Although I am happy to be a hermit in the potager and gardens, D is a very social creature who loves being surrounded by people. We compromise happily by doing a lot of entertaining in the summer, when the potager is bountiful. It is SO EASY to invite friends over for tea or cocktails on the deck or in the gazebo, and fairly inexpensive when the appetizer trays can be assembled quickly from the garden. For instance, here’s a quick harvest from the potager that includes midget melons, cherry tomatoes, red sweet cherry peppers, cucumbers, peppers, a few blackberries and strawberries, and a small Ronde d’Nice summer squash. In less than 10 minutes, it became this pretty tray for guests. This time of year, when eggs are (amazingly!!!) 38 CENTS a dozen, I keep hard-boiled eggs in the refrigerator constantly. There is always a container of pickled beets and eggs, and I can make deviled eggs using fresh herbs from the potager, or egg-salad easily. I also keep an ever-changing bit of herbal butter (chives, savory, basil, lemon thyme, dill, etc.) in the refrigerator, and pick up whatever crackers and cheeses are on sale when I shop. Brie, fresh mozarella, and cream cheese are especially useful. On this tray the canapes are simply squares of whole wheat bread buttered with dill butter, topped with a slice of cucumber, and half of a cherry tomato (Variety: Indigo Cherry Drops.) There are endless variations. I could use a thin slice of summer squash with basil butter and a tomato half, or chive butter with a slice of Bread & Butter pickle instead.
Tucked right of the melon are stuffed red sweet cherry peppers. I wouldn’t be without them for quick entertaining because most people love them. I’ve already canned several jars to use for winter entertaining. They are especially appreciated during the holiday season, when their red color makes a platter pop! Simply slice off the top and hollow out the seeds and ribs. Today, I pushed in a basil leaf followed by a bit of cream cheese to fill to the top, and a sprinkle of black pepper. Often, they are filled with a pesto-cream cheese mixture, or egg salad, or a cube of fresh mozarella, or a cube of melon. Or, a bit of very thin ham instead of the basil leaf, with egg salad, or a cube of cheddar, or a large olive make good fillings. Chicken salad, ham salad, hummus, or a shredded carrot salad also work. Use whatever you have on hand. This tray has the same canape on the lower right, except the half tomato is a “Sungold.” The sweet red cherry peppers are stuffed with a bit of mixture made by combining shredded cheese, mayo, chopped red pepper (from the sliced off stems, etc.) and black pepper in the bottom, a small cube of ham, and more mixture on top. The top row is simply a slice of baguette, topped with a basil leaf, a slice of brie, and a sprinkle of black pepper (surprisingly simple, but oh, so delicious!)
I use some of the same mixtures to stuff nasturtium blossoms, and canapes can be sprinkled with chive blossoms, small snapdragon flowers, or snipped daylily petals. Cherry tomatoes can be marinated; carrots and zucchini sticks can be served with an endless variety of dips and spreads.
It’s lovely to be able to use bits of this and that from the potager, and know that it’s fresh, delicious, and inexpensive….and always so pretty!