Panzanella Caprese Salad

The last post was about the “Green Tomato Blues”, whining about the green Brandywines and ranting over the green Romas.  This week, Mother Nature has done some magic and the tomatoes are ripening and with Her continued support, there will be a good harvest.  There has been an abundance of Tiny Tim and Chocolate Cherry tomatoes.  Many are consumed right in the garden, but some make it to the kitchen.  Last night’s cottage supper included a Panzanella Caprese Salad.  Some Lemon Boy wedges were added to our salad.  By the way, if you have not tasted Chocolate Cherry tomatoes, they are delicious!

Chocolate Cherry
Chocolate Cherry

Panzanella Caprese  (, August 2015)
½ quality baguette
¼ cup EVO
1-2 cloves garlic peeled and crushed
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced in half
1 cup small bocconcini torn in pieces
½ cup fresh basil leaves
Fresh ground pepper
Preheat oven to 425°C, cut baguette into crouton cubes and place in a bowl.
Place oil and garlic in a small dish, let stand for 1-2 minutes then drizzle on bread, toss to coat.
Bake bread on cookie sheet until golden brown. Meanwhile, reduce balsamic to half over medium heat. Set aside to cool.
Arrange toasted croutons, tomatoes and bocconcici on a platter. Top with fresh basil leaves, drizzle with EVO and balsamic reduction. Grind pepper over salad to preferred taste. Serve.

Bon appitite!


Menu Planting

One of the goals for our garden is to meet our defined needs of fresh, nutritious, organic produced food, for canning, pickling, freezing, and winter storage.  We also wanted to meet our food likes and prepare meals from the fresh foods and stored foods from the garden.  Hence the concept of Menu Planting.   We like beet greens, so we plant beets just for the greens two to three times through the season.  We love Hodge Podge so we plant green and yellow bush beans, peas, and an early potato.  We are very fond of a Grilled Caesar Salad. so we plant Romaine Lettuce.  We like eating roasted vegetables, grilled vegetables, love Italian food, enjoy stir fry and of course need salsa.  Menu planting is simply planting for the meals you enjoy.

You can menu plant easily in any garden. A common method is to use a raised bed for specific needs, such as a salad garden, salsa garden, Italian garden, etc. We will have some special beds, but for the most part, our menu planting is throughout the garden.

  1. Salsa Garden – Some vegetables to include in the salsa garden are tomatoes, tomatillos (need two plants for cross pollination), bell peppers, chile peppers, onions, garlic, and cilantro.  Your personal taste will determine choices of peppers from mild through super hot varieties.  Use colour, such as red onion, different colour tomatoes and peppers.  Remember, if you want garlic, it is planted in the fall. Here is a sample salsa garden produced with the Garden Planner.

    Salsa Garden (Garden Planer)
    Salsa Garden (Garden Planer)

Fresh Garden Salsa
Use a medium sized bowl to combine
• 4 cups finely chopped tomatoes
• 1/2 cup minced onion
• 1/2 cup chopped cilantro
• 1 jalapeno minced or bell pepper for milder
• 1 teaspoon salt
• 1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
• 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
• 1 lime (juice and zest)
Mix well,  place in the refrigerator a few hours before serving. Enjoy in your garden!

Grilled Vegetables Kosher2. Grilled vegetables – Grilled veggies accompany pretty well all our BQ meals.  Our favourites include asparagus, green beans, carrots, corn, egg plant, onions, peppers, potatoes, sweet potatoes, squash, green tomatoes, zucchini and Romaine.  Keep it simple, slice veggies to size, toss in olive oil, add salt and pepper and place on the heated grill.  Grill time varies.  General rule is the harder the vegetable, the more time on the grill.  Check for tenderness and nice grill marks, garnish with chopped basil, oregano, or rosemary and chow down.

Here is a grilled salad that we enjoy.

Grilled Caesar Salad

Ingredients (Serves 8)
Ciabatta Bread
8 – 10 slices pancetta
3 garlic cloves
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
3/4 cup, plus 3 tablespoons olive oil
2/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan, plus shaved Parmesan for serving
4 heads romaine hearts, sliced lengthwise in 1/2
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Preheat grill to high.
2. In a blender, combine the garlic, lemon juice and Dijon mustard. Drizzle in 3/4 cup olive oil to emulsify. Add the Parmesan and pulse.
3. Cut ends off bread and save for another use. Cut bread into 16 slices and lightly brush both sides with Caesar dressing.
4. Grill bread for approx. 10 sec. per side or just long enough to toast and pick up grill marks. Remove from grill.
5. Heat pancetta for 10 sec. on each side, (use a pan on the grill)
6. Cut romaine in half length wise, drizzle romaine in olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill for 2 minutes, until grill marks appear and the romaine becomes wilted.
7. On each of eight salad plates, arrange Romaine lettuce halves, pancetta, ciabatta toasts.
8. Drizzle with dressing, add pancetta, garnish with shaved Parmesan and serve.

3. The Italian Menu – Vegetables needed for our love of Italian food include tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic, greens, beans, squash, zucchini, asparagus,   Required herbs are basil, oregano, rosemary, parsley.  Besides enjoying fresh ingredients in our Italian eating, we can tomatoes, tomato sauce, roasted peppers, and beans.  We also dry herbs and garlic for use through the winter.  If you are gardening with children, help them create a pizza garden and of course,  make a pizza from the bounty of their garden.

Here is a link to a sample Pizza Garden.

Plant and grow what your family likes to eat and plan your menus around the food you grow.

Herb garden, stir fry garden, pickling garden?




A Comfort Food Day

Monday was what I call a “comfort food” day and one of our favorite comfort food lunches is Tomato Soup and Grilled Cheese.  Keeping with our gardening goals we like to grow food that can be preserved for use later.  We make our own tomato soup base and freeze for use on days like yesterday.  Here is the recipe for the soup base.

Tomato Soup Base
4 cups chopped fresh tomatoes
1 sliced onion
4 whole cloves
2 cups chicken broth (homemade is best!)

In a stockpot, over medium heat, combine the tomatoes, onion, cloves and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and gently boil for about 20 minutes to blend all of the flavors. Remove from heat and run the mixture through a food mill into a large bowl, or pan. Discard any stuff left over in the food mill.
Proportion into freezer bags. Remove as much air as possible and seal bag. Soup base can now be frozen for use later.
To make Tomato soup, melt 2 tablespoons of butter in a stockpot using medium heat. Stir in 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour to make a roux. Continue cooking until the roux is medium brown. Gradually whisk in a bit of the tomato mixture, so no lumps form, then stir in the rest. Season with sugar and salt to taste. Serve with your favorite grated cheese on top and some fresh basil.
Use your favorite flavourful tomatoes. We have used Brandywine, Scotia, and Lemon Boy. Lemon Boy provides for different colour and less acid taste.

Make your favourite grilled cheese to accompany the tomato soup. We use 5 year aged cheddar, sliced baked ham, and tomato jam.  (I add an extra tablespoon of tomato jam to the plate for dipping.) The tomato jam is made from our own tomatoes and “put up” for later use. It is great with burgers, sausage, almost anything you can spread it on! Here is the recipe for the Tomato Jam.

Sweet Tomato Jam
6 fresh tomatoes
1 “thumb” (2.5 cm) ginger root grated
4 shallots, sliced
2 cloves garlic, sliced
½ cup brown sugar (125 ml)
½ cup cider vinegar (125 ml)
½ cup water (125 ml)
1 pod Star Anise

Place all ingredients into a saucepan and cook at medium heat until water evaporates. Usually takes 1 to 1½ hours. Continue to cook until jam stage, about another 20 minutes Do a drop test. Put a bit of jam onto a plate and place in refrigerator for two minutes. If the jam sets than the jam is ready. Place in jars and process for 15 minutes.

One small way to enjoy your garden all year around.