By Sue Muncaster // Photography by Paulette Phlipot
Twenty years ago, I would daydream about living solely on the plants that thrived in my Teton Valley garden—sorrel, rhubarb, garlic, lettuce, and raspberries–-then I could eat local all summer long. These days, though, cooking and eating in season is so much easier thanks to our ambitious regional farmers and ranchers who provide us an astounding variety of produce, cheese, and meat. In fact, the only excuse not to eat local in the summer is if you find yourself wondering what the heck to do with the bounty.
For a few seasons, I held the sweet job of farm-share cook for both Full Circle and Snowdrift farms in Victor. Each morning, I would show up to a pile of whatever crop peaked that day and was tasked with pulling together a rewarding meal for ten ravished co-workers. In the barn was a well-stocked pantry full of bulk grains, beans, pasta, oils, dried herbs, and nuts and seeds. I quickly learned how to wing it.
A good understanding of which fats, herbs, and spices contribute to which ethnic flavors, a handful of recipes, and the confidence to substitute whatever I found at the farmers market or in my CSA (community supported agriculture) share has allowed me to make the most of what is in season. And you can, too, by stocking your pantry with a few essentials and turning your farm share’s main ingredient into a yummy recipe.
Here are a few of my favorites.
Corn on the Cob with Basil Butter
Makes 3/4 cup butter
I’ve always been a big pesto fan. Then I discovered basil butter. Now it’s my go-to for turning anything boring special. In addition to corn, try a dollop on a grilled steak, mix it with roasted veggies, or simply toss the butter with hot pasta.
6 ears fresh corn on the cob
2 tablespoons garlic (10 cloves or 5 scapes)
½ cup basil
½ cup unsalted butter, softened
Flaky sea salt to taste (if needed)
- Bring a large pot of water with a pinch of salt to a boil on the stove.
- In a food processor (or with a mortar and pestle) puree fresh garlic and basil.
- Add ½ cup of softened butter and blend well. Adjust salt to taste.
- Once the water is boiling, add corn and return to a boil. Turn off the heat immediately and allow corn to sit in the water for 5 minutes. Strain.
- Dress hot corn with a slather of butter.
- Store unused butter in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.
NOTE: You can substitute fresh oregano, thyme, sage, or lemon verbena for basil.
Serves about 6.
Shakshuka means “all mixed up” in Arabic. And rightfully so, as this dish is my go-to for using up an endless variety of fresh (or beyond prime) produce. Make a big pot and use it as a spicy substitute for tomato sauce on pasta, pizza, or polenta.
For the Sauce:
¼ cup olive oil
1 large yellow onion, peeled and chopped
3 to 5 mild bell peppers, seeded and sliced
2 jalapeno peppers, seeded and sliced
10 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
½ teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon paprika
10 or more ripe tomatoes, seeded
3 to 5 stems fresh basil, cilantro, oregano, sage, thyme, tarragon, or
rosemary (whatever’s on hand)
1 bay leaf
½ to 1 cup water or chicken broth
Salt and pepper
6 or more fresh eggs
FOR THE Toppings and Sides:
Tangy cheese, chopped herbs, avocado, pickled jalapenos or onions, thinly sliced radishes, crusty bread or tortillas.
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- In a heavy saucepan, sauté the chopped onion in olive oil. Add all other ingredients and simmer for 30 minutes or until produce is soft. (Add a little water or chicken broth if the sauce gets dry.)
- Remove the pan from the heat; remove the bay leaf and woody herbs; whizz with an immersion blender until smooth. Adjust the salt and pepper to taste.
- Wipe a 12- or 14-inch cast iron pan or oven-proof casserole dish with cooking oil. Pour in the sauce.
- Create 6 (or more) small wells in the sauce. Crack an egg into each well. Spoon sauce around the sides of the eggs to contain them.
- Cook for 8 to 12 minutes, removing the pan when the eggs are opaque and the yolks have risen but are still soft and jiggly. Sit to cool.
- Spoon each egg with some sauce
into a bowl. Top with your your choice of fixings and serve with crusty bread or tortillas.
NOTES: Substitute one 14.5-ounce can of fire-roasted, diced tomatoes plus one 28-ounce can of whole tomatoes for the fresh tomatoes.
It’s OK to throw in chunky produce; everything gets pureed in the end.
Quick Pickled Refrigerator Jalapenos
Makes 2 pints.
According to celebrity chef Samin Nosrat, “It’s the way acid contrasts with other tastes that heightens our pleasure in foods.” This brine mellows the chilis so you can toss them liberally into your morning eggs, over a pizza, or on a taco bowl.
1 pound jalapenos or Red Fresno peppers, stemmed and sliced (seeds are OK!)
2 large garlic cloves
1 ½ cups distilled white vinegar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 tablespoons sugar
- Pack the sliced peppers and garlic into two clean, hot, pint-size canning jars, leaving ½ inch of headspace.
- In a small, heavy saucepan bring the vinegar, water, salt, and sugar to a boil.
- Pour the hot brine over the peppers, leaving ¼ inch of headspace.
- Cover, cool, and refrigerate for up to 3 weeks.
Strawberry Rhubarb Crisp
I like to make this crisp recipe on raft trips in a Dutch oven. The combination of sweet and tart is a great kickoff to the summer BBQ season, and virtually any combination of berries or summer fruit can be substituted.
For the Filling:
1 pound rhubarb, chopped (approx. 4 cups)
1 cup strawberries
1 cup white or brown sugar
1 tablespoon orange or lemon peel (optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 tablespoons cornstarch
¼ cup water
FOR THE Crust:
1 cup white flour
½ cup whole wheat flour
1 ½ cups rolled oats
¾ cup brown sugar
1 cups butter, cold
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon cinnamon
½ cup chopped pecans or walnuts (optional)
FOR THE FILLING:
- In a heavy saucepan combine the first 5 ingredients. Over medium heat, stir constantly until rhubarb releases liquid.
- Bring to a heavy simmer and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
- In a small bowl, dissolve the cornstarch in the water. Add it to the rhubarb mixture and continue to cook until thickened. Set aside.
FOR THE CRUST:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F.
- In a food processor with a pastry cutter, mix all ingredients together until crumbly.
- Butter a 12-inch casserole dish, Dutch oven, cast iron pan, or 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
- Press about ½ of the crust mixture into the bottom of the pan, evening it out. Pour the rhubarb mixture over the top, spreading evenly. Sprinkle the remaining crust mixture over the top.
- Bake for 30 to 40 minutes until the top is brown and the filling is bubbly.
- Cool, cut, and serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.
NOTES: You can halve the topping mixture and prepare the crisp without the bottom.
When using a 13-by-9-inch pan, the crisp will turn out more like bars.