Garden fresh

There are so many things to love about summer:  the abundance of green–and, likewise, the distinct absence of that white crap that hung around for, like, ever; sunshine; baseball; garden-fresh produce; farmers markets featuring said produce, along with beautiful blooms, artisan cheeses, and other fabulous, funky eats and treats; baseball; lounging on the deck with a cold beer; and, have I mentioned yet, baseball? 

Perhaps my favorite thing about summer is the food.  And, no, not just the ballpark food. 😉 

I love that, in the summer, dinner possibilities are endless and practically effortless.  Our meals are fresh and tasty–and probably healthier because the fridge is practically bursting with fresh veggies, and what’s not in the fridge can be found just outside the back door! 

Tomatoes, peppers, onions, greens and herbs in pots on the deck

 

The bonus?  I find that my kids are much more likely to eat their meals when the meals feature veggies from our own backyard.  

Cucumbers:  The kids are pretty crazy about cucumbers anyway, but if there’s a bowl of fresh cukes from the garden on the table, I think they eat twice as much. 

Greens:  What kid won’t eat something dipped in ranch dressing? While mine will nibble on a single leaf of lettuce from the grocery store, they’ll eat an entire bowl if the tender greens were harvested from our own garden. 

Tomatoes:  My son pops tomatoes like they’re grapes, so long as they’re fresh off the vine. And they seem to taste even better if he picked them himself! 

Beans:  The kids will eats second, and even thirds, of beans picked from our very own plants. 

So, one evening last week, our dinner featured these garden green beans 

Batch 1

 

with sides of sweet corn and barbequed chicken. 

Green beans with bacon, sweet corn with a side of herbed butter, BBQ chicken

  

I prepped the green beans using my favorite method for cooking fresh veggies:  adding bacon. 

Okay, just kidding!  

Sort of. 

My favorite method for cooking veggies comes from Pam Anderson’s How to Cook Without a Book.  Her steam-sauté technique is fantastic and practically foolproof.  I have yet to meet a vegetable that doesn’t adapt well to the method. 

The basic idea is this:  Drizzle some oil in the bottom of the pan; add your veggies and about 2 tablespoons of water; salt the veggies (it’ll brighten the color and flavor!) and add onion or garlic, if desired; cover and crank the heat to high.  Set the timer for six to eight minutes, depending on the quantity (and tenderness) of the veggies.  The water will come to a boil and steam the veggies. After the steam session, remove the lid and sauté until the water evaporates and the veggies brown just a bit. 

 

Mmm, delish! 

Finish with a dash of salt, a few grinds of pepper, and a little squeeze of lemon (to brighten any green veggie).  

Or forgo the additional salt, and throw in some bacon! 

The end! 

Two thumbs up! Must have been good if it's all gone!

Potato soup, sans potatoes

Well, not really “sans.” But there certainly were not enough potatoes to warrant it being called “Potato” Soup. 

I’d dreamt of it all day:  rich and creamy mashed Yukons, half and half, warm, mmmm.  I was even going to break out The Bacon.  And I still had leftover ham from Christmas.  In efforts to be as bold in the kitchen as my brother, I was even planning to puree that ham!  It all came together in my head–I could practically taste that cream, salty, smoky bowl of heavenly potato soup….

And then.  Then I get home, start pulling stuff out of the fridge and cupboards, open the cupboard to grab the potatoes and am hit with a sense of dread.  Oh, no I didn’t, did I?  Did I really use all of the potatoes last time I reached into this cupboard??  Please, no, tell me my memory is failing me!…

Sho ’nuff.  All I find are two rinky dink Yukon golds.  Two.  Even Jesus may have had trouble making those two potatoes serve my small crowd.

Alright, time to improvise.  I have a large stalk of broccoli, about 7 pounds of carrots, and cheese.  Got it!  California medley-ish soup with the pureed potato/bacon/broth concoction as the thickener.  And cheese.  Ready, set, go.

Cooked The Bacon in a bit of oil.  (Why?!  I dunno…)  Removed the slices, then sauteed some onion, celery, garlic.  Added potatoes, tossed ’em around.  Added stock, boiled till taters were tender.  Removed that lovely concoction and let it cool a bit.

Added more stock to the pan, along with some sliced carrots.  Boiled a bit, then added the chopped broccoli (wished later that I’d chopped it smaller–now I know). 

Pureed the potato concoction, along some ham.

Stirred the veggies and stock.  Panicked a bit when I realized and yelped, “I forgot to add The Bacon!”  Husband graciously volunteered to run the boat motor and puree The Bacon into the Potato Stuff.

Stirred the Stuff into the veggies.  Wasn’t the consistency I was aiming for so added a little slurry.  Meh, close but not there.  But didn’t care so much because by now we were all starving.  Added some shredded cheddar and a bit of parsley.

O.M.G.  Veggies–they were the centerpiece and made it seem so much more wholesome and not totally a dinner indulgence.  Creamy–even the two rinky dink potatoes made their special contribution. Smoky– The Bacon added an irreplaceable dimension. 

I would totally make this again.

You know, if it were possible to recreate something you totally made up on the fly and have it taste the same a second time around.