Garden Connections

Garden Exploring ideas and practices with regional gardening experts who share their "tips of the trade." There's something for the green thumb in all of us!

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Makes 4 servings


For the dumplings:

2 medium size crisp sweet apples (MacIntosh, Gala, Haralson etc.)

3 tablespoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon 

1 teaspoon cornstarch

6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, divided

1 sheet purchased puff pastry, thawed


Directions:  Preheat an oven to 400º F.  Peel, core and dice the apples and put into a mixing bowl.  Sprinkle over the sugar, cinnamon and cornstarch.  Mix well then stir in 2 tablespoons of the butter to combine.  Set aside until needed.  Unfold the puff pastry onto a lightly floured board.  Using a rolling pin, flatten out the pastry making sure the seams are flat.  Trim into an even square then cut into 4 equal smaller squares.  Prick all around the center of each with a fork leaving a 1-inch border.  Press the squares into small tart pans so the corners overhang the sides.  Divide the apple mixture evenly among the lined tart pans.  Brush the exposed pastry with the remaining melted butter.  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the overhanging corners of the pastry is dark golden brown.


For the sauce:

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 cup heavy cream, hot

2 tablespoons high quality bourbon


Directions:  In a large saucepan, bring the sugar and water to a boil and cook until darkly caramel colored.  Slowly whisk in the hot cream (BE CAREFUL! THE MIXTURE WILL BOIL UP VIGOROUSLY AND WILL GIVE OFF A GREAT DEAL OF STEAM!).  Boil the mixture until thickened, remove from the heat then stir in the bourbon.


To finish the dish:

Place one dumpling onto each of 4 plates, drizzle each with about 1/4 cup of the sauce and top with whipped cream or ice cream if desired.


Mexican Spiced Watermelon Skewers, Chilled

Makes 8 skewers


For the spice mix:  

1 1/2 teaspoons sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon ground ancho chile powder


Directions:  Put the sugar, salt and ancho into a small mixing bowl and stir to blend.  Set aside until needed.

For the watermelon and to finish the dish:

8 – 4 ounce rectangles (batons) of cleaned (rind off) and seeded watermelon, chilled

8 – 8-inch bamboo skewers

Spice mix from above


Directions:  Impale each of the watermelon rectangles onto a skewer then lay them out on a serving platter.  Sprinkle each with a generous 1/4 teaspoon of the spice mix and serve.


Note:  If the watermelon is at room temperature when you prepare the batons, put them into the refrigerator to chill well before topping with the spice mix and serving.


Watermelon Cubes with Balsamic Vinegar Syrup

Makes 24 pieces


For the balsamic syrup:  

1/4 cup balsamic vinegar

1/2 cup sugar


Directions:  Put the vinegar and sugar into a small saucepan and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and set aside until needed.

For the watermelon and to finish the dish:

24 – 1 x 1 x1 inch cubes of cleaned (rind off) and seeded watermelon, chilled

Syrup from above


Directions:  Using a round Chinese style chopstick, make a half inch deep indented well into the center top side each watermelon cube then lay them out on a serving platter.  Fill each well with balsamic syrup and serve.


Watermelon and Feta Salad

Makes 24 pieces



24 – 1/2 inch thick by 2 inch square pieces of cleaned (rind off) and seeded watermelon, chilled

Feta cheese cut into approximately 2 inch square shavings

Extra virgin olive oil

Freshly ground black pepper


Directions:  Lay out the watermelon pieces on a serving platter then top each with a shaving of cheese, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and a tiny sprinkle of pepper then serve.


Grilled Greek Vegetable Salad with Feta Cheese

Makes 6 servings of about 1 cup each


For the dressing:  

3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons minced fresh oregano

1 large clove garlic

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper


Directions:  Put the oil, vinegar and oregano into a mixing bowl and whisk well.  Peel and mince the garlic then sprinkle it with some of the salt and grind it into a paste using a smearing motion with the flat of the cutting edge of a wide bladed knife.  Add it to the mixing bowl along with the remaining ingredients then whisk well to blend.  Set aside until needed.


For the vegetables and feta:  

1 pound eggplant (about 1 large), ends trimmed

3/4 pound sweet onion (about 1 large), peeled

1/2 pound zucchini (about 1 medium), ends trimmed

2 cups large diced fresh Roma tomatoes (about 4 large)


Directions:  Preheat an outdoor grill or grill pan on medium high.  Cut the eggplant and onion crosswise into 1/2 inch thick slices then cut the zucchini lengthwise in half.  Lay out the slices of eggplant on a rimmed baking sheet then spoon some of the dressing over them.  Put them onto the grill (pan), dressing side down, cover and cook for 2 minutes until nicely marked, turn them over and grill for another 2 minutes to mark the other side and cook them through to crisp/tender.  Remove them to another pan to cool slightly.  Repeat the process with the zucchini and onion.  Put the tomatoes and any leftover dressing, into a large mixing bowl.  Cut all the grilled vegetables into large dice and add them to the tomatoes then mix well to combine.


To finish the dish:

1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil

2 thick slices feta cheese (about 1/2 pound total)

Grilled vegetables from above

12 Kalamata olives, pitted and cut into slivers  


Directions:  Put a 10-inch non-stick skillet over high heat.  When the pan is hot, add the olive oil and feta slices and brown well on one side then turn over and brown the other side.  Remove them to a cutting board to cool before cutting them into large dice.  Add the feta to the grilled vegetable mixture and stir well to combine.  Divide the salad among plates or shallow bowls, top with the slivered olives and serve.


Caribbean Roasted Sweet Potato Hash

Makes 8 servings


For the seasoning mix:

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh thyme

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon nutmeg

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper


Directions:  Put all the ingredients into a small mixing bowl and stir to blend well.  Set aside until needed. 


To finish the dish:

6 medium sweet potatoes (about 4 pounds)

1 large sweet onion

1/4 cup grapeseed oil

Seasoning mix from above


Directions:  Preheat an oven to 350º F.  Peel and large dice the sweet potatoes and onion and put into a large mixing bowl.  Toss with the oil and seasoning to coat evenly.  Spread the mixture out on a parchment lined rimmed baking sheet and place in the oven.  Roast for 45 minutes, then remove to a decorative bowl and serve.



Note:  This recipe can easily by halved


Leek and Eggs “Benedict” with White Cheddar Cheese Sauce

Makes 6 servings


For the leek purée:

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

3 cups sliced leeks (about 1 1/2 large), white and pale green parts only

1/4 cup chicken stock

1/4 cup heavy whipping cream

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon hot red pepper sauce


Directions:  Melt the butter in a medium saucepan.  Add the leeks, cover and cook on medium low heat for 4 minutes.  Add the chicken stock, cream, salt and pepper sauce then bring to a boil and let cook for 1 minute.  Put the mixture into the bowl of a food processor and blend into a purée.  Transfer the mixture back to the saucepan, cover and keep hot until needed.


For the eggs, sauce and to finish the dish:

3/4 cup heavy whipping cream

4 extra large eggs, cracked into a measuring cup

2 each English muffins, split into halves

3/4 cup packed shredded white cheddar cheese


Directions:  Bring the cream to a simmer in a wide, shallow skillet.  Carefully add the eggs so they are evenly spaced in the pan, turn the heat down to low then cover the pan and cook the eggs to the desired doneness (about 2 to 3 minutes for soft, runny yolks).  Meanwhile, arrange the toasted English muffin halves on warm plates and spread about 1/4 cup of the leek purée into each.  When the eggs are done, carefully remove them one by one draining off any excess cream back into the pan and place on top of the leek purée.  Bring the cream back to a boil, remove from the heat then whisk in the shredded cheese.  Divide the sauce equally among the plates and serve garnished with a sprinkling of smoked (or regular) paprika.


Linguine with Lamb’s Quarters, Sicilian Style (Linguine alla Siciliana)

Makes 4 – 5 servings


For the pasta:

1 pound dry linguine noodles

4 quarts water

1 tablespoons kosher salt


Directions:  Add the pasta to the boiling, salted water and cook as per package directions or until al dente.  Meanwhile, make the sauce.


For the sauce:

1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

1 large clove garlic, peeled and thinly sliced

1/3 cup pine nuts

1/3 cup golden raisins

1/2 teaspoon hot red pepper flakes

10 ounces (about 4 cups packed) lamb’s quarters leaves

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Shaved Reggiano Parmesan to garnish


Directions:  Put the olive oil into a large skillet over medium heat.  Add the garlic and cook until it just starts to color.  Add the pine nuts and raisins.  Cook while shaking the pan constantly until the pine nuts are golden and the raisins puff up.  Add the red pepper flakes followed right away by the lambs quarters and salt.  Cook until the greens are all wilted and just cooked through.  Remove from the heat.


To finish the dish:  When the pasta is cooked to al dente, drain it very well and toss with the hot sauce.  Portion the finished pasta onto plates, garnish with a generous sprinkling of shaved Reggiano Parmesan and serve.


Sambucca Panna Cotta with Blueberries and Mint

Makes 4 servings


For the panna cotta:  

1/2 cup whole milk

1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 tablespoon Sambucca liqueur (or other anise flavored liqueur)

3 tablespoons sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt


Directions:  Put the milk into a small saucepan and sprinkle the gelatin evenly over the top.  Allow the gelatin to hydrate for 10 minutes.  Meanwhile; have the cream measured and chilled in a separate metal mixing bowl, set up a cold water bath and get 4 – 6 ounce ramekins ready.  Put the milk/gelatin mixture over high heat until it reaches just a bare simmer while stirring constantly.  Remove from the heat add the Sambucca, sugar and salt then stir until dissolved.  Stir this mixture into the chilled cream and set this mixture into the cold water bath and stir constantly until it becomes the consistency of thin pancake batter (about 50 degrees on a thermometer).  Divide the mixture evenly among the ramekins and chill for at least 4 hours or overnight.


For the blueberry topping: 

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup water

1 tablespoon finely shredded fresh mint

1 pint fresh blueberries, washed and picked over


Directions:  Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan.  Turn the heat on high and bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat, stir in the mint then pour over the berries and mix well.  Let sit for a few hours or overnight for the berries to give off some juices and the flavors to marry.


To finish the dish:

After the panna cottas are cold, gently unmold them onto individual plates (or one large serving platter), top each with some of the berries and juice, passing the rest of the berries and sauce separately.


Pan Fried Red Tomatoes with Parsley and Caper Butter Sauce (Salsa Verde)

Makes 4 servings


For the salsa verde:

1 large clove garlic, peeled and crushed

3 anchovy fillets

1/2 cup lightly packed fresh parsley leaves (about 1/2 a bunch)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes

2 tablespoons drained capers

1 small (about 6-inch) inner celery rib with leaves, chopped

1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice


Directions:  Put the garlic, anchovy fillets, parsley, salt, peppers, capers and celery into the bowl of a food processor.  Blend until finely minced then add the butter and lemon juice.  Process until well blended.  Remove to a clean bowl and set aside until needed.  Meanwhile make the tomatoes.


For the tomatoes: 

3 medium to large under-ripe red tomatoes (a slicing variety)

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

2 large eggs, beaten with 1 tablespoon milk

2 cups fresh breadcrumbs

3/4 cup vegetable oil


Directions:  Cut about 1/4-inch off of the stem end of each tomato then cut them into 1/4-inch thick slices (you should have a total of 12 slices).  Make a mixture of the salt and pepper then use it to season the tomato slices and set aside.  Put the flour, beaten eggs and breadcrumbs into separate shallow dishes.  Dredge the tomato slices two at a time in the flour, shake off the excess then dip them in the egg mixture.  Let the excess egg drip off then coat each with breadcrumbs and place on a parchment lined baking sheet.  Repeat with the remaining tomato slices.


To finish the dish:  Heat the vegetable oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  When the oil is hot, add the tomato slices making sure not to crowd them.  Fry until golden brown on one side then turn over and repeat on the other side.  Remove to paper towels to drain.  When all the tomatoes are fried, pour the oil out of the pan and add the butter mixture to it off of the heat.  Divide the tomatoes among plates, top with the melted butter sauce and serve.


Note:  This is a great use for under-ripe tomatoes at the beginning of the growing season when you just can’t wait to get a taste of your garden’s tomatoes.


Roasted Red Bell Peppers “Agrodolce” (Sweet and Sour)

Makes 8 pieces


For the roasted red bell peppers:  

2 large red bell peppers 


Directions:  Put the bell peppers directly over a gas stove flame and turn occasionally until the skin is blackened all over.  Put it into a heatproof bowl and cover.  (Alternately, rub the peppers lightly with oil; lay them on a flat side on a baking sheet and roast in a preheated 475º F oven for 10 minutes.  Give the peppers 1/4 turn and roast for another 5 minutes, remove and continue.)  When cool enough to handle, remove the blackened skin, core and seeds (rinse briefly under water if necessary).  Tear each pepper into quarters and set aside until needed.


For the sauce and to finish the dish:  

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons blanched, slivered almonds

2 tablespoons golden raisins

1 tablespoon white balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Reserved bell peppers from above


Directions:  Put the oil into a skillet over medium heat.  When the oil is hot, add the nuts and fry until very lightly golden.  Remove from the heat and add the raisins then let them cook until the raisins plump and caramelize.  Add the remaining ingredients and stir until the sugar is dissolved.  Pour the sweet and sour sauce over the peppers.  Gently mix well, cover and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes for the flavors to blend before serving.


Broccoli with Red Miso and Walnut Sauce

Makes 4 servings


For the sauce:

1/2 cup walnut meats, oven toasted

1 tablespoon red miso (Japanese fermented rice and soybean paste)

1 tablespoon Mirin, or substitute cocktail sherry

2 teaspoons soy sauce

3 tablespoons dashi (Japanese soup stock), or substitute chicken broth


Directions:  Put the walnuts, miso, Mirin and soy sauce into the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend until mostly smooth.  Add the dashi and blend until well mixed in.  Remove to a mixing bowl and set aside until needed.


To finish the dish:

10 ounces cleaned broccoli buds, about 4 heaping cups


Directions:  Bring a generous amount of water to a boil.  Add the broccoli and cook over high heat just until the water comes back to the boil.  Drain it well then toss with the sauce and serve hot, garnishing with a few more walnuts if desired.


Baby Heirloom Potato Salad

Makes 8 servings


To cook the potatoes:  

2 pounds small heirloom potatoes (a mix of colors is nice)

1/4 cup salt 


Directions:  Put the potatoes and salt into a large pot.  Cover with water by 2 inches.  Bring to a boil and cook until just tender (about 15 to 20 minutes for small potatoes).  Drain well, then cover to keep warm.  Meanwhile, make the dressing


For the dressing:  

4 ounces Applewood smoked bacon, finely chopped

1/2 a medium onion, thinly sliced

1/4 cup small diced red bell pepper

1 tablespoon all purpose flour

3/4 cup chicken stock (or use purchased broth)

1/3 cup white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons coarse grain mustard

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon sugar


Directions:  Put the bacon into a small skillet over medium heat.  Cook while stirring often until the bacon is crispy.  Add the onion and bell pepper then cook for a few more minutes until the onion is softened.  Add the flour and stir well.  Whisk in the stock, vinegar, mustard, salt and sugar then bring to a boil.  Remove from the heat and set aside until needed.


To finish the dish:

Potatoes from above

Dressing from above

1/4 cup chopped flat leaf parsley


Directions:  Cut the potatoes into 1/4 inch thick slices and put into a mixing bowl.  Toss with the dressing and half of the parsley.  Transfer to a nice serving bowl and top with the remaining parsley.  Serve immediately (or at least while it’s still warm).



Sautéed Winter Squash and Parsnips with Hazelnuts and Goat Cheese

Makes 4 – 6 servings


For the dumplings:

4 cups diced, peeled winter squash (Butternut, Buttercup, Tetsukabuto)

2 cups diced, peeled parsnips (about 3 medium)

1/4 cup walnut oil

1 teaspoon kosher salt


Directions:  Put the squash and parsnips into a 12 inch fry pan set over medium high heat.  Add the walnut oil and salt, cover and cook for 3 minutes then stir well.  Continue to cook covered while stirring often until the parsnips are tender but still firm (about 6 minutes more depending on the size of the dice) and the squash is starting to lightly brown.  Remove to a serving bowl then put the pan back over the heat.


To finish the dish:

2 tablespoons butter

1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts, lightly crushed

1/2 cup crumbled fresh goat cheese


Directions:  Melt the butter in the hot pan you cooked the squash in then add the hazelnuts and cook for about 30 seconds.  Pour over the cooked squash mixture then top with the goat cheese and serve.


Lilac Poached Chicken

Makes 4 servings



2 cups water

1 cup dry white wine (I’m using a Pinot Grigio)

1/2 cup fresh lilac flowers

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

20 ounces boneless, skinless chicken breasts cut into 1/2 inch thick cutlets

1 1/2 cups heavy cream 


Directions:  Bring the water, wine, lilac flowers and salt to a boil in a large, shallow, straight-sided pan.  Add the chicken in a single layer then cover and turn the heat down to a bare simmer.  Cook for 4 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through.  Remove the chicken to a platter and keep warm while finishing the sauce.  Turn the heat up to high and boil the poaching liquid until just a half cup of liquid remains.  Add the cream and keep boiling the sauce until thickened.  Strain into a small pan then spoon over the chicken and serve garnished with a few sprigs of lilac.


Arugula Salad with Crab, Walnuts, Apples and Walnut Oil Dressing

Makes 4 servings


For the dressing:

3 tablespoons white wine vinegar

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

3/4 cup walnut oil


Directions:  Combine the vinegar and seasonings in a mixing bowl and whisk well to blend.  Slowly whisk in the oil in a thin but steady stream.  Set aside until needed.


To finish the dish:  

8 cups cleaned arugula greens (about 10 ounces) or other sturdy salad greens

1 medium crisp/sweet apple, cored and quartered, cut into thin slices (Gala, Haralson, Cortland, etc.)

1 cup oven toasted walnuts

1 cup fresh lump crab meat


Directions:  Put the greens into a large mixing bowl and toss well with the dressing, crab, walnuts and apples then divide among plates.


Button Mushrooms Braised in Red Wine, Garlic and Parsley

Makes 4 servings


1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

2 – 8 ounce packages small button mushrooms, washed and drained

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry red wine

1 tablespoon minced fresh parsley

Freshly grated Grana Padano Parmesan cheese for garnish


Directions:  Put the oil and butter into a 10-inch skillet over medium high heat.  Add the garlic and cook until just starting to color.  Add the mushrooms, salt and pepper then sauté until they are lightly browned.  Add the wine and cook until 1/4 cup of liquid remains in the pan while stirring often.  Toss the mushrooms with the parsley and remove to a serving bowl.  Garnish with Parmesan cheese and serve hot as an appetizer with toasted bread.



Apple Tarte Tatin with Rosemary and Orange     --     Makes 4 servings


For the apples:  

3 medium crisp, sweet apples (such as Gala or Honeycrisp, about 5 oz. each)

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

1/2 cup packed light brown sugar

4 tablespoons orange juice

3/4 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary


Directions:  Set up four 10-ounce capacity (4 1/2 inches diameter by 1 3/4 inches deep) ramekins or ceramic bowls evenly spaced on a small baking sheet.  Peel the apples, cut in half lengthwise and core then cut into quarters.  To make the caramel sauce and cook the apples simultaneously, melt the butter in a 12-inch skillet over medium heat then add the brown sugar, orange juice and rosemary.  Bring to a boil then add the apples and cook for 3 minutes.  Turn the apples over and cook for 3 minutes more.  By this time the caramel sauce in the pan will have reduced until thick.  Place 3 apple quarters, in each ramekin and divide the caramel evenly among them.


For the pastry and to finish the dish:

1 sheet purchased frozen puff pastry (half a 17.3 ounce package), thawed*

Reserved apple filled ramekins from above

Purchased high quality vanilla ice cream (or whipped cream) for an accompaniment if desired


Directions:  Preheat an oven to 425º F.  Lightly flour a pastry board then unfold the puff pastry sheet onto it.  Roll the pastry out slightly to an even thickness, using care to even out the places where it was folded.  Cut out 4 circles of puff pastry using a 4 1/2-inch round circle cutter (or another ramekin as a guide).  Make a 1-inch long slit in the center of each with a sharp knife then place one circle on top of each filled ramekin.  Put into the oven and bake for 18 to 20 minutes until the pastry is puffed and golden brown.  Remove from the oven, let cool for 10 to 15 minutes then carefully (they’re still HOT!) invert each onto individual plates.  Serve with a scoop of ice cream if desired.


*Frozen puff pastry is best thawed by placing it in the refrigerator overnight.  Let it warm up at room temperature for 5 to 10 minutes before rolling it out.


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