Ripeness Alert! Time to harvest…just about everything. What a bounty is ours in Autumn. Eating seasonally is a pleasure and an honor to the fields and garden – our source of nourishment. We are blessed when we eat our food at the peak of ripeness and flavor, as don’t you love the anticipation of its timely arrival in the market and garden basket.
In autumn- what richly beautiful, curvaceous, picturesque globes do painters love, as do cooks? Tomatoes and squash – they are the beauties of the Fall Harvest! We are blessed with so many varieties here in California and each one uniquely tasty; the best part is their great abundance. Harvest is a time for giving thanks that our growing year has been good that we will live well through another winter on what the land has given us.
The tomatoes are here, and you will continue finding ways to put them to good use. They march through your kitchen from the garden and market, & they insist on being regularly put up – canned, frozen or dried. Their ripe and fragile reds and yellows just keep on coming in until frost. Tomatoes are full of vitamin C, A, lycopene (cancer protection), iron, potassium and fiber.
Of course we especially love to eat them while they are fresh, ripe and sweet! I will share my two favorite recipes with you; they are super quick & easy, beautiful, nutritious and tasty. Our California Mediterranean climate makes these tomato dishes perfect for cooling meals.
In just minutes you can be serving this famous Italian salad that features favorite garden flavors and can also add protein to a light supper.
3 vine-ripe tomatoes, cut into 1/4-inch thick slices
(Optional- up to 1 pound fresh mozzarella, 1/4-inch thin slices)
20 to 30 leaves (about 1 bunch) fresh basil, chopped or torn coarsely into pieces
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
Coarse salt and pepper
Layer the tomatoes on a plate, adding mozzarella, if desired, as you go. Sprinkle the basil between layers liberally, then lightly drizzle olive oil on everything, grinding over some salt and pepper to finish. Position a few sprigs of basil tops for garnish. Serve soon after adding the oil so it does not grow soggy. Other raw veggies can be added to this dish if you wish. Proportions can be changed to fit your on-hand style, there is no wrong way to make this salad.
As the tomatoes and cucumbers come in strong- treat yourself and your health to this unpretentious liquid salad – a cool gazpacho soup. There are many ways to make this unique raw creamy soup, and the results are always wonderful. My favorite recipe does not use stale bread or vinegar as in the original ancient Roman concoction. Nor does it rely on complexity or many ingredients. Few ingredients and a few minutes can make a satisfying treat.
3 medium very ripe tomatoes
1 cucumber, peeled
garlic to taste, (2-5 cloves) peeled
2 Tb water
4 Tb virgin olive oil
½ t salt and pepper to taste
Cut up the tomatoes and peeled cucumber into large chunks.
In a blender, add water, olive oil, salt and pepper and as much garlic as you like. Whirl, and then add the vegetables; blend until smooth. Serve chilled in mugs or glasses. This soup is cooling, full of vit C, A, iron and fiber. It replenishes electrolytes, builds the immune system and cleanses the liver with every sip.
Medicine that tastes delicious and is thirst quenching! What could be easier and better than a glass of fresh-from-the-garden goodness.
The quantity of squash in my storeroom is intimidating in October, but I am comforted by the security of so much golden wealth and the knowledge that some of them can be around and tasting good in March! Squash is valuable for Vit B, A, C ,E, calcium, potassium, & fiber in a low calorie package that satisfies the need for something sweet.
We all love the soothing taste of baked or steamed squash served simply with butter. My kitchen tip is to bake twice as much as you can eat in one meal, then puree the leftover for either soup or pudding. I encourage you to try new ideas for flavoring and garnishing blended soups by adding international flavors with Indian curry or Italian spices, potatoes, fig relish and more. My own favorite and quick recipe follows.
Squash Soup – 10 minutes prep after squash is cooked
The sweet goodness of winter squash helps calm our desire for desserts and balances the blood sugar. A blended soup is easy to sip for those getting a sore throat during seasonal changes, and is warming on a cool evening. Lots of vitamin A and C, and satisfying fats reside in this recipe; what could be easier than this soup?
2 acorn squash (or small pumpkin, a large butternut squash, etc)
14 oz coconut milk (one can) (cream or buttermilk can be substituted)
2 tsp Thai curry paste or 2 tsp Indian curry powder to taste
1 Tb fresh ginger, grated
2 cloves garlic
1-2 cup chicken broth, stock or water – use as needed
1 tsp salt or to taste
Caramelized onion – browned in 3 Tb butter, as a garnish or to add texture
Cilantro- chopped fine for garnish
Steam or bake the squash until soft. Scoop from shell into a blender, and add the broth, coconut milk, curry, ginger, garlic and salt. Blend and add more stock or water if it is too thick, taste and correct the seasonings. Using chicken stock or bone broth makes the soup more rich, tasty and nutritious.
(Optional) Caramelize the onion in butter until browned and soft. This can be added into each bowl and the soup poured over it, or placed on top for garnish. Fresh cilantro makes a great garnish also. (This basic blender recipe works with broccoli, spinach and other cooked veggies)
Pumpkin Custard Pudding
Blend everything together with beater or in a blender. Pour into buttered baking dish.
Bake at 325 for 45 min or until a knife comes out clean from the center. Serve hot or cold. This is a satisfying & healthy low sugar dessert – easy to digest and loved by both children and adults.
Serve with (optional) whipped cream topping
The harvest continues even through winter in mild weather. Your choices are broad and abundant; share with your neighbors and those in need. Having Faith in the seeds, Hope during cultivation of the growing plants and Charity with the harvest brings us Fidelity with all we meet. It is good to be a Gardener.
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