These days Mitch and I are enjoying dinner from our garden.  I’ve been harvesting green beans, Swiss chard, peppers, a few tomatoes and, of course, the ubiquitous zucchini.  I’ve been harvesting lettuce until the last few weeks and I’ve managed to plant a few new starts.  We’ll see how soon they bolt.  Also, I added scallions and pea seeds to my smaller raised bed.  I’m going to plant spinach this week and hopefully red leaf lettuce.  I still need to see if I can grow Tuscan Kale without it being eaten alive by caterpillars and slugs.  I may have to plant 1 or 2 new Swiss Chard, although my present 2 are still going strong.  I am hoping to have fresh produce until the end of October.  We’ll see.

I have my favorite recipes.  For zucchini, I prefer Nigella Lawson’s take on zucchini fritters, with mint and feta cheese.  I love a woman who can jokingly refer to herself as a domestic goddess.  These treats are always a hit at potlucks.  Last year, I tried a Rachel Ray magazine recipe named Chili-Beef-Stuffed Zucchini,  that called for jarred pickled jalapenos, finely chopped.  That was an item I have never purchased before and I had a little trouble tracking them down.  The end result was very spicy!  I’m debating whether I want to try them again.  I didn’t quite use the whole bottle of jalapenos and they went to waste.  I think they are another potluck item.  Rachel Ray magazine also had a yummy recipe for Chicken Salad Piccata, with green beans and potatoes.  It was even good as a cold, leftover lunch.

I’m hoping for my eggplant to produce.  Our garden was smaller this year and mostly in pots in addition to our two raised beds.  I have not gotten any eggplant yet.  I’m one of those people that enjoys the idea of eggplant (it’s such a sensual vegetable) and really likes eggplant parmagiana, but  fails at actually cooking with them.  However, last year I had an abundance of them and I discovered a wonderful recipe for Baba Ghanouj in The New Vegetarian Epicure.   It takes a little time, as Anna Thomas calls for caramelizing the onions, but what a wonderful flavor.  This year  I am only waiting on the eggplant.  If mine don’t start producing I will have to buy some at the farmer’s market.  The other vegetable I am waiting on are the tomatoes.  My Sungold at home has started producing and my paste tomato at my dad’s house has produced 3 tomatoes.  Of course, Early Girl came through with the very first tomatoes.  What I am waiting for is enough to use to make a Tomato Blue Cheese Tart.  This is another potluck or company recipe, as I have a hard time convincing my husband that soup or pie (quiche, tart, frittata, etc.) constitutes a meal.  Speaking of soup, Minestrone is on the menu soon.  There are so many fresh vegetables in that soup that I never seem to have all of them from my garden.  But I will make it at least once this year.  I’m going to include a few recipes at the end of this blog.  If I don’t post the one you’re interested in, you can e-mail me at and I’ll post or send it to you.

Every year I try to plant different tomato varieties to see what produces the best and what tastes the best.  Inevitably I lose the tags or they all ripen at once and when I harvest I don’t keep track of which is which.  Since I only planted  two at home, I’m pretty confident that I will remember that they are SunGold and Momotaru.  There is no mixing up those two, so if I actually get tomatoes on the Momotaru, I will be able to tell you if they are the best-tasting  I have ever had.  However, if you’re like me and you forget or mix up what you grew, then this Saturday’s event is for you.  On Saturday the 20th, we are going to have a tomato tasting.  I’m planning on having 10 or so varieties to sample, so you can see what you like.  Hopefully I’ve picked some that are new to you.  On top of that we are having two classes.  At 11 am Kate is going to teach about fall edible gardening.  You can learn what vegetables you can still plant for fall and winter harvest and when they are ready for harvest.  At 1 pm, Debbie is going to share info on preparing your soil now for spring planting.  Healthy soil truly leads to healthier gardens!  Kate will chime in with some info on cover crops, like crimson clover.  On top of all that, we are collecting donations for Linn Benton Food Share.  Bring in canned and packaged food items or produce from your garden and receive a coupon for 20% off your purchase of regularly priced items on Saturday or Sunday.  Hope you can make it.

Nigella Lawson’s  Zucchini Fritters
4 zucchini (1 1/2 lbs), coarsely grated
5-6 scallions, finely chopped
9 oz feta cheese
small bunch fresh flat-leaved parsley, chopped
small bunch fresh mint, chopped
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon paprika
scant 1 cup flour
salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten
olive oil for pan
3-4 limes to dress plate (optional)

Coarsely grate zucchini in food processor.  Spread over a tea towel and leave to drain for 20 minutes.
Put chopped scallions in bowl and crumble feta in.  Stir in chopped parsley and mint plus dried mint and paprika.  Add the flour and season with salt and pepper to taste.  Gradually add the beaten eggs and mix thoroughly before stirring in the zucchini.  It will be lumpy.
Heat a few tablespoons of olive oil in a pan.  Drop heaped dessert spoons of mix into hot oil.  Smash down with back of spoon.  Cook 2 minutes on each side.  Chop limes and “tumble” around edges.

Chili Beef Stuffed Zucchini (Rachel Ray magazine)
Serves 4
Prep time 10 min
Cook time 25 min

4 zucchini (about 2 pounds), halved lengthwise and seeded
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
3/4 pound ground beef
1 teaspoon ground cumin
Salt and pepper
2 tomatoes, seeded and chopped
1 cup jarred pickled jalapeno chiles, finely chopped
One 8 ounce bag Mexican-style shredded cheese

1.  Preheat the oven to 450 deg.  Arrange the zucchini cut side up in a 9 x 13 inch baking dish.  Add 1/2 cup water to the dish, cover with foil and bake until the zucchini begins to soften, about 15 minutes.
2.  Meanwhile, in a medium skillet, heat the olive oil over medium-high heat.  Add the onion and cook until softened, about 3 minutes.  Add the beef and cumin and cook, breaking the meat up, until jsut browned, about 4 minutes; season with salt and pepper.  stir in the tomatoes and pickled jalapenos.
3.  Uncover the baking dish, pour off the water and season the zucchini with salt.  Fill with the beef mixture and sprinkle the cheese on top.  Bake, uncovered, until the cheese is melted, about 10 minutes.
Baba Ghanouj (The New Vegetarian Epicure-Anna Thomas)

3 pounds firm young eggplants (about 3 medium)
2 medium yellow onions
1/2 head garlic
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 teaspoon salt, more to taste
1 1/2 tablespoons tahine (sesame paste)
3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
pinch of cayenne pepper

Prick the eggplants here and there with a fork, put them on a big baking sheet and roast them in a 400 deg oven until they are charred and collapsed-at least an hour.  Allow them to cool, then split them lengthwise with a sharp knife and scoop out the flesh, first pulling out and discarding any pockets of seeds.

While the eggplants are roasting, chop the onions and peel and mince the garlic.  Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan (I used a well-seasoned cast iron one) and cook the onion and garlic in it with 1/2 teaspoon of salt, stirring often, until they are a deep golden brown-probably at least 45 minutes.  The flavor of the dish depends much on this slow caramelizing of the onion and garlic.

Let it rest 1-2 hours (refrigerate if longer), then taste it and correct the salt and lemon juice if needed.  Serve the Baba Ghanouj in a shallow bowl surrounded by lots of cilantro leaves, and pass toasted pita triangles to dip into it.  If you’re not worried about the fat content, you can drizzle more olive oil on top, but it certainly isn’t necessary.  Serves 6-8 generously.

(Confession-the first time I made it I don’t think I let it rest in the fridge)

Tomato Blue Cheese Tart (Rachel Ray magazine)
4 servings
Prep time 10 min
Cook time 35 min

One 9-inch Pillsbury Just Unroll Refrigerated Pie Crust
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper
8 ounces whole-milk ricotta cheese (about 1 cup)
4 ounces blue cheese, crumbled (about 1 cup)
1 large egg
3 medium vine-ripened tomatoes, thinly sliced

1.  Pre-heat the oven to 400 deg.  Unroll the piecrust and press it into a 9 inch tart pan.  Prick the bottom of the dough all over with a fork, brush with the 1 tablespoon of olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake for 10 minutes.
2.  In a medium bowl, stir together the ricotta, blue cheese and egg until combined. Remove the tart shell from the oven and immediately prick with a fork in a few places.  Spoon the cheese mixture into the tart shell and top with the tomato slices; season with pepper and bake for 25 minutes.  Remove the tart from the oven and let cool slightly.
3.  Cut the tart into wedges and serve with a green salad.

About Brenda Powell

I'm one of the owners of a family-owned retail nursery. I have a degree in horticulture from Oregon State University. I love to garden and read. My technically savvy but horticulturally challenged husband, Mitch, spends most of his time as slave labor in the garden. Thank goodness he adores me! My goal in this blog is to share my enjoyment of gardening, my love of nature, and my addiction to books. Did I mention I like to cook, too?
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