This is the time of year when local growers are bringing fresh produce and homemade goods to the city. You can shop at a farmers market almost every day of the week at various locations around the Chicagoland area. I enjoy shopping around, seeing what’s available and then creating complete meals using the items I select. I recently visited two markets on Chicago’s north side and based these three recipes on the results. These ideas require little to no cooking and you can easily vary them depending on what’s available at your local market.
Zucchini Pasta with Pesto and Heirloom Tomatoes
serves 4 entree sized portions
2 1/2 lb Golden Zucchini (or substitute green zucchini), washed and dried
1 cu Kale Leaves, tightly packed
1 cu Fresh Basil Leaves, loosely packed
3 cloves Garlic, peeled and smashed
1/3 cu Pine Nuts
1/4 cu Grated Parmesan Cheese
1/2 cu Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 lb Heirloom Tomatoes, cut into bite sized pieces (you can also use cherry or grape tomatoes)
Additional Fresh Basil Leaves and Parmesan Cheese, for garnish
1/2 tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Mandolin, Spiral Grater or Julienne Peeler
Cut the tops off of the zucchini. Using the mandolin, cut the zucchini into long “pasta” strips. Place zucchini in a colander, set it over a large plate or bowl and sprinkle with about 1 teaspoons of salt. Let the zucchini sit for about 30 minutes, gently tossing it every 10 minutes or so. The salt will remove some of the excess liquid.
Meanwhile, place the kale and 1 cup of basil in a food processor. Add garlic, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/3 cup of pine nuts and 1/4 cup of grated parmesan. Tun on processor and drizzle in olive oil until ingredients are fully blended. Transfer ingredients to a sealable container until ready to use. You will have extra to use on traditional pasta dishes or other recipes. To store it for a while, pour a bit of olive oil over the top and keep it tightly sealed in the refrigerator.
Once zucchini has rested for 30 minutes, transfer it to a large bowl and add about 3 tablespoons of pesto. Gently toss until zucchini is evenly coated. Add more pesto if you'd like a richer flavor. Add tomatoes and toss again. Transfer to individual serving bowls and garnish with fresh basil and additional parmesan.
Roasted Corn Pico de Gallo
makes about 4-5 cups
2-3 Ears Fresh Sweet Corn, husked, cleaned and washed
1 Red Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Green Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Yellow Bell Pepper, seeded and chopped
1 Jalapeño, seeded and finely chopped
1/3 cu Cilantro Leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 tbl Shallots, finely minced
juice of 1 Lime
1 tbl Red Wine Vinegar
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tbl Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Preheat your gill. Place corn on grill for about 2-3 minutes per side or until just cooked. Remove from grill and allow to cool. Using a sharp knife, remove kernels from the cob and transfer to a large bowl. Add red, green and yellow peppers, jalapeño and cilantro. Toss to combine. Separately, place shallots, salt, pepper, lime juice wine vinegar and mustard in a bowl. While whisking ingredients together, gradually drizzle in olive oil. Continue whisking until mixture is fully emulsified. Pour dressing over corn mixture and toss to combine. Taste and season with additional salt and pepper if necessary. Transfer to a serving bowl and garnish with additional cilantro leaves. Serve with chips.
Blue Cheese Dip for Fresh Vegetables
makes about 2 cups
5oz Greek Yogurt
1/2 cu Light Mayonnaise
1/3 cu Crumbled Blue Cheese, smashed to smaller crumbles
1 tbl Lemon zest
1/4 cu Chives, finely chopped
1 tbl Fresh Squeezed Lemon Juice
1/4 tsp Salt
Extra chopped chives for garnish
Place ingredients, except the extra chive, in a large bowl and stir to combine. Transfer to a serving bowl, garnish with extra chives, and serve as a dipping sauce for fresh vegetables and lightly blanched vegetables.