Whenever I mention the term "gardening," my husband groans. He sees gardening as a chore, and perhaps from his perspective that's true. After all, cutting the grass and weeding the beds aren't necessarily inspirational tasks. I, on the other hand, love to garden, mostly because I get the glory work. I plant and tend to the flowers and, more important, the vegetables and herbs.
There's nothing more satisfying to me than to go out into my yard and pluck a tomato and perhaps a handful of basil for a spur-of-the-moment bruschetta or salad. I'm almost smug in the knowledge that I don't have to run to the grocery store and pay for some of my favorite ingredients. Of course that smirk comes right off my face when I think about how much I spent on containers, soil and fertilizers, and the plants themselves. Since I'm not a master gardener, and I don't get a huge crop out of my little garden, I imagine my tomatoes might be the most expensive ones around.
It hardly matters, though, as saving money isn't the reason I grow vegetables. That would be for the pure pleasure of watching the process from seed to fruition. So I want to make those vegetables center stage — no cloaking them in cream sauce, or hiding them in a casserole. I choose basic dishes where the flavor of the harvest takes priority.
As always, I try to keep in mind not just what might appeal to me, but also to my husband and three sons when making my culinary choices. While salads and grilled vegetables make it on the menu often, sometimes they want something heartier, like pizza.
It's a fun way to get everyone involved in the dinner-making process. Whether you bake them on a pizza stone or grill them outside, the fact that everyone gets a hand in making their own meal means they're more likely to eat that dinner when it hits the table. There are nights, though, when making the dough (as easy as it is) is not in the cards. That's when I reach for the pita bread.
It makes a wonderful pizza crust and perfect foundation for a topping of thinly sliced zucchini or tomatoes, or whatever I have on hand. I prefer to make my veggie pita pizzas "white," or without tomato sauce. I use just a little garlic oil to give it moisture and a bit of a flavor punch, but if you prefer, add some red sauce. You need only to add a little cheese and a handful of your favorite vegetables and a delicious, healthy and crowd-pleasing dinner is on the table in 15 minutes.
Whether you have grown your own veggies, or buy them at the market, finding ways to make summer's bounty shine can be fun, not just for the cook, but for the entire family.
Meredith Deeds of Edina is the author of "Everyday to Entertaining" and "The Big Book of Appetizers." Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow her on Twitter @meredithdeeds.