Tuesday, September 07, 2010

In Which We Are Vegetable Gardeners

In Jordan we love to grow flowers in our garden, but due to the lack of water and relatively low vegetable prices we've never attempted vegetable gardening. However, the house where we are staying until the end of September has a small but well situated vegetable garden and last week was harvest time. Truthfully, we are not really vegetable gardeners but merely vegetable harvesters. The homeowners planted the crops before they left for Alaska in April and programmed their drip hoses to water without even so much as a flip of the switch by us. We have done nothing but harvest the literal fruit of their labor.

Tayta has never worked in a vegetable garden before and delighted in finding treasures amongst the vines. And although she can identify fig trees, olive trees, and caper bushes, she surprised me by asking me the name of this crop:

Yikes! She didn't know what a corn stalk looked like. Not a popular crop in Jordan, corn is primarily used for feed. It is sold in the supermarket but I don't buy it as it has never tasted like anything but feed corn.

Our bountiful harvest
Enough for us, some friends, and a couple of neighbors

The tomatoes are amazingly large and delicious. I've been eating tomato sandwiches for lunch every day for the past two weeks or so. Family and friends are asking me to discover the secrets of growing such beautiful tomatoes. Theirs, carefully tended, are not amounting to much this year, and "mine"--at least for this month--are plump and plentiful. The real gardener, in absentia, claims his secret is neglect--the bushes haven't been tended since April (!), but I'm prying further. There must be some yet undisclosed tomato gardening knowledge that he can share.

And here are a couple Armenian cucumbers we missed picking the first time around. Salad for a week!

So, what to do with our bumper crop of tomatoes besides make tomato sandwiches? If I weren't feeling so transitional I would make salsa or pizza sauce. Instead, I determined to use these fresh and/or give them away; I've made two new and well received tomato dishes.

~Tuscan Bread Salad~

Last week I made this salad twice, a modification of this recipe from the Food Network.


  • 8 large vine ripened tomatoes, cut into large cubes
  • 8-10 cups cubed artisan bread (I used sourdough), cubed, a little stale, and lightly toasted in the oven.
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • a couple cups cucumbers, cut into cubes
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 cup Italian extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 /2-1 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped thinly
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a large bowl, mix the bread with the garlic, oil, and vinegar, and let sit for 15minutes at room temperature. Add the rest of the ingredients toss to combine. Serve. Delicious!

~Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Soup~

This recipe was easier to make than I expected it would be when I first read the title. Neither the peppers or the tomatoes require peeling and everything is given a final whirl in the blender. I found this recipe in "Cooking With Paula Deen", a magazine which comes to the house in which we are staying. As usual, I've modified the recipe.


  • 2 red bell peppers, seeded and cut into strips
  • 2 T. olive oil
  • 1 cup chopped onion
  • 4 cloves minced garlic
  • 10 medium tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cup chicken broth
  • 1-2 tsp. salt
  • 1 /2 fresh basil leaves, or 1 tsp. dried basil
  • freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a baking sheet with foil , arrange pepper strips on the sheet, and bake for 15-20 minutes or until soft and a little brown around the edges. In a large pan, saute the onion and garlic in oil. I add a couple teaspoons of sugar when I saute the onions and garlic so as to caramelize them. Add the tomatoes, broth, and salt, and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Puree tomato mixture, roasted peppers, and basil leaves in a blender. Return to pan and add the balsamic vinegar and freshly ground black pepper.

This soup was good served with open faced broiled cheese sandwiches or toasted sourdough bread.


Chris T. said...

Forgot to bring this up when we met for coffee! If you still have a surplus, I'd be happy to take some off your hands :).

Quotidian Life said...

I'll keep you in mind Chris. There are quite a few not-quite-ripe tomatoes waiting for the sun to return.

Jodi said...

I always love your recipes :)

Laura A said...

Those recipes are so wonderfully summer! (Oops, I'm behind on blog reading.)

I think it's funny that Tatya didn't know what corn looked like. We've had those moments in our home, too, so I'll make it clear that it's not an embarrassing kind of funny at the expense of the child, but a "My, we *do* live in a different place!" kind of funny that the whole family shares.