With Labor Day upon us the summer growing season is drawing to a close, and with the last of the harvest come some of the best fruit and vegetable prices of the year. Here are my top cheapskate summer recipes and tips for enjoying bargain price end-of-summer harvest produce.
1. Giant Cucumbers
By late summer, cucumbers are usually humongous and cheap. But they can also be tough and a little bitter when eaten raw and in salads. So here’s a tip:
- Buy the biggest cucumbers you can find for the price, peel them, remove the seeds, and slice the flesh into dice-sized cubes.
- Lightly steam them in a covered pot with a little boiling water for about five minutes.
- Drain, add butter, salt and a little dill weed.
This deliciously different side vegetable goes particularly well with salmon and other fish.
2. Killer Tomato Shots
There’s nothing better than a fresh, juicy, locally grown tomato, which are plentiful and priced to sell this time of year. Of course, there are many things you can do with them, from soups, salads and salsa to tomato juice and stuffed tomatoes. But here’s one you might not know about: Next time you’re drinking tequila shots with your party friends, use slices of fresh tomatoes instead of limes to bite into after downing a shot. I promise you’ll never go back to using limes again.
3. Sweet Corn Relish
As radio personality Garrison Keillor once said, “Sex is good, but not as good as fresh sweet corn.” Eat as much of it as you can while it’s still in-season, then keep some around for the fall with this easy summer recipe to make relish:
- Shuck and steam fresh corn on the cob.
- Slice the kernels off the cob with a sharp knife.
- Finely dice red onion, green bell peppers and jalapeno peppers in whatever quantities suit your taste, then mix with the corn.
- Add two parts apple cider vinegar to one part olive oil, enough to thoroughly coat the relish without making it soupy.
- Let it stand for at least a few hours.
You can keep this dish in the fridge for a few weeks or even longer as long as it’s covered tightly.
4. Don’t Do Honeydew
Melon with thinly sliced prosciutto ham is delicious, but the prosciutto and honeydew melon — which is usually used in the dish — can be pretty expensive. Try using cantaloupe melon instead. Compared with other fruit prices, this melon is usually a bargain this time of year. And substitute dried beef — sold in jars at most supermarkets — as an inexpensive alternative to prosciutto. You might want to quickly rinse off the dried beef first to remove some of the saltiness.
5. Garlic Eggplant
One of the simplest and tastiest ways to prepare eggplant is to cut it in half lengthways, leaving the skin on. Slather both halves liberally in olive oil, then cover the fleshy sides with thinly sliced garlic, enough to cover the entire surface area. Put the halves skin side down on a cookie sheet lined with lightly oiled aluminum foil, and then slowly bake in a very low oven at 200 degrees for about three hours. The eggplant will totally collapse, and the garlic will become wonderfully mushy as well. Serve it while still warm on pita bread with a little cream cheese schmear.
6. Zucchini for Breakfast
Zucchini is one of the most abundant crops of the late summer harvest. By Labor Day, everyone who grows them seems to be trying to give them away, many of which are by now the size of the Hindenburg. But here’s a novel — and tasty — zucchini dish for breakfast:
- Cut large, unpeeled zucchini crossways into about 2.5-inch-long pieces.
- Use a spoon to remove the seeds, leaving you with a “tube” of just the flesh and skin.
- Put the tubes in a pot of boiling water for about five minutes.
- Remove the tubes, place them standing upright in a lightly greased baking dish, and fill each tube about halfway up with canned corned beef hash.
- Crack an egg on top of the hash to fill the tube.
- Put a little water in the bottom of the dish, cover with aluminum foil, and bake in a 350-degree oven for about a half an hour or until the egg is cooked to your desire.
This is one summer recipe that will surprise your guests at the next Sunday brunch.
7. Perfect Pear Soup
Try a refreshing cold pear soup to cool off during the dog days of summer. Put 3 cups of fresh, ripe, raw, peeled, cubed pears in the blender and add the following:
- 2 cups apple juice
- 1 cup vanilla yogurt
- 1 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon cinnamon
Blend the ingredients until smooth. Chill for at least a few hours before serving, with a couple of super-thin sliced pieces of pear floating on top as a garnish.
8. Crockpot Apple Butter
The apple season is just starting in many parts of the country, and so is the fall crock-potting season in cheapskate households everywhere. Combine the two by cooking up a big batch of apple butter in the crockpot (aka “slow cooker”). Here’s the recipe:
- Nearly fill your crockpot with your favorite type of apple — peeled, cored and cubed.
- In a mixing bowl, combine a half a cup of sugar for every cup of chopped apples, along with a tablespoon full of cinnamon and about ¼ teaspoon each of nutmeg, ground cloves and salt. (Note: The amount of sugar might vary depending on the type of apples used. I like to use equal parts white sugar and light brown sugar.)
- Stir the sugar mixture into the apples.
- Cover and cook for about 12 hours on low, stirring occasionally to help break up the apples.
When finished, you can blend the apple butter in a food processor if you desire a smoother consistency. It keeps in the fridge for about two weeks and can be kept frozen for a couple of months.
Keep reading: 31 Fun, Free Things to Do This Summer