I got that fresh from the garden fever! Those summer tomatoes, including some great heirlooms, are coming in like wildfire. O yes, I've eaten several heirloom tomato sandwiches thanks for asking, at almost one a day for a couple weeks now. I'm bad about a lot of mayo too! They are crazy good this year, so good that "Cherokee Purple" (the best ones so far, according to mom) might be the name of my next cat. It's so whack It's got me anticipating what the next one will even taste like. The first few fooled me though with a kind of bland flavor, but I think that was just a palette cleansing for what has begun, a total tomato hysteria at the homefront.
Cucumbers and crooknecks squash also seem to be taking over my kitchen counter. I've sautéd or baked a round or two of the squash and found myself comfortably full on them alone. They are mighty tasty so far this summer, especially with a dash of Italian seasoning and a little salt and pepper.
Their skins are not as thick as the past few years so I'm finding them tender with a light delectable crunch, which is if you don't cook them to death or until they are mush that is. The squash coming from my dad's patch actually have a little sweetness to them which makes them even more flavorful. Simple and delicious would be the best way to describe a squashy dinner side if you're asking me. Next on my list will be a cheesy squash casserole, you can bet your sweet Burpees on that one.
Now all this years cucumbers are very crunchy, especially chilled and tightened up as quick vinegar pickles. You know the drill, vinegar, sugar, salt, pepper, and a little water. It must be the lack of rain that could kindly soak our soil for a good day, instead of these passing showers that has such a crispy effect on them. They are not dry by any means; you might even say they are might near perfect. They also retain that crunch when marinated in "Wishbone Italian Dressing" (the robusto one). With that splash of balsamic vinegar I always add, the flavor blends great for a kind of cold salad. Of course, I added a few pieces of tomato and "Vidalia Onion". It had just the right tang for that hotel style tuna salad I was having for lunch. I'll be repeating that lunch soon enough, my tuna salad is great, I got it down to a science, pat! pat! right on the back! I have been making it for over 30 years now, yet that tuna recipe is a different blog all to itself, but will say the cukes compliment it wonderfully well.
I think my afternoon nap may have been affected after a few of those cucumbers, I seem to have dreamed vividly in Technicolor for what I can recall. The dream team experts say some foods seem to affect dreaming, but I'm really bad at remembering my dreams, although they all seem to be pleasant ones and gentle on the mind. Wouldn't it be great if we could remember them or predict the way they turn out by consuming different foods? Kind of makes me wonder about making this pizza from scratch tonight, I might dream I'm a pepperoni walking down the city streets of Chicago or something. Ha! This pizza dough that I have rising is going to be a Chicago style deep dish crust, and it's loaded with spice and plenty of garlic; dream ingredients I reckon!
Anyways, this is looking like it's going to be a great summer harvest for those of us who planted a garden this year. If we could get just a little more rain it might even sweeten the corn a little more. From what I've noticed in the fields and dad's little patch already, it is looking like we all might have a wonderful corn feast to look forward too.
I can hardly wait, there's nothing like fresh roasted corn right out of the field, that is if you like field corn like I do. To eat and enjoy field corn though it has to be timed right and freshly picked. Dad swears by that "Peaches and Cream Corn" while all the while that field corn is my favorite all buttered up. I'm looking to get a good mess, I'll sure prep it and freeze it for my omelets. I absolutly like a corn omelete with some Swiss cheese, try one if you never have. Man oh man it's good!
I'm adding a few of my favorite recipes for fresh out of the garden veggies; you might even have a few pleasant dreams after eating dinner with such fresh produce or at the least sleep like a baby.
Fresh Roasted Garden Veggies and Some Orzo
Of course orzo is pasta, but the veggies in this recipe are over the top tasty if fresh from the garden. While making this recipe think of what a good Chinese fried rice dish looks like, that's what it kind of reminds me of. It can definitely be eaten as a main course or as a side, either one is scrumptious. I would suggest reading completely through this recipe first so you get the gist of it.
1 medium crook-neck or yellow squash, 1/2-inch dice
1 medium zucchini, 1/2-inch dice
1 small eggplant, (optional but great in this recipe), peeled and 1/2-inch diced
1 small bunch asparagus, (about 6-8) tough end cut off, then cut in 1-inch pieces, (I cut them on the bias)
1 red bell pepper, 1-inch dice
1 orange bell pepper, 1-inch dice
1 small Vidalia or sweet onion, 1-inch dice
3 small garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup good extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
1/2 to 3/4 pound orzo pasta, (normally about a 1/2 pound, but can stretch depending on preference and crowd, I prefer the greater)
1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice, (2-3 lemons)
1/4-1/3 cup good extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup fresh chopped Italian flat leaf parsley, (about 1/3 of a bunch more or less)
salt and pepper to taste, (remembering you seasoned the vegetables and salted the orzo water)
3 green onions, whites included, thinly sliced, (again I bias slice)
1/4 cup pine nuts, (optional, but excellent in this recipe), (can cause allergic reaction)
3/4 pound good feta cheese, 1/2-inch diced (not crumbled)
15 fresh basil leaves, lightly chopped through or "Chiffonade"
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
In a larger serving bowl toss the prepared squash, zucchini, eggplant, asparagus, bell peppers, onion, and garlic with the olive oil, salt, and pepper and transfer to 8x13 glass casserole dish or sheet pan to roast.
Place in oven to roast, turning vegetables occasionally, until browned and tender (about 35-40 minutes). NOTE: Set the bowl with residual oil aside to use for tossing.
Meanwhile, cook the orzo in boiling salted water until tender (not mushy) (about 8-10 minutes). Drain and transfer to the large serving bowl.
Add the roasted vegetables to the pasta, scraping all the liquid and seasonings from the roasting pan into the bowl.
As a dressing, combine the lemon juice, olive oil, chopped Italian parsley, salt, and pepper and pour on the pasta and vegetables, set aside and allow cooling. Re-toss, check taste for seasoning then add the thinly sliced scallions (green onions), pine nuts, feta, and basil. Serve at room temperature or slightly still warm.
Be careful with the olive oil you don't want the pasta dripping but, palatable is good, just use your judgment, and remember, as it sits the veggies and orzo will soak up most of the oil for a perfect dish.
A Chopped French Country Salad
I use to make this type of salad in almost every Country Club I worked. Now it's made frequently right here at home...it's so good! If you're not use to the fresh taste of tarragon though it might surprise you a little, I tend to cut it back just a smidge, but I do like it, especially with fish dishes.
5 small Yukon Gold potatoes, or red new potatoes, (About a 1/2 pound), sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 cup fresh from the garden green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar, or red wine vinegar
juice from half a lemon
2 tablespoons good olive oil, extra virgin okay
1/2 tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves, more or less, snipped (tarragon can be strong)
1 teaspoon honey
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, Grey Poupon! (optional, no need to buy a jar for just a teaspoon)
1/4 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh cracked black pepper
3 cups fresh chopped romaine lettuce, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces (please don't put those darker green rough edges in your salad, closer to the hearts of romaine are so much better.)
1 1/2 cups Iceberg lettuce, chopped in 1-inch pieces
3 hard boiled eggs, cut into nice semi-thin wedges
1/2 cup fresh cucumber, peeled, deseeded, and diced
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives, or black olives
3 fresh radishes, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons thinly sliced shallot (about a medium sized one)
1 large garden tomato, cut into small wedges
In a covered medium saucepan cook potatoes and green beans with enough boiling water to cover for about 8 minutes or until tender; drain. Immediately transfer to a bowl of ice water bath to stop cooking; drain again.
Meanwhile in a jar with a lid combine vinegar, lemon juice, oil, tarragon, honey, Dijon mustard, salt, and pepper, and shake well.
In a large bowl combine potatoes, green beans, lettuces, eggs, cucumber, olives, radishes, and shallot. Add vinaigrette; toss gently to coat then lay those fresh garden tomatoes around it. Yum!
Versatile Garden Ratatouille
2 large garden tomatoes, peeled, seeds removed, cut in pieces (about 8 pieces each)
1/4 cup good extra-virgin olive oil
1 large eggplant, or 2 Long Japanese white eggplants are best, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1lb.)
2 large yellow squash, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1lb.)
2 large zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (1lb.)
2 large sweet onions, large dice (1 lb.)
1 green bell pepper, deseeded, large dice
1 red orange bell pepper, deseeded, large dice
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, more or less to taste
1 ˝ teaspoons fresh cracker black pepper, more or less to taste
4 large garlic cloves medium dice, or very thinly sliced
1 bay leaf
1/2 tablespoon fresh marjoram
2 teaspoon fresh oregano, (about 4-5 sprigs, stems removed)
1 shot good red wine, (about 1 ˝ ounces) I use Manischewitz Concord Grape Wine it complements anything with tomatoes especially sauce.
1 tablespoon white vinegar
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
In a large Dutch oven add all ingredients toss with oil, cover and bake for 1 to 1 1/2 hours (more or less). Stir rubbing bottom of pot at 15 minute intervals with wooden spoon to recoat, baste, and prevent burning.
Remove bay leaf and transfer to serving dish to spread on fresh French bread.
To peel tomatoes, cut a small X about an 1/8 of an inch deep across the bottom of each tomato, submerge in boiling salted water for a minute then transfer to an ice bath. Then those skins will just right away, a pairing knife tip will grab each quarter skin at the X.
To remove seeds from a tomato; after slicing, over a small bowl, use your finger to run in the tomato seed pockets and they will fall right in the bowl.
This mixture can be tossed with fresh pasta and some Parmesan cheese for a great meal.
This recipe can easily be used as a Ratatouille Soup, with the addition of cooked sausage (Tn. Pride Sage Sausage) and some chicken broth.
It also makes a great topping for burgers or steaks and freezes well for later use.
Great for canning!
If using regular eggplant; after cubing toss with salt and drain in a colander for about 20 minutes, then press remaining liquid out of eggplant before using to remove its bitterness.