Garden Dinner

Over the weekend, the record-high temperatures finally broke and Wisconsin returned to relatively normal weather for July - with the obvious exception of still having no rain. To give you some sense of how bad the drought has been, the average rainfall in Wisconsin in the month of June is 4.5". This year, the month of June brought us 0.3" of rain. My water bill is going to be astronomical.

Okay...maybe it's not THIS bad but...

I don't usually water the grass because, to my mind, the water is better spent keeping my vegetables and flowers alive. However, last week I heard that, if the grass didn't get some water in the next week or so, it wouldn't bounce back this year. So, I broke down and watered it a couple of times. You know what bounced back? The freakin' weeds.

Regardless, I've managed to keep my garden alive - albeit a bit distressed. The leaves on the tomato plants are kind of curled up, but the plants are making fruit. The cucumbers are still hanging in there, as are the zucchini and eggplant. The arugula suffered a bit from the heat and constant watering and kept trying to bolt to seed. And, sadly, I think I've lost my peas. They're really dry and all the flowers have gone brown. Which brings me to the point of today's post.... eating from your garden.

Even though the peas may not come back, I was able to get one meal's worth of peas from the plant - and boy were they good. In fact, last night the bulk of my dinner came from my garden! It was satisfying to walk outside, cut what I needed and then cook it. This was the menu:

Tilapia served with two types of pesto
Green bean, yellow beans, and peas
Sauteed chard with white beans

The basil and arugula for the sauces were from the garden, as were all the vegetables save for the white beans. A few of the cooking ingredients, like garlic scapes, garlic, and onion, came from my CSA (community supported agriculture) box so everything was organic and super-fresh. It really was a treat.

So, for today, I thought I'd share a few of the recipes from last night's dinner. I hope you enjoy them!

- Alex

Arugula and Garlic Scape Pesto

Arugula is my favorite leafy green
  • Rinse about two cups of tightly-packed arugula leaves, removing any very thick stems.
  • Dice approximately 1/4 cup of garlic scapes, discarding the flower.
  • Place arugula, scapes, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, and 1/8 cup of olive oil in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding more oil as necessary to get a good consistency.
  • Adjust the seasonings, adding more cheese, pine nuts, and salt to taste.

A word of warning - arugula can be VERY peppery and this sauce will pack a serious kick. More cheese helps tone this down a bit but don't let the cheese overpower the arugula and scapes.

Garlic scapes! Yum.

Traditional Basil Pesto

  • Rinse about two cups of tightly-packed sweet basil leaves, removing any very thick stems.
  • Dice one or two cloves of garlic - enough to provide you with approximately one tablespoon of garlic or more, depending on how much you like garlic.
  • Place basil, garlic, 2 tablespoons of pine nuts, 1/4 cup of parmesan cheese, and 1/8 cup of olive oil in a blender. Blend until smooth, adding more oil as necessary to get a good consistency.
  • Adjust the seasonings, adding more cheese, pine nuts, and salt to taste.
Traditional pesto is amazing on meats, pasta, and even as a sandwich spread. One of my favorite things to make is a "Caprese" sandwich. Slather some bread (preferably something with a good crunchy crust) with pesto. Top with sliced tomatoes and mozzerella cheese. This sandwich is great cold or grilled.

Sauteed Chard with White Beans

1 large bunch of chard (Swiss, rainbow, or a variety)
1 clove of garlic, sliced thin
1/4 cup diced (or thinly sliced) onion
A pinch of crushed red pepper
2 Tablespoons olive oil
2 or 3 Tablespoons of water
One can of cannellini beans (I prefer the Progresso brand)

  • Rinse the chard, removing the toughest part of the stalks. Coarse chop
  • Heat a deep saucepan on medium heat, add olive oil and onion - cooking until onion is translucent.
  • Add garlic and crushed pepper and cook approximately one minute.
  • Add the chard and stir well to coat with the oil and seasonings. Cover and lower the heat to medium-low. Cook for about five minutes then add a little water to keep the chard from sticking to the bottom of the pan and stir. Cover again and continue to cook until the chard is cooked through.
  • Add cannellini beans, stir well, and heat through.


  1. Wow! How awesome to go outside and grab ingredients for dinner right from the yard! Your menu sounds and looks very yummy and healthy! Thanks for sharing the recipes!
    Hope you get some rain soon. We need it here (KC), too. It rained last night all around the city, but missed us! My grass is looking pretty sad!
    Take care,

  2. I wish I liked gardening, because you make it sound so awesome! I would love to be able to pick from my garden and then cook, but I just don't get any pleasure from it :(

  3. @sewloquacious - It was really a treat, although I'm heartbroken over my peas. I hope you enjoy the recipes! The chard/bean combo actually can be a main dish if you make a big enough batch and it's super-good for you. I started making variations on that (sauteed dark, leafy greens mixed with beans) after I was diagnosed with high cholesterol. It's low-fat, high protein, and full of vitamins.

    @pinkundine - I hear you. There are so many "making" hobbies that I wished I liked because I love the end result. But, sadly, I find the task of doing the craft boring or uninspiring. I guess that's why we all have different likes - so other people can do the bits we don't want to. LOL