Heriloom tomatoes are at their peak so we’re eating bruschetta for dinner nearly every night right now. We just toast some good bread, rub it with a clove of garlic and top with diced tomatoes. Then we drizzle a little olive oil (peppery Oro Bailen is the current household favorite) and sprinkle with sea salt for the perfect mid-summer meal. Asian pears are also coming into season and few things taste better for dessert, or as an appetizer, or as a snack, than Stilton blue cheese spread on a thick slice of ripe Asian pear. Sour cherries, the preferred filling of choice for cherry pie lovers, are coming in, and I’m gathering up all I can find to freeze dry for Thanksgiving pies. (I’ve used the kind that come in a jar before, but they’re expensive and they just don’t retain the flavor of fresh sour cherries.)

This is one of my favorite seasons because it seems that all of my favorite treats are at their best – and they’re spilling out of harvest baskets and boxes everywhere! Now is the time to think about holiday meals and dark February evenings and plan to inject some of this beautiful time of year into winter evenings. Here’s what we’re freeze drying to A) perk up winter meals B) add variety when we get sick of root vegetables C) be the envy of the pie-table at holiday meals.

  • Diced heirloom tomatoes for chili and hearty tomato-based soups. Heirloom tomatoes are sweeter and tomato-y-er than hothouse varieties and they make a huge difference in recipes
    Asian pears in slices and in halves. Slices are a delivery vehicle for blue cheese, but they are also delicious baked with blue cheese and cranberries and served with walnuts and fresh arugula
    Sour cherries and other berries for Thanksgiving and winter birthday pies
    Peaches and apricots for cobblers (Confession: they are so tasty by themselves they rarely make it to the cobbler stage.)
    Bell peppers and jalepenos for chili
    Corn (off the cob) for creamy corn chowder
    Eggplant for eggplant Parmesan and noodle-free lasagne
    Peas to toss with pasta, pepper, Parmesan and prosciutto
    Spinach and kale to use in ribolitta, our favorite winter soup
  • Now, here’s what we’re freeze drying, tossing with sea salt or spices and not saving for later:

  • Shoshito peppers to dip in homemade French onion dip
    Okra (our favorite replacement for potato chips)
    Green beans to use as dog treats (true story)
  • Give yourself a half an hour to think about what you can save now to brighten up your winter meals later, keep your eye out for deals or freebies, then get back to enjoying the sunshine and lazy days of summer.