In 1988, we bought our home with a beautiful tree in the front yard. The Linden tree has provided beautiful shade for our front yard, a marvelous climbing tree for my children and grandchildren, amazing fragrance when the tree is in bloom, pollen for the honeybees, symbolic heart-shaped leaves, and now a wonderful source for a Linden infusion and tea.
I have felt a tremendous kinship to this beautiful tree for years. Little did I know that dried Linden leaves have medicinal beneficial. Benefits o the tea or infusions are reduced stress and anxiety and help with gut issues.
The Linden tree is a beloved symbol of the Slovak people, part of my heritage. In the book, ‘Slovakia, The Legend of the Linden” written by Zuzana Palovic and Gabriela Bereghazyova, shares the history and symbolism of this beautiful relationship. On page 5 of their book, is a beautiful description:
“INTRODUCTION: THE SACRED LINDEN CODE The land we know as Slovakia is protected by an all-powerful symbol, the Linden tree and its heart-shaped leaf. For centuries, the sacred icon has represented the heartfel essence of hte Slovak people. It is a code that captures th narrative of a nation. The heart-shaped emblem masterfully unites the humanity, geography and heritage of the region.”
If you are fortunate enough to have access to a Linden tree, take advantage of the few days that the tree blooms and collects blossoms to dry and enjoy as a tea or infusion. It’s worth the trouble.
Linden Flower Infusion and Tea
Dried Linden Flowers
Linden Flower Infusion: Place 1/2 to 1 ounce of dried Linden flowers in a 1 quart Ball jar. Boil water and slowly fill Ball jar. Cap and let steep for 24 hours. After 24 hours, strain. Optional: Bring liquid to a second boil. Cool. Use the infusion over the next 2-3 days. (Note: I wonder if the infusion could be frozen for later use.)
Linden Flower Tea: Place 3 tsp. of dried Linden flowers in a tea infuser. Add 1 cup boiling water and let steep for 10 minutes. Optional: Enjoy with lemon or honey.
Zucchini abound this time of year as do my Sungold cherry tomatoes. Combine these two ingredients with basil, garlic, shrimp…WOW! You could easily adapt this to regular pasta, but why? I topped my meal with a sprinkle of Parmesan as well. Deliciouso!
Garlicky Tomato-Basil Shrimp with Zoodles
4 small, straight zucchini, ends trimmed
salt, garlic salt, pepper
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, quartered
5 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
1/4 cup + 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil, divided
1lb jumbo shrimp (16/20 count,) peeled and deveined
1 large clove garlic, minced
Spiralize zucchini using the fattest noodle blade then add to a colander set atop a bowl. Lightly salt then toss with your fingers to coat. Cover then place in the refrigerator for 30 minutes to an hour to drain excess liquid.
Add tomatoes and basil to a large bowl with 1 teaspoon extra virgin olive oil then season with salt and pepper, stir to combine, and set aside.
Heat 1-1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Pat shrimp very dry between paper towels then season tops with garlic salt and pepper. Add half the shrimp to the skillet seasoning-side down then sauté for 2 minutes per side, or until cooked through, then transfer to bowl with tomatoes and basil. Heat another 1-1/2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil in the skillet then sauté remaining shrimp. When shrimp have 30 seconds left add garlic then sauté until fragrant, and then add to the bowl and stir everything to combine.
Meanwhile, remove zoodles from refrigerator then pat dry with paper towels. Heat remaining Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil in the skillet then add zoodles. Season with salt and pepper then sauté until crisp-tender, 2-3 minutes. Plate zoodles then top with garlicky tomato-basil shrimp and serve.
Grilled Steak with fresh peaches, gorgonzola and caramelized onions…oh my gosh. Every bite is a flavor explosion. For those that don’t like Gorgonzola, Goat Cheese would probably be equally as good (maybe with a few chopped pecans?) or just skip the cheese. You’ll love it, too!
Balsamic Steak and Peach Salad
1-1/4lbs tri-tip or flank steak, cut into easily grillable pieces (could use any cut of steak, really!)
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar, divided
2 tablespoons brown sugar
3 cloves crushed garlic
salt and pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 jumbo or 2 smaller sweet onions, sliced thin
2 large ripe peaches, chopped
4 oz. gorgonzola cheese crumbles
9 oz. mixed greens
For the Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette:
1/4 cup + 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1-1/2 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic, roughly chopped
salt and pepper
Combine 1/2 cup balsamic vinegar, brown sugar, garlic, and lots of salt and pepper into a large Ziplock bag then squish to mix. Add steak then marinate for 30 minutes or up to 8 hours.
Heat extra virgin olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add onions, season lightly with salt, then saute until caramelized and soft, 30 minutes, stirring occasionally and turning heat down slightly if onions begin to color too quickly. Stir in remaining 1 Tablespoon balsamic vinegar then set onions aside to cool – can be done up to a couple days ahead of time.
Preheat a well-oiled grill over high heat for at least 10 minutes then turn heat down to medium-high. Add steak then grill for 3-4 minutes per side, depending on how thick your steak is, then let rest for 10 minutes before thinly slicing against the grain – can be done 1 day ahead of time.
For the Honey-Balsamic Vinaigrette: Add ingredients into a blender then blend until smooth.
Divide lettuce, steak, caramelized onions, peaches, and cheese between bowls then top with vinaigrette and serve.
Campbell’s Tomato Soup and grilled cheese were common in our house when the girls were growing up. Now that I’ve discovered homemade tomato soup, the canned stuff is out the door. I roast tomatoes all summer and freeze them for soup and sauces in the winter. The tomatoes I had frozen did not have garlic and onion in them, so I sautéed the onion in a little olive oil and added the garlic when the onions were brown. The end result was delicious. The soup was a little thick, so I added water to gain the consistency I like.
The perfect lunch or dinner for a snowy winter day!
Roasted Tomato Soup
3 lb. Roma Tomatoes (I used a variety of tomatoes from my garden)
1/2 small onion
2 tablespoons minced garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 cup milk or cream (I used Half and Half)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 tablespoons fresh basil (I used pureed frozen basil)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon sugar
salt and pepper to taste
Water or milk to thin the soup to your liking
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Line cookie sheet with parchment paper. Cut tomatoes in half, drizzle with oil. Add onions, garlic, salt and pepper.
Roast for 40-50 minutes, until the tomatoes start to brown. (At this point you can freeze the tomato mixture for later or proceed with the recipe.)
Scrape the tomato mixture into the blender and add the milk or cream, Parmesan cheese, basil, tomato paste, and sugar. Puree until completely smooth and adjust seasonings to taste.
Serve immediately with grilled cheese for dunking. Yum!
Crisp, autumn apples paired with nuts, dried cranberries, feta and salad greens. Yum! The salad dressing is the perfect pairing as well. A great salad as an entree or as a side. It’s Fall Y’all!
APPLE CRANBERRY WALNUT SALAD
6 cups salad (I used a combination of arugula and baby spinach, any spring green mix will do)
1 red apple
1 green apple
1 cup walnuts, roughly chopped (I used pecans)
1/3 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 cup apple juice
4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar (or white vinegar in a pinch)
2 tablespoons honey
scant ½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
¼ cup oil
Core and chop apples (thin slices or 1 inch chunks). Toss lettuce, apples, walnuts, feta, and cranberries together in a large bowl.
Whisk together all dressing ingredients. Toss with salad immediately before serving. Enjoy!
Eggplant is my favorite vegetables! Each year I grow eggplant in my garden, finding success with Japanese Eggplant varieties. Instead of just roasting eggplant (which I love), I wanted to try this Eggplant pasta dish and loved it!
EGGPLANT TOMATO AND MOZZARELLA PASTA BAKE
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 pound rigatoni
1 medium eggplant, diced
1 pint grape or cherry tomatoes
4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
One 24-ounce jar marinara sauce
2 cups fresh mozzarella, cut into 1/2-inch cubes
Nonstick cooking spray, for the baking dish
3 tablespoons grated Parmesan, plus more for serving
6 fresh basil leaves, chopped
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Season aggressively with salt. Add the rigatoni and cook 3 minutes less than the package directions. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta water and drain.
Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 400 degrees F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Toss the eggplant and tomatoes with 3 tablespoons olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Spread on the baking sheet and roast until the eggplant is golden brown and tomatoes are tender, 25 to 30 minutes. (Leave the oven on.)
Toss the rigatoni with the eggplant, tomatoes, about 1/4 cup pasta water and the marinara sauce in a large bowl. If it looks dry, add the remaining pasta water. Stir in 1 cup mozzarella.
Spray a 9-by-13-inch baking dish with nonstick spray. Transfer the pasta to the baking dish and top with the remaining cup mozzarella and the Parmesan and drizzle with the remaining tablespoon olive oil.
Bake until the cheese is melted and golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes. (Turn the
broiler on at the end if you want the cheese to brown more.) Garnish with additional Parmesan and the chopped basil and serve.
Fresh local sweet corn, zucchini from the garden and delicious mushrooms are a wonderful combination for this savory pie. My daughters do not like mushrooms, but another vegetable (roasted peppers, additional corn, etc.) would be just as good. I have served the pie warm and cold and enjoyed them both. This pie is so versatile it could be served for brunch or a light summer supper with a salad or with juicy garden tomatoes.
Sweet Corn & Zucchini Pie
4 tablespoons butter
half of a yellow onion, diced
2 ears sweet corn
2 large zucchini, sliced very thinly (about 4 cups)
8 ounces sliced mushrooms
1 tablespoon dried basil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon salt
12 ounces shredded cheese (I used both Mozzarella)
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Heat the butter in a large, deep skillet over medium high heat. Add the onions, zucchini, and mushrooms. While the veggies saute, cut the corn kernels off the cob. Add them to the pan and continue to saute until the veggies are soft, 5-10 minutes. Remove from heat.
Once the mixture has cooled for a few minutes, stir in the basil, oregano, salt, cheese, and the beaten eggs. Line a pie pan (9-inch or larger) with parchment paper or just grease a pan with nonstick spray. Transfer the mixture to the pan. Arrange the top so the zucchini slices lay flat and look nice. Top with a little extra cheese for looks, cover with greased foil, and bake for 20 minutes. Remove foil and bake for an additional 5 minutes to brown the top. Let stand for 10-15 minutes before cutting into slices.
Late summer harvest is my favorite garden time. The Sungold tomatoes are at their peak, basil is plentiful, and local sweet corn is available. When I saw this recipe, I was hesitant about the apple but it adds a wonderful pop of crunchy flavor. Avocado adds a little bit of heaven in every bite. The dressing makes a large quantity. Add to the salad to taste. You may have enough dressing to make a double batch. I will be making this recipe over and over and over again.
Napa Sweet Corn Salad
2 cups sweet corn kernels, raw (~3 ears) (Note: I cooked the corn then cut off the cob)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, halved or quartered if large
3 small or 2 large green onions, chopped
1 small avocado, chopped
1 red apple, chopped
1/3 cup sliced or chopped almonds
1/4 cup packed fresh basil, chopped
For the Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette:
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey (or agave for Vegan recipe)
1 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
salt and pepper
Combine ingredients for the Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette in a jar or bowl then shake or whisk to combine. Taste then add up to an additional 1/2 Tablespoon honey if desired – remember that the sweet corn and apple will add natural sweetness to the salad. Set dressing aside.
Combine remaining ingredients in a large bowl then drizzle over desired amount of Honey-Dijon Vinaigrette and stir to combine. Serve immediately.
Panzanella, or panmolle, is a Tuscan chopped salad of soaked stale bread, onions and tomatoes. It often includes cucumbers, sometimes basil and is dressed with olive oil and vinegar. It is also popular in other parts of central Italy (per Wikipedia). The first time I had this salad, about 10 years ago, I fell in love.
It’s a scrumptious salad, any time of the year, but especially when I have fresh tomatoes from my garden. Fresh, flavorful and healthy!
3 tablespoons good olive oil 1 small French bread or boule, cut into 1-inch cubes (6 cups) 1 teaspoon kosher salt 2 large, ripe tomatoes, cut into 1 inch cubes 1 cucumber, unpeeled, seeded, and sliced into 1/2 inch thick 1 red bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes 1 yellow bell pepper, seeded and cut into 1-inch cubes 1/2 red onion, cut in half and thinly sliced 20 large, fresh basil leaves 3 tablespoons capers, drained
1 teaspoon finely minced garlic 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard 3 tablespoons Champagne vinegar 1/2 cup good olive oil 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large sauté pan. Add the bread and salt; cook over low to medium heat, tossing frequently, for 10 minutes, or until nicely browned. Add more oil as needed.
For the vinaigrette, whisk all the ingredients together.
In a large bowl, mix the tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, yellow pepper, red onion, basil and capers. Add the bread cubes and toss with the vinaigrette. Season liberally with salt and pepper. Serve, or allow the salad to sit for about half an hour for the flavors to blend.
In 2020 I planted golden beets for the first time in my garden. I love a fresh beet and goat cheese salad but the big surprise for me was how delicious beet greens are.
My friend, Jan, told me about a Swiss Chard with Tahini recipe, referenced below, which I adapted to use with beet greens, minus the extra sauce. I made it several times last year and will be making it every year that I grow beets or can purchase beets with greens. Out of this world!
BEET GREENS WITH PINE NUTS
2 3/4 lb. beet greens or Swiss Chard
2.5 tbsp. unsalted butter and 2 tbsp. olive oil
scant 5 tbsp. pine nuts
2 small cloves garlic, sliced very thin
1/4 cup dry white wine
sweet paprika, to garnish (optional)
salt and pepper
Clean the beet greens or Swiss Chard. Chop into strips.
Put half of the butter and the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the large frying pan and place over medium heat. Once hot, add the pine nuts and toss them in the pan until golden, about 2 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, remove them from the pan.
Throw in the garlic. Cook for about a minutes until it starts to become golden
Carefully pour in the wine. Leave for a minute or less, until it reduces to about one third. Add the chopped beet greens and the rest of the butter and cook for 2-5 minutes, until the beet greens are wilted.
Season with slat and black pepper. Divide the greens among the individual serving bowls, and scatter with pine nuts. Drizzle with additional olive oil and paprika, if you desire.