By Nicole Montesano • Staff Writer • 

Flexible foods a godsend when produce is plentiful

It’s the time of year for the kitchen-garden dance, of trying to use up what there is an overabundance of, knowing it will soon be gone, while kicking oneself for never getting around to planting other items, of which there are now none.

So some years there are garlic, peas and onions aplenty, enough lettuce for two or three families, young kale and nearly-ready romanesco broccoli, but no chard, no spinach, no green beans, and the tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers are not yet ripe.

Other years, of course, it’s the other way around; you’re drowning in spinach, but there isn’t a pea in sight. There is always too much of one thing, and not enough of another.

This could, of course, easily be remedied at the farmers market, and sometimes is – but at some risk of failing to use the aforementioned excesses.

Every season, every year, it’s a different combination of vegetables, but the same basic dance. This is not a bad thing; many delicious meals come of it — but it does require a bit of thought.

Or not. In recent years, yakisoba noodles have been my friend. Stir fry vegetables (excellent with peas!), adding a bit of ginger and garlic; add noodles and sauce, and you have a quick, delicious lunch or supper. Soy sauce is a staple, mixed with hoisen sauce until I ran out, and turned to peanut butter in preference to going to the grocery store. Soy sauce with peanut butter, water and maybe a bit of sweetener makes a tasty, quick sauce, too.

Omelets provide an appealing way to add peas and other vegetables, such as broccoli, to the breakfast menu. Sauteed spinach or chard with onions and garlic is also very good in omelets.

One vegetable I do buy, often, is button mushrooms; they seem to act as a kind of kitchen glue, binding other ingredients together harmoniously. Peas and mushrooms over pasta; asparagus and mushroom omelet; stir-fried broccoli, mushrooms and peas with yakisoba noodles … they go with nearly every mood and menu.

Romanesco broccoli is not broccoli, but a form of green cauliflower, and sometimes, therefore, we enjoy eating peas and green cauliflower, and feeling rather like characters in a Dr. Seuss book.

No doubt your own vegetable list looks different from mine, and mine will look different in a week or two, but the same basic principle applies; find ways to put them in as many different dishes as possible.

Perk up potato salad with a few judiciously chosen, finely chopped vegetables. Peas, maybe, or steamed broccoli florets, green onions, steamed asparagus — whatever needs using up.

Casseroles can often graciously accomodate such additions, as well, as can home fries, and to some extent, the pastry family that includes calzones, pierogis and pasties. And don’t, of course, overlook the flexibility of salads.

Enjoy the menu dance.

Nicole Montesano can be reached at

Web Design & Web Development by LVSYS