For many of us, Labor Day weekend signals the end of summer; but despite what the calendar says, we’re not ready to let go of backyard barbecues and sandy feet just yet. Our favorite summer meals are all about freshness, flavor and simplicity. Why not go out with a bang? When it comes to summer produce, make the most of the big three — zucchini, corn and tomatoes — with this month’s flavorful and fuss-free side dishes.
The best summer produce tends to peak in September, when we see the freshest and most flavorful zucchini, corn and tomatoes in abundance at the local markets. Take advantage of this end-of-summer bounty by centering your meals around these vegetables. This month we’re sharing two plant-based side dish recipes that would pair well with a simple grilled chicken or fish for an easy weeknight dinner. Peak-season produce is typically less expensive than out-of-season items — all the more reason to stock up and get cooking.
Grilled Zucchini Boats With Roasted Red Pepper Spread
This versatile spread can be made ahead of time and stored in an airtight jar in the refrigerator for up to two weeks. Spread it on sandwiches, use it as a dip for chips or crudites, and pair it with just about any grilled vegetable. Here, it takes simple grilled zucchini to a whole new level. Take care not to overcook the zucchini; you want it firm enough to stand up
to the toppings.
- 3 medium zucchini
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1/3 cup crumbled goat cheese
- 1/3 cup chopped hazelnuts
For the spread:
- 2 cloves garlic, peeled
- 2 roasted red bell peppers, jarred or fresh
- 3/4 cup raw walnuts
- 3 Medjool dates, pitted
- 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
- 1 teaspoon ground cumin
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
First, prepare the spread. In a food processor, pulse the garlic to mince. Add the red peppers, walnuts, dates, vinegar, salt, pepper, paprika, cumin and olive oil. Run the processor until you get a smooth consistency. Transfer the spread to an airtight jar and set aside in the refrigerator.
Next, preheat a grill (or grill pan) on medium-high. Cut the zucchini in half lengthwise and brush lightly with olive oil, then sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste.
Using tongs, place zucchini cut-side down on the hot grill. Cook 3–5 minutes (depending on the size of the zucchini). Flip and cook cut-side up 2–3 more minutes, until zucchini become slightly tender and have some nice grill marks. Remove from heat and place zucchini cut-side up on a serving platter.
To assemble the boats, smear a hearty dollop of the roasted red pepper spread across the top of each zucchini half. Sprinkle the crumbled goat cheese and chopped hazelnuts on top. Add a few grinds of fresh cracked pepper. Serve warm or at room temperature.