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Friday, September 4, 2009

Labor Day Weekend Recipes

If you are heading to a barbeque or having friends at your house, here are some quick and simple recipes. These vegetables and fruits can be easily found in your garden or purchased at your local farm stand or farmer’s market.

Tomatoes – Slice four tomatoes, lightly sprinkle with salt and let sit for five minutes, chop up five to six leaves of spearmint, basil and pitted Kalamata olives, toss in with the tomatoes in a bowl and dress with a balsamic vinaigrette. For simple vinaigrettes, use extra virgin olive oil, white and standard balsamic vinegar, a bit of water with a Good Seasons Italian Dressing mix. It’s easy but everyone loves it. For the best selection of olives, Ed Hyder’s Mediterranean Market Place at 408 Pleasant Street, Worcester, MA is my favorite. If you are a cheese lover, you can crumble some of Ed’s wonderful feta cheeses on the tomatoes. You’ll love the ambience of the store and his selection of wines and other sundries.

Fresh potatoes – you can always make a typical potato salad for your barbeque. To mix it up a bit, I add some of the olives, spearmint and feta cheese with a little extra virgin olive oil and white balsamic vinegar to mine. These extra ingredients allow you to go easy on the mayo and everyone loves it. For an inside fresh potato recipe, you can slice your potatoes thin, deep fry in olive oil, and lightly salt as you drain on paper towels. They won’t even make it to the plate. They are a cross-bred of French fries and potato chips. YUM.

Corn can be cooked the conventional way, in a pot of water or you can grill it. There are two ways to grill corn. One way is to completely remove the husk and place directly on a charcoal grill. If you use a gas grill, the intense barbeque flavor is diminished. Some like to remove the silk from the end of the ear, keep the husk on, and then grill. The corn stays a tad moist but the flavors not quite as intense. It’s a personal preference so test your way to your favorite. You can either serve on the cob or remove the cornels and use in a southwestern salad recipe. Check out a previous post for my corn salsa salad.

Eggplant – slice it length-wise, lightly salt, let slices sit for about 15 minutes on paper towels, dab them to absorb some of the bitter juices, brush with olive oil and grill. Drizzle with herb-infused olive oils and thinly sliced sweet basil to serve. You can also grill onions and portabella mushrooms (*not locally grown, unfortunately) to add to your grilled meat selection.

For an easy dessert, try the fresh, ripe locally-grown peaches, preferably white peaches (some of them have a slight flavor of raspberry) peeled and sliced with a dash of sugar and a teaspoon to tablespoon of Cointreau or Triple Sec. Toss it, garnish it with a sprig of mint added with fresh raspberries and it doesn’t get any better. Plus it’s healthy.

If you don’t have time and you want to bring a quart of the best ice cream from a local farm – Rota Spring Farm has some of what I consider the best. Their new flavor this year, coconut carmel chip is awesome. You have to like coconut but if you do, watch out. It’s pow, 'in your face' ice cream. Have a great Labor Day. Don’t forget, we are in a dry spell so keep an eye on newly planted shrubs. Water this weekend – that’s my only gardening advice.

My inspirational gardening thought of the day is for any men reading my blog from William Geist, New York Times Magazine. "I'm a man. Men cook outside. Women make the three-bean salad. That's the way it is and always has been, since the first settlers of Levittown. That outdoor grilling is a manly pursuit has long been beyond question. If this wasn't firmly understood, you'd never get grown men to put on those aprons with pictures of dancing wienies and things on the front..." I'll be back blogging on Tuesday. Annie

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© 2009 Ann St. Jean-Bilowz/Bilowz Associates Inc. (including all photographs, unless otherwise noted in Annie's Gardening Corner are the property of Bilowz Associates Inc. and shall not be reproduced in any manner nor are they to be assigned to any third party without the expressed written permission and consent of Bilowz Associates Inc.)