homepage logo

Summer menus featuring fresh garden favorites

By Staff | Jul 16, 2018

Claudia Putnam knows garlic, even when spotted in a restaurant’s garden in Grinnell area. Putnam has created a delicious pesto recipe she shares with readers.



Claudia Putnam is a busy woman. She is the retiring director of industry relations for the Iowa Sheep Industry Association (ISIA), a wife, mother, grandmother and leader of a county 4-H club. She is also an active shepherd of her own flock and works part-time at the Kalona Sale Barn.

A prolific gardener, Putnam creates recipes from the produce growing in her extensive rural gardens.

“My garden is inspiration for a lot of my culinary adventures,” Putnam said. “That, and the fact that my freezer is full of meat. Necessity is the mother of invention, after all.”

Lamb burgers hot off the grill make a tasty meal in the summer months.

She has spent her free time since her retirement from ISIA?in the garden, “harvesting garlic scapes for a delightful pesto that I freeze to enjoy all year long.”

“I have also picked and processed the strawberries and raspberries thriving this summer, and, of course, a lot of weeding,” she added. “I am also a pretty skilled manure mover. I use the enriched sheep bedding as mulch in the garden. It is just me, the pitchfork, shovel and wheelbarrow.”

Putnam has always had a small flock of crossbred sheep and purebred Shetlands.

“But, as I am growing older, I am looking for something bigger than the Shetlands, smaller than the Suffolks, easy to handle, and appealing to my eye,” she said. “I purchased 10 registered Clun Forest ewes and a ram from a nearby breeder dispersing his flock.”

She plans to focus on raising the breed, which she referred to as “versatile,” being kept for meat, wool and milk.

“I have always wanted to try my hand at making sheep cheese,” Putnam said. “I hope the ewes will cooperate after lambing next spring. How hard can it be to milk a sheep?”

She said she’ll use her neighborhood fiber mill, High Prairie Fibers, to process the fleeces into roving or yarn to make rugs.

“We will enjoy eating lamb and having the pelts made into warm lambskin throws for my chairs and my couch,” she said.

Putnam sums up her experience as the “shepherd” of the Iowa Sheep Industry Association by saying she made many new connections and gained plenty of knowledge.

“The Iowa Lamb food stand at the Iowa State Fair is a great concession you just don’t want to miss,” Putnam said. “The annual Iowa Sheep and Wool Festival held in Ames in the month of June really showcases the industry’s many facets. The hall of breeds, the beautiful wool for sale, the friendly vendors are a joy to my soul.”

At the same time, she is looking forward to her retirement.

“But I am hoping I really get to spend more time with my family, especially my grandchildren,” she said.

Garlic scape and basil pesto

Recipe by Claudia Putnam

1 cup coarsely chopped garlic scapes

2 cups fresh basil leaves

1 tablespoon lemon juice

Salt to taste

1 plus cup olive oil

2/3 cup sunflower seed meats (raw)

2/3 cup Parmesan cheese

Place the garlic scapes, basil, lemon juice and salt into the bowl of a food processor. Process until the scapes and basil are finely chopped. Add the sunflower meats and process. Add oil slowly while processing, stopping and scraping down sides with as spatula. Continue until a smooth paste is formed, adding more oil if necessary.

Add the Parmesan cheese and process until completely mixed in.

Store in an airtight container. After you put the pesto in the jar, cover the top with a thin layer of oil, then put on the lid. Will keep in the refrigerator for a few weeks, or it can be frozen. Be sure to squeeze all the air out of the freezer bag before storage for best results.

Lamb burgers

Use the pesto recipe to top these delicious, grilled burgers

16 ounces lamb, ground

8 ounces mushroom mixture

1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped

1 large egg

1 tablespoon olive oil (for the pan)

5 ounces fresh sliced mozzarella

In a large bowl, mix the lamb, 8 ounces of the mushroom mixture, salt, pepper, Worcestershire sauce, parsley, and egg together. Form five, 5-ounce patties and place on a parchment lined sheet pan, and place in the refrigerator to cool for 15 minutes. Brush with olive oil and place over hot coals. If cooking indoors, preheat a large skillet or griddle to medium-high heat.

Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Once the oil is hot and coats the entire pan, cook the patties for approximately 4 minutes on each side or until they have an internal temperature of 165 degrees.

Turn off the heat and allow them to rest for 5 minutes. Spread a bun with pesto, add a slice of your favorite cheese, and enjoy.

American lamb

meatball subs

Recipe provided by Two Purple Figs

Grilled lamb meatballs

2.5 pounds ground American lamb

1 teaspoon salt

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 small red onion

3 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons Italian bread crumbs

1 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano or Italian herb mix

1/2 red bell pepper

2 tablespoons basil pesto

Microwave marinara sauce

1 cup canned crushed tomatoes

3 cloves garlic, minced

3/4 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons basil pesto

1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

1/2 teaspoon each salt and pepper


1 loaf Italian ciabatta or French baguette

Handful fresh arugula

Extra Parmesan cheese or Mozzarella cheese, grated

Red chili flakes

Extra basil pesto

Preheat your barbecue to a medium high setting.

Make the lamb meatballs: in a food processor, puree all ingredients except for the lamb. Add the pureed mixture to the lamb and mix to combine. Divide the lamb into golf-size pieces and roll into a meatball shape. Repeat with the remaining mixture.

Grill the meatballs directly on your barbecue grates or on a barbecue sheet pan for two minutes on each side. Lower the heat to medium and cover your barbecue. Allow the meatballs to cook through, about five to eight minutes depending on the size of your meatballs.

In the meantime, make the marinara sauce. Mix all ingredients in a microwave safe bowl and microwave on high for four minutes until bubbly. Taste and adjust seasoning.

To assemble the meatball subs, take the loaf of bread and cut the top off. Use a knife to cut the bread along the length but not all the way through so you create a hole for the meatballs to sink in.

Grill the bread if you like for just one minute per side.

Spread the marinara sauce over the bread, drizzle some extra basil pesto if you’d like and scatter some fresh arugula or spinach leaves over that.

Arrange the meatballs on top of the arugula pressing them down so they stick to the marinara sauce and sink deeply into the bread.

Grate some fresh Parmesan cheese over the meatballs and sprinkle some chili flakes if you’d like.

Use a serrated knife and cut up the large baguette into pieces with a single meatball over them.

Please Enter Your Facebook App ID. Required for FB Comments. Click here for FB Comments Settings page