Sunday, August 26, 2012


Roasted corn on the cob with pesto and butter

The last days of summer are upon us.  The preserving of the harvest of summer vegetables is in full swing.  There is a rush to capture everything at its peak flavor.  In the whirlwind of making and canning sauces, pickles, jams and salsas, everyday meals have to be quick and easy.  A staple sauce that celebrates summer and makes even the humblest of ingredients shine is pesto.  My neighbor is helping me make use of my overabundance of basil by making her favorite pesto recipe.  This is a bright and garlicky delicious pesto that makes summer meals a breeze to pull together.

Garlicky Pesto

5 cups fresh basil leaves, washed dried and tightly packed
1/4 cup chopped parsley (Italian if possible)
3/4 cup olive oil
1 small head of garlic or approximately 6 large cloves or to taste
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan or pecorino cheese

Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and process until a smooth paste forms.  If not using immediately, put into a container (preferably glass) and cover with about 3/4 inch of good olive oil.  Cover tightly and store in the refrigerator or freezer until ready to use.

Serve your pesto by making a quick and elegant pasta dish that is ready in about 15-20 minutes.

Pasta with fresh tomatoes and pesto

1 lb dried pasta
2 extra large, very ripe tomatoes or an equivalent mix of smaller varieties 
1 sweet pepper 
1/2 of a small mild onion (vidalia, walla walla or red) or 2-3 shallots
1/2 cup pesto, plus additional as desired
salt and pepper to taste

Chopped fresh tomatoes, peppers and shallots

While your pasta is cooking, chop the ripe tomatoes to get approximately 2 cups, and put them in a large serving bowl.  Roughly chop a large sweet pepper (I used an Italian variety, but a red, yellow or orange bell pepper would work nicely too).  Chop the onion or shallots and add them to the bowl, then add 1/2 cup of pesto.  When the pasta is cooked, drain it briefly leaving a little of the cooking water (approximately 2 tablespoons).  Put the piping hot pasta and water directly into the bowl on top of the fresh vegetables and pesto.  Toss to coat the pasta and mix in the vegetables.  Season with salt, pepper and add additional pesto to taste.  This is light summer meal that's ready in the amount of time it takes to cook your pasta, and it's elegant enough to serve to company.

A few other yummy uses for your pesto:

Popcorn with pesto butter

Take equal amounts of melted butter and pesto and stir together.  Drizzle over freshly prepared plain popcorn.  Season with salt if desired.  This is also good over a baked potato,

Roasted corn on the cob with pesto and butter (pictured at the top of the post).  

Roast shucked corn on the cob directly on the grill until it is done to your liking.  Sprinkle the cooked corn with smoked paprika, top with dollops of pesto and a pat of butter and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Here's to enjoying the last days of summer.  

Thanks for reading!

Watermelon ripe from the garden

Monday, August 13, 2012

Preserving the harvest

Weekend harvest in preparation for making preserves

Harvesting is still going on in earnest and I have been busy making sauces and jams to capture all of the  bright flavors of summer for the bleak days of winter.  Preserving produce from your garden, farmer's market or grocery store isn't too difficult, it just takes just a few tools, a little time and willing to be creative in the kitchen.  There are recipe for pickles and jams you make in small batches and store in the refrigerator or freezer for preserving and don't require any special tools or equipment.

I made bread and butter pickles using a simple recipe from my very well used, stained copy of Cooking from Quilt Country by Marsha Adams.  I couldn't bear to throw away the leftover pickling liquid so I used it to make a jar of pickled beets.

I also made spaghetti sauce with some of this weekend's harvest from the garden along with the addition of tomatoes that I have been saving until the peppers finally got ripe.

Tomatoes, peppers,onions, eggplant and lots of fresh herbs preparing to roast on the grill.

After about an hour roasting

After roasting, it's not quite as pretty, but all the juices have concentrated and caramelized and it smells divine.  I didn't really use much of a recipe for this, except to use the vegetables that were ripe (tomatoes, sweet peppers, jalapeno, onion and eggplant) and roasted them with a bit of olive oil, fresh garlic and herbs (rosemary, oregano and basil).  I seasoned the entire lot with a little sea salt, balsamic vinegar and raw sugar to taste.  After roasting, I removed the stems from the herbs and everything went into the blender until smooth then into canning jars for processing in a water bath.

While I was in the kitchen, I also made a very simple raspberry preserve adapting a recipe from Put 'em Up! by Sherri Brooks Vinton.  I just adding some rhubarb that I had been saving in the freezer from this spring.

Raspberry jam cooling on the sideboard after a hot water canning bath

After a couple of weekends' work, I've filled one cupboard with pickles, relish, jam and spaghetti sauce preserved from the garden.  We still have plenty of fresh produce to come so I'm looking forward to filling up more of our pantry so I can create cozy meals this winter from the food in jars stocked in the pantry.

The pantry after a few weekends work in the kitchen

If you haven't tried your hand at making preserves before, I hope you will give it a try.  Also check out the Food in Jars website for some inspiration and recipes.

Thanks for reading!

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Garden Harvest and Eggplant Veggie Burgers

Farmhouse Veggie Burger

It has been hectic keeping up with the produce and weeds in the garden during this unrelenting hot, humid weather.  The tomatoes and multiple varieties of green beans have been ripening what seems like all at once.  The cucumbers are still producing and it's always a surprise to find gigantic cucumbers hiding behind a leaf where I swear there was nothing yesterday!

Pesto for the freezer, ketchup and barbecue sauce for the pantry

I've been making sauces and canning whenever I have a spare moment to try to catch the harvest at its peak flavor. The recipes for the ketchup came from Jamie Oliver's At Home cookbook and the bbq sauce recipe came from my very spattered and worn copy of Nathalie Dupree's Matters of Taste.  I know I'll be so happy on a cold winter's evening to open up jars of pesto and roasted tomato sauce and fondly remember the days of summer (the filter of time will have completely erased how swelteringly sticky it really was :o) 

With the first of my eggplant harvest, I decided to make an adaptation of the Farmhouse Veggie Burger,  This is my current favorite veggie burger recipe, and it's the work of culinary art pictured at the top of the post.  The changes I made to the recipe are as follows:

- Instead of sauteing the eggplant, I sliced it with the skin on, brushed it with olive oil and grilled until tender.  I rough chopped the grilled eggplant, leaving the skin on (I like the added texture and color) and continued with the recipe
- added 1 1/2 cups mashed black beans (approx 1 can drained) for added protein and to help it hold together better
- I didn't have any bread crumbs handy so I used 1/2 cup oats plus 1/2 cup whole wheat flour instead
- to make this vegan, you can substitute vegan cheese or nutritional yeast instead of cheddar; smoked cheddar or gouda are also favorites
- to get a nice crust, I coated the patties in course ground cornmeal (polenta) before letting them rest

We piled them high on whole wheat sandwich rolls with fresh tomatoes, red cabbage, lettuce, caramelized onions and pickles and slathered with homemade ketchup or BBQ sauce - yum!  These freeze well if you have extras.  I put mine in the freezer before they have been cooked, but they could be frozen after cooking too.  Even those who don't particularly like eggplant (like both my son and husband) have enjoyed this.  I hope you will give this recipe a try.

Here is some garden eye candy from the last week.


 Italian peppers

 Heirloom tomatoes

Second crop of raspberries coming in

Lone sunflower that survived this year's crazy thunderstorms and the ravage of the squirrels.

Thanks for stopping by!