Wednesday, September 2, 2015

In the garden and in the kitchen lately

Kitchen windowsill recently: exit bird stage left, pursued by crazy basil?

Before we left for our London trip back in June, my husband spent some time installing a drip irrigation system for our garden. This has been a huge success in terms of the health of the garden, saving time watering, and also reducing water use. I hate to admit that it comes with a downside, but it is this: when the garden doesn't demand daily attention, and life overall is kind of busy, things in the vegetable patch can easily get a bit out of control.

Fortunately, I rather like a messy garden. I mean, we even have a big crop of volunteer tomatillos this year, how awesome is that?

But it does mean that our intermittent harvests of vegetables tend to have a comical, over-the-top quality. 

The smallish, perfectly spherical tomatoes on the top of this pile are called "Mr. Stripy" -- a variety that I admit I bought on a whim, because of the amusing name, but they've been the summer's standout: sweet, juicy, never mealy, and seemingly immune to the blossom-end rot that has affected some of our other plants.

Sometimes, the best way to deal with such excess is the simplest one: we've been eating a lot of caprese salad, thank goodness it doesn't seem to get old.

With some garlic-rubbed toast and some good olives the plate above made a perfect light dinner (pictured is one person's serving, so don't worry, we're not starving to death over here) on one of those too-hot-to-cook summer evenings.  

Other times I've tweaked a tried and true recipe according to what's on hand. Here's a version of that pasta with marinated mozzarella, chickpeas, and arugula that I posted about this spring -- but with halved cherry tomatoes instead of the chickpeas.

Yes, I'm aware that what I've just offered you is basically caprese salad tossed with pasta -- when I said the combination doesn't seem to get old, I guess I really meant it.

Fresh tomatoes are all well and good, but when it comes to things like five-pound zucchini (oops) and slightly overgrown string beans, these sorts of ingredients need a bit more preparation. So I recently tried my hand at making a proper ratatouille.

Well, sort of proper -- I didn't bother to go buy an eggplant, figuring that the volume of zucchini I had could more than carry the dish. (It could.)

And I didn't have a red bell pepper on hand so I minced up a little bit of mama lil's spicy peppers in oil and added them to the onions and garlic. What I did do was cook the vegetables separately, following the instructions in this recipe (and very loosely following the proportions -- looking at the recipe again, I guess what I've done is substituted green beans for eggplant). I've always been resistant to this technique in the past: is that really necessary? it sounds like a pain in the ass. But, while it was surely more time-consuming than cooking the vegetables together, the extra effort didn't feel too odious. Stirring is meditative, after all, and the pan didn't require constant attention. And I definitely can't argue with the results.

Another idea for using up a similar set of ingredients, equally delicious but with a different mix of flavors: fasolakia, a Greek dish of long-simmered green beans and tomatoes.

To make this I started with this recipe, but the truth is I've changed it so much that I don't think you could get the dish I made by following the recipe at the link. How about you come back tomorrow and I'll type up my version for you?


  1. Gosh, I want to come eat at your house. Some day, I will have a garden like yours.

    1. Well, look us up next time you are in Seattle! :-) I bet you will have a flourishing garden, and sooner than you think. (I'll give you a hint: laziness is underrated -- those nasturtiums and all that arugula are there because I neglected to pull plants out last year and they self-seeded.)