Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Longing for Summer and My Vegetable Garden

As I sit and watch the snow blowing sideways I am thinking about my vegetable garden last year and this years planting to come.  I am lucky to have started planting a completely organic garden 11 years ago.  My mother had had hip replacement surgery and I was staying with my parents for the summer and I had plenty of time on my hands.  We had a 1200 square foot piece of  property that had been fallow for three years.  I had always wanted my own garden - I have pictures of me at three years of age with a hoe at my grandmother Laura's garden at her house in the country.  

Having determined the place I took out a sketch pad and designed an 8 plot garden with a raised center bed for herbs.  The walkway is typically Nantucket - crushed shells.  I planted asparagus, blackberries, blueberries, strawberries and rasberries that come back every year.  Each year I plant 10 different kinds of lettuces, 12 different kinds of tomatoes, sweet and yellow potatoes, 4 kinds of onions, peppers (both sweet and hot), 5 kinds of squashes, zucchini,  every possible herb you can imagine, melons, fennel, cucumbers, peas and carrots.  The best thing about the garden is walking out with basket and scissors, picking whatever I want to cook and within 30 minutes a meal is on the table.  All the beds are lined with edible marigolds and nasturtum so the colors are amazing.  The difference in the taste is unbelieveable.   There is no cell degradation and the onions never make me tear!

We use only organic soil, fertilizer, bug control and deweed by hand (I cut my nails short for the summer and forgo manicures).

So much grows that I threatened to open a farm stand on the corner of our street - with my mother in charge!!!  But I just share the fruits of my garden with people in the community.  We have nick named it "The Farm" and my father made me a sign for the slated gate on the front of the garden.  Today would have been my father's 88th birthday - missing you Dad!

My Vegetable Garden 
Tomatoes, Cucumbers and Melons from the Farm
Lettuces, Peppers and Zucchini from the Farm

Edible Flowers from the Farm
At the end of the summer I threw a party for Labor Day.  I have two friends that own multiple restaurants in Boston, Ma. and Chappaqua, NY so there was no need to hire a caterer - we were the caterers.

My friend Leslie who owns both the Cafe of Love and the Ladle of Love restaurants in Cappaqua (she ships from LoL) made the most amazing Cobb Salad using many of the ingredients from my garden.   If you make the salad as the recipe calls for you will need an enormous bowl.  You can of course divide the recipe so that you can serve it for four people.

Ingredients for Cobb Salad
 courtesy of Leslie Lampert
Serves 14-18 people

2 Heads of Romaine Lettuce
2 bunches of Arugula
1 bunch of Russian Kale
5 cupfuls of Spring Lettuce Mix
2 Radiccio
3 cups of baby spinach
8 hard boiled eggs
3 cucumbers
2 large red onions
2 fennel bulbs
1 lb. of smoked maple bacon
4 large heirloom tomatoes (red,orange, pink purple)
6 ounces Danish blue cheese
4 cups homemade croutons from sourdough bread or any other rustic bread.

Salad Dressing
2 Shallots
1 Egg Yolk
3 tbls. Honey Mustard
1/4 cup White Balsamic Vinegar
3/4 cup Olive oil
1 tbsp. bacon fat
Salt and Pepper

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  Put the bacon on a rack over a baking pan.  Cook in the oven until crispy.  Drain on paper towel.

Cut bread into cubes and cook in olive oil and butter until crispy.  Drain on paper towel.

Wash and dry all the lettuces.  For the kale remove the center rib (which is very tough).  Tear all the lettuces into bit size pieces.  Place in the bottom of the bowl.

Put cold eggs into a pan and cover with ice cold water.  Turn the flame on under the pan and gently bring to a rolling boil.  When the water is at a rolling boil cook for three minutes and then turn off the heat and cover the pan for 15 minutes.  Do not open lid before that time.  The reason that you do the eggs this way is that it prevents the yolk from oxidizing (getting that ring of green around the yolk) and keeps them bright yellow and makes it easier to shell.  Plunge the eggs into cold water and shell.  Cut in half and place ontop of lettuces.

Cut bacon into small pieces.  Place on top of lettuces.

Peel the cucumbers.  Cut in half  lengthwise and spoon out all the seeds.  Cut in half lenthwise again and then cut into thin slices.  Place on top of lettuces.

Peel the onions and slice thinly.  Place on salad.  Do the same with the tomatoes, fennel and blue cheese.

Place the croutons piled high in the center of the salad.  The finished salad should like the picture below.

Pour dressing over the salad right before serving.  Mix thoroughly.   This is great for a large party and I promise there will be nothing left over.   Serve with a crisp Chardonnay or Pinot Grigio and hamburgers or steak from the grill.

Summer - I can almost taste it.

Leslie's Cobb Salad with Ingredient's from "The Farm"


  1. I cannot wait for my garden. My husband and I are going to be expanding our efforts from last year (6 raised beds) and look forward to a large organic bounty (which we are going to share with a local homeless shelter).

  2. thanks, Suzanne! Missing your Dad, Mom and your garden....btw--Ladle of Love and Cafe of Love are in Mt. Kisco, NY and xxxxLeslie