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Dinner from your garden

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Sauted vegetables.

Sauteed vegetables.

This year our garden took on an extra dimension of usefulness. Usually, it is composed of herbs, flowers and xeriscape shrubs, surrounded by grass that is lush or less-than-lush, depending upon the rainfall.

This year we put in vegetables. Maybe it was a reaction to being suddenly underemployed, like many others around the country. Or, maybe it was because we had more time to enjoy  in the garden. I like to think it was the latter.

As for the results, so far, let’s just say we’re still in ramp-up phase (kind of like our fab new Web site).

Saturday night, though, we went outside and picked tomatoes, squash and fresh herbs, which we added to some heirloom tomatoes and more squash a friend donated from her garden. The resulting dish was colorful, very healthful and served magnificently as a side to seared burgers and pasta tossed in olive oil and garlic.

There isn’t a recipe here, as such. Just follow these simple tips for a great vegetable saute – even if the garden is just producing odds and ends at the moment.

  • Vegetables you can slice, dice, and just throw into a sauté pan with olive oil include any kind of tomato (even a green tomato, and especially grape or cherry tomatoes).
  • Garlic. Onions. These may not be growing in the garden but they’re always inexpensive at the store. Keep them handy.
  • Some vegetables might need to be blanched, or even par-boiled before being tossed into the saute pan. Green beans are one example — unless you are one of those who really like crisp, not-too-cooked green beans.  You know who you are.
  • Back to the olive oil. I generally don’t put in just a spoonful or so of olive oil. The flavor is beautiful and a little more fat, even a tablespoon or two, won’t hurt. It’s a good fat.
  • How to season: salt and pepper are always good. Try some fresh or crumbled dry oregano, savory, a small pinch of marjoram and an even smaller pinch of rosemary. With these latter herbs, a subtle hint is far better than an overwhelming dose. Chopped parsley adds a fresh dash of green. Sautééed mushrooms are never a bad thing.

Finally, don’t overcook these ingredients, fresh off the plant. Some things, like cherry or grape tomatoes, need only to be tossed around the pan over a medium-high heat until some of the skins burst. Perfect as a side, perfect as the “sauce” for grilled salmon or pan-fried trout. What could be easier, or speak more eloquently of summer?

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