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Feasting Up The Harvest--Bring On The Veggies!

A harvest wine bar helps set the pace. A harvest wine bar helps set the pace.

So you’ve had a bountiful hydroponics harvest this year. Your larder is full of color, with juicy and plump vegetables and fruits of all hues. You may have sold some of your produce and sent out gift baskets. Why, you even gave your strange and asocial next-door neighbor a fruit basket, to his own bewilderment. Yet, your harvest just seems bigger by the day, more than you could ever possibly use, and you’re worried it will lose its freshness before you get down to doing something about it.

What can you do with all those tomatoes, bell peppers, lettuce and squash from your garden? Perhaps you should try turning those vegetables into delicious meals and then send out invites to a mouthwatering harvest party before the weather turns too cold to do anything fun.

Now, though you’re a great grower, being asked the difference between blanched tomatoes and baked tomatoes is probably your biggest nightmare. Your cooking skills extend to slopping mustard on your hot dog and the table, and if you are exceptionally talented, reheating yesterday’s takeout dinner.

Fear not, for the recipes that follow are meant to be comprehensible to everyone from novice mustard user to expert reheater. All we ask is that you view the vegetables you’ve grown with some affection!

All the planning before the party could also turn out to be loads of fun. Decorate your buffet table with colorful gingham checked cloths in your favorite colors. Red and blue are ideal harvest colors. Use straw baskets to hold breads and chips. Actually, woven straw baskets are so simple to make, you could try your hand at making the baskets yourself, but it’s less hassle just to buy them from a discount store. Place real autumn leaves and red berries around serving platters to enhance the harvest feel. If you’re still not in the harvest mood, do away with organized seating and make your guests sit on bales of hay! Use foliage to decorate the party area and place clusters of autumn flowers in large glass jars. Get a few friends to help you with this, perhaps of the female persuasion. The incentive is the well-stocked harvest bar with a selection of wines that will aid heady feelings!

Some tips to get you started are in order. Chopping by hand always brings out the flavour. The same goes for grinding. Remember all those bad bosses you had? Now chop away! Also, gentleness is of prime importance. When we say ‘shake’, please do not conjure up images of vigorously mishandling tree branches. Now, take a deep breath and plunge into the kitchen. Headlong is the best way, but don’t break anything.

The dummy’s guide to roast potatoes

 

Roast potatoes flavored with garlic and herbs 

Delicious delightDelicious delight

Serves: 4

Ingredients

Straight from the garden

1 1/2 pounds quartered Yukon gold or red potatoes (about 4 cups)

2 tablespoons chopped garlic

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

1/2 teaspoon grated lemon rind

And…

1 tablespoon olive oil

Cooking spray

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

 

Preheat oven to 475 degrees F. This is one thing all microwave users might be great at! But no, you can’t do this in a microwave!

Over medium heat, stir garlic and oil into a single saucepan and cook until the garlic turns golden on all sides. Medium heat is that state in which the oil splutters indignantly. Remove it from the oil and set it aside. Now use the remaining oil as a drizzle over the potatoes. Let the oil spread evenly and coat the potatoes well. Arrange them on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray, and make sure you don’t layer them. Good cooking is not about extra floor-area ratio. Sprinkle salt and pepper over this arrangement and bake at 475° for 30 minutes or until potatoes are golden.

Let us turn back to the garlic now – add all the remaining aromats. Aromats, in short, are things that smell good. No, deodorant is not an aromat. Shake the garlic, parsley and lemon rind together, gently, in a small bowl and use this mixture to garnish the potatoes in a neat second layer. What you get will look so good, it will buoy your patience. And courage.

 

Harvest Pumpkin Soup

All souped up.All souped up.

Ingredients

Straight from the garden

2 small sugar pumpkin

1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground sage (no murder required, it’s all in your garden)

 

And…

3 cups chicken stock

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream (Don’t let this give you ideas, we mean the dairy product!)

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

4 tablespoons sour cream (For after the whipping)

 

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

 

Cut pumpkins into half along the vertical axis and scoop out the seeds. If you cannot cut without a bloody massacre of pumpkins, stick the pumpkin on your chest and use a sharp knife to cut it. Your accuracy levels will improve dramatically. After spraying a cookie sheet with non –stick cooking spray, place pumpkins on the sheet with the fleshy side down. Roast them until they go soft. This should take about 45 minutes. Remove pumpkins from the oven and let them cool. After they are sufficiently cooled, scrape the flesh off the skins. Or rip it off like a caveman.

 

Discard the skins and puree pumpkin flesh along with chicken stock in a food processor. Pour this mixture into a large saucepan on medium heat and let it simmer. Simmering is also a form of indignant spluttering. Then stir in the cream, nutmeg, sage and salt. Blend all the ingredients well and then pour into a decorative soup bowl. Garnish servings with a single dollop of sour cream. Stand back and stare at this work of art you’ve created!

 

Skewered harvest peppers

A long wait, but worth every second!A long wait, but worth every second!

Makes 4 skewers

Ingredients

Straight from the garden

1 large red bell pepper, seeded, cut in eighths

1 large green bell pepper, seeded, cut in eighths

1 large yellow bell pepper, seeded, cut in eighths

1 garlic clove, sliced thin

1/2 tsp dried thyme

2 green zucchini, sliced in eighths

8 large white mushrooms, halved

Fresh ground black pepper

And…

1/4 cup olive oil

4 long metal grill skewers

Salt

This is primitive, colorful and simple.

It’s always pleasant to start with the aromats. Warm the olive oil and garlic in a saucepan, over low heat, till the garlic begins to bubble. Set the saucepan aside and stir the thyme in. Leave this aside for 30 minutes and let the aromats work their magic on the oil.

Skewer the vegetables in any order, but try to ensure there’s lots of color on each skewer. Brush the vegetable skewers with herb-infused olive oil. Add salt and fresh ground black pepper the taste and cook the vegetables on a pre-heated grill until they are tender. Take surreptitious bites to check for tenderness but don’t skewer your tongue! Cooking is all about trial and error!

 

Cream-smothered lettuce wedges

Tasty, gooey and yummyTasty, gooey and yummy

Ingredients

Straight from the garden

2 large heads iceberg lettuce, quartered

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest

2 tablespoons lemon juice

4 Cherry tomatoes

 

And…

1 tablespoon honey

Salt and pepper

1 cup mayonnaise

 

Forget childhood nightmares about being forced to eat your greens. Iceberg lettuce can be crunchy and delicious. Toss lemon zest, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper into a small bowl. Add 2 tablespoons hot water and mix well. This should smell like heaven. Stir this into the mayonnaise till the mixture is smooth.

While serving, arrange quartered wedges of iceberg lettuce on a platter and generously layer their middles with dressing. Decorate with the cherry tomatoes for added flavor and that red naughty dash of color! Add pepper to taste and serve. You can make the dressing and store it up to 3 days in advance if you cover and refrigerate it.

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Last modified on Tuesday, 09 November 2010 19:13

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