TO EAT. In summer this act acquires a wealth of pleasant associations. Home-grown, farm-fresh, native, tender, young crisp, green, red or orange produce appears on the backs of trucks along the roadside, at open-air markets, and even in supermarket stands.
The visual effect is appealing. The idea of buying truly fresh fruits and vegetables is tempting. A whole meal of them becomes a palatable possibility. Here are some suggestions: Instead of putting the produce away in the refrigerator, leave it out in baskets. This will brighten up the kitchen and is likely to be a spur to cooking efforts. Get people who do not ordinarily do kitchen work to help with the peeling and chopping. Go barefoot.
The following menu can be rounded out with the addition of french bread and hard-cooked eggs. Leftover cold meat or chicken also would be fine. GAZPACHO (4 to 6 servings) 4 large tomatoes (about 2 pounds) 2 slices french bread (about 1 inch thick), fresh or stale 1/2 cup water 2 tablespoons olive oil 1/4 cup rice vinegar* 1 clove garlic 1/4 teaspoon paprika Salt to taste 1 cucumber 1 green pepper
Peel tomatoes. (Dip in rapidly boiling water for 10 to 15 seconds. Remove with tongs. Cut out stem area and slip off skin, using a paring knife.) Cut in half crosswise and squeeze out seeds. Cut into chunks and put in food processor.
Remove crust from bread. Soak in water briefly. Add to tomatoes. Add olive oil, rice vinegar, garlic and paprika. Process until liquefied. Add salt, tasting. Refrigerate until quite well chilled, several hours or overnight.
Peel and dice cucumber. Dice pepper. Serve gazpacho in bowls and pass cucumber and pepper for garnish.
*Note: Rice vinegar is available in many supermarkets and virtually all oriental shops. The taste that it imparts to vegetable dishes such as this is remarkable, I think. If you must, substitute white vinegar. COMPOSED SALAD
Green beans: Cut off ends. Cook in rapidly boiling water until tender but still crisp, about 3 minutes for young, thin beans. Drain and run under cold water.
Zucchini: Cut off ends. Cut crosswise into 3-inch sections. Cook in rapidly boiling water until tender but not soft, about 5 minutes. Drain. Let cool slightly. Cut lengthwise into wedges.
Broccoli: Cut off stem end and leaves. Cut lengthwise into thin stalks. Cook in rapidly boiling waterr until tender but still crisp, about 5 minutes. Drain and run under cold water.
Carrots: Cut off ends. Peel and cut crosswise into two-inch sections. Cook in rapidly boiling water until tender but not soft, about 5 minutes. Drain. Let cool slightly. Cut lengthwise into wedges.
Beets: Cut off tops, leaving about an inch of stem. Scrub carefully so skin remains intact. (When punctured, color bleeds cut into cooking water.) Cook, covered, in gently boiling water until tip of a sharp knife goes in easily, about 40 minutes for medium, young beets. Drain. While still hot, cut off ends and slip off skin, using a paring knife. Cut crosswise into thin slices.
Arrange some or all of these on platter. Spoon on lots of salad dressing. Let stand at room temperature about 15 minutes before serving. SALAD DRESSING (Makes about 1 cup) 1/4 cup lemon juice (about 2 lemons) 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar 1 teaspoon mustard with green peppercorns* 2/3 cup olive oil Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
Put lemon juice and vinegar in jar with tight-fitting cover. Add mustard, stirring until dissolved. Add olive oil. Add salt and pepper, tasting. Just before using cover and shake to mix.
*Note: Mustard with green peppercorns is made by several companies, including Pommery. You can substitute dijon mustard. STEAMED POTATOES 3 pounds plum-size potatoes (about 18) Handful of parsley
Scrub potatoes. Put on a rack over gently boiling water. Cover tightly and steam until a knife goes in easily, 20 to 30 minutes. Check and add water, if necessary. Peel while still hot. Cut into quarters and serve at room temperature with chopped parsley and salad dressing. BLUEBERRY CRISP (8 to 10 servings) Filling: 2 boxes (2 dry pints) blueberries 1/4 cup sugar 1 tablespoon flour Grated rind of 1/2 lemon (about 1 teaspoon) 2 tablespoons lemon juice (about 1 lemon) Topping: 3/4 cup flour 3/4 cup sugar 3/4 teaspoon cinnamon 3/4 teaspoon ginger 1/4 teaspoon mace 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter
Grease a 7-by-11-by-2-inch or other shallow baking dish with butter. For filling, rinse, drain and pick over blueberries, removing stems and leaves and discarding spoiled ones. Toss with sugar, flour, lemon rind and lemon juice, and spread in baking dish.
For topping, put flour, sugar, cinnamon, ginger and mace in food processor and process briefly until combined. Cut butter into tablespoon-size pieces. Add to dry ingredients and process, flicking on and off, until mixture looks crumbly. Sprinkle over blueberries.
Bake at 400 degrees until topping is brown and blueberries are bubbly, about 30 minutes. Serve at room temperature.
Variation: Use 1 box blueberries and 3 granny smith apples. For filling, omit flour and increase sugar to 1/3 cup. Bake about 40 minutes.