I like to think that I am a great cook and a good gardener, but there is much more to these two tasks than meets the eye. This week I will be harvesting the last of the squash, tomatoes, peppers and herbs from my first-ever solo garden. I will miss harvesting armloads of tomatoes, handfuls of jalapenos, fistfuls of root vegetables and bouquets of basil, cilantro and parsley. The garden taught me a few things that many experienced gardeners have already learned. Here are a few ideas I will be keeping in mind for future years:
- There really is a reason to plant things as far apart as is recommended. If I had known this, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see cucumbers spreading out and showing up on the far end of the garden.
- Tomatoes need some kind of support system better than my rigged pole-and-string fence for them. Tomato cages probably would have been a good idea.
- Deer can reach over a 2 foot fence and chomp away all of your zucchini plant. Try at least a 4-foot fence or bird netting around a shorter fence.
- Water, water, water. Every day, give your garden a good, thorough soaking. Set up the sprinkler if possible because if you’re like me, you might get a little bored with watering and not give it quite the thorough soaking it needs.
- Plant and replant small patches of radishes throughout the summer. Radishes grow fast, and if you have a lot all at once, you might just get sick of radishes at the first harvest.
- Try as you might, plants develop diseases or attract certain pests. If that’s the case, research the disease/pest and follow all instructions for removal. Sometimes you’ll need to give your garden a rest from that crop for a year or two.
So as I make plans for the last of my squash and garden finds, I’m reminded of a recipe I came across last fall when I was distraught about a failed eggplant recipe. A friend told me of her family’s recipe for Eggplant “Vinete” they had learned to make while in Romania, and invited me for dinner to enjoy some of this smokey eggplant dip. Vinete just means eggplant in Romanian. They found this common dish available at most cafes and restaurants paired with delicious European breads.
Smokey Eggplant Vinete
1. Smoke the eggplant
Poke eggplant and smoke on the grill over medium heat about 45 minutes until the skin blisters and is charred.
2. Remove skins & puree
Once the eggplant has cooled enough to handle it, remove the skin and discard any bitter juices. Chop with a knife or in a food processor until it resembles a paste.
3. Mix away
In a large bowl, combine eggplant, oil and mayonnaise, garlic, salt and pepper until combined (see below for measurements).
4. Serve & enjoy
Serve with chunks of freshly baked European-style bread or tortilla chips.
Smokey Eggplant Vinete
Author: Jonathan & Amy Schwartz
Recipe type: Appetizer/Dip
- 3 medium sized eggplants
- ¼ cup olive oil
- 1 small onion, minced
- 1 garlic clove minced
- ½ cup mayonnaise
- salt and pepper
- Poke eggplant and smoke on the grill over medium heat about 45 minutes until the skin blisters and is charred.
- Once the eggplant has cooled enough to handle it, remove the skin and discard any bitter juices. Chop with a knife or in a food processor until it resembles a paste.
- In a large bowl, combine eggplant, oils and mayonnaise, garlic, salt and pepper until combined.
- Serve with chunks of freshly baked European-style bread or tortilla chips.