Like all things that come and go, summer produce is best celebrated at its peak. Which is right now.

From my kitchen to yours, it's summer.

Crispy, Smoky Skillet Corn

  • 6 ears corn, shucked
  • 1/3 cup coarsely ground cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 tablespoon bacon fat (may substitute unsalted butter, olive oil or canola oil)

Place an 8-inch cast-iron skillet on an outdoor grill set to medium-high or in a 425-F oven to heat up for at least 10 minutes.

Cut kernels off corn cobs and place them in a large bowl. Use the blunt edge of your knife to scrape milky liquid from cobs into the same bowl. Add cornmeal and salt to the bowl and stir well to combine.

Place bacon fat in scorching-hot skillet and tilt the skillet so fat coats the bottom and sides. Add corn mixture and pat down in an even layer. Cover the grill; cook for 15 minutes, until the top of the corn is bright yellow and the underside has formed a beautiful, crispy crust. Or roast (middle rack) in the oven for about 30 minutes.

Use a round-edged knife to loosen edges of the corn, and a flexible spatula, as needed, and carefully invert corn onto a serving platter. Serve right away. Serves 4.

VARIATIONS: To make Creamy Grated Skillet Corn, instead of cutting the kernels off the 6 corn cobs, grate them on the large-holed side of a box grater. Omit the cornmeal, but be sure to mix the salt into the grated corn. Proceed with the rest of the recipe as directed above. The mixture will cook into an almost pudding-like texture.

To make Raw Corn Salad With Pickled Jalapeños and Cilantro, skip the cooking. Combine the kernels and scraped corn cob liquid from the 6 ears of corn with 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, 3 tablespoons olive oil, 1 1/2 tablespoons minced pickled jalapeños, 1 tablespoon brine from the jar (or can) of pickled jalapeños, 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice and 1 large handful finely chopped fresh cilantro. The yield is about 4 cups.

Nutrition | Per serving: 170 calories, 5 g protein, 31 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 590 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 10 g sugar

Nutrition | Per serving (Raw Corn Salad With Pickled Jalapeños and Cilantro): 230 calories, 6 g protein, 32 g carbohydrates, 13 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 570 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 10 g sugar

Garlicky Marinated Tomatoes

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 small cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 pound ripe tomatoes, each cut in half if small; cored and coarsely chopped if large
  • 1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt, or more as needed
  • 1 small handful fresh basil leaves, thinly sliced

Combine oil, garlic and crushed red pepper flakes in a small skillet over medium heat. Once garlic starts to sizzle (about 30 seconds), pour mixture into a mixing bowl, making sure to scrape pan with a wooden spoon to get every little bit.

Add tomatoes, vinegar and salt, stirring well to incorporate. Taste and add more salt, as needed (tomatoes love salt). Let tomatoes sit for at least 15 minutes before serving, or cover them and let them sit at room temperature for up to 3 hours. Right before serving, stir in the basil. The yield is about 2 cups or 4 servings. 

VARIATIONS: To make Vietnamese-Style Marinated Tomatoes, add 1 tablespoon peeled/minced fresh ginger root to the pan along with the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Substitute fish sauce for the sherry vinegar (same amount). Just before serving, add 1 small handful each of coarsely chopped fresh cilantro, mint and basil (preferably Thai basil).

To make Puttanesca-Style Marinated Tomatoes, add 4 broken-up anchovies and 2 tablespoons capers to the pan along with the garlic and crushed red pepper flakes. Just before serving, add a large handful of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley and a large handful of pitted/chopped green or black olives.

Nutrition | Per serving: 120 calories, 1 g protein, 5 g carbohydrates, 11 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

Nectarine Corn Muffins

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted
  • 3/4 cup regular buttermilk
  • 8 ounces nectarines (from 1 large or 2 small), pitted and cut into 1/2-inch dice

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line a 12-well, standard-size muffin pan with paper liners.

Whisk together flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a mixing bowl, until well incorporated.

Combine egg, melted butter and buttermilk in a large bowl and whisk well to combine.

Add flour mixture to egg mixture and stir until just combined, then stir in the nectarines.

Distribute batter evenly among prepared muffin cups, filling them all the way to the top. Bake (middle rack) for 30 minutes, until muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center of each one comes out clean. Cool to room temperature before eating.

Try using any type of stone fruit (including cherries) in place of, or in addition to, the nectarines.

MAKE AHEAD: The muffins can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

VARIATIONS: To make Any Stone Fruit Muffins, substitute pitted and chopped fresh plums, peaches, apricots and/or cherries for the nectarines. If you use cherries, try adding 1/4 teaspoon almond extract to the batter, along with 1/2 cup sliced almonds.

To make Vegan, Gluten-Free Muffins, substitute your favorite all-purpose gluten-free baking mix for the flour. Instead of the eggs, butter and buttermilk, use 1 tablespoon ground flax seeds, 2 tablespoons water, 1/4 cup unsweetened applesauce, 1/4 cup olive oil plus 1/2 cup of your favorite non-dairy milk.

Nutrition | Per muffin: 180 calories, 3 g protein, 23 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 5 g saturated fat, 35 mg cholesterol, 160 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 8 g sugar

Nutrition | Per vegan muffin (using almond milk): 150 calories, 2 g protein, 24 g carbohydrates, 5 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 7 g sugar


Summer Squash Fritters With Buttermilk Dressing

  • 1/2 cup buttermilk
  • 2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
  • 1 large clove garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives (may substitute flat-leaf parsley)
  • Kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 pound summer squash (about 4 medium), ends trimmed, coarsely grated
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • About 1/2 cup vegetable oil, for frying

Whisk together buttermilk, mayonnaise, vinegar, garlic, chives and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt in a medium bowl.

Whisk together flour, baking powder and 1 teaspoon salt in a large bowl.

Place grated squash in center of a clean kitchen towel and wrap it up tightly. Wring out the liquid over the sink.

Unwrap squash and add it to the bowl with the flour mixture along with the egg; stir until everything is well combined.

Line a plate with paper towels.

Heat 1/4 cup oil in a large, heavy nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Once the oil shimmers (a little bit of the fritter mixture will sizzle upon contact), drop in tablespoonfuls of the batter, without crowding them, and use the back of the spoon to press each mound into a flat pancake.

Cook fritters until the undersides are browned, about 3 minutes, then carefully turn them and cook until the second sides are nicely browned, for about 2 minutes. Transfer to the lined plate. Fry remaining batter in batches, adding the remaining oil to the skillet as needed.

Sprinkle warm fritters with a little salt. Serve right away, with the buttermilk dressing for dipping. Makes 4 servings (makes about 20 fritters).

VARIATIONS: To make Grilled Summer Squash With Pistachios and Mint, cut the squash into planks or thick rounds, coat lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Cook on a medium-hot grill until marked all over and tender, then place on a serving platter. Squeeze over a little fresh lemon and top with pistachio kernels that you've toasted and coarsely chopped and plenty of torn mint.

To make a Shaved Squash and Parm Salad, use a very sharp knife, vegetable peeler or a mandoline to cut the squash lengthwise into very thin slices. Dress lightly with olive oil and fresh lemon juice and season lightly with salt. Arrange on a platter and top with lots of shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and a little finely chopped flat-leaf parsley. Serve right away.

Nutrition | Per serving of Grilled Summer Squash With Pistachios and Mint: 100 calories, 3 g protein, 7 g carbohydrates, 7 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 150 mg sodium, 3 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

Nutrition | Per serving of Shaved Squash and Parm Salad: 80 calories, 4 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, 6 g fat, 2 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 240 mg sodium, 1 g dietary fiber, 3 g sugar

Brown Rice and Herb Salad

  • 4 cups cooked brown rice (long- or short-grain), at room temperature
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 3 loosely packed cups soft herbs (such as Italian parsley, basil, mint, chives, tarragon, cilantro, and/or chervil), tough stems discarded, coarsely chopped
  • 1/4 cup dried currants (may substitute raisins)
  • 1/4 cup roasted salted almonds, coarsely chopped

Combine the rice, oil, vinegar, salt, herbs, dried currants and almonds in a large serving bowl and toss well to incorporate. Serve right away, at room temperature, or let sit covered at room temperature for up to 2 hours before serving.

MAKE AHEAD: The salad can be refrigerated for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature before serving.

VARIATIONS: To make about 1 cup of Any-Soft-Herb Pesto (vegan), combine the following ingredients in a food processor: 2 small chopped garlic cloves, 1/3 cup unsalted nuts and about 3 loosely packed cups of stemmed herbs. Pulse until finely chopped. With the motor running, drizzle in about 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil, forming a rich green paste. Taste and season lightly with salt. Some of Julia Turshen's favorite pesto combinations are pistachios and mint; walnuts, pine nuts, flat-leaf parsley and basil; and peanuts with cilantro.

To make about 1 1/2 cups of Creamy Any-Soft-Herb Goddess Dressing, combine 2 small minced garlic cloves, about 3 loosely packed cups of fresh soft herbs, 1/2 cup mayonnaise, 2 tablespoons white wine vinegar and 2 tablespoons water in a blender. Puree until smooth. Season lightly with salt.

Nutrition | Per serving (based on 6; with 1 cup of Any-Soft-Herb Pesto in the salad; using walnuts, mint, parsley and basil): 410 calories, 7 g protein, 39 g carbohydrates, 26 g fat, 4 g saturated fat, 0 mg cholesterol, 290 mg sodium, 5 g dietary fiber, 5 g sugar

Nutrition | Per 2-tablespoon serving of Creamy Any-Soft-Herb Goddess Dressing; using regular mayonnaise, mint, parsley and basil: 70 calories, 0 g protein, 1 g carbohydrates, 8 g fat, 1 g saturated fat, 5 mg cholesterol, 80 mg sodium, 0 g dietary fiber, 0 g sugar


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