Sunday, August 10, 2008

A Late Summer Garden Party

The end of the summer is a wonderful time of year, especially if you have a garden. Interesting combinations of the last little bits of the season’s harvest can lead to some truly inspired meals. Just let your imagination run wild and it will be easy to create a delicious breakfast, lunch or dinner. And if you find yourself with beautiful blue skies, perfect temperatures, and dear friends in town for the weekend, why not dish up a late summer garden party?

Recipes have never been a strict requirement for creating imaginative layers of complimentary flavors. Consider some of these combinations as starting points and see where your late summer garden takes you. Toss vegetables with fresh greens for salads, layer them on artisan whole grain breads for sandwiches, or blend them with hot or cold rice or pasta for an elegant one dish meal.

 We combined a whole host of salads with grilled chicken and veggie burgers, both glazed with my brother's secret sauce and, of course, fresh corn on the cob and sliced tomatoes. Dessert was simple with a huge fruit salad, including fresh-from-the-farmers' market blueberries, peaches, melon and grapes -- that was forgotten in the refrigerator when setting the dinner table! -- and a variety of ice cream bars.

Just be sure to write down your own favorite combinations for planning next year’s garden!
Eggplant, provolone, mozzarella, marinara sauce
Lettuces, roasted red peppers, cucumbers, tomatoes, and fresh herbs, with tuna or chicken
Cucumbers, tomatoes, olives, capers, red onions, feta cheese, with optional chicken or fish
Roasted eggplant, fresh mozzarella, provolone, marinara sauce
Roast beef, roasted red peppers, caramelized onions, provolone
Tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, hearty artisan bread, fresh basil or homemade pesto
Spinach, garlic, caramelized onions, roasted peppers, freshly grated Parmesan
Roasted eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, red pepper, garlic, capers, roasted tomatoes
Roasted tomatoes, pesto, goat cheese

6 c. cooked rice (a mix of brown and white was very nice!)
2 c. finely chopped red, yellow or orange pepper
3/4 c. finely chopped red onion
1 c. chopped marinated artichoke hearts
1/4 c. small capers
1 c. golden raisins
1/2 c. chopped fresh dill - do not use dried!
1/3 c. minced fresh parsley
1 c. sliced black olives
1 c. fresh or frozen peas - do not cook

Mix all of the ingredients and toss with about 3/4 of the dressing -- add more dressing only if needed. Prepare several hours before serving. Serve at room temperature. Variation: add roasted chicken breast or grilled shrimp for a main dish.

1 1/4 c. corn oil
1/2 c. white wine vinegar
1 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1 3/4 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1 tbsp. minced garlic
1/2 tsp. dried basil
1/2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley

Whisk all ingredients together and toss with rice salad mixture. Reserve some of dressing to use only if needed, so that salad is still fluffy and not soaked in dressing.

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