I am super pleased with last Tuesday night’s garden-to-table dinner here at Chez Rea. It may look like an elaborate meal, but it was not difficult to make. It was inspired by two gifts—fresh eggs and a rack of lamb—as well as by my garden.
Swiss Chard Tortilla Española
As soon as a dear friend shared eggs from her son’s chickens with me, I had planned make Swiss Chard Tortilla Española. This is a recipe which I’ve shared here before. It was my mom’s favorite way to cook Swiss chard, and so it became mine, too. What a treat to make it with home raised chicken eggs! Swiss chard is doing well in my garden this season. I got some very early in the year because several plants self sowed in the back corner of my kitchen garden. This was a blessing because I was slow to plant the seeds for this year. We went straight from using frozen Swiss chard to make my morning Garden Egg Cups to using freshly picked Swiss chard. Meanwhile, the seeds that I planted on June 3rd have grown into very large plants, so I harvested several giant stalks to make this dish. I also used dehydrated onions and leeks from last year’s garden since I didn’t have any onions ready to harvest.
Grilled Rack of Lamb
I have never bought a rack of lamb because they are very pricey. However, I got this one for free a few weeks ago from our church’s gleaners ministry. (What a blessing that ministry is!) I’ve cooked other cuts of lamb before, so I knew that lamb meat goes very well with garden herbs. I searched online for a recipe and found one that suited me so perfectly that I did not make any changes to it. This Grilled Rack of Lamb recipe calls for several things from my garden—rosemary, mint, and garlic. (My garlic from last year is still good! I will share in another post my improved way of storing cured garlic.) Since I had only a few hours to marinate the meat, I vacuum sealed the lamb with the marinade in a FoodSaver marinator container instead of marinating it in a zip close bag. When I grilled the rack of lamb, I found that I didn’t need to cover its bones with foil because of how the bones were curled away from the heat during most of the cooking time. Rather than using an instant read thermometer to keep checking for doneness, I used my automatic meat thermometer, which beeps when the food hits the desired temperature.
I felt like a caprese salad was the perfect way to round out this meal. I had made the first one of the season just the night before. This is one of my top three favorite things to make with fresh garden tomatoes. The other two are salsa fresca and bruschetta. I like to make my caprese salad with a variety of tomatoes and of basils. The tomatoes that I used on this occasion were Ukrainian Purple (I’m Ukrainian, you know!), Yellow Stuffer, and Fantastico (an AAS Winner—I started a bunch of these plants from seed this year). I sliced the tomatoes into wedges, except for the three little Fantasticos in the middle, and spread them around the plate, along with pieces of fresh mozzarella. Next I tucked in sweet basil, purple basil, and Spicy Saber basil (a new to me variety). Then I drizzled a high quality extra virgin olive oil and grated some Thai blend pepper (it’s what I’ve got in my electric pepper grinder) over it all. The finishing touch was sprinkling a bit of my favorite salt, fleur de sel (it’s not ordinary sea salt!) on top.
If we had had guests, I probably would have put a bunch of edible flowers on top, too. In any case, this was a wonderful meal for just my husband and me. Since the Tortilla Española is filling, we ate only half the lamb, two ribs each. We ate the leftovers the following night, along with yet another caprese salad. In addition, I got over my long time kick of having Swiss chard and onions in my Garden Egg Cups and asked Stan to make the next round with my freshly harvested broccoli.
This was the most elaborate meal I had made in a while. I have not been posting here on my blog nor sending out my newsletter for several months because I was taking a very intense grad school class. As I mentioned in my 2021 Update, I’ve been working on a doctoral degree that focuses on global and urban ministry. I did very little cooking during the weeks that I was working on my final project for that class. We lived on very simple meals, leftovers, and takeout food. Of course, even simple meals are very tasty when made with veggies, herbs, and fruits from my garden—so we certainly weren’t suffering! Meanwhile, I did the best I could with planting and maintaining the kitchen garden. After I at last turned in my paper, I eased back into cooking by making a couple shrimp stir-fries. No recipe—I simply put fresh garden veggies in my wok, along with anything else in the fridge that I thought would fit. Now Stan, who was in the same class and is pursuing the same degree as I am, and I are both enjoying some time off from grad school.
Thank you—especially to my newsletter subscribers—for your patience! It has been six months since I sent out my last newsletter, and yet no one has unsubscribed. Thank you very, very much for hanging in here with me! Please remember that you are always welcome to contact me, as some of you have done, whenever you have a gardening question or want advice. I respond to texts, emails, and social media comments and messages as quickly as I can. With this blog post, I am starting to ease back into garden writing, just like I eased back into cooking. I hope to do a couple more blog posts, and then I’ll write that next newsletter. What should I write about? What would you like to read about? Let me know by replying in the comment section below.
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