One summer, when I was young, my grandmother planted two zucchini plants. I showed up one day to find her exhausted, sitting in her kitchen chair, staring at rows upon rows of glass jars.
"It just won’t stop! Every day I go out there and pick all that I can see and the next day there are a dozen more the size of my arm!"
She spent that summer picking and canning every single zucchini amounting to a grand total of 120 pints of zucchini relish, 20 pints of zucchini pickles, and 12 loaves of zucchini bread. I know, she was a machine!
This year my garden has blessed us with an almost never ending bounty. Every morning I harvest every vegetable I can find, yet the next morning I come across a half dozen more that I had over looked. So what do I do with this overflowing horn of plenty ? Well, I believe the correct term, in the parlance of our time, is "get a little crazy".
Zucchini and squash have become the “Beige” of the gourd family. They are so common in today’s markets, with their year round availability; most people don't even notice them anymore. But in our garden they take center stage on this fun and exciting dish for summer, “Garden Fettuccine” with goat cheese and roasted tomatoes.
We sliced the squash and zucchini on the mandolin for perfectly uniform "noodles", then sautéed them in extra virgin olive oil, salt and fresh cracked black pepper. The noodles were then tossed with a sauce made from fresh vegetable stock, white wine, thyme, garlic, shallot, red chili flake and fresh lemon zest. When plating, we positioned them side by side then brought the colorful duo together with a goat cheese medallion topped with hot roasted cherry tomatoes straight from the garden. The combination of textures and flavors were outstanding, the goat cheese medallion acted like an egg yolk melting into the noodles creating a silky smooth sauce. The earthy notes of thyme paired with garlic and shallot danced ever so delicately with the acid of the white wine and lemon zest all set off with the slight lingering heat of the red chili flakes. Perfect for these hot days of summer.
But what summer plate up would be complete without something from the grill? Well I couldn't agree with you more, so here is our new summer classic; grilled patty pan squash topped with Lebanese eggplant with basil and fresh tomatoes, goat cheese and shaved parmesan. The patty pan squashes we are growing grew a little bit bigger than we ever anticipated. But with their size they never lost the sweet squash flavor only to be accentuated by the intense heat of the grill. The eggplant was made using Ichiban Japanese eggplants freshly picked from the garden, mixed with sautéed mushrooms, onions, garlic, fresh tomatoes, brown sugar and fresh basil. The combination of sweet and savory, herbal and cheesy, perfectly played with the sweet and savory crunch of the grilled patty pan.
But, I would be remiss if I did not discuss my lost favorite, okra. Okra has been a favorite vegetable of mine ever since Lamberts Cafe doled them out by the buckets to me while I waited to catch a hot “throwed” roll. But this noble plant of African origin deserves so much more than just a quick batter and fry. No this glorious pod deserves its time in the lime light, a chance to be more than another fried snack at the forgotten foods buffet. So we created this treat, roasted red okra spoon bread! Roasting the okra pods brings out all of the wonderful herbal aromas and nutty flavors of the plant while eliminating the slime so feared by okraphobics. The pods were then diced and stirred into a soft spoon bread batter made with rich vegetable stock, shaved parmesan and roasted grape tomatoes for an added sweet pairing. The spoon bread was then baked to a golden hue; A perfect side dish for any southern dining experience.
This year our garden is growing inspiration, all we have to do is keep up with the harvest…and, stayed “Inspired”.
Stay tuned for more inspired dishes from Lon Lane's Inspired Occasions Research and Development Department!