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Harvest Dinner: Serving up the season’s best offerings

Sep 16th, 2010 | Category: Cooking

I enjoy creating meals centered around what is available in the season. Naturally, this time of year brings a lot of diversity, options and tastes. The garden is overflowing with cucumbers, lettuce, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, carrots, beets, corn, and in the wilds of our backyard, there are more blackberries than we could ever count.
There is something wonderful and human about cooking for one’s family, friends and neighbors; using the food grown in our yards, on our properties, in our gardens, is a beautiful, self-sufficient ideal.
There is a saying that vegetables don’t taste good unless they come from a home garden. It’s true.
When it’s time to harvest all of the fruits and vegetables growing in the planted garden and in the “wilds” of the property, we gather all we can and have a large harvest dinner, inviting our relatives, friends and neighbors. There is so much food to enjoy that we must ask a lot of people. Otherwise, we’d be eating leftovers for days.
Each autumn I cook several of these meals, and I find that a locally raised roasted chicken is a perfect main dish, surrounded with seasonal sides. This year I chose tomatoes, corn on the cob, blackberries and zucchini as my main sides. There are a great variety of things one can do with these sides. Everything from dips and sauces to fritters and salads, these foods make a wonderful accompaniment to a main meal.
I used a number of carrots, onions and potatoes to decorate and cook with my simple, yet delicious roasted chicken. It is an easy, yet hardworking recipe. It took months to grow these foods, but within minutes of picking them, they will be cooked and served in a delicious meal with people I respect and love.
The harvest meals are full of food, and just as full of togetherness. Enjoy the season’s bounty; it awaits the harvest.

Roasted chicken with vegetables

1 (4 pound) whole chicken
salt and pepper to taste
6 whole onions
4 carrots, cut into 2 inch pieces
4 stalks celery, chopped
6 potatoes, peeled
1 cup water
Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Season chicken with salt and pepper to taste. Place in a large roasting pan, and surround with vegetables. Add water to the bottom of the pan, and cover pan tightly. Roast the chicken for approximately two hours at 325 degrees, basting occasionally. The chicken is ready when the color is golden brown, the texture is tender and the juices run clear.

Grilled feta tomatoes


4 tomatoes
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 ounces herb feta cheese, crumbled
basil, pepper and salt to taste

Preheat an outdoor grill for medium heat, and lightly oil the grate. Slice off the top of each tomato, and hollow out the inside. Sprinkle them with pepper, and rub olive oil onto the outside of the tomatoes, coating well. Fill each tomato evenly with the feta cheese.
Put the tomatoes on the preheated grill, and cook until they appear soft and wrinkled. This process will be about 15 minutes and cheese should be melted. Remove and serve.

Fried zucchini cheese cuts

3 zucchini
1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste
Using a large nonstick skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Slice  zucchini into 1/8-inch thick rounds (cutting off the ends). Put the cornmeal into a medium bowl, and add in the zucchini slices for complete coating. Add the slices into the hot oil and fry over medium heat. Flip the slices when golden brown on one side. (It may look lumpy or clumpy, this is OK. You may also need to add more oil.) When the slices are evenly browned, turn the heat to low and cover the pan. This will steam the zucchini slices until slightly tender. Repeat this process on the other side, and then remove the lid and return heat to medium-high. Continue to fry until both sides are crisp. Remove from pan. In a separate small bowl, mix the parmesan cheese, garlic, and salt and pepper. Sprinkle the mixture over the top of each zucchini slice. Serve hot.

Blackberry buckle

1/4 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup white sugar
1 egg
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup milk
2 cups fresh blackberries
For the topping:
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup white sugar
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/3 cup cold butter


Preheat your oven to 375 degrees. Cream together the butter and sugar in a bowl. Beat in the egg, mix well. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking powder and salt. Add the flour mixture into the creamed mixture, alternating with the addition of milk. Fold in the blackberries. Grease an 8×8 baking plan and pour batter. In a small bowl, combine ingredients for topping, cutting in the butter until crumbly. Sprinkle over batter in the pan. Bake at 375 degrees for approximately 40-45 minutes or until a toothpick or knife comes out clean.

Garlic corn on the cob

12 ears corn, husked and cleaned
12 tablespoons butter, divided
6 cloves garlic, minced


Preheat your grill to medium heat (or if needed, preheat your oven to 350). In a small saucepan, saute minced garlic in 1 tablespoon of oil, until lightly browned.  Coat each corn with butter and garlic, and dust with salt and pepper. Wrap each corn tightly in tinfoil. Place on the grill (or in the oven) for 20-30 minutes, turning over every 10 minutes as needed.

Mike Elliott lives in San Juan County. Using as many local ingredients as possible, he cooks three meals a day for his family, and often for friends “just stopping by.”

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