This year spring came late to South Louisiana; we had temperatures in the 60s well into April, and a late freeze or two played havoc with crawfish. That hasn’t stopped the zucchini, which I am starting to believe will survive us alongside roaches and Philadelphia Eagles fans when whatever ends us finally ends us. Personally, I haven’t always fared as well growing my own tomatoes, but they’re hardly scarce, and they’re at their peak this time of year. I hope the following recipes help you use the seasonal bounty.











Summertime Bounty

Grilled Shrimp with Cucumber, Tomato and Mint Couscous Salad

Grilled Shrimp with Cucumber, Tomato
and Mint Couscous Salad

2 pounds large shrimp (20-30)
2 medium cucumbers
1 small red onion
2 tablespoons mint leaves
2 medium tomatoes
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
¼ cup olive oil, plus a tablespoon or so more for grilling
1½ cups couscous
2 cups water
1 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and de-vein the shrimp, then season with salt, pepper and a little olive oil. Peel the cucumbers. Then remove the seeds by scraping down the middle with a spoon. Dice the flesh and add it to a large bowl. Mince the red onion and add it to the cucumber. Season the vegetables with salt.

Cut the mint leaves into thin ribbons cross-wise, and add them to the cucumber and onion. Cut the tops and bottoms from the tomatoes, core them and squeeze the seeds out over a strainer set above a bowl. Discard the seeds and save the tomato water – hopefully you’ll have between ¼ to 1/3 cup. If not, add enough water to at least make the ¼ cup.

Dice the tomato and add it to the cucumbers and onion. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

In another bowl, whisk the tomato water and vinegar, then slowly add the olive oil to make a vinaigrette. Add the vinaigrette to the cucumber and tomatoes, and taste again for seasoning.

Grill or broil the shrimp, brushing with a little olive oil to keep them moist, for around 2-4 minutes per side, or until cooked through and just starting to crisp on the exterior.

Bring the 2 cups water to a boil and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil and a pinch of salt. Then add the couscous, stir briefly, cover and remove from the heat. Let the couscous rest for 5 minutes, then fluff with a fork. Fold in the cucumber and tomato mixture, and serve with grilled shrimp.

Summertime Bounty

Grilled Beef Skewers with Zucchini and Pineapple

Grilled Beef Skewers with Zucchini and Pineapple
This recipe is best grilled, but in a pinch you can do it under the broiler in your oven.

2 pounds beef sirloin (or filet, depending on your budget)
4 medium zucchini
1 small pineapple (enough for 15-20 1-inch cubes)
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano (1 teaspoon dried)
Salt/pepper to taste
½ cup olive oil
1 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Cut the beef into cubes around an inch across. Cut the zucchini into rounds of approximately the same size. Mix the mustard, olive oil, vinegar and oregano in a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Add the beef and toss to mix; let it marinate for about an hour. Heat your grill or broiler. Thread alternating pieces of beef, zucchini and pineapple onto skewers, then grill on medium-high heat until the beef is seared and the vegetables are just cooked, around 5-8 minutes total depending on your grill/broiler.

Summertime Bounty

Pizza with Grilled Vegetables

Pizza with Grilled Vegetables
This recipe is much better if you have a pizza stone; in a pinch you can turn a large iron skillet upside down and bake smaller pies on that. A baking sheet also works. One ball of dough is usually enough for two fairly large or three smaller pies..

2 balls of pizza dough, divided into 4 or 6 pieces
Flour and cornmeal
3-4 medium zucchini
3-4 medium yellow squash
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 container grape tomatoes
1 tablespoons olive oil
½ cup pitted olives (kalamata work well)
½ cup fresh basil leaves, chopped roughly
1 cup crumbled feta cheese
½ cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Start a fire in your grill. Cut the zucchini and yellow squash lengthwise into slices about ¼ inch thick. Combine them with the 2 tablespoons olive oil and minced garlic in a plastic bag or glass baking dish with a couple pinches of salt. Grill over high heat until the vegetables are tender and have picked up a bit of char. Combine tomatoes with 1 tablespoon olive oil and another pinch of salt in a baking dish. Preheat your oven as hot as it will go (usually 550 degrees) with a pizza stone in the middle rack. Put tomatoes into the oven as soon as it reaches temperature, and let them soften while you roll out your dough. After 5 minutes, check them; a few should have burst and released some liquid – remove them from the oven when they’re softened, and either roughly chop them or press down on them with a spoon to make a rustic sauce. Add basil and season with salt and pepper. Roll dough out on a well-floured board. Sprinkle some cornmeal onto a peel or thin cookie sheet; lay on the dough. Top with tomatoes, crumbled feta, grated Parmesan, sliced pitted olives and vegetables. Use a light hand, particularly if using thin dough, and work fast.

The cornmeal allows the pizza to slide off the peel/baking sheet, but it won’t work forever, and if the dough sticks, you’re likely to dump most of your toppings directly onto the hot stone when you go to add the pie to the oven. The pizzas should only take around 5 or 6 minutes; look for the edge of the crust to start to brown. Remove pizzas to a rack and let them cool a bit. Let the oven come back to temperature before you add the next pie.

Summertime Bounty

Rum and Grapefruit Cooler

Rum and Grapefruit Cooler
In a cocktail shaker combine ¼ cup of light rum (I use Old New Orleans Crystal) and ½ cup freshly squeezed grapefruit juice with 1 teaspoon of sugar, a few dashes of lemon bitters and about a tablespoon of fresh lime juice. Add ice and shake vigorously for 30 seconds. Strain into a tall glass over ice. Top with seltzer water (about another ¼ cup or so), and stir. Garnish with a slice of lime or lemon.

Summertime Bounty

Chilled Strawberry Soup with Ricotta Dumplings

Chilled Strawberry Soup with Ricotta Dumplings
This is refreshing when the weather is hot.

For the dumplings:
½ pound ricotta cheese
2 medium eggs
1/3 cup sugar
1 ¼ cup all purpose flour

Beat the ricotta and eggs with the sugar in a bowl until smooth. Beat in the flour; if the mixture is too loose, you may need to add a little more flour but no more than a tablespoon.

Bring a large pot of water to a rolling boil and use two teaspoons to form small quenelles with the dough and drop them into the water. Drop the heat to a simmer and let them poach for 5 minutes or so; they should be light but firm enough to hold their shape. As they finish, remove them with a slotted spoon and reserve them in the refrigerator.

For the soup:
2 pints strawberries, hulled and sliced thinly
2-3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1-2 tablespoons sugar
½ cup orange juice (preferably fresh-squeezed)

Put about a half cup of sliced strawberries in a bowl and add a tablespoon of lemon juice and a tablespoon of sugar. Set aside.

Put the remaining sliced berries in a food processor with the other tablespoon of sugar and the orange juice and process until smooth. You can strain this through a fine-mesh sieve if you like. Taste and adjust to your taste by adding more sugar or lemon juice.

Serve the soup in shallow bowls, with the dumplings and strawberry slices.

Summertime Bounty

Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts with Tarragon-Tomato Sauce

Pan-Roasted Chicken Breasts
with Tarragon-Tomato Sauce
Ideally you could make this dish by removing the breasts from whole chickens, using the leg/thigh portions for something else and making stock with the carcasses, but on a busy weeknight buying already-portioned chicken breasts is probably a better option.

4 boneless chicken breasts
2-3 ripe tomatoes, around 1.5 pounds
1 small onion
1 stalk celery
2 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
½ cup dry white wine
1 cup chicken stock
1 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, chopped
Salt and pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature

Season the chicken breasts with salt and pepper, working it under the skin if you’ve kept that on. Dredge in flour. Dice the tomatoes, onion and celery. ­

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Heat a frying pan on medium high heat, then add the 2 tablespoons of butter and the olive oil. When the foam from the butter subsides, brown the chicken breasts on each side, about 4-5 minutes each side. Remove the chicken breasts to a snug baking dish, and add the tomato, onion and celery to the pan in which you browned the breasts. Cook for about 5 minutes, then deglaze the pan with wine. Let it reduce a bit, and add the chicken stock and bring to a boil. Simmer for about 5 minutes to reduce a bit, then pour the liquid over the chicken breasts in the baking dish.  Cover and bake at 350 for about 15 minutes, or until the breasts are tender. Remove and reserve the chicken breasts loosely covered in foil. Pour the remaining liquid from the baking dish into a sieve set over a small saucepan, pressing on the vegetables to extract as much sauce as you can. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Reduce it if you have much more than half of a cup; add a little stock if you have much less. Season to taste. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 tablespoons of butter. Serve the chicken over rice or pasta with the sauce.