Ratatouille is my go-to recipe to clean out my fridge (and my garden) as we transition from summer into fall. A good long roast in the oven transforms a motley medley of eggplant, peppers, zucchini, tomatoes, and fresh herbs into a hearty stew, which I love serving over creamy polenta. Don’t forget to add a splash of balsamic vinegar (see full recipe below) before serving, as the sweet + tangy balsamic kicks up the dish to a whole new level of deliciousness.
This recipe is a gluten free variation on an old Irish classic, which I picked up at culinary school in Ireland. Baking soda was introduced in Ireland the early 1800s, and it meant that people who didn't have an oven—and virtually nobody had an oven back then—could make soda bread. Families cooked the bread in a big cast-iron pot right onto the coals or onto the turf fire. These families typically also had buttermilk from the cows and they would have been growing wheat, so they would have had flour.
Traditionally, vichyssoise soup (pronounced vee-shee-swahz) is a comforting, classic french soup made with pureed leeks, onions, potatoes, and a generous amount of cream. I have absolutely nothing against cream (you should see how much I put in my coffee..), but I love this version of vichyssoise from Flagstone Pantry, which omits the cream and instead features succulent, softly simmered zucchini. Enjoy this soup hot or chilled, it tastes fabulous either way!
PREP + COOK TIME:
- 1 tablespoon butter
- 2 cups chopped leeks (white and light green parts)
- 2 cups peeled russet potatoes, chopped in 1” dice
- 2 cups zucchini, chopped in 1” dice
- 3 cups chicken or vegetable stock
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
- 1/4 cup milk
- Fresh chopped chives, for garnish
- Heat the butter in your stockpot, then add the leeks, and saute over medium-low heat until very soft - 8-10 minutes.
- Add the potatoes, zucchini, chicken or vegetable stock, salt, and pepper; bring to a boil; then lower the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.
- Once the vegetables are nice and soft, blend until very smooth with an immersion blender or in batches with a standing blender.
- Add the lemon juice and milk and season to taste - you will likely need to add more salt. If the soup is thicker than you'd like, simply add a bit more water or milk. Serve either cold or hot, garnished with the chopped chives.
It's time you know the truth about pesto. First, you need to know that the word pesto comes from the Genoese verb pestâ (and in Italian pestare), which means to pound or to crush - referring to the traditional method of crushing the ingredients with a mortar and pestle. So while pesto has become synonymous with fresh basil and pine nuts ground together with oil, garlic, and grated parmesan... really pesto is a general term for anything made by pounding.
And here's the truth: Pesto need not be limited to basil and pine nuts! Don't get me wrong - that's a fabulous, time-tested flavor combo - but I think we ought to cook outside the box and embrace the wide world of pesto possibilities. If you don't have fresh basil on hand, just about any leafy herb or tender green will do the trick, such as arugula, kale, and radish tops. BONUS: Because these less traditional greens don't oxidize as quickly as basil, your arugula/kale/radish top pesto won't turn brown nearly as quickly. And let's talk about pine nuts. Let's just say that I haven't bought pine nuts in over two years (and I make a lot of pesto)! Instead I use toasted walnuts, which are deliciously nutty, way less expensive than pine nuts, and they are soft enough to blend smoothly with the other pesto ingredients. If you're cooking for someone with a tree nut allergy, just use pumpkin seeds. Don't have Parmigiano-Reggiano? Don't panic. Just about any hard, salty cheese will do. See what I mean? This whole pesto-without-basil-and-pine-nuts thing is quite liberating.
To make a flawless pesto every time, just follow my Universal Pesto recipe below, which gives handy guidelines for the (approximate) amount of greens, nuts, olive oil, cheese, and garlic to use. Feel free to go traditional and make pesto in a mortar and pestle... but I'll be honest that I just use my 4-cup food processor and it works like a charm.
UNIVERSAL PESTO RECIPE
PREP + COOK TIME:
- 1⁄2 cup toasted nuts or seeds
- 2 garlic cloves
- 3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups packed herbs and/or greens
- 1⁄2 cup finely grated parmesan cheese
- 1 tablespoon fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Kosher salt, to taste
- Pulse nuts or seeds in a food processor until they're completely broken down. Add garlic and olive oil and pulse until garlic is finely chopped.
- Add the herbs/greens, grated cheese, and lemon juice and process until smooth in your food processor. Stop and scrape down the sides and process again until well blended.
- Taste and add salt if needed (the parmesan is naturally quite salty, so you often won't need to add much extra salt).
- To store in the fridge, put pesto in a container and top with a layer of olive oil. To store in the freezer, scoop the pesto into an ice cube tray and freeze into cubes.
One secret to cooking seriously good food is having a killer sauce on hand at all times. My go-to summer-time sauce is Chimichurri, a traditional Argentinean condiment with countless variations, but pretty much always involves fresh parsley, garlic olive oil, vinegar, and some red pepper flakes or chili powder. I like to describe this sauce as PUNCHY - ie you should really taste the vinegar / garlic / fresh herbs in every bite. I like to spoon this glorious green goodness over grilled meats, potatoes, or (as in this case) seafood - and I've learned to always make extra, as it tends to be the sauce that everyone reaches for at dinner parties.
BAKED SEA BASS WITH CHIMICHURRI SAUCE
PREP + COOK TIME:
- 1-2 cloves of garlic
- 1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
- 1 packed cup parsley leaves
- 1/2 packed cup cilantro leaves
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- 3 tablespoons red wine vinegar
- 1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 1/2 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning fish
- 1.5-2 lbs sea bass (or halibut or similar mild white, flakey fish), cut into 4 portions
- Preheat oven to 375°F.
- To make the chimichurri sauce: Combine all the chimichurri ingredients in a small food processor and pulse until well chopped, but not pureed. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed - keep in mind you want the sauce to be pretty punchy from the vinegar, garlic, fresh herbs, etc!
- Lightly season the fish with kosher salt. Rub each portion of fish with a generous spoonful of the chimichurri and place on a foil-lined baking tray. Reserve remaining sauce for serving.
- Bake for 15-18 minutes — depending on the thickness of the fish — or until fish is firm and almost opaque all the way through (and reads 135F on an instant thermometer). Serve with the reserved chimichurri sauce. I love serving this dish with creamy polenta and slow roasted tomatoes.
You know how there’s always a “song of the summer”? 🎶 Well, this is the SALAD of the summer that’s playing on repeat in my kitchen: Quinoa Tabbouleh, with heaps of fresh herbs, local cherry tomatoes, cucumbers, corn, avocado, feta, and a sunshine-y lemon vinaigrette. Tabbouleh is a classic Middle Eastern dish traditionally made with couscous, but I've swapped it for quinoa, which is a naturally gluten free seed that's packed with protein, and is one of the few plant foods that contain all nine essential amino acids. This is a substantial salad that can easily be served as a vegetarian main course, though it's also a lovely side salad to round out a summer meal.
The recipe (see below) is quite loose and forgiving, so feel free to swap in / out whatever summer veggies and herbs you have on hand. You'll notice the ingredients and instructions for the lemon vinaigrette are intentionally vague, to encourage you to whip up a vibrant vinaigrette with just a few ingredients, a mason jar, and your kitchen intuition. If you need a little extra guidance, here is a YouTube #eatlikeafarmer video where I walk you through the technique of making your own vinaigrette (without using a single measuring spoon)!
PREP + COOK TIME:
- 2 cups uncooked quinoa
- 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more
- 1 red onion, thinly sliced
- 1 hothouse cucumber (or 2 Persian cucumbers), cut to a small dice
- 2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
- 2 ripe avocados, diced
- 2 ears of corn, kernels removed
- 8 ounces feta cheese, diced
- A few cups of fresh arugula
- Chopped fresh parsley (about a 1/2 cup)
- Chopped fresh mint (about a 1/4 cup)
- Chopped fresh basil (about a 1/4 cup)
- 1 bunch scallions/green onions, thinly sliced
- Juice of 2-3 large lemons
- Olive oil
- Dijon or Whole Grain Mustard
- Minced garlic
- Freshly chopped herbs (optional)
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
- To cook the quinoa:Bring 3 cups of water and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt to a boil in a medium sized saucepan. Stir in the quinoa, reduce heat to low and simmer, covered, for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, turn off the heat and allow quinoa to steam with the lid on for 5 minutes, then uncover and fluff with a fork. Spread out quinoa on a large rimmed baking sheet and let cool.
- To make the lemon vinaigrette: Juice your lemons and pour the juice into a mason jar. Add twice as much olive oil as lemon juice to the jar. Add a good squeeze (about a teaspoon) each of mustard and honey. If you'd like, add minced garlic, fresh herbs, and/or lemon zest for added flavor. Add salt and pepper to taste and shake, shake shake! Taste the dressing and adjust seasoning as necessary - you're looking for a good balance between sour, sweet, and salty.
- Transfer cooled quinoa to a large salad bowl, mix in 1/2 cup of your vinaigrette and stir to combine.
- Add the sliced red onion, diced cucumber, halved tomatoes, avocado, corn kernels, feta cheese, arugula and chopped herbs to the bowl with the cooked quinoa. Pour in the remaining vinaigrette and stir gently to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning as needed. Serve warm or at room temperature. Keeps for several days in the fridge.
Eating like a farmer means preserving fruits and veggies when they are comin' in hot and heavy from the fields, so you can save + savor the bounty all year long. So while pickling, fermenting, kombucha-making, and jamming are all the rage these days - let's be clear that these methods of food preservation have been going down in farmhouse kitchens for a long, looooong time.
So let's talk about jam. I won't claim to be an expert jam-maker, but I DID manage to make 200+ jars of small-batch jam for our wedding guests back in 2014, and no one perished from botulism, so I suppose that's something... right? And while entire books (and great blog posts, like this one) have been written about jamming, I'm going to briefly summarize the basics + share some tips and tricks I've developed after countless hours jamming out over the stove. Keep scrolling for a recipe (adapted from Serious Eats) for sunshine in a jar... aka Apricot Jam.
PECTIN, SUGAR AND ACID
- Pectin is a carbohydrate that helps to ‘set’ jam. It is particularly concentrated in the skins and cores of fruit. I should note here that I do not add store-bought/commercial pectin in my jam recipes, and instead rely on the naturally occurring pectin in fruit + lemon juice for acidity to help the fruit set. Pectin, whether naturally occurring or added, requires heat, sugar, and acid to activate.
- High/Moderate Pectin Fruits: blackberries, citrus, cranberries, gooseberries, pears, plums, quinces, sour apples
- Low Pectin Fruits: apricots, blueberries, figs, grapes, peaches, pears, raspberries, strawberries
- Low-pectin fruits benefit from lemon juice to boost the acidity and setting of the jam. Unripe fruit will also increase acidity. Avoid making jam with overripe fruit, because as fruit ripens the pectin begins to break down.
- My rule of thumb for the ratio of fruit / sugar / lemon juice:
- Weigh your fruit. Take half the weight of the fruit and use it as your sugar measurement. Use as many ounces of lemon juice as you used pounds of sugar. For example, if you are making strawberry jam with 4 lbs strawberries, use 2 lbs sugar, and 2 ounces of lemon juice.
GENERAL TIPS + TOOLS
- Any time you are preserving food, it's super important to use sterilized jars. You can sterilize jars by putting them in a 225F oven for 20 minutes. Once sterilized, turn the oven off and leave in the warm oven until the jam is ready. Jars and lids can also be boiled for 10-15 minutes in a large saucepan of water, then dried in the oven at a low temperature.
- Use a non-reactive pot like stainless steel, enamel, or copper when making jam.
- This jam-making set is a GAME CHANGER (and I really, really wish someone had told me about it back in 2014 when I was making 200 jars of jam by hand with some very un-efficient equipment)
- Use tempered jars that can withstand the temperatures involved in sterilizing, jam-making and storage.
PREP + COOK TIME:
- 6 lbs firm-but-ripe freestone apricots (such as Blenheims), halved and pitted
- 3 lbs sugar
- 3 ounces fresh lemon juice
- In the non-reactive saucepan that you plan to make the jam, combine apricots, sugar, and lemon juice and mix until all the sugar is moistened. If some sugar remains dry, allow to macerate until fruit has released enough juices to moisten sugar, 5 to 15 minutes. At this point, you can blend the fruit-sugar mixture with an immersion blender if you woul like the finished jam to have a smoother texture. For more rustic jam with pieces of fruit, leave as is. Set a small plate in the freezer.
- Plae the pot on the stove and heat over medium-high heat, stirring regularly, until sugar is melted and mixture starts to bubble, 10 to 15 minutes.
- Heat apricot mixture over medium-high heat, stirring with a flat wooden spoon as needed to prevent burning, until jam starts to foam, about 15 minutes. Continue to cook, stirring to prevent burning, until foaming has subsided, about 15 minutes longer; scrape any foam off jam surface with a stainless steel spoon as needed.
- Taste the jam (carefully.. it's HOT!) - there should be a balance of sweetness and tartness. Make small adjustments (ie more sugar or lemon juice) if needed.
- Continue to cook until bubbling has slowed and jam looks glossy and jam appears thickened around the edge, 10 to 15 minutes. Lower heat as necessary to prevent scorching. Turn off heat and set a dollop of jam on the small plate waiting in the freezer - allow it to sit in the freezer for a few minutes. The jam is ready once it holds together wrinkles when you push it with your finger. If jam is too runny, return to heat and cook, stirring frequently and repeating the spoon test every 5 minutes, until jam passes the "wrinkle" test.
- Fit sterilized jars with a wide-mouth funnel. Ladle jam mixture into jars, leaving 1/2" headspace. Take a clean towel and wipe the rims of each jar. Put lids and rings on jars and tighten. At this point, jam may simply be kept refrigerated, up to 1 month.
- To process jars in a hot water bath: have a large stock pot filled with water and ready at a rolling boil by the time you are filling jars with jam. Place filled jars with tightened lids into the boiling water one at a time, using a jar lifter or tongs. Keep jars upright at all times. Add more boiling water, if needed, so that water covers jars by at least 2 inches. Increase heat to high and cover. Once water begins boiling, heat jars for 15 minutes. Turn off heat and gently transfer jars out of the stock pot and onto your counter to cool. Avoid placing jars on a cold surface or near a cold draft. Let jars sit undisturbed until fully cooled. Check to make sure all jars have sealed by pressing your finger to the middle of the lid (if sealed, the lid will not pop).
It's about time we show cherry tomatoes the love and affection they deserve and slow roast them in a warm, luxurious bath of olive oil, fresh herbs, and garlic. This method is called a confit (pronounced con-FEE ) i.e., a culinary technique where an ingredient is slow cooked in liquid fat. And when I say slow cooked there's an emphasis on the world slow, as this recipe needs 2-3 hours in the oven. That being said, it couldn't be easier to prep - just toss some tomatoes in a rimmed baking sheet with olive oil, herbs, garlic, and some flaky sea salt. The end result is a bevy of cherry tomatoes bursting with juicy, caramelized sweetness, not to mention the leftover olive oil that's infused with glorious tomato-garlic-herb-iness. The slow roasted tomatoes (and the aforementioned infused olive oil) are fabulous on toasted bruschetta, incorporated in bright summer salads, topped on warm ricotta or polenta, or served alongside grilled meats, fish, or chicken. The recipe (which was slightly adapted from the wonderful blog ful-filled) is very forgiving, so feel free to change it up / use what you have on hand.
SLOW ROASTED CHERRY TOMATO CONFIT
PREP + COOK TIME:
- 2 lbs cherry tomatoes
- 1 cup olive oil
- 4-5 cloves of garlic, peeled and smashed
- 6 sprigs fresh thyme
- 4 sprigs fresh rosemary
- Flaky sea salt
- Pre-heat oven to 275F.
- Fill a rimmed baking tray with whole cherry tomatoes. Add olive oil, garlic, thyme, and rosemary to the tray and sprinkle generously with flaky sea salt.
- Roast, uncovered for 2-3 hours until the tomatoes are swollen and the skins are wrinkled (total time will depend on the size of your tomatoes).
- Cool tomato mixture to room temperature, discard the rosemary, thyme, and garlic (this lengthens the shelf life of the tomatoes). Store tomatoes with oil and accumulated pan juices in an airtight container (I use mason jars) in refrigerator up to 2 weeks, or freeze up to 2 months. Bring tomatoes to room temperature before serving (as the olive oil will harden in the fridge/freezer).
The saying goes that you gotta make hay when the sun shines. Well, I'd like to add my own version: You gotta make gazpacho soup when the days are hot and the tomatoes are ripe! Gazpacho is a traditional chilled soup made by blending the delicious fruits of summer - tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc. There are approximately a million different recipes for gazpacho soup, so get creative and use whatever fruits and veggies you have available (my friend and badass chef + lady boss Kristen Desmond makes a fabulous Watermelon Gazpacho for her gourmet-to-go spot in Santa Barbara, Flagstone Pantry).
The real secret is just starting with the best + freshest ingredients possible and to balance your flavors - taste the soup constantly, adjusting the salt and vinegar as needed. The soup should taste seasoned but not salty, tangy but not sour. So here's hoping you have a glut of tomatoes in your garden or from the farmers' market, and you can whip up this soup without turning on the oven or stove in your hot summer kitchen.
GAZPACHO SOUP WITH TOMATO BASIL OIL
- 1 small red onion
- 3 Persian cucumbers, peeled
- 1 large red bell pepper, seeded, ribs removed
- 1 jalapeño pepper, seeded, ribs removed
- 2 ½ pounds heirloom or cherry tomatoes (about 8 1/2 cups)
- 1-2 cloves garlict
- ½ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- Kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar TOMATO BASIL OIL
- Handful fresh basil leaves
- ¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 cup cherry tomatoes, halved
- Kosher or flakey sea salt
- Cut half the onion, 2 of the cucumbers, 3/4 of the bell pepper and the entire jalapeño into 1-inch pieces. Place in the bowl of a food processor or blender. Add tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and 2 teaspoons kosher salt. Blend at high speed until completely smooth. (If necessary, blend in batches, then stir together.)
- Place a fine-mesh sieve over a large bowl, and strain soup (discard the solids).
- Finely dice remaining onion, cucumber and pepper, and add to soup (I recommend holding back a few of the diced vegetables, and using them as a garnish for the soup at the end). Stir in the red wine vinegar. If desired, add water 1 tablespoon at a time to thin out the soup. Taste, and adjust salt and vinegar as needed. Cover, and chill soup for 45 minutes. (Chill 6 soup bowls now too.)
- Make the basil oil: Finely chop basil. Place in a small bowl, and cover with the olive oil. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and a generous pinch of salt. Toss to combine, then taste and adjust salt. Set aside.
- To assemble, ladle soup into chilled bowls. Garnish with basil oil and additional diced vegetables. Serve immediately.
When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. And when life gives you herbs? You make herb salt. As the name suggests, herb salt is literally just fresh herbs chopped together with kosher salt (and sometimes other aromatics like lemon zest, garlic, etc) - and it's a ridiculously easy way to add vibrant, fresh flavors to your dishes. I keep my herb salts close at hand for seasoning meat, fish, and veggies - and it pairs fabulously with eggs, grilled corn on the cob, and homemade popcorn. Keep reading for the full recipe + technique for making your own herb salt, and I encourage you to get creative with the different combinations of herbs you use, and think about types of dishes that will pair well with each blend.
Here are some of my tried and true herb salt flavor combos:
Fresh Summer Flavors: Basil, Chives, Dill, Lemon Zest - pair with fresh vegetables, eggs, toasted bread, and fish.
Classic Gremolata: Parsley, Garlic, Lemon Zest - pairs nicely with roasted asparagus, grilled salmon, and steak.
Savory & Rustic: Rosemary, Thyme, Sage, Garlic - pairs well with roasted root vegetables, potatoes, and roasted pork.
Classic French Fines Herbs: Parsley, Tarragon, Chives, Chervil - use with fish, steak, lamb, and toasted baguettes slathered in goat cheese.
Cilantro-Lime: Cilantro, Lime Zest, Garlic - perfect for Mexican-inspired fish or steak dishes, corn on the cob, and popcorn.
DIY HERB SALT
- 1 cup loosely packed assorted fresh herbs
- 1 lemon, zested
- 1⁄2 cup kosher salt
- Finely chop all of the herbs, zest the lemon, and mix together in a small bowl.
- Spoon out half of this herb mixture on your cutting board, then pour half of the kosher salt (about 1/4 cup) on top of the herbs.
- Chop the salt and herbs together until it forms a consistent paste.
- Add the remaining chopped herbs and kosher salt to the mixture and continue chopping until the herb salt is evenly blended.
- Spread the herb salt onto a rimmed baking tray and allow to dry out overnight, or until there is no moisture left (this is important so the herb salt can be stored without going bad). To speed up the drying, you can put the tray of herb salt in your oven on the lowest setting (usually 170F) with the door proped open for 1-2 hours (make sure to watch closely so the herbs don't burn).
- Store the dried herb salt in a jar in a cool, dry spot in your pantry, where it will keep for several months.