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A magical dinner at the garden (at Luscher Farm)

by: Barb Randall, 
Mark Randall prepared Stuffed Zucchini Blossoms for an appetizer for his Harvest Dinner party.

My husband Mark keeps telling me his plot at Luscher Farm is the best present I've ever given him. I have to agree.

For longer than the 23 years we've been married, Mark has grown a garden. Gardening is relaxing to him. He gets great satisfaction watching seeds sprout, then grow from tender shoots into sturdy plants that eventually produce food for our table. He planted the usual garden bed at home this year, but the majority of his energy and time was spent on his 20'x20' plot at Luscher Farm.

Luscher Farm is an organic community garden, and plot owners are required to pitch in and help with some communal garden upkeep.

'There is nothing 'hard' about gardening - it's fun,' said Mark. 'The hardest part is spreading the barkdust for the trails.'

Mark planted peas, beans, zucchini, spaghetti squash, acorn and delicatto squash, pumpkins, tomatoes, eggplant, celery, dill, chard and mustard greens, lettuce and spinach, broccoli, quinoa, cabbage, potatoes and cucumbers. He grew sunflowers, nasturiums, calendula and fennel - and then sat back and let the full day sunshine do its magic.

Mark estimates he has 'put by' 15 pounds of broccoli, 100 pounds of heirloom tomatoes and 20 pounds of green Roma and purple string beans.

Last week, the harvest kicked into high gear. Our efforts to freeze, can and eat the bounty were still leaving us with a surplus. That was the signal that it was time to have a Harvest Dinner. Friends were called to come enjoy a gardenside dinner featuring Mark's ripe and ready produce.

All the magic of Jack's beanstalk didn't hold a candle to what we experienced that day.

Luscher Farm's pastoral setting is especially beautiful with everything in bloom. The yellows and fuschias of the sunflowers and calendula mix with reds, oranges and greens of tomatoes, squash, beans and chards, making every garden plot a pleasing portrait of produce. For some of our guests it was their first time to visit the farm, which added to the adventure.

In light of the perfect setting, fun company, scrumptious food, and live guitar music, provided by Kevin Kerwin, our friend 'Kevin the Geek' from Lake Oswego Computer Repair, it is no wonder that members of the group were planning to sign up for their own garden plot next year. At dusk, a contended group left the farm, serenaded by crickets.

Later, as Mark and I sat on our back deck, shooting stars streamed across the inky night sky. And just after we'd exclaimed it doesn't get any better than this, fireworks burst into the sky to add their colorful display to our party!

Our charming friends in attendance included Linda Hundhammer, Heather Brod-erick, Phil and Cynthia Barr, Cassandra and Jay Givan, and Kevin Kerwin, all of Lake Oswego; artist Leslie Wu of Beaverton and former Lake Oswego resident Barbara Brown.

The menu showcasing Mark's fresh produce included:

n Mark's Famous Squash Blossoms stuffed with Chorizo and Cotija

n Homemade Corn Tortilla Quesadillas of Zucchini and Cotija

n Both of these items were topped with zippy fresh tomato salsa.

n Gazpaucho

n Crustless Tart of Garden Goodies (with onions, roasted red peppers and zucchini)

n Grilled Eggplant and Zuc-chini served with Basil Pesto and Rosemary Aoili

n Oregon Apple Crisp

Mark says the most satisfying part of having a garden is viewing a packed freezer and cupboard. I certainly appreciate that, but I like best the contentment of sharing a meal of homegrown foods with loved ones. Farm to table eating is the best!

Today's recipes are from the Harvest Dinner. They both capitalize on the fresh tastes of summer.

Bon Appetit! Eat from the Garden!

Crustless Tart of Garden Goodies

Serves 10 -12

I created this recipe without using measuring cups or spoons, so feel free to use more or less of every ingredient to suit your taste. Also, feel free to use other vegetables and cheeses! This is a perfect summer brunch or light dinner dish topped with homemade salsa or freshly sliced tomatoes and basil.

About 2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, sliced thin

1 medium zucchini, grated

1 red bell pepper, roasted and diced (you can use roasted peppers from a jar if you wish)

7 or 8 eggs

about 1 cup milk or cream

about ¼ cup flour

about 1 cup goat cheese

2 tablespoons fresh thyme, plus more for garnishing

Salt and pepper

½ cup Parmesan cheese

Preheat oven to 375º.

Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over low heat. Add the onion and cook until it is caramelized, about 20 to 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. While the onion is caramelizing, grate the zucchini and allow it to drain in a colander. Roast the red pepper either over an open flame or under the broiler until blackened on all sides. Re-move from heat source and place in a plastic bag for 10 minutes. Re-move from bag and peel off the outer skin; open pepper and remove the seeds; dice into bite- sized pieces.

Put zucchini in the bottom of a 9x13 baking dish. Crack eggs into a large bowl and mix in milk, flour, goat cheese, thyme and salt and pepper. Stir in onions and pour mixture over zucchini. Sprinkle with red pepper pieces and Parme-san cheese.

Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the top of the dish is browned and puf-fy and a pick inserted in center comes out clean.

Remove from oven and sprinkle with sprigs of fresh thyme. Can be served warm or at room temperature. Serve with salsa or sliced fresh tomatoes and basil.

BR

Oregon Apple Crisp

Serves 10-12

It can't get any easier than this to make a crowd pleasing dessert in no time at all! Use Granny Smith, gravenstein, fuji apples or your choice

1 cup firmly packed golden brown sugar

1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

8 cups apples, peeled, cored and sliced

½ cup flour

½ cup oatmeal

1 cup sugar

1 cup (2 sticks) chilled, unsalted butter cut into ½ inch cubes

Preheat the oven to 450º. Spray a 9 by 13 inch glass baking dish with cooking spray. Combine brown sugar, cinnamon and apples in a large bowl, and toss to coat apples. Transfer apple mixture to the baking dish.

Combine flour, sugar and butter in the bowl and use a pastry blender or a fork to blend ingredients until they resemble coarse meal. Spread flour mixture evenly over the apples.

Bake crisp 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature at 350º. Bake crisp until apples are tender and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

BR

To learn more about Luscher Farm Community Garden or the Community Supported Agriculture program visit www.lakeoswegoparks.org or call Luscher Farm Garden Coordinator Karen Davis at 503-638-0376.

Randall welcomes your food questions and research suggestions. She can be reached at 503-635-8811 or by e-mail at brandall@lakeoswego

review.com .