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I am happy to say that our garden supplied half of the main ingredients for this wonderful side dish, and in a few weeks, will provide 75% of them! We’ve had a much greater tomato yield so far this summer, and have harvested bowls full of cherry tomatoes, at least 20 roma tomatoes, and about 5 heirloom tomatoes already, and it’s not even peak tomato time yet! The herbs have been doing so-so in the back of the garden, but there was more than enough basil for this dish. Our 5 or 6 remaining eggplant plants are finally doing well, and have 3 good eggplants coming along. Next time I make this, it will be with our very own eggplant rather than with one I bought at the farmer’s market (which I still love, but eating my own vegetables is more exciting).

Not being vegetarians, we also had good, local sausage with honey mustard sauce with our grilled eggplant, but they could stand on their own as a light meal. Start by getting a medium eggplant, and slicing it into rounds about 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. You don’t want them to be so thick that they take a long time on the grill. Then, lay a layer of slices down in a colander, sprinkle with salt, lay another layer down, sprinkle with salt, and keep going until you’ve salted all of the eggplant. Let it sit in the sink for 15 to 20 minutes, and at the end you’ll see that quite a bit of moisture has been drawn out of the eggplant. Rinse off the liquid and salt, and pat dry with a towel. That little trick is also very important if you plan to make eggplant parmesan, or if you want to use eggplant in any other baked dish. Eggplant holds quite a lot of moisture, and drawing it out beforehand will almost always make for a better, less watery dish in the end.

Now that your eggplant is ready to go, here are the rest of the ingredients:

–Extra Virgin Olive Oil
–1 pound fresh mozzarella, either in ball form or log form, cut into medium-thin slices
–Enough tomato slices to top your eggplant slices (at least 2 large tomatoes, or 4 smaller tomatoes), any variety will work (I used roma because we had many that needed to be used)
–Enough fresh basil leaves to top your eggplant slices with one leaf each
–Salt & Pepper to taste

1. Preheat and clean your grill as usual. I’m not the grilling expert, so you won’t get any particularly helpful tips from me in that department!
2. Lay your eggplant slices out flat, and drizzle EVOO over one side. Flip, and drizzle on the other side. Season both sides with salt and pepper (remember, you already rinsed off all the salt you used before).
3. Have your mozzarella slices, basil leaves, and tomato slices ready to go on a separate plate. Place your eggplant slices on the grill, and leave them to cook for 4-5 minutes.
4. Turn the eggplant slices over, then top with basil, then mozzarella, then tomato. The eggplant will cook through on the bottom side, while the cheese melts and acts as glue on the top side. Grill for an additional 4-5 minutes, or until the eggplant is cooked (but not burned!) and the mozzarella is melted.

Isn’t it beautiful? I did not put the basil on bottom like I should have, and waited to put the tomatoes on until last. I made those little adjustments in the recipe because it will taste better the way I wrote it out. So basically, do as I say and not as I already did! This recipe will work for pan frying as well if you don’t have a grill, but I always enjoy the smokey/crispy quality that the grill imbues to vegetables. Happy summer cooking!

My my how the spaghetti squash has grown!  It has overtaken the poor strawberries and eggplants, shadowing them from the sun and latching on to their stems with its twisting, curling, reaching fingers; but at least it is also blooming profusely!  I’ll expect to see some budding squash any day now.

It’s actually been raining very frequently, and heavily, this month.  The rain is good for our water bill, but there hasn’t been quite as much sunshine as the plants have needed in order to start letting their buds blossom and fruit ripen.  We still have a lot of warm weather yet to come in Southwest Ohio though, so I am still hopeful that there will be a bountiful crop this year.

Beside the spaghetti squash, we’ve also got many of the other seeds sprouting, including the pumpkin, green beans, brussels sprouts, mesclun mix, carrots, and onions!  The tomato plants are nearly as tall as I am, and are covered in pale green unripe tomatoes already.

Instead of caging all of the tomato plants like we did last year, we decided to try “stringing them up” as I’ll call it.  It’s an experiment, we’ll see how it goes.  The nice bright tomato in the middle of the photo is an heirloom tomato, though I don’t know what kind (it came as part of an heirloom plant mix), so I’m excited to see how it looks and tastes when it ripens!

In addition to our garden, the turkey poults and Araucana chicks are growing like weeds (or should I say spaghetti squash?)!  They’ve got flight feathers coming in, and are testing them constantly.  They are also learning to scratch, which is okay outside, but not so great when they’re flinging their feed all over the basement floor while they’re inside their kennel.

The Araucana chicks below have been getting some serious air too, with those impressive three-week old wings!  The chick on the left was quite sick, and we were afraid we were going to lose her.  Adam cleaned her up, we kept her separate from the other birds for a week, and she finally got to reunite with the other chicks this past week.  It’s amazing to see how much the other chicks grew while she was sick, as you can clearly see what the toll of having to heal rather than getting to grow took on the little girl.

Hopefully we’ve gotten past the most difficult part of the chicks’ development, and we won’t be in as great a danger of losing any others.

Overall, we are having a much more successful summer this year than last, but only time will tell how the harvest will turn out!

We are having yet another incredibly rainy May this year, with more than an inch of rain above the usual average. Luckily, we have also had enough sunny days to give the garden time to grow.

This lettuce is ready to be used in salad, which we will do this week!  One plant that I’m rather excited about is this little sprout:

With all of the spaghetti squash   we’ve been eating this year, I thought it would be wonderful to  plant some of the seeds from a squash we had already bought, and harvest essentially free squash!  I wasn’t sure if I would be able to plant the seeds immediately after harvesting them from the squash, because all of the information I found about planting squash seeds called for drying and curing them for months, and saving them from fall harvest until spring planting.

I figured the worst that could happen is that they wouldn’t come up, so I cleaned my seeds, let them dry between two paper towels for a few days, hulled the seeds from the outer shells, and planted them!  After only a week, they have already tripled in size and had to be thinned! I’m very hopeful that they will make it through the summer and fall, and that I’ll have a stash of spaghetti squash in the basement for the entire winter.

The entire garden is planted at this point, including all of the herbs as well.  We’ve got two kinds of lettuce, arugula, cauliflower, broccoli, red and green cabbage, strawberries, cantaloupe, cucumber, spaghetti squash, rutabega, cherry tomato, roma tomato, heirloom tomato, red/green/yellow/purple bell pepper, jalapeno pepper, green bean, mesclun mix, carrot, green onion, brussels sprouts, artichoke, pumpkin, thyme, basil, rosemary, sage, parsley, cilantro, mint, chives, oregano, and dill.  Whew!  This is the point where I tend to get excited, until I remember that it will be at least 60 to 90 days until anything is ready to harvest!  Now we just have to focus on keeping everything alive and healthy.

The growing season has finally started kicking into gear hear in Southwestern Ohio, and we were so lucky this year that Adam got a job at Lowe’s! Those two ideas may not seem complementary, but they definitely are. Lowe’s is a very big company. They buy more things than they can sell on a regular basis. With washing machines it doesn’t matter too much, but when a store has literally thousands of seedlings that are getting ready to die, well, then they just start throwing things away. Being the upstanding employee that he is, Adam asked if he could possibly take some of the plants that had been thrown out. As you can see here, it was a success! With the exception of the strawberries (which lived all through the winter!) everything in the garden is brand new.

He was able to get A LOT of broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, red cabbage, some arugula, a few different lettuces, eggplant, cantaloupe, rutabegas (not sure about those yet), mint, and a small rosemary bush!

We still need to plant the other two-thirds of the garden very soon, which will include:

Tomatoes (mostly cherry and roma tomatoes)
Bell Peppers (every color we can find)
Jalapeno Peppers
Carrots
Green Beans
More Eggplant
Spinach
More Lettuces
Cucumbers
Spaghetti Squash

And for the herb garden, I’ll need:
Basil
Thyme
Oregano
Sage
Parsley
Cilantro

Last year was a very rainy, gloomy, cool summer in our region, which did not make for good gardening. We are hoping for a much better year this time around, and with a little good weather and good luck we’ll have more produce than we know what to do with! We are also doing things slightly differently this year, taking a “square foot gardening” approach to our 10 foot by 20 foot area. Last year we planted in neat little rows, and while that was very nice and organized, it definitely was not as productive as it could have been (bad weather aside). We’ll intersperse some jalapeno plants and marigolds as we go to try and keep some of the bugs away (they don’t like spicy plants, or marigolds!), and hope for the best.

I can’t think of a better price to pay for organic, homegrown vegetables than free!