Yellow summer squash and shrimp whole wheat couscous

It's very suddenly become the season of abundance. Well, perhaps not suddenly, but I very recently spent three weeks in winter in the southern hemisphere which has thrown off my internal calendar completely.

I picked up our weekly produce share from our CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) the other night and had to heave the bag into the car. We get a single share, which theoretically is enough for 2-3 omnivores or 1-2 vegetarians. I would agree with the omnivore statement if you eat a LOT of vegetables. Which we've been doing more and more of since we 'joined' the farm.

It's also suddenly the season of massive, shocking quantities of summer squash. In the last week, I've made squash bread, squash cake with cream cheese frosting (yum), roasted squash and the dish I'll share with you below that I made last night. I still have enough for grilled squash as a side with dinner tonight, and a really nice summer squash gratin that I will make this weekend. By God, I hope that covers the squash. I still have a lot of other veg in that bag to eat.

I picked up a cookbook I have called 'A Passion For Vegetables' by Paul Gayler. It was a gift from a friend in London and I haven't used it nearly as much as I should have. Paging through, I found a recipe for 'Yellow Courgette and Prawn Couscous with Preserved Lemon and Olives'. Inspiration enough, I got down to business.

Courgettes (zucchini) were no problem - I have dozens of them stuffed into every crevasse of the refrigerator. But I didn't have preserved lemons, or a red chili, or sultanas. The last thing I can bear to do during the summer when I have so many veggies around I'm about to go mental is go to the store and buy additional things just to make a recipe work. So, I had to figure out how to make it fabulous with what I had on hand.

I did have an overabundance of green beans and fresh picked cherry tomatoes (harvested from my garden plot just prior to starting dinner). Also, while I love leftovers and not having to think what to make for lunch, I didn't need 8 servings, so I sort of halved much of the recipe and nearly doubled the veggies (because it's healther and I have so dang many of them!). So here's what I made:

Yellow summer squash and shrimp whole wheat couscous with lemon dressing
adapted from A Passion for Vegetables by Paul Gayler

Serves 4

4 servings of cooked whole wheat couscous (follow the directions on the box)
1 tablespoon olive oil (more if needed)
12 medium shrimp
1 large garlic clove, minced
2 medium yellow summer squash, sliced into rounds
1.5c chopped green beans, blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes
1 c cherry tomatoes
2 tablespoons of blanched, slivered almonds
8 black olives, diced
1 red chili, deseeded and sliced (optional)
1 tsp chopped fresh mint
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the dressing:
2 oz olive oil
Juice of 1/2 lemon
1 garlic clove, minced
2 tsp white wine vinegar
1 tsp chopped fresh mint or Italian parsley
Heat the oil in a frying pan. Add the sliced squash to the hot pan and saute for 2 minutes. Add the garlic, tomatoes and and chili and saute for a further 2 minutes. Add shrimp and saute until pink and nearly cooked. Add remaining ingredients (including cooked couscous) and toss to warm through.

Whisk dressing ingredients together and season to taste. Pour over couscous mixture, toss and serve warm. If you're serving it to my husband, make some garlic bread to go with it.

Green madness

Three weeks on holiday and I come back to a garden that is totally unrecognizable. Did someone put crack in the water? The large planter out back had some small, tidy tomato plants, some herbs, greens and beans. I came back to a forest of green broken only by the smattering of tomato blossoms and the occasional marigold peeking through. I have enough epazote to supply Rick Bayless' restaurants until year end. (In fact, I whacked a bunch of it out and took it to my favorite local restaurant where it's in their walk in until the chef can figure out how to use it).

Who knew what three weeks could do??

I went over to my community garden plot prepared for the worst, or so I thought. I literally couldn't recognize my plot when I arrived. Nor could I figure out what had happened to all of the vegetables. I couldn't see them for the weeds. This is the challenge of the first year in the plot that was previously abandoned. Three weeks of rain and untamed growth made it scary enough that I considered giving up then and there.

But salvation came in the form of little boys (and their mom!). The garden leader's boys to be more specific. Just my luck that they wanted to start a weeding business to suppliment their allowance. I became their first customer right there on the spot. It's got to be the best $12 I've ever spent. Those kids should be charging more; it must have taken them all weekend!

Once they were done, I was able to see what was going on underneath and it's all very exciting. Winter squashes, eggplant, loads of different (still green) tomatoes, herbs, greens and beans galore. And the bees are busy pollinating everything, bless them. I even found a few errant strawberries and popped them in my mouth, dirt and all. There's nothing better than a sun warmed strawberry straight off of the vine! So I'll need to go back to weeding every few days. Also, being mid-July, it's time to plant my fall crops of lettuces, onions and cruciferous veg. Heaven knows I could use the distraction after coming home from a really great vacation and being faced with sitting behind a desk for 10 hours a day.

Here's to the joys and challenges of nurturing plants. And eating them!