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Center Stage Vegetable Meals

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When summer harvests are at their peak, every kitchen gardener can relate to the happy challenge of putting all that great produce to good use. If you really have a surplus, give a call to local homeless shelters or ask your local Agricultural Extension office if your community has a ”Plant a Row For the Hungry” program as these organizations are set up to help distribute fresh food to those who need and want it.

In our own kitchens, hot weather and a focus on the garden makes us all look forward to lighter, fresh tasting meals. It’s a perfect time to bring your vegetables to the center of the table and feature them in colorful satisfying main dishes. All over the country both good home cooks and innovative chefs are recognizing that using fresh vegetables and herbs as the centerpiece of a meal is a practice of long standing in many of the world’s great food styles. If you enjoy Mediterranean, Indian or Chinese meals, for example, you already know that vegetables are the key ingredients in their most delicious dishes. The range of flavors you’ll find in your “pick of the crop” summer vegetables can add a whole new dimension to everyday as well as special occasion lunches and dinners.

Main Dish Vegetables

One great way to use extra summer squash is to cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out their flesh (saving it for another use). Use the zucchini shells as holders for your favorite fresh homemade ravioli filling mixture, then cover and bake until tender and top with fresh tomato or cheese sauce.

Or make zucchini pizza: slice the squash into thin 1/4 inch slices and brush with olive oil then bake at 400 degrees about 5-7 minutes, just till tender. Top with well-seasoned pizza sauce, fresh chopped basil and grated cheese and pop under the broiler for a few minutes until the toppings are hot and bubbly This is a sure-fire way for kids of all ages to eat zucchini!

 

Many of us are familiar with traditional stuffed cabbage rolls but try some variations using the abundant bright green leaves of nutritious, tasty Swiss chard. Cut out the chard stems and reserve. Then dip the leaves briefly in a big pot of boiling water to make them limp. Put a tablespoon of stuffing in the center of each leaf, tuck over the ends and roll up the leaves like fat cigars.

 

A filling made of a rice mixture seasoned with sautéed garlic and onion, fresh chopped herbs, lemon juice and toasted chopped nuts is delicious. Another filling I like is a combination of rice, sautéed mushrooms and grated cheese or try sautéed Italian or Chinese sausage, bread crumbs and herbs bound together with a beaten egg. 



 

 

After stuffing and rolling up the chard leaves, chop up the reserved chard stems and put into a big deep pot. Lay the chard bundles over the stems and add enough seasoned chicken or vegetable broth to cover the stems. Steam/braise the rolls for 7-10 minutes until cooked through, then serve with or without grated cheese. With a loaf of crunchy bread and a robust wine, these stuffed rolls make a savory dinner (and terrific leftovers to heat in the microwave for lunch the next day).

 

Renee's Garden Shopping List

 

Zucchini, "Tri-color Mix" includes seeds for buttercup yellow, and bright and dark green squash.

Chard, "Bright Lights" is highly ornamental with sweet, mild flavor in a rainbow of colors.

Basil, "Italian Pesto" has a full bodied, zesty flavor and glossy dark green leaves

Tomato, "Rainbow's End" includes 3 different color coded seeds for a rainbow of the best heirloom varieties.

Eggplant, "Italian Trio" includes seeds for succulent purple-black, magenta and rose white fruits.

Peppers, "Jewel Tones Sweet Bells" include gold, red and orange hybrid bells in one packet. 

Squash, "Summer Scallop Trio" includes 3 different pattypans in yellow, bright green and dark green.

 

To purchase these and other Renee's Garden Seeds, click here  

 

Try more great recipes from Renee's cookbooks:


Don’t neglect to make full summer nights extra memorable with a big aromatic pesto feast. Combine in a food processor: 3 cups of loosely packed fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 3-5 large garlic cloves, 1/2 cup pine nuts, 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fruity extra virgin olive oil and process just enough to make a smooth paste. Add one cup of freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese and salt to taste. Serve over hot pasta, using a little of the pasta water to help spread the sauce evenly, or enjoy the pesto on grilled portabella mushrooms or hot baked potatoes.

 

 

I also like to halve fully ripe tomatoes, brush with olive oil and chopped garlic and bake them at 350 degrees for an hour or so until they are tender and concentrated in flavor. Then top with a generous dollop of pesto sauce and pop under the broiler just for a minute or two. With crusty bread to sop up the juices, this makes a fabulous supper dish! Pesto sauce is also great with fresh grilled corn on the cob. A combination of grilled vegetables, like eggplant slices and chunks of sweet peppers and summer squash topped with pesto sauce and served over rice is another great main dish meal.

Main Dish Vegetables

One great way to use extra summer squash is to cut them in half lengthwise and scoop out their flesh (saving it for another use). Use the zucchini shells as holders for your favorite fresh homemade ravioli filling mixture, then cover and bake until tender and top with fresh tomato or cheese sauce.

Or make zucchini pizza: slice the squash into thin 1/4 inch slices and brush with olive oil then bake at 400 degrees about 5-7 minutes, just till tender. Top with well-seasoned pizza sauce, fresh chopped basil and grated cheese and pop under the broiler for a few minutes until the toppings are hot and bubbly This is a sure-fire way for kids of all ages to eat zucchini!

 

Many of us are familiar with traditional stuffed cabbage rolls but try some variations using the abundant bright green leaves of nutritious, tasty Swiss chard. Cut out the chard stems and reserve. Then dip the leaves briefly in a big pot of boiling water to make them limp. Put a tablespoon of stuffing in the center of each leaf, tuck over the ends and roll up the leaves like fat cigars.

 

A filling made of a rice mixture seasoned with sautéed garlic and onion, fresh chopped herbs, lemon juice and toasted chopped nuts is delicious. Another filling I like is a combination of rice, sautéed mushrooms and grated cheese or try sautéed Italian or Chinese sausage, bread crumbs and herbs bound together with a beaten egg. 



 

 

After stuffing and rolling up the chard leaves, chop up the reserved chard stems and put into a big deep pot. Lay the chard bundles over the stems and add enough seasoned chicken or vegetable broth to cover the stems. Steam/braise the rolls for 7-10 minutes until cooked through, then serve with or without grated cheese. With a loaf of crunchy bread and a robust wine, these stuffed rolls make a savory dinner (and terrific leftovers to heat in the microwave for lunch the next day).

 

Renee's Garden Shopping List

 

Zucchini, "Tri-color Mix" includes seeds for buttercup yellow, and bright and dark green squash.

Chard, "Bright Lights" is highly ornamental with sweet, mild flavor in a rainbow of colors.

Basil, "Italian Pesto" has a full bodied, zesty flavor and glossy dark green leaves

Tomato, "Rainbow's End" includes 3 different color coded seeds for a rainbow of the best heirloom varieties.

Eggplant, "Italian Trio" includes seeds for succulent purple-black, magenta and rose white fruits.

Peppers, "Jewel Tones Sweet Bells" include gold, red and orange hybrid bells in one packet. 

Squash, "Summer Scallop Trio" includes 3 different pattypans in yellow, bright green and dark green.

 

To purchase these and other Renee's Garden Seeds, click here  

 

Try more great recipes from Renee's cookbooks:


Don’t neglect to make full summer nights extra memorable with a big aromatic pesto feast. Combine in a food processor: 3 cups of loosely packed fresh basil leaves, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 3-5 large garlic cloves, 1/2 cup pine nuts, 1 teaspoon fresh oregano, 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of fruity extra virgin olive oil and process just enough to make a smooth paste. Add one cup of freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese and salt to taste. Serve over hot pasta, using a little of the pasta water to help spread the sauce evenly, or enjoy the pesto on grilled portabella mushrooms or hot baked potatoes.

 

 

I also like to halve fully ripe tomatoes, brush with olive oil and chopped garlic and bake them at 350 degrees for an hour or so until they are tender and concentrated in flavor. Then top with a generous dollop of pesto sauce and pop under the broiler just for a minute or two. With crusty bread to sop up the juices, this makes a fabulous supper dish! Pesto sauce is also great with fresh grilled corn on the cob. A combination of grilled vegetables, like eggplant slices and chunks of sweet peppers and summer squash topped with pesto sauce and served over rice is another great main dish meal.