Monday, September 1, 2008

Garden's Blank Canvas yields a Tasty Harvest

5/27/08 Cook’s Corner
Betty Kaiser

Our vegetable garden is finally in full swing, thanks to a combination of exceptionally hot weather followed by cooling rains. A few weeks ago, Chuck, our resident Master Gardener was mostly harvesting crisp lettuce, tasty green onions, two varieties of squash and a host of slugs. It was getting a little boring.

Now that the growing season has finally gotten in gear, we’re bored no more. Every morning Chuck goes out to the garden to pick the daily harvest. We are literally enjoying the fruits of his labor as each day he brings in something to enjoy that wasn’t ripe the day before.

A garden is an unfolding surprise package. It reminds me of a blank canvas before the painter starts his masterpiece. Our goal is to first get the blank canvas. Depending on the weather, we begin early in May to knock down the winter weeds, till, amend and level the soil. Only then can the canvas’ seeds be planted. Then we water, weed (!) and wait.

Slowly, the picture appears, as the seeds begin to germinate. The tomatoes start to flower, turn into tiny green fruit and keep growing until you see the first red blush of ripeness. The green bean vines head for the sun, potatoes and onions sprout, pumpkins stretch out into the flower beds and stubby corn stalks are suddenly 6-feet tall. A beautiful scene to behold.

This season’s new strawberry plants have surprised us with some of the best strawberries that we’ve had in years. They are coreless, red all the way through, juicy and sweet. Our plump thornless marionberries are in their second year and producing about two baskets every other day. We are having berries on our cereal, at lunch with cottage cheese, garnishing slices of cantaloupe and in cobblers.

The FDA recommendation is for us to eat five fruits and vegetables a day. If you’ve been trying to get into a healthy eating routine now is the time to start. Take the “5 A Day” challenge and substitute raw veggies for chips; add fruit to breakfast cereal or yogurt; fix a big green salad for lunch and of course, always have at least one vegetable at dinner.

If you don’t have your own garden, plan one for next year. In the meantime, shop our local produce stands (and if you need squash, call me!). The following mouth watering recipes might even encourage kids to try a bite or two of something outside their comfort zone.

I’ve been making Heloise’s Pickled Beets since the original Heloise published the recipe. You can use either fresh or canned beets. The canned are nice to use in the dead of winter. The onion pie is a bit like quiche and the brown sugar carrots are so yummy that you’ll always eat them that way. And finally, if you like, add other garden veggies (pre-cooked carrots?) to the grilled vegetables. The artichoke hearts add great flavor to all of them. Enjoy!

Sweet Onion Pie

 Pastry for 1-crust pie, prepared
 8 ounces shredded Cheddar cheese
 2 medium sweet onions cut into rings (yellow onions okay)
1 cup finely diced cooked ham
3 eggs
1 cup milk
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon garlic salt
1/2 teaspoon caraway seeds
Garnish with minced fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Line a 9-inch pie plate with prepared pastry; flute edge.

Layer half of the shredded cheese over bottom of pastry. Spread half of the onion rings over cheese. Cover onion rings with remaining shredded cheese and diced ham, alternating with remaining onion rings. In a bowl, beat the milk and eggs; combine the flour, salt, and caraway seeds. Gradually add milk and eggs to the flour mixture, beating with a whisk until smooth. Pour batter over cheese-onion filling. Bake pie at 350° for 55 to 60 minutes, or until firm and lightly browned. Garnish with parsley sprigs or minced fresh parsley, if desired. Serves 6
Heloise’s Pickled Beets

1-1/2 cups beet juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup vinegar
2 tablespoons cornstarch
3 tablespoons catsup
3 tablespoons canola oil
1 teaspoon vanilla
24 whole cloves
3 cups sliced cooked fresh beets or 3 cans drained beets

Heat together all ingredients (except beets) in saucepan, stirring often, until mixture thickens. Add beets and mix thoroughly. Store in refrigerator. Keeps well.

Note: Beets also may be julienned or tiny beets may be left whole.

Brown Sugar Glazed Carrots and Onions

1 pound carrots peeled and cut into ½ inch slices
1 package (16 ounce) frozen whole white onions
1/3 cup butter
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
½ teaspoon salt

Place carrots in saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil and simmer 10 minutes. Add onions. Cover and cook 5 minutes longer or just until tender. Drain. Add butter and spices. Cook over medium heat 5 minutes, stirring until vegetables are glazed. Makes 4 cups.

Grilled Vegetable Medley (with dill)

1 jar marinated artichoke hearts (6-ounces)
3 medium tomatoes, quartered
2 small zucchini, sliced into ½-inch pieces
2 small yellow squash, sliced into ½-inch pieces
1 tablespoon fresh dill or 2 teaspoons dried dill weed
2 tablespoons lemon juice
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon sugar

Mix all ingredients together including artichoke marinade.
To grill, wrap in double thickness heavy-duty foil. Grill for 10-15 minutes or until desired doneness.
To cook on range top, simmer in skillet until tender, about 10 minutes.

Keep it simple and keep it seasonal! 
Betty Kaiser’s Cook’s Corner is dedicated to sharing a variety of recipes 
that are delicious, family oriented and easy to prepare.

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