When eating seasonally, the garden often dictates our menu. Right now we have cherries, strawberries and lettuces in full swing, and while we will preserve some of the fruit, we try to eat it at its peak. We also try not to do much with the main ingredient, if we grew lettuces or berries, that what we want to enjoy. So with that in mind, here are the first of a series of quick, simple recipes that highlight fresh produce straight from the garden or farmers market. This is also what we tend to have for lunch these days.
Our first recipe is a simple combination of strawberries, sour cream and brown sugar. That’s all. You just clean the strawberries and put out some sour cream and light brown sugar. Just dip the strawberry in a bit of sour cream and then the brown sugar. The flavor is sweet, sour and tangy- with just a touch of molasses from the brown sugar. Instant dessert. And pretty, too.
It is worth noting that this is our second crop of strawberries this season. And we do see a pattern emerging. The first crop is tasty, but often somewhat aesthetically challenged, with misshapen fruit. The second crop comes in with more consistent shape and color- so these kind of easy preparations look very appealing at the table. We put these strawberries out and they get eaten, quickly.
Our other simple recipe is a baked goat cheese, lettuce and cherry salad. Baked goat cheese salads have been around for a while, but they are still a great lunch or starter salad and a lovely meat-free dish. And the same basic recipe applies to most stone fruit or berries. If you have strawberries or blackberries or even peaches, you can use this recipe. One key is to taste your goat cheese and then select the fruit that best matches the flavor. Goat cheese ranges widely from creamy to chalky and sweet to very tart. Tart cheese tastes good with sweet stone fruits, while sweeter cheese tastes best with tart strawberries or blackberries (to us, at least). But these are fun experiments, try what you like. In this case we used a creamy, but tart, local goat cheese from Harley Farms to match our very sweet cherries, and it was delicious.
As for making the salad, it is easy, but has a few steps. Firstly cut the cheese into disks and sprinkle with fresh herbs and olive oil. Then make (or buy) some breadcrumbs and lightly coat the cheese with the breadcrumbs. Then bake in a 400 degree oven for 5-6 minutes. Meanwhile wash and dry your greens (remember the dryer the greens, the better the salad), make a quick vinaigrette and prepare your fruit. When ready to serve, dress the salad and then arrange greens, a disk or two of the cheese and some fruit on a salad plate. Simple, tasty and beautiful. There’s a reason you see this dish at restaurants, it works.
And we are eating this salad (and others) quite a bit, as our greens are in full swing. This is a good problem to have. The next crops to tackle are the sugar-snap peas and the zucchini (which finally got going). We already have a few recipes in mind, more to come…
Strawberries with Sour Cream and Brown Sugar:
What You Get: A tasty, quick dessert that highlights fresh strawberries.
What You Need: No special equipment required. But the better the strawberry, the better the dish.
How Long: 5 minutes or less. Anytime dish.
- 2-3 cups of fresh strawberries, washed and dried
- 1/2 cup sour cream
- 1/2 cup light brown sugar
- Mint for garnish
- Wash and dry the strawberries and place in a bowl or on a plate. Put the sour cream and brown sugar in small bowls. Garnish with mint, if you like. Serve.
Baked Goat Cheese and Lettuce Salad with Cherries:
Notes Before You Start:
- Many fruits work in this dish. Cherries, strawberries, blackberries, raspberries and peaches all work well.
What You Get: A tasty, multi-dimensional salad. A flavorful, meat-free meal.
What You Need: No special equipment required.
How Long? About 45 minutes, mostly inactive, if making your breadcrumbs. If using existing, or store-bought breadcrumbs, this salad takes 15-20 minutes to assemble.
- 2-3 dozen cherries, pitted and cut in half
- 1/2 pound fresh goat cheese
- 1/2 cup olive oil for drizzling on cheese
- 2-3 tablespoons of chopped fresh herbs like thyme, rosemary and parsley
- 1/2 baguette or firm white bread, preferably stale, if making breadcrumbs (otherwise 1/2 cup breadcrumbs)
- 2 tablespoons of sherry and/or red wine vinegar (50/50 is good)
- 1/4 cup olive and/or walnut oil for dressing
- 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 pound fresh lettuces, washed and dried
- Salt and pepper
- To make the breadcrumbs, preheat the oven to 300 degrees then slice the bread lengthwise. Bake the bread until it dries out, about 20 minutes. Use a food processor or grater to create the breadcrumbs. Set aside.
- Slice or shape the goat cheese into 8 disks. Then sprinkle with the herbs and drizzle with the 1/2 cup olive oil. The cheese can marinate in the oil, refrigerated, for up to a few days.
- Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Roll each cheese disk in a light coating of the breadcrumbs. Arrange the cheese disks on a baking sheet and bake for about 6 minutes. Remove from the oven.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the 1/4 cup olive or walnut oil, the vinegar, mustard, salt and pepper. Dress the greens, you may not need all the dressing.
- Place the greens on a place and arrange the cheese disks and the cherries around the greens. Season with salt and pepper. Serve.