Now that we are harvesting some produce from our gardens, or coveting the tempting array in the produce aisle, it is time to think about good ways to use vegetables in the kitchen.
Sundays, I cook for the family, and their tastes range from the two boys who would welcome a plate of just grape tomatoes, wheat crackers and ice cream every week, through one who will devour anything as long as it has chocolate in it, to the littlest one who loves broccoli, on to calorie counters and sugar shunners and fans of specific salads. So, I can't please everyone, but the following dishes usually leave an empty container on the serving table.
Some favorite salads are simple to prepare, and I make sure to have the ingredients on hand.
The broccoli salad recipe came from an Amish Cook recipe in The A-T many years ago, and I have changed it through the years. It is great for garden broccoli cut fresh that day, and simply adds hard boiled eggs, diced bacon, chopped green onions and a dressing of red wine vinegar and olive oil. This is known as Tom's Salad after its greatest fan.
To please his wife, Brittany, all I need to do is chop some of the chives that grow profusely in the garden all summer and on the kitchen windowsill in the winter, and add it to a container of low-fat cottage cheese.
She also favors plate salad, which is my name for everything in the refrigerator crisper arranged on a platter. It must contain lettuce and green onions, but might also include tomatoes, celery, peppers, cucumber, grated carrots, assorted greens, cheese, hard-boiled eggs and whatever else is at hand.
Some years ago, I bought a rather battered paperback vegetable cookbook at the library's book sale and clipped the best-sounding recipes for my loose-leaf cookbook.
The surviving entries include this cabbage casserole which makes two containers full so that one can go in the freezer. It calls for 2 pounds of ground beef (I use the cheapest), 2 cans of tomato soup, 2 cans of any kind of tomatoes or the equivalent in fresh garden tomatoes when available, a large onion or two, about 3 cups of cooked rice, and a big cabbage chopped and cooked until tender. Mix all this together and add a little sugar, salt, pepper and garlic powder and bake at 350 degrees for an hour. Unexpectedly, everyone likes this, even the two teenagers.
My asparagus was wonderful this year, but as usual not sufficient for everyone at Sunday dinner. The way I cook it is in a non-stick skillet and cut into 1-inch pieces. Melt a whole stick of butter (yes, real butter) and add about a cup of water with salt and pepper, all the asparagus you have, and cover and cook about 5 minutes. Sinfully high-calorie, yes, but it's only once a year my own asparagus is available.
I grew far more potatoes than usual this year.
First, I planted seed fingerling potatoes, and then when they seemed reluctant to appear, I put in a whole pile of sprouting russets from the vegetable bin. Both eventually grew, and so I have an interesting mix.
I like to put sliced potatoes which have been partly cooked into the crock pot, and add a mixture of cheese, mushroom or celery soup, whichever I have on hand, and a small carton of sour cream and a stick of butter. Then cook on low for about two hours.
So there you have it. Plenty of easy ways to use all those wonderful fresh vegetables.
Janet Del Turco is a local gardener and a graduate of the Ohio State University Master Gardener program.
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