Seasonal Flavors: Cook Like a Gardener

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Photo: Denise Zito

As the gardens reach their peak, I like to create meals around what is ripe and ready.  At least half of each week, I skip the meat and prepare a vegetable meal from that which is available now.

I pay attention to the protein by including eggs, cheese, and nuts, then just harvest and make what’s available.

Early September brings tomatoes and peppers, but here is the plate I created about a month ago:

  • New potatoes, skins left on and mashed with cream and butter
  • Hard boiled eggs from our chickens
  • Coleslaw
  • Boiled beets with feta
  • Yellow beans and butter
  • Kale salad with toasted walnuts

Use your imagination, and if you don’t have a bounteous garden, simply find what’s best at the local grocery or farmers market. I like to have four or five different offerings, to make the plate look festive and guarantee a satisfying meal.

And here’s a little hint I learned this year, the year of the endless pandemic.  If you’re working at home, and the days seem to run into each other, create some ritual to maintain sanity and the sacredness of the evening meal. Here, we go about our business, most of my business now being the garden, but at 5 p.m. we wrap it up, take a shower, put on clean clothes, and head outside with a beverage to enjoy in a shady spot and reflect on the day.

But before doing that, I put on the potatoes and the beets to boil. As soon as they reach the boiling point, I turn off the stove and head outside for happy hour. By the time we come in to finish the meal preparation, the vegetables are cooked perfectly (without the energy of the stove!), and we need to add only the condiments and arrange everything on the dinner plates.  This is my strategy for peace in the pandemic. 

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