One of the best things about these early weeks of August is that you can easily fill your kitchen counter with fresh vegetables, herbs, and fruits. Farmer's markets and roadside stands offer an abundance of locally grown tomatoes, corn, beans, summer squash, basil, greens, and fruits, all needing minimal or no cooking to deliver fabulous flavors and colors.
To create quick and easy dishes with minimal fuss, be sure to keep a few Mediterranean Diet pantry staples on hand for pairing with all these fresh foods. They will save you time and add a great flavor boost to everything from appetizers to main course dishes.
Here are three ingredients that are well worth getting to know:
Artichoke Hearts: While it's always fun to eat a fresh cooked artichoke leaf by leaf and finally get to the delicious heart, having a jar of artichoke hearts on your shelf means you can ramp up the flavor of a green salad with just the twist of a lid. Artichoke hearts are sold packed in water or marinated in oil. Try several different brands. Sauté them with tomatoes, olives, and mushrooms; add them to rice, grain, and pasta salads; combine them with pesto and olives as a pizza topping; or add them to tuna or seafood salads.
Roasted Red Peppers: If you have the time, you can roast your own peppers over a hot flame or under the broiler. Keeping a few jars in your pantry, however, means you always have a colorful, delicious ingredient on hand to wake up a salad, a sandwich, or a wrap. Add them as well to egg dishes, lasagna, cooked grains or pasta, or use as a topping for pizza or crostini.
Sun-Dried Tomatoes: These delicious tomatoes deserve top billing in every cook's pantry. If you buy them packed in oil, they are ready to use after draining, but be sure to save some of the oil for salad dressing. You can also find them dry (not in oil) to dice and use as is for tiny bursts of bold flavor, or to steep in hot water or wine until soft, drain, and then chop. Add sun-dried tomatoes to pasta dishes or dips; toss them with olives; sprinkle them into tuna, egg, or potato salads; pair with cauliflower; or stir into cornbread before baking. Here are three ideas for using these key pantry staples with the best of summer's fresh produce (Click on the title or photo to link to recipes.):