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In The Garden

Jun 11, 2018 07:37AM ● By Lesley Stiles

The Irresistible Taste of Summer: Tomatoes, Stone Fruits, and Cukes

Long, hot, earth-penetrating days coupled with luxuriously warm nights create an irresistible environment for fruits and vegetables to thrive. Continuous planting through August ensures wildly sprawling jumbles of luscious, fresh produce to pick all summer. So, get the garden in. It’s never too late around here.

Tomatoes burst out of their skins, waiting to be delicately sliced with fresh mozzarella and torn, still-sun-warmed basil. Cherry tomatoes occupy the beginning of the season and then move aside as June goes on, making room for amazing heirloom varieties in all colors, sizes and flavors.

Speaking of cherries, the ones on my tree come on hard by the beginning of June and are crazily abundant and beyond addicting, at the farmers’ markets from now through the next month. Tables are bowing under that weight, reluctantly replaced by our stone fruits of all kinds as the summer marches on.

Anticipation is a crazy attribute humans are blessed with. We know what that cherry is going to taste like before consumption is even possible. We know a Purple Cherokee heirloom simply sprinkled with salt is delectable and well worth the yearlong wait before it is at perfect ripeness in the yard. It reminds me of lyrics from “Anticipation,” the song Carly Simon wrote in 15 minutes while awaiting a date with Cat Stevens: “Is making me late, Is keeping me waitin’.”

Peaches, nectarines, plums, pluots, and other iterations of creative botanists abound everywhere you look. Flavors are as varied as their colors, so all must be tasted at some point to determine your current favorite which, guaranteed, will change as new varieties are introduced throughout the season -- definitely changing the game for taste buds everywhere.

Summer cucumbers sliced into a bowl and sprinkled with rice vinegar, chopped herbs, salt, and olive oil are sigh-worthy in their simplistic culinary satisfaction. As a kid growing up in the Bay Area, we always had a garden. Still do. Never a year slipped by that lemon cucumbers were not prominently climbing in the yard. They were my Dad’s favorite, so they are mine. Smallish and cutely round in stature, they are sized for one or two and can be eaten off the vine after a gentle rub on your shirt. Introduced into American culinary historical culture around 1900, they are believed to have been enjoyed by the Turks as early as the 16th century.

I rarely peel a lemon cuke; I just wash it off and slice it up. Crispy by nature, lemon cucumbers are the perfect foil for sandwiching between bread slathered w/ peanut butter and sprinkled with salt. Quick pickle salads are a must with lemon cukes simply anointed with pure olive oil and lemon juice. Tomato and lemon cukes sliced together and layered with crumbled chèvre and drizzled with sweet balsamic could be the epitome of summer.

Free Form Fresh Apricot and Vanilla Bean Tart w/ Honey Sweetened Mascarpone

6 to 8 large apricots, pitted and quartered (or substitute with

2 baskets of strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut in half)

1 vanilla bean, split

1 T Grand Marnier

1 T lemon juice

¼ cup turbinado sugar

1 sheet puff pastry

1 egg, beaten

1 tablespoon sugar


Preheat oven to *425

Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Place fruit in a medium sized bowl and stir in Grand Marnier, lemon juice, sugar, and scraped vanilla bean into the berries. Stir gently but thoroughly to macerate fruits.


Place puff sheet on sheet pan. Brush w/ beaten egg. Spoon fruit filling in center of the dough to about two inches from the edge of the puff pastry. Roll edges of puff up around the fruit in a circle, leaving a hole in the center. Brush pastry with beaten egg and dust with 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Bake in *425 hot oven for about 20 to 25 minutes, until pastry browns and filling bubbles.


Honey Sweetened Mascarpone

1 cup mascarpone

1 teaspoon pure vanilla

1 tablespoon honey

1 tablespoon cream or milk

Whip all together in a bowl and serve on warm tarts.


Roasted Tomato and Garlic Jam Tarts

Makes 48

Preheat oven to 450

Spray two 2-dozen each mini muffin tins

2 sheets puff pastry

1 cup chèvre (goat’s milk cheese)

24 cherry tomatoes – cut in half and roasted with olive oil, thyme and salt for 25 minutes

Few sprigs thyme

¼ cup honey

½ cup grated parm

3 tablespoons garlic jam. Boil 25 garlic cloves in 1 cup of salted milk and a few rosemary sprigs until tender. Drain and puree with ¼ cup honey.


Lay a sheet of puff pastry onto a baking sheet. Cut each sheet into 24 squares and place one square in each tin cup, pressing into tin to shape. Place a small dollop of jam in each, followed by a dollop of chèvre and a roasted cherry tomato. Sprinkle with grated cheese and fresh thyme and bake 10 to 15 minutes until brown and crispy. Serve warm.