Sunday, July 22, 2012

Gifts from the Garden

    My backyard garden is overflowing with an amazing bounty of tomatoes, squash, peppers, and cucumbers thanks to this unbearable heat wave. Surprisingly, I still manage to get out there daily to weed and pick and admire. My tomato plants are so heavy with juicy ripe fruit I am forever retying them. Note to self: Must get cages next year. These wooden steaks do nothing.

   My patty pan squash are now green. I have no idea why. Did I plant them too close to the cucumbers and the zucchini? I haven't the fainest clue but they still taste great sliced thin with a little olive oil, salt and pepper and then tossed on the grill. I use a grill pan for these guys so they don't fall through. I cook them until they are soft and have a nice golden color on them. The patty pan are mild in flavor so they go great with any grilled meat. Last night we paired the squash with Hoisin barbecued chicken thighs. Yum!

One of the joys I am experiencing are with my tomatoes. We have sooooo many tomatoes we started giving them away to neighbors. We have a few who have lost their spouses recently and it was heartwarming to see their eyes light up when we stopped over with a sample of our backyard harvest for them. One neighbor, in return for the tomatoes, brought us bags of fresh fruit from their job at a produce warehouse. We decided to whip up some lemonade using the 20 lemons he gave us and invited him in. Not only do we have a neighbor to trade goodies with, but we also made some new friends right across the street. We invited some more people over for my special lemonade cocktails and if they brought a baggie, they could load it up with stuff from the garden. I also am trading veggies with other friends as well who are growing fresh garlic and shallots. It is a blessing and a joy to be able to give and share these gifts from my garden.

     Rob is enjoying tomato sandwiches with salt, pepper, and a little Hellman's mayo while I prefer to slice mine atop a nice grilled flat bread. Forget the mayo, I spread on a nice layer of ricotta cheese on my flat bread, add the tomatoes and some fresh basil before broiling it. This weekend I plan on stuffing some of these big boys with tuna or chicken salad!

     My friend Sue made these cool little caprese kabobs using my grape tomatoes. She just speared them with a toothpick in between slices of fresh mozzerella and basil and drizzled a little balsamic vinegar and olive oil. This makes for a yummy and easy party food or a fun and light summer snack! Caprese is a salad from the isle of Capri and consists of anything made up of fresh mozzerella, basil, and tomato. Try this summery combo on a grilled baguette for a meatless but filling sandwich.

     The cucumber salads have finally stopped but I have been dipping my tasty cukes and grape tomatoes in hummus or tzatziki sauce for a healthy snack. For homemade tzatziki, just mix some fat free plain Greek yogurt (a must-have staple in my kitchen) with fresh or dried dill, freshly ground pepper, salt, lemon juice, and minced garlic. You can also dice up some cucumbers and throw them in there too but toss some salt on them and allow the water to drain from the cucumbers first. This will prevent the sauce from getting too watery. Put the sauce on some grilled chicken and place in a pita with a slice of tomato and some diced cucumbers for an easy homemade chicken gyro. Iron Chef Michael Symon's tzatziki sauce and gyro recipe look pretty banging too.

I am starting to get tired of my usual sauteed zucchini, so I am going to experiment with some of the stuff I have "pinned" on Pinterest recently. The zucchini fries or fritters are both tasty little items I am going to be cooking up soon! My mother-in-law made a fantastic zucchini bread for us down the shore last weekend. I am going to have to bring her more goodies from the garden in order to get that recipe.

    I have been blessed by this amazing garden in my backyard. It is really something to come home after a long day of summer school, crack open a beer, and just beam at the sight of new veggies popping up everywhere. I have been able to share my harvest with so many friends, family, and neighbors. Who knew something growing from the ground could bring people together.

For any of these mouthwatering, garden fresh recipes, click on the highlighted words.

Taste and see that the LORD is good. Oh, the joys of those who take refuge in him! -Psalm 34:8

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