It happens to the best of us – the best of cooks with the best of intentions. You drop a few twenties at the farmers market on Saturday – on beautiful shiny eggplants and aromatic stone fruits, on just-picked carrots and succulent cherries. But by Thursday, you are in a stare-down with one or all of those things as they wilt, shrivel, and liquefy seemingly before your eyes. The irony is, with produce so fresh and flavors so vibrant, you barely have to expend any creative energy to put them to good, delicious use. So long as you have olive oil, salt, and maybe a lemon at home, you know you’re in good shape. But what if you want a little more out of your market bounty? Or if you want to enjoy your last-legs farm market bounty before the fruit flies do? This is what you do: You make sure you have three items (listed below) in your house at all times. No matter what produce you come home with, we guarantee you can fall back on your ready-for-anything arsenal to turn it into a meal.
Technique #1: Make a Quinoa Salad
What you’ll get: A fresh, protein-rich vegetarian dinner.
Works with: tomatoes, corn, onions, asparagus, peppers, peas, eggplant, green beans, favas, snow peas, mushrooms, greens in general (summer spinach, arugula, Bibb)
Recipe how-to: Quinoa is definitely enjoying a moment (here are five ways to use quinoa) and for good reason. It’s delicious, shelf-stable and, since it’s a complete protein, is exceedingly good for you. If you make a vat of it (follow simple instructions on your box; it’s like rice), you can toss it with cheese (Parm, feta, goat), nuts (walnuts, almonds) a basic vinaigrette, then your raw or roasted vegetables.
Technique #2: Use Pre-made Pie Crusts (Top and Bottom)
What you’ll get: Sweet pies or savory tarts
Works with: apricots, peaches, plums, nectarines, blueberries, raspberries, apples, plums, tomatoes, potatoes, chard, spinach, herbs, onions
Recipe how-to: For sweet pies, toss 3 cups of your peeled fruit with 1/4 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon corn starch, and the juice from one lemon. Add to pie shell, dot with a little butter, and cover with top crust. Bake at 425°F for 30-40 minutes, until fruit filling is bubbling and crust is golden brown. For savory tarts, pre-bake your crust (line it with foil and fill with pie weights or uncooked rice) at 375°F for 20 minutes. While it’s cooking, saut’ your chopped onions, greens, tomatoes or potatoes in olive oil on the stovetop, about 5 minutes. Add to pie crust, top with cheese (goat, Parmesan, Mozzarella), and broil about 3-4 minutes until cheese is melted and golden.
Technique #3: Use Eggs
What you’ll get: Farm-fresh omelet brunch or dinner
Works with: tomatoes, corn, onions, asparagus, peppers, potatoes, peas, green beans, favas, snow peas, mushrooms, spinach, chard, herbs
Recipe how-to: Whisk together 4 to 5 eggs and 2 tablespoons of freshly grated Parmesan. In a cast-iron or ovenproof pan over medium heat, saut’ peas, corn kernels, chopped greens, asparagus, tomatoes (seeded), peppers, or onions in olive oil, about 5 minutes. (If saut’ing potatoes, slice them thinly and fry before other vegetables so they cook a total of about 10 minutes.) Pour eggs on top and cook about 2 minutes a side until eggs are set but still tender.