3 Harvest Fresh Recipes You Need in Your Life Right Now

We’re going to talk about recipes with ingredients that are still probably ready to pick in your yard right now. But if your Spring veggie plants are already gone, I totally understand. I live in West Central Florida, where right now, when it’s not raining, we’ve been having Heat Index days topping 108, 109, 110 degrees Fahrenheit. This is instant sweating, flip-flop melting, HOT weather.

Because of the heat my Spring garden is pretty much on its last legs – the tomato “understory” (lower leaves) is dying out while the tips of the plants are still healthy looking and flowering/fruiting. When I do get some tomatoes they are usually split from the rain deluges before I get a chance to let them grow to full size or ripen. But, my hot pepper plants seem to be doing just fine.

Split green tomato

When life gives you green tomatoes, of course being a Southern girl, there’s only one thing to do: you fry them. It’s one of my favs so I’ll share it with you! We’ll also do some yummy things with jalapenos which you might not have thought of doing. Finally, to help cool you off after all that heat, we’ll use some Mint that’s going crazy trying to find its way out of the container it’s planted in right now to make some Mint Lemonade.

Fried Green Tomatoes

There is so many delicious things that Fried Green Tomatoes can be used to make…

Yes, Fried Green Tomatoes is the title of a wonderful and famous movie. But it’s also a great way to use up tomatoes that may not make it to ripening (usually because they have split at the top). The rest of the tomato is fine when they split, they’re just not pretty, and they tend to eventually dry up or get mold growing on them if they didn’t heal their split before picking.

Sometimes, though, you just want to take a regular healthy green tomato and make this dish. And that’s OK too. Let’s get to it!

Ingredients:

  • Green tomatoes, sliced in 1/3-1/2 inch crosswise slices (depending on how big your tomatoes are) – see example photo
  • Eggs, whisked – number of eggs will vary depending on how many tomatoes you are preparing
  • Corn meal – finely ground – if you don’t have this, I’ve also had good luck with bread crumbs or crushed plain cornflakes (not the sugary kind).
  • Paprika – season to taste
  • Salt – season to taste
  • Pepper – season to taste
  • Vegetable Oil

Instructions:

Slice your tomatoes as described above, and place on a plate. Sprinkle with salt & pepper, and set aside.

Sliced Green Tomatoes, ready for their salt & pepper!

Whisk one egg in a shallow bowl. Place an additional shallow bowl in an “assembly line” on the counter. You will place the corn meal & paprika in the second bowl, and mix these dry ingredients together well.

Take a heavy skillet, cast iron if you have it, and fill to 1/2″ full with vegetable oil. Set it over medium-high heat. Allow the oil to heat up to just before smoking point (the surface will usually shimmer slightly just before starting to burn). If you don’t know if it’s ready, take a pinch of corn meal and toss into the oil – it should readily sizzle and start to brown right away.

When the oil is warmed up, dip your tomatoes one at a time in egg, and then coat in the corn meal mixture, making sure the tomato is well coated. Place the coated tomatoes carefully into the oil, making sure they don’t touch, stack, or overlap (and be careful not to splash yourself!). Allow them to cook in the oil until they are nicely browned, about 2 minutes per side if the oil is hot enough.

Fried Green Tomatoes in a cast iron skillet.

As you move through the sliced green tomatoes, refill the egg and corn meal mixture in your shallow bowls as needed through this process.

Transfer the golden-brown tomato slices to a paper-towel lined platter. The aluminum “disposable” baking tins lined with paper towels are really handy for this too if you’re cooking a lot of them, as the tall sides keep your stacks of tomatoes and paper towels from falling over.

Repeat this process until you finish all of your tomato frying. Serve warm or room temperature (I even like them cold…).

Suggestions for serving:

  • Make a toasted Bacon, Lettuce, & Fried Green Tomato Sandwich (otherwise known to me as a BLFGT) with mayo, or for a little spice you can use the Roasted Jalapeno Sauce I make (recipe below).
  • Use a Fried Green Tomato as the base for a stackable snack, such as a layered FGT, goat cheese, and prosciutto appetizer!
  • Ever had a Grilled FGT & Cheese sandwich? Works as a panini too!
  • Start with a FGT, add a thin layer of marinara, some diced pepperoni or crumbled italian sausage, top with some shredded mozzarella. Toast them in a toaster oven for 2 minutes, and make a FGT pizza bite!
  • FGT Cheeseburger. You’re welcome.

The possibilities are endless!

Roasted Jalapenos

Roasted jalapenos

Some people just can’t get enough heat in their food. If you want to make your own hot stuff and use up the jalapenos that are going bananas on your pepper plants right now, it’s actually pretty easy to roast them! Then you can put them on your burgers, your sandwiches, your hotdogs, or even make a spicy aioli/sauce with them.

I like to use a grill for this purpose, but you could do the oven. The instructions below are for the grill, but an oven at 400 degrees would give you a similar result I think.

Ingredients:

  • Green and/or red jalapenos
  • Olive Oil
  • salt, pepper, garlic powder to taste (or a pre-mixed seasoning like a Steak or Chicken seasoning if that’s all you have – if you’ve got some Latin ingredients, Completa or Adobo with Pepper works well too).
  • Heavy duty Aluminum foil sheets, 2 of the same approximate size

Instructions:

Heat grill/oven.

Take your fresh-picked jalapenos and cut off the stem, then cut them in half longways (stem to point). Open them up into two halves. Remove the seeds (dry and save them for next growing season if you like!).

Take one sheet of aluminum foil and lay it out flat, then fold up the edges about 1″ around. Arrange your halved jalapenos on your aluminum sheet inside the folded edges, the insides of the jalapenos facing you (skin facing the aluminum). Drizzle (or brush, if you prefer, but I like extra oil) these jalapeno “boats” with olive oil and then sprinkle your salt, pepper, garlic or other spice mixtures over all of them. You don’t need a lot, but you don’t want to be skimpy either.

The second sheet of aluminum covers the jalapenos and the turned-up edges of the foil are crimped into the top piece of foil, making a foil pouch. No openings are necessary for venting, but you can leave a small one if you like (I find the steam buildup helps the roasting process).

This foil pack is much more neatly folded than mine!

On your hot grill, place your foil packet on direct medium heat for 15 minutes and then lower the heat to low or move to indirect heat for another 15 minutes. Check your work after you move it off of the direct heat to see where you’re at roasting-wise. When done, your Jalapenos should look “flat” and a bit “soft” with a nice brown roast mark on the skin, but not be burnt or completely destroyed. You should still be able to take a fork or pair of tongs and lift them up in one piece. Remove from heat when they get to this point.

And that’s really it! Depending on your grill type you might need to experiment with time on the heat for the cooking part.

This is a good dish to make alongside other things you’re grilling, like burgers, hot dogs, corn, or whatever you’re making for your summer BBQs.

Serving suggestions:

  • Put one or two on a burger for a great spicy kick!
  • Dice a roasted pepper and mix into sweet relish for a kickin’ hot dog!
  • Take a few peppers and make a spicy condiment for great pepper flavor in a creamy sauce (the next section below).
  • Add roasted jalapenos to homemade hummus for an unexpected twist! Also great to add a few roasted red sweet bell peppers for added sweetness.

Roasted Jalapeno Aioli/Sauce

I struggle with what to call this mixture, but I love it because it can be adapted to different uses. It has spice, and then the cooling effect of the dairy, so you can taste the pepper flavor without burning your face off. It seems the hotter the weather gets, the hotter my jalapenos get!

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 Roasted Jalapeno Peppers, prepared as above
  • 1 cup Sour Cream, brand and fat content of your choice
  • 1/2 cup Mayonnaise, Hellmans or Dukes or the like, NOT Miracle Whip (I love MW but it has the wrong flavor for this)
  • Optional: 1 tsp Cumin, cilantro leaves, lime juice

Instructions:

Use 4-6 roasted jalapenos per 1 cup Sour Cream, depending on how spicy you want it. Add the jalapenos, the sour cream, the mayonnaise, and any optional ingredients, into a food processor. Puree these items together, ensuring they are blended well and not chunky.

Use liberally on burger buns, dollop onto tacos in place of sour cream, spread on a Bacon, Lettuce & Fried Green Tomato sandwich – or wherever you think a little spice would taste delicious!

I use the Cumin when I’m making a sauce for tacos, it adds some great flavor! You could also add cilantro leaves and/or lime juice for even more flavor. You have permission to play with your food!!!

You should be able to store this sauce in the refrigerator for up to 5 days, and I haven’t found that it freezes well, but you could try.

So Fresh So Clean Mint Lemonade

Lemons and mint are meant to be together!

When you think you’ve had all the hot and spicy you can stand, nothing cools you down like Mint Lemonade. I call Mint “the wonder herb” because not only is it an aggressive grower in the garden, but it helps with digestion, headaches, and it takes the sting out of spices. Mint oil also has a cooling sensation, so when added to drinks it’s like eating a really flavorful ice cube. And we all need something cooling when it gets this hot. Get ready to get refreshed!

P.S. Those familiar with Middle Eastern culture might see a resemblance to Limonana here! Yum!

Ingredients:

  • 6 fresh Lemons, 5 halved, one for garnish – you can use regular or Meyer lemons
  • Mint sprigs with leaves, about 1/2 cup of leaves with extra “pretty” sprigs set aside for garnish
  • 2 cups granulated Sugar
  • 6 cups water
  • Ice
  • A large pitcher
  • A muddler (or wood spoon)
  • A strainer
  • A citrus reamer, if you have one, otherwise a fork and some elbow grease

Instructions:

First you need to make a simple syrup: Add 2 cups water and 2 cups sugar into a saucepan, heat over low to medium-low heat, stirring frequently, until all the sugar has dissolved. A clear syrup, or a golden yellow syrup is fine, but you don’t want a brown or tar-like syrup, so don’t let it burn! When it turns brown the sugar is caramelizing, and that has a different flavor profile. When the sugar is dissolved, remove from the heat and set aside to cool.

Simple syrup is a 1:1 ratio of sugar and water. Easy!

While that syrup is happening, cut your lemons in half crosswise. If you have a reamer tool or simple juicer contraption, you can juice your lemons and the seeds will be removed during that process and the juice collected. If not, you can use a bowl and a mesh strainer to squeeze your lemons into – the mesh will catch the seeds and the big chunks of pulp. Use a fork to squeeze out as much juice from the lemons as possible. When you’re done squeezing the 5 lemons, you should have about 8 ounces of lemon juice, and some nice rinds for zesting (lemon bars, anyone?), and/or for the compost pile. You could also fill the rinds with a peanut butter and birdseed and set it out for the birdies to munch on…but I digress.

In your pitcher, sprinkle the bottom with about 2 Tablespoons of sugar and add about 1 Tablespoon of water. Mix it around to get the sugar wet and clumpy.

Harvest some leaves from your mint sprigs, a nice handful (about a 1/3-1/2 cup), and place in the bottom of your pitcher. Take your muddler and press the mint into the sugar until it’s crushed. This part is kind of like making a mojito! You don’t have to completely destroy the leaves but know that as you press you are releasing the mint oils that have the cooling and refreshing taste you’re looking for.

Examples of muddlers. You don’t have to get fancy, a wooden spoon works too.

Once that’s done, pour the lemon juice and 4 cups of water over your mint mash. Stir. Your lemon juice and sugar and mint leaves will make a green-ish liquid. While stirring, add 1 cup of the simple syrup. Taste. If you want it sweeter, slowly add more sweetness to taste. You will probably have some syrup left over, which you can store in an airtight container for future use (like in mojitos! I might be obsessed).

To serve, fill glasses with cube ice and pour your lemonade over the ice. If you don’t want ice, refrigerate your lemonade until cold, an hour or two, and then serve. Some folks might want to pour through a strainer to catch the crushed leaf pieces; if you don’t mind some leafy greens in your lemonade, feel free to just pour. Add a sprig of mint and a lemon wedge to the glass. Enjoy!

Mint Sprigs – beautiful garnish, tasty ingredient.

I suggest keeping the mixture refrigerated and you should probably consume each batch within about 24 hours, as the fresh mint will lose it’s “mintyness” over time and turn brown in the drink.

Great for a hot summer’s day!

Want some other refreshing drink ideas? Check out this article.

I hope you enjoyed these fun recipes using veggies and mint from the garden. Let me know if you have your own recipes or tweaks to the ones presented here in the comments below. Enjoy!

Sincerely,

Marissa

Delish Dishes from the Backyard

Butternut Squash Soup

Delish Dishes from the Backyard
By Marissa

Your fall crops are probably well underway by now, and I wanted to talk about some delicious dishes that you can make from the things that you are growing right now. You probably can’t harvest yet, and that’s ok – this will just give you something to look forward to cooking!

One of my favorite treats is soup, especially in the fall and winter months. Simmering in the house for a few hours to combine all the flavors makes the whole house feel cozy and inviting. Smelling your delicious soup brewing all day is also sure to make you hungry! Let’s try a butternut squash soup with squash straight from your own garden – it’s a little bit of work to prep, but it’s SO worth it!

Butternut Squash Soup

This delicious creamy soup is wonderful for a lunch or dinner. Served with bread & salad you’ll have a filling meal! The main recipe is even vegetarian (I’ll put optional non-veg items in parentheses). You can use a pot on the stove or a slow cooker, whatever you prefer. Have an Instant Pot? You can use that too with some modifications. I included directions for all below so you can make this tasty soup whatever way works for you and your kitchen. A recommendation from my own kitchen: while I love my Instant Pot for lots of things, I really love the stovetop for this recipe.

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups vegetable stock (or 4 cups chicken or turkey stock – you can even make this yourself!)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and diced
  • 1 large or 2 medium apples, peeled, cored and diced
  • 1 uncooked 3-4 lb butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cubed in about ½” – 1” cubes
  • 1 medium white or yellow onion, diced
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 sprig of fresh sage
  • 1 sprig of rosemary, rubbed between your hands gently just before putting in the pot to release the oils
  • 6 fresh basil leaves, minced fine
  • 2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
  • ½ tsp salt, with extra for seasoning at the end
  • ¼ tsp fresh black pepper, with extra for seasoning at the end
  • ⅛ tsp cayenne, with extra for seasoning at the end
  • ⅛ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ cup canned unsweetened coconut milk (or ½ cup Half & Half or Heavy Cream), with extra for garnish if desired
  • FOR STOVETOP ONLY: 2 tsp grapeseed or avocado oil
Uncooked, peeled and seeded butternut squash

Optional garnishes:

  • Dash of smoked paprika on top for color
  • Small pinch of Roasted Salted or Unsalted Pepitas – these are roasted pumpkin seeds that are shelled. You can also roast the seeds from the butternut squash while your soup is cooking and use them as a garnish! (recipe below)
  • Substitute milk above for sour cream for a heavier soup with that characteristic sour cream taste. Use a ¼ cup, with a dollop saved for garnish at serving time
  • (Crispy bacon, crumbled, sprinkled on top)
  • Your favorite crusty fresh-baked or toasted bread for dunking

For Slow Cooker:

Put all ingredients into the pot or slow cooker EXCEPT the milk and garnishes. Set the slow cooker on low for 8 hours. After 8 hours, remove the lid, remove the sprigs of sage and rosemary, and add milk of your choice. Use an immersion blender to blend soup smooth into a bisque, or use a blender that is vented for the heat (blending in parts, it won’t all fit at once!) and then put it all back into the cooker and stir to ensure all the chunky bits are smooth as you stir.

On the Stovetop: Place pot that will be big enough for all ingredients on the stove and place the oil in the bottom, Heat on medium-high and spread the oil around a bit. When hot and shimmering (not smoking) add onion, cook for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Add the carrot, some of the butternut squash cubes and apple to the bottom of the pot, not so much that you can’t stir them around on the heat, and saute them as well for another 2 minutes – this process gives you a little more “roasted” flavor – caramelizes the natural sugars in the squash, carrots, and apples.

Add the rest of the squash, apple, all the stock, the vinegar, and top with the salt, pepper, cayenne, nutmeg, the basil leaves, sage and rosemary sprigs, and stir gently. Bring pot to a boil with frequent stirring and then cut the heat to low.

stovetop butternut squash
Instant Pot Butternut Squash Soup

Simmer on low for at least 3 hours, lid on, until the squash is soft. Monitor your liquid level on the stovetop and add a ¼ cup of broth if it gets too thick – you don’t want it to burn. When done cooking, remove the sprigs of sage and rosemary, add the milk of your choice, and use an immersion blender to blend into a bisque, or use a regular blender to blend in parts, making sure your blender is vented for the heat. Put all blended bisque back into the pot and stir for a “lump check”, mashing any remaining lumps.

Instant Pot:

Set to saute function and allow to heat to hot. Add oil once hot. Add onion, cook for 2-3 minutes, then add garlic and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Set to manual and cook on high pressure for 14 minutes. Natural release for 15 minutes after that. Then release pressure and open the lid. Add milk of your choice and blend your soup with an immersion blender until smooth, or move soup to regular blender in parts, making sure the blender is vented for the heat, and place back in Instant Pot and stir to ensure no lumpy bits remain.

Roasting Butternut Squash seeds:

While your soup is cooking, you can take advantage of all the bits of your squash to make a tasty treat or garnish. Clean “guts” off of seeds and wash them, then pat them dry.

Coat with olive, avocado, or grapeseed oil lightly. Season lightly with salt, pepper if you like, paprika, garlic salt, or some combination of them all to your taste. Spread seasoned seeds on parchment paper-covered baking sheet and place sheet in preheated oven 275 degrees for 15 minutes or until seeds start popping. Remove from oven and cool on baking sheet. Sprinkle on top of soup at serving time – if you have any left after you’ve snacked on them!

Serving:

Ladle soup into bowl. Top with drizzle of milk of your choice, or a dollop of sour cream. Sprinkle roasted seeds, pepitas, cayenne, paprika, bacon, or any of these that you like on top of your soup and serve with a crusty bread for dunking. Add a salad of greens, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers from your garden to really get a filling meal!

Enjoy!

Herbed Butter
Roasting Butternut Squash Seeds

Herbed Butter

Herbed butter is another treat that I like to make fresh from the garden. You can put it on your crusty bread for the soup, or use it as a burst of garden-fresh flavor in a number of dishes! Great on veggies like green beans that you just picked, sauteed onions and peppers, and so much more. Here’s how to do it – it’s pretty easy!

Ingredients:

  • ½ lb (2 sticks) unsalted butter softened at room temperature (don’t microwave it!)
  • ¼ tsp minced garlic, or garlic greens (sprouted garlic bulb green tops) or ⅛ tsp dried garlic powder
  • 1 Tbsp minced scallions, or chives, or onion greens (whichever you have)
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh dill (or ½ Tbsp dried dill)
  • 1 Tbsp minced fresh flat-leafed parsley (or ½ Tbsp dried parsley)
  • 1 tsp lemon juice
  • Salt 1 tsp & pepper ¼ tsp (to taste)

Combine all ingredients and beat until mixed. Do not whip – the air will keep the butter from taking on all the flavor from the herbs and garlic/onions. I prefer to mix the butter by hand with a spatula but a mixer on low would do just fine too. Use immediately. To store, take wax paper or parchment paper, spoon the butter into a cylinder roll-shape, and roll it into that cylinder shape with the paper. Tape and put in fridge to harden, pull out when needed for bread, or for cooking, or basting (amazing on crab and lobster!).

Chimichurri topping

Chimichurri

I think this topping for steak is one of the most abused South American garnishes out there. It can be SO amazing…and it can quickly be ruined by doing too much to it.

I would ask that you don’t use a food processor. It might take a few more minutes, but it’s important to take the chance to connect with your food. Chop it manually so that you can add or subtract individual ingredients depending on your tastes. And taste along the way!!

Ingredients:

  • ½ Cup Olive Oil (good quality, you’ll thank yourself later)
  • 2 Tblsp Red Wine Vinegar (please don’t substitute)
  • ½ Cup Finely chopped parsley
  • 3-4 cloves finely minced garlic – like a lot of garlic? Do four!
  • 2 small red chili peppers, or 1 dried chili pepper, de-seeded and finely chopped (you can use 1-2 tsp dried chili flakes)
  • ¾ tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp (level) coarse salt
  • ½ tsp pepper (or to taste)

Combine all ingredients well with a spoon, and allow to sit at least 10 minutes before using so the oil soaks in the flavors of the herbs and peppers; I prefer to leave an hour, stirring 3-4 times during that day. You can store in the refrigerator for up to 24 hours! Great to baste on flank and skirt steaks, really any steak, and any other meats on the grill as well. Serve your meats with a scoop of it on top as well (or, a scoop of your herbed butter!).

I hope this gives you a few more ideas on how you can use what you grow in the kitchen, and gets you excited to take advantage of all the flavors growing in your garden right now. I love to cook and will be talking about food at least once a season – because hey, what’s the use in growing it if you don’t have any idea how to use it, right?

In the famous words (and voice) of Julia Child, “bon appetit!”

Marissa

Chimichurri on Steaks

 

Marissa – Writer for Shell's Feed & Garden Supply

I'm an over-educated, passionate, gardening and pet enthusiast, and I have found the perfect job! My writing is based on my studies in Biology and Health, and my experiences from gardening with my family as a child. 
The great thing about gardening is that it is a life-long learning process. The many blunders and successes of my own gardening projects over the years have been invaluable to me.  The late, great, J.C. Raulston once said, "If you're not killing plants, you're not stretching yourself as a gardener." Learn by doing, gain knowledge from the failures, but more importantly, relish the successes, (because they're delicious!)  Thanks for reading!
Special thank you to Abby's Farms, where the photo on the left was taken. Shell's Feed & Garden Supply sponsors the chickens and chicken coops there. Visit their website here.