In the Garden

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I should have read more carefully: the first stated requirement for membership in the FCHS choir was “ability to sing.”

Whether a good singing voice is a nature or nurture hand-me-down, I didn’t get one from my parents.  My nerve-wracking try-out for my FCHS’s wonderful a cappella choir was soundly rejected, much to my embarrassment and disappointment, since my Besties had all been granted admittance to that tight and fun – and very talented – group.

My dad’s family were all musical and they credited their Welsh heritage for that. Family get-togethers always involved time around the piano with my aunt playing and singing and the rest of the Hills joining in.  One of the favorite songs of my granddad was “In the Garden” and my dad and he could belt it out in a beautiful duet.

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A typical song-fest – but this time with Edna Griffin on the piano, joined by Hill family and friends

Little did I know that years later that song would be recorded by many singers whom I held near and dear – Tennessee Ernie Ford, Perry Como, Rosemary Clooney, Doris Day, Willie Nelson, Glen Campbell, and Johnny Cash.  But the rendition that reminds me most of my family’s is the duet by Jo Stafford and Gordon MacCrae, recorded in 1962.

Andy may not have happy memories of his family singing that song, but he does have happy memories of Oakley, our Aussie, being in the garden.  See today’s Andy’s Corner.

As for me, hearing “In the Garden” still reminds me that our garden is often an almost spiritual place – butterflies flitting around, hummingbirds searching for nectar, bumblebees checking out the blossoms, a whiff of the sweet salvia, the hint of licorice from the agastache, the gorgeous glimmering iridescent orange in the echinacea ‘Julia’ – and the intriguing scent of the foliage of the coleonema and variegated mint bush when you brush by them.

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But just as often our garden is beastly: gopher mounds, aphid attacks, tomato hornworms, voles uncovered and carried into the house by our sweet kitties, drip system malfunctions, rampaging yellow jackets, eucalyptus tree roots sucking up the moisture.  You name it, we’ve had it happen.

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Our vegetable garden is even more problematic.  Tomatoes, of course, are notorious for having issues.  Even zucchini plants, which notoriously over-produce for normal gardeners, are annoyingly sparse in producing for us for us.  Cucumbers often wither on the bush.  So each little healthy tomato or bean or zucchini or cucumber we find in our garden is an unbounded joy to us.

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Today’s garden bounty

Once you’ve picked these precious veggies you don’t really want to cover up their just-picked flavor with a complex, ingredient-heavy recipe, so here are three minimalist ideas for your tomatoes, string beans and summer squash.

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Instagram photo from our daughter Sara: “Pan con tomate eaten greedily on the way from the kitchen to the couch. I love you summer.”

Though pan con tomate was just touted in a NYTimes article by David Tanis – and by our daughter – we prefer our own spin on it: toast, buttered, with mayonnaise, sliced tomatoes, sea salt – and maybe a bit of basil.  You decide.  But leave the bacon off once in a while.  It’s ever so much fresher and lighter.

Toast with Summer Tomatoes

A SUPER SIMPLE RECIPE.

Pan con tomate – two ways

  • 1 slice of artisan bread, toasted
  • butter and mayonnaise
  • sliced outdoor ripened, summer tomatoes (hopefully from your own garden or the farmer’s market – definitely not hot-house)
  • a sprig of basil, torn into pieces
  • sea salt

Generously butter the toasted bread and then spread it with a bit of mayonnaise.  Top with the sliced tomatoes, add sea salt and basil.   Enjoy.

OR

  • 1 slice of artisan bread, toasted
  • garlic, peeled
  • 1 small juicy tomato – cut in half
  • olive oil
  • sea salt

Lightly rub one side of the toasted bread with the garlic.  Then take half of the tomato and rub it on the same side (cut side of the tomato down).  Drizzle with a bit of olive oil and sprinkle with salt.  If you’re our daughter, slice the other half of the tomato and add it to the top for double the tomato delight.  Enjoy.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

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Julia Child’s String Beans

Many of you must remember the days of cooking green beans (with ham) for a LONG time.  My mother served them that way and I thought they were delicious.  I usually now serve string beans, cooked until just barely tender, with a drizzle of olive oil, but I love Julia Child’s simple, light, buttery recipe.

Julia Child's String Beans

A SUPER SIMPLE RECIPE. This recipe is adapted from Julia Child’s recipe in Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

  • 1 lb of string beans, trimmed (mix and match; if the beans are Romano type, cut them into a few pieces)
  • 2 T butter
  • 1 T lemon juice
  • 3 T chopped parsley
  • kosher salt and pepper

Blanch the string beans by bringing a large pot of water to a boil.  Salt the water generously.  Add the beans and cook until they’re just barely tender, about 4-5 minutes.  Drain.  (You can rinse the beans with cold water or dunk them in ice water, but I don’t find it worth the extra pans).

Toss the warm beans with the butter, lemon juice, and parsley.  Season with salt and pepper.  Serve.

Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.
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Summer Squash and Corn Pasta

We were at a little dinner party last night – and one of our weightier discussions was whether zucchini is a dreadful veggie.  Our friend Buck suggested that slicing it very, very thin and frying it in olive oil with onions and garlic until the zucchini is almost blackened, but not burned (uncovered for about 45 minutes – add the garlic toward the end) results in something fabulous.  If you don’t want to try that, here’s a zucchini recipe I can almost guarantee you’ll love.

Summer Squash and Corn Pasta

Thanks to the inimitable Alice Waters for this recipe, which we’ve tweaked a bit.

  • 3-4 small zucchini or other summer squash, diced (you want about 2 c diced)
  • 2 ears of sweet corn, kernels cut off
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp minced jalapeno or serrano pepper
  • 3 T olive oil – divided
  • kosher salt and pepper
  • 1/2 c cilantro, chopped
  • 1 T butter
  • 2 T water
  • 6-8 oz fresh fettuccine or other thin pasta
  • 1/2 lemon (optional)

Bring a medium pot of water to a boil, salt it well, add the fettuccine and cook the length of time recommended on the package (mine said 2 minutes); drain well, and mix with 1 T olive oil.

Heat the olive oil in a medium skillet over medium high heat,  then add the squash, and stir and fry until you’ve got a touch of brown on the squash.  Add the corn, garlic, and jalapeno and salt and pepper to taste (I used about 1 tsp salt);  continue cooking and stirring for a few minutes more.  Add the cilantro – reserving a few leaves for garnish – and the butter and water.  Mix in the drained fettuccine. Taste and add a squeeze of lemon juice, if you’d like.

I gobbled up the leftovers without even re-heating them the next day for lunch.  It’s just a simple and delicious recipe.  Recipe brought to you by BigLittleMeals.com and Andy and Ann.

 

4 Comments

  1. pocahannah says:

    We can’t get enough of the Cherry Tomatoes at the Farmer’s market. As my mother would say “like candy”! I’ve never been a gardener but I imagine that it’s humbling and rewarding, nature’s way of reminding you that life is sweet but short and sometimes fatal :-p

    Liked by 1 person

  2. theRaggedys says:

    We appreciate your comment. You are right about cherry tomatoes being addictive and that gardening is rewarding and nature’s way of reminding us that life is sweet. Though, whether life is sometimes or always fatal is probably a matter of theological debate.

    Liked by 2 people

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