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THE JULY SEASONAL FOOD GUIDE

The July Seasonal Food Guide

Ah, summer! Summer summer summer. As mentioned in last month’s guide, it will be impossible to get through the amazingly abundant produce overflowing at markets everywhere. And this is exciting. The stone fruits are at their peak, the strawberries, blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are in full force or close to it, the tomatoes are coming in heavy, figs are arriving, corn is begging to be consumed. On the West Coast, our cool spring has caused some summer crops to be a little late to arrive, so if you’re finding that your melons, eggplant and cucumbers are still being shipped in from Mexico, that might be why.

And all of the activities of summer are quickly filling up our evenings and weekends: out of doors dining, weekend picnics at the park, camping, hiking, swimming, road trips, barbecues, firefly catching (will somebody send an express delivery from the East Coast?), days at the beach, nights at the campfire, triumphant summer music, and trashy summer reading. Oh yes. It’s all here. Dig in.



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Little Gem Lettuce

LITTLE GEM LETTUCE is perhaps the perfect poster child for classic salad lettuce. They are petite, crisp, sweet and tender, and often described as a hybrid of Romaine and Butter lettuces in flavor and texture. They are absolutely perfect in salads and their firm texture makes them great for wrapping or serving small appetizers.

THIS MONTH: SUMMER SQUASH PASTA IN LITTLE GEM CUPS



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Crookneck Squash

CROOKNECK SQUASH: Squash, of course, is ridiculously prolific in the summertime. The varieties available are staggering. Besides the better-known zucchini, crookneck, pattypan and sunburst, there are numerous heirloom varieties. The flavor of young, tender summer squash is typically delicate, and as many of us know, the uses are limitless. It’s a vegetable that takes well to countless cuisines and preparations, from classic Italian summer pastas to Thai curries, and of course, the ubiquitous end-of-summer abundance of zucchini bread.

THIS MONTH: SUMMER SQUASH PASTA IN LITTLE GEM CUPS



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Tarragon

TARRAGON: Delicate and nuanced, tarragon has a flavor subtly reminiscent of anise. It’s a classic partner with fish and chicken, and one of four essential herbs in fines herbes (along with parsley, chives and chervil.) Tarragon is even used in a soda popular in Georgia and Armenia.

THIS MONTH: POTATO SALAD WITH GREEN GODDESS DRESSING; PLUM TARRAGON SMASH



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Red Plum

RED PLUMS: One of many illustrious members in the stone fruit family, plums are so common that they’re found wild on most continents with a temperate climate. Even in North America, which doesn’t produce any native plums commercially, you’ll find the sloe plum, used in sloe gin. Juicy and sweet with a tart edge, they’re a classic choice for preserves and summer desserts. They’re also tasty with meats, notably pork.

THIS MONTH: PLUM TARRAGON SMASH



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Okra

OKRA holds a funny place in the culinary world. Like cilantro, it’s often either loved or hated. Unlike cilantro, this polarizing effect is owed to its mucilaginous interior. Cook the pods whole to bypass this – and don’t write them off so quickly! Okra’s flavor is clean, bright and crisp, vaguely reminiscent of a mild green pepper. Okra frequently plays an essential role as a thickener in gumbo, the Louisiana classic. But you can also saute or batter and fry them. Or you can pickle them, as we’ll do this month.

THIS MONTH: TWO QUICK SUMMER PICKLES



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New Potatoes

NEW POTATOES are the first young potatoes on the scene in late spring and summer. And while potatoes are readily available year round, these young darlings bear a thinner, more delicate skin, creamier texture and higher sugar content, making them a little sweeter. They hold their form better after cooking too. Of course, you can use them wherever you’d employ any potato, but know that these are especially great in any salad that calls for a potato.

THIS MONTH: POTATO SALAD WITH GREEN GODDESS DRESSING



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Sea Beans

SEA BEANS: If you were to combine the flavor of an incredibly tart, slightly under-ripe green apple with the freshest briny scent of the ocean, you’d come close to the flavor of a sea bean. It is neither bean nor seaweed, but a saline-loving succulent. Also called glasswort or pickleweed, sea beans can be eaten raw, battered and fried (read this funny Gothamist piece – with recipe – on sea beans), sauteed, or pickled.

THIS MONTH: TWO QUICK SUMMER PICKLES



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Raspberries

RASPBERRIES: Each individual raspberry is actually a collection of tiny fruits called drupelets. Like blackberries, raspberries are in the rose family, hence their brambles and thorns. It’s a delicate berry that doesn’t do so well with travel, which is why their price can sometimes be so high. Eat them as soon after purchase as you can, or freeze for future use.

THIS MONTH: MIXED BERRY AND MINT ICE POPS

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