Midsummer veggies take meals to new heights
The height of summer coincides with a drop at grocery checkout stands.
This reduction doesn’t come through coupon clipping or sticking to store brands. It’s because midsummer is the time to scale back produce purchases amid harvests from my own garden. What I don’t grow myself, I buy directly from others who tend Southern Oregon’s soil at their farmers market booths, farm stores and farmstands.
Anyone who cultivates a garden or is an observant farmers market shopper knows the lineup: Lush greens and sweet peas of late May and early June give way to July’s slender summer squashes and juicy cucumbers. Tomatoes, eggplant, chiles and corn — like other heat-loving crops — were delayed by unseasonably cool, wet conditions in late spring.
In the meantime, my family feasted on radishes, carrots, new potatoes and the year’s fresh garlic. The veggie are so full-flavored, so impeccably textured that I’ve been planning meals first around plants with animal proteins almost as an afterthought.
The mindset is a far cry from my youth, when frozen and canned vegetables were the lackluster, seemingly reluctant companions to plates heavy with meat and starch. Conditions on my native Oregon Coast make for less-than-successful gardening, and my family simply didn’t attempt to cultivate much beyond fog-friendly berries.
Living near an all-seasons farmers market in France, followed by learning to garden in the Rogue Valley alongside my mother-in-law are my most significant culinary influences. Everyday observations of the seasons counteracted my childhood context of recipes that rely on seasoning packets, canned cream soup and other sources of fat and sodium to enhance largely flavorless vegetables.
American cookbooks of the era tell similar stories of reliance on commercially processed produce. How far we’ve come in most regions of the country, where farmers markets are more numerous and supermarkets stock so much more in the way of seasonal bounty.
A sprinkle of sea salt, drizzle of good olive oil and shower of fresh, homegrown herbs are all I want on just-picked produce. For a sandwich, make that herbed mayonnaise or cream cheese topped with cucumber and tomato slices on a slab of locally baked sourdough or country-style wheat bread. This recipe for an ELT also champions farm-fresh eggs.
Usually one to skip onions on sandwiches and burgers, I’ve found myself recently indulgent of crisp, mild sweet onions. Walla wallas, of course, are a Pacific Northwest original and gardeners’ standby.
But a recent trip to the Rogue Valley Growers & Crafters Market in Medford introduced me to “candy onions,” sold with greens still attached for $3 per bunch at Bigham Farms’ stand. Several other farms, including Latigo and Wandering Roots, sell sweet onions for about $2 per pound. Try them in Sweet Onions and Mushrooms From the Skillet.
Garlic, too, doesn’t get any fresher and juicier since its recent harvest. Purple-skinned, tightly packed heads sell for $10 to $12 per pound, with numerous farms still well-stocked. In addition to Latigo’s and Wandering Roots’ stalls, look for garlic at Runnymede Farm, where you also can purchase rainbow chard for sautéing. Victory Garden and Fry Family Farm have their own vibrantly hued greens.
Both recipes for mushrooms and chard are naturals with grilled meat and fish. Or pile them over baked sweet or russet potatoes with dollops of sour cream or goat cheese. Stir leftover mushrooms and greens into a skillet of scrambled eggs the next morning.
Elevate eggs to the height of summer flavor with this sweet corn pudding. Its soufflé-like lightness is the reward for turning on the oven. Cold leftovers taste delightful at lunch with sliced ripe tomato.
Although sweet corn was a prominent crop for decades locally, the retirement of White Produce in Medford and Seven Oaks in Central Point has made for a scarcer summer commodity. Stepping into Seven Oaks’ shoes, Coats Ranch in Central Point advertises sweet corn sales. Find the farm at 3371 Willow Springs Road. Hours typically are 8 a.m. to noon Wednesday and Friday, until 4 p.m. Saturday.
Bigham, which also has a farmstand in Sams Valley, expects its sweet corn will be ready later this week. Find them at the farmers market Thursdays in Medford’s Hawthorne Park or at 9445 Pumice Lane, Central Point. Corn is priced at about $1 per ear.
Look for locally grown chiles to complement this corn pudding as summer stretches into fall. Among the seasonal spectacles are chiles roasting at the markets and Fry Family Farm Store on Ross Lane in Medford.
Reach features editor Sarah Lemon at 541-776-4494 or firstname.lastname@example.org
ELT Sandwiches With Basil Mayonnaise
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
3 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh basil leaves
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large eggs
4 slices hearty whole grain country-style bread
4 leaves red-tipped or green leaf lettuce
1 large or 2 medium-sized heirloom tomato, ends trimmed, thinly sliced
In a small bowl, mix the mayonnaise, basil, Dijon mustard, salt and pepper; set aside.
Heat a small, nonstick skillet over medium heat until hot. Spray with nonstick spray or olive oil.
Crack 2 eggs into skillet. Reduce heat to low, cover pan and cook until egg yolks are medium set, for 3 to 4 minutes.
While eggs cook, toast the bread slices.
Spread mayonnaise mixture on 1 side of each piece of toasted bread. Top 2 bread slices with 2 lettuce leaves and half of tomato slices. Top with fried egg and then add second piece of bread to make a sandwich. Serve with plenty of napkins.
Makes 2 servings.
Sweet Onions and Mushrooms From the Skillet
2 large sweet onions (about 18 ounces)
2 tablespoons sunflower or safflower oil
1 1/2 cups thinly sliced assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, oyster, maitake, shitake (about 6
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1/2 teaspoon coarse (kosher) salt
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs, such as chives, cilantro, basil, tarragon, parsley
Cut the sweet onions in half through stem ends. Set cut side up on cutting board, then thinly slice at an angle to create wedge shaped pieces.
Heat a large nonstick or well-seasoned cast-iron skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add the oil and then onion slices. Cook over medium-high heat, stirring often, until onions are golden brown and tender, for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the mushrooms; cook and stir until golden, for 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the crushed garlic and 1/2 teaspoon salt; cook for 1 minute.
Refrigerate covered for up to 1 week. Serve warm sprinkled with the chopped mixed herbs.
Makes about 2 cups.
Sauteed Chard With Garlic
2 bunches fresh Swiss chard, 16 ounces total, well rinsed and patted dry
2 tablespoons olive oil or bacon fat
1 medium yellow onion, peeled and thinly sliced
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
Coarse (kosher) salt
Trim tough ends from the chard stalks. Use a paring knife to remove stalks, then slice stalks crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll up leaves and slice crosswise into 1/2-inch-wide ribbons.
Heat a large nonstick skillet until hot. Add the oil or bacon fat, then the thinly sliced onion; sauté until onion is soft, for about 3 minutes.
Stir in the crushed garlic, chard stems and a generous sprinkle of salt. Saute for 2 minutes. Add chard leaves and cook, turning greens as they wilt and collapse (but leaving some greens slightly undercooked), for about 2 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Serve right away.
Makes 2 to 3 servings.
Sweet Corn, Green Chile and Cheddar Pudding
3 medium-size ears sweet corn, shucked OR 2 cups (8 ounces) frozen corn kernels
8 large eggs
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1 white portion of large leek or 1 medium-size white onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 small poblano chile or medium-size jalapeno, cored, seeded and finely chopped
6 tablespoons flour
2 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
1 1/2 cups skim or lowfat milk
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups white cheddar cheese, about 5 ounces
1/4 cup thinly sliced chives or scallions
1 tablespoon sugar
Using a sharp knife and working over a shallow bowl, cut kernels from the ears of corn. You should have 2 generous cups. Puree corn nearly smooth with an immersion blender or in the food processor.
Carefully separate 8 eggs as follows: Crack 1 egg over a small bowl letting whites run into small bowl. Tip yolk into a second small bowl. Then tip egg white (which should be free of any yolk) into large bowl of an electric mixer. Repeat to separate all eggs in same manner with yolks in small bowl and whites in large mixer bowl.
Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Add the chopped leek or onion and chopped chile pepper; saute until soft, for about 5 minutes.
Stir in the flour and crushed garlic; cook, stirring, for 2 minutes.
Whisk in the milk until smooth. Heat to a boil, then reduce heat and whisk continuously for 3 minutes. Stir in pureed corn and the salt. Remove from heat.
Stir in the cheddar cheese, then egg yolks. Stir until cheese is melted. Stir in the sliced chives or scallions. Cover mixture with plastic wrap directly on surface and set aside for up to 30 minutes.
Heat oven to 375 F. Generously butter a 3-quart baking dish that is at least 2 inches deep.
Beat egg whites with electric mixer on high until foamy. Beat in the sugar until soft peaks form, but mixture is not dry.
Use a rubber spatula to fold 1/3 of whites into corn and cheese mixture to lighten it. Then transfer mixture to remaining egg whites in bowl. Fold gently until most streaks of egg white are incorporated. Scrape mixture into prepared baking dish.
Bake until puffed and top is deep golden brown, for about 30 minutes. You can leave dish in turned-off oven with door slightly ajar for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot when it’s at its puffiest, or at room temperature.
Makes 8 servings.