HOT HOT HOT!! Summer veggies to enjoy, what to look for & how to prepare and/or store!
Bell Peppers-look for shiny, unblemished, firm & wrinkle-free skins, regardless of color. Store dry, unwashed, in a plastic bag in veggie drawer. The red & yellow peppers will last 4-5 days while green ones will last about a week. Peppers stand up well to grilling, baking, roasting & sauteing.
Berries (blueberries, raspberries & blackberries)-black & rasp should be deeply colored. Blue should have a slightly frosty-white hue. Check all fruit for mold & inspect containers for stickiness or stains. Store by picking through & discarding damaged or moldy ones. Store rasp & black, unwashed in a single layer on a plate, covered loosely. Blue can be refrigerated in container. Best if eaten right away. Blue will last up to a week. Black & rasp will last for 2-3 days. Best when eaten out of your hand.
Corn-squeeze ear to feel whether kernels are closely space, firm & round. Look for grassy green, tightly wrapped husks. Silk should be glossy & pale yellow, the stem moist. Store unshucked in a bag. Best within 24 hours of purchasing, though it will last 3 days. Eat raw off the cob or boil, steam or grill. Toss raw with evoo (extra virgin olive oil for all of you non-Rachael Ray watchers!), vinegar, salt & pepper for a simple side dish.
Cucumbers-choose firm, dark green ones with no wrinkles or spongy spots. Smaller cucumbers contain fewer & tinier seeds. Store in a plastic bag on a shelf toward the front of the refrigerator (40F). Will last 3-5 days. Peel waxed cucumbers, unwaxed ones just need to be scrubbed. Best eaten raw.
Arugula-look for long, firm, bright green leaves. Larger leaves are more peppery than small ones. Buy in bunches with roots intact if possible to best retain freshness. If you buy them with roots, wrap stems in a moistened paper towel & place in a plastic bag in most humid area of fridge (usually veggie drawer). Keep loose leaves in a plastic bag. Will last 2-3 days. If packaged, follow expiration date, no matter what. Rinse leaves thoroughly. Best eaten raw in a salad.
Basil-look for whole, smooth leaves that are aromatic, bright green & free of black spots. Stores best at room temperature. Trim bottom of stems & place stalks in a few inches of water like you would a bunch of flowers. Keep out of sunlight. Use as soon as possible, but will last 2-4 days. Treat gently when washing, it bruises easily. Add to minestrone, make pesto, sprinkle on pizza.
Stone Fruits (plums, peaches & nectarines)-they should yield slightly to a gentle squeeze. Smooth, unblemished skin. Ripen at room temperature, stem-end down. If they smell delicious, they are ripe, store in fridge. Ripe plums have dull skins. Eat as is.
Summer Squash (yellow squash & zucchini)- select less than 8″ long. Make sure they are firm, particularly at the stems & have bright skins. Refrigerate, unwashed in a plastic bag in veggie drawer. Will last 3-5 days. Can eat raw or slice thinly & saute.
Eggplant-should feel weighty for its size & is best at less than 1 1/2 lbs. Look for smooth, shiny dark purple or creamy white skin. Refrigerate in a plastic bag in veggie drawer. Will last 4-5 days. Can be baked, sauteed, roasted, pan-friend or boiled.
Chard-look for crispy, crinkly green leaves. The smaller the leaves, the sweeter the taste. Refrigerate, unwashed in a plastic bag in veggie drawer. Will last 2-3 days. Stir in stews, soups or blanch or saute it, like spinach.
Tomatoes-look for deeply colored & firm, with a little give. Should smell sweet & woody. Keep at room temperature on a plate, stem sides down. Once ripe, tomatoes will last 2-3 days. Can be grilled, roasted or sauteed or eaten raw.
Beets-look for firm, smooth, blemish-free dark red or golden yellow skins. Separate beets from leaves & store unwashed separately. Will last for 2-3 days but can stay fresh 2-3 weeks. Eat raw grated in salads. Steam, boil or roast