August for dinner

calabacitas con elote y chorizo

I’m finding my eating habits to be more and more in tune with the seasons as I grow older. Except for chocolate, which will always be in season to me.

Growing up in a rural area and seeing everything around me blossom, fruit and die in cycles with the seasons has certainly made me aware, as has working on an organic farm, having local food so easily available, and tasting the difference between sweet corn grown 2 miles away versus sweet corn from the opposite coast in the dead of winter. Although it’s been hard to learn that I can’t have it all whenever I want it, anticipating the summer months and watching my edible garden grow makes in-season produce that much more special. It’s like my mom used to say when I asked why she couldn’t make her amazing Christmas cookies all year long — “because then they wouldn’t be so good!”

Now it allll makes sense.

The good things are certainly worth waiting for, especially when it comes to juicy sweet corn, heirloom tomatoes and zucchini in the summer. I enjoy this dish as soon as the first sweet corn arrives at the market and for as long as the season lasts. It was one of my blog’s early recipes: Calabacitas con elote, or Mexican Zucchini with Corn. The past few summers we had enjoyed it as a side dish, but this year I’ve decided to take advantage of its versatility. The sautéed squash, corn and tomatoes are such a simple combination, but something about them simmering together in their ripe juices with a little fresh oregano gives the dish a rich flavor I can only describe as purely summer.

calabacitas con elote y chorizo

Lately we tried adding local pork chorizo from our neighbors at the farmer’s market, which was a delicious way to make a one-pot meal — and quite the rich & hearty one. For a lighter option you could add pulled chicken, taco-seasoned ground turkey or tofu, or black beans to the mix for a filling and nutritious entree. Another thing I want to try is using the veggie dish as a taco or enchilada filling or adding a little broth to make a summery soup. So many possibilities for this simple dish! Continue reading

garden gazpacho

Gazpacho and I have a thing this summer. How did I never see in it what I do now? I used to compare it to ‘just like drinking a jar of salsa – yuck!’, but now I see it’s so far beyond that. Light, refreshing, complex, pure, and wonderful. Like drinking my summer garden. For breakfast, lunch and/or dinner. Topped with herbed croutons, fancy ceviche, or nothing. I love it, and I love that it helps me keep any of my precious garden tomatoes from going to waste.

Working on an organic farm this summer as well as having 6 plants of my own to tend, you could say I’ve picked my fair share of ‘maters this season. And just look at all the varieties! Each has their own flavor, texture and purpose. Many are heirlooms, which are so flavor-packed and meaty they’re just crying out to be part of a mean BLT. I’ll admit some look pretty darn ugly on the outside. But it’s the inside beauty that counts, right?

summer's tomatoes

I’ve made gazpacho (Spanish chilled tomato soup) maybe 6 times in the past few weeks, enjoying it as an on-the-go breakfast, as a cool refresher after working outside, eating bowls-full for lunch & dinner, and taking it to a cookout for friends to enjoy. Each time I make it is a little different, as I don’t follow a strict recipe and always use a mishmash of tomato varieties. But it’s hard to mess up too bad, unless of course you mistake jalapeños for bell peppers. Here’s my top secret recipe, now go put summer’s bounty to good use! Continue reading

Quinoa + mung bean tabbouleh

quinoa + mung bean tabbouleh

DSC_4008

This time of year I desperately look for any and every way to take advantage of our abundant garden, namely the tomatoes who are currently on a serious ripening rampage. It’s painful to watch an unused tomato go rotten on the counter, when in just a few months I’ll be dying to have one so juicy and fresh. Gazpacho, tomato sauce, salsa, more gazpacho, BLT’s, tomato-basil-mozzarella salads for lunch and dinner daily…… Not that I get tired of it, I just wish the tomato good-ness could be spread more evenly throughout the year!

While brainstorming other lunch-worthy uses for tomatoes, I thought of tabbouleh, and then I thought of the tabbouleh I had at a recent potluck (well, in June… Is it really August already?!) This light and refreshing herbal salad swapped out the traditional bulgur wheat for quinoa plus a good dose of mung beans, all together making one protein-packed, fiber-full, and vitamin-rich hearty salad.

Tabbouleh is easy because there’s no right and wrong ratios of herbs to grains or veggies, so it’s really just up to your taste. This recipe’s a keeper in my book, especially when it comes to putting all these summer garden veggies to use.

garden tomatoes!

parsley, mint, quinoa, mung beans.

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a happy garden & a harvest roast

garden harvest 7/7/13

The garden is thankful for the love we have shown it this year, and I am thankful that it is thankful, because look at this beautiful produce! This was our first harvest of squash, beginning of the tomatoes, first jalapeño, and finally decided to pull the garlic that’s been chugging along since last fall.

Along with taking a greater interest in gardening lately, my boyfriend Forrest and I decided to build 4 raised garden beds, fill them with nutrient-rich compost and soil, and surround the entire garden with a deer fence, overall providing a huge improvement in looks and prosperity.

It was a slow, cold spring, and I would stare out my window at the garden every morning, daydreaming about the day when it would be lush and thriving, out-of-control with tomato vines, when it would have too much fruit-producing energy for me to keep up with. And the day is here—it has been here for several weeks—but now we are getting deep into the heart of the summer harvest, when my basket is a rainbow like the photo above.

fence-building around the garden

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tis the season of berries

summer strawberry oat bars

Strawberry season in the Mid-Atlantic — although fleeting, it always leaves me with excitement for more of summer’s candy to come: blueberries, wild raspberries, and my most beloved, the peach! So while I do cherish the early red berries, admittedly I get more excited for what’s to follow, and the indication that my favorite season is only just beginning.

garden bouquet: summer lettuces and berries

garden-grown berries

strawberry oat bars

My go-to recipe to highlight the local strawberries for the past few years has been this: an oat square that reminds me of my good old Nutri-Grain bar, but much more hearty and wholesome with fresh-from-the-fields strawberry jam slathered and baked right on top. They’re also vegan, and interestingly made with chia seeds as a thickener in the jam and as an egg-replacer in the dough. Chia seeds are an excellent source of fiber, protein, antioxidants, calcium, omega-3, and pure energy! I also like the seedy texture it gave to the jam — i love jam with chunks of fruit and seeds :)

Fresh-picked strawberries ripen fast and need to be put to use, so if you’re looking for a healthy treat or a sweet and wholesome breakfast to use up those buckets of fruit, give these bars a try. Continue reading

lemon + zucchini corncakes

Limón y calabacín, or lemon and zucchini as you may know them, were the flavors of my summer. Working at a Montessori school’s garden all season, we had an overflowing crop of zucchini and lots of time to mess around with new recipes and get creative.

…zucchini ice cream, anyone? ;)

I’ve never been a huge fan of lemon flavor in desserts, but this summer my taste buds must have changed on me. ‘Cause now it’s all I crave. With the help of the Montessori kids who came to work in the garden, we started experimenting with some lemon-rosemary zucchini bread, then progressed to Martha’s lemon-zucchini cornmeal cookies *veganized* (Mom’s faaavorite), and from there I decided to add the tasty combo to my favorite cornmeal pancakes that I posted here last summer.

Fluffy and buttery cornmeal cakes with shreds of bright green zucchini and tangy lemon zest, spread with maple syrup-greek yogurt….. it’s summer bundled up into a little pancake.

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17 pounder

It seems that the fruits of Mom’s garden are all or nothing. Blueberry bushes just won’t grow. Last year the tomato plants were completely overflowing; this year we got about 5. The zucchini is always plentiful but the corn wouldn’t even develop a full ear.

This summer Mom planted a watermelon, and we watched for weeks as it grew bigger and rounder, wondering how we’d know the right time to pick. A few times we researched “signs of a ripe watermelon,” and I stood in the garden listing them off the ipad for her to check. But it never seemed like the right time.

So I had about 3 days left before driving back south for school, and we decided to cave in and harvest this giant green monster. The supposed signs of ripeness still weren’t there but we were tired of waiting. It would either be absolutely perfect or entirely unripe……

…We weighed it, sliced through 17 pounds of melon… and what do ya know, it was perfect.

Perfect as in could not have been better and we must be watermelon harvest experts. That perfect. Vibrant red from the core to the rind, firm and JUICY as melon can be.

It certainly goes along with the all-or-nothing, luck or no luck thing we have going in the garden, but this time we were lucky, and I am grateful. It was juicy blissful deliciousness. And I surely savored those last 3 days at home.

mich