Fresh vegetables and fruit take center stage in this week’s recipe lineup.


Fresh Basil Pesto

Makes about 1 cup

2 cups fresh basil, packed

¼ cup pine nuts or walnuts

2 cloves garlic, quartered

½ cup grated Parmesan or Romano cheese, about 2 ounces

½ cup EVOO, olive oil

Salt and pepper to taste

In a food processor or blender pulse basil and pine nuts (If you are using walnuts that are not chopped pulse them first then add basil.) Add garlic and pulse. Slowly add EVOO, olive oil in a constant stream while the processor or blender is on. Scrape down sides with a rubber spatula. Add grated cheese and pulse again until well bended making the consistency like soft butter. Add salt and pepper if desired. Refrigerate or freeze. Serve with hot buttered pasta, on top of soups, vegetables, fish, baked potatoes, or spread over toasted baguette slices.

How to store: Put pesto in an airtight container using plastic wrap pressed against the surface so it doesn’t oxidize and turn brown. Refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze up to 3 months. Thaw before using.

Helpful Hint: For a fuller bodied flavor add some balsamic vinegar, about 1 tablespoon.


Onion Jam

Serve with burgers or hotdogs

2-3 large sweet onions, about 4 cups, thinly sliced

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons EVOO, olive oil

¼ cup brown sugar

¼ cup balsamic vinegar

1 teaspoon chopped fresh sweet basil

In a skillet sauté onions in olive oil over medium heat for 8-10 minutes. Lower heat and stir in vinegar, basil and sugar. Cover and simmer for 8-10 minutes until onions are tender. Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate leftovers. I like to double the recipe.


Fresh Green String Beans with Almonds

1 pound fresh green string beans, ends trimmed off

2 tablespoons EVOO – olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

2 cloves garlic, chopped

3 tablespoons sweet onion, chopped

¼ cup sliced almonds, toasted

¼ cup red, orange or yellow bell pepper, cut into small pieces or long thin julienne slices (Optional)

Have a large bowl of ice water ready and set aside. Bring a large pot of water to boiling and add string beans. Boil for 1 minute and quickly drain in a colander and put into the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process. The string beans should be a bright emerald green and crispy.

In a saucepan sauté onion and garlic in EVVO, olive oil and butter until slightly tender. Add drained string beans and julienne pepper and sauté for 2-3 minutes until heated through, Toss string beans with toasted almonds and serve immediately.

Helpful Hint: Sautéed mushrooms may be added at the end of cooking if you desire.


Yellow Squash with Spaghetti

8 ounces cooked spaghetti or spirals, break spaghetti in half before cooking

1 small sweet onion, chopped

1 teaspoon dried sweet basil, chopped

2 yellow squash, about 2 cups, cut into 1-inch cubes

4 tablespoons EVOO, olive oil, divided in half

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon lemon juice

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

Salt and pepper to taste

In a saucepan heat 2 tablespoons olive oil and sauté chopped onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, add yellow squash cook for 2 minutes. Toss this mixture with hot precooked spaghetti or spirals. In a cup whisk together olive oil, lemon juice, basil, salt and pepper and mix into pasta. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve hot.


Baked Eggplant

Serves 8

2 large eggplants (about 2 ½ ) pounds cut into ½ inch slices

2 large eggs, beaten

1 ½ cups seasoned bread crumbs

2 8-ounce packages shredded mozzarella cheese

½ cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 28-ounce prepared tomato spaghetti sauce

With vegetable spray lightly grease 2 baking sheets, set aside. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl whisk together eggs with 1 tablespoon water. Pour breadcrumbs into a flat dish. One at a time dip eggplant slices into egg mixture and then dredge slices in seasoned breadcrumbs, covering evenly. Place eggplant in a single layer on baking sheets. Bake in 400-degree oven for 18-20 minutes. Turn slices and bake for an additional 13-15 minutes.

In a 13 x 9 inch greased baking dish, coat the bottom of dish with tomato sauce, layer 1/3 of the eggplant, sprinkle 1/3 of shredded mozzarella cheese and tomato sauce. Repeat layers twice. Sprinkle with Parmesan cheese on top layer and bake uncovered at 325 degrees for 30 minutes or until heated through.


Okra Fritters

2 cups okra, coarsely chopped

1 small sweet onion, chopped

2 scallions, finely chopped

1 tablespoon chopped sweet parsley

1-2 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese (Optional)

½ cup a-purpose flour

1 large egg

¼ cup milk

1 teaspoon white vinegar

Salt and pepper, to taste

2 cups canola oil

In a bowl whisk together flour with salt and pepper. Toss in chopped okra, parsley, Parmesan cheese (Optional), scallions and onion, mix until coated. In another bowl whisk together milk, vinegar and egg until well blended. Pour into okra mixture and stir until blended.

In a large skillet heat oil over medium heat. Drop batter, about a small ¼ (one fourth) cup, forming a mound in the hot oil. Flatten the mound with the back of a spoon. Fry until golden, about 4-5 minutes; turn over and cook other side until golden. Lower heat if necessary to prevent burning. Drain on paper towels and serve hot.

If desired: Dip into sour cream mixed with dry dill.


Layered Fresh Fruit Salad

2 pints fresh blueberries

2 pints fresh strawberries, culled and halved

2-3 fresh peaches, cut into ½ (one half) inch slices

lime juice

1 small cantaloupe

2-3 cups watermelon, cut into 1-inch chunks

Flaked shredded coconut or toasted almond slices (Optional)

In a bowl toss peach slices with 1-2 tablespoons lime juice to prevent browning. Set aside. In a large glass salad bowl using half of the fruits layer watermelon, blueberries, cantaloupe, strawberries, and peaches, then repeat this layering one more time. Chill for 3-4 hours. Serve with shredded coconut or sliced toasted almonds on top.

Peaches with Grilled Angel Food Cake

3-4 fresh peaches, cut into ½ (one half) inch slices

2 tablespoons butter

¼ cup brown sugar

1 angel food cake or pound cake, cut into 2-inch slices

Whipped topping (Optional)

Cut angel food or pound cake into 2 -inch pieces and heat over grill until slightly browned.

In a skillet over medium heat melt butter and stir in brown sugar, stir and blend well. Heat mixture until sugar is completely dissolved and has a syrup consistency. Add peach slices and toss with sugar mixture. Heat on medium heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently.

Place cake slices on dessert plates and serve with hot candied peach slices. If desired top with whipped topping.


Peach-Blueberry Crisp


¾ cup all-purpose flour

½ cup rolled oats

1/3 cup chopped pecans or chopped walnuts

2/3 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

½ cup cold butter ( 1 stick), cut into small pieces

In a bowl whisk together flour, cinnamon and sugar. With a pastry cutter or two knives cut in cold butter until large crumbs are formed. Stir in oats and pecans or walnuts. Set aside.

Fruit Filling:

4 cups fresh peaches, cut into ½ (one half) inch slices

2 cups fresh blueberries

½ cup granulated sugar

¼ cup plus 1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

2 tablespoons lemon or orange juice or 1 tablespoon of each

1 tablespoon lemon or orange zest or 2 teaspoons of each

In a large bowl mix together flour and brown sugar and stir in blueberries until coated. In another bowl stir together lemon or orange juice and zest with peach slices. Fold the peach mixture into the flour mixture.

In a 2-quart casserole or baking dish pour this mixture. Sprinkle topping over fruit filling. Bake for 50-60 minutes in a 350 degree oven until bubbly and crisp on top. Let cool for 20 minutes before serving. May be served hot or cold with ice cream or heavy cream.


Hope Cusick has won awards at the North Carolina Strawberry Festival in 2012; The North Carolina Blueberry Festival — winning first place for her Blueberry Cheese Danish Pastry in 2012; placing on her blueberry spinach salad and dressing and winning second place for her Sweet Blueberry Pepper Jelly in 2015; and winning first in 2016 for her spoon blueberry muffins with apricot sauce and second for her blueberry crisp squares — and has won various other contest awards for her blueberry cheesecake, breads, cookies, brownies and jams. She resides in Hampstead.