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Bea Westerberg column: Gardens heating up, so are grills

Bea Westerberg may be contacted at bea.in.the.wool@gmail.com.

It looks like I may have to add "What I Learned This Week" to my articles. One of the major things this week was that you need to put the ground coffee into the coffee maker in order for it to make fresh coffee. If leave the ground coffee in the grinder but remember to add the water to the coffee maker, you end up with hot water!

This was not a major thing for me who has had probably only four cups of coffee in my whole life, but for Swedish Husband Larry it is a major set back. It's not like I just started making coffee. I have been making his coffee for almost 48 years so I should be well trained by now. Oh boy, do you think I might be fired from this job if this happens a few more times?

Everything seems to be catching up from the slow spring weather. The gardens are producing like crazy and we can enjoy all kinds of fresh local produce. Some of the cold-weather crops are nearing the end and the summer ones are maturing. Summer squash, herbs and fresh beans are coming in strong.

We do have very good home-grown tomatoes that were grown in-ground with a greenhouse surround available at the Hastings Farm Market right now. The market is just off Highway 55 at the Westview Center and is open 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Tuesdays and Saturdays. To keep up to date with things available at the market go to the "Hastings Farm Market, Hastings, Minnesota" Facebook page. I have posted a very good recipe for a fresh bean salad. Check it out. (Late note: The corn is here!)

Pesto makers, get your basil while it is in early full production. It seems like a lot of people think that August is the time to start asking for basil but that is just about the end of the basil season unless multiple crops have been planted. Pesto freezes well so you can stock up and make a lot when the ingredients are available. If you freeze, you can leave out the pine nuts and add them when it's time to use the pesto. Another note to those who want to make pesto but never get around to it: you can buy excellent pesto in the grocery store and it may even be a lot cheaper than making your own. Been there, done that!

This is major grilling season and with all the fresh produce coming in, it is a great time for grilled pizza made with local ingredients. There are many different ways to do a "grilled pizza" and you can decide what methods or combinations you may want to try.

A pizza stone is a good thing to have in your grill as it produces a more even bottom and does a good job of spreading the heat. (Works in the indoor ovens, but maybe save that for the winter time).

Be sure the grill and stone are hot and you have the cover of the grill available.

Make your own crust from scratch, mixes or buy premade. There are many recipes for crust and it pretty hard to mess up; just follow the directions as far as raising time, etc. You can make ahead, (about a day), form and place parchment paper in between small discs and refrigerator until a half hour before use.

The small individual size makes it easier to grill/cook. I will also tell you about a puff pastry crust later on which will be done in a regular oven but you will be grilling the veggies for extra flavor to go on it.

The topping department is almost unlimited. One general rule is that if you normally don't eat a veggie raw like eggplant, pregrill it before placing on the crust. Also cutting things in small pieces or dices will help with both cooking and distribution of product.

Almost anything that is available as fresh this time of year can be used. Bell peppers, eggplant, zucchini, onion, and sweet corn come to mind. The tomato is almost always in the picture and the cherry type work well for individual sizes. Romas also work well as they are less watery.

Use a variety of cheeses including provolone and goat cheese. (Husband Larry would say NO on the goat cheese). You can use fresh spinach, basil or mint for toppings; add on when almost done. If you get bored with tomato sauces, try flavored olives oils or pesto instead. Sauce can be applied directly to the crust or spilt with crust application and putting it on the completed toppings before cooking.

A hot tip to successful grilled pizza is thin layers and don't try to make it a Dagwood sandwich or it will not cook to the center. Covering the grill for a short period of time once the pizzas are on the stone also helps cook and give that grilled flavor.

The puff pastry method (usually in a regular oven) can be Googled and gives you a whole new pizza experience. Check it out.

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