Summer Eats

May 5, 1999 at 12:00 am

Buy it: Summer means produce. The eggplants are lush. The tomatoes juicy. Michigan strawberries are dark red – buy them by the flat in June and get blueberries late in July.

At Eastern Market look for farmers bringing their own crops to market. It’s easy to tell, either by what’s for sale, or by the boxes they come in.

Chat the farmers up; you’ll find that they spent all day Friday picking, and arrived at the market long before daybreak. Don’t try their patience by haggling. Bring it home.

Grill it: A few basic techniques can take you through the whole summer. For vegetables, brush lightly with olive oil, add salt and pepper as desired. Grill.

My sister introduced me to grilled sweet potatoes. Slice them about a half-inch thick, prepare as above, turn to brown evenly. Do eggplant the same way. In fact, there are few vegetables that can’t be grilled this way.

I pick an assortment of herbs from my garden – parsley, basil, thyme, marjoram, tarragon, chives, garlic – put them in the blender, cover with olive oil and push start. Use this mixture to brush on your vegetables.

For the main course, try this recipe for blackened tuna, from Terri Edison of Inkster. Terri’s mother grew up in Louisiana cooking Creole, and Terri learned from her.

Mix dry rub: 1/3 cup of Wondra Flour, 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder, 1/2 teaspoon onion powder, 1 teaspoon Aunt Jane’s Crazy Mixed Up Salt (available at Meijer), 1 1/2 tablespoons Cajun spices.

Marinate tuna steaks for 2-3 hours in a mixture of 1/2 cup fresh lemon juice, 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar, 1/2 package dry Italian dressing mix, 1/4 cup olive oil.

Sprinkle with dry rub, place on a very hot grill, sear on each side while basting with leftover marinade. This recipe can be adapted to just about any fish. If it is an oily fish, such as salmon, skip the marinade.

Grow it: Homegrown is hard to beat. If you have room for only one plant, try a cherry tomato called "Sweet 100s." They must have six hours of sun a day. I gave an extra plant to Ann and Justin Finkel, 6 and 4, respectively, and their mom reported that they ate them off the vine like candy.

If you have room for two tomato plants, substitute basil for one. Buy a six-pack of seedlings and give away two. Wait until the soil is really warm, late May (same with tomatoes). Keep pinching off the tops and make a batch of pesto. Recipes abound, but if you don’t have one, e-mail me.

Eat it: Eat something new and different this summer, such as zucchini flowers. Pick the male flowers. (Zucchini is a one-plant sex education class. Look at the stem – the female has a perfectly formed infant zucchini.) Remove the pistil (you’ll know it when you see it, and it can be used to fertilize the female if the bees are scarce).

Make a batter with flour and water to the consistency of heavy cream. Heat oil about an inch deep in a frying pan until hot but not smoking. Dip the flowers into the batter. Hold upside down and let most of the batter drip away. Fry the flowers for a moment until crisp. Drain on paper towels. Eat immediately.