Well, it’s summer, so you just gotta expect to find some mention of okra on a South Florida gardening blog! There are a lot of crops we’ve tried growing in the heat of summer over the years, from long beans to loofah (for real!), to bitter melon and cowpeas and various summer “spinaches,” among others. None of those are particular favorites, so we don’t put much effort into them any more. Or with certain crops that we do like, such as cowpeas and sweet potatoes, the insects they’ve attracted in our hot summers (i.e. aphids and whiteflies) make them just not worth growing.
It might seem odd to be writing about making a salad out of the garden with kale and cherry tomatoes at this time of the year in South Florida. But we just happen to have both of these lovely organic vegetables still growing. And what better time of year to make a cold or room temperature pasta salad with a fresh tasting lemony vinaigrette than when the heat of summer is rolling in?
I needed a side dish for dinner, and there was a bunch of kale and a handful of cherry tomatoes (freshly picked) sitting in front of me. Remembering that I had a package of whole wheat orzo in the fridge, I googled these ingredients I had and found a great recipe to adapt for my purposes! kalynskitchen-orzo salad
I was never particularly a fan of steamed vegetables, until I went on a special diet to improve my health a year and a half ago – which was basically eating mostly steamed organic veggies along with certain types of protein. I stuck to this diet pretty religiously as I was facing some surgeries and wanted to be in tip-top shape. Well, it worked! Within a month, I felt much stronger, had more energy and as a side effect I had lost 10 pounds! I did not set out to lose that weight, but it was a welcome bonus.
So much of what I cook has to do with the fresh ingredients that happen to be on hand, as of course is true of most cooks. Right now our garden is bursting with organic veggies to harvest, which presented me with the challenge of what to do with some green pole beans, a big beautiful carrot, two kinds of kale and some very ripe tomatoes. I’ve been pining for some minestrone soup lately, and I was excited to have these fresh ingredients along with garden herbs and a good sized Parmesan rind stored in the freezer. I was all set!
I am always looking for something different to do with green beans besides my go-to-favorite of simply steaming and dressing them with butter, salt and pepper – and a little dill if I have it on hand. While this is never boring – can anything beat lightly steamed and crispy green beans freshly picked from the garden? – it’s always nice to change it up now and again. I wanted to try a cold salad, and though I’m not typically a big fan of canned beans, I’ve been hankering for a three bean salad lately and it is green bean harvest time… I opted to combine the fresh green beans (again, lightly steamed to perfection) to go along with canned kidney beans and then, to add a nice contrast in texture, shape and color: chickpeas (aka garbanzo beans). This worked really well.
I can’t think of a better way to eat bok choy than to saute it with garlic and ginger, add a little salt and heat, and finish it off with toasted sesame oil. It absorbs the aromatics well, and the contrast between the crunchy stems and the tender leaves makes it all the more pleasurable. Garlic and ginger bok choy is an excellent addition to any protein-based Asian dish, e.g., tofu, fish, beef, etc. It provides a “kick” as well as a nutritious boost to any meal.
Bok choy is really a generic name for many varieties of choy, which are readily available not only in our own organic vegetable garden, but in the many Asian markets (and large general grocery stores) across South Florida. I recently purchased a few different kinds at one local market, which were very fresh and inexpensive. See our post “Ode to Choy” for more information about different choys and how we grow them.
Tarragon grows like a weed year-round in our South Florida garden – not to mention how easy it is to grow green beans here in the fall-to-spring. We were lucky to harvest our first crop of beans right before Thanksgiving (actually, we do try to time it that way each year). And while we didn’t have enough to feed our big crowd, we were proud to add them to this dish as representative of our organic garden’s harvest.
Tarragon has a lovely fragrance and flavor, and it makes a delicious vinaigrette when mixed with mustard and olive oil. This is a very simple dish – steamed green beans tossed with the dressing, adding some toasted almonds on top for crunch. It’s a great way to use harvest from the garden and homegrown herbs to boot. I guess if we were really ambitious, we could start making our own mustard… actually, we had a garden member in the past who made killer mustard for us, and we sure do miss him!
As promised, here is one last summer recipe – roasted okra. That’s about all we’re growing here in our organic garden that we can make a substantial side dish out of at this point in the season. Not to feel hopeless after all our South Florida weather events this past month, we are about ready for some serious fall planting over the next several weeks!
Meanwhile, we will enjoy our long-producing okra, which just loves our lingering summer heat. Having discovered the method of roasting it a few years back, it is a go-to recipe when a fast, fail-safe and delicious way to use it is needed. This is such a no-fuss method; we don’t even bother to trim it up after the stems are removed. That way we can eat it as finger food if we like, just pick it up by the end and bite into this savory treat (and discard the tops). Another nice thing about roasting okra is that it’s much quicker than roasting other veggies; in 12 minutes or so it’s done. Be careful when you take it out of the oven – it’s such a great snack that chances are your family will devour it before your meal is served – no kidding!
Collard greens are a nutritious vegetable that can continue to grow into the hot Florida summer. Two advantages that collards have over many other greens is that they are super easy to clean, and there is minimal shrinkage – so you don’t have to pick (or buy) a boatload to get a dish of fresh cooked greens.
Cooking and baking with brown butter is becoming more and more popular – for good reason. Its nutty flavor and the richness it adds to dishes is very unique. As far as collard greens go, brown butter is a delicious, healthy alternative to the long stewing-in-ham-hock-“pot likker”-method (that, don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy!). I was surprised to hear my husband strongly request this brown butter recipe when I brought some collards home the other day, I didn’t know it was his favorite way to eat them.
Summertime in Miami, if you’re an avid gardener, means dusting off the variety of okra recipes collected over the years and making some choices. This okra stew recipe has always been my go-to favorite, my “okra comfort food,” if you will. It is simple to make, delicious, and slime-free.
While gardeners have great success growing okra here in South Florida, it does yield a slow-giving harvest. In other words, we pick a few pieces each day and save it up until there’s enough to cook (they generally keep up to two weeks in the fridge). See my post Oh, Okra! for more harvesting info.