Essential Pantry Ingredients for Quick Meals When Fresh Produce Is at Its Peak
We are smack in the middle of peak produce season, and if you are anything like me, you are going insane at the farmers markets, knee deep in CSA boxes, and indulging in the abundance of your garden. But with all that bounty comes the strange pressure of what to cook. Sometimes an embarrassment of riches can paralyze us, and suddenly the mind is a blank for any dishes beyond salads or stir-frys.
But never fear, because if you stock a few simple ingredients in your larder, you can take any fresh produce from basic to brilliant. Here are some of the items we keep on hand to ensure we are celebrating the best of freshness all season long!
Kerrygold garlic herb butter is the perfect compound butter to put on everything. From spreading on toasted sourdough to top with fresh sliced tomatoes for an open-faced sandwich or a riff on Spanish tomato bread appetizers, to melting on top of any steamed or grilled vegetable to just perfectly enhance their bright flavors. Our favorite thing to do with it right now is a vegetable scampi with shrimp, zucchini, and snap peas sautéed in the butter, served over pasta or rice with a lemon wedge. Fast and delicious.
Fly By Jing Sichuan Chili Crisp is one of those condiments you are going to put on everything once you taste it. This spicy, crispy, crunchy umami bomb brings out the best in everything it touches. We especially love it on steamed sweet corn, sauteed summer squashes, tomato salads, and grilled fruits like pineapple or peaches.
Golden Mountain Seasoning Sauce is a Thai liquid seasoning that just boosts any steamed, sautéed or grilled vegetable with subtle flavor and salt. It is also a terrific seasoning for eggs, I use it in any vegetable quiche, frittata, or scramble instead of plain salt for just that little something special.
Big Spoon Roasters Hot Mamba Peanut Butter is the secret weapon you never knew your produce needed. This organic, non-GMO peanut butter is blended with Guajillo, Ancho and Habanero chiles for a savory spicy peanut butter that is the ideal basis for everything from peanut satay sauces for grilled vegetable skewers, to spicy peanut salad dressings to amp up your garden greens, to adding to salsa verde or chimichurri sauces to add both richness and heat. My favorite use is to make chilled peanut noodles with cucumber and radishes.
Sometimes the best anointment for fresh summer produce is simple. Beautiful oils and vinegars are the perfect gentle companions for fresh greens, vegetable salads, and to dress vegetables right off the grill or out of the oven. But if you are just going simple, quality matters more than ever. I'm currently insane for Herdade do Esporão out of Portugal, their olive oils are amazing, especially the Selecção, and their red wine vinegar is perfectly balanced and never overly aggressive. Acid League has beautiful flavored vinegars, and the Madhava avocado oil is buttery and delicious.
Sometimes all your produce needs is a great spice blend or seasoned salt to sprinkle on top. And for me, you cannot go wrong with my favorite summer duo. Spicewalla's Chili Lime brings that perfect pop of brightness and a gentle heat to any produce; it is especially perfect for Mexican street corn. I'm super excited about Chef Jennifer Booker's new spice line, and her Moulin Rouge Sassy Seasoning Salt is the thing I am sprinkling on every vegetable dish this summer.
Nielsen-Massey Orange Blossom Water is just that subtle flavor that can take any fresh fruit of the season to a completely fabulous and fancy place. Just a couple drops mixed with a tablespoon of honey and a tablespoon of water creates a drizzle that can amplify everything from fruit salads to tarts and pies to homemade sorbets.