Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Garden of My Familiar

As a young child one of my life's greatest pleasures was going to a farm stand. My mom's parents initiated me taking me out into the country surrounding their home in the west end of Toledo to purchase vegetables and fruits. The stand was actually near the farm home and the produce was displayed in baskets on tables. My grandparents loved vegetables and they were pleased when I spied pattypan squash. Pattypan squash are shaped like a flying saucer but with beautiful ruffled edges. They can come as small as a walnut or as large as an egg. Those particular squash were green and were the smallest I've ever seen. Grandma bought some and took them home to prepare for dinner. She trimmed the stem end and the button on the bottom and steamed them. She served them with butter and a little salt and pepper. Their wonderful flavor haunted me and I seldom had pattypan squash.

When Lee and I moved to our home I literally begged for a vegetable garden. What started as 100 square feet of raised bed is now 300 square feet surrounded by a picket fence fortified with chicken wire attached to the picket fence to defend against small critters like rabbits. We grow a host of things and enjoy them all summer long. Like many amateur gardeners we've had both splendid and failed crops. I am the only person who cannot grow zucchini - until this year. We have garlic, green beans, tomatoes, fennel, rhubarb, lettuce, okra, broccoli, collards, peppers- green, jalapeno, poblano, habanero, and eggplant. It's all just too good. Oh and we grow herbs as well.

Every day I go out and see how the plants and their fruits and vegetables are coming along. I am the proud owner of my grandmother's garden basket. It is a long elliptical basket with a sturdy handle. I know it's over 60 years old and it is a treasure to me. Armed with a knife and the basket I pick my rewards from the garden. I bring them inside and plunge them into cold water to remove dirt and any bugs. I treat myself to some sweet tomatoes off the vine or the smell of the basil, oregano and thyme. Then it's on to dinner and a home grown dinner.

Several years ago when shopping for plants for the garden I found my beloved patty pan. I've grown them when I can find the plants and they always take me back to my trips to the country with my grandparents and the joy of beautiful produce in vibrant colors. It is one of the most meaningful ways for me to connect to these two marvelous people I love so dearly.

For the recipe this time I will share one of Lee's favorites. Lee is the worker bee of the garden. Each spring she amends the soil with Posey Power, waters, feeds and debugs the crops. She is a real trooper and loves the garden. It's for her that we plant okra and the garlic we love to cook with. One of Lee's very favorites is Broccoli Rice and Cheese casserole. It isn't fancy but to her it is home and what better way to make it than with the broccoli she worked so hard to grow.

Broccoli Rice Casserole
3 thick stems of broccoli rough chopped
1/2 yellow onion chopped
3 Tbsp. butter
1 large clove of garlic minced
2 C of cooked brown rice
1/2 - 3/4 C. milk
1/2 lb. Velveeta in med cubes (if you're not a Velveeta lover and want to upsacle this dish use a mild cheddar)

Melt the butter and saute the onion until transparent. Add garlic and saute about 30 seconds. Add broccoli and saute until wilted. Add the cooked rice, milk and cheese and allow the cheese to melt stirring gently. Pour the mixture into a greased casserole and top with buttered crumbs. Bake at 350 until browned and bubbly.

1 comment:

  1. This garden is everything Anne has described and more...a virtual paradise for the vegetable and herb lover. I was quite envious when I saw it.