It’s thyme to use up those summer herbs and vegetables


 September signals the beginning of the end of the vegetable garden. My husband is an avid gardener, and around this time, we still have tomatoes, herbs galore, greens and squash. These recipes will help you use those ingredients. If you don’t have a garden, head to the farmers market because these dishes will help you savor the last tastes of summer.

Mixed Tomato Panzanella

Panzanella is a delightful Italian salad made with fresh tomatoes and stale bread. It also features plenty of basil, so it uses up two garden ingredients at once. You can choose any type of tomato; I use a mix.

Makes 4-5 servings.

3 cups mixed tomatoes, sliced or diced

Mixed Tomato Panzanella

Salt to taste
1/3 cup red onion, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
4 cups day-old ciabatta or baguette bread, cubed
5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning or dried oregano
30 basil leaves, thinly sliced

Heat oven to 400.

In a large bowl, sprinkle tomatoes with salt and combine with red onion, garlic and balsamic vinegar. Set aside.

Spread bread cubes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil; toss with your hands. Sprinkle bread with Italian seasoning or oregano and bake for 5-7 minutes or until crisp.

Toss together the bread and tomato mixture; top with basil. Drizzle on the remaining olive oil and add salt to taste. Serve.

Note: Traditionally, this recipe rests for 30 minutes and the bread soaks up the juices. But I don’t like soggy bread, so I serve mine immediately while the bread is still warm.

The Herb Gardener’s Dip
Makes 4-6 servings.

The Herb Gardener’s Dip

1 cup mayonnaise
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup sour cream
3/4 teaspoon garlic powder
2 tablespoons red onion, minced
1/2 cup mixed fresh  herbs, chopped

In a medium bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, apple cider vinegar, sour cream, and garlic powder until combined. Stir in onion and herbs. Cover and refrigerate at least two hours. It’s best made a day in advance. Serve with carrots, cucumbers and grape tomatoes.

Notes: For the herbs, I prefer using mostly basil and rosemary (about 1/3 cup combined), with the rest being thyme, oregano, parsley and marjoram. You can use sage, but a little goes a long way. Fresh dill is also good. The key is using finely minced herbs.

If you have a small herb garden, you could use 1/3 cup fresh basil and rosemary and add 1/2 teaspoon each of dried oregano, thyme, parsley and marjoram.

Cucumber Flatbread
with Herb Dip

I love this super refreshing flatbread because it’s another way to use the aforementioned herb dip.

Makes 1 serving.

Cucumber Flatbread with Herb Dip

1 piece naan or pita bread
Desired amount of Herb Gardener’s Dip (see recipe)
Half a small cucumber, sliced or diced
Salt to taste


Heat oven to 400. On a baking sheet, cook the naan or pita for 5 minutes. Remove bread and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Slather bread with a generous amount of herb dip. Top with cucumber and salt lightly. Slice and serve.

Sausage and Kale Skillet                                   

Sausage and Kale Skillet

Makes 5 servings.

2 medium russet potatoes
1 teaspoon canola oil
1 package (about 14 ounces) turkey or regular kielbasa, sliced
1 large red onion, chopped
3 slices bacon, cut into 1-inch pieces
5 cups kale, sliced
1 sweet potato, diced
1 2/3 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon Cavender’s Greek Seasoning
Pepper to taste

Wash russet potatoes and carefully pierce repeatedly with a knife. Wrap in two wet paper towels and microwave for 5 minutes. Allow to cool.

In a large skillet with a lid, heat the oil over medium heat. Add three-fourths of the sausage, reserving the rest. Sauté on each side for about 3 minutes. Remove and set aside.

Add onion and bacon to the same skillet and cook 5 minutes. Add kale, sweet potato, chicken broth and reserved kielbasa. Cover and cook for 15 minutes, or until vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, chop cooked russet potatoes. When the main mixture is almost cooked and the moisture has evaporated, add in the potatoes and sautéed kielbasa. Season with Cavender’s and pepper. Serve.

Grilled Summer Squash Sandwiches
Makes 4 servings.

Grilled Summer Squash Sandwiches

2 zucchini squash
2 yellow squash
1 bell pepper (any color)
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
4 ciabatta rolls
1 6.5-ounce container garlic-and-herb spreadable cheese (like Alouette)
4 slices of provolone cheese
Italian seasoning or fresh basil (optional)

Heat grill to 400.

Slice the zucchini and squash vertically. Cut the bell pepper in half and remove seeds. Drizzle olive oil over the vegetables; liberally salt them and add a little pepper. Grill vegetables 3-4 minutes per side. Remove and set aside.

Place rolls on the grill with the inside facing down; grill 1 minute. Remove and liberally add cheese spread on one side of the bread, dividing the container between the four rolls.

Slice bell pepper. Divide bell pepper, zucchini and squash, between sandwiches, topping each with a slice of provolone. Close sandwiches and place back on the grill for 3-4 minutes, with the lid closed so the cheese melts and the sandwiches get toasty. If desired, sprinkle with Italian seasoning before serving or garnish with fresh basil. Serve immediately.

Juliana Goodwin