Summer is the best time for organic gardeners. This summer is no different. Most days were hot, but not too hot. Most nights were cool, but not too cool–perfect for a bountiful and healthy garden. In fact, since the weather has been so perfect, my vegetable garden is overflowing with delectable goodies just ready to make their table debut. Tonight should be ideal for an alfresco dinner on my herb and flower lined patio, so let’s get cooking!
Munchies are an imperative.
Purple eggplant orbs hang like plentiful ornaments just waiting to be plucked for my culinary masterpieces. Today’s will be a roasted-eggplant-herbal dip served with freshly harvested carrots, bell peppers, and zucchini cut into pencil stick pieces.
Slicing the eggplant in quarters, I sprinkle it with olive oil and salt and roast it on high heat until done–about 20 minutes. It should be very soft and light brown. While this roasts, I chop fresh herbs from my garden . The amount or variety of herbs is a personal decision. I choose a bunch of Greek oregano, thyme, and parsley. I use about one tablespoon for this dish and save the same amount for our main course.
Using a hand blender, I puree the roasted goodness with herbs, salt, and garlic to taste. I adjust the flavor using lemon juice and olive oil. Yum.
Summer salads don’t always have to include mayonnaise.
Since our garden is overflowing with tomatoes, cucumbers, lemons and basil, a Greek salad is in order. Forget measuring cups and detailed instructions; for this salad, I cube cucumbers and tomatoes and toss with a healthy dose of lemon juice. Tossing in chopped basil leaves, drained capers, and crumbled feta cheese to taste, it’s done.
Ah, the smell of barbecue in the evening.
Our alfresco entrée will be my favorite barbecued herbal chicken breasts. Once again, forget complicated instructions and measurements. This is food, not a chemistry lesson. Cutting each breast in half, I then place them in the reserved chopped herbs, salt, garlic and olive oil. Allow your taste buds to determine how much garlic and salt you use. Though, use enough oil to coat each piece thoroughly.
You scream, I scream, we all scream for ice cream.
French vanilla ice cream topped with freshly picked quartered strawberries and perfectly ripe blueberries from my garden is a simple and yet delicious dessert.
Time to eat!
Dressing the table with freshly cut flowers from my garden sets the mood. The many hummingbirds and finches the garden attracts provide our entertainment.
Since the chicken takes roughly 15 minutes to cook, it goes on the barbecue right away. While we wait, I pour a 2012 Geyser Peak Sauvignon Blanc, which is light, slightly grassy with a bit of citrus and enough acidity to compliment the earthy, roasted eggplant dip. Thinking ahead, I picked up a rustic batard — excellent crusty bread — from my favorite grocer to pair with the salad and chicken. Personally, I love to spread some of the dip on it as well. It’s absolutely heavenly.
A slightly chilled 2011 Bogle Pinot Noir pairs perfectly with the herbs on both the chicken and salad. Once the entrée is finished, it’s time for dessert. Drizzling each with Grand Marnier is optional, but decant and delicious!
Perfect late summer alfresco dinner! What’s your ideas?
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