Nothing says summer more to me than feasting on light and fresh vegetables. Every summer growing up, my mom would make fresh vegetable dishes for almost every meal. When we came running inside from playing in the heat, my mom would serve us avocado sandwiches, eggplant parmesan, tomato and cucumber salad, and an endless supply of corn on the cob. To a small child seeing heaps of vegetables on the counter each day, it almost seemed as though I was entering the door to a farmer’s market or a fresh vegetable stand. Due to this experience each year, I find that there is something so refreshing and satisfying about eating crisp vegetables on a hot, summer day.
Given that it has been reaching high temperatures in Sacramento, we have been practicing this custom of buying many vegetables and enjoying the refreshing flavor in our own kitchen. For the past two weeks, we have made several vegetable dishes that replace traditional uses of meat. This substitution has been fun to dream up, and has also given us an exciting twist on dishes we make consistently with meat. Most of all, we have felt so healthy spending the majority of our time in the produce section of the grocery store and so full of energy after we devour our nourishing meals. While we have not eliminated meat from our diet, this emphasis on consuming vegetables has given us a renewed sense of how to invent healthy, produce centered meals.
This week, a favorite dish we tried was eggplant burgers. One of my favorite foods is Chicken Parmesan. However I make it, the flavors remind me of home cooking growing up. Given that we wanted to try using primarily vegetables when creating meals this week, we exchanged the chicken for eggplant. This classic substitute was then made livelier by making it into a burger with marinara instead of ketchup and basil instead of lettuce. Using a hard sourdough bun, these burgers had a great crunch with amazing, nostalgic flavors. The softness of the skillet-cooked eggplant paired with the hard roll was a great combination. We loved the addition of ranch dressing on the burger as well, which balanced the marinara and Parmesan cheese. Try this dish as an incredibly quick weeknight meal, or throw it on the grill to feed a crowd at a barbecue. This meal can also be paired with skillet potatoes, potato chips or how we enjoyed them, with French fries. However you enjoy it, I hope it brings you the same refreshing satisfaction that vegetables can bring on hot June days.