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Late summer’s garden bounty makes it easy to serve fabulous meals with no fuss
In mid to late summer, my garden is really busy! Gorgeous scarlet-hued heirloom tomatoes, delicate green peas, jumbo zucchini, and purple and white marbled eggplant crowd the rambling vines and stalks. Hot pink radishes pop their heads from the ground, as do carrots so big they take an hour to munch. It’s certainly easy to eat well this time of year. Even if you don’t have a garden of your own, you’ll find summer’s best and brightest fruits and veggies overflowing the markets—at rock-bottom prices. And most of it is local too.
I’m a fresh-food addict. In fact, I have just about every fresh herb under the sun growing in my backyard, from cilantro, lemongrass, and Thai basil to summer savory, sage, and marjoram. The flavors jump out of the bowl and liven up even the simplest dishes. Not only do fresh foods and herbs taste best, they also make for quick, fuss-free cooking. You needn’t rely too much on your culinary skills or on time-consuming gourmet recipes to make something fabulous when you’ve got an abundance of fresh, seasonal produce. For a salad, all you need are ripe tomatoes off the vine, some hand-torn basil, a pinch of coarse sea salt, and a splash of good balsamic vinegar. Quick stir-fried garden greens and veggies served with a side of quinoa or couscous make a lively main course. And maybe some marinated tofu done on the barbecue to top it off. That’s easy, casual cooking at its best.
Summer is also a time when I crave light, refreshing meals that are easy to digest and don’t leave me feeling too full. I find simple, quick-cooking soups are the perfect solution. One of my favorites is a creamy, aromatic Zucchini Bisque topped with a cool, tangy homemade salsa. A lovely experience for both the eye and palate, it makes for a beautiful, satisfying meal or appetizer. I call it the ultimate “last-minute soup” because it takes just minutes to prepare and uses a small number of everyday ingredients. Serve it with croutons when there are kids at your table. Just adults? Let the colorful salsa stand on its own as the elegant crowning gem.
Wai Lana hosts the long-running TV series Wai Lana Yoga, which airs nationally on PBS and the Wisdom channel. She is the author of Wai Lana’s Favorite Juices and the upcoming Wai Lana’s Favorite Soups. For more information, please visit www.wailana.com.
Easy Zucchini Bisque with Apple Radish Salsa
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
10 cups chopped zucchini (5-8 zucchini)
1 1/2 tablespoons fresh or dried tarragon
1 1/4 teaspoon salt or to taste
5 cups water
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
Dash of paprika
1 recipe Apple Radish Salsa and/or croutons for garnishing (optional)
1. Heat the butter or oil in a 5-quart pot over high heat. Add the zucchini, tarragon, and salt and sauté for a few minutes until golden. Add the water and bring to a boil. Continue to boil for about 5 minutes until the zucchini is tender.
2. Begin preparing the salsa (see recipe below).
3. Remove soup from the heat and place in a blender or food processor along with the cream cheese and blend until smooth, in batches if necessary. Return to the pot and simmer uncovered on the lowest heat while you finish preparing the salsa.
4. Remove from the heat, ladle into bowls, and garnish with paprika and Apple Radish Salsa and/or croutons.
Apple Radish Salsa Garnish
3/4 cup diced tart, hard apple (peeled and cored)
1 cup diced peeled, seedless cucumber
1/4 cup finely diced radish
1/2 cup minced chopped fresh mint
2 tablespoons minced chives or green onion
3 tablespoons lemon juice, or
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon honey
Combine all the ingredients in a 2-quart bowl and chill until ready to serve.
Hands-on prep time: 10-15 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 25 minutes
Makes about 8 cups soup plus 2 cups salsa