Time for another garden update! Things are continuing pretty much along the same trends I’ve been reporting all season. If you’ve missed my previous garden posts, here they are:
The Early Bird Catches the Rosemary (April 2017)
Garden Update: The Don’t Be Like Me Edition (May 2017)
Garden Update: The I Have Questions Edition (July 2017)
Bringing us to today! The tomato plants are still producing, I’m watching like a hawk to stay ahead of the squirrels (I saw one perched on my fence rail the other day, brazenly eating a ripe tomato as the kids and I watched in outrage from the kitchen window) and the basil is basically a tree.
We’re actually on top of the tomato harvest, thanks in large part to – yes, the squirrels – but also to a little boy who cannot get enough tomatoes eaten straight off the vine. I love that he’s so into the food we’re growing – Peanut is happy to participate in the gardening process, but wants nothing to do with a sun-warmed tomato, freshly plucked straight from the pot. Break my heart. Anyway, at the moment we’ve got a big crop-in-waiting, but nothing ripe. But recently I picked a huge harvest, and it was more than we could eat out of hand (yessssss!) so I cooked the tomatoes down in a little organic olive oil and fresh herbs (also from the garden) – rosemary, thyme, parsley and basil, and set the mixture aside for a special project.
As longtime readers know, Peanut just had a birthday! Stick with me here. One of her favorite things to do – aside from garden (and watch cartoons) – is bake with me. So as a special birthday present, I ordered her a personalized kids’ apron and “Junior Chef” tools from Williams-Sonoma. I let her open the gift early so she could use it to help me make a tomato-and-herb tart from the garden haul.
She was quite pleased with her new chef accoutrements! She insisted I call her “Chef Lily.” I pointed out that that’s not what her apron says, but she was unmoved.
As fun as it was to bake a blueberry pie with Peanut, I didn’t feel like messing around with pastry this time, so I decided we would make a crumb crust using Ritz crackers. My cracker/cookie crusts never come out, but who cares – right? It’s about the process. Peanut enjoyed the heck out of the cracker crumbling.
So did someone else. Yikes. Who gave him a Junior Chef spatula?
Crumbs completed, it was time to stir in melted butter and pre-bake the crust, then move on to the rest of the baking process.
Doesn’t get fresher than this – picked moments before the chopping. I love gardening!
Mixed in mascarpone… And at this point, I forgot to take any more pictures, because Nana and Grandad FaceTimed us and we were chattering while we baked. We mixed the herbs and a little olive oil into the mascarpone, spread it over the pre-baked crust, and then distributed the pre-cooked garden tomato and herb mixture over the top. The finished product:
Not too bad looking! Peanut is a good sous-chef – or maybe I’m the sous-chef, because she seems to be the one doing all the work! As with the blueberry pie, she participated actively in pretty much every stage of baking. All I did was the hot stuff (taking the tart out of the oven, and of course cooking down the tomatoes a few days ahead). I love that we have an activity to do together that we both enjoy so much!
And the verdict? The adults love it. The crust hung together better than I was expecting, and the creamy herbed mascarpone is a perfect counterpoint to the flavorful garden tomato jam. The kiddo… not as big of a fan. I think she was expecting it to be sweet – even though I told her several times that it’s not sweet – and was surprised by the savory flavor. Well, I wasn’t actually expecting her to eat any of this one – as long as she had fun with the process, I’m happy!
What’s your favorite thing to bake with summer produce?