FOODIE FILES: Lazy summer cooking

By on July 14, 2015

Enjoy the heat with minimalist meals using farmers market finds

From left clockwise: Sweet corn off the cob tossed with red onion and basil; fresh sage leaves from the garden are part of an easy two-ingredient sauce; a toothsome miso butter to dress up sizzling meat, corn, and veggies off the grill. (Photo: Annie Fenn)

From left clockwise: Sweet corn off the cob tossed with red onion and basil; fresh sage leaves from the garden are part of an easy two-ingredient sauce; a toothsome miso butter to dress up sizzling meat, corn, and veggies off the grill. (Photo: Annie Fenn)

Jackson Hole, Wyoming – Every summer, right about now, I get all lazy about cooking. I still want to make great meals, but I’d rather spend less time in the kitchen and more time outside. Maximum flavor with minimal effort is my mantra.

Luckily, putting together minimalist meals is easy with all the local produce arriving to our farmers markets. What’s for supper is dictated by what ends up in my basket. And when the produce is this fresh and good, not much needs to be done in the kitchen.

In case you are in a lazy cooking frame of mind too, here are a few ideas for throwing together effortless meals. Don’t think of these as recipes; although I adore a good recipe, I rarely cook from a book in the summer. These are more like reminders to have a few secret ingredients stashed in the fridge to make your summer food go from good to great.

Miso butter is my favorite two-ingredient recipe that is delicious on just about everything, but especially delicate, flaky fish like black cod. It takes minimal effort to mix equal parts white (shiro) miso paste and unsalted butter – this is best done once they are both at room temperature using a big wooden. Tightly covered, miso butter keeps in the fridge for up to one month. But it probably won’t last that long as you’ll be smearing it on everything – sandwiches, steaks, vegetables and even toast. Try it on grilled scallions and bok choy tossed with soba noodles. Or toss it with corn kernels cut from the cob and sautéed in a hot pan with olive oil.

For another easy side dish using sweet corn, heat kernels in a pan with olive oil and toss with a tablespoon of finely diced red onion and a handful of shredded fresh basil. (You may not want to work this hard, but here’s how to make a chiffonade of basil: Place basil leaves in a neat stack and roll up side to side; slice into shreds cutting perpendicular to the stem.)

I have my mother to thank for another great compound butter I make all summer long – avocado butter.  Swordfish on the grill topped with avocado butter is one of my mom’s best recipes – the cold butter melts into the fish’s nooks and crannies, creating a lovely puddle of sauce. Mix one stick of butter with one ripe avocado; add a teaspoon of minced garlic, the juice of half a lemon and a generous pinch of kosher salt. Avocado butter is a good solution to having too many avocadoes going ripe on the kitchen counter. Covered tightly with plastic wrap, the butter will last at least five days in the fridge, and it freezes well, too. Slather it on corn on the cob, use it to butter a burger bun or swirl it into pasta and rice. And it’s simply perfect with grilled chicken.

When the tomatoes are coming in, the best summer appetizer is inspired by one of the classic tapas of Barcelona – pan con tomate. Slice sturdy, rustic bread thickly (Persephone’s pain au levain comes to mind) and toast on the grill until browned. Rub with the cut side of a ripe tomato half until all the flesh is gone. Arrange the toasts on a platter and drizzle with olive oil and salt. This is a good one to remember when you have overly ripe tomatoes that you don’t want to waste.

Brown butter sage sauce is the best two-ingredient sauce I know. Making browned butter, or beurre noisette, takes a few minutes at the stove but it’s an easy technique to master. Heat a stick of butter over medium heat; when it is melted and starts to bubble, add a handful of fresh sage leaves (so easy to grow here). Cook the leaves until they are slightly browned and crispy; remove and set aside. Keep cooking the butter over medium-low heat – it will turn blondish, then brown, then nut-brown. Finally, when it’s actually beurre noisette, the butter solids will turn black and sink to the bottom of the pan. Now it’s done: Scrape off the browned butter and all those caramelized solids and toss with pasta, gnocchi, or grilled asparagus. Drizzle over grilled fish or chicken. Top with the crispy sage leaves. The sauce can also be finished with the juice of half of a lemon, which is particularly good on grilled asparagus.

For a simple two-ingredient dessert, nothing beats an affogato – a “drowned” ice cream. Pour one shot of espresso over one scoop of ice cream, preferably gelato. Eat the ice cream with a spoon and slurp up the creamy espresso to finish it off. Use decaf espresso if you prefer to avoid caffeine after dinner, but this also makes a bracing midday pick-me-up when brewing the real stuff.

If you really don’t feel like cooking dinner, nibble your way through one of the evening farmers markets. On Tuesday nights, Aspens Market features Robinson Family Farm produce, local wine samples and Chef Smitty serving up dinner from the grill. On Wednesdays, the Peoples Market at the base of Snow King offers live music, beer on tap, Nom Nom doughnuts and more to go with your street food. Summer supper doesn’t get any easier than that.

For the ultimate lazy summer biking and eating adventure, join me Sunday from 1 to 5 p.m. for the Teton Food Tour from R Park to Teton Village. Sponsored by Slow Food in the Tetons and Friends of Pathways, cyclists will cruise the West Bank, noshing on four small plates along the way. Purchase tickets at friendsofpathways.org.

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie Fenn traded her life as a doctor to write about food, health, sustainability and local food. See snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at JacksonHoleFoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.


About Annie Fenn, MD

After delivering babies and practicing gynecology for 20 years in Jackson, Annie traded her life as a doctor to pursue her other passion: writing about food, health, sustainability and the local food scene. Follow her snippets of mountain life, with recipes, at www.jacksonholefoodie.com and on Instagram @jacksonholefoodie.

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