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Making Delicious Meals with Hardy Vegetables

Joy Johnson, Master Gardener

Master Gardener Joy Johnson is an accomplished vegetable grower but even she struggled this year with the effects of the hot weather and drought on her crops. Still, she offers 4 tried, true and delicious recipes for using the vegetables that were garden champions this year. You will want to read this article for inspiration in the kitchen!

Making Delicious Meals with Hardy Vegetables

It’s the first of August and I’m hoping your garden is flourishing this month. I must tell you, with the drought and the rain and the storms, some of my veggies are doing great and some are struggling along. Gardening is always a gamble, we do our part to plant, weed, fertilize, mulch and water, but sometimes even with all that TLC our veggies might not produce like the seed catalogs promised they would.

I consider it a challenge. My garden has thrown down the gauntlet, asking me if I can make something nutritious and delicious with its sometimes-meager offerings. I accept that challenge! Since I like to eat lighter in the summer, I have been focusing on soups and salads. Here are a couple of soup recipes and a colorful salad. The Italian Garden Vegetable Soup is vegetarian and is quick and easy to make. The Zuppa Toscana is my hack of Olive Garden’s soup of the same name. This is a heavier cream-based soup, and makes great use of tons of kale, which you may have in abundance right now! And the Broccoli Slaw is a triumph over critters and heat.

This month I also included a Martini drink recipe. My brother and I grow lots of basil and this cocktail that he came up with is a cool, refreshing use of basil. Grapefruit is one my favorite fruits. You can use canned grapefruit juice, but fresh squeezed elevates this cocktail to a gourmet level.

Italian Garden Vegetable Soup (makes 6-8 servings)

2 medium zucchinis, sliced

2 medium yellow summer squash, sliced

1 small or medium eggplant, peeled and diced

6 medium tomatoes, diced (whatever variety you grew are fine)

2-4 ears of corn, kernels cut off the cob (steam first, then it’s easier to cut them off)

2 parsnips, peeled and thinly sliced

1 clove garlic, minced

2 cups veggie broth (store bought or homemade)

1/2 cup chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley (dried is fine too. You’ll see I used dried in the photo. My parsley didn’t do well this year, but I have plenty of dried from last year)

1/4-1/2 tsp onion salt

Salt and pepper


Place all ingredients in a large pot. Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to steam vegetable in broth for 10 minutes. Add more salt and pepper if you’d like.


Zuppa Toscana (make 8-10 servings)

1 large white onion diced

1 ½ pounds ground Italian sausage. I have a home blend of venison and spicey Italian port sausage that is quite spicey. You can use a mild Italian sausage or a spicier variety depending on how much heat you want.

7 small red potatoes, peeled, quartered, and thinly sliced

2 cups chicken broth

4 cups water

1-2 tsp red chili flakes (don’t use this if you use a spicier sausage)

1 pint whipping cream

1 large bunch of kale, tough stems removed, and leaves chopped

Chicken bouillon powder.


In a large pot, brown the onion and sausage; drain fat. Add potatoes, broth, water, and chili flakes. Cover pot and bring to a boil for about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender. Stir in the cream. Soup will thicken the longer you keep it warm and stirred. Mix kale into hot soup for about the last 5 minutes of cooking. Taste and adjust seasoning with small addition of bouillon, if desired.

Cashew Broccoli Slaw (makes 6 servings)

I grew tiny cabbages, a couple of red ones and a couple of green ones (lots of insect damage). But you don’t need a lot to make this tasty salad. My broccoli also didn’t produce much. I consider it a triumph that I can use what I grow to make something good regardless of its quantity or quality.


1 cup plain yogurt

1/3 cup sugar

1 T apple cider vinegar


In a medium bowl, whisk together yogurt, sugar, and vinegar until smooth.



1 medium sized head of broccoli, washed, peel the stems and chop

1 small head of red cabbage, washed and thinly sliced and chopped

1 small head of green cabbage, washed and thinly sliced and chopped

1 carrot, grated or julienned

¼ cup garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed

¼ cup chopped green onions

1 cup raisins or craisins

1 cup cashew pieces, salted


Add broccoli, cabbage, green onions and raisins/craisins to the bowl. Fold slaw mixture into dressing until evenly coated. Chill until ready to serve. Toss cashews into the salad right before serving.


Dale’s Grapefruit-Basil Martini


3 parts fresh-squeezed grapefruit juice

1 part grapefruit vodka (Dale uses Citron – the one with no added sugar)

½ part Elderflower liqueur (Dale uses St. Germain)

½ part fresh lime juice

½ part simple syrup to taste (1 part sugar, 2 parts water)

1-2 springs fresh basil

2-3 drops grapefruit bitters


Muddle basil in the grapefruit juice and refrigerate for 24 hours in a Mason jar. Stir or shake periodically. After 24 hours, strain out the basil (a few remaining green flecks are okay). Mix all ingredients in a shaker with ice, shake and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with basil (which really provides more of a basil punch!)

Photo credits: Joy Johnson (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)


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