As hard as it is to believe, Labor Day is over and school has started.
I’ve been hearing one common lament from so many friends and family members: “Where did the summer go, how can Labor Day have already come and gone?”
And along with that bit of whining comes the other most commonly heard remark of these past couple of months, “hasn’t it been the most gorgeous summer we’ve had in years?”
Yes, it’s been outstanding, and I don’t want to hear from anyone’s lips that tired old phrase that begins, “but all good things ... .”
In our rather large and extended family, which is heavily laced with Husky fans, there’s one other countdown going on, and that’s the number of days, even hours, until that first game whistle is about to be blown in the new Husky Stadium.
A few football-crazed members of my family have held season tickets to Husky games for more than 30 years, and claim never to have missed a game, which simply amazes me. I don’t admit to them that the beginning of football season to me is simply one more reminder that summer has ended, which is nothing to cheer about.
But if we’re lucky, September will turn itself into an Indian Summer, not unusual in our area, and we’ll continue to bask in the sun beneath those incredibly blue skies of early fall. And of course, everything in our gardens will be going through one last burst of production and ripening, and we’ll be trying to deal with the abundance — feast on it all — before it’s suddenly cut down by that first frost.
The zucchinis don’t know their days are counting down, nor do the tomatoes, green beans, squash, lettuces, peppers, cucumbers; all the things so carefully planted during what seems only a few weeks ago, and some of which are just now reaching their peak. Our fig tree, usually very reluctant to give us more than a handful of figs, has not only showered me with ripe figs, it’s already working on a second crop, and I’m not about to tell it that perhaps it’s being a bit optimistic.
Ten, nine, eight, seven, six ... farewell to August. We’ll be here, waiting for you, same time next year.
So let’s address the happy hassle of trying to enjoy all of the garden-fresh fruits and vegetables available now and, hopefully, for another month and perhaps a bit more. This first recipe makes use of several of your fresh garden vegetables, and is a creamy, vegetarian pasta dish, excellent as the main event with a fresh garden greens salad and garlic bread.
GARDEN FRESH SPECIAL
1 cup fresh green beans, cut into 2-inch pieces
1/2 cup bias-sliced fresh carrots
1 cup fresh asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2-inch pieces
1 cup broccoli or cauliflower florets
12 oz. fettuccine, linguine, vermicelli or spaghetti, whichever you prefer
1 small red pepper and 1 small yellow pepper, cut into bite-size strips
1 small zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced (about 1 cup)
2 T. butter
1 small onion, cut into thin wedges
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup vegetable broth or chicken broth
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 T. flour
1/2 cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
2 green onions, thinly sliced
2 T. snipped fresh basil
In a covered large saucepan, cook beans and carrots in a small amount of boiling water for 8 min. Add asparagus and broccoli or cauliflower and bring back to boiling. Reduce heat, cover and simmer about 5 min. more, or until vegetables are crisp-tender. Drain and set aside.
Meanwhile, in another large saucepan cook the pasta according to package directions, adding the pepper and zucchini for the last 3 min. of cooking (the vegetables should be just crisp-tender). Drain and return mixture to the hot saucepan. Add the first (bean/carrot etc.) mixture to the pasta mixture in the saucepan; cover and keep warm while preparing sauce.
For the sauce, in a med. saucepan melt the butter over med. heat. Add onion and garlic; cook for about 5-6 min., or until tender. Stir in the broth, bring to boiling then reduce heat. In a small bowl stir together the whipping cream and flour, whisking until smooth. Add cream mixture to the broth mixture in the saucepan and cook, stirring, until thickened and bubbly. Stir in Parmesan cheese, green onions and basil. Cook and stir for 1 min. more. Pour the sauce over the pasta and vegetables; toss gently to coat, garnish with a sprinkle of chopped fresh basil, if desired. Serve. Serves 6.
Another easy-to-do delicious fresh vegetable dish can be the main course for vegetarians, or a side dish to go along with grilled chicken or perhaps a salmon fillet.
FRESH VEGETABLE STIR-FRY
2 cups diced peeled eggplant (use whichever type of eggplant you prefer or have in your garden)
1 1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup couscous
2 1/2 T. canola oil
2 1/2 T. red wine vinegar
1 cup peeled diced carrots
1 cup diced zucchini
1 cup diced yellow squash (crookneck or other you have growing)
1 cup broccoli florets
1 cup diced red bell pepper
1/2 cup diced red onion
2-4 cloves garlic, minced
4 T. chopped fresh basil
2 T. chopped fresh mint
2 T. pine nuts, toasted
Toss the eggplant and 1 t. of salt in a bowl; let stand 30 min. Rinse and drain, pat dry.
Bring water and remaining 1/2 t. of salt to boil in a large saucepan. Stir in the couscous, remove from heat, cover, and let stand 10 min. Uncover and fluff with a fork.
Whisk 1 1/2 T. of the oil with the vinegar in a small bowl. Heat remaining 1 T. of oil in a wok or large nonstick skillet over med.-high heat. Add eggplant and carrots; stir-fry 3 min. Add zucchini and next five ingredients; stir-fry until vegetables are crisp-tender; about 2 min. Add couscous and vinegar mixture; stir-fry 1 min. more. Stir in basil and mint. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with pine nuts. Serves 4.
Note: You can exchange some of the vegetables for others you may have in your garden; for example, use sugar snap peas or green beans instead of yellow squash, green pepper instead of red, add 1/2 cup of corn kernels stripped from the cob, etc.