Around here, we’re knee-deep in corn season, and these hot days are producing fat, sweet, juicy ears of summery goodness. Local sweet corn has been amazing, and we’re smart to eat our fill of it while we can. Now, I’m a buttery-corn-on-the-cob girl all day long, but sometimes I want corn in a different way: raw kernels scattered over a plate of sliced tomatoes, say, or quickly sautéed. So here’s a roundup of my favorite summer corn recipes. Get thee to a farmers’ market!
This easy tomato gazpacho recipe is an oldie but goodie—it originates in the recipe booklet that came with my mom’s Cuisinart food processor many years ago. She photocopied the recipe for me, and I make it repeatedly throughout the summer. It’s my go-to gazpacho recipe because it’s so quick to whip up in the food processor—minimal prep required. A cool soup for hot weather!
easy food processor gazpacho
(makes about 4 cups)
1 small clove of garlic, peeled
1/2 jalapeño pepper, seeds removed (or more to taste)
4 green onions, white and pale green parts cut into 1-inch pieces
1 stalk celery, cut into 1-inch pieces
1/2 red bell pepper, seeds removed, cut into quarters
2 tomatoes, seeds removed, cut into quarters
2 cups low-sodium tomato juice (I used tomato broth)
1 medium cucumber
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons really good olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
Fit the metal blade into your food processor; add garlic and jalapeño and process until finely chopped. Add the green onion, celery and bell pepper; process to chop. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl. Place the tomatoes in the processor and puree until smooth. Transfer the tomato puree to the bowl, then add tomato juice, lemon juice and olive oil. Peel the cucumber and slice it in quarters lengthwise; remove seeds and slice thinly. Add the cucumber slices to the gazpacho. Season well with salt and pepper to taste. Chill the soup before serving; it's actually better the second day.
Thanks to the onslaught of cherry tomatoes in my backyard garden this summer, which is just now coming into full production, I’ve made this homemade spiced cherry tomato jam twice now. You’re thinking, “tomato jam?” Yes, tomato jam!
It’s fantastic with sharp cheddar on crackers, with goat cheese on crostini or on an over-the-top grilled cheese sandwich.
This tomato jam recipe was inspired by one of my favorite summer pasta sauces, made with golden cherry tomatoes, star anise, clove and fresh herbs. The tomato-anise flavor combination turns out to be a real winner, the warmth of the spice pairing beautifully with the tart-sweet tomato taste. (I also love it in this Roasted Tomato-Fennel Soup recipe.) I scouted tomato jam recipes online and added the herb-spice flavoring to a pretty basic technique to come up with this recipe.
This is a small-batch homemade jam that’s easy to make in about 45 minutes; it doesn’t call for pectin, but rather sugar and heat create the lovely texture. Spoon the jam into small jars and freeze them, or use a water-bath canning process to preserve them for shelf storage. Spiced Tomato Jam makes a lovely hostess or summer birthday gift!
Spiced Cherry Tomato Jam recipe
makes 1 1/2 cups
2 pounds yellow or orange cherry tomatoes, halved
2 cups sugar
4 sprigs basil
2 sprigs thyme
2 sprigs tarragon
2 star anise
4 whole cloves
4 teaspoons red wine vinegar
Combine tomatoes and sugar in a large glass bowl; let sit about 4 hours (or refrigerate overnight). Transfer to a large, wide saucepan add herbs, spices and vinegar. Slowly bring the mixture to a boil, then boil rapidly, occasionally stirring and scraping the bottom of the pan to prevent scorching, until it becomes thick, dark and syrupy, about 35 minutes. (Keep up your stirring at the very end of the process; the jam tends to scorch just as it comes to the proper temperature.) Use a candy or digital thermometer to check temperature; it should reach 220° for soft/jelly set. Alternately, spoon a bit of jam onto a small plate and put it in the freezer for a minute or two; it should resemble a soft-set jam. Use tongs to carefully remove spices and herbs.
Jam keeps, refrigerated, for up to 6 months; can be processed in jars in a water-bath canner per manufacturer’s directions (see FreshPreserving.com for the how-tos on canning). Or transfer to small jars and freeze up to 1 year; thaw completely before using.
I love eating at this time of year: There are so many tasty vegetables and herbs that you can quickly transform into a satisfying side dish or salad. Like tabbouleh: quite possibly the easiest but most overlooked dish you can make at home.
Tabbouleh is a Middle Eastern salad based on bulgur, a type of cracked wheat, and parsley. Add a few more fresh herbs, some chopped vegetables and a splash of olive oil, and you have this lovely salad that can play many roles on your table.
Make it part of a Middle Eastern appetizer platter alongside homemade hummus, a hunk of salty Feta cheese, and fresh vegetables and crisp pita chips for dipping. Or make it the centerpiece of a healthy, packable lunch with a little cherry tomato-mozzarella salad and some fresh fruit. Homemade tabbouleh and a dish of baked pita chips makes pretty much the simplest, freshest-tasting appetizer or afternoon snack out there.
easy homemade tabbouleh salad
1/3 cup bulgur
1 cup parsley leaves, packed, very finely minced (you’ll have about 1/3 cup, minced)
2 tablespoons minced chives
2 tablespoons minced fresh mint (optional)
2 small tomatoes, seeded and very finely chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and very finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon coarse sea salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
Place the bulgur in a bowl and cover with warm water; let sit 15 to 20 minutes, until it is al dente, like pasta. (You want to maintain a slightly firm, toothy texture; the bulgur will continue to soften after you’ve made the tabbouleh.) Drain the bulgur in a fine sieve and squeeze out as much water as you can with your hands. Place 1/2 cup prepared bulgur in a bowl and fluff it with a fork. Add the rest of the ingredients and use a spatula to fold the ingredients gently together. Like most such dishes, this gets better over a couple of hours as the flavors meld.
Nature has a way of mocking the gardener’s folly: Just a few days after I lamented that our cucumber crop seemed doomed, we’ve had a growth spurt. The harvest should be robust after all. Perhaps I’ll open a roadside farm stand?
So what to do with these slender cukes right off the vine? As they say on Portlandia: “We can pickle that!”
This super easy recipe for homemade pickles yields a pickle that’s bright, crisp, more cucumber-y than dill-y, if that makes any sense. If you like your pickle slices more deeply flavored and softer, then by all means leave these in the brine for several days, even a week, and they’ll develop those characteristics. Want a bit more spice? Add a clove or two of garlic (peeled) and some red pepper flakes. Save the brine and continue adding cucumber slices and dill, and you’ll have an ongoing pickle factory in your fridge all summer long.
quick refrigerator dill pickle recipe
In a quart jar with a tight-fitting lid, combine 1 cup apple cider vinegar, 1/2 cup granulated sugar and 1 tablespoon kosher salt. Cover and shake very well until the sugar and salt dissolve. Add several sprigs of fresh dill fronds to the jar. Add 4 small or 3 medium cucumbers, sliced. Add more dill. Shake gently to combine and refrigerate at least several hours before serving. Pickles keep, refrigerated, up to a week, softening and gaining deeper flavor over time.
In today’s edition of the Cincinnati Enquirer you’ll find my story about local tomatoes, which are just now coming fully into season. The article included a couple of our favorite tomato recipes … and I thought I’d share a gallery of additional recipes for your biggest, fattest, ripest, most luscious summer tomatoes. Dig in!
On menus and in cooking magazines recently, I’ve noticed a fun new ingredient turning up with increasing regularity: seedy toppings. On salads of all stripes, on grilled meats and vegetables, on creamy soups. My favorite new Radish and Avocado Salad with Toasted Seeds recipe (inspired by a dish we had on vacation last month) has a scattering of seeds over the top. So does this Bon Appetit recipe for Grilled Chicken Kebabs with Sesame Sprinkle, which we’ve made twice in the past two weeks.
Dine out, and you’ll probably find a variation of the toasted seed topping or its cousin, the savory granola (find my savory granola recipe here), adding nutty flavor and vibrant crunch to just about anything. In the case of the grilled chicken kebabs, the sprinkle combined toasted seeds with freshly grated lemon zest and fresh herbs, which added a totally awesome dimension.
These savory toppings are super easy to make: just assemble a pile of seeds (see below), toast them in a dry skillet, and off you go. This is a non-recipe recipe: Just use what you have, or what you like, in whatever proportion you choose. Add just a tiny pinch of salt to bring out the flavor — you don’t want this to taste salty. Make a small batch just for dinner tonight, or enough to play with over the course of a week. You can’t mess this up. If you think of an instance when you’d want croutons, you can swap in a toasted seed topping instead.
Seeds to try: white or black sesame, flax, poppy, sunflower, pepita, pine nut, chia
Herbs to add: minced chive, parsley, savory, tarragon
Other add-ins: lemon or orange zest, black pepper, Aleppo pepper, freshly grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese
Uses for toasted seed or seed-herb toppings: sprinkled on fresh ricotta on crostini; sprinkled on a chilled soup; scattered over grilled chicken, fish and vegetables; adding life to the traditional caprese salad, instead of croutons in a simple mixed green salad or a vegetable salad
seed topping recipe
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sunflower seeds
In a small dry skillet, toast the seeds over medium heat until fragrant but not really browning, about 5 minutes. Cool. Add a pinch of salt.
seed and herb topping recipe
1 tablespoon white sesame seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 teaspoon chopped fresh chives
1 teaspoon chopped fresh parsley
Pinch of lemon zest
Pinch of Aleppo pepper
Pinch of salt
In a small dry skillet, toast the seeds over medium heat until fragrant but not really browning, about 5 minutes. Cool. Toss with herbs, zest, pepper and salt.
This recipe for pasta with bright-tasting Swiss chard pesto is yet another inspired by our recent travels to California; this dish echoes one of a table-ful of small plates we loved at Chalkboard in Healdsburg, CA.
There, the pesto was made with kale; here at home, I have a lush row of Swiss chard in my garden, so I made the swap. At Chalkboard, the dish was gorgeous: homemade Mafaldine pasta (a long ruffled noodle, like an inch-wide lasagne) in a pool of velvety green sauce. The pesto was so smooth, with a kick of spice; a second look at the menu revealed a bit of creme fraiche and Calabrian pepper.
When we got home, I quickly whipped up a batch of simple Swiss chard pesto, whisked in a tablespoon of creme fraiche and added a pinch of Aleppo pepper. Aleppo is a global secret ingredient: spicy but not hot, bright but not sharp, with a fruity undertone. (If you don’t have Aleppo, start with a tiny pinch of cayenne, then adjust the heat level to suit your taste.)
I used a long ruffled pasta called Riccia Lunga from the Rustichella d/Abruzzo brand (which I like very much). If you don’t feel like hunting for a specialty pasta, any good sauce-holding shape, like penne, orecchiette or farfalle, will do. Take the time to puree the pesto until it looks like green velvet.
Enjoy this little taste of Wine Country!
pasta with Swiss chard pesto and creme fraiche recipe
5 large leaves Swiss chard, center stems removed
3 tablespoons sliced toasted almonds
1 tablespoon chopped garlic scapes (or 1 clove garlic, chopped)
1/2 cup mild olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
2 tablespoons creme fraiche
Pinch of aleppo pepper (or cayenne to taste)
1/2 pound dried pasta such as Mafaldine or Lasagnette or other ruffled shape like farfalle
Grated Pecorino Romano for serving
In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, pulse the chard leaves briefly to chop. Add almonds, garlic scapes (or garlic), olive oil and lemon juice; process until the pesto is smooth and velvety, about 2–3 minutes. Season with salt to taste. In a bowl, whisk together 4 tablespoons pesto and 2 tablespoons creme fraiche; add a pinch of aleppo or cayenne pepper to create just a spark of heat.
Cook pasta according to directions; drain, reserving 1/2 cup of hot cooking water. Return pasta to pot and, over low heat, toss with the pesto-creme fraiche mixture, adding a bit of cooking liquid to make a sauce and another tablespoon of pesto if needed. You want a generous coating of pesto on the pasta. Divide pasta among 4 serving bowls and top each with a generous shower of Pecorino.
Much as I admire what local chefs are doing with regional, seasonal ingredients, I think of California as the origin point of fresh, flavorful and deceptively simple cooking. I was deeply inspired on our recent trip to Healdsburg, in the heart of Sonoma County wine country: From breakfast to dinner, everything we ate was bright-tasting, loaded with vegetables and layered with flavor.
At Chalkboard in Healdsburg, we enjoyed a leisurely dinner of shared plates that started with this gorgeous radish and avocado salad. Mind you: neither Rob nor I like radishes. But we agreed that we had to try this salad, and we swooned over every forkful. The peppery crunch of the radish, the smooth creaminess of the avocado, the simple vinaigrette, the toasted-seed topping — this dish is truly more than the sum of its parts.
When we returned home, I managed a pretty spot-on replication of Chalkboard’s radish and avocado salad. Here’s the recipe!
radish and avocado salad with toasted seeds recipe
For the salad:
1 medium avocado
1/2 bunch radishes (preferably the French breakfast variety)
1 tablespoon raw sunflower seeds
1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon sesame seeds
Handful of sunflower sprouts
Salt and freshly cracked pepper
For the dressing:
2 tablespoons grapeseed or vegetable oil
1 tablespoon good extra-virgin olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper
Slice the avocado and divide between 2 salad plates. Trim the radishes and quarter. In a small skillet, toast the sunflower and sesame seeds over medium heat until fragrant but not browned, about 5 minutes.
Combine all the dressing ingredients in a lidded jar and shake to combine. Toss the radishes and spouts with a bit of dressing; arrange on top of avocado slices. Season salads with salt and pepper and scatter toasted seeds on top.
Rob and I traveled recently to California, to old haunts and new in San Francisco and Wine Country. We first visited the lovely little town of Healdsburg, in Sonoma County, on our honeymoon lo these many years ago, and instantly fell in love. We’ve returned many times.
On our recent visit, we were determined to explore new spots in this very familiar territory. We stayed at the Calderwood Inn just off Healdsburg’s tree-shaded plaza. I highly recommend it — everything about the Calderwood was comfortable, from the deep front porch to innkeeper Laurie’s delicious breakfasts.
Most B&B breakfasts tend to be fairly indulgent. But Laurie’s dishes were not only tasty, but beautiful and relatively healthful: stocked with veggies (many of which she’d harvested from the inn’s backyard garden), beautifully presented, garnished with fresh herbs and flowers, just the right thing to anchor a day of wine-tasting.
This recipe for sweet potato hash with poached eggs is inspired by one of the Calderwood Inn’s fabulous breakfast dishes. Double the recipe to feed a crowd, and bake the squash and sweet potato ahead of time. It may seem like the several steps are too much work for breakfast, but really, this healthy breakfast dish comes together easily.
And it’s a terrific “breakfast for dinner” option. Thanks for the inspiration, Calderwood Inn!
sweet potato-bacon hash with poached eggs recipe
1 large acorn squash, seeded and cut into quarters
1 large sweet potato
2 slices bacon, chopped
1/2 sweet onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 bunch Swiss chard or spinach, stems removed, sliced
4 large farm-fresh eggs
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Snipped fresh herbs and edible flowers for garnish
Preheat oven to 350°. Place squash pieces on a rimmed baking sheet; drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Prick the sweet potato all over with a fork and place it on the baking sheet. Roast until the squash (about 25–30 minutes) and the sweet potato (45–50 minutes) are tender when pierced with the tip of a paring knife. Remove and let cool. (Can be prepared ahead.)
Meanwhile, sauté bacon in a skillet until browned but not too crispy; transfer to a plate lined with paper towel to drain. To the bacon drippings, add the onion and bell pepper and sauté until translucent, about 7 minutes. Cut the sweet potato in half and scoop the flesh into the pan; cook, mashing the potato, until the hash is heated through. Add the bacon and season with salt and pepper.
In a sauté pan, cook the Swiss chard until wilted, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
To poach the eggs, bring a large, wide pan of water to a boil; reduce heat to simmer. One at a time, crack each egg onto a small saucer and slip it gently into the simmering water. Poach eggs about 3 minutes, or to your preferred doneness.
To serve, place one piece of acorn squash on a plate; top with a spoonful of sautéed chard and a generous spoonful of sweet potato hash. Place a poached egg on top; season with salt and pepper.