…the last taste of summer

It’s officially fall now.

The autumn equinox has come and gone and the leaves are beginning to turn here in Maine…apples and pumpkins abound, mums (the flowers) are being popped into the ground and into pots everywhere and the smell of smoke is in the air…but I’m still savoring the last taste of summer…

vine-ripened

Vine ripened tomatoes,

basil 2

fresh basil,

fresh mozz. 2

fresh mozzarella

presto pesto

and pesto.

Melt together between two slices of bread and you will taste summer in a way which no other sandwich compares…

Granted, my tomatoes have all been plucked from their vines (nights are getting a bit too chilly for them) and they now continue to ripen on my window sill and the basil (still in the garden) is starting to brown, but I picked as much as I could before the cooler nights settled in and I’m so glad I did! I’ve made batches of pesto, stored what I could in the fridge and am drying more…

So what to do with all those tomatoes, basil and pesto?

Bake some bread, buy a block of fresh mozzarella and get slicing….

Now it’s not a ‘cheap’ sandwich to make if you have to buy all the ingredients, but if you’ve been fortunate enough to grow the basil and tomatoes and have the desire to bake some bread (check this recipe out for a very simple and inexpensive recipe) all you’ll need to buy is the fresh mozzarella. The least expensive block I’ve found sets me back $4, but I can get at least 4 sandwiches from one, so that ends up being only $1 per sandwich (at least for the cheese), a far cry from what this sandwich would cost if it was to be ordered out…

Gather your ingredients;

tomatoes + basil

sliced bread 2

fresh mozz. 2

A few leaves of basil, a few slices of fresh mozz., a couple pieces of bread, a tablespoon or two of pesto and sliced tomato. Add a drizzle of olive oil and balsamic if you wish, a bit of butter for browning and you will have the tastiest summer sandwich – ever!

Spread each half of bread with pesto,

pesto spread 2

top with a layer of basil, fresh sliced mozzarella and then tomatoes…drizzle with a bit of olive oil and balsamic (if you wish), a sprinkle of salt and top with other half of the bread…butter each side and place on hot griddle. Turn once browned and then cook the other side. Cut and serve! side view layered 2

layer tomatoes, basil and cheese 2

top view browned

cut and ready to serve 2

These were so delicious, Michael and I agreed we each had to have a second!

Are you missing summer already? Then why not make this sandwich and be reminded…

What are your favorite summertime ingredients? What’s your favorite sandwich?

Enjoy.

garden goings – on

late July is beautiful in Maine – everything is growing and growing. Lots of veggies are ready to be picked, blueberry season is here and so many more flowers are ready to burst – summertime…love it!

Today I picked my first crop of green beans and baby carrots…(and wasn’t eaten alive by mosquitos -a pleasant change to say the least) yeah for summer in Maine!

I’ve been enjoying lettuces, swiss chard, kale and beets on a daily basis for awhile now…

so to add carrots and green beans is exciting and a welcome addition – eating those crisp green beans straight from the bush is so summer to me! I’ve also been enjoying lots of basil and patiently waiting for the tomatoes to grow and ripen…

The satisfaction of being able to cultivate, plant, tend, pick, prepare and then enjoy my own home grown food is incredibly illuminating – the joy (and relief) of knowing where my food is from and what was put ‘into it’ – priceless…everyone should be so lucky.

Eat local food, eat well, be happy…enjoy.

starting seeds indoors

So, I now have a few window sills full of sprouting seedlings and more beginning near the woodstove…my tomatoes are ready to move into their ‘big’ pots as are the basil sprouts.  They each have grown their second set of leaves, the ‘true’ leaves – the signal that it is safe to transplant them into the next size pot and into potting soil.

My flowers have also taken off – I’ve started marigolds, zinnias and teddy bear sunflowers – tomorrow I start poppies. Beautiful poppies – absolutely stunning red/orange blossoms with black centers and soft greens – gorgeous!  While marigolds are fairly mediocre (in my opinion) they are great to plant alongside tomato plants to ward off tomato worms, which I had a problem with last year – I regrettably didn’t do any companion planting, why, I do not know? Companion planting is a method of planting vegetables, herbs and flowers to compliment and help each other thrive – without the use of pesticides or chemicals. One plant helps the other…

Instead of buying marigolds, I thought I’d simply start them – less cost.  I’ve never started marigolds, but I’m always up for trying out new plants, fingers crossed. Marigold seeds are an interesting looking seed, very similar to a porcupine quill – long, thin, pointy on both ends with dual colors – much more interesting than the plant itself – apologies to all marigold lovers…hopefully they ward off those nasty tomato worms. 

Last year was the first year I planted zinnias – and I was so pleased that I did! I had what seemed like an endless supply of cut flowers to place around my house – they just keep flowering. The colors are brilliant, the blooms are varied in texture and size and they last a long time in arrangements…mix them with a variety of greens and you’ll have fresh flowers in your home all summer long – and they are easy to grow. No need to start indoors, simply plant outdoors when the weather warms, water and wait…I wanted to see blooms super early, so I’ve started a few seedlings indoors…oh, and they last well into the fall – which means cut flowers for months! Definitely worth the investment. 

The teddy bear sunflowers are so cute. I couldn’t resist. I always grow sunflowers and I always start them indoors (again, I like to see blooms earlier – we do have a very short growing season in Maine). I save seeds each year, so the following year they grow taller and stronger than the last. My sunflowers last season were incredible – some were over 12 feet tall – they were perfect for the south side of my garden…though, I’ve never grown teddy bears, so I thought I’d give them a try this year.  They are a much shorter variety, but super cute. They are ‘fuzzy’ looking without the classic seed center – and also a good cut flower. I love cut flowers. Mae West said, “I’d rather have roses on my table than diamonds on my fingers”. Nothing says beauty more than freshly cut flowers from your garden – or anyone’s garden…place them around your house for an instant ‘lift’ (for very little cost).

The poppies I’m going to start are perennials. While annuals are fun, perennials are better. You plant them once and year after year they continue to grow and thrive…I look forward to owing my own property and tending my perennial gardens. Until then, I will continue to plant and enjoy my gardens here and hope that they will continue on, be enjoyed and appreciated well after I’ve left…What’s not to appreciate about a beautiful flower?

Plant, water and wait. Enjoy for months…

Spring green among the winter white

It’s snowing today – a lot. The first real snowstorm of the season and my little seedlings are stretching towards the muted daylight coming through the window…on a day like today it’s hard to imagine working in my garden, though I know it will come – eventually…Overnight these little seedlings thrive by the wood stove (I keep them on the stone hearth – warms them from the bottom and side) and by day they reach for the sun on a nearby window sill. I’ve started Black Krim tomatoes; an heirloom variety – beautiful dark purple-black fruit, old-fashioned flavor. A farmer friend recommended them to me – she grew thousands last year on the organic farm she manages, Carrot Top Farm. Below is a close-up of the basil I started last week – a basic Italian variety. Basil and tomatoes are the beginnings of my garden this year…despite the storm outside.

baby basil