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Inspiration From The Summer Pantry

jeffreyw via Flickr (CC BY 2.0)

It's the middle of September and our Maryland pantry is overflowing with incredible locally produced food. And it's so enjoyable to run through the list of our favorite Maryland foods and dream up delicious dishes.

I've become enamored of the various beans that grow in Maryland. Master farmer Tom McCarthy is a familiar sight at the Farmers Markets, and his black beans have been wonderful to work with. (Keep in mind his beans need rinsing, picking over and soaking overnight.) And of course there is still a lot of Maryland sweet corn available. So how about a salad featuring corn, black beans and shrimp? Combine those simple ingredients with a dressing made of olive oil, lime juice, garlic and cilantro and you've got a natural refresher for a warm summer evening.


Catfish is truly abundant in the Bay, and we're always looking for new ways to use it. Since fish tacos have become extremely popular lately, we nominate the catfish to take the starring role.


Making catfish tacos is a bit of a production, if you're going from scratch.


First step is to turn out a good cole slaw with locally grown cabbage, both the red and green varieties plus a bit of grated carrot as well. Toss with a tangy mayonnaise and refrigerate.


For the catfish, soak 4 or 5 filets in buttermilk for half an hour, then dredge in a mixture of cornmeal and seasoned breadcrumbs (a good time to use Old Bay). Place the filets on a baking sheet and place in an oven preheated to 450°. Give them up to 25 minutes to turn golden brown. During the last few minutes you can warm up your tortillas by wrapping them in tin foil and giving them a brief turn in the oven.


To assemble a taco cut the baked catfish filets into bite-sized pieces. Sprinkle a layer of cole slaw in the bottom of a tortilla shell. Place two of the catfish pieces on the slaw, and garnish with thin slices of avocado and a few sprigs of cilantro. You can finish it off by squeezing a slice of lime over everything. Now you can let the Bay meet Baja.


It's one thing to cut up a summer melon and serve it with a little prosciutto. It's another to pair the wonderful sweetness of the melon with other savory ingredients.


A recipe from Bon Appétit I found combines ripe honeydew melon with thin slices of cucumber, avocado and mint leaves. Dress this mixture with a blend of white wine vinegar, a dash of fish sauce and fresh ground ginger. Toss the ingredients with the dressing, and top of with finely chopped peanuts. This should be a perfect side for a barbecue.

If you're wondering what you can do with that watermelon in your fridge, try this. Cut it up and serve on a bed of arugula tossed with olive oil. Throw in super thin slices of red onion, a bunch of finely chopped mint and some crumbled blue cheese. That's all there is to it.

Finally, we are awash in peppers right now, and it's very easy to score some big fat red bell peppers and a jalapeno or two. We've all enjoyed an Italian sausage sandwich with fried onions and peppers. Let's deconstruct that idea and reassemble it as a warm salad. 


First, julienne the peppers and onions and sautée as you usually would. Cut up a couple sweet Italian sausages (I like the diagonal cut myself) and toss them into the skillet to cook.


Meanwhile, chop up a head of Romaine lettuce and arrange on the bottom of a salad plate. Cut up a bit of baguette into thin diagonal slices, brush with olive oil, and toast in the oven. In a couple minutes you have crostinis.


When everything is ready, put four crostinis around the edge of the bowl, and spoon the peppers and sausage over the Romaine. Dress with a balsamic vinaigrette and a sprinkling of parmesan.


Al Spoler, well known to WYPR listeners as the wine-loving co-host of "Cellar Notes" has had a long-standing parallel interest in cooking as well. Al has said, the moment he started getting serious about Sunday night dinners was the same moment he started getting serious about wine. Over the years, he has benefited greatly from being a member of the Cork and Fork Society of Baltimore, a gentlemen's dining club that serves black tie meals cooked by the members themselves who are some of Baltimore's most accomplished amateur cooks.
Executive Chef Jerry Pellegrino of Corks restaurant is fascinated by food and wine, and the way they work in harmony on the palate. His understanding of the two goes all the way to the molecular level, drawing on his advanced education in molecular biology. His cuisine is simple and surprising, pairing unexpected ingredients together to work with Corks' extensive wine offerings.