Looking at the seasons when developing menus I have noticed that people are so unfamiliar as to what is really a seasonal fruit or vegetable. So here is a chart that will guide you through the seasons, showing you what is at peak quality so you can maximize your flavors.
July marks a turning point at the market, as spring’s offerings give way to the fruits and vegetables of summer and early fall. Vibrant colors are on full display, and sweet flavors and light and juicy textures dominate the season. This is the time when heating-loving Solanums (tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants) and Cucurbits (cucumbers, melons, and summer squash) get their day in the sun.
Other fruits, such as syrupy-sweet figs and plump, juicy blackberries, are becoming more abundant as we get deeper into summer. Cherries and apricots are dwindling as the bounty of peaches, nectarines, and plums rolls in. You can enjoy almost 40 varieties of peaches at the farmers market this season.
Many of summer’s fruits and vegetables are delicious and nutritious eaten raw with minimal to no fussing, but there are also plenty of ways to prepare them in simple, farm-fresh dishes: lightly dressed and tossed into in salads, blended whole into sweet or spicy soups, marinated and grilled for succulent appetizers and entrées, chopped finely into salsas, muddled into cocktails, or poached and spooned over ice cream for an elegant dessert. Summer is also the time to start putting up the harvest, so the bounty can be savored throughout the rest of the year.
For this salad, look for dark-purple-skinned Black Mission figs at your local farmers’ market. At their peak of freshness, figs should yield to gentle pressure and feel heavy for their size; a little drop of moisture sometimes appears underneath. Buy them ripe and fragrant, as they tend not to soften much once they’re picked. Figure on about 12 medium Black Mission figs to the pound. To help prevent fresh figs from becoming moldy, once home, store them on a plate in a single layer with space among them. If it’s particularly hot or humid, refrigerate figs as soon as they ripen.
2/3 cup pecan halves
8 ounces arugula or mixed baby salad greens, picked over, rinsed, and spun dry
8 ripe Black Mission figs (about 10 ounces), cut lengthwise into quarters
1/4 small red onion, cut crosswise into very thin slices and separated into rings
1/4 cup walnut oil or bold-tasting extra virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons white balsamic or other white wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
3 ounces creamy, mild goat cheese, chilled
Place the pecans in a single layer on a microwave-safe plate. Microwave on high for 3 minutes, stirring at 1-minute intervals. (Alternatively, toast pecans in a toaster oven or preheated 350-degree oven for 6 to 8 minutes, until they become fragrant.) Set aside to cool.
Place the arugula or salad greens, figs, and red onions in a large mixing bowl. Drizzle with the oil and vinegar and toss well. Sprinkle with the salt and pepper and toss. Crumble the pecans, saving a few nice halves for garnish, and toss with the salad. Crumble the goat cheese into 1/4-inch clumps as you add it to the salad. Toss gently and taste. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Divide among salad plates and garnish with the reserved pecans.