It’s been a busy summer. Trying to max out traveling while working the busy time of year at our local community college has left me pretty exhausted. Dinners when we have been home have been utilitarian to say the least. Without the garden and a pantry that approaches preparation for the apocalypse, I’m not sure what we would have done. I pulled whatever looked good from outside and scrounged up pantry staples. Dinners were full of greens, squash, tomatillos, and tomatoes paired with grains, nuts and seeds. I barely went to the grocery store for a few weeks in August.
I like to plant a vegetable garden every year but often don’t have the dedication to encourage it along with all the care needed throughout the summer season. I am lucky to have a community garden across the street, but often rush the hand watering and don’t protect it well from the deer, so my results are always mixed. It must be said that Flagstaff can be a tough place to grow food as well. The growing season can be short, and is often both windy, hot and dry and excessively wet as the summer progresses. This year none of this mattered, and it was the best one in years!
Maybe I am still emotional after Rob’s successful road back from his knee surgery, but it feels like all the hard work to get through a tough year is paying off in multiple ways throughout our life. My garden beds had been slowly falling apart and Rob had been discussing rebuilding them for a few years. I went to visit my parents during the late Fall, and honestly I was worried about leaving him, as it was a bleak time in many ways. I came home to find the garden beds rebuilt. It was one of the first real projects he did post surgery, and a sign to me that perhaps things could return to the way they were. A lot of love went into the project and I can’t help but think it contributed to a larger than usual harvest, and of course the healthy monsoon rain season didn’t hurt.
This salad has appeared on our table a few times this summer as it is really a celebration of what is available in the garden. It highlights the taste of fresh picked tomatoes, is quick to make and requires just a few pantry staples. Substitute what you have around, or play around with different fresh herb combinations. The addition of fresh mozzarella or feta would be delicious!
- 1 – 1.5 lbs small tomatoes halved or quartered
- 2 medium summer squash sliced lengthwise into planks
- 1 cup roughly chopped herbs – I used flat leaf parsley, mint, basil, and oregano
- Juice and zest of 1 lemon
- 2-3 sweet banana peppers chopped ( or substitute a bell pepper)
- 4 cups good bread cut in 1 inch cubes – I like to use sourdough
- 6 cloves garlic thinly sliced
- Optional: 4-6 anchovy filets finely chopped ( I read about this addition at some point in an Ottolenghi column in the Guardian -and I love the added depth of flavor)
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 1/4 cup capers drained
- Salt and pepper to taste
- 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 2 tablespoons oil to drizzle on top – I like to use Udo’s Sport Oil
- Start by grilling the squash – you can do this on a grill pan inside or if you have a gas outdoor grill like I do, it’s easy to fire up for a quick round of veggies. Brush both sides of the squash with oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and grill until just tender with nice marks.
- Set squash aside to cool and then chop into bite size pieces and place in a large bowl.
- Heat 1/4 cup out in a small frypan. Sauté garlic and anchovies (if using) for about 10 minutes with a little salt. Stir in bread cubes to coat and lightly toast for 5 minutes. Scrape into the bowl with the squash.
- Add chopped tomato and herbs, lemon, and capers. Stir gently to combine.
- Adjust salt and pepper and serve topped with pepper flakes and a drizzle of oil if desired.