Cooking on the cheap shouldn't mean minute rice and buttered pasta every night. With a little creativity and a little planning, you can make the most of a tight budget -- without sacrificing flavor or variety.
Today: Gabriella helps you cook your way through abundant supplies of summer produce.
You're used to making something out of nearly nothing: stretching ingredients so they last all week, using cheap staples to bulk up meals, exercising self control and saving half your dinner for lunch the next day.
It's time to forget all of that and relax, because it's summer. The best produce is affordable and readily available; your crisper drawers are overflowing. If anything, your usual problem is reversed: there's too much food to use up before it goes bad.
But this is a good problem to have. Here's how to eat your way through summer's best bumper crops.
Zucchini and Summer Squash
Green or yellow, this my favorite summer crop to eat with abandon. I used to turn my nose up at the idea of zucchini pasta, but then I found myself with 3 pounds of zucchini about to go bad and the next thing I knew, I was hooked. You can replace your usual weekday salads or dinnertime sides with Zucchini and Summer Squash with Chili, Mint, and Toasted Almonds or Zucchini with Basil, Mint, and Honey. And for your next dinner party, start with Zucchini Butter on bread, then move on to Tortilla Española. If you're grilling, try a new kind of vegetable kebab. And forget apples and berries -- Zucchini Crumble is where it's at.
When you're done eating your fill of corn on the cob and you're still left with more ears in your CSA share than you can shake a stick at, here's what you do. First, make a batch of Creamless Creamed Corn. While you're still craving something comforting and warm, whip up Corn Chowder. Then there are corn salads to be had -- with smooth green avocados or sweet snap peas. Once you're done being virtuous, it's time to pull out your skillets and bakeware for corn bread and corn cakes.
I've been spoiled this summer -- sometimes my day job requires me to work out of a garden, and sometimes that work includes wandering around, plucking ripe cherry tomatoes off the vine, and popping them in my mouth. Then I get home, and I'm greeted with more tomatoes. One of the best ways to take care of heirlooms is also one of the simplest: tomato sandwiches. To mix things up, try smearing them with bacon-avocado aioli or garlic confit.
Cucumbers are tempting to eat untouched on those days when it's pushing 90 degrees. These fresh salads are the next best options -- and way more satisfying. Go extra spicy or opt for a nutty version. Avocados make cucumbers a little heartier, whether in soup or salad. And what are you waiting for? You can pickle that!
Bumper Crop Medleys
Leaving for vacation and need to get rid of all your vegetables in one go? Invite your friends over and serve them Alice Waters' Ratatouille or Penne with Sweet Summer Vegetables alongside slices of thick seeded bread. A Vegan Summer Succotash is a lighter, transportable option. And when all else fails, put it all in a galette.
Tell us: what are your favorite ways to use excess summer vegetables?