Monday, August 3, 2009

Cukes and Zucks

This is my favorite time of year. The garden is full of summer veggies, and the hearty fall crop is coming in. The golden rods and asters, some of the last wildflowers to bloom for the summer, are abundant, and the first of the blackberries are starting to ripen. There are green beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, summer squash and zucchini to harvest. The pumpkins are dark green giants that hide under large, tender foliage. The Swiss chard and beets are just getting big enough to no longer be called "baby".

This year is no different then others, except that the gardens are ungainly and out of control with weeds!! Last year we mulched many crops with hay, but decided against it this year because we didn't want the grass seed that comes along with it. I wish we had done it anyway. It was so hard to get into the garden this spring/summer to weed, and it was difficult to cultivate as the mud made it virtually impossible. So... excuses, excuses. Needless to say I will be mulching next year, grass seed or no grass seed. Lesson learned. Also, there will be an abounds of mulch hay, as that is all Richard will be able to harvest this year... what a waste.

The tomatoes are starting to ripen, only 2 weeks later than last year. The first heirloom to ripen was Black Krim... it is definitely a keeper!! Now, any fresh tomato tastes divine this time of year, but that tomato was smooth, slightly sweet, and had a tender skin.. yum yum! We tried Prudens Purple last year and were very VERY unimpressed. Our hands are always stained black this time of year because we are constantly in the tomato greenhouse, pruning branches, tying them up, and taste tasting the new varieties as they come ripe! This is an heirloom variety called muskovitch harvested today, slightly under ripe, but still beautiful!

Today we harvested beans for the first time this year. We planted three successions of two types of green beans, Provider and Tasty Jade. We harvested about 20 pounds, and are expecting to harvest about the same on Wednesday. We still haven't finished our dilly beans from last year, but we'll put some more up for this winter. Also, we just got a used vacuum packer, so we will wash up some beans and pack them with butter, salt and pepper, so all we have to do is throw the package in the microwave on a cold winter evening meal. My mom thought of that, she's such a clever lady!

Here are two quick, cool recipes for a hot summer afternoon. They would even be pretty good served together!

Gazpacho is a wonderful tomato and cucumber soup that is served chilled. It is very refreshing on a hot summer day. When I make this soup, I leave the seeds in the cucumbers and the tomatoes whole. There are a lot of vitamins in the seeds!! It also saves some time.
3 large cucumbers, peeled and seeded
3 large tomatoes, peeled and seeded
1 bell pepper
1 tablespoon minced garlic
Juice and grated zest of 2 lemons
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon Sour Cream Topping (as garnish)
1/4 cup sour cream
Juice and grated zest of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Put all ingredients in soup recipe in a blender. Blend until smooth. Transfer to a large container with a cover and chill until serving time. For topping, place the sour cream, lemon juice, zest, salt, and pepper in a small bowl and whisk to blend. Refrigerate, covered, until serving time.To serve, stir the gazpacho to blend the components, and then ladle into chilled bowls. Top each serving with a dollop of the lemon sour cream.

Cucumber and Cream Cheese Sandwich
Very quick, yet extremely satisfying. Eating one of these makes me think of road trips to Tennessee in a stuffy old station wagon with mom and the four of us kids, with no air conditioning... She's the best.

Cream Cheese
Fresh Chopped Dill
Salt and Pepper to Taste

Spread Cream cheese on one piece of bread. Slice cucumbers very thin, then stack as much as you want on top of cream cheese. Sprinkle a little dill, salt and pepper on cucumber. Place another piece of bread on top… Enjoy!

Thanks for reading and Eat Well!!