Eating Seasonally: Tips & Tricks 3 & a "recipe"

Wow, you would think given that it's the height of fresh produce season I would be blogging lots of seasonal recipes--and here it's been ages. Part of this is sheer busyness on my part, but part of it is that summer food is so easy and simple that it rarely needs a recipe. Put a marinade or spice rub on some meat, throw it on the BBQ, and make a salad or grill some veggies to go with it. Easy, flavourful, and delicious!

But I realized today that there are some important summertime tips & tricks that help with eating seasonally year-round, so maybe it's time to share a few of those? The main thing, as I've mentioned before, is to preserve as much of summer's goodness as you can. July & August for me are all about canning and freezing--more freezing than canning, really.

I know I've mentioned freezing before, but today I want to tackle my freezing tips for fresh fruits and veggies. My knowledge on this topic comes from advice from others, including blogs and Alton Brown's "Good Eats", plus my Bernardin Guide to Home Preserving.

Fruit is super-easy to freeze, especially small things like blueberries. Here's a basic primer:
1. Wash & dry fruit.
2. If necessary, peel (hint: for peaches, cut a small x on the bottom, drop them in boiling water for just a minute at the most, then remove & cool--the peel may just slip off for you), pit, and slice the fruit. This is why blueberries are so easy--you can skip this step completely!
3. Lay the fruit out in a layer on a cookie sheet. For juicy fruits like peaches, you may want to lay them on parchment or a silicone baking sheet for easier removal.
4. Place the cookie sheet in the freezer. Once the fruit is frozen, transfer to a zip-top bag for storage.

My favourite fruits to freeze? Blueberries, strawberries, & peaches. I use them year-round in smoothies, and also in baking. Last year I frozen cherries, which are wonderful for baking & smoothies--but having to pit them all is a bit of a pain, so I'm not sure I'll do that again.

Vegetables generally follow the same procedures as fruit, except that most of them require blanching before you freeze them. There are several reasons for blanching, including the fact that it preserves colour & flavour by stopping the action of enzymes in the veggies. Here are the basics:
1. Wash & prep vegetables (shell peas, chop/slice other veggies, etc.)
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Once it's at a rolling boil, put veggies in & blanch. The Bernardin guide has times for most veggies, but on average it's 2-3 minutes. You're not trying to *cook* the veggies, just stop that enzyme action and kill and nasties that are on there.
3. While veggies are cooking, you'll want to set up your draining & chilling system. I put a colander in one part of the sink, and a large bowl of cold water with ice in the other:
4. As soon as the veggies are done, drain them and then place them in the bowl of ice water:
The ice water stops the vegetables from continuing to cook due to the residual heat. I leave them in just until the ice all melts and the water begins to warm.
5. Drain the veggies again, and shake off as much excess water as possible.
6. Spread on the cookie sheet just like the fruit:
(this is a bit more crowded than is ideal, but gives you the idea)
7. Place cookie sheet in freezer, transfer to zip-top bags once they are completely frozen.

My favourite veggies for freezing include asparagus, peas, beans, & corn. This year I'll also do some carrots and broccoli, which I haven't done before.

- Turkey & vegetable pasta in a lemon pepper cream sauce
OK, I do have something resembling a recipe to share with you today. It's my take on my friend Meredith's take on a recipe originally posted here. It's an incredibly versatile recipe, and I'll probably continue to tinker with it. I used turkey breast because that's what I had, but I would probably use chicken next time.
1 lemon, juice & zested
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1 turkey breast ( 2 chicken breasts)
1 small onion
chopped/diced vegetables of choice (zucchini, carrots, asparagus, etc.)
1 C chicken broth
1/4 C white wine
1/2 C heavy cream
1/4 C grated parmesan cheese
1 lb. pasta (I used fettuccine)

1. Marinate turkey breast in fresh lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, & olive oil. (I only marinated for 10-15 minutes, more time would have been better for turkey but this is probably sufficient for chicken)
2. Grill the turkey breast on indirect heat (on my BBQ, this means turning on the front & back burners). If I were doing chicken, I would have used direct heat, but the turkey breast was so thick I knew it needed to cook more slowly to prevent burning the outside. When cooked, remove from grill and allow to cool. When cool enough to handle, slice.
3. Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 1 T olive oil. Add onion & vegetable (note: if using a more tender veggie like asparagus or peas, I would not add them until close to the end of cooking. Zucchini, carrots, etc. should go in now), season with salt & pepper, and saute until lightly browned.
4. Bring water to a boil & cook pasta while cooking vegetables.
5. Add garlic & lemon zest to the vegetables, cook about 1 minute until fragrant.
6. Add chicken broth & wine to pan, bring to a simmer and cook until reduced significantly.
7. Add cream to pan with vegetables, stir in cheese, and add turkey or chicken. Cook until slightly thickened.
8. Drain pasta & combine with vegetable, turkey, & chicken mixture.

It was really good, so this will become a regular part of my dinner rotation, I think!