Fresh Fillings

If you grow a giant garden, each day’s harvest fills multiple boxes and baskets and then every spare corner of your refrigerator. But if you grow a more reasonably sized garden, your harvest likely comes in dibs and dabs: a couple of cucumbers and tomatoes, perhaps a pepper, a small mound of greens, a handful of herbs. Combining these garden-fresh favorites into a meal that showcases your effort often means coming up short for a standard recipe.

This is why I love fillings and stuffings; the ingredients are endlessly variable, a little goes a long way, and the result is a sparkling-fresh meal that highlights produce just off the vine. Whether you’re filling summer rolls, stuffing squash blossoms, or even building Grilled Fish Tacos, the key is to use less filling than you think you’ll need. A gentle hand while wrapping delicate rice paper or petals around that filling is also essential for success.
Learn to make Summer Rolls and Stuffed Squash Blossoms

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Freezer and Storage Soups

One of my off-season joys is making an easy meal that tastes as though it took time and effort to create. Soup is among the easiest—and I’m not talking poured out of a can.

Sure, there can be a lot of time-consuming dicing and mincing for freshly made soup. By planning ahead, I eliminate nearly all of that effort at mealtime. I also ensure the produce carries all the flavor my garden can generate; with a little extra effort at harvest time, there’s no need to buy a mealy tomato or flavorless broccoli.

This week, I offer you two soup recipes that I can make on a moment’s notice because their ingredients are staples in my house in winter. They’re staples because during harvest, I dry-store potatoes, dry-store or freeze onions and garlic, dehydrate smoked chilies and herbs, and freeze cherry tomatoes, broccoli, and Vegetable Stock. Hopefully this list of links and the recipes that follow will inspire you to take similar steps as you grow or buy local food in the next few months.
Learn to make Spanish Potato–Garlic Soup and Italian Broccoli–Pasta Soup

Potatoes

Potato salads are a summer staple, whether I’m making them from jawbreaker-size potatoes stolen from row edges while checking the potato plants’ progress or full-grown spuds cut down to size. They go beautifully with summer’s green beans, cherry tomatoes, and sugar snaps. But we grow so many storage potatoes that it seems a shame to give up the salads just because the other fresh produce is long gone. This version uses stored veggies, making it a late-season or even midwinter go-to. The salad itself is quite basic, and a few unconventional techniques make it a snap. Inspired by traditional salads I ate regularly as I traveled in Russia and France—salad Olivier and salade niçoise, respectively—I’ve created two dressings that bring distinctly different flavors to the forefront; I sometimes alternate between the two salad dressings for several weeknight meals.
Learn to make Potato Salad with Russian and French Dressings

Sweet Peppers

My love for grilled flavor in frozen and canned vegetables grew from a love of freshly grilled garden goodies. Long before the technique became essential for frozen eggplant puree and jars of pasta sauce and tomatillo salsa, we were grilling vegetables and immediately stuffing them into our mouths.

Although the grilled food I encountered as a kid was mainly meat, one summer treat at the family home consisted of sticks of shish kebabs. Unlike the traditional Middle Eastern meat sticks, these were mainly veg. Perhaps it was just a ploy to get little girls to eat vegetables: let them choose food to thread on sticks and spin on the grill grate until charred. I’m pretty sure my early choices were black olives, potato, and pineapple, but I eventually developed a taste for anything cooked over coals. I still rely on a version of my mom’s marinade—and grill an extra bell pepper for the next day’s munchies. Learn to make Shish Kebabs with Garlic–Soy Marinade and Corn, Bean, and Pepper Salsa