By Ann Cipperly
One of the pleasures of summer is preparing garden fresh vegetables with “just picked” natural flavor to serve our family. Garden-fresh vegetables also provide more nutrients. As most of us are trying to eat healthy these days, adding fresh produce will boost immune systems.
We are fortunate to have seasonal and year round farmers markets as well as a locally-owned grocery store. When we purchase produce from them, we are providing nutritious produce for our families and helping local farmers. Research has shown local produce contains more flavor and nutrition than those shipped from other areas.
For years, I boiled and steamed fresh vegetables, then began roasting almost all vegetables a few years ago. It started with roasting small new potatoes and chunks of sweet potatoes coated in olive oil. Then, I discovered fresh asparagus kept its flavor and color when coated with olive oil and roasted for about eight to ten minutes.
My favorite sheet pan of roasted vegetables is sliced yellow squash at one end of the pan, whole okra with the ends removed on the other side and wedges of Vidalia onions in the center or placed throughout the pan. Extra virgin olive oil is then drizzled over all with a sprinkling of sea salt, then tossed to coat. Vegetables roast at 375 for about 20 minutes or until squash and onions are tender. Stir the vegetables once or twice while roasting.
If roasting new potatoes, it will take closer to 45 minutes, depending on the size. Check occasionally for desired doneness for your family. Vidalia wedges are also good roasted with the potatoes and will caramelize for a delectable taste.
Vidalia onions are available now through early September. For an onion to be labeled “Vidalia” it must be grown in a specified region in Georgia.
Mose Coleman, a Toombs County farmer in Georgia, is believed to have been the first grower of Vidalia onions, according to the New Georgia Encyclopedia. Mose discovered in 1931 that his crop of onions had a mild taste. Soon afterwards other farmers in the area began growing onions too.
Before the interstate highway was built, Georgia built a farmers market in Vidalia in the 1940s to help growers sell their onions. By the 1970s, the sweet onions were growing on around 600 acres.
In 1986, the Georgia legislature passed the Vidalia Onion Act Change to: that said that the onions could only be grown in the 20 counties. The Vidalia sweet onion was declared Georgia’s official state vegetable in 1990.
Look over the recipes using Vidalia onions for a scrumptious spread, salad, au gratin dish and savory pie.
Dee Dee Harper is sharing her signature summer dish layering tomatoes, Vidalia onions and green pepper, then topping it with mayonnaise and crushed Ritz crackers. The original recipe belonged to Brown Torbert at the Saugahatchee Country Club.
Corn is a popular vegetable for all ages. Corn on the cob is flavorful cooked on the grill, but it can also be baked. One of the easiest baked recipes is simply removing husks and silks from corn.
Preheat oven to 400. Line a large baking sheet with foil and place corn in a row along the baking sheet. Spread softened butter on top of each ear and bake for about 20 minutes. Remove from oven, flip corn and spread with softened butter. Bake an additional 10 minutes, turning occasionally.
If you have a bumper crop of cucumbers, you can make pickles or relish, and extra okra can be pickled. You can also make pickles from green tomatoes. If you have not made pickles before, look on the extension service website to learn the safety steps for canning. Be sure to use hot, sterilized jars.
If you have a garden with more vegetables than you can use, consider donating them to the Food Bank of East Alabama. With rising food costs, it is getting more difficult for some families to provide fresh vegetables and fruits that are needed for their children to develop healthy bodies. Also, keep the elderly in mind, as a container of freshly cooked vegetables would give them a huge lift.
Look over the recipes and select a few vegetable dishes for treating your family this coming week.
Summer Squash Medley
¼ cup pine nuts
½ Tbsp. garlic
1 Tbsp. or more olive oil
1 medium squash, sliced
1 medium pkg. mushrooms
1 large red bell pepper, sliced
Kosher salt and pepper to taste
Over low-medium heat, sauté pine nuts, garlic and olive oil until pine nuts are a golden. Add squash, mushrooms and pepper; cook until tender. May need to add more olive oil. While simmering, add salt and pepper to taste.
Caramelized Vidalia Onion Spread
2 Tbsp. butter
3 medium Vidalia onions, chopped
8 oz. pkg. cream cheese, softened
8 oz. pkg. Swiss cheese, shredded
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1 cup mayonnaise
Sweet potato chips or crackers
Melt butter in a large skillet over medium heat; add sliced onions. Cook, stirring often, 20 minutes, or until onions are caramel in color.
Combine cooked onions, cream cheese, and all remaining ingredients, stirring well. Spoon dip into lightly greased 1½ to 2 quart casserole dish.
Bake uncovered at 375 degrees for 30 minutes, or until golden and bubbly.
Serve with sweet potato chips or crackers. Makes 4 cups.
Vidalia Onion Salad
Chef Eron Bass
2 cups thinly sliced Vidalia onion rings
2 Tbsp. Duke’s mayonnaise
3 Tbsp. white vinegar
1 Tbsp. sugar
1/8 tsp. fine sea salt
2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
Dash white pepper
Place onion, mayonnaise, vinegar, sugar, salt, olive oil and pepper in a bowl. Toss together and allow to marinate for 20 minutes to 1 hour in the refrigerator.
Serve over thinly sliced ripe tomatoes and garnish with parsley and sea salt.
Vidalia Onions Au Gratin
5 or 6 large Vidalia or other sweet onions, cut into bite size pieces, about 6 cups
6 Tbsp. butter
1/2 cup self-rising flour
1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 tsp. pepper
1 lb. grated Monterey jack and sharp cheddar cheese (about 4 cups), divided
1/2 cup butter cracker crumbs, Ritz or Town crackers
Combine onions and enough water to cover in a large saucepan. Bring to a boil and cook 5 minutes. Drain onions and set aside.
Melt butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add flour to pan, salt and pepper.
Cook, stirring constantly, until mixture turns a light tan color. Remove from stove; add onions and 3 cups grated cheese, stirring until blended. Spoon into a buttered 1 1/2 to 2 qt. baking dish. Sprinkle with cracker crumbs and remaining 1 cup cheese.
Bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until bubbly. Serves 8.
Grilled Corn on the Cob
4 ears of corn
1/4 cup butter, softened
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese
1 tsp. chopped fresh parsley
Preheat grill to medium-high heat. Husk corn; remove silk. Rinse under cold water; shake off excess water. Wrap each ear in foil.
Grill 15 to 20 minutes or until corn is tender, turning occasionally. Remove from grill, unwrap corn.
Pickled Okra (Texas style)
3 lbs. thumb-size raw okra pods
Equal parts apple cider vinegar and water to fill pint jars after packing
Pack pods in large mouth pint jars. Per jar, add 1 tsp. mustard seed
1 hot pepper pod
1 small garlic clove and
Enough vinegar/water to cover
Process in hot water canner for 15 minutes. Let pickles “age” for at least 6 weeks before serving.
3 lbs. large cucumbers
3 lbs. onions
4 green peppers
2 Tbsp. salt
1 tsp. turmeric
1 Tbsp. celery seed
1 tsp. garlic chips
1 lb. sugar
4 Tbsp. mustard seed
2 qt. apple cider vinegar
Grind vegetables coarsely in food chopper. Mix with salt in large mixing bowl and let stand for 1 hour. Drain in muslin sack.
In large kettle combine turmeric, sugar, mustard seed and vinegar. Place over medium heat and bring to a boil.
Add vegetable mixture all at once and mix well. Reduce heat and cook slowly until vegetables are tender. Pack in hot sterilized jars and seal immediately. Makes 8 to 12 pints. For tart relish, leave out sugar.
Cracker Salad with Tomatoes, Vidalia Onions, Peppers
Dee Dee Harper
Brown Torbert, Saugahatchee Country Club ca. 1975
This has become my “signature” summer dish. I had the beloved Johnny McEachern cater it for an Opelika National Bank picnic. He added some extras like cheese and celery, and it was wonderful too. This is the original.
Spread fresh tomatoes, cut into bite-sized pieces, over the bottom of serving dish about 2 inches deep. Add layer of chopped Vidalia onion, about ½ inch deep. Then add ½ inch layer of chopped green bell pepper.
Salt and pepper well. Seal with Miracle Whip or Hellman’s mayonnaise. Be sure to cover edge to edge. Chunky-crush Ritz Crackers for a generous layer on top.
Refrigerate 1 to 2 hours but not overnight.
French Green Beans with Bacon 1½ lb. haricots verts (French green beans), stem ends removed.
1 Tbsp. good olive oil
4 slices bacon, diced
1 medium sweet onion, diced
1 or 2 garlic cloves, sliced
3 Tbsp. light or dark brown sugar
3 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
Blanch green beans in boiling salted water 1½ minutes or a little longer if less crisp beans are desired. Drain and set aside while making sauce.
Cook bacon, onion and garlic in olive oil in a large skillet until bacon is crisp. Add brown sugar, vinegar and pepper. Add green beans to skillet and heat through.
Marinated Green Beans
2 lbs. fresh green beans, snapped and slightly cooked
2 cans kidney beans, drained
1 red bell pepper, sliced
1 yellow bell pepper, sliced
1 sweet onion, sliced
1 cup sugar
¾ cup canola oil
¾ cup vinegar
Layer first five ingredients. Heat sugar, oil and vinegar until sugar melts. Let this cool and then pour it over the vegetables. Refrigerate for 12 hours.
Other garden combinations: cucumbers, sweet onions, and peppers, or squash, zucchini, basil, cherry tomatoes, sweet onion, and bell peppers
Vidalia Onion Pie
Dr. Bruce Thornton
3 cups sliced Vidalia onions (1½ large onion)
1 Tbsp. butter
9-inch pie shell, partially baked and cooled
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. black pepper
2 eggs, beaten
4 oz. (1/2 cup) evaporated milk
Sauté onion in butter until tender; add sugar. Then arrange in 9-inch pie shell.
Mix milk, eggs, salt, pepper and pour over onions.
Bake at 350 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes.
Marjorie Keyser’s Icicle Green Tomato Pickles
4 lbs. green tomatoes
4 lbs. sugar
3 pt. vinegar
1/8 tsp. salt, optional
1 Tbsp. whole cloves
1 Tbsp. whole allspice
1 Little stick of cinnamon
Select firm small green tomatoes. Slice crosswise. Put in limewater, using ½ pt. lime to 2 gallons of water. Let stand 24 hours. Remove and rinse well in cold water.
Mix all other ingredients together and stir until sugar is dissolved. Add tomatoes and let stand overnight.
Boil 30 minutes and seal boiling hot. Be sure all pickles are well covered with vinegar. Put in hot sterilized jars. Seal.
Easy Fresh Corn Pudding
3 Tbsp. butter or margarine
¼ cup sugar
½ tsp. salt
1½ cups milk
2 cups fresh corn cut off cob
Cream butter and sugar; beat in eggs. Add salt and milk. Stir in corn. Pour into greased casserole dish. Bake at 350 degrees for about 35 minutes or until firm. Serves 6.
Rebecca’s Market Skillet
1 Tbsp. olive oil
1 small sweet onion, chopped
1 red pepper, chopped
2 ears fresh corn, kernels cut off
1 large zucchini, sliced
¼ cup of fresh parsley, chopped
¼ tsp. of black pepper
4 Tbsp. grated Parmesan cheese, divided
Heat oil, medium heat, in large skillet.
Add onion and red pepper; cook and stir for 3 minutes.
Stir in corn and zucchini and cook for 5 minutes or until all vegetables are tender, stirring as needed.
Remove from heat. Stir in parsley, black pepper, 2 Tbsp. of cheese.
Top with remaining cheese. Serves 4.
Optional: For a hearty meal, add sliced, cooked smoked sausage.
Granny Campbell’s Squash Casserole
2 to 3 lb. squash
2 medium onions, chopped
1 stick butter, softened
¼ lb. cheddar cheese, grated
20 saltine crackers, crushed
½ cup milk
¼ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. pepper
Cook squash and onions together until tender; drain. Place in casserole dish. Add butter, cheese, crackers, milk, salt, pepper and egg. Pour into greased baking pan. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes.