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Kitchen Wit & Wisdom: Summer is all about local produce
I love this time of year when the gardens, farmers’ markets and fruit stands are packed with fresh local vegetables and fruits. Especially new are the good supply of beans, new potatoes, freshly picked corn and cherries.
Green beans are so delicious with just a little butter and a sprinkling of salt and pepper; but try them with chopped dill and lemon, or caramelized onion or garlic or any other favourite herb of your choice. Beans can stand alone, but they can also be made into countless side dishes.
Farmers are now picking the first of our local corn and it is such a summer favourite. Besides boiling, steaming, roasting or barbecuing it, fresh corn makes the best chowders ever and I have a recipe for one today. And what can I say about new potatoes except delicious! Again steamed, roasted, grilled, pan fried; add caramelized onion, garlic, cream; herbs like dill, rosemary, thyme or oregano, whatever you feel like, they make a mouth-watering treat.
Perhaps end your meal with fresh cherries or a baked cherry dessert. Last season I didn’t find sour cherries but I’m on the prowl for them now and hope to find enough to last me through the winter. Today’s recipes are varied and include the above-mentioned three veggies and fruit; all are worth a try.
Japanese-Style Sesame Green Beans
1 tablespoon canola oil
1-1/2 teaspoons sesame oil
1 pound fresh green beans, washed
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
1/2 cup slightly crushed peanuts or cashews
Warm a large skillet or wok over medium heat. When the skillet is hot, pour in canola and sesame oils, then place whole green beans into the skillet. Stir the beans to coat with oil. Cook until the beans are bright green and slightly browned in spots, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat, and stir in soy sauce; cover, and let sit about 5 minutes. Transfer to a serving platter, and sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and nuts.
Summer Corn Chowder
with Scallions, Bacon and Potatoes
5 ears fresh corn
7 oz. green onions (about 20 medium)
3 slices bacon, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
1 jalapeño, cored, seeded and finely diced
1 tsp. kosher salt; more to taste
Freshly ground black pepper
3-1/2 cups low-salt chicken broth
1-1/2 cups Yukon Gold potatoes, chopped
1-1/2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
2 Tbsp. heavy cream
Husk the corn and cut off the kernels. Reserve two of the corn cobs and discard the others. Trim and thinly slice the green onions, keeping the dark-green parts separate from the white and light-green parts.
Cook the bacon in a 3- or 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat until browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. With a slotted spoon, transfer the bacon to a paper towel-lined plate. Pour off and discard all but about 1 Tbsp. of the bacon fat.
Return the pan to medium heat and add the butter. When the butter is melted, add the white and light-green onions and the jalapeño, salt and a few grinds of black pepper. Cook, stirring, until the onions are very soft, about 3 min. Add the broth, corn, corn cobs, potatoes and thyme and bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer until the potatoes are completely tender, about 15 min. Discard the corn cobs.
Transfer 1 cup of the broth and vegetables to a blender and purée. Return the purée to the pot and stir in the cream and all but 1/3 cup of the onion greens. Simmer, stirring occasionally, for a couple of minutes to wilt the scallions and blend the flavours. Season to taste with salt and pepper and serve sprinkled with the bacon and reserved scallions.
New Potatoes with Cream and Dill
1 pound small new potatoes
1 Tbsp. butter
1/4 of a medium yellow onion, diced
1 small carton (250 ml) 18% cream
Large handful fresh dill, chopped, with stems discarded
Salt and pepper to taste
Boil potatoes whole in a medium sauce pan filled with salted water until potatoes are tender when poked with a fork. Drain potatoes and leave in colander.
Melt butter in the empty saucepan previously used to boil the potatoes. Add chopped onion and cook until starting to caramelize (about 5 minutes) over medium heat.
Reduce heat and add the cream and the dill. Simmer right at the boiling point until the cream becomes very thick, stirring constantly. Add potatoes back to saucepan with cream sauce. Salt and pepper to taste and stir potatoes to cover with the dill cream sauce.
Sour Cherry Crumb Cake
4 Tbsp. unsalted butter, melted, plus more for dish
3/4 cup all-purpose flour, plus more for dish
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup packed light-brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup buttermilk
2-1/2 cups (1 pound) fresh sour cherries, pitted, or frozen dark sweet cherries
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a 9-inch square baking dish, and dust with flour, tapping out excess.
To make the topping, stir together butter, flour, sugars, salt and cinnamon.
To make the cake, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl.
With a mixer, cream butter and granulated sugar in another bowl until pale and fluffy. Beat in eggs and vanilla. Working in alternating batches, add flour mixture and buttermilk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat until just combined. Pour into prepared dish, and smooth with an offset spatula.
Dot top with cherries, and sprinkle with crumb topping. Bake until golden and a tester inserted into centre comes out clean, about 1 hour. Let cool before cutting.
Cathi Litzenberger is The Morning Star's longtime food columnist, appearing every other Wednesday and one Sunday per month.