By Sheila McCormick
We have plenty of raw materials for recipes just outside our door. Fruit trees: apricot, fig, Meyer lemon, nectarine, peach, persimmon, and plum. Vegetables: climbing and bush beans, lettuce, zucchini, yellow squash, acorn squash, kale, brussels sprouts, broccoli, swiss chard, onions, leeks, cucumbers, bitter melon. Herbs: thyme, cilantro, rosemary, parsley, basil, oregano.
Why no tomatoes? Last year we had about 18 plants, but they didn’t do well (disease?). This year we trade for them with neighbors. Gotta have tomatoes because for us summer = gazpacho.
This recipe was acquired by my parents in 1967, when they were on a bus tour in Spain. The story goes that they liked it so much they asked the chef for the recipe (probably with some help from the tour guide, since they didn’t speak Spanish).
Gazpacho: 1.5 cups of cubed white toast; 1 tsp salt, 2 tsp cumin, 3 Tbsp olive oil, 1-4 cloves garlic, 3 cups of tomatoes, ~3 cups of cold water, 2-4 Tbsp of red wine vinegar, Tabasco to taste. Blend together, then chill. Add 3 ice cubes to the blender, if you are in a hurry. We usually eat it plain, but you can also float chopped green peppers, onions, cucumbers, tomatoes, and/or croutons on top.
To avoid heating up the kitchen on hot days, we bought an electric oven for the back yard, and also have a burner on our gas grill. Here are some things we have cooked outside:
Zucchini/mint salad: Slice zucchini and place on an olive oil-coated cookie sheet. Cook (~350 degrees) until brown on one side, then turn pieces over to brown the other side. Transfer oil and zucchini to a bowl, add some more oil if needed, red wine vinegar to taste, and some chopped mint.
Vegetable casserole: Coat dish with olive oil, then layer (bottom to top) slices of onions, potatoes, zucchini, yellow squash, red peppers, tomatoes, a mixture of fresh oregano, basil and parsley, a mixture of panko bread crumbs with meltable cheeses (e.g. mozzarella, cheddar, Monterey jack), dribble top with olive oil, cover with foil and bake at 375 degrees for ~25 minutes, then remove foil and bake until the top browns and the edges are bubbly.
Green beans: sauté with garlic and olive oil, or make our version of the Slanted Door green bean recipe: peanut oil, garlic, 2 Tbsp. sugar, 2 Tbsp. fish sauce, ¼ cup sake. We also like a pasta sauce with green beans, potatoes, garlic, walnuts, and basil.
EDITOR’S NOTE: This is the second in what we hope will be a continuing series of articles about home-cooked meals using at least some homegrown and/or locally sourced products. Please send your proposals to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sheila is an Adjunct Professor Emerita in Cal’s Department of Plant and Microbial Biology. Prior to her retirement in January 2016, she had a research lab at the USDA/ARS-UC-Berkeley Plant Gene Expression Center in Albany studying the molecular biology of plant reproduction. Sheila has also contributed articles to the Splash Pad News, including a series of neighborhood walks, and continues to regularly help with editing. Until his retirement, Sheila’s husband, Paul Herzmark, was a Research Specialist in UC Berkeley’s Department of Molecular and Cellular Biology, where he specialized in two-photon microscopy in an immunology lab. Before that he was in the Department of Cellular and Molecular Pharmacology at UCSF.