June 2010


The vegetable garden is humming along nicely, producing a bounty of fat, sweet sugar snap and shell peas, peppery mache, and tender red and green leaf lettuces, plenty for salads every day. Our pole beans, cucumbers, and tomatoes are in bloom. There are ripe black raspberries to pick each morning and the resident squirrels are feasting on our strawberries (next year I will wrap the barrel in chicken wire). There are mountains of cilantro and mint and a steady supply of creeping thyme and oregano.

Clockwise from top left: sugar snap peas, mache, pole beans, leaf lettuces

Clockwise from top left: potted tomatoes, strawberries, cucumber blossoms, black raspberries

Flowers are in full bloom along the front and side fences. Finally, my novice landscaping efforts are starting to pay off — next year, the perennials will be large enough to divide and replant in new areas of the yard.

Clockwise from top left: coneflower, pineapple mint, potentilla, rudbeckia Indian summer

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This humble, hearty recipe began as an afterthought, thrown together at the last minute to round out a dinner of baked salmon and carrot salad.  I had half a box of orecchiette and a can of chickpeas languishing in the back of the pantry, an overgrown herb garden that needed cutting back, and — despite a nagging feeling that beans and pasta would be too heavy for a warm summer evening — no time to rethink.

Good thing, because the results were refreshingly delicious.  Better yet, our 5 year old (who tends to reject dishes speckled with “little green bits”) cleaned his plate!  And the leftovers, served with a scoop of sweet and tangy carrot salad, made an excellent lunch the next day.

Orecchiette and chickpeas

Makes about 3 1/2 c., serving 4

1/2 lb. orecchiette

15 oz. can chickpeas, rinsed and drained

2 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 1/2 lemon)

1/4 c. extra-virgin olive oil

2 tbsp. finely chopped, fresh parsley

1 tbsp. finely chopped, fresh mint

Salt and freshly ground, black pepper, to taste

Cook orecchiette in a large pot of boiling, salted water until just tender.  Drain.

While pasta cooks, whisk together lemon juice, oil, and herbs in a large mixing bowl.  Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Toss hot pasta and chickpeas with dressing.  Taste and season with additional salt and pepper as needed.  Serve warm.

Sweet corn, juicy tomatoes, smoky bacon, and fragrant basil make a superb summer salad.  Serve with grilled chicken, fish, or steak and crusty bread for sopping up the juices.

Summer succotash

Makes about 7 cups, serving 6-8

4 thick or 6 thin slices bacon

1 1/2 lbs. fresh shell beans in pod (or use 1 1/2 c. shelled, frozen lima or soybeans)

1 small sweet onion, finely chopped

Kernels from 4 ears fresh corn (about 4 c.)

1 1/2 lbs. tomatoes, seeded and chopped

10 basil leaves, thinly sliced

2 tsp. apple cider vinegar

Salt and freshly ground, black pepper, to taste

Cook bacon in a large, non-stick skillet over medium heat until crisp.  Remove to a paper towel-lined plate to drain.  If you’re using fresh beans, shell them while the bacon cooks.  If you’re using frozen beans, pour a kettle of boiling water over them to thaw, then drain.  Place beans in a large mixing bowl.

Pour off all but 2 tbsp. fat from skillet, raise heat to medium-high, and cook onion and corn with a pinch of salt until just tender, about 4 minutes.

Add onion and corn, tomatoes, basil, and vinegar to bowl with beans.  Crumble in bacon.  Toss well, taste, and season with pepper and additional salt, as needed.  Serve immediately.