Story and Recipes by Terese Allen, Food Editor
Once the frost hits, the garden goes quiet…but thankfully, we’re not there just yet. In fact, if you could hear your garden talking, it would be a cacophony right now. September is when the harvest goes into overdrive, when fall crops try to out-plump each other, and when every meal-planning becomes a question of, “How many pounds of squash can I use up tonight?”
Of course, it’s also when the schedules of families with school-age children are at their most hectic. Ergo, simplicity is a virtue in September cooking, and in the garden-conscious dishes featured this month (see below).
Just so you know, however, I’ve cheated a little. I left one step out of each of the recipes--the first step, that is, the one that goes: “Walk out to the garden and pick some [insert vegetables here].”
I figure the garden is already telling you to do that.
Sat-Upon Sandwich - Fresh garden veggies, sliced deli meats and cheese, good French bread--these are the makings of a classic sandwich, but this one has curious twist. Check it out…
Windfall Quesadillas - Lots of backyard plots include an apple tree; here’s something to do with the windfalls (and it’s almost as easy as eating them straight).
Biscuits Stuffed with Spicy Greens and Ham
Two Southern inspirations literally come together when you pile spiced-up garden greens into split baking powder biscuits.
Harvest Vegetables Grill Salad - This is a full-meal salad, an ideal one to make at the end of the season, when the family gardener says, “Let’s raid the rows! Everything has to go!”
Slice-and-Serve Fennel Salad – A juicy, hand-cut salad that proves it only takes a few really good ingredients to produce a lot of great flavor.
School House Salad –This simple combo features back-to-school-time ingredients, but it can be converted seasonally and to the tastes of your family.
Cut Herbs and Cream Pasta Sauce - When the weather grows discordant, one of the summer songs we miss most is fresh herbs. But before the harvest is over you can feature a whole medley in this sauce.
Cauliflower, Leek and Blue Cheese Soup with Tarragon - This is the soup for a drizzling fall day (hopefully you harvested the vegetables before the rains began!)
Not a gardener? Even if you don’t have a green thumb it’s easy to reap the benefits of the harvest this month. Roadside stands and farm markets are still piling the produce high, while farmers’ markets are at their most splendiferous (check your local newspaper for the one nearest you). Now is when vegetable growers like to stop in at food cooperatives and grocery stores with their excess bounty, so all you have to do is look for the signs that say “locally grown.” And of course, there’s never been a better time to make friends with the gardener in your neighborhood.
If you’re wondering what’s in season in your neck of the woods, the Internet can help. There’s many websites that list seasonal produce by city, state or region. Here’s a few:
Field to plate Seasonal Look Up Guide: www.fieldtoplate.com/guide.php
North Carolina: www.ncagr.com/markets/chart.htm
New Jersey: www.state.nj.us/jerseyfresh
Pacific Northwest: www.seasonalcornucopia.com