And now, a word from Pickles in the garden…

It’s been a very fruitful summer in the garden so far, thanks to all this wonderful rain and sunshine. Unfortunately I haven’t had much time to keep up with it, what with all the World Cup celebrations and such. But guests that have come to my parties have taken part of the bounty of tomatoes and potatoes.

First crop of Yukon Golds, freshly dug, with a lonely Hungarian Wax Pepper.

Tomatoes! Clockwise from the top: JD's Special C-Tex Early Blacks, Super Fantastics, Green Zebras, and Kellogg's Breakfast.

My first attempt at growing spuds was quite successful, and it would have been better had I harvested all of them at once before some of them rotted. The Yukon Gold have proven to be the highest yielding, and I swear I’ve never tasted a better potato in my life. I have added them to a number of recipes, but my favorite so far was a big slice of freshly boiled tater, topped with a pinch of sea salt. Creamy, sweet, outstanding, a simpler pleasure couldn’t exist. The tomato varieties I picked this year have been spectacular. The best tasting so far is one called JD’s Special C-Tex Early Black, deep red in color, juicy and fresh, with loads of flavor and balanced acidity. I have always failed at growing a yellow slicer, but no longer: the Kellog’s Breakfast is a killer variety, producing huge tomatoes, some over a pound each! Green Zebras are as reliable as always, as are the Super Fantastic. I have picked up a bunch before they exploded from the rain and will be processing them to freeze. The ones that are bird-pecked or bug bit get chopped and added to the dogs’ food bowl, something they are very happy about.

Last night I made a Portuguese recipe I have been meaning to make for some time, potato & tomato pie, but hadn’t had the right combination of tomatoes and potatoes. It is so simple and it turned out a great side dish, but could  be a substantial vegetarian entree as well. I adapted the recipe from my “A Taste of the Mediterranean” cookbook by Diana Vowles:

Potato and Tomato Pie

4 large Yukon Gold or Red potatoes, boiled
1 Red bell pepper, roasted and peeled (or substitute one from a jar), cut in thin strips
1 bunch Italian parsley
1-2 garlic cloves
1 fresh red chile (I used a serrano)
3 Tbsp. olive oil
1/2 lemon
4-5 flavorful ripe tomatoes, sliced
Salt & pepper to taste

Heat oven to 400 F. Oil a shallow baking dish and layer the potatoes, overlapping slightly, to cover the bottom. Season with salt and pepper. Process parsley, garlic and chile to a fine mince. Add olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and mix well. Layer red bell pepper strips over the potatoes, then dot with half the parsley mixture.

Layer the tomatoes over the potatoes, overlapping slightly, to cover them completely. Dot with the rest of the parsley mixture and drizzle a little extra olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes until tomatoes cook and begin to brown. Let cool, serve at room temperature.

So pretty with three different colors of tomatoes...and so delicious and easy!

The lovely and generous Sarah Cross gave me a couple of plants she got at the Sunshine Gardens‘ plant sale this spring, one is a pear tomato called Polish Linguica, which unfortunately has not fared too well. But the Hungarian Wax peppers she gave me are the most prolific pepper plant I’ve ever grown, I can hardly keep up with harvest!  I made a simple relish out of them to put on hot dogs and loved it. For dinner tomorrow, I am going to stuff them and serve some cold stuffed with Italian-style tuna and cream cheese spread, and hot stuffed with ground beast, rice, and cheese, topped with a garden tomato sauce loaded with herbs.

Prolific, tasty, and underutilized Hungarian Wax peppers are loving today's rain.

The Armenian cucumbers are back, after failed attempts at growing a couple other varieties. I love these because they are fast growers and produce big, almost seedless fruit that stays non-bitter and crisp no matter what. I used to stuff them Vietnamese-style with a ground pork and shrimp paste, then steam them and serve them as a light first course. As soon as I harvest more of these babies I’ll post the recipe.

Now back to Chile y Limón in the studio for more from the World Cup!

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