Tip Number One: When growing vegetables, make sure you plant ones you like. A lot.
I planted a small veggie garden this year, and husband and I have been enjoying the fruits of our labor (he built the raised bed) for many weeks now. I have discovered there are some vegetables I like… but maybe not a summer crop’s worth. On the yes side: tomatoes, especially grape tomatoes. We’ve been picking enough for nightly salad (and more) and marveling at how these fruits/veggies actually taste like something!
On the not-so-much side: squash. Yes, I like yellow squash. And I’ve got a great recipe (thanks, Ina Garten cookbook) for butternut squash that’s easy-peasy and delish (my variation below). But after a while, it’s hard to think of things to do with these vegetables. They’re not wasted, though. They go to neighbors and husband’s office workers. Next year: one, just one, squash plant each.
Butternut squash and pancetta
- Peel and dice one butternut squash, and spread on baking sheet (lined with parchment paper is good).
- Peel cloves of an entire head of garlic (this is where I digress from Ina – she says to leave the garlic as is) and put among squash pieces.
- Sprinkle with salt and pepper and olive oil and…TWO TABLESPOONS of maple syrup. Real maple syrup.
- Dice up a small package of pancetta (I can’t remember how many ounces – just the smallest prepackaged kind!)
- Throw on top of squash
Roast in 350 oven until squash is soft (about a half hour) and pancetta is crispy.
Tip Number Two: fresh fruit…crisps. Now’s peach season in south-central PA, and the peaches are magnificently sweet and succulent. So sweet that it’s a shame to put them in baked recipes where they lose a bit of that just-from-the-tree taste and aroma. But I love baked fruit crisps! So…I’ve come up with a compromise. Bake the crisp topping alone. When it’s cool enough to handle, crumble and serve over fresh sliced peaches. Mmm… Recipe below, a variation on a Giada one (I was half listening when this particular show was on…):
Half cup crisp:
- Half cup butter
- Half cup instant oatmeal
- Half cup flour
- Half cup brown sugar
- Half cup slivered almonds (don’t roast them)
- Cinnamon and nutmeg to taste (about a teaspoon of the former, dash of the latter is good for me).
- Either cut the butter into the mixed dry ingredients or melt the butter and mix it all together. I’ve done it both ways and it doesn’t seem to matter.
- Place cookie-like dollops on a parchment-paper-lined baking sheet.
- Bake at 350 until it’s done. Hey – you expect me to remember the timing? All I remember was it didn’t take long.
- Crumble over fresh fruit.
Tip Number Three: A garden next to your patio or deck can be a fragrant as well as visual delight. Around our patio, we have the usual assortment of colorful flowers–feathery astilbe for early summer, coneflowers later in the season, drought-resistant Sedum opening late August into early fall, along with vibrant mums. But we also have some boxwood shrubs and ground-cover thyme along a short flagstone path. Every time you step on the thyme, it releases a soothing tea-like aroma. And the occasional breeze wafts the musky odor of boxwoods to us, a memory trigger if ever there was one. For me, it’s a mental trip back to the gardens of Fontainebleau, where I spent a summer, or walks around Williamsburg, where my son went to college. For my husband, it’s a journey back to childhood where a neighbor had a hedge of the shrubs. Don’t forgo boxwood because it takes so long to get a hedge of them going. Their scent is just as wonderful as the privacy they can provide.