The Palestine Herald, Palestine, Texas

Opinion

July 12, 2014

COOKING WITH SIMON: Garden vegetables ready to harvest

PALESTINE — Last month, I was invited to cook for a group of clients at a fishing lodge in Alaska. It was quite an experience – beautiful scenery, amazing salmon, halibut, and great accessibility to some of the best fishing in the world.

Over the next few weeks, you will hear more about the trip and what I cooked while there, but this week it’s about what I had to tackle when I got home – an incredibly overgrown vegetable garden.

Evidently, there was quite a lot of rain while I was gone so my nine raised beds of vegetables had turned into a mini jungle. Of course, I was happy to see the vegetable I was most excited to harvest was ready to pick.

Apple cucumbers are something I used to grow in New Zealand as a kid. They look like a cross between a white tomato and a Granny Smith apple.

Seeing them again brought back great memories. The skin is soft, but does have a few prickles. They are best served chilled, peeled, sliced and with a quick marinade of malt vinegar, salt and pepper.

Unfortunately, for you, I ate all of them before I remembered I should take a picture. After a few more are ready to pick, I will make sure you have a chance to see how they look.

The other nice surprise was Peppermint Swiss Chard. Typically chard comes with many colorful stems, but the variety we grew has bright red-pink stems with thin stripes of white.

The big dark green leaves are similar to kale and remind me of something else we used to grow in New Zealand called silver beet.

Chard can be eaten many ways – sliced and boiled, sautéed, or blanched and cooled for a slaw or salad.

Right now we’re all looking for something cool to eat, so blanching seems to be the best method. Simply submerge in boiling water for 30 seconds to 1 minute and then remove to a bowl filled with ice water. This method preserves fresh flavor, softens the leaves and keeps the bright green color intact. Unfortunately, the stalks do not keep their fluorescent color after cooking.

This method can be used for many vegetables that you don’t want to eat completely raw – like asparagus, kale, spinach, carrots, squash and zucchini.

For the following recipe I tore the chard leaves from the stems and sliced both the stems and the leaves. This salad is great to serve with fish, steak or chicken.

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