"The Greene Thumb" By Chef Brittany Greene
Allow me to introduce myself. I am Brittany Greene, Executive Chef at the Ambassador Hotel. What exactly does that mean? It means I can simultaneously make 5 different recipes, juggle kitchen utensils (not literally), call out direction to the kitchen staff and plan to execute up to ten different menus all without breaking a sweat. I am a new mom, a natural leader and a creator of all things delicious. I am passionate about knowing where the food I cook comes from and have enjoyed growing my own ingredients for many years. In my household, we enjoy Summer and Autumn produce grown right in our back yard. In this new series of blog posts, so cleverly named "The Greene Thumb" (See what I did there? I TOLD you I'm creative!) I will share tips, tricks, ideas and recipes to help bring the flavors of the season from the garden to your table. So, let's get this garden party started...
For me, the first few weeks of June consist of two things...Pulling out my summer wardrobe (Good-bye socks and helloooo sandals) and breaking soil to build the garden I’ve meticulously been plotting for the past two months.
Since the soil where I live is too saturated with clay, I prefer to mix up my own recipe of peet moss, top soil and compost. After the soil is perfected, I pull out my custom made raised garden beds and a few of my other tools such as my large pots, cages, stands, and other essential gardening equipment. With mise en place complete, I’m ready to plant. Like a piscator fileting their first catch, I knife through the bags of soil, peat moss and compost blend. The three mixed together give me the perfect base of nutrient rich soil to house my vegetation.
What exactly do I plant? Tomatoes are a must have; heirloom for salads and standards for sauces. They are all planted in soil mounds to allow for water drainage and enclosed in cages. I take extra care in securing the cages with Bamboo poles early in the process to strengthen them for any mid-summer thunderstorms. They are petite and fragile plants now but they will grow to be strong and healthy. I have an extra special eye on this year’s Pineapple tomatoes that will be bright yellow but have no taste of citrus. Also my ever favorite “chocolate sprinkle heirloom cherry tomatoes” that grow in deep burgundy colored clusters, ready for the picking and popping into my mouth; they become my lunch on tie up day. I keep one full bed open for root veggies, staples in my kitchen. Upwards of 16” of soil deep is reserved for these varietals. Garlic and onions around the perimeter (a tip to keep out the critters) and carrots, potatoes and radishes in striking straight rows. Peppers of many kinds are available all around us and are always in my layout, mostly mild but sneaking a scoville unit pepper for Spanish night.
Once all plans are executed, I wait for the first harvest! Tomatoes are among the earliest veggies to harvest. There is absolutely nothing like a tomato fresh off of the vine. Here are some of my favorite fresh tomato pairings...
- Burrata and Basil
- Corn, Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
- Avocados, Beets and Tomatoes
We are currently in the midst of a heat wave here in Milwaukee. In honor of Summer FINALLY making an appearance, today I served a Tomato Watermelon Gazpacho in The Fitz! This is a refreshing favorite, perfect for a hot Summer day or night! Use tomatoes, cucumbers, onions and basil fresh from the garden for the ultimate flavors of Summer!
8 lb. seedless watermelon
2 lb. ripe tomatoes
c. fresh basil leaves
1/4 c. fresh lime juice
1/2 tsp. salt
1 green onion
Cut watermelon into 1-inch chunks (you should have 8 cups); discard rind.
Puree 6 cups melon in food processor in batches; pour into large bowl.
In same food processor, puree two thirds cucumber with tomatoes, basil, lime juice, and 1/2 teaspoon salt. Stir into watermelon puree in bowl.
Coarsely chop remaining watermelon and cucumber; add to puree in bowl. Stir in green onion.
Pour gazpacho into large container with tight-fitting lid. Chill until ready to serve.