Stocks

I can’t recall when I started making soup stocks. All I know for sure is that vegetable stock and shrimp stock have long been staples in my freezer. The pair meets most needs, but I keep a lighter Corncob Stock and heavier mushroom stock on hand when growing season and freezer space allow.

Like salad dressings, stocks are easy to make and adapt. They’re also powerful: Replace water with stock when preparing soup, a sauce, or even plain rice, and you instantly elevate your dish to the next level. But stocks can be too powerful: Store-bought stocks are often too intensely flavored and too highly salted. By making your own, you can control everything from content to salt ratio to storage size. They can be made with whole vegetables, but they’re equally tasty from the trimmings off another meal. You don’t really need a recipe, but a few techniques can help. Learn to make Vegetable Stock and Shrimp Stock

Eggplant

I fell in love with baba ghanouj when I lived in San Francisco; Kan Zaman, just around the corner from my basement flat in the Haight, made the tastiest version. This Middle Eastern dip is the lesser-known cousin of hummus, pairing equally well with pita bread and made just as easily from scratch. Unfortunately, I’ve seen baba ghanouj recipes that are as flavorless and bastardized as the premade hummus popular in American grocery stores. Some even get the dip’s distinctive flavor by mixing in liquid smoke. Ew.

We spent a season working to replicate the Kan Zaman version—or at least my memory of it—and taste-testing it whenever we had people out for a sail or over for dinner. After grilling the eggplant to get a fabulous smoky flavor, we knew we had our recipe. If you grill, puree, and freeze the eggplant, you can make baba all year. The same goes for onions: grill, dice, and freeze for a year-round dip that will make you the hit of any party. Learn to make Baba Ghanouj and Grilled Onion Dip

Mushrooms

When it comes to feeding a crowd, two things generally happen: expensive premade dishes pack the table, and those with special diets are left with precut fruit, naked greens, and a bare baked potato. This year’s Montana Cup meals proved it doesn’t have to be that way.

Dinner’s salads got the Twice as Tasty treatment, but North Flathead Yacht Club also had vegans and vegetarians fully covered with marinated and grilled Portobello mushrooms. NFYC also brought in gorgeous Yukon River Coho salmon fillets from Flathead Fish & Seafood Co. and top sirloin steaks provided by regional grocery chain Super 1 Foods. I decided to whip up some sauces that could accompany any option or the sides of salad and baked potato, relying on our local Kalispell Kreamery and my own canning shelves. Learn to make Marinated and Grilled Portobello Mushrooms with Yogurt-Dill Sauce and Romesco Sauce

Salad Dressing Bases

The salad dressing aisle at a grocery store baffles me: so long, so heavily preserved, so expensive—and so easy to make at home. Every dressing starts with oil and an acid, like vinegar, or something to make it creamy. From there, spices and other flavorings are added to make the desired blend. Even the most dedicated bachelor likely has the basic ingredients in his kitchen.

Imagine this: You’re invited over for a first dinner date, and the guy pulls out a squeeze jug of store-brand ranch. Impressed? Perhaps he splurged for a bottle with a fancy label. It’s probably still not memorable. Now imagine he combines oil, vinegar, and a few spices in a bottle, shakes it, and sprinkles the result over greens. Suddenly, you’re paying attention. In less than 5 minutes, he has a lip-smacking salad dressing—and you might be considering a second date before you even taste the main dish. Learn to make Vinegary and Creamy Salad Dressing Bases