As the proud cultivator of a tiny urban plot, my efforts have so far yielded a grand total of two tomatoes. Yes, two tomatoes. They were delicious, but a far cry from my garden fantasy, which goes something like this…
After a full summer enjoying the bountiful fruits and veggies from my expansive garden retreat (complete with water feature and fire pit — see below), I am so inundated with excess produce that I must turn to friends for help. In my dream potluck dinner, I don a festive garden party dress, mix a batch of sangria blanca, and invite friends to bring over their garden pickings for an impromptu, al fresco garden swap party. Half the fun is in prepping the meal together while sharing stories of the summer’s adventures.
Join in the celebration by hosting your own end-of-summer event. Here are a few tips to get in the spirit.
|Reusable produce bags by LoveForEarth (below) not only eliminate the need for the trashy plastic versions, but in a garden party setting, they would make great favor bags filled with fresh fruit, cookies, or even seed packets for guests to take home.|
Let an abundance of flavors and colors inspire the setting as well. (This is not the time to be too fancy or formal, this is about nature bursting at the seams!) Think mix-and-match vintage linens with bold floral prints. Carry the theme straight through to the dishes and even your wardrobe.
Wipe out any party planning stress by keeping things simple. What’s on the dinner menu? Whatever is fresh and in season, of course!
Our friends at Food & Wine Magazine have some great recommendations! (You can even tailor your menu based on what’s available in your garden by searching their recipe slideshows by ingredient… I say tomato, you say: eggplant, cilantro, watermelon, corn, or… well, you get the idea!)
by Marcia Kiesel, photo by Quentin Bacon
- ACTIVE: 30 MIN
- TOTAL TIME: 1 HR
- SERVINGS: 6
- 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for greasing and brushing
- 3 medium zucchini (1 1/2 pounds), sliced lengthwise 1/4 inch thick
- 2 long, narrow eggplants (1 1/2 pounds), peeled and sliced lengthwise 1/3 inch thick
- Salt and freshly ground pepper
- 1 large shallot, minced
- 1 pound plum tomatoes, cut into 1/2-inch dice
- 3 ounces feta cheese, crumbled (3/4 cup)
- 1/4 cup chopped basil
- 1/3 cup panko or coarse dry bread crumbs
- Preheat the oven to 425°. Oil 2 large rimmed baking sheets. Put the zucchini slices on one sheet and the eggplant on the other. Brush the slices all over with oil and season with salt and pepper. Arrange the slices on each sheet in a slightly overlapping layer. Bake for 15 minutes, until tender.
- Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of the oil. Add the shallot and cook over moderate heat until softened, 3 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over high heat until slightly softened and bubbling, 1 minute. Season with salt and pepper.
- Oil a large, shallow baking dish (about 10 by 15 inches). Lay half of the eggplant in the dish and spread one-fourth of the tomatoes on top. Scatter with half of the feta and basil. Layer half of the zucchini on top, followed by another one-fourth of the tomato and the remaining basil, eggplant and zucchini. Top with the remaining tomato and feta. Mix the panko with the remaining 1 tablespoon of oil and sprinkle over the casserole. Bake in the upper third of the oven for 20 minutes, until bubbling and crisp. Let stand for 5 minutes, then serve hot or warm.
Take advantage of time with fellow green thumbs by exchanging growing tips (and misses!) and talking into the night gathered around the fire pit.
What have you grown in your garden (or in your dreams) this summer? Post in the comments below!
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