Sunwarmed peaches, oozing with juice. Sliced tomatoes, dotted with minced basil and a lacing of olive oil. Grapes, bursting in your mouth, eaten slowly, one at a time. Need I say more? Summer is the perfect time to enjoy fresh goodies because, after all, they’re so available. The time is coming soon, though, when they’ll be nothing but a pleasant memory. Why not preserve some of these now, while they’re still easy to find, and reasonably-priced?
Start with peaches, apricots, plums and nectarines. Putting them up is the easiest thing in the world, if you’ve got a freezer — wash, put in ziploc-type plastic bags and freeze. (If you’re feeling industrious, take out the pits first, but it’s not critical. Blueberries and raspberries are even easier — just throw them in the bag.)
Use them while still partly-frozen for smoothies and fruit slushes — add a little sugar or honey, plus milk, yogurt or nothing at all, blenderize and you’ve got a smooth, creamy concoction that tastes like a milkshake or sherbet. (Reasonable calories, too.) Or use for:
GRANDMA’S FRUIT CRISP
2-4 cups chopped fruit (peeled or not)
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup oatmeal
1/2 cup flour
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
Mix topping ingredients until crumbly, using a large spoon. (Or do it the messy-but-easy way, and just rub together with your hands.) Put fruit in a small ovensafe pan, and sprinkle topping on top. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 min., or until topping has lost its floury look, and fruit is bubbling. Serve hot to four friends, along with a scoop of ice cream.
This crisp is good with fresh sliced apples. (Peel them first.) And if you’re feeling ambitious, the oatmeal mixture is delicious as topping on a one-crust pie:
Tomatoes can be treated the same minimal way: just wash, bag and bung them in the freezer. Rinse the frozen fruit in hot water, and their peels slide right off. Then chop and use in everything from Texas chili to ratatouille.
Our favorite tomato dish is made up fresh right away, before the flavors can get away. It’s been slurped up in the family ever since Mom visited an Italian-American girl, and smelled something wonderful cooking on the stove. We call it:
THE BEST SPAGHETTI SAUCE IN THE WORLD
1 pound hamburger (ground sirloin is best, but any port in a storm, as Husband would say)
handful chopped parsley
handful parmesan-romano cheese
approx. 1 1/2 cups Italian breadcrumbs
Mix ingredients together and shape into meatballs. Bake in 375-degree oven for 30 min. while you assemble the:
1 head garlic, peeled and chopped
handful of chopped parsley
1 small can Italian tomato paste
8 pounds chopped fresh tomatoes
(2-3 large cans of Italian-style chopped tomatoes will also do the trick)
1 pound Johnsonville brand Italian sausage, sliced
Fry the garlic and parsley in a little olive oil until well-browned; add the tomato paste, then rinse it out with a can of water. Slowly add the chopped tomatoes and sausage. By now, the meatballs should be finished in the oven. Add them as well, then simmer very slowly for at least 3-4 hours. (Or cook it in the crockpot for up to 8 hours on low.)
It all ends up looking something like this:
The Italian girl didn’t add any chopped onions or mushrooms. (She was a purist, after all.) A few cups of each can be added, for another version. Or a handful of chopped basil and some oregano. (Skip the Italian seasoning then, and just use plain breadcrumbs, tomatoes and paste.)
The aromas of this sauce will literally waft through your house, beckoning and tempting you to sneak a meatball or two before supper. Enjoy it on some pasta, liberally sprinkled with cheese. — but now comes the fun part. Even if you invite friends who have been drooling over the smell, you’ll still have enough leftover sauce for more. Don’t use it — pack it in a freezer-safe container and store it away. (In fact, the recipe doubles and triples easily, if you want more.) Some winter day months from now, you’ll thaw it, heat…and suddenly the rich smells of summer’s bounty will return.