I love this time of year with the wonderful fresh produce from the garden!
My daughter Jill recently gave me a lovely bunch of her basil and yesterday my son dropped off two beautiful boxes of produce for me. Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder, and I have a deal with John. I will buy the tomatoes that are burst open a little, or the cucumbers that have a spot at one end. Just as long as they are fresh, and he can save the perfect ones to sell at market. With this abundance of lovely cucumbers and luscious tomatoes, I was inspired to start cooking.
I made some pesto out of the pungent basil. I love to make it and freeze it flat in little sandwich or snack bags. It thaws very quickly if I am tossing it with some fresh pasta, or I can just break off a corner piece of the frozen pesto to add to soups or stews or salad dressings all winter long.
The tomatoes were heirloom variety and I didn’t want to waste any. I saved the best to eat. Then I made a fresh tomato sauce for dinner. I sautéed a little onion and garlic in olive oil. I gently peeled the tomatoes by dipping each one in boiling water for 15-20 seconds, then running under cool water and removing the skins. I cut them into small chunks and added them to my onion-garlic mixture. I also added a little fresh parsley and some of my fresh basil, and a tablespoon of maple syrup. I cooked it down for 15-20 minutes, seasoned it with salt and pepper and served it over pasta for dinner. Mike considered it a gourmet dinner! It tasted so fresh.
After dinner I made pickles. First I made the bread and butter pickles I make every year for my brother Ken’s birthday. Anna requested dill pickles, but I hate them when they are mushy so I decided to just make some refrigerator pickles. I checked lots of recipes in cookbooks and online, and then came up with a version that I thought would be good. They passed the taste test! I made a simple brine and let it cool. I prepared wide mouth pint jars. I used small cucumbers. I scrubbed them well and cut some into chunks and some into spears. In each jar I put some peppercorns, a clove of garlic and a good size sprig of fresh dill. You could also add pepper flakes. I filled the jars with the cucumbers, and added the cooled brine. These pickles have to be refrigerated, and will only keep six to eight weeks. I tasted one this morning and I thought it had a delicious fresh flavor and crunch.
Since I still have a few peaches from last week, and some of the bigger cucumbers, I thought I’d make some peach salsa and use it to top a fish taco tonight for dinner. It goes well with fish or brisket and it’s certainly the time of year to make it! I still have some of our fish in the freezer that we caught at last year’s Fish Ohio Day. And it’s pretty exciting that we’ll have some baseball to watch!
Refrigerator Dill Pickles
2 cups white vinegar
2 cups water
2 Tablespoons kosher salt
2 Tablespoons sugar (optional)
Bring to boil in saucepan. Make sure salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and cool.
4 fresh dill heads (or sprigs plus seeds)
4 cloves garlic
Red pepper flakes (optional)
Use fairly small cucumbers. Cut into spears or chunks or thick slices.
Put a head of dill in bottom of 4 pint jars (large mouth). Put one or two cloves of garlic in each jar. Add peppercorns and red pepper flakes if desired. Fill with cucumbers. Cover with cooled brine. (Can top off with a little water to fill.) Put lid on and place in refrigerator. Leave for 2 to 3 days before tasting. Keeps 6 to 8 weeks in refrigerator.
1 cup diced fresh peaches
½ cup diced cucumbers
1 jalapeno pepper (or part), seeded and diced
1 clove garlic, minced
3 Tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro or parsley
2 Tablespoons lemon or lime juice
½ teaspoon salt
Stir together in small bowl.
Serve over brisket, or fish (taco), or just eat it as a salad.
Ohio First Lady Fran DeWine is a Cedarville resident, Yellow Springs native and guest columnist.