I’m thinking of adding a series of simple recipes and ideas for using home-garden crops in everyday meals. Nothing fancy, just ways to stretch food budget dollars and add variety to mealtimes by eating more of what you’re already growing.
Probably my favorite summer meal (or at least the one I prepare most often) is a simple tossed salad fresh from the garden. It took me a while to realize that salads don’t have to consist of lettuce and tomatoes doused in ranch dressing; once I started experimenting with different ingredients my salads got a lot more interesting. The last one I ate was made of this stuff…
…and tossed with a simple vinaigrette dressing of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, unrefined sea salt and black pepper.
From left to right those are Early Girl tomatoes, a pear (technically from the orchard, not the garden, but they’re the perfect complement to leafy greens), Tendersweet carrots, Fordhook chard, a Detroit Red beet (I eat the tops too), Ruby Red chard, a bell pepper, and purslane (which is actually a weed that grows wild in my garden but it’s very tasty and nutritious so I toss it in with the rest).
I grate the beets and carrots, dice the tomatoes, pears and peppers and tear everything else into bite-size pieces, then toss them all together in a big bowl with the vinaigrette dressing. Depending on the time of year, other salads might contain Romaine lettuce, snap peas, broccoli, cabbage, burnet, sorrel, radishes and/or zucchini. There’s no “right” recipe, I just eat what’s available on any given day. The vinaigrette ties all the flavors together.
My dressing recipe is very simple: after I have all the veggies washed, shaken dry and chopped, grated or torn up, I put them all into a big bowl and add just enough organic extra-virgin olive oil to coat everything evenly. Then I shake in some salt, black pepper and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar and toss it again. It’s not an exact science, but as a general rule you should use at least twice as much olive oil as vinegar.
When I happen to have cabbage, beets and carrots all ready to harvest at the same time, I make a simple slaw by cutting the cabbage into bite-size chunks and grating the beets and carrots, then tossing them all together with the balsamic vinaigrette. (It’s also great with ranch dressing if that’s your preference.)
The trick to getting the most from your food garden is to be creative and flexible and to try different combinations until you figure out what you like best. Let go of your preconceptions about what “should” go into a tossed salad, and just have fun!