Christopher and I pulled this together on a whim one night when we were dialing back to just veggies, healthy fats and whole grains. We had eggplant and tomatoes in the garden, onions in the pantry, and a brand new Magic Bullet on the counter. This grilled eggplant recipe demonstrates that all it takes to make a healthy dinner is a few simple ingredients!
If you’re part of the NOURISH Evolution, you have a strong connection to your food. You like to know where it comes from, how it was produced and who was responsible for it.
And chances are, you also like to take matters into your own hands by growing your own food. Whether that means you cultivate a pot of herbs on a condo balcony (like me) or plant an extensive vegetable garden (like Lia), there’s no better way to know your food.
One of the smartest things you can do, says the UCS, is grow your own food. It saves miles that food has to travel from the field to your plate. And the food you grow extends far beyond the vegetable patch to include berry bushes and fruit trees.
We asked our Facebook community what they’ve planted in their gardens this summer, and it turns out NOURISH Evolutioners are avid home farmers. Here’s what we’re growing:
Tomatoes. We have a passion for tomatoes of all varieties. Try ‘em in our Tiny Tomato Sauce, Pico de Gallo or Grilled Fish in Parchment (made colorful and delicious with juicy cherry tomatoes). For an ultra-simple treatment, pop a batch of Nigel Slater’s Parmesan Tomatoes (recipe below) in the oven.
Herbs. You don’t need much space (or much skill) to grow a pot of herbs. Of course, you can snip a sprig as you need it to flavor a dish on the fly. Bumper crops can be turned into pesto (which freezes beautifully for a taste of summer well into fall); try our Basil-Mint Pesto or spicy Asian Pesto. They’re great on pasta, of course, but also use a dollop to enliven whole grains, grilled poultry or fish.
Cucumbers. Raw cukes add summery crunch to salads and sandwiches. We love them pickled, too. Try our Spicy-Sweet Pickled Cucumbers. They’re great with barbecue!
What are your top crops? We’d love to hear. Share here or with our Facebook crew.
English cookbook author Nigel Slater reminds me a bit of Marcella Hazan. Like Hazan, Slater is adamant that he’s a cook, not a chef, and he’s a champion of simple, straightforward home cooking. The American edition of his book, Tender: A Cook and His Vegetable Patch(Ten Speed Press) came out recently, and it deserves a place in your cookbook collection. His signature unfussy approach lets the flavor of seasonal produce really shine. Roasting summer-fresh tomatoes heightens their sweetness and deepens their flavor. Slater recommends serving these as a side dish with fresh mozzarella or basmati rice. They’re equally delightful served over sliced baguette as an appetizer or light lunch.
This is the perfect tomato sauce recipe to make with that extra pint of cherry tomatoes in your CSA box that’s sitting on your counter. Use it to dress a simple pasta or spoon it over a crispy chicken paillard.
Ratatouille is a Provencal specialty that’s a classic way to use a garden’s summer bounty of eggplant, tomatoes, zucchini and bell pepper. In culinary school, I was taught to saute each vegetable separately, and then simmer them all together. That’s too much work. In this ratatouille recipe, everything is tossed together in one pan and roasted until the vegetables are tender and slightly caramelized. Serve the ratatouille hot, at room temperature or cold as a side dish, tossed with pasta, atop pizza or grilled bread, or even tucked into a quesadilla.
This wheat berry salad always wows those new to whole grains. The smokiness of the grilled tomatoes, creaminess of the eggplant and haunting complexity of the spice paste create quite a sensation. Soft wheat berries have a toothsome starchy quality that works well in this recipe.
This pasta salad was a hit when Alison and I made up a giant batch of it to serve at the Taste of Sonoma event a few years ago. I first made this for a potluck picnic at church and no less than five people came up to me and said, “Did you by chance make that quinoa salad? It was de-LICOUS!” (when pondering what to name it, Sierra even recommended Really Yummy Pasta Salad). And here I was afraid the quinoa would freak people out. Truth is, there’s a lot to love about this salad: a healthy dose of whole grains in the form of quinoa and whole grain penne, a break from basil with chives and parsley, and a lip-smacking tart-sweet balance from the corn and lime juice combo. This pasta salad is a potluck winner, whether you’re making it for a backyard barbecue or a high-end event. And, yep, you can make this pasta salad a day in advance — in fact it tastes even better when you do because the flavors have time to develop.
Years ago, during a class at the Culinary Institute of America at Greystone, I made a polenta recipe by Gary Danko that cooked–fuss-free–in the oven. I adopted it and have never looked back (or slaved over another pot of polenta). This one incorporates No Work Slow Roasted Tomatoes (which live in my freezer over the winter). Go for good-quality polenta instead of the instant variety; the texture and taste will be immeasurably better (and there’s no stirring for you anyway!).
How to preserve the flavor of summer tomatoes? I love the whole concept of canning, but more often than not I’ll opt for low-heat and a deep freeze instead. After roasting, let the tomatoes cool to room temperature and pop the whole pan in the freezer (this freezes them individually, so they’re easy to separate later). When the tomatoes are firm (usually after just an hour), slide them into a Ziploc bag and keep them in the freezer for luscious, flavorful roasted tomatoes all winter long.
Slow roast plum tomatoes, then freeze in a single layer and transfer to a freezer bag for what I call “tomato candy” all winter long.
Chop a variety of heirloom tomatoes and cook over medium heat with onions, garlic, oregano and a drizzle of olive oil for a simple, flavorful (and thinner-than-usual) pasta sauce. Can for keeping if you like.
Try taking your favorite tomato dishes into new realms—tuck a Greek salad into pita for a sandwich, or transform your BLT into a main-dish salad.
Sure, we all want to eat more veggies, and there’s no better time than now. This week, expand your boundaries and take advantage of the bumper bounty in new ways.