Being right out in the garden with the birds serenading us and the gentle sounds of a summer evening made for a wonderful relaxing atmosphere with great conversation... we really didn't need any other entertainment for a fine night out!
When the weather really heats up and summer vegetables begin to ripen in abundance, I love to fire up the BBQ to enjoy them for quick weeknight patio picnics.
Grilled summer squash, tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and onions take on a very special nutty succulence when you cook them over the coals. Best of all, they are easy to prepare and really complete a simple summer supper served along with barbecued chicken, fish or burgers.
Simply cut up vegetables in one inch chunks or slices, toss them with olive oil (flavored with garlic if you desire), and grill them slowly over medium heat until softened and slightly charred. To finish, sprinkle with a little good quality balsamic vinegar and a handful of your favorite finely chopped herbs. Dust with freshly grated Parmesan or Asiago cheese if you like and grind a little fresh pepper over all. Any leftover vegetables make a fabulous lunch the next day served with crusty bread and a green salad.
To purchase Renee's Garden Seeds, click here
Try these great recipes from Renee's cookbooks:
Sesame Salad Dressing
Israeli Cucumber Salad
Summer Garden Slaw
Edible Flower Tea Sandwiches
Woody herbs, such as rosemary branches, bloomed out basil stalks, sage branches, lavender branches and thyme stalks can add wonderful smoky flavors to the BBQ process. When you are grilling chicken, turkey, pork or lamb, cut a big bunch of any of these herbs and throw them right on the coals of the BBQ for the last 5 to 10 minutes of cooking. Put the cover on the BBQ and let the aromatic smoke theyll produce add a delicious subtle herb flavors to finish the cooking process, filling the air with a piquant herb scent that will be sure to whet everyones appetite.
Garden meals can also provide an opportunity to use all the edible blossoms of your herbs as they begin to flower. Make some open faced sandwiches topped with a simple chopped cucumber and cream cheese mixture seasoned with a touch of garlic, scallions and salt and pepper to taste, then decorate the sandwiches with herb blossoms from plants like thyme, basil, fennel, oregano, dill, arugula, marjoram or chives. If you are growing nasturtiums, borage, petite violas or calendulas, these edible flowers can also make tasty and decorative sandwich toppings that everyone will exclaim over and enjoy.
On hot afternoons, enjoy your garden by having a little tea party! Use your garden mint to make a strong mint tea to serve iced and sweetened in tall frosty glasses garnished with fresh mint sprigs and slices of juicy oranges and lemons. Offer this refreshing herb tea along with simple sugar cookies or pound cake made with sugar deliciously flavored with scented geranium leaves. To prepare the sugar, simply bury a few rose or citrus scented geranium leaves in a few cups of sugar for a few days. The perfume of the leaves will infuse into the sugar with delightful results. These light herb and floral flavors are sure to cool and refresh everyone. Last summer I had a tea party in the garden like this for my girlfriends birthday and encouraged everyone to wear their most frothy, flowery sundresses.
We ate little herb blossom sandwiches and lavender shortbread cookies, sipped minted ice tea and chatted up a storm of pure summer contentment. The backdrop of the blooming garden provided the perfect casual ambiance for memorable afternoon of friendship.