Photo by Shubhesh Aggarwal on Unsplash

By Jillian Fraioli

It’s no secret that I love food. What I love more than eating food is creating food. And to take that further, I love getting into the kitchen with my friends to see what we can create together. 

We started a tradition a few years ago to celebrate the coming of summer. On the solstice, we ask a handful of our closest friends to come over, bring what they have from their gardens, their fridge, and their pantry. A large part of the fun comes from starting with a blank slate and then sitting back to see what becomes of our minds put together. It’s a true test of your skills to create something from scratch, not knowing what you’re going to get!

While starting with nothing is fun, it is important to be sure someone has a protein, someone has veggies, and someone else has a pantry that includes some herbs and spices. We do try to designate who is bringing what, like Brian brings the protein and Latima brings the veg, and they come to my house with their partners and I make sure I have a well-stocked pantry.

But don’t stop there! Tell them to also bring their favorite ingredients—you might need them! We also decide ahead of time: Are we using the grill, or the smoker? Will we sous vide, or use the oven? It’s good to have an initial idea to run with, and equipment you might need.

It might seem daunting, and you might come up with some duds, but part of the joy is laughing over the end results. The best part is that you might, like us, come up with a few new ideas that then can take on a life of their own in your kitchen.

Here are a few of our most outstanding recipes that we developed over the years. This is just to give you a jumping-off point! You can easily substitute the protein and the vegetables. If you have sweet potatoes, try them! If you have peas or pea shoots, use those! If you think early tomatoes are ready, try those instead of the potatoes in the salad, or add them in. Take these as suggestions and see what happens.

Yogurt and Saffron Chicken Skewers

Based on a creation by our great friend Brian

4-6 servings

Active Prep Time: 20 minutes

Active Grill Time: 20-25 minutes

Note: Marinate a few hours before if you can, but an hour or two will also do the trick.

  • 3 lb chicken breast or thighs (we prefer thighs for the grill)
  • 1½ cups Greek yogurt, 2% or higher (we use whole)
  • ¼ olive oil
  • 1 tsp paprika or Aleppo pepper (our fave)
  • ¼ tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 1 tsp saffron
  • 1 whole lime, juiced, pips removed
  • ½ a lime, cut (for drizzling)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil (for drizzling)
  • 6 (or so) skewers. If you are using wooden skewers, soak them in water for at least 30 minutes, or for the hour while you’re marinating the chicken. I usually soak more skewers than I think I’ll need.
  1. Cut the breast in one-and-a-half inch pieces, big enough for skewers. If using chicken thighs, I cut them in strips so I can thread them on the skewers.
  2. Steep the saffron in the lime juice for 15-20 minutes.
  3. Combine the yogurt, olive oil, saffron/lime juice mixture, Aleppo pepper, turmeric, and mix well. We put it in a gallon Ziploc.
  4. Add the chicken and let it sit in the fridge as long as you can before you grill.
  5. This gets messy, but it’s worth it: put the chicken on skewers!
  6. Preheat the grill to high, about 400-450 degrees.
  7. About 20 minutes before you’re ready to serve everything, put the skewers on the grill and turn it down to medium heat. You want to turn them after seven minutes, but you’re also looking for some good char here. We like to cook off most of that marinate and get some crispy bits in the mix. After seven minutes, flip and cook seven more on the other side. Let them rest for a few minutes to reabsorb the juices. If you’re using thighs, you might only need to cook them for five minutes a side, depending on how thick you left the strips. If you like to temp your chicken, you’re looking for 165 degrees.
  8. Squeeze some more fresh lime and drizzle the olive oil before serving on a platter.

New Potato and Pole Bean Salad

Based on the brainchild of our friend Latima

4-6 servings

Active Prep Time: 45 minutes

  • 2 lb new potatoes (early summer garden or farmer’s market ones are great here), halved, do not peel
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig of thyme
  • 1 lb pole beans, or wax beans or haricot vert if you don’t have garden pole beans; cut in ½-inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp capers (I don’t rinse them, I like the brine flavor to brighten up the salad)
  • 2 tsp dijon
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and cut fine
  • 4 tbsp white wine or sherry vinegar
  • ½ cups olive oil (use the best you have)
  • 1 tbsp + 1 tsp chives, small dice, divided
  • 2 tbsp parsley, chopped loosely
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon, chopped loosely
  • 1 minced shallot, small dice
  • 1 lb bitter summer greens: arugula, radicchio, endive, or a combination
  1. Fill a 4-quart pot with water and add the new potatoes, bay leaf, and thyme. Bring to a boil and cook until you can pierce them with a fork (fork-tender) but they are not falling apart, and the skin is not coming off. This takes about 30 minutes.
  2. While the potatoes are boiling, make the dressing. In a small bowl (or my favorite, a salad shaker), add the garlic, mustard, vinegar, and olive oil and shake or whisk vigorously until it emulsifies (comes together). Add in the capers and whisk again. You’ll need to whisk this one last time before you add it to the potatoes.
  3. Cool the potatoes for 15 minutes. You want them to be slightly warm so when you fold in the dressing, they soak it up and absorb that tang of the dressing. Do this carefully, being sure not to break them up too much. Place them aside, but keep them at room temp.
  4. Blanch your cut beans in salted water for three to four minutes (*if using haricot vert, only go two minutes to adjust for their smaller size). As soon as they are done, run them under the coldest water you can, or pop them into an ice bath. This helps keep their color and stops the cooking process, because no one wants mushy beans. Then drain them immediately and sprinkle them with a little salt and pepper, diced shallot, chives, parsley, and tarragon, and toss gently with the potatoes and dressing.
  5. When ready to serve, fluff up your bitter greens and lay them out on a platter, and top with the potato salad. Finish with a sprinkling of the extra chives.

Grilled Ramps

Developed to use up our garden ramps (and we make this every time we are able)

4-6 servings

Active Prep Time: 10 minutes

Active Grill Time: 2-4 minutes

These are one of our favorite summer sides. If you cannot find ramps, you can use garlic shoots or spring onions (these are larger than a green onion and bigger than a leek, but most groceries and markets carry them now). They’re also one of the easiest grill items to make, but don’t let their humble nature fool you. They pack a punch. We grill them right after we grill the chicken, as they don’t take very long.

  • 1 lb of ramps
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  1. Clean and trim the ramps.
  2. Place them in a baking pan or lasagna pan and toss with the olive oil, salt, and pepper.
  3. Turn the grill up to medium heat and place them on the hottest portion of the grill, and cook until charred and tender, about two minutes (and depending on size, up to four).

BIO: 

Jillian cooks daily and bakes bread every weekend, foraging from the fresh markets and forests of the Pacific Northwest. Jillian fell in love with cooking early in life, before she could even reach the stove, alongside her Grandma Fraioli. Jillian has been on staff at restaurants such as Emeril’s Fish House in Las Vegas, NV (as Pastry Chef), and Serafina and Tango in Seattle, WA. While she may have ended her career in restaurants many lives ago, her undying passion for feeding her family and friends will be her continued legacy. You may find her, along with her cats, bread loaves, and copious amounts of knitting, if that’s your jam, on Instagram @yarnologie