Celebrating the Fruits of Our Labor
There is no doubt that summer is here. The sun is high in the sky, the crowds have returned to the beach, and our gardens are beginning to provide those things we dreamt about when sowing their seeds all those weeks ago.
This year, I planted four varieties of tomatoes, four varieties of peppers, and two kinds of basil. A rabbit happily fed on a couple of pepper plants, but luckily it did not touch the hot pepper plants. So presumably, a lot of pico de gallo and salsas will be made in addition to the panzanella salad.
This edition is about food, a topic that I like to talk about. I like to prepare it and I like to share favorite recipes, too. So, in honor of those traditions, here are a couple recipes that highlight the summer fruits of our labor.
Once the tomatoes start ripening, it seems like a never-ending stream. In my youth, I disliked tomatoes. But now they appear regularly in dishes during the summer. Here is an easy recipe that can be used for dipping, topping, in salads, on sandwiches, you name it.
Pico de Gallo
Prepare 2 cups of chopped tomatoes (try to remove the seeds as they will water down the dish). Next, dice some onion, about 3/4 cup. I like to use 1/2 cup chopped cilantro, but parsley is a good substitute—my neighbor has some parsley in their raised planter box, and sharing is caring, I like to say. Mince a couple garlic cloves, and finely dice a jalapeno pepper (with seeds removed). Mix all ingredients; squeeze some fresh lime juice into the bowl, and season with sea salt to taste.
You will probably end up making multiple batches of this recipe because it will fly off the plate as soon as you place it on the table. Pico de gallo helps to brighten any dish, and goes well with chicken, seafood, steak, or just about anything. You can change the flavor profile by using basil instead of cilantro, which is convenient since I have basil bursting in my garden.
Another dish that screams summer to me is panzanella. Think of a bread salad with tomatoes, onions, mozzarella, and basil all tossed in a vinaigrette. It’s super easy and comes together quickly. This could be a light summer meal that satisfies everyone’s palette—especially if they love bread like I do. The reason this dish is flawless is because the bread soaks up all the flavors on the plate and is a perfect vehicle to deliver that taste to your mouth.
Grab a loaf of crusty bread and cube about 6 cups. You will want to drizzle some olive oil on the cubes and season with some salt and pepper. Bake this in a 400-degree oven for close to 10 minutes or until the edges turn golden and crispy. Let them cool while you work on the rest of the dish.
Chop about two pounds of tomatoes into bite-size pieces. Place in large bowl (probably the one you used for the bread cubes). Next, slice about four ounces of mozzarella in the same fashion or use small mozzarella balls cut in half. Add the mozzarella into the bowl with a thinly sliced, small onion, and 1/2 cup of roughly chopped basil.
We’re almost there. Once the bread has cooled, place everything into the bowl and mix all together. Lastly, add a vinaigrette made from 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil, 1/4 cup red wine vinegar, two grated garlic cloves, and salt and pepper to taste. Toss gently and serve immediately. Garnish with more basil.
You can change this recipe by adding your favorite diced vegetables, changing the type of vinegar used, or adding different herbs.
Have fun this summer and enjoy the fruits of your labor from your—or your friend’s—garden. Good food and good friends always equal a good time in my book.
Enjoy the season, and let’s garden together. ▼
Eric W. Wahl is a landscape architect at Pennoni Associates, and President of the Delaware Native Plant Society.
Photo by Shalev Cohen on Unsplash