by Roberta Bailey
Around the end of June or the very beginning of July, the garden changes dramatically from a plot full of fragile seedlings and newly seeded rows into a full-blown summer garden. This year the shift occurred on July first in my garden. I was absent-mindedly walking through it on my way to the strawberries, past lettuce and tomatoes and zinnias, when it hit me … boom … heat and tomato scent and plants filling out rows. Summer had arrived. This is a summer garden. And with this sense of changing seasons came a mental shift toward iced tea and cool salads, early morning reading on the back deck, trips to the beach and fresh berry pies.
Within a week came the summer squash, new potatoes, and broccoli – the first tender heads, all deserving of simple cooking to highlight their full, delicate flavor. We are so far past the days of spinach.
The transition to a fall garden comes less dramatically. Often I start to notice the goldenrod on the roadsides, and say, “Oh-oh, our days are numbered,” before I see fall in the garden. I suppose it begins with the garlic harvest, that empty expanse soon to be filled with an oat cover crop or late salad greens. The tomato plants start to look less verdant, though their fruit abounds. In spite of all our pinching back, the basil tries ceaselessly to go to seed. Rows of lush kale await the first frost and the sweetness that it will bring to them. Fall broccoli starts to form its big, bold heads. Often the last plants in the fall garden, these are the antioxidant-rich super foods that will nourish us into late fall or early winter, the deep green that will keep us healthy and help us ward off winter
Broccoli with Parsley Sauce
1 c. fresh parsley
1 small onion, minced
2 Tbsp. ricotta cheese
1/2 c. buttermilk or yogurt, thinned with water
1 pound broccoli florets/spears
In a food processor, finely chop parsley with the onion, then add the ricotta. While still blending, add the buttermilk/yogurt water and combine briefly. Steam broccoli until just tender. Drizzle sauce over cooked broccoli.
3 large potatoes, diced
1 large head broccoli, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1/2 leek, sliced
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/4 tsp. rosemary
1/4 Tbsp. ground cumin
2 c. milk or cream
1 c. stock
Steam the potatoes and broccoli until tender. In a soup pot, sauté the onion and leek in the olive oil until tender. Add the herbs and cook for one minute. In a blender, puree in batches the broccoli, leek and onion with the milk and stock. Return the soup to the saucepan and heat thoroughly.
(With apologies to Marcella Hazan, the grande dame of Italian cooking, who does not think well of anything but basil in pesto)
4 c. chopped broccoli florets
1 c. vegetable or chicken broth
3 to 5 cloves garlic, peeled
1 c. tightly packed fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. pine nuts, walnuts or toasted almonds
1/4 c. grated Parmesan
1/8 t. salt
Steam the broccoli over the broth. To the remaining broth add enough liquid to total 6 tablespoons.
In a food processor, blend the garlic. Add the basil and nuts and process until finely chopped. Add 3 tablespoons of cooking liquid and process until smooth. Add the remaining liquid, along with the broccoli, and salt.
Manually fold in the grated Parmesan cheese. Yield: 2 1/4 cups. Stir into pasta, to taste.
Asian Broccoli Salad
1 Tbsp. crushed garlic
1/3 c. walnut oil or light vegetable oil
1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
1 Tbsp. tamari or soy sauce
1 tsp. salt
3 Tbsp. fresh lime juice
1/4 c. rice vinegar
2 to 4 tsp. minced, fresh ginger root
2 lb. broccoli
6 ounces mushrooms (caps only)
1 1/2 c. toasted walnut halves
Combine the first eight ingredients in a large bowl. Cut broccoli into small spears or pieces of desired size. Steam until just shiny green and tender. Immediately chill under cold water, then drain and refrigerate.
Add the whole, destemmed mushrooms to the marinade. Mix well, cover and chill.
Toast the walnuts in a large skillet on the stove top or in the oven. Stir the broccoli into the marinade 10 to 15 minutes before serving. Top with the toasted walnuts.
Romaine Salad with Broccoli and Apples
3 to 4 c. small broccoli florets
1 medium head of Romaine lettuce
2 to 3 tart red apples
1/4 lb. mild or sharp cheddar cheese, cubed (optional)
1/3 c. olive oil
1/3 c. vegetable oil
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
1/3 Tbsp. salt
2 to 4 tsp. maple syrup or honey
1 tsp. prepared mustard
Minced fresh basil, dill and/or thyme
Black pepper to taste
Steam the florets until they’re bright green and tender, then chill them in cold water immediately. Drain.
Clean and dry the lettuce. Core and cut the apple to bite-size pieces. Whisk together vinaigrette ingredients.
Toss together broccoli, lettuce and apple, then coat lightly with dressing. Top with cheese cubes if desired.
Leftover dressing keeps for months in the refrigerator. Serves 4 to 5.