Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Summer Food

We moved into the house I grew up in when I was about 2. Mr. and Mrs. Westbrook lived in the house next door. I can remember how the house smelled. It was a combination of the two things that seemed to sum up the two of them: fresh baked something and cedar. Mr. Westbrook was retired and he swore up and down that he'd once owned a monkey. He worked daily in his wood shop and shot squirrels with his bb gun. Each spring he put in a huge garden. They didn't have any family in town, but we were right next door. In fact, their chairs faced a big sliding glass door that looked out into our front door. They literally watched my sister and I grow up. Jennifer and I always looked forward to helping him in the garden. He had the patience of Job. We knew he loved us because he planted 10 plants with "tommy-toes" (cherry tomatoes) and he didn't eat them. We would eat them right off the vine until we were almost sick. The garden was full of all of the best things: squash, peppers, eggplant, zucchini, tomatoes, pink eye purple hull peas, butter beans, green beans, sweet potatoes, and cucumbers.

During peak garden season we'd walk outside each morning and he'd have a 5 gallon bucket full of whatever he'd picked before the sun was too hot. I came up with my spaghetti sauce one summer out of sheer desperation. I couldn't bring myself to throw away all those tomatoes. And I mean, really, how many tomato sandwiches can one person eat? Well, a lot, but by August they aren't quite the delicacy they were in late May.

I made a trip to Sunflower last night and had a moment of pure nostalgia. Something in the zucchini made me miss growing up, Mr. Westbrook's garden, Mrs. Westbrook's cakes, shelling peas and tomato sandwiches. I bought zucchini and eggplant and wished for a 5 gallon bucket full of fresh vegetables. I like to think they would have liked what I made while thinking of them:

Slice 2 zucchini and 1 eggplant and lay out on a rack. Salt heavily and allow to sit at room temp. After about 30 minutes, turn and repeat. Rinse the vegetables thoroughly. This process helps remove the bitterness and keeps the vegetables from turning to mush.

Layer zucchini and eggplant in a casserole dish. Spread a layer of softened cream cheese. Top with 1 lb of browned sausage. add another layer of the vegetables. Pour one can of tomatoes over the top. (I wish I had that bucket of tomatoes!) (I think it would be better if you sliced fresh tomatoes.) Sprinkle a layer of mozzarella. Now, I will admit that I cheated here, but it made it so easy: Top with 2 pouches of tomato/basil pasta sauce. top with mozzarella and parmesan. This is weird but helped...microwave for about 10 minutes and place in a 350 oven for about 30 minutes.

Serve with pasta.

3 comments:

Burnt Toast said...

Very nice post Leslie!

I have fond memories of working in the garden with my grandfather. It was his element and he just seemed to belong there. If there was ever a "perfect" garden, it was his.

I miss those days.

wanda1234 said...

thanks for sharing.....

___________________
Rozydesouza
Entertainment at one stop

wanda1234 said...

thanks for sharing.....

___________________
Rozydesouza
Entertainment at one stop