The highlight of our Summer entertaining schedule is our annual “Tomato Lovers’ Dinner” which we offer as an auction item at our church’s annual auction.  This year, our winning bidder was a vegetarian so my wife Catherine ran with that theme as she began planning the dinner.  I was in charge of growing and harvesting the vegetables, hosting the tomato tasting (see previous post) and handling the logistics.  Catherine did the rest.

CATHERINE AT WORK IN THE KITCHEN

CATHERINE AT WORK IN THE KITCHEN

We also had to be conscious of the fact that she was scheduled to work the day of the event.  Catherine decided to prepare ahead as much as possible.  In July, we tried fresh pea soap for the first time.  We both fell in love with the recipe and decided to make more and freeze some for the Tomato Lovers’ Dinner.  That would be our first course.  Catherine found the recipe on line at The New York Times  Diner’s Journal blog written by Mark Bitman.  He got the recipe from Lee Duberman,  the chef at Ariel’s in Brookfield, Vermont.  This is “blow your head off” good.  I love fresh peas and this soup celebrates their flavor without letting anything get in the way.  Here is the link to the  recipe:  Possibly the Best Pea Soup.

THE FIRST COURSE - FRESH PEA SOUP GARNISHED WITH CREME FRESH

THE FIRST COURSE – FRESH PEA SOUP GARNISHED WITH CREME FRESH

This turned out to be a huge hit with our six guests.  A couple of people even remarked that they have hated peas since they were children growing up in the 1950’s, when most vegetables came out of a can.  They were shocked that peas could taste so good.  I love surprising people with the goodness of food from the garden.  The tone was set for the rest of the evening.

LIVELY CONVERSATION AND GREAT FOOD

LIVELY CONVERSATION AND GREAT FOOD

The main course was a French Tian, a casserole featuring eggplant, marinara sauce, three cheeses, pine nuts, basil and thyme.  It was delicious and quite satisfying.  Here is a link to the recipe: Eggplant Tian

Catherine felt that we needed to feature some of our other vegetables so she made two side dishes: Crisp Haricot Vert w/ Pine Nuts, and a carrot dish from Susie Middleton’s excellent cookbook “Fast Fresh and Green”.  This is one of our favorite resources.  Susie knows her vegetables and a thing or two about cooking. If you are looking for some fresh ideas about cooking vegetables give this book a try.

Haricot Vert (French fillet beans) are one of our favorite tastes of Summer.  We have tried to freeze them for later use with horrible results.  They are best eaten fresh.  Here is a link to the recipe we used: Crisp Haricot Vert with Pine Nuts.

THE DINNER SERVED BUFFET STYLE

THE DINNER SERVED BUFFET STYLE

Catherine rounded out the meal with some store bought tortellini with a touch of marinara sauce, a simple salad featuring greens from the garden, some “Matt’s Wild Cherry” tomatoes to add to the salad and some artisan bread from our favorite bakery, “Annarosa”.

ARTISAN BREAD FROM ANNAROSA BAKERY

ARTISAN BREAD FROM ANNAROSA BAKERY

A TOAST TO CATHERINE FOR AN OUTSTANDING JOB

A TOAST TO CATHERINE FOR AN OUTSTANDING JOB

We had a great time hosting this tomato tasting and dinner.  Our guests  were enjoyable and we were able to raise money for our church.  Sharing the food we grow and love with other people is one of our favorite activities.  That is why I love gardening.

All the best,

Greg Garnache

Note:  The photos were taken by our friend and professional photographer, Jay McCarthy.  To see more of his work click on this link:    http://natureslightphotography.zenfolio.com