Berries: Strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries are in season from late spring through the height of summer. Strawberries arrive first, with a season that lasts from April through September, depending on the part of the country, and blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries show up at the markets after. Versatile and sweet, berries make a bright addition to an abundance of cooked dishes such as cobblers and pancakes, but their peak flavour is perhaps best enjoyed eaten out of hand. When you’re looking for a special topping for ice cream, cheesecake or any dessert really, try my summer berry compote by mixing four cups of any berry with a quarter cup of sugar, a half cup of Grand Marnier and a couple tablespoons of fresh lemon juice for a super special adult treat! To get the most of your berries store unwashed in a moisture-proof container in the fridge. Hardy berries, like blueberries, will keep for up to five days; more delicate varieties, like raspberries, are best used within two or three.
Corn: I don’t know about you, but I associate fresh corn with the height of summer. It’s wonderful in soups, salads like succotash, breads and other baked goods, done sous vide, or simply grilled and eaten with a smear of butter and a sprinkle of salt. One of my all-time favourite varieties is my Mexican Street Corn recipe featured in my cookbook FireHouse Chef. Buy corn that’s as fresh as possible. As soon as it’s been picked the sugars begin converting to starch, which lessens its sweetness. Choose ears with plump kernels and bright, tightly closed husks. Cook and serve corn the day you buy it if possible but you can also refrigerate it for a day or two if necessary. Do not remove husks until you’re ready to cook.
Stone fruit: Available from late May to early October, peaches, plums, apricots, and nectarines are awesome to eat out of hand, but also delicious in many sweet and savoury recipes such as pies, cobblers, salsas, simply grilled and in sangria of course. I love stone fruit as part of my Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese recipe. Leave your stone fruits out at room temperature to ripen and they’re ready when slightly tender to the touch. Once ripe, stone fruits will keep in the refrigerator in the crisper drawer uncovered and unwashed, for up to five days.
Watermelon: We all know the bright red inside is super sweet and delicious but did you know the entire fruit is edible?! The seeds, much like pumpkin can be roasted and eaten as a snack and the rind can be added to your favourite pickling recipe. Watermelons are at their peak from mid-June to late August. Look for smooth, symmetrical melons with no flat sides, bruises, cuts, or dents. A dull, hollow sound when you tap the melon signals that it’s ripe and ready to eat. Try throwing big thick chunks of watermelon on a hot grill for a few minutes per side to really bring out its natural sweetness.
Tomato: There are thousands of known tomato varieties and they all differ in shape, size, texture and sweetness. Some are made for hearty pasta dishes (small), some produce an excellent sauce, and sweet little cherry ones add pop and brightness to salads. The true glory though of this vegetable shines through in my Classic Caprese Salad which uses a variety of tomatoes, basil and fresh hand torn mozzarella to create nature’s most simple and perfectly balanced dish! Look for firm, plump tomatoes with an aromatic earthy fragrance and a rich colour. Avoid overripe ones with blemishes, soft spots, or growth cracks. Ripe tomatoes will keep for about a week if stored upside down at room temperature, out of direct sunlight. Never refrigerate. This will deaden the flavor and give the tomato a mealy texture.
I could really go on and on about the amazing Canadian summer produce and this list barely touches on it. Enjoy one of the best parts of our amazing Canadian summers. Stay safe and happy eating!
- Classic Caprese Salad Classic Caprese Salad
- Mexican Grilled Corn Mexican Grilled Corn
- Wedge Salad with Peaches and Blue Cheese Dressing Wedge Salad with Peaches and Blue Cheese Dressing
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Classic Caprese Salad
- 1 1/2 best-quality ripe tomatoes, mixed sizes, at room temperature
- 8 to 12 ounces best-quality fresh mozzarella cheese, torn into bite-size chunks
- Best-quality extra-virgin olive oil
- Coarse sea salt, such as Maldon or fleur de sel and coarsely ground fresh black pepper
- 6 to 8 fresh basil leaves
- Cut tomatoes into an assortment of slices and chunks and spread over a large plate in a single, slightly overlapping layer. Tuck chunks of mozzarella into the tomato pieces. Drizzle generously with extra-virgin olive oil. Sprinkle with coarse sea salt and black pepper. Tear basil leaves into small pieces with your fingertips and spread them on top. Serve immediately. Enjoy!
Mexican Grilled Corn
- 4 ears fresh corn, husks and silks removed
- 1/4 cup mayonnaise
- 1/2 Tbs. Mexican-style chili powder
- 1/2 tsp. finely grated lime zest
- 1/4 cup crumbled Cotija cheese or Queso Fresco
- Coarse sea salt
- Lime wedges, for serving
- Cilantro, chopped
- Prepare a high gas or charcoal grill fire. Grill the corn, turning frequently with tongs, until charred in spots, 6 to 8 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the mayonnaise, chili powder, and lime zest. Put the Cotija or Queso Fresco on a small plate. Spread each ear of corn with 1 Tbs. of the mayonnaise and then roll in the cheese to coat. Sprinkle with kosher salt and cilantro and serve with lime wedges for squeezing over the corn. Enjoy!
Wedge Salad with Peaches and Blue Cheese Dressing
- 1 1/3 cups crumbled blue cheese (about 6 ounces), divided
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/3 cup mayonnaise
- 2 tblsp olive oil
- 1 tblsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
- 8 strips thick cut bacon, cut into lardons
- 1 large head iceberg lettuce
- 4 ripe peaches, pitted and quartered
- 1/2 small red onion, cut crosswise into
- 1/2-inch-thick rounds and separated into rings
- Place 4 salad plates in the refrigerator to chill.
- Mash 1/2 of the blue cheese with the back of a fork in a medium bowl until mostly smooth. Add the sour cream, mayonnaise, oil, lemon juice, mustard, salt, and black pepper, and mix thoroughly until completely combined.
- Add half the remaining cheese and mix gently, leaving clumps of cheese here and there. Cover and refrigerate while you prepare the salad.
- Cook the bacon in a large frying pan over high heat, stirring occasionally until crisp and deeply browned. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate and set aside.
- Core the lettuce and cut it into quarters through where the core was. Place a wedge on each of the chilled salad plates. Divide the red onion rings and peach quarters evenly among the plates. Spoon about 3 tablespoons of the dressing over each wedge. Scatter the remaining cheese evenly over them. Crumble the reserved bacon and sprinkle it evenly over the salads. Serve immediately and enjoy!
Patrick Mathieu is an acting captain at Waterloo Fire Rescue in Ontario and author of Firehouse Chef: Favourite Recipes from Canada’s Firefighters.