Thursday, August 2, 2007

The High Summer Garden

Summer is at its apex right now and our summer gardening is pumping out the veggies. We're cooking when it's not too steamy and giving away produce to our friends, doctor and bookstore neighbors, so this is a fun time. I like to grow colorful vegetables: Royal Burgundy string beans (they are easy to pick because they are deep purple, though they magically turn green after cooking), yellow, orange and red tomatoes, purple and green basil and summer squashes of various hues. I grew a new kind of zucchini this year, Costata Romanesco, from the always reliable Johnny's Selected Seeds catalogue. I figure that if vegetables can grow in Maine, they will grow in my Zone 4 garden. However beautiful this sculptural, ribbed zucchini is, it is a little off-putting when you pick it, because the blossom end doesn't really seal off into a cute little navel but remains juicy and slimy. I think I will go back to the darker, plain old zucchini varieties next year.

We've had various vegetable sautes in recent weeks featuring this rainbow bounty. I offer a skeleton recipe which can involve many vegetable variations. Prepare as your kitchen garden, farmer's market or local supermarket allows:

Vegetable Saute

1. Heat olive oil in pan.

2. Throw in chopped garlic and stir 1 minute. Don't use high heat, or garlic will burn and turn bitter.

3. Add chopped onions and saute until softened.

4. Add hard vegetables (string beans, zucchini, patty pan squash, peppers, carrots, celery, etc.). Saute until softened.

5. Add chopped tomatoes and any other liquid you might like (vegetable broth, wine, tomato juice). Bring to boil and then cover and simmer until vegetables are softened to your taste.

6. Season with salt, pepper, chopped fresh herbs and any other seasonings you prefer. Grated cheese is wonderful served on top too.

Always a winner!

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