Feasting on Summer’s Bounty

Gourmet Girl - August 27, 2014

What the heck to do with all that stuff in your garden...

The end of summer is drawing near, a time of year that's also known as “What the heck do I do with all that stuff in my garden?” But worry not. The bounty of ripe tomatoes, zucchini, kitchen herbs and other summer crops that has taken over your vegetable patch and garden beds  are fresh for the picking, and there are dozens of creative ways to prepare them.

This has been a spectacular summer for gardens thanks to all the rain we've had. Near-daily downpours have nourished my garden and the tomatoes, squash blossoms, beans, basil, mint, arugula and buckwheat (great for the soil after it grow and blooms white flowers) have taken off like crazy. But if you don't have your own garden, you can still enjoy heirloom tomatoes in beautiful colors, fresh corn, roasted green chile and more from the Santa Fe Farmers' Market, where the season's harvest is just beginning to come in. Talk to the farmers whose food you buy to find out their favorite way of cooking it, and you might just pick up a recipe that will become a favorite.

There's a vast difference between foods that you grow—or purchase from the farmers who grow it—and the same foods purchased in grocery stores. Store-bought tomatoes have less flavor and aroma, while cherry tomatoes plucked right from the vine and popped in your mouth have an incredibly sweet, juicy and earthy flavor that comes through their in their scent.  Fresh corn on the cob, grilled and rubbed with butter, tastes so much better than corn from the supermarket that's been shipped across the country and sat for days before reaching you. Just rub your hands through your rosemary bush or crush a basil leaf and the aromatics stays with you. Remember their fragrance, then compare that with the refrigerated herbs stored in plastic boxes that barely have a scent.

Take advantage of the food in your garden, or grown by a local farmer. This is the only time of year we can find fresh tomatoes, corn, beans and squash right in our own backyard. And don't worry about the sea of green in your backyard. There are plenty of ways to eat zucchini. You can always share some with your neighbors, or have a zucchini pancake party! Happy Eatin'!

Richard's Tomato Marmalade (From “Artisan Farming: Lessons, Lore and Recipes; Yields 9 jars)

5-6 pounds of vine-ripened tomatoes
6 cups sugar
1 teaspoon salt
3 blood oranges
2 lemons
4 sticks whole cinnamon
2 whole star anise
1 tablespoon whole cloves

Score tomato skins with an “X” at the blossom end and place in boiling water for 15 seconds each to loosen the skin. Put them directly in a large bowl of ice water. Slip the peel off, cut in half and remove seeds and any hard cores. Cut tomatoes into small pieces and place, with juice, in large pot. Add sugar and salt, stirring until dissolved.

Slice oranges and lemons into very thin slices and cut each slice into quarters. Add to put. Put spices in a cheesecloth bag and place in pot. Bring to a rolling boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours, stirring often to avoid scorching, until tomatoes fall apart. When mixture has the consistency of jam, remove from heat and skim off any foam. Remove and discard spice bag.

Note: If you're going to can the marmalade, pour while hot into sterilized canning jars, to about ¼ inch from the top. Wipe the rims of jars with a damp paper towel. Place lids on jars according to directions that come with the boiling water canner.

Zucchini Pancakes (From Ina Garten; Yields 10 pancakes)

2medium zucchini (about 3/4 pound)
2 tablespoons grated red onion
2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten
6 to 8 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Unsalted butter and vegetable oil

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Grate zucchini into a bowl using the large grating side of a box grater. Stir in onion and eggs. Stir in 6 tablespoons of flour, baking powder, salt, and pepper. (If the batter gets too thin from the liquid in the zucchini, add remaining 2 tablespoons of flour.)

Heat a large  saute pan over medium heat and melt 1/2 tablespoon butter and 1/2 tablespoon oil in pan. When butter is hot but not smoking, lower to medium-low heat and drop heaping soup spoons of batter into pan. Cook about 2 minutes per side, until browned.

Place pancakes on a sheet pan and keep warm in oven. Wipe out the pan with a dry paper towel, add more butter and oil to the pan, and continue to fry pancakes until all the batter is used. Pancakes can stay warm in the oven for up to 30 minutes. Serve hot.

This is one of my favorite recipes to make this time of year, using cherry tomatoes and basil straight from my garden.

Summer Pasta

½ cup cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Basil, chopped, to taste
Quality extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
Angel hair pasta
Shredded Parmesan cheese, to taste

Toss tomatoes in large bowl with basil and olive oil and add salt and pepper, to taste. Cover and let marinate at room temperature for 3 to 4 hours.

Cook pasta, drain and toss with tomato mixture. Stir in Parmesan and serve, topped with more shredded Parmesan.