There are beachside barbecues happening and the smell of suncream is in the air. Blissful summer is finally here and with it come juicy grapes, tomatoes and ripe mangoes
Bunches of dewy, plump grapes are plentiful and seducing hedonists everywhere with their sweet, juicy charm. Now is the ideal time to enjoy magnificent fresh table grapes from all corners of Western Australia; with over 30 different varieties grown commercially, there’s an abundance of flavour that will keep you munching happily all summer long…
The season generally starts in November with the arrival of varieties such as the Red Flame Seedless, White Sultana, Dawn Seedless and Red Globes
The sun-drenched Swan Valley, perhaps WA’s best known table grape region, provides a delicious array of grapes throughout its lengthy mid December to April season. Apart from the well-loved seedless and seeded varieties mentioned, there are a number of others which provide a wonderful diversity of colour and flavours.
One of the most decadently textured fruits around, choose fresh figs with good colour that are plump and free from blemishes.
Avoid those with shrivelled or sticky skin appearance or a sour odour as this is a sign of over-ripeness. Ripen at room temperature then store in the refrigerator.
They’re absolutely perfect to eat when the skin begins to split at the base. Serve simply with fresh lightly salted ricotta and herbs.
Also known as continental cucumbers, these slender green specimens have a thin edible skin so there’s no need to peel. Throw together a quick salad of cucumber, mint and red onion dressed with lemon juice to accompany tandoori-spiced lamb. If adding cucumber to the Greek yoghurt dip, tzatziki, it’s best to remove the moist seed membrane to prevent wateriness.
Tomato season is truly upon us; quite possibly Fresh Finesse’s favourite time of the year as we simply adore the incomparable flavour of perfectly ripe and seasonal pomodori.
Tomatoes are best kept out of the cold climes of the fridge- the texture and flavour will be far superior if left to ripen on a bench top, as well as giving your kitchen a lovely burst of colour and scent. Be careful, however, to keep the tomatoes out of direct sunlight as this can cause uneven patches of ripeness.
Tomatoes this good can really be the star of a meal; try tossing chopped ripe tomatoes, a diced clove of garlic, freshly torn basil and extra virgin olive oil through freshly cooked pasta for a hit of true summer flavour.
Choose deep-green, firm zucchini for a versatile fridge favourite that’s delicious raw or cooked. Grated zucchini make a great economical base for tomato pasta sauces and is also excellent in egg-based dishes such as quiche, omelette and frittata. Avoid any specimens with soft spots. Dry the exterior well and keep wrapped in a plastic bag in the fridge- zucchini will keep up to1 ½ weeks if stored correctly.
These little guys are common ‘agaricus bisporus’ mushrooms at the first stage of growth; their caps are still tightly closed and none of their gills are exposed. They’ve got a beautifully subtle flavour and their compact size makes them perfect for adding whole to just about anything.
This humble white button mushroom has been proved to have as many anti-oxidant properties as the more exotic varieties such as the maitake and matsutake, both of which are highly prized in Japanese cuisine for their reputed health properties including lowering blood pressure and their alleged ability to fight cancer.
This information comes courtesy of new research published in SCI's Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture and is another wonderful reason to tuck into platefuls of cute little button ‘shrooms!
This summer classic is divine eaten fresh, the sweet flesh devoured from the ubiquitous criss-cross pattern, but also marries beautifully with heady, savoury flavours such as lime juice, coriander, chillies and spring onions. Combine these together for an unfussy salsa that exudes the essence of summer and goes particularly well with festive seafood-based bites.
When looking for mangoes at the peak of ripeness look for those that will give to gentle pressure at the stem end and have the characteristic, sweet mango aroma.
Remember also that mangoes don't necessarily have to be evenly coloured all over. Some mangoes have a greater degree of 'blush' than others, and different varieties naturally develop different skin tones.
Green herbs and balmy summers are as about a perfect match as you’re ever going to get. For my money, there aren’t many, or perhaps any, warm-weather dishes that don’t benefit from a sprinkling of green zinginess- be it basil, coriander, mint, chives, or my perennial favourite, dill, which pairs exceptionally well with summer seafood.
Experiment with the under-utilised flavours of Thai basil, Vietnamese mint, marjoram, sage (great for stuffing your turkey or chook) and chervil.
You could even really go all out and pot some fresh herbs as a beautiful, living present- wrap with a big red bow and ensure you’re invited around to sample the resulting herby feast!
A great way to give your day a glowing start is with a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice. All citrus fruits give a more generous yield of juice if they are at room temperature when squeezed – rolling them firmly with the palm of your hand also helps.
Valencia oranges are ideal if you like your juice chilled as the juice keeps well in the fridge, ready for that morning burst of energy and Vitamin C!
What’s a good summer picnic or BBQ without a bowl of crisp, freshly torn salad leaves? Check out the baby cos, butter, coral and red salanova varieties for tender, well-flavoured leaves that will pair well with different dressings and salad veggies. And don’t forget that oft over-looked classic, the iceberg lettuce……prawn cocktail, anyone?
Can any other fruit be as perfect for festive celebrations as fresh WA- grown cherries? These ruby-hued and snow white wonders are deliciously sweet and plump and make an ideal centrepiece for a Christmas table. No need to serve dessert, just start nibbling! Cherries should be stored in the fridge in a clean, plastic bag with the air removed. Better still, to avoid bruising or bumping, store in an airtight container and use within 3-4 days.
This peppery salad leaf enjoys huge popularity in Australia, and rightly so. Its delicious bite is the perfect foil for many flavours; the sweetness of summer tomatoes and freshly grated pecorino cheese being two of them.
High in Vitamin A and C, rocket ticks the nutrition boxes and its compact size makes creating beautiful salads a cinch. Rinse just before use and pick out any wilted or yellow leaves.
These little firesticks are popular in cuisines the world over, adding a spicy kick to many a dish. Be extra careful to wash your hands after chopping (removing seeds and membrane for a milder experience) and be mindful when touching your face; the burn can be far worse than the one you experience in the mouth!
Finely chop and blend chilli, garlic, coriander, lemon juice and oil to taste for a wet version of the Moroccan blend chermoula. It’s great for marinating meat or serving alongside barbecued seafood.
The arrival of the first waves of stone fruit always creates such an air of anticipation for the warm, lazy day stretching ahead. Summer is prime-time stone fruit season, so grab a so-ripe-it’s-bursting-at-the-seams peach, nectarine, apricot or plum and thoroughly enjoy as the juice dribbles down your chin.
Stone fruit can be classified as freestone (or slipstone) or clingstone, referring to the ease at which their stone comes away from the flesh.
Look beyond eating fresh out of hand and use the sweet, tangy flavours of these beauties in a vibrant salad, contrasting slivers of fruit with peppery green salad leaves and a silky extra virgin olive oil dressing spiked with fresh lemon.
Grilled peach or nectarine is the perfect simple summer sweet; indulge and accompany with a scoop (or three) of rich vanilla bean ice-cream.
The daffodil hued corn from the northwest is of excellent quality and best cooked and eaten as soon as you can after buying, as fresh corn is most definitely the juiciest. If keeping for more than a day, parboil the corn for a minute (this will help slow down the conversion of sugars) before refrigerating or freezing. Try chunky sliced threaded on skewers then char-grilled on the barbecue.
Berries bring back waves of childhood nostalgia for hours spent patiently collecting the little jewel-like lobes. Strawberries, blueberries and raspberries are amongst the favourites and most commonly grown in WA, with smaller quantities of blackberries and boysenberries available in some produce outlets.
When buying berries check closely for over soft or mouldy fruit and remember that berries are highly perishable and should not be exposed to sunlight or kept at room temperature.
If stored unwashed and loosely packed, with damaged berries discarded, they should keep for 2 to 4 days in the refrigerator.
If your berries haven’t been quickly devoured by hungry mouths, scatter into summer puddings, brulees, sorbet, syllabubs and that quintessential Aussie classic, the pavlova.
Fragrant watermelon, rockmelon and honeydew melons are in top form, lending their refreshing flavours to chilled out holiday breakfasts and scrumptious tropical desserts.
Choose melons that are heavy for their size and firm to touch with no soft patches (check where they have been sitting on the ground).
Whole melons can be stored for a couple of days at room temperature, keeping in mind that they don’t actually ripen once picked. Once cut, store in the fridge covered in plastic wrap.
Curvaceous Hass avocados are acknowledged as being the cream of the crop—large fruits with a rich creamy texture and subtle nutty flavour. Start your day off with a deliciously savoury brekky; avocado spread on thick grainy bread topped with ripe tomato, salt and pepper will have you rocketing along till lunchtime.