In this season of abundance we have been finding great joy in seeing just how much we can base each meal in food grown here in our own earth. It has been an experiment of wonderful satisfaction and fulfillment…not to mention excellent nutrition! And we have been eating like kings! The kind of kings that grow, pick, and prepare their own food…but kings nonetheless!
Each day we venture out into the garden to tend and harvest. In this late August time it is becoming quite the jungle. More than once a little one has found themselves hopelessly trapped by the prickly vines of an extremely overzealous squash patch. (Check out that squash craziness below!)
As I plan my meals for the day my mental calculations are not of what I have in the cupboards to work with…but what I have ripe in the garden to work with…and we go from there. (During the school year I like to plan out my meals for the week, but in the summertime I find us living much more day to day…it is a refreshing break, and makes us all the more ready for the weekly meal plans that come back in the fall!) With the overwhelming abundance in the garden right now there is no end to the delicious meal possibilities. Lately we have been thoroughly enjoying a meal of corn on the cob, swiss chard salad, and tomato and pesto sandwiches. We are not vegetarians, though we eat very little meat, and this one of our favorite all-veggie meals of the summer.
In this heat the swiss chard needs to be picked quite young before it “bolts” and turns bitter (and yucky!). Though the most common way to eat swiss chard is cooked in some way we find we love it best fresh in a salad. For this salad I tore up the swiss chard in bite size pieces, added chopped cucumbers and tomatoes and a bit basil on top. (I believe that I am in serious danger of becoming hopelessly addicted to basil…it simply intoxicatingly fragrant and savory…oh sweet basil!) I served the salad in a favorite pie plate with poppy seed dressing. This poppy seed dressing is one I discovered and tried on a whim earlier this summer. It’s genius. Absolutely delicious and super easy to make.
Poppy Seed Dressing
Mix together in a blender:
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup white vinegar
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1 teaspoon onion (grated)
Add the following ingredients while the blender is running:
1 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds
Makes about 2 cups.
Tomato sandwiches are something I look forward to all year….thoroughly enjoy all during tomato season…then look forward to again the following year! Don’t be alarmed if you are a bit apprehensive of a tomato sandwich. My own husband hadn’t tried one (I think mainly out of bewilderment and fear!) until this summer. He eats them all the time now!
This is a sandwich that is definitely open to interpretation and personal variations…but this is how we like them. Lightly toast two slices of homemade bread….like this one. (You don’t have to use homemade bread but if you’re choosing a store bread be sure it has some substance…this sandwich will not work with a “wonder bread” type loaf.) So… on one of your lightly toasted bread slices spread a bit of mayonnaise and on the other a layer of fresh basil pesto. Place a ~3/4 inch slice of tomato on the bread, sprinkle with salt, cover with the other slice of bread, and enjoy! I love it when the tomatoes get so huge that the slice extends past the edges of the bread! Tomato season is heavenly! Pesto on the tomato sandwiches is a new development this year as we tried pesto on just about anything it is just so delicious. (Previously we just spread mayo on both slices of bread.)
Fresh pesto can be made with a very wide variety of greens and nuts. Though fresh basil and pine nuts is the most common, I also love mint and almonds. And to be honest I most often use walnuts in place of pine nuts in basil pesto as it is what I commonly have on hand. Pesto is very much a “to taste” sort of recipe and can be adjusted in infinite ways to suite your tastes. This is the basic recipe that I use. I actually don’t have a food processor so use a blender…which is much harder and more tedious. I dream of food processor pesto making!
2 cups basil (or any green…packed)
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
1/2 cup olive oil
1/3 cup nuts (chopped very fine if you’re using a blender!)
3 medium garlic cloves
salt & pepper to taste
Combine basis and pine nuts in a food processor. (If you are using walnuts pulse them a few times on their own before adding the basil.) Add the garlic and pulse a few more times.
Slowly add the olive oil in a constant stream while the food processor is on. Stop to scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula as needed. Add the grated cheese and pulse again until blended. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.
Makes approx. 1 cup.
Though I love so many times of year and what the bring…I do believe that I love this “harvest” season best of all. Today’s harvest season adventure…picking a wild abundance of tomatoes and canning them up as juice, soup, and stewed tomatoes. Ah…the joys of the earth.