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The end of last year’s crop from temperature-controlled cold storage is preserved over the winter, steadily supplying the region with local fruit until summer comes again—and while apples are so often tied to autumn and winter dishes, there are many summery ways to use them. Core and finely chop one apple and use in place of tomato(!) in a fresh, sweet salsa—combine apple with minced jalapeño, lime juice, scallions, mint and cilantro and spoon over grilled fish or lamb. Or add to smoothies with yogurt and spinach for a boost of fiber and a delicate sweetness. Try adding chopped apple to your curried tuna or chicken salads, or slivered apple slices to a ham, turkey or aged cheddar sandwich for your summertime picnics. Raw apple wedges tossed with lemon juice and a pinch of cinnamon sugar can be layered with cold, thick Greek yogurt and granola for a breakfast parfait—use crème fraîche or vanilla custard instead of yogurt at dessert.
One of the local crops we wait for all spring and then gorge on until its short season ends. Its complex sweetness makes it one of the easiest vegetables to prepare—the less you add to it, the better. Trim away the bottom half-inch of each spear, then use a good, sharp vegetable peeler to peel them from tip to tail (save the trimmings and peelings for stock). Now you’re ready to cook: The easiest way to prepare asparagus is to slowly sauté in unsalted butter or extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper; sprinkle with chives and tarragon and serve warm. Or blanch the peeled stalks quickly in salted boiling water, drain, pat dry and chill; serve with a mustardy vinaigrette or a garlicky lemon-infused mayonnaise. Any leftover spears can be blended with sautéed onions, vegetable stock and a touch of cream for a light and simple soup, or chopped and added to an omelet or frittata.
You either love ‘em or hate ‘em—beets can be pretty polarizing. But even the biggest beet skeptic can be won over by roasting-then-marinating blood-red beets in balsamic vinegar and garlic to serve with thick yogurt or tahini sauce, some toasted nuts and segmented orange. Chef Ana Sortun made beet tzaztiki famous at her Cambridge restaurants (Oleana and Sofra Bakery)—that’s an easy one to replicate by replacing the traditional recipe’s cucumbers with cooked shredded beets; add garlic, mint, lemon and yogurt to serve with toasted pitas and crudité. On a hot summer day, a pureed borscht-style cold soup will cool you right down; just blend roasted or boiled beets with garlic, broth, crème fraîche and garden herbs, chill and serve. And if the greens are still attached and fresh, rinse them very well, pat dry and sauté in butter to serve alongside roasted beets—two side dishes in one!
A member of the Chinese cabbage family, this crunchy, bittersweet brassica loves all manner of alliums, so be sure to pair it with plenty of garlic or scallions. Trim away the ends and any yellowed leaves, wash well (these can be sandy!) and slice them into quarters lengthwise; cook with minced garlic over high heat in neutral oil—use of a wok here is traditional, but a wide, high-sided saucepan will do the trick in a pinch. Serve with a dressing of tamari or soy sauce blended with sesame oil, grated ginger and some bottled chili-garlic sauce; scatter with slivered scallions and sesame seeds and serve with grilled steak or sliced BBQ pork tenderloin. Or stir-fry just the white crunchy stems with peeled, deveined shrimp seasoned with plenty of salt and pepper, then add ginger matchsticks, scallions and the slivered bok choy greens. Toss with lime, chopped cilantro and crushed salted peanuts over cooked rice noodles.
In the height of the summer there are infinite ways to use up your cucumber crop or market haul. The simplest cucumber salad has just three ingredients: cukes, vinegar and salt—add herbs like dill or parsley and serve. Or make a Japanese-style rice salad by tossing hot sushi rice with seasoned rice vinegar, diced cukes, sliced carrots, a few torn sheets of toasted nori and sesame seeds for an interesting addition to the potluck table. But by far the best way to enjoy your cucumbers is by making easy refrigerator pickles: Just layer sliced cukes, some dill and onion into a sterilized glass jar, pour a hot mixture of vinegar, sugar, water and salt over the top and allow to cool before storing in the fridge. You’ll have fresh, crisp pickles to serve with smoked fish, on ham sandwiches or to eat straight from the jar; when the jar is empty, keep the brine and refill with more cucumbers—a short rest in the fridge later, and you’ve got more pickles.
Massachusetts summer sweet corn is a treat worth waiting for, but until the local crop is ready at the end of July, we cheat a bit with ears from further south. New hybrid varieties ensure the sweetness won’t give way to starch even after storage, so we can enjoy quality corn on the cob almost year-round. Of course, steamed and slathered with butter is the classic way to serve corn—try your buttered ears sprinkled with chili powder and Parmigiano for a twist on the traditional. Or use a sharp knife and a steady hand to slice the kernels off the cob and sauté them in butter with shallots or small white onions; add a sprinkle of white wine vinegar and some torn basil or dill before serving. Corn makes a nice quick-pickle to sprinkle into salads all summer long: Simply fill a jar with kernels and fresh dill sprigs, then top with a vinegar-water-salt-sugar brine. Refrigerate and spoon into arugula-tomato salads, or a cold rice-and-cucumber salad, or add to a BLT (messy, but worth it). And no corn recipe round-up would be complete without this Mexican-inspired side dish: Blanch sweet corn kernels in salty water, drain and chill, then combine with lime juice, minced red onion, cilantro and the hot chili of your choice. Serve with tortilla chips or spooned over grilled fish tacos.
The flower shoot of the garlic plant must be removed in order for the underground bulb to properly develop, which means garlic lovers get an early crop of delicious scapes. Almost like a green bean in texture, but with the pungent bite of sticky fresh garlic, scapes can be served like a vegetable side dish all on their own—simply trim them into matchstick lengths and sauté or grill them whole tossed in olive oil with plenty of salt and pepper. Or sliver the little stems into thin rounds to add to cooked grains, chicken salads, vinaigrettes—the options are endless. They’re a nice addition to a pickle jar along with fresh cucumbers, and they’re lovely with seafood. For your next bagel brunch, mince scapes and fold into softened cream cheese with capers and dill; serve with smoked salmon or lox. Basically you can use them in any application where you’d use fresh garlic—scapes are a short-season delicacy so enjoy them while they’re here!
Shredded and sizzled in olive oil with garlic and fennel seeds, kale makes a very easy side dish for grilled meats in summer, but the ubiquitous “rubbed kale salad” is always a hit. Remove the fibrous stems and tear the leaves into bite-sized pieces, then toss in salt and olive oil, squeezing and rubbing the salt into the kale with your hands. Leave to marinate for 15-20 minutes, then add vinegar, garlic or scallion, crumbly cheese, toasted nuts, slivered cherries or dried fruit; pack in containers and tuck into your picnic basket. Or use kale leaves as the wrapper for dolmades-style rice-and-lamb roll-ups: Fold cumin-seasoned ground lamb and some cooked rice (along with lots of lemon, olives, mint and crumbled feta, if you like) into steamed, stemmed kale leaves and roll into a cigar shape. Arrange in a steamer basket and steam until heated all the way through and the lamb is cooked; serve with garlicky yogurt sauce or tahini. But by far the most summery way to serve kale is to turn it into pesto: Blend with cheese, garlic and lemon and serve on toasted bread, in pasta, over grilled fish or spread into a mozzarella-tomato sandwich.
The early summer is the best time for local lettuce—cooler temps and cloudy skies make for the sweetest greens, and while we all know what to do with lettuce (salad and sandwiches, obvi) there are other ways to use up the last of a head or the outer leaves once your salad bowl is filled. First things first: Head lettuce really benefits from a good soak in a cold water bath, so as soon as you get your share cut out the core, separate the leaves and pop them into the bowl of a salad spinner filled with ice water—five minutes submerged will refresh the leaves and loosen any remaining dirt or grit hiding in the folds; agitate with your hands to get it all out. Drain well, spin and pat dry, then roll the loose leaves in a dry kitchen towel and wrap in a plastic bread bag. Now your lettuce is ready to use all week long. When you’re all salad-ed out, use the remaining leaves to roll around chopped grilled chicken and avocado (like a taco), or fill leaves with cooked minced pork, teriyaki sauce and some crunchy radish slices. If you have some fresh peas on hand, sauté them with shallots in plenty of butter, then wilt lettuce leaves in the mix; add clear vegetable broth and serve as a light, early summer soup.
Fresh table radishes add a juicy bite to salads and crudité plates—add them to potato and tuna salads, to slaws and salsas all summer long. And if the greens are still bright and fresh, rinse them well and add to green salads, vegetable soups or kale sautés. By far the easiest way to enjoy radishes is with a dish of soft butter and a pile of coarse salt for sprinkling—a very French way to crunch on these spicy orbs, alongside a glass of crisp, cold white wine. But did you know that radishes are also delicious when cooked? If any of your bunch gets forgotten in the fridge and the roots begin to soften, simply slice them in half and sauté in olive oil, seasoned with plenty of salt, a handful of fresh herbs and a sprinkle of champagne vinegar. They also make a pretty decent pickle: Sliver, add to a jar and cover with a blend of water, vinegar, salt and sugar (and any spices you like), then serve on a roast beef sandwich or with cheeses and fruit.
Typically, the local strawberry season is coming to a close by late June. But this year, with all our cool, wet weather in spring, the berries are just beginning to ripen and U-Pick options are gearing up for the onslaught. Is there any better way to enjoy fresh berries than outside, in the sun, with a napkin to catch all the dribbly juices? If you must cook them, though, do it simply and with minimal sugar—then fold the slumped berries into prepared pie crust for hand pies, or layer with Greek yogurt at breakfast. Strawberries, like the apples above, can stand in place of tomatoes in a fresh salsa. Add them to arugula salads with crumbled goat cheese, blueberries and toasted almonds. Or mash raw berries with a sprinkle of balsamic vinegar to spoon onto grilled meat or fish. And if you have any berries leftover, hull and freeze on a tray for smoothies; once frozen solid, transfer to a zip-top bag and enjoy the taste of summer all year long.
Besides mashed or roasted, what else can one do with a waxy, gold potato, especially in summer? Well, the German potato salad-genre is the obvious choice: boiled quartered spuds dressed while hot with red wine vinegar, seeded mustard, raw onion and olive oil; add a chopped hard-cooked egg, if you like. An easy side dish for a grilled supper is potatoes boiled whole, then rolled in oil and charred on the grill just before serving—toss with fresh herbs and lots of salt. Shred raw potatoes with radishes or kohlrabi and fry in little patties—serve at breakfast with poached or fried eggs.
Or take whole boiled potatoes and smash them flat using the bottom of a juice glass; fry them in butter until crispy and serve with spoonsful of sour cream, a sprinkle of chives and some smoked salmon.
By July, gardens and farm stands are full of zucchini and summer squash (close relatives that can be used interchangeably), and it’s time to tuck some into every meal. Grate zucchini into a colander and squeeze out its excess liquid, then toss the shreds into a pan of sautéeing ground beef and onions to add a nutritional boost to your taco meat, or stir some into a bubbling pot of macaroni and cheese. Zucchini breads and muffins are always a delightful summertime breakfast, topped with soft salted butter. Make a zucchini tzatziki by stirring drained-and-squeezed shreds into thick Greek yogurt along with plenty of garlic, chopped mint and some lemon juice; serve with grilled lamb or chicken or as a dip for summer vegetables. For a delicious appetizer, toss shredded zucchini with a few tablespoons of flour, a pinch of baking powder and a beaten egg; season with salt and pepper and fry in olive oil like fritters (add onion if you like). And for an interesting addition to mixed greens, use a sharp vegetable peeler and turn a whole zucchini into a pile of silken ribbons; toss with garlicky vinaigrette, some toasted nuts and crumbly cheese for a company-worthy lunchtime salad.