Fresh and Healthy Summer Foods

in Food

I teach cooking classes at a local coffee shop that has a cooking school inside. I love the classes and teaching is my thing. I was asked to teach a class using fresh vegetables and herbs that most people plant in their gardens. I focused on tomatoes, green beans, zucchini, oregano, basil and cucumbers. I also taught how to make a base for creamy salad dressings. I hope you’ll give these a try this summer when you harvest your crops.

Note* The first two recipes and the creamy dressing base recipe are from Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine, issues 82 and 83

Zucchini Fries

Serves 4-6

1 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, any kind will work

3/4 cup shredded or grated Parmesan cheese

1 1/2 tsp Italian seasoning mix or any dried herb combination you desire

Kosher salt and pepper

2 large egg whites

1 1/2- 2 pounds of zucchini


Pre-heat oven to 425. Spray 2 rimmed baking sheets with non-stick cooking spray and set aside. Cut the zucchini into sticks like regular french fries and set aside. In a large bowl mix the breadcrumbs, cheese, and seasonings. In a separate shallow bowl beat the egg whites. Dip the fries into the egg whites then toss in the breadcrumb mixture. Put on the pans in a single layer. Bake for 20-25 minutes until crisp, turning fries over once and rotating the pans in the oven.

Green and White Bean Salad with Tuna

Serves 4-6

3/4 pound of fresh green beans, trimmed and cut into 1 inch lengths

2 Tbsp white wine vinegar- we used white Balsamic in the class

2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

1 can (15.5 oz) cannellini beans, drained and rinsed

1/2 small red onion, sliced into thin rings

1 can solid white Albacore tuna packed in water, drained and flaked

1/4 cup thinly sliced pepperoncini, about 9 (optional)


In a medium pot of salted, boiling water cook the green beans for 3 minutes until bright green, just until crisp-tender. Drain and rinse under cool water to stop the cooking. Let all the water drain out. In a bowl add the vinegar, oil and salt and pepper and whisk until blended. Add in the beans, onions, tuna and pepperoncini rings. Toss to combine and serve.

Greek Orzo Pasta Salad


Pictured: Orzo Pasta Salad with Shrimp. Courtesy Foodista.

Serves 6-8

1/2 lb – orzo pasta, cooked al dente, drained but not rinsed
2 – cups cherry tomatoes
1 – small purple onion, chopped
2 – cucumbers, peeled, seeded and chopped
1 – 4.5 oz can sliced black olives, drained or Kalamata, pitted

3 Tbsp fresh basil leaves, sliced into strips

3 Tbsp fresh oregano, pull the leaves off the stalks

1 Tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
1 – 6- 8 – oz container crumbled feta cheese

Optional: Add some grilled chicken breast strips for a heartier dish

Cook orzo according to package directions, drain and cool. Mix with a little olive oil to keep from sticking. In a large bowl add all the vegetables, the herbs and the pasta. Pour dressing over the salad and chill for 1 hour. Let salad come to room temperature.  Add feta before serving.

*****Note:the dressing below makes about 8 ounces so do not use the whole amount of dressing at once. Use just enough to season the salad

Dressing: Courtesy Emeril @


  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons dark brown sugar, optional*
  • 1 tablespoon chopped garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 cup olive oil

Mix all in a lidded jar and shake well. Pour over salad, a little at a time until well coated. Store the remaining in the jar up to one week or so.

Creamy Salad Dressing Base

1 cup buttermilk

1/2 cup sour cream

1/4 cup mayonnaise

Coarse salt and pepper

Whisk all in a bowl then add in the desired mix-ins. We added in 2/3 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese and 1 tsp coarsely ground pepper for Peppercorn Parmesan dressing.

Other combinations:

Ranch- 1 1/2 tsp chopped fresh thyme leaves, 1 clove of garlic-crushed, a pinch of cayenne pepper

Blue Cheese-3/4 cup crumbled blue cheese

Dressings will stay fresh in an airtight container for up to two weeks.

Caprese Salad Plate

4 plum tomatoes

½ pound fresh mozzarella, sliced

½ cup or so of fresh basil leaves, washed and pat dry

Extra-virgin olive oil

Fresh ground pepper

Slice tomatoes in ¼ inch thick slices as well as the cheese. Separate basil leaves from the stem. Layer the tomatoes and cheese in a circle around a serving platter.Tear or slice the basil into thin strips then scatter them over the tomatoes and cheese. Season with pepper then drizzle olive oil over the whole plate, be generous. Serve as a salad or on top of toasted slices of bread, crostini.

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{ 9 comments… read them below or add one }

Tia Peterson June 25, 2011 at 1:17 pm

@GingerAndScotch Good idea. I might try that, too, as my son really doesn’t eat vegetables at all, disguised or not!

GingerAndScotch June 25, 2011 at 5:18 am

I love that the zucchini fries are baked and not deep fried. Will try this with my son as he’s not eating any veggies any more unless I disguise them.

Italianmamachef June 23, 2011 at 7:47 pm

Opoh, pink salt? I’ll have to get some of that! @deblovesbeinghome

Italianmamachef June 23, 2011 at 7:46 pm

The plate is so pretty when you slice the tomato into round slices as well as the cheese then layer a basil leaf in there as well. It makes the Italian flag colors. @Tia Peterson

Italianmamachef June 23, 2011 at 7:45 pm

They were really good. I hope after my wheat-free trial, I can figure out a way to make these again. @annedreshfield

Italianmamachef June 23, 2011 at 7:45 pm

They were really good. I hope after my wheat-free trial, I can figure out a way to make these again. @annedreshfield

annedreshfield June 23, 2011 at 2:24 pm

Zucchini fries? Is this a ploy to get me to actually LIKE zucchini? 🙂 Believe it or not, I want to give them a try, as well as that orzo salad — yum!

deblovesbeinghome June 23, 2011 at 12:32 pm

If you want to make the zucchini even more memorable, try using pink salt! (I get mine from Sustainable Sourcing, here’s their website: ). Love those summer veggies! Thanks for posting these delish recipes!

Tia Peterson June 23, 2011 at 2:31 am

Thanks for these, Michelle! I really like zucchini fries and need to try making them. The Caprese salad plate seems easy enough and delicious, too!

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