The luscious excess of the summer garden

The luscious excess of the summer garden
Breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus desert.

We have been experimenting with a few new ways of dealing with our excesses from the garden. We have our favourites that we love to cook every season with all the usual suspects as they front up in quantity. It’s just amazing how much I look forward to that first tomato of the season to get ripe enough to pick and eat, right there in the garden. It truly explodes in the mouth with sweet, acidity. Such a flavour. Then all those vitamins that I am obviously in need of, because I crave that first tomato so much. Just brushing the leaves of the tomato plants while weeding is nostalgic and gives me the Pablov’s Dog reaction. i can’t wait.  I’m craving a fresh tomato after 6 months without having any. However, after a month of tomatoes with everything, I seem to have enough of the vitamins and minerals that tomatoes offer, and they lose some of their charm. They are still fantastically delicious, but there is no longer any urgency to eat them. They just become part of the menu landscape. In fact, so much so, that while I’m weeding and watering the plants, I try to avoid brushing the leaves, as the smell is no longer appetising, but slightly off-putting even. What is this reaction? How does it work? My body is telling me what I need to eat and when I’ve had enough. Time to move on, try something different.

The same can be said for zucchinis, capsicum and aubergines as well I suppose, but not with the same urgency.

After we have cooked and eaten all the usual favourite dishes a few times, we start to consider other ways of thinking about what we have and how we can be creative with it.

Breakfast of stewed fruit and yoghurt. Today its blood plums or fresh prunes.
It’s always interesting to see what other people have found to do with summer vegetables. The following recipe is from Andrew McConnel, from his page in the recently launched “The Saturday Paper” This is a new Australian newspaper launched by Morry Schwartz this time last year. We were foundation subscribers, as I have been to ’The Quatertly Essay’ and the ‘The Monthly’. I think that it’s important to support creative ventures, and anything that may help to subvert the dominant paradigm can’t be a bad thing. The recipe for Zucchini salad is from the 7th of Feb issue.
Zucchini Salad and ricotta
The lovely made some fresh ricotta and served it with a few thinly sliced zucchinis. This is a lovely fresh salad of thinly sliced raw zucchinis. Slice the zuchs and season with pepper (plus salt if you use it), then dress with some torn basil leaves and lemon zest, + its juice and some olive oil. Evenly spread the fresh warm ricotta over the top in little lumps and a few lightly roasted pine nuts.
After making the ricotta, there is a lot of whey still left over. This is good to feed to the chickens or a pig – if you happen to be fattening one up at the time, or to make a batch of scones?. Ms ‘one brick’ Einstein has a brilliant idea and decides to make a whey pudding by adding a little bit of vanilla bean paste, some sugar and a little gelatine to the warm whey. It sets in the fridge to a jelly that is surprisingly good as a breakfast or dessert option.
Lightly steamed capsicums and garlic served warm and topped with fresh ricotta
Sliced, fresh warm tomatoes picked straight from the garden 5 minutes earlier and served on a bed of oak leaf lettuce.
Mixed small tomatoes, finely sliced fresh red onion and grated zucchini salad, served with crispy toasted seeds,(sunflower and pumpkin) dressed with lemon juice. This salad will be going on our list of ‘must do more often’. Really nice mix of flavours and textures.
Served with cold potatoes cheese, fresh basil pesto and green leaves.
Zucchini fritters. Grate a few small young zucchinis and mix with a little flour and an egg, season with salt and pepper, some coriander leaves, parsley, a hint of chilli and finely chopped shallots. Fry in a little olive oil till golden on both sides.
Mixed summer veggie fritters. Grate zucchinis with mashed, steamed and cooled, waxy potatoes, sweet corn nibblets, sliced, steamed French beans, finely chopped capsicum, parsley and Thai basil. Mix with egg and flour and fry in a shallow pan with some extra virgin olive oil. Season to taste.
Baked capsicums stuffed with ricotta mixed with olive, garlic and dried tomato tepinade. roasted beetroot dip, grated zucchinis with lemon juice and pepper, sweet corn on the cob, fresh capsicum and cold potato with tomatoes and olives.
Lightly steamed french beans served with home-made spicy tomato passata. We also have beans like this served in yoghurt with garlic.
Baked, marinated ocean trout fragments with udon noodles and seasonal veggies. Marinate the fish in some soy, ginger, olive oil and lemon juice for a few hours. Steam, bake or Pan fry the fish in it’s marinade. Meanwhile, boil the udon buckwheat noodles and steam the fresh veggies, beans, broccoli, colli, zucchini chunks, whatever is at hand on the day. Toss the veggies through the drained noodles and serve with a few torn-up fresh Shiso leaves on the side and dress with a mix of mirin, sesame seed oil and meso.
Baked mediterranean vegetables with cumin, Roughly chop up what ever is in the garden by way of Mediterranean vegetables. Zucchinis, tomatoes, beans, aubergines, onion etc. pour a little olive oil into the baking dish and rub it through all the vegetables with your hands. sprinkle some cumin over it and bake in a moderate oven till tender. This is a Nigel Slater recipe that The Lovely has transposed to suit what we have. The cumin isn’t something that I would have thought of, but it works and is really nice. It’s no longer a ratatouille sort of dish, and is suddenly transported to another continent.
Ratatouille variations. Slice egg-plant, tomatoes, capsicums and onions liberally sprinkled with mashed garlic and plenty of torn basil leaves. Pour over a jar of home-made passata, sugo sauce and bake in a moderate oven for half an hour or so. Crush a few more cloves of fresh garlic and sprinkle over the top before serving. It’s tangy and gorgeous.
Serve with some chopped parsley and a little grated parmigiano.
Summer vegetable frittata. Brown some onions and garlic in olive oil, add in chopped tomato, aubergine, capsicum, french beans, zucchini and cold steamed potato slices. Pour over the whisked eggs and grate cheese on top. cook for a few minutes on the stove top and then transfer to the grill. Best to use a flat flan pan or very shallow fry pan for this dish. One with a metal handle that can go under the grill. Grill till the cheese turns golden.
Serve with chunky zucchini steamed with fresh mint leaves. It’s just another way of using up more of the buggers.
Serve with a grating of fresh pepper.
Almond friand cake embedded with slices of fresh pear and topped with local pecans
Poached pears with amaretto and served with greek yoghurt
Quinces poached in fresh pressed red grape juice.
Peel and core the quinces, place in a large baking pan cover with fresh pressed red grape juice and slow cook for at least 4 hours in a slow oven, untill they soften and turn red.
We are not fooling ourselves. There isn’t anything new here. This isn’t fancy food. It’s just simple honest Post Modern Peasant food picked from our garden and cooked within hours, if not minutes of harvest. A good percentage of it is even eaten raw in the garden while we are harvesting. Nothing could be fresher or more wholesome.  Nearly everything on these plates is home-grown and home-made – even the plates.
Best wishes from two well-fed potters