These “recipes” are meant to give you an idea, inspire you on some ways to use the abundance of summertime goodness you will find at the market.
I used to teach cooking classes and the recipe editors were always calling me. I am such an intuitive cook. I have always had the gift of using a recipe as a template and “going from there”. I did not realize it was a gift until I started teaching classes. Some folks need that exact formula to feel comfortable. Some will not make a dish if they do not have the EXACT ingredients or equipment that they see listed.
Many times as I was growing up, my dad would have the jar of sour dough starter out and we would have a bowl of batter to make pancakes or bread. I don’t remember my dad ever using a cookbook for anything!
When I learned to bake professionally, I learned from an elder German baker named Ernst. Not only did I learn traditional German, but also French methods (pastries and breads). I also baked a few times for St Louis Bread Co (many, many years ago). Baking is definitely formula based. But once you get those formulas down, there’s still lots of room for creativity.
So please bear with me as I attempt to inspire you and give you some ideas on how to use local, seasonal produce….ENJOY!
Blackberry Sauce, Jelly, Juice
Blackberry season is almost over. Peach season is just getting underway. Many folks are not crazy about all of the tiny seeds in blackberries and therefore tend to stay away from them. In these last days of blackberry season, take advantage and enjoy one of our most prolific, local, seasonal berries.
If you want to minimize the seediness, but don’t want to go through the all the straining steps I have heard putting them in a food processor first can be helpful.
If you don’t mind the seeds, skip to the recipe ideas
large fine mesh strainer
Vanilla Bean or Vanilla Extract- optional
Pectin (powered or liquid)
Cornstarch, Arrow Root or another thickener
I have used homemade crab apple pectin in the past
Do not wash the berries until you are JUST READY to use them. The berries can mold easily if washed too soon and put away. Pick out any stems or debris. Put berries in a colander and rinse gently. Put clean berries in a pot. Since I don’t know how many berries you are going to have, the rest of this “recipe” is going to be a little vague, but here’s the idea….
Heat the berries with some sugar (not much depending on ripeness of berries). I also like adding a vanilla bean if I am planning on using the blackberries for a more sweet dish.
Simmer the berries with a little sugar (and vanilla) at least 30 minutes. Stir gently. When the sugar has dissolved and the berries have let off their juices, ladle into a fine mesh strainer that is sitting on top of a large bowl or another pot. Using cheesecloth works really well too, but can be awkward to work with. Lining the strainer with cheesecloth is another idea. Be sure to fasten it well to the strainer to keep it from slipping
Press the berries with the back of a ladle or spoon. Scrape the bottom of the sieve to get the pulp off. Continue pressing and scraping.
When you get all of the blackberry juice that you can, it’s time to decide how to use it!
The easiest option is to put it in a lidded jar, refrigerate it and use as needed.
I like using a few spoonfuls when I make salad dressings. It makes a great addition to any vinaigrette.
Blackberry Balsamic Dressing
1/2 cup blackberry juice
1/4 cup oil
2 TBLS balsamic vinegar
2 tsps. dijon mustard
dash of salt and fresh ground pepper
For a sauce to use over ice cream or a dessert, thicken the juice with sugar and cornstarch or arrowroot.
Put the juice in a pot and simmer over medium heat
The amount of sugar is going to depend on the ripeness of the berries that were used and what your “sweetness” meter is. I don’t care for particularly “sweet, sweet”, so I tend to use less sugar.
Mix a little sugar with the cornstarch. Stir into the berry juice. As the juice bubbles, it will thicken. Taste and adjust sweetness if needed. I like adding a little vanilla or steeping with a vanilla bean.
This sauce can also be put in a lidded jar and refrigerated.
Blackberry Jelly (add jalapenos for a pepper jelly)
You can make 1 jar, a cup or two, a quart
Jelly making has some food science and chemistry involved. It’s fairly easy food science, but you will need to follow a “formula” for the jelly to get thick and “gel”.
Using commercially prepared pectin is the easiest method. Once you have your mashed berries or juice, the actually jelly making is easy and quick.
You will need to measure and/or weigh your berries (or juice).
Use the directions on the box for the proper amount of sugar and pectin.
Stir the pectin/sugar mix into the gently rolling, simmering berries. Continuing stirring to keep from sticking.
I take a spoon of the jelly, spread it across a saucer and let it cool. If it feels and looks like jelly after cooling, it is ready.
If you are making a small amount of jelly just put it in tightly covered containers and keep in the fridge.
Summer Market Grilled Veggie Pasta (add grilled chicken, andouille or chorizo)
This is a favorite of ours. It can be varied depending on your likes and what you find at the market from week to week, season to season. There’s no need for other dishes or sides with this. Although a peach and cucumber salad does taste mighty fine along side. Or a dish of cold watermelon with a little balsamic.
A grill basket of some sort is very helpful. But a large piece of heavy aluminum foil or even an aluminum pie tin would work.
We like adding grilled chicken and a mildly spicy sausage. The market vendors have wonderful pastured raised chicken as well as a variety of sausages. I cut a whole chicken in half and grill the split chicken first. Cover and let cool a bit before picking the meat off for the pasta.
Don’t worry about keeping everything hot. Warm to room temp works nicely for this dish. The leftovers are great as well (if there are leftovers)
Cooked Pasta (fettuccine works nicely), 1 lb is enough for 4-6 people
Grilled Veggies (at least 8 cups total)
a dash of good balsamic (optional)
Salt and Pepper
Basil and Oregano (fresh is nice)
Cheese (Feta or Chevre or Parmigiano)
Prep the veggies. When available, I use-
Thick cut onion rings
Large bulb of whole Garlic Cloves
Green Beans (whole or halved)
Eggplant (1″ cubes)
A variety of summer squash (large cubes or thick slices)
Cherry or Grape Tomatoes (halved)
Sweet Corn, shucked and cleaned (4+ ears)
I have the veggies prepped in bowls and divided according to cook times. I put olive oil and a little salt and pepper on the veggies to get them all ready). Be sure to have mitts and a long spoon, spatula or other utensil for stirring and moving the basket and veggies around as needed.
I like starting with the onions and garlic as those flavors are used to enhance the rest of the veggies as they are grilling. Start with getting the onions and garlic soft but not too brown.
Add the most dense and hard veggies first. Green beans would be next for me. After the green beans start to cook, I add the eggplant, next is the squash. The corn and tomatoes are last.
Methods for grilling the sweet corn change each time I make this. Cutting corn off the cob and adding to the grill basket works and I have done this a few times. Some of the kernels will fall through the basket as you stir it. The kernels will pop in the fire below. They don’t pop like popcorn! The other method is to grill the whole ears to the side of the grill basket. Remove the ears, cool and cut off the cob. Add to pasta.
Putting the pasta together- I have a large, flat rimmed pasta platter that I use for this.
Warmed pasta, tossed generously with olive oil. Add salt and pepper. Toss with grilled veggies and meat (if using). I like adding a splash of balsamic, Top with (or stir in) cheese) and herbs.
This can also be arranged beautifully by adding the veggies, meat cheese and herbs on top of the bed of pasta.
Peach and Cucumber Slaw
I just made this last night. It was an experiment. It needs a little fine tuning. But it was delicious. I am anxious to try another bite today to see how the flavors and textures have changed, sitting in the fridge overnight.
I had a medium head of cabbage from the market. A few ripe peaches. A few small cucumbers. I was grilling hamburgers for supper and decided to make a slaw with what I had sitting on the counter.
Chop or shred the cabbage (I had about 6 cups)
1/4-1/2 cup finely chopped yellow onion
2 small cucumbers, about 1-1 1/2 cups (peeled, seeded and cut into small cubes)
3-4 peaches, skinned and diced
Fresh ground Coriander
Salt and pepper
Mayo- 1/2 cup
Balsamic Vinegar or other flavorful vinegar- a few tablespoons
Mix all together and let sit for a few hours for the flavors to meld. Taste and adjust. Cover and refrigerate until ready to serve.
What I didn’t do that I will do next time- salt the cucumbers and let sit to get the juices out. Rinse thoroughly and add to chopped cabbage.
The slaw was not necessarily watery, but really “juicy”. The peach and cucumber juices added to the flavor, I am sure. I used a slotted spoon to serve.
The fresh ground coriander is a plus! I bet cilantro would be good. But this is not cilantro season.
Hopefully these recipes will spark your creativity and interest.