Food & Drink

Garden bounty


I made a bunch of pesto the other day. I went out to the yard and gathered a bunch of basil from the garden my partner planted in the spring. The plants were growing like crazy and I’d been eyeing them for several days with pasta on my mind.

I made about five times the amount my recipe called for, which can be tricky, because not all recipes come out right when you start messing with the proportions. I went a bit overboard with the garlic and didn’t have quite enough Parmesan cheese, but it turned out fine: creamy and spicy and very, very tasty. And all I had to do was pick the big batch of basil to make it. Everything else was already in the house.

Add to that a little salad made with lettuce, cucumbers and tomatoes — all from the garden — and you’ve got a meal.

We’ve been eating from the garden since spring when the lettuce started coming in. Parsley and cilantro have been coming into the house for a few months too, which means tabbouleh made with parsley that was growing out of the ground a scant half-hour earlier.

It doesn’t get any fresher unless you’re just picking and eating, which we’ve been doing with the everbearing strawberries all summer. Every few days our daughter asks to go out and see if there are any more strawberries, which she picks and eats on the spot.

I have more appreciation for the eggplant than she does. I hated it as a child, but the shiny purple vegetable (technically a fruit because it has seeds inside) is now one of my favorites. So far I’ve just sliced them up into round medallions, dipped them in milk and flour and fried them in a little olive oil (no olive trees in this yard). I prefer the long skinny ones for this preparation but we couldn’t find any of that variety when we were planting. The big pear-shaped ones will do — they can be melt-in-your-mouth juicy when prepared right.

Green beans have been plentiful too. At first I just steamed a few fresh handfuls. Then I experimented with grilling them. I haven’t got it right so far, but I’m fantasizing about roasted green beans served with a little basalmic vinegar and toasted sesame oil. Maybe with a few tomatoes thrown in, since it’s been tomato season the past few weeks.

Bright red tomatoes are seemingly everywhere, and everybody keeps trying to give everybody else a bag or basket of them. Big juicy beefsteaks. Cylindrical romas. Yellow acid-free tomatoes. Those little pear-shaped ones. Cherry tomatoes. At first it’s a joy to eat them, and then it’s a chore as you eat tomato after tomato in the effort not to waste them.

The same thing will happen again in a few weeks when the squash start to come in. There’ll be zucchini everywhere. Remember, those are pretty good fried, too.


Fiona’s Tea House (945 Beech, Detroit) is now open for dinner every Friday night from 6 p.m.-11 p.m. There’s a prix fixe menu as well as a la carte. Call 313-967-9314 for reservations. … Kids can win a classroom visit from a Detroit Lion (and a bunch of other cool stuff) in National Coney Island’s latest contest. To enter, fill out a ballot at your nearest National Coney Island restaurant between now and September 27.

Larry Gabriel is a writer, musician and former Metro Times editor. Send comments to

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