Dear Shoppers, Home Cooks and Would-Be Cooks,
Here is that tutorial I promised about how you go about putting produce that you purchase at the market together for a great home-cooked meal in minutes, using the staples in your summer pantry and fresh or dried herbs and spices that you can also have on hand at all times.
First let’s assume you have shopped at the market for the following items: sweet corn, beans, tomatoes, onions, garlic, sweet and hot peppers, summer squash and potatoes. These are all vegetables that you can buy at a farmers’ market knowing that they will remain fresh and usable for at least a week. So while there are dishes that you can make using all of the above, there is no need to use up your market produce immediately. It will keep under the proper storage conditions for much longer than store-bought produce.
Just in the last week I put together with no recipe at hand two wonderful dishes. One was enhanced by the addition of meat to make a one-dish meal, but even without the meat it would have been a tasty and nutritional side dish or vegetarian entree. The other was another complete side dish packed with nearly the same produce with a totally different sensory appeal.
RECIPE 1: Mexican Fiesta Bowl
- Sweet onions
- Fennel (Remember, I put fennel in everything!)
- Sweet green, red and yellow peppers
- Mildly spicy to hot peppers
- Zucchini and yellow squash
- Fresh garlic
- Sweet corn
- New potatoes
- Canned kidney beans
- Simply Sausage Spicy or Mild Chorizo (or a combination of the two)
Saute in about 3 tablespoons of good olive oil 1/2 cup each chopped (into fairly large chunks) onion and fennel till slightly softened and lightly colored. Add 3/4 cup each chopped peppers and mixed summer squash and saute another 2-3 minutes, then add finely chopped garlic to taste (2 teaspoons at least) and saute another 2 minutes. Next add about 2 cups of peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped tomatoes and let simmer for about 10 minutes.
While you are chopping and sauteing the veggies, brown the sausage links in a little olive oil till cooked through. (I heated up two links each of the spicy and sweet chorizo for 4-6 servings.)
To the vegetable mixture as it cooks, you may add chili powder and cumin and either dried or fresh oregano and basil. Or select any other spicy ingredient such as smoked chili powder or chipotles in adobo sauce — make this your own dish however you wish to do so. At this point you may add two ears of fresh corn kernels cut from the cobs and one can of kidney beans, drained and rinsed, to the veggies. Cook over low heat for another 3-4 minutes.
Once the sausage is cooked through, remove it from the pan but save the oil in the pan for the diced potatoes; add them to the oil and toss gently over medium-high heat until they are lightly browned and cooked al dente. While the potatoes are browning and the veggies are simmering, slice the sausages into 1/4-inch rounds and add along with the potatoes when they are done to the vegetables.
Season with salt to taste and serve. This dish could easily be served over pasta or rice to stretch it even further.
RECIPE 2: Italian Flag Pasta Salad
- Sweet onions
- Sweet red and yellow peppers
- Colorful cherry or grape tomatoes
- Summer squash
- Boxed pasta of your choice — my choice is always De Cecco brand boxed pasta which was recommended many years ago by Gourmet magazine. In those days, in order to buy De Cecco, I had to drive into DC to Litteri, the justifiably famous Italian market in the old wholesale market area of DC at New York and Florida Avenues. Now you can buy it at Whole Foods or Safeway — though not in all of its guises. The farfalle (bowtie pasta) or any of the larger macaronis will do for this salad, which would overwhelm the small elbow pasta.
- Cooked corn cut from the cob
- Cooked fresh beans or canned
- Anything else in the fridge that looks good
Dressing: Lemon vinaigrette with pesto
To serve 4–6
Slice 1/2 cup each of the sweet onion, fennel, and peppers very thin and then slice the julienne in half horizontally. Halve about one cup of the tomatoes and add to the other sliced vegetables in a large bowl. Dice enough summer squash to make about one cup and add to the bowl. At this point if you have some leftover cooked corn as I did or you want to add cooked fresh beans or canned for additional protein, add these ingredients now.
Somewhere during the prep of the vegetables, you can bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook about 8 ounces of pasta. Drain when done but do not rinse. Try to time this performance so that the pasta is done just about the time you are ready to pour the dressing over the salad, as any pasta (or potato) salad is much better if dressed when warm.
The best-tasting balance of oil to acid is three-to-one, but you can adjust this if you want to consume less oil. I use 1/4 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice to 3/4 cup of a mixture of my favorite extra-virgin and Berio pure olive oil and add about 1 teaspoon of salt, 1 teaspoon of pepper and 2 teaspoons of Dijon mustard before whisking or emulsifying it in some other contraption.
I then add Traditional Basil Pesto to the dressing to taste and pour over the salad ingredients. And serve.
There is obviously some chopping involved here, but for each recipe it takes less than 20 minutes — and believe me it’s worth it! Each of these dishes even with the sausage added takes only about 45 minutes from start to finish. Let me know what you make of these ideas yourself — we can start a recipe roundtable where we share our own additions and adjustments to these basic dishes.
Have fun and see you at the market!