bake them into a cobbler, crisp or pie. Or use them to dye icing naturally — check out the cool purple colour they make in this recipe!
And consider them for drinks too. Throw them into a homemade margarita mix or whiz them up into a lemonade by adding ½ cup blackberries, ⅓ cup lemon juice, 3-4 tbsp of sugar, and a cup of ice water to a blender. Spin that and sip as is, or add some gin.
You can think of a peach as a snack like an apple, but it makes a pretty fine cooking ingredient too.
Why not throw it on the grill while you're out there searing corn? To do it, cut the peaches in half and remove the pits. Brush the cut side with oil and grill until they're seared but still intact. Take them off the heat and throw them on a bed of arugula with toasted pistachios and basil and a lemony vinaigrette. Or, once they've been grilled, pop them into a hot fudge sundae for dessert!
Take it one step further by wrapping prosciutto around peeled peach wedges and grill until the prosciutto crisps. Offer these delicious packages on a bed of lettuce or, even better, beside an oozey ball of burrata or fresh mozzarella. Now that's summer.
Got too many peaches? Simply peel, slice, and freeze them in single layers separated by parchment paper before popping them into containers or freezer bags for all of your winter smoothies.
If you've got the opposite problem and your peaches aren't ripe, julienne them for a salad, or serve them on their own, unpeeled and sliced thin and dressed with two parts olive oil and one part lime juice and a sprinkling of fresh hot pepper slivers if you like it hot.
Use the above ideas as jumping-off points for your own experiments, or follow any of the seasonal recipes below to taste summer's bounty as it should be.