Few tastes bring out the best of summer more than fresh picked local fruits and vegetables: the juice from the reddest, ripest, most succulent tomato running down your chin, or the sweet-tart pucker from luscious plums and blueberries in hues of indigo, violet, sapphire, and azure.  And maybe the most iconic – the tender, plump kernels from an ear of corn slathered in butter, salt and pepper.

Here in North Carolina, we are fortunate to live in the third most agriculturally diverse state in the country (behind California and Florida) with 52,200 farms growing over 80 different commodities.  Locally, Winston-Salem-based Lowes Foods makes it easy to snatch up and savor our fresh from the field produce through their Carolina Crate program.

The Carolina Crate is Lowes Foods’ version of a “Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)” box.  The grocery chain buys produce from more than 200 local farms and assembles it into boxes for customers to pick up each week.  The subscription-based program runs for 11 weeks throughout the summer, with each week’s contents containing a variety of fruits and vegetables, based on what’s at peak each week.  Weather plays a big role in availability, so customers don’t know what will be included until they pick up the box.   But that’s the fun (and most scrumptious!) part of buying and cooking seasonally.  Produce in season is plentiful and robust in flavor.  And while it may seem stressful to create menus somewhat spontaneously, it can be a lot of fun too. Plus, your dishes will taste so much better, because you don’t have to do much to make plentiful and ripe fruits and vegetables taste delicious!

Naturally, we signed up for the Carolina Crate and excitedly counted down the days until we picked up our first box last Saturday.

Here you can see the goods.  Blueberries from Cottle Farms; white potatoes from Ferebee Farms; corn, green beans, kale, rainbow chard and beets from Eco-Farm; yellow squash from Bailey Farms; sweet potatoes from Burch Farms; and purple heirloom tomatoes from Patterson Farms and Barbee Farms.

 

Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail

After assessing our lot, I created our dinner menu for the week.  First on the list was using that beautiful sweet corn in a sauteed skillet-based corn and jalapeno dish to serve with grilled swordfish and grits for Father’s Day.

Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail

The ingredients for this dish came from either a local farm or from my garden.  Here, you can see the corn kernels scraped from the cob with a few jalapenos and lots of garden basil and tarragon.

Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail

I really wanted the fresh flavors from the corn and herbs and the spice from the pepper to shine through and have found it terribly difficult to find a sauteed or baked corn recipe that’s not laden with cream and/or shredded cheese, masking those essences.  This simple dish uses vegetable stock, the starchy corn milk, and a thickening agent like cornstarch or xanthan gum to create a rich, velvety sauce – perfect for layering over creamy, corny grits, and a meaty grilled swordfish steak.

Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail
Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail

Balance out the all that heat from the jalapenos – and use up some more of plentiful garden basil – with a crisp, refreshing cocktail, like this basil gin tonic, found in Coastal Living’s new Beach Cocktails book.

I definitely deserve bonus points for this Father’s Day meal, don’t you think?

Stay tuned all summer for more seasonal recipes inspired by our weekly Carolina Crate produce.

Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail
Strawberry Basil Mint Smash Cocktail

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2  Yellow Onion, diced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 3-4 cups fresh corn kernels (About 5 ears)
  • 1 Jalapenos, seeded and diced
  • 20oz vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbsp. Xanthan Gum or Cornstarch (To use as a thickening agent)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Handful of Fresh Basil and Tarragon, chopped
  • Juice from one lime, divided.

Instructions

  1. Shuck and remove corn kernels from cob using a serrated knife or this handy corn zipper. Then, scrape the cob with the back of the knife or the corn zipper to extract the milky corn liquid.
  2. Heat large saute pan over medium heat. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil into pan.  Add onions and garlic.  Saute 2 minutes, allowing onions and garlic to become translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic, or it becomes bitter. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add corn kernels and jalapenos to pan. Stir, allowing corn and corn milk to meld with onions and garlic, about 30 seconds. Add another layer of seasoning with a crack of salt and pepper.
  4. Add vegetable broth in 1/2 cup increments (similar to making risotto), letting some of the stock to cook off before adding more.
  5.  Stir in xanthun gum or cornstarch.  This will thicken the stock creating a creamy, velvety texture.
  6. Add chopped herbs and juice from half from the lime.  Give a stir and reduce heat to low.  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  7. Remove from heat.  Add juice from remaining half of lime.  Check seasoning.  Add a little more salt and pepper if needed.
Sauteed Corn and Jalapenos

Sauteed Corn and Jalapenos

Local summer sweet corn and fresh from the vine spicy jalapenos come together in these decadent but good-for-you seasonal side dish.

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/2 Yellow Onion, diced
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 3-4 cups fresh corn kernels (About 5 ears)
  • 1 Jalapenos, seeded and diced
  • 20oz vegetable stock
  • 1 Tbsp. Xanthan Gum or Cornstarch (To use as a thickening agent)
  • Salt and Pepper
  • Handful of Fresh Basil and Tarragon, chopped
  • Juice from one lime, divided.

Instructions

  1. Shuck the corn and remove kernels from cob with a serrated knife or this handy corn zipper. Then, scrape the cob with the back of the knife or the corn zipper to extract the milky corn liquid.
  2. Heat large saute pan over medium heat. Drizzle extra virgin olive oil into pan. Add onions and garlic. Saute 2 minutes, allowing onions and garlic to become translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic, (or it becomes bitter). Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add corn kernels, corn milk and jalapenos to pan. Stir, allowing corn and corn milk to meld with onions and garlic, about 30 seconds. Add another layer of seasoning with a crack of salt and pepper.
  4. Add vegetable broth in 1/2 cup increments (similar to making risotto), letting some of the stock to cook off before adding more.
  5. Stir in xanthun gum or cornstarch. This will thicken the stock creating a creamy, velvety texture.
  6. Add chopped herbs and juice from half from the lime. Give a stir and reduce heat to low. Simmer for 10-15 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent burning.
  7. Remove from heat. Add juice from remaining half of lime. Check seasoning. Add a little more salt and pepper if needed.
http://libertyloveblog.com/index.php/2017/06/19/sauteed-corn-and-jalapenos/