FARMERS MARKET FAVORITE | No-cook Summer Sauce with Tomato & Mozzarella

Kitchen gadgets can be a lot of fun, but when it comes right down to it, I believe the most important tool to have in a well-stocked kitchen is the best, sharpest knife you can afford. This weekend at the Texas Farmers' Markets, I had the opportunity to partner with Allan Hillegass of Padlock & Co to demonstrate proper knife skills, as Allan discussed the best ways to select, utilize, and care for good knives.

Well, I've been fan-girling on Padlock & Co's hand-forged Damascus steel knives since they joined the market over a year ago. Though I have a few nice, heavy German-made knives hanging on my knife rack, I have a little jar in my kitchen into which I tuck my spare change, saving up for the day when I can purchase my own heirloom quality tool like those from Padlock. So you can imagine how much I enjoyed using Allan's handiwork this weekend to create this No-Cook Summer Sauce with Tomato And Mozzarella. The secret to it's tasty success lies in the blade-- the better the knife, the better the sauce, in that small, uniform cubes of vegetables make this dish as pleasing to eat as it is to prepare. 

A gorgeous bounty of vegetables arrives this month at the market, and there's no better way to showcase their seasonal burst of flavor than to prepare them simply, and without a lot of fuss. This sauce is a great way to approach a meatless meal when tossed with warm pasta, but should you be avoiding wheat or carbs in your diet, it is equally as refreshing tossed with scallops, shrimp, shredded chicken, or any protein of your choice. I've also taken to just tossing the mix with freshly-picked arugula and a squeeze of lemon to make a substantial entree salad as well. 

Break out your best knife, to make preparation a breeze, and head to your local market for the best the seasons offer. You'll have meals from the bounty of the coming summer wrapped up with nary a bead of perspiration for the hot days ahead. 

No-cook Summer Sauce with Tomato & Mozzarella


2 pounds tomatoes, chopped
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, cubed
1 small sweet bell pepper (we used a medley of banana and purple bell peppers, but any sweet pepper(s) of your choice will suffice)
1/2 small red onion, cubed 
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1 clove elephant garlic, minced
Kosher salt, cracked red pepper, to taste
1T apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

Serve tossed with 1 pound prepared pasta, or over protein of your choice


Combine tomatoes, mozzarella, peppers, basil, parsley and garlic. Season with salt and cracked red pepper to taste. Set aside to let tomatoes release their juices and flavors to meld for about 15-30 minutes. Add apple cider vinegar and olive oil. Mix well. Correct seasonings.

Prepare pasta (or protein of your choice). While still warm, toss with summer sauce, and serve.

NOTE: Sauce can be made ahead, covered and refrigerated. Bring to room temperature before tossing with hot pasta or cooked protein of your choice.

Texas Farmers' Market vendors Johnson's Backyard Garden and Gray Gardens provided vegetables for promotion free of charge for this demo, and new cheese vendor, Full Quiver Farms, their own fresh mozzarella. If you're in the Austin area, stop by and pick up the best local farm and artisan food in Central Texas. If you're outside of the area, I'd love to hear about the sources you find in your region for fresh wholesome food, too. Drop me a line or comment below, and you may just find your name, your blog (if you have one) and favorite market mentioned in an upcoming post.

If you find yourself in the Austin/Cedar Park area in the month of June, please stop by the market on June 10 and/or 11 to discover The Season's Best, and learn tips for maximizing your wholesome market basket haul. I'd love to visit with you!

In the Garden: May
Monthly guide for gardening tasks and more

UPDATE: This In the Garden, monthly guide for May, has been updated with new gardening tasks and scheduled plantings for 2017

Thinking about starting a new hobby? Maybe grow a bit of your own food or flower this year? Get growing and going with this post from the archives, Preparing Your (New or Existing) Garden.

May, glorious May! This is the month that all your hard work begins to pay off. I've had dinners of spring greens, and green garlic, and sweet peas with caramelized onions. I've snacked on every cabbage imaginable, and sauerkraut was last weekend's project. Looks as if tomatoes and peppers and squash will be showing up at markets and on the table this month, so I'll add homemade pasta to the list of weekly kitchen to-dos for late Spring, which also include making mayonnaise, pesto, fresh french bread and herbed focaccia that will all highlight May's harvest. (I'll also be leading small classes for those tasks, so keep an eye open for tomorrow's updated Calendar of Events.)

It's going to get awfully sunny and steamy around these parts, every day, really soon. Shake out your swimsuit, air out the lawn chairs, bust out the sprinklers, unearth your straw hat.....Summer's right around the corner!

In the Garden: May
Monthly Gardening To-Do list

Collect seeds from spring flowers when the seed heads are brown. Clean them, dry them for a week or so, and then store in airtight containers or baggies in a cool spot.

Continue planting summer annuals like celosias, cosmos, pentas, angelonia, sunflowers, globe amaranths, and zinnias to attract butterflies and bees this summer. Pentas and Salvia coccineas brighten up partly shady areas and attract butterflies.

Lightly prune spring blooming plants to clean them up. Don’t do heavy pruning at this time.

Put out shallow bowls of water to attract toads. Small dishes filled with decomposed granite make good puddling spots for butterflies. Make your own hummingbird nectar for feeders with 1 part sugar to 4 parts water. Dissolve well. Be sure to change and clean your feeders on a regular basis.
Do clean birdbaths and other water bowls every few days to fend off mosquitoes and to keep the water cool and clean for your wildlife friends.

If fire ants are a problem, use fresh spinosad-based bait and an orange oil drench directly on the mounds.

Fertilize: Feed all spring-blooming shrubs after they have bloomed. Feed amaryllis after they bloom. Feed and mulch iris. Feed crape myrtle with 1/2 cup/sq. yd. of 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer beneath the branch spread.

Water: Water annuals as needed. Mulch all bare soil to retain moisture.

Transplant: Container-grown plants can go into the ground now.

Lawn Care: Mow every 5-7 days, leaving the clippings on the lawn. Keep St. Augustine grass at 2 1/2" to 3" height. Apply 1/2’ to 1" of water as needed to wet soil thoroughly. Don’t water more often than every five days.

Diseases/Pests to look out for: Check for aphids and spider mites. Look for tobacco hornworms, spider mites and stink bugs, especially in vegetable gardens. Spray peach and plum trees for curculio weevils. Spray blackspot-susceptible roses with fungicide every 7-10 days.

Prune: Prune spring-flowering shrubs and trees after they bloom. Prune climbing roses and other "once bloomers" as soon as they finish flowering. Divide chrysanthemums and pinch tips for bushier growth. Pinch back leggy annuals to encourage branching. Deadhead plants to encourage blooming. Prune frost-damaged trees and shrubs. Remove sucker shoots from tomato plants to get earlier, larger fruit.

Things To Plant In May:

Flower Plants:
Ageratum,  ajuga, amaranthus, balsam, begonia, blue dze, blue cardinal flower, boltonio, scarlet bouvardia, calico plant, chocolate plant, cigar plant, cockscomb, coleus, columbine, copper plant, coreopsis, cosmos, dahlia, daisy, feverfew, geranium, gomphrena, hibiscus, hollyhock, impatiens, jacobinia, lantana, marigold, nierembergia, penta, periwinkle, persian shield, plumbago, phlox, portulaca, purslane, purple coneflower ,rudbeckia, salvia, sedum, stokes' aster, sunflower, wishbone flower, yarrow, zinnia.

Flower Seeds:
Ageratum, balsam, castor bean, celosia, cleome, cockscomb, coleus, coral vine, cosmos, cypress vine, dahlia, echinacea, feverfew, four-o'clock, globe amaranth, gourd, impatiens, linaria, nasturtium marigold, moonflower, morning glory, periwinkle, petunia, pinks, portulaca, scabiosa, sinflower, sweet pea, tithonia, torenia, vinca, zinnia.

Acidanthera, amarcrinum, amaryllis, caladium, canna, giner, daylily, gladiolus, liriope, monkey grass, neomarica

Amaranth, Jerusalem Artichoke (Sunchoke), Jicama, Malabar Spinach, Okra, Southern Pea, Peanut, Pumpkin, Sweet Potato, Tomatillo, Watermelon.

Anise, basil, bay, borage, bouncing bet, caraway, catnip, chives, comfrey, costmary, cumin, fennel, fenugreek, scented geranium, germander, horehound, horseradish, lamb's ear, lavender, lemon grass, lemon verbena, mexican mint marigold, monarda, oregano, perilla, rosemary, sage, santolina, summer savory, winter savory, sesame, sorrel, southernwood, tansy, tarragon, thyme, wormwood, yarrow

Container-grown plants can go in the ground.

Stay cool out there, friends!

For more tips, visit Central Texas Gardner for a wealth of information for Zone 8 gardens, and the Farmers Almanac, for weather forecasts, moon calendar and much, much more.

Additional sources: Garden Guide for Austin Vicinity, Travis County Master Gardener Association, 2002.

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