Thursday, July 3, 2014

Summer Veggie Salad with Balsamic, Feta, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Pecans

About two weeks ago the roomie and I volunteered at Johnson's Backyard Garden in Denton. The original Johnson's Backyard Garden is in Austin, TX, but they've partnered with Earthwise Produce in Denton to start a location in the DFW area. I am so thankful, because one of the volunteering perks is that you receive a free workshare of produce. You sign up for a four-hour shift during the weekday (either 8a-12p or 4p-8p for the summertime), help out in the garden and/or the Earthwise Produce shop, and then the following week you can pick up your workshare on Thursday or Friday. The workshare is very generous-it is the medium CSA box that you see on the website. We were thrilled to get our veggies, and it was a lot of fun meeting new people.  One of the girls we met actually works at one of the companies my organization partners with! Small world. :-) 
One of the garden plots. We picked the basil here!

One of the things we did while volunteering was pick basil, and I was so impressed with how fragrant the basil was. We had to cut the blossoms off of the basil plants, and also cut the leaves that were ready for picking. The next day my right arm was sore from cutting the plants. Who knew! We also got to hear firsthand what it's like running the garden from the guy in charge, Ryan Crocker. He was super friendly and laid back. We are going to try to volunteer again this month. It's a little hard for us to volunteer, because you can only volunteer during the weekdays, so we have to wait until we have off on a Friday or a half day. Since the roomie is off Fridays and I have half-days until the end of July, we've decided to volunteer again. And I plan to go back on holidays that I am off of work. It was such a cool experience.

All that to say, we got a ton of veggies and I looked around the JBG website for recipes using the produce. I made a salad yesterday (which will be our lunch for the next several days), their Summer Veggies with Pecans, Feta, and Balsamic Vinegar. The recipe is great, and is really a starting point. There aren't measurements for the pecans, feta, or balsamic vinegar, so you can play around with it to your liking. I swapped out some of the veggies for others, and decided on some set measurements for my salad. I am so pleased with this recipe. The veggies are crisp-tender and juicy. The feta and sun-dried tomato are rich and add a salty bite. The balsamic vinegar, olive oil, and garlic make a zesty dressing, and the pecans add a slight nutty sweetness. Yum! 

Summer Veggie Salad with Balsamic, Feta, Sun-Dried Tomato, and Pecans
Adapted from Johnson's Backyard Garden
Serves 4

1 large pattypan squash, de-seeded and sliced
2 small purple bell peppers, de-seeded, piths removed, and sliced
3 long green sweet bell peppers, de-seeded, piths removed, and sliced
2 long red sweet bell peppers, de-seeded, piths removed, and sliced

1/2 cup chopped pecans
1/4 cup sun-dried tomatoes
4 oz crumbled feta cheese
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tspns balsamic vinegar
1 large clove garlic, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
Sprinkle of salt and pepper

~ In an extra large skillet, heat olive oil over medium heat. When oil is shimmering, add the veggies. Stir frequently, making sure all sides of veggies touch the bottom of the pan and get a little browning. Let cook 5 minutes. 
~ While veggies cook, combine dressing ingredients and set aside. 
~ Remove veggies to a large glass bowl. Let cool to room temperature, about 20-30 minutes. 
~ Add dressing, pecans, sun-dried tomatoes, and feta cheese. Toss gently, being sure to coat all of the ingredients in the dressing. Serve at room temperature, or chill in the refrigerator if you prefer to eat it cold.
~ Enjoy your veggies! :-) 


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