One of my favorite things about cooking this time of year is the choosing of my ingredients--making a trek to the garden to find them as opposed to stepping into the pantry. In the pantry, you know what you'll find, but in the garden it's a surprise from day to day. This makes the garden something of a co-chef when the time comes to plan a dinner recipe. Today in the blog, I thought I'd include one such dinner as a sample from my own table.
Under my cat's fastidious supervision from his window seat, (Who am I kidding? He's only there to watch for birds and chipmunks.) I go seeking ingredients for a meat and veggie saute. Currently, I find a handful of tender green beans, a modest crop of zucchini, a good run on onions and a plethora of peppers. I also had a few squash given to me from a friend's garden that are varieties I didn't grow this year.
I began with a skillet full of boneless chicken tenders in olive oil with some minced garlic and onions and salt and pepper to taste. As these sauteed, I washed and sliced the rest of the veggies.
The cat was still in the window, confirming my suspicions he had other motives for being there besides just watching me work.
When the chicken had browned I tossed the veggies into the pan, and as they softened on a simmer I went back to the garden for seasoning. I chose lemon balm leaves, pepper basil, chives and a few squash blossoms. (Did you know you can eat them? Just make sure you don't bring a honey bee into your kitchen. It might be hiding in one of them.)
So far, we have chicken, three varieties of squash, bell peppers, baby green beans, onion, garlic, and herbs in the pan. To this, I added three whole cayenne peppers and some Caribbean Jerk Sauce (the one thing that did come from the pantry.)
No bread on the sideboard for today. No time for baking. But we did have a nice big salad. Lettuce is just coming back into season in the garden, so the leaves are quite tender. Cherry tomatoes are still producing, sweet and red; and I may have used the very last of this year's cucumbers in this one. A little shredded Parmesan and a light Italian dressing (made with the vinegars flavored earlier this summer) and the salad is complete.
So there it is: dinner as per the recommendations of the garden itself! On any given day, a completely different combination might have found its way into the skillet, and it would have been equally delightful. Sometimes it's fun to allow yourself the freedom to design a dinner from whatever offers itself to you. Sometimes, it's better than you might have come up with yourself!
Today's sign-off: happy creating!