It’s impossible to make a dish any better than the ingredients you start with, which is why herbs and fresh vegetables are so integral to our food.

One of the things I love about getting different vegetables and fruits every week is the creativity these beautiful products inspire.

People often ask if my menu is the same every week, and while it would sure make my life easier if it were, I adjust the menu to what is fresh from the farm. The importance of fresh ingredients can’t really be overstated.

Knowing that the vitamin and mineral content of fresh produce reduces rapidly after being picked, it makes sense to think about buying locally to reduce the storage, travel and shelf time in what you choose to eat. 

That said, be careful, there can always be too much of a good thing! It’s “lock your car” season in Maine, or you may find your vehicle stuffed with huge zucchinis, courtesy of a “friend” who, in the spring, thought it was necessary to plant six zucchini plants to feed a family of four. 

BRAISED SHORT RIBS

The crockpot is your friend when cooking these ribs. The kitchen won’t get too hot, and you can start it in the morning and have it for dinner without much fuss. We had them with friends on a Friday night after work. If you’d like to save this recipe for the fall, the ribs are a great way to warm up the house when cooked in a stock pot.

Marinade:

1/2 cup peeled and sliced fresh ginger

8 cloves garlic

1/2 cup red wine

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons coriander

1 tablespoon paprika

1 teaspoon cayenne

2 teaspoons ground dried ginger

1 1/2 teaspoon allspice

1 1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper

1/4 cup canola oil

3/4 cup ketchup

1/4 cup pure maple syrup

2 tablespoons dried thyme

2 tablespoons salt

6 pounds beef short ribs, bone in

4 cups low-salt beef broth

Combine all marinade ingredients with the short ribs in a non-reactive pan and cover for at least 24 hours and up to one week. 

When ready to prepare:

Crockpot: Place the ribs, marinade juice and beef broth in a crock pot and cook on low heat for 8 hours or until tender. 

Stock pot: Place the ribs, marinade juice and beef broth in an 8-quart or larger stock pot. Simmer on medium-low heat until tender, 21/2 hours.

Au Jus: Drain the juice from either the crockpot or stock pot. 

Skim the fat off the top and reserve liquid. Strain through a sieve and adjust for seasoning.

Serves 6 to 8.

WARM DIJON POTATO SALAD

2 1/2 pounds red bliss potatoes, cut into eighths (or two medium potatoes per person)

1/2 cup red onion, diced

1 1/2 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard

1/3 cup canola oil

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon fresh black pepper

Boil potatoes in a stock pot covered with water until tender, about 20 minutes. Combine rest of ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. 

Drain the potatoes and transfer them to a bowl. Toss dressing gently with potatoes and serve. 

Serves 4 to 6.

ZUCCHINI AND SUMMER SQUASH WITH BREAD CRUMB TOPPING

2 medium zucchini

2 medium squash

1/2 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon fresh black pepper

1/2 cup bread crumbs

3 to 4 tablespoons olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice zucchini and summer squash into 1/4-inch slices. 

Fan them neatly into the bottom of a 9-by-13 non-reactive (enamel or stainless steel) pan. 

Sprinkle with the salt, pepper and bread crumbs. Drizzle with the olive oil. 

Bake for 40 minutes.

Serves 4 to 6. 

BLACK BOTTOM BANANA CREAM PIE

1 pie crust (your favorite recipe or store-bought)

Ganache:

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped

6 tablespoons whipping cream

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 large, firm, ripe bananas, peeled and cut into 2/3-inch slices

Filling:

1 1/2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

1 1/2 teaspoons dark rum

1 teaspoon unflavored gelatin

1/2 cup whipping cream

5 large egg yolks

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 cup chilled whipping cream

Topping:

3/4 cup chilled whipping cream

2 tablespoons sugar

2 firm, ripe bananas

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out your crust and place it in a 9-inch pie pan.

Freeze it for 15 minutes, then cover the bottom of the crust with dried beans (to keep it flat while it bakes) and bake until set – about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool completely.

Ganache:

Make a ganache by heating the chocolate, cream and butter in a double boiler until melted and smooth. 

Spread 6 tablespoons of the ganache on to the bottom of the cooled crust. 

Cool slightly and press the bananas into the ganache.

Filling:

Combine vanilla and rum together and sprinkle gelatin over the mixture. Let stand 10 minutes. 

Bring the whipping cream to a simmer. Whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a separate bowl; then slowly whisk the mixture into the cream. Stir the mixture over low heat until it thickens to a ribbon-like consistency, and then add the gelatin mixture. 

Chill, stirring occasionally until cool, but not set (about 20 minutes).

Whip together the 1/2 cup whipped cream and 3 tablespoons of sugar: fold half of the whipped cream into the custard, then repeat with the remaining whipped cream.

Spoon the mixture into the pie crust; refrigerate for 2 hours.

Stir the reserved ganache over low heat. Spread on top of the custard and chill.

Topping:

Whip together the cream and sugar and top the pie with whipped cream and bananas.

Serves 8.

Anne Mahle of Rockland is the author of “At Home, At Sea.” She can be reached at: [email protected]

 


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