Get the most from your summer veggies with these insanely good recipes

Aug 6, 2014 at 4:53 p.m. ET

Green-friendly recipes from QVC's resident foodie and best-selling cookbook author David Venable.

Summer is filled with fun, sun and the tastiest produce of the year. I'm at my local farmers market constantly during the warm months, hunting for that perfect tomato or the most fragrant bunch of basil. One of the best things about the season's bounty is that little needs to be done to enhance the flavors. A drizzle of olive oil here, a sprinkling of salt there and you've got a tasty treat straight from Mother Nature. But sometimes it's fun to see what else you can create, whether it's pairing produce with unexpected flavors or finding ways to preserve them long after the last summer sun has set. Here are a handful of my favorite recipes that showcase the unbeatable flavor of summer's best veggies.

Zucchini fritters with garlic aioli dipping sauce

David’s insider tip: "By the end of the season, we're all scratching our heads with what to do with the loads of zucchini that's available. Here is a great recipe that turns this humble veggie into a crispy, salty treat. Feel free to add even more fresh herbs to the dipping sauce for extra flavor."


Zucchini fritters:

  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup yellow squash, julienned
  • 1 cup zucchini, julienned
  • 1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour
  • 5 ounces white cheddar cheese, shredded
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup cold beer

Dipping sauce:

  • 24 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1-1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 4 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup fresh chives, chopped


  1. To prepare the sauce, toss the garlic cloves with the olive oil. Wrap the garlic in foil and bake until tender, about 20-30 minutes. When the garlic has cooled slightly, put it into a food processor and puree with the mayonnaise, lemon juice, pepper and salt. Set aside.
  2. To prepare the fritters, heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot until it reaches 350 degrees F. Line a baking or cooling rack with 2 layers of paper towels.
  3. Place the onion, zucchini and yellow squash in a mesh colander and press down to squeeze out most of the liquid. Set aside.
  4. Combine the flour, cheese, salt, pepper and garlic powder in a large bowl. In a separate bowl, beat the eggs until smooth and then stir in the cold beer. Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir in the zucchini and onion.
  5. Scoop out 1 tablespoon of the zucchini batter and drop it into the hot oil; repeat. Fry until golden brown. Use a slotted spoon to transfer the fritters to the paper towel-lined rack. Serve them immediately with the dipping sauce.

Pepper jam

David’s insider tip: "The bell peppers you can find during the summer are head and shoulders better than when they're not in season. The sweetness and crunch of a perfectly ripe bell pepper is unmatched, and this recipe lets you bottle that flavor for when fall hits and you need just one last taste of summer."


  • 1 large orange bell pepper, seeded
  • 1 large red bell pepper, seeded
  • 4 small sweet peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1-1/2 cups rice wine vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 5 cups sugar
  • 4 ounces pectin


  1. Puree the orange peppers, red peppers and sweet peppers in a food processor.
  2. Place the pepper mixture, vinegar, nutmeg, pepper flakes and sugar into a medium-size saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Continue to cook for 5 minutes over medium heat.
  3. Slowly add the pectin and return to a boil. Cook for another 2 minutes, stirring constantly.
  4. Pour the mixture into a sterilized jar and make sure to seal it. Place the jar in the refrigerator to cool for 12 hours.

Grilled summer veggie bruschetta

David’s insider tip: "Bruschetta is one of my go-to appetizers when I'm having guests over. This version gets a complete makeover from the original with the addition of six tasty summer veggies. While I love goat cheese as a base for its tangy, mild flavor, ricotta or mozzarella would work well too."



  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon Italian seasoning
  • Pinch of garlic powder
  • Pinch of onion powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1/4 pound eggplant, peeled and sliced into 1/2-inch slices
  • 1 zucchini or summer squash, ends removed and halved lengthwise
  • 1 red pepper, stemmed, seeds removed, and quartered
  • 3 medium mushrooms
  • 1/2 medium red onion, peeled and cut in 3 wedges
  • 1 medium tomato, stemmed and cut into 4 wedges
  • 1/2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil leaves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt


  • 1 baguette, sliced into about 25 (1/2 inch) slices
  • 3-4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 8 ounces goat cheese, room temperature


  1. To marinate the vegetables, whisk the ingredients in a small mixing bowl until well combined. Place the eggplant, squash, pepper, mushrooms and onion into a plastic zip-top bag. (Do not add the tomato; you won't be grilling it.) Pour the prepared marinade into the bag, tightly seal, and shake to distribute the marinade. Marinate for 15 minutes.
  2. To grill the veggies, preheat the grill to medium. Remove the vegetables from marinade and place them directly onto the grill grates. Grill for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the vegetables begin to soften. Set aside.
  3. Let the vegetables cool to room temperature. Cut the squash into 4 pieces and place the pieces into the bowl of a food processor along with the tomato, the grilled veggies, balsamic vinegar, garlic, basil, pepper and salt. Pulse until the veggies are finely chopped and the mixture is well combined.
  4. To grill the bruschetta, preheat the grill over medium heat. Brush each side of the bruschetta slices generously with olive oil. Grill the slices for 5 minutes on each side, or until nicely toasted. When the bread has cooled slightly, spread about a tablespoon of the goat cheese on each slice. Top the cheese with a generous tablespoon of the vegetable mixture. Serve immediately.

Tomato-basil gratin

David’s insider tip: "Tomatoes are truly a gift from the heavens, so versatile and pure summer. Good in-season tomatoes can be enjoyed all on their own, but I love the way they taste when baked with a simple mixture of cheese and breadcrumbs. Serve this as a side with a roast chicken, grilled fish or even as a main dish with a salad and crusty rolls."


  • 6 tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 cups fresh breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon garlic, minced
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan, grated
  • 1/4 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups mozzarella, shredded
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil


  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F.
  2. Combine the breadcrumbs, garlic, Parmesan, basil, parsley, salt and pepper in a medium-sized mixing bowl. Set aside.
  3. Cover the bottom of a 3-quart casserole or baking dish with a layer of sliced tomatoes. Sprinkle 1/2 cup mozzarella and 1/3 of the breadcrumb mixture over the tomatoes. Repeat twice, using all the remaining ingredients.
  4. Drizzle olive oil on top and cover with foil. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, or until bubbly and the cheese has browned.