For my class at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden about growing food in tight spaces, I provided some ideas about how to eat what we grow. Here is a list of simple but delicious recipes which make the most out of what is in peak season:
Cool Cucumber Soup - enough for a large jugful
When the cucumbers and July's heat both overhwelm me, I make this quick and refreshing tonic.
3 cucumbers, peeled (if the skin is thick), seeded, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed with salt
3 scallions, white parts chopped
handful of fresh mint leaves
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp sugar (dissolved into the vinegar)
pinch of salt to taste
2 cups thick plain yogurt
Whizz everything in a blender till smooth, chill. Serve from a jug (stir before serving or it may separate). Drink from a glass. Or just sit in it.
Day Lily Bud Quick Pickles
In June and July day lily buds are tender green-beanish treats. I like quick pickles as toppings for tacos and banh mi, or as interesting ingredients in salads.
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1 cup water
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp plus 1tsp sugar
1 stick cinnamon
1 cup closed, pale lily buds
Stir the vinegar, water, salt and sugar to dissolve. Add the spices. Heat in a saucepan till simmering then
cool. Pour mixture over buds, weighing them down with a saucer - leave in the fridge. They are ready after half an hour, and good for several days.
Green Pea Pesto
This is good stirred into a green, spring minestrone, mixed with pasta, or just whisked into a vinaigrette.
1 cup just-cooked green peas (you can use pea shoots, too)
1/4 tsp sugar
2 1/2 oz new white goat cheese
3 sprigs fresh mint
1 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste
Blend the ingredients. That's it.
Potato Salad with Dill and Scallions
This unexpectedly green potato salad is heavy on the vinegar. Don't worry, it works.
2 pounds small red-skinned potatoes, halved
1/4 cup good apple cider vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
copious amounts of black pepper
1/3 cup EV olive oil
1 bunch scallions, cleaned and chopped (greens, too)
1 bunch fresh dill, chopped (yield = 3/4 cup)
Cook the potatoes in boiling water to which you've added some salt. Drain potatoes when just-cooked. Whisk together the vinegar, salt, sugar, pepper and oil. In a large bowl add the dressing to the warm (but not hot - or they will turn to mush) potatoes and stir gently. Add the dill and scallions and mix well.
Go and have a picnic...
Bruschetta, for the tomato glut
Rub a raw garlic clove over toasted sourdough. Top with chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper.
Drizzle with good olive oil. Finish with torn up basil leaves.
After chopping tomatoes for bruschetta or sauce put them in a strainer over a bowl for five minutes. Chill the juice that collects, season with a little salt, and shake up with good gin and lots of ice.
Pan bagna for Two
1 red pepper sliced
1 small cucumber, sliced.
1 clove of garlic, sliced thinly
1/2 a red onion, sliced
1 large tomato,skinned and sliced
4 anchovy filllets, chopped
1 Tbsp chive oil
2 poached eggs
2 fresh white rolls or baguette
Salt the the pepper and cucumber and let them stand for 15 minutes to wilt. Toast the bread and split. Slather with chive oil. Pile on the ingredients plus all their juice. Top with the poached eggs, if you're feeling wild...
Confiture de Vieux Garçon aka Bachelor Jam
A whimsical way to catch summer in a bottle. But it packs a punch. Which is why, in my family, we call this fruit liqueur "It". It made my sister in law slide under a table, as It tasted so innocuous that she overindulged. It is delicious when sipped in cool moderation after dinner. It blends very well in cocktails. It is like red summer, drizzled, over vanilla icecream. It lasts forever.
In an oversized mason jar, layer red and berry summer fruits (e.g.: raspberries, strawberries, blackberries gooseberries, cherries, currants). Sprinkle sugar between layers. How much is up to you - you don't want it sickly sweet. Fill the jar with vodka, brandy or bourbon. Keep lid loosely closed for 3 weeks in a dark place. Strain the liquor and bottle. I add it to mixed drinks, sparkling water, or a fruit dessert. the fruit can bet eaten straight up, with icecream, or baked into pies, or made into jam or jelly.
A variation on classic gazpacho, where a little hot chile bounces off the cool, sweet melon flavour.
3 cups watermelon
1 cup cucumber
½ an onion, chunked
½ a jalapeno, with seeds
1 tsp red wine vinegar
a slurp of olive oil
salt, lots of black pepper
Blend everything. Taste - don't go light on the pepper. Chill thoroughly. You could add a garnish of tiny cubes of salted cucumber.
I am a bit tired of chives by the time September rolls round, and they have grown long and lanky. I know that I will miss them in winter, so preserve their intense greenness this way:
Chop a bunch of chives and blend in batches with good olive oil (if you don't chop them they will clog your blender's blades). Push the chive oil through a strainer. Discard the leaves. Keep refrigerated.
Use raw on sandwiches, on pork roasts, with caramelized onions.
Pork Shoulder with Fennel and Garlic
Crush 1 Tbsp of fennel seeds with 6 cloves of garlic and salt and rub into a slashed pork shoulder (with crackling). Cook at 250’F for 7 hours, with 1 cup lemon juice, 1 cup water. Check periodically to make sure the pan has not dried out. Add a little water if it does. When done the meat is falling apart and your friends are humming with happiness. Also good with crushed, dried chiles added to the rub...
The reason mint was invented. Quantities are up to you. It's personal.
Muddle sugar and mint. Add lime juice and rum. Shake. Top with bubbly water and ice. Sip, think.
3 Anise Chicken, for 4 humans
This is based loosely on Patricia Wells' chicken bouillabaisse recipe from her book, Bistro Cooking.
8 chicken pieces
1 onion, chopped
1 head of garlic, cloves separated
2 heads of fennel, chopped
2 large of many cherry tomatoes
4 sprigs tarragon
¼ cup pernod
1 cup water
salt and pepper
Combine everything, cover. Cook slowly in the oven (350'F) for three hours. Remove the lid for the last 3/4's of an hour for some nice browning to happen. Serve with bread to mop up the creamy sauce.
Now go out and start growing ingredients...