Berkeley, California (EastBayDaily) — In North Carolina, folks pay plenty of attention to backyard gardens and farmers markets, to thirst quenchers both hard and soft, and to setting a table that’s more feast than meal. This summer, food critic and travel expert Jason Frye—author of Moon North Carolina Coast—serves up tips for using fresh summer produce in unique food and drink recipes.
A BLFGT takes a classic Southern treat—fried green tomatoes—and combines it with a BLT. If you have access to homegrown tomatoes, pick green ones right off the vine. If not, they’re easy to find at farmers markets. Once the tomato is picked, slice it 1/4 inches thick; dredge it in flour, a beaten egg, and cornmeal; then fry it in a cast-iron skillet. Once they’re all fried, make BLTs with both fresh tomatoes and the fried green ones. If a whole sandwich is too much, that’s fine—a fried green tomato on its own is a treat!
Some folks in North Carolina call them ‘mater sammiches. A ‘mater sammich can be a simple affair—white bread, a little smear of mayonnaise, vine-ripe tomatoes, and a sprinkle of salt and pepper—or it can get elaborate.
Start with a ciabatta roll. Cut it in half, oil it, and grill it, then layer on the fresh tomatoes: red ones and yellow ones and those strange sweet Cherokee Purple tomatoes (and sometimes even a fried green tomato). Then, hit them with a little salt and pepper, top it with arugula from the farmers market, and chow down. It’s a perfect bite of summer.
The best produce can always be found at the local farmers market. Every city, town, village, and hamlet has a farmers market or roadside stand that will offer tomatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, onions, zucchini, squash, watermelons, and whatever else is growing. Go. Walk the aisles. Ask the farmers a question or two and pick up whatever makes your stomach growl. While you’re at it, ask them how they recommend preparing your purchase; you’ll hear some simple and some surprising answers.
Throughout the first part of summer, a number of farms and fields are open for you-pick strawberries, blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, watermelons, and more. Grab a bucket (and some sunscreen) and head into the field to pick (and eat) as much as possible. You’ll find strawberries first, then blueberries, then blackberries. Picking them is almost as fun as eating them.
What to Do with All That Fruit
Wondering what to do with a freshly picked bucket of berries? Eat them plain or with a little cream, go the cobbler or pie route, or even make a refreshing beverage.
For dessert, try the easiest “cobbler” you’ll ever make. Combine a cup each of milk, sugar, and flour; pour it over a baking dish of berries; and bake at 350 degrees until the batter sets. Let it cool. Eat. Make it again tomorrow.
But the best use of all is for drinks. For starters, try berry lemonade. Put a cup of sugar, six cups of water, and the zest of one lemon in a saucepan and heat through until the sugar’s dissolved. Pour the mixture into a blender with a pint of fresh berries and the juice of six large lemons. Puree, cool, pour, enjoy.
Or make an adult beverage: a berry mojito. To make one, puree ½ cup of berries, then muddle five mint leaves with ½ tablespoon of sugar and a teaspoon of lime juice. Pour the berries, muddled mint and lime, and 1 1/2 ounces of white rum into a shaker and give it a good shake. Pour over ice, top with some club soda, and relax with an ideal summer cocktail.
For more information, visit Moon.com and read Jason Frye’s “Five Meals You Can’t Miss in North Carolina.”
About Moon Travel Guides & Moon.com:
Moon Travel Guides make independent travel and outdoor exploration fun and accessible. With expert writers delivering a mix of honest insight, first-rate strategic advice, and an essential dose of humor, Moon guidebooks ensure that travelers have an uncommon and entirely satisfying travel experience. Moon not only guides, Moon inspires. Based in Berkeley, California, Moon is published by Avalon Travel, a member of the Perseus Books Group. Visit Moon online at Moon.com.