With late summer comes the buzz of the cicadas, nights that begin a bit earlier, and a bounty of fresh fruits and vegetables from farms and gardens that for some becomes too much to handle. With a bumper crop of green beans, zucchini plants that are producing faster than you can eat it, and a bowl of cherry tomatoes that never empties, there is only one thing to do (aside from starting your own farm stand): Host a meal where guests each bring a dish starring a fruit or vegetable from their garden.
Plan Your Party
A garden get-together can take place any time of day. When scheduled for a Thursday night, it’s a great way to celebrate the impending arrival of the weekend. On a weekday morning, it’s a fun way to jazz up your playgroup (or moms-only breakfast after the kids are off at day camp). Looking for an excuse to see friends before summer is over? Plan your get-together for Sunday lunch — it leaves guests time to do their thing in the morning, then leaves everyone the evening free to get ready for the workweek. And what better way to end a summer weekend than with a fun, relaxed meal with friends?
When inviting guests, ask them to each bring a dish of their own choosing that uses something from the garden that will serve however many you’re expecting. Be sure to track which ingredient each guest is using so that you don’t have duplicates.
Setting the Scene
As your menu is sure to be inspired by fruits and vegetables of the season, use them when setting the table, too! An array of round zucchinis of all colors, mixed with different sized tomatoes, looks beautiful when placed in a bowl for a centerpiece. Alternatively, snip different kinds of herbs like basil, mint, rosemary, and dill and place in small vases or shot glasses (yes, this works) and use them in lieu of flowers.
Looking for new ways to jazz up those green beans? Serve them blanched with roast chicken or add them to the pan during the last 30-45 minutes of roasting. Cucumbers get new life with this refreshing salad made with feta and walnuts. Can’t choose whether to use your Juliet, Sweet 100, or Black Cherry tomatoes? Use them all in this hearty fregola salad. A raspberry salad is delicious atop a grilled piece of fish, while blueberries are delicious with steak, in a pie, or in ice cream.
Zucchini is great in both muffins and as a side dish — here are some of our favorites. And when the lettuce is fresh picked from the garden the same day, nothing beats a simple green salad with a light drizzle of vinaigrette.
And while you might think of serving berries with crème anglaise for dessert, don’t overlook those veggies — how can you turn down a slice of classic carrot cake when those carrots are from your neighbor’s garden?