Easy recipes can help you enjoy fruits of the garden

     As our “survival foods” — veggies that survived the early flooding and then the heat — become harvestable, we frequently comment that we are “eating out,” defined as eating on the deck, or that we are “eating with friends,” defined as eating a meal made up of produce shared by friends.“Eating out” is a practice we enjoy daily, if possible. Meals, coffee breaks, moments of quiet on the deck to watch a magnificent magenta sunset are a vital extension of the August garden experience.

“Eating with friends” is a practice that follows gardening friend Brad Morgan’s dictum that growers should eat what they have. That promotes kitchen creativity, spurred by zucchini-induced panic to find yet another way to prepare the zukes, or whatever is currently in abundance.

Our solution is to grow plants that can be eaten both cooked and raw in almost any stage of development. Basil and parsley can be used fresh, in cooked foods and frozen. We eat spinach when it is young and tender, using it up long before it is “mature.” Swiss chard is another favorite eaten raw in salads, slightly steamed with butter or a light vinegar or, if harvested and frozen when it is too mature for a salad, as a green in winter soups.

Several evenings ago, we “ate with friends” as I pointed out to LeRoy the beans, the kohlrabi, the lettuce and the radishes — all of which came from friends — and the onions, Swiss chard and eggs from us.

Eating from the garden in August also carries the mandate to keep the preparation of the meal simple, inexpensive and fast.

Having access to cooking-from-the-garden cookbooks helps. The Victory Garden Cookbook by Marian Morash is excellent and available from online sources. Also exceptional are Renee Shepherd’s two cookbooks, “Recipes from a Kitchen Garden” and “More Recipes from a Kitchen Garden,” available from her website.

Although I am a mediocre cook at best, I am interested in finding tasty, simple, inexpensive ways to prepare the garden harvest.

We enjoyed a summer pasta salad (served at room temperature) that featured hand-crushed ripe tomatoes mixed with a bit of olive oil, pressed garlic to taste (we like lots), a handful of freshly picked and ripped or cut basil leaves, and a small round of room-temperature brie cheese cut into small pieces. Add a bit of sea salt, some freshly ground pepper and adjourn to the deck for some classy “eating out.”

We also discovered a fine cold summer soup in New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant (1987), a book also available online. It features a chopped potato  or two cooked in chicken or vegetable broth, the mandatory chopped and sautéed onions and wilted spinach (or young radish tops or young Swiss chard).

Basically, the greens, broth and potatoes are blended into a lovely pale green puree.

Add milk, yogurt (or if you want to throw caution to the wind — cream), salt, pepper and dill, then chill.

There you have it: words to live by. Eat out(side). Eat with friends’ (extra vegetables). Eat what you have — and be grateful.  

Cathie Draine


Summer Food in Wintry February


16 Popular Foods You Didn’t Know You Could Freeze

1. Garlic – You can freeze whole garlic, garlic cloves or chopped fresh garlic. Frozen garlic does lose some of its texture, but the flavor remains intact.

2. Corn – You can freeze fresh-picked corn on the cob for up to one year. Pack it in freezer bags — husk and silk and all. For store-bought corn, husk and blanch it before freezing.

3. Avocados – The bad news is that frozen avocados lose their consistency. The good news is that they do not lose their taste, so you can use them for guacamole or dressing. Wash and halve them before peeling. Freeze as halves, or puree them with lime or lemon juice and then store for up to eight months.

4. Mushrooms — You can freeze raw button, creminis and portabellas mushrooms for later use. Chop and slice mushrooms and then spread them on a cookie sheet. Freeze. Then transfer the pieces to bags or containers.

5. Onion – You can save chopping time – and tears – by freezing onion for cooking later. Store peeled, chopped onion in plastic freezer bags. The best part is you can just toss them into your recipes without thawing them first.

6. Hummus – Scoop your fresh hummus into plastic containers. Then drizzle a thin layer of olive oil on the top to keep it from drying out. Thaw in the refrigerator for 24 hours before mixing and serving.

more such winter gardening from Off the Grid News