(Apologies to my readers who got an incomplete RSS Feed post last night. I was editing and hit publish by accident. I should not have watched the Republican convention last night while I wrote. I guess I am getting too old to multitask well. Here is the finished version.)
I follow a daily spring and summer ritual: each evening, before the sun sets, I take a walk around the yard to see what is growing and what is ready to pick. Even if nothing is ripe yet I love to stroll the yard enjoying nature’s magic. Today I began at the front grow boxes. There are at least 50 more eggplant just about ready to pick. Some are hanging over the edge of the grow boxes and almost touch the driveway. The cheese peppers are huge this year. They are beginning to go from pale, butter yellow to red. They will be ready this next week to turn into pickled peppers. There are hundreds of red cherry tomatoes, many ripe now and the rest soon to follow. There are also ripe yellow Snow White cherry tomatoes, so I stop and pop two in my mouth. They are as sweet as tomatoes can get. The various hot peppers, my husband’s pride and joy, are bursting with fruit. He will dry some and make a fresh batch of peach chili jam from others.
I open the fence gate and am greeted by a three-foot long cucuzza ready to harvest. The scent of ripening Concord grapes, the smell of late summer and early fall, hits me as I descend the steps. In a few days that smell will permeate the kitchen in the morning when I open the window. Soon the grapes will be ready to harvest, and our family will make delicious homemade grape juice that we will bottle for the winter. The Peter’s Honey figs at the bottom of the steps are reaching their peak. My husband surprised me this morning with a golden fig at the breakfast table. Is there anything better than a perfectly ripe fig? I think a fig must have been the fruit Eve gave Adam in the Garden of Eden, because they are irresistible when still warm from the sun, juicy with subtle, peachy melon overtones.
In the back yard the second harvest of heirloom raspberries is ripening, along with pink Italian pear tomatoes that will darken and be ready to eat next week. The green beans are finished, but the edamame are ready to pick. The Swiss chard leaves are still tender and sweet and will make a great topping for a pizza. The fennel seeds still need another month to dry out before we harvest them to use in Italian sausage and other savory dishes. The cardoons are shooting up and look promising for the November crop that I will boil, bread, and fry. This is the first year our Savoy cabbage has thrived. I am amazed to watch the tender leaves naturally turn inward to form what will become a cabbage head. The leaves are a lovely silvery blue-green, and I look forward to sautéing them with onions and bacon or pepperoni, or using them to make stuffed cabbage during the winter months. The parsnips will be ready shortly, and as I walk over to examine them more closely I accidentally step on a beet and it lifts completely out of the dirt. I decide the beets are ready to harvest and pick seven good-sized golden beets that I will roast to turn into soup or a Middle Eastern beet yogurt dip.
I wander over to check on the rose garden. The roses look like they could use more rose feed; they are tired from two straight months of 90-plus degrees with barely any rain. They are ready for the cool down and, surprisingly, so am I. My husband sprinkled some parsley seeds near the roses last fall and now I have a huge patch of Italian flat leaf parsley. I pick a big bunch and head back toward the house with arms full, but climbing the stairs I notice that the mint is taking over near other herb pots, so I stop to pick a few sprigs. As I reach the top of the stairs I know what I will be making for the next meal: tomatoes, fresh mint, and parsley combined into a refreshing bowl of tabbouleh for the final event of summer, Labor Day weekend.
There are many tabbouleh recipes out there. For those who may never have made this before, it is a delicious Arab bulgur wheat and parsley salad. The recipe originally came to me by way of my brother Tony’s Lebanese neighbors. The Lebanese use more parsley than bulgur, but I have altered the recipe slightly, using more bulgur than parsley. You can add cucumbers if you like. You can serve it with pita or Romaine lettuce leaves. I like to let it chill for an hour before serving.
2/3 c. #1 grade bulgur wheat
2 c. boiling water
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
1 large clove garlic, finely chopped
1/3 c. chopped green onions (5 medium)
3 Tbsp. finely chopped red onion
1/4 c. fresh lemon juice
1 c. chopped fresh tomatoes (I use red and yellow cherry tomatoes if I have them)
1/2 c. chopped fresh Italian flat-leaf parsley
1/4 c. chopped fresh mint
3/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
Place bulgur in a fine mesh strainer and rinse. Then place rinsed bulgur into a large bowl and pour boiling water over it. Let it sit for 15 minutes to hydrate the bulgur. Drain in the fine mesh strainer for 10 minutes. Transfer drained bulgur to a mixing bowl. Add salt to the chopped tomatoes, then add the remaining ingredients to the bulgur. Stir well and chill for 1 hour or longer. Taste it before serving and adjust seasoning if needed. If it seems dry add a drizzle of olive oil. Serves 4.