As we blogged about in July, the NewBridge on the Charles culinary team operates its own garden on campus dedicated to supplementing our kitchens’ “farm to fork” offerings with fresh vegetables, lettuces and herbs. Executive Chef Eileen O'Donoghue recently spent a few moments with a member of the HSL blog team to review the season’s successes and highlight the bounty of our fall harvest.
How was the season?
We did very well, a bumper year in fact, with many vegetables continuing to flourish throughout the unusually warm September. Summer squash, cucumbers, peppers, melon, parsley and basil all did great. Our eggplant just came out last month and we have been enjoying gorgeous tomatoes throughout the fall. Caprese salad in September!
When we spoke in the early summer, you introduced me to two new techniques for this season – square foot gardening with compost, and the use of loom drills using salt marsh hay. How did these two innovations go?
Our new square-foot-gardening section did not perform as well as we had hoped it would. For some reasons the tomatoes we had did not fare as well here as they did elsewhere in the garden. So we need to do some trial and error to learn what works best. I think next year we will try different vegetables in that spot. I’m thinking maybe carrots and more herbs. And by next year, we will be able to utilize the homemade compost we started this year to give extra nutrients to plants that need an extra hand next season.
On the other hand, the introduction of loom drills using salt marsh hay definitely kept the weeds at bay. We had to do much less weeding as a group this year. Next year, we will expand that practice as well as make sure we have enough extra hay on hand to replenish throughout the season.
The yield was impressive! How did the NewBridge kitchens make use of it all?
It’s amazing how much we were able to grow. One week I picked what must have been an entire case of cherry tomatoes, in addition to peppers, squashes, and lettuces! Vegetables from this garden enhanced the culinary offerings across the NewBridge continuum. Our chefs made ratatouille and caprese salad and enhanced the salad bar buffet in Independent Living. On a Friday night, after services, we would put out sliced tomatoes on the tables over by Nosh. The Assisted Living chefs come right out here to pick their own herbs and tomatoes whenever they need it. And in the Health Care Center, the food coordinators from each household came three times a week to select produce to share in family style kitchens. It’s a thrill to be able to serve garden salads right out of the garden!
Can you share some recipes you are using this time of year that our readers could try at home?
Yes, two come to mind that are especially simple and just as easy for a large kitchen or a home chef to prepare. The first is a grilled sesame eggplant dish – just four ingredients! And the second, a shaved zucchini parmesan salad that requires no cooking at all. Enjoy!
3 eggplants, cut into rings
1 cup of sesame oil
1 cup of soy sauce
1/2 cup toasted sesame seeds
Blend the sesame oil and soy sauce together and tossed it over the sliced eggplant. Let it sit and marinate for 5 minutes, and then re-toss the eggplant, to ensure is mixed well. Grill the eggplant, just for a few minutes, depending on how thick of you’ve sliced them. If thick, you may want to get them started on the grill and then finish in the oven. Place the eggplant on a platter, pouring the extra marinade over the eggplant and tossing the toasted sesame seeds on top.
Shaved Zucchini Parmesan Salad
2 zucchinis, sliced very thinly length-ways (a mandolin slicer is recommended)
1/2 red onion, peeled and sliced thinly
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Zest of 2 lemons
1/2 cup lemon juice
1 1/2 cups of olive oil
1 teaspoon fresh chopped garlic
Salt and pepper to taste
In a bowl toss the thinly-sliced zucchini strips, red onion, parmesan cheese and lemon zest together.
In another bowl place the lemon juice and garlic together, and with a hand blender slowly add the olive oil. Toss the lemon dressing with the bowl of zucchini, red onion, parmesan mix. Let it stand for 3- 5 minutes for the lemon dressing to be absorbed into the zucchini mixture. Check for seasoning.