After fairly mild temperatures in May, we’ve finally begun to warm up with 90+ degree days here in Texas. It’s not officially summer yet, but the garden doesn’t care. Our cantaloupe plants, once tiny sprouts, have grown exponentially and are beginning to develop large fuzzy oval fruit buds. The cantaloupe vines are gorgeous and green with small yellow flowers, and the bees love to work there. Since I planted them too closely together, the vines are growing on top of one another and have spilled over both sides of the raised bed planter onto the grass. It’s still too early to tell if we’ll need to remove a plant or cut them back so they don’t crowd or choke each other out, but the advice from our friendly local hardware and feed store is to just let them go and see what happens. The only casualties for now may be the bell pepper plants that have seen their territory rapidly encroached upon by their neighbors, and their leaves entwined with the thin curly tendrils that creep from the cantaloupe vines.
In our other raised bed planter, the summer squash, also from the same plant family as the cantaloupe, have likewise taken over the entire middle of the planter and have been producing steadily since the beginning of May. It’s been my occupation to harvest the plants, and then after that, figure out how to eat them. We’ve had fried squash blossoms, fresh homemade ricotta and squash blossom pizza, several breakfast frittatas with squash, and a summer squash tart with a potato crust. We also like to eat soup for lunch or a light dinner, so I searched for a recipe in How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman, and found his “Rich Zucchini Soup.” I’ve adapted the recipe by substituting brown rice for the white rice, reducing the amount of broth, and omitting the eggs, using whole wheat bread crumbs as thickener instead. It’s an easy recipe that helps you use the harvest from your home garden. Next week, I’ll be back on the healthy hamburger meal track with a recipe for homemade ketchup, then mustard the week after that, and finishing with a side of fries the following week, just in time for the 4th of July weekend.
Summer Squash and Brown Rice Soup
(recipe adapted from the cookbook How To Cook Everything Vegetarian by Mark Bittman)
For the soup:
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons onion, minced
1 tablespoon garlic, minced
1/4 cup short grain brown rice
1 pound summer squash (zucchini, yellow straight or crook-neck, pattypan), grated
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 cups vegetable or chicken stock
1/4 cup whole wheat bread crumbs
1/4 cup parsley, minced
1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
In a medium saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the onion and cook until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the garlic and cook for an additional minute. Add the brown rice, stirring to coat with the oil, and let cook for a minute or two more. Add the squash, and sprinkle with a little salt and pepper. Stir for a few minutes until the squash starts to wilt. When the vegetables begin to stick to the bottom of the pan, add the stock. Increase the heat and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to a steady simmer. Cover and cook for 40 minutes, until the vegetables are tender and rice is fully cooked. Add the bread crumbs, stirring well to moisten and thicken soup.
Serve immediately and garnish with chopped parsley and grated Parmesan cheese, or the parsley pesto variation below.
Instead of garnishing the soup with parsley and grated Parmesan, make this parsley pesto recipe from Sidewalk Shoes, and garnish with a tablespoon of the pesto in the middle of each individual soup before serving.
Makes 3 to 4 servings (recipe can be doubled for more servings)