Grab your tote bag (and maybe your sketchbook) because, every other week, Sharon Hwang of My Cooking Diary is bringing us along for her adventures at her Northern California farmers market—and then back in her kitchen.
Today: The first basil, tomatoes, and pardon peppers mean playtime in the kitchen.
The first summer harvests from our garden included basil, Padrón peppers, and a few early girl tomatoes. The basil is not hard to use up—it goes into just about everything from omelettes and marinara sauce to, of course, pesto. I’ve always made pesto following Alice Waters’s recipe in The Art of Simple Food, but sometimes switch out the pine nuts for almonds or pistachios and the radish tops for a peppery alternative to the sweet basil.
We decided to celebrate the very first early girl tomatoes in their purest form, by simply putting the fresh slices on some country loaf and tucking in a few basil leaves. Completed with a good drizzle of olive oil, some flakes of Maldon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper, it tasted like summer.
Another way to enjoy the tomatoes is to serve with pesto pasta, which might sound surprising, but is worth a try. It’s one of the many things I learned from The Art of Simple Food: Place a few raw slices of tomato on a plate, sprinkle with some salt, then top with warm and freshly made pesto pasta.
Padrón peppers are simply delicious blistered in olive oil and served warm as a snack with flaky sea salt. But the other day, I was improvising on the toppings of a shakshuka and ended up with a version dotted with avocado slices, basil leaves, and grilled Padrón peppers. As long as you still have tomato sauce and eggs as the base of shakshuka, there are many directions to take it.
Photos and illustrations by Sharon Hwang