All-Star Ingredients: Summer Picks

All-Star Ingredients: Summer Picks


The summer sunshine brings some fantastic warm-weather produce finds. Many fruits and veg are at their prime throughout June—just in time for enjoying dinner or dessert on the deck!

You can find this fragrant herb year-round, but the summertime is when you’ll spot leafy basil for sale in gigantic bouquets. If you have a garden, June heralds when you can start harvesting. The most commonly available variety is green Genovese basil, but you may be able to grab other types at your farmers' market or in the garden. Dark Opal basil has black-ish leaves and subtle notes of cinnamon, anise, and cloves. Pointy-leafed Thai basil has a more peppery personality. The varieties with petite leaves are perfect for garnishing dishes. Basil stars in our Basic Pesto, of course, but you’ll also find it used by the handful in the dressing for our Green Goddess Chicken Pitas and in Vietnamese Noodle Salad. When slicing or chopping basil, use a sharp knife so you don’t bruise the tender leaves.

Squash Blossoms 
Squash blossoms are one of those truly seasonal foods to savor while you can. The edible orange flowers come from summer squashes, like zucchini. Although they are most often stuffed with cheese and deep fried, there are tons of ways to incorporate these dainty beauties. For instance, you can slice them thinly and use them as a pop of color in pasta. Or add them as a garnish in our Zoodles and Meatballs, which features “pasta” made from zucchini! 

Most of the sweet cherries grown in the United States (your Bings and your Rainiers) are found in Washington, California, and Oregon. The main harvest is gearing into full swing now and lasts throughout the summer. (If you live in the East, you may not see cherries on your own trees until July.) We love to have a bag of cherries on hand to snack on, but they also make a pretty garnish to any number of the desserts you can make in the Smart Cooker™, including the Dark Chocolate Cake and our decadent Tres Leches. Harder-to-find sour cherries have an even more fleeting season, lasting just a couple  of short weeks this month. These oh-so-tart treats are too tangy for eating right off the tree, but taste incredible baked in cakes and pies. Michigan accounts for about two-thirds of the sour cherry production in the U.S., so if you live near the Wolverine State, your chances are high for scoring fresh Montmorency cherries. If you find them, stock up. They freeze well and make for sweet sauces and preserves, too!