Garden recipes and meal planning start the school year off right

(Written for the Los Altos Town Crier)
It’s a time of ripening. Tomatoes, corn, squash and melon are reaching full readiness at seemingly the precise same moment in our backyard vegetable boxes. After months of watering and waiting, it feels nearly miraculous that there is actual food on the vines. Or perhaps that is just the awe of a mediocre-at-best gardener.
Indoors, things are reaching a more complete state, too. Kids, ripe from a summer of equal parts adventure and boredom, are at their peak condition for taking on a new year of school.
I watch in amazement as they tear tags off just-bought clothes, wrap up summer homework assignments and discuss morning routines – hardly believing we’ve reached the end of summer break. Here again, I wonder if my astonishment at the arrival of the school year start is the result of my equally mediocre ability to keep a schedule.
Regardless, after a summer of enjoyable time spent with my kids and my garden, it’s thrilling to watch the next step for both.
Using the vegetables we’ve grown adds not just comfort, but a sense of “wow, we grew this” pride to our family meals. What’s more, a little meal planning will help ease our transition into the fuller schedules and commitments a new school year brings.
While meal planning can be a bit casual through summer, I try to start the new school year off with a renewed dedication to organization and to adding Meatless Monday back into our dinnertime routine.
A great side with meat dishes or bean chili, my Grilled Corn, Avocado and Mint Salad becomes the star of dinner when served alongside Midwife and the Baker’s Whole Spelt bread toasted and topped with chevre.
  • 4 ears fresh corn, shucked
  • 2 avocados, diced
  • Handful of fresh mint

Lime vinaigrette
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 garlic clove, minced

Heat grill on high 10 minutes. Place corn directly on grill, cover and cook 10 minutes, turning periodically. While corn is cooking, make vinaigrette by combining all ingredients in mason jar and shaking with gusto.
Remove corn from grill and let sit a few minutes to cool slightly. Place dish towel on chopping block. Stand each ear of corn up on its end atop towel. Using serrated knife, cut off kernels by running knife from top to bottom of ear. Use towel to transfer kernels to serving bowl.
Add avocado and vinaigrette and mix through. Add mint leaves and toss to combine.

Corn, with its sweet and buttery nature, is an easy vegetable to pair with wine. Basic corn on the cob goes great with an unoaked Chardonnay. In this corn salad, I look to the other ingredients in the dish and the preparation of the corn to determine a perfect pairing.
Smoke from the grilling and the addition of the avocado make this salad a fantastic friend to the German white wine Sylvaner, which is light and refreshing. If you are a clean and crisp white wine fan, Sylvaner is a varietal you should introduce yourself to. Try a 2015 Charles Baur Sylvaner Alsace ($13.99) – the delicate green-apple aroma and beautiful stone-fruit flavors are so tasty when enjoyed with this summer salad.

This quick dinner is a great way to consume a glut of tomatoes. The red jewels become caramelized through the roasting, which adds intensity to their natural sweetness. The addition of Aleppo pepper creates depth in the resulting sauce. While the recipe calls for cherry tomatoes, you can use all varieties, shapes and sizes of very-ripe tomatoes. I cut larger tomatoes into bite-size pieces prior to roasting.
  • 6 cups cherry tomatoes of all shapes and sizes
  • Hefty glug of good olive oil
  • 4 cloves garlic, whole and unpeeled
  • 1-3 teaspoons Aleppo pepper
  • Sea salt to taste
  • 10 basil leaves, torn
  • 1 pound spaghetti

Preheat oven to 425 F. Scatter tomatoes in large baking dish. Drizzle olive oil evenly over, add garlic sprinkle, pepper and salt, and toss well to combine. Roast in oven 20-25 minutes.
While tomatoes are roasting, cook spaghetti according to package directions. Drain pasta, reserving 1/2 cup pasta water to add to sauce as needed.
Remove tomatoes from oven and using fork, mash to release juices.
Pour pasta over tomatoes, add 1/4 cup water to start, and more if needed to achieve desired sauce thickness. Add torn basil leaves and toss well.
Serve immediately.
In general, a pasta with red sauce calls for a big red wine. This summery dish is best served beside a Rosé. While the tomatoes are roasted, they still retain enough fresh-from-the-vine attributes that a Rosé is ideal. I like the 2018 Tenuta Sant’Antonio Scaia Rosato Veneto ($11.99), made with the Italian red wine varietal Rondinella. The wine is full of zing and herbal notes – just like the roasted tomatoes.


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