Yo Party People, Summer Fest Is In The House!


Well hello there! Do you know what time it is? It’s Summer Fest! And what is Summer Fest, you ask? It’s a 4-week celebration of fresh-from-the-garden food including recipes, growing tips, even tricks for storing and preserving summer’s best.  And I’m very excited to be hosting this year with Margaret Roach of A Way To Garden. If you remember, last year the fest began with Margaret and Deb Puchalla and was such a fun way of “getting” together and talking about food and the bounty of the garden. More than that, it was filled with useful information and was such a great resource to me.  I joined in during a few weeks and was pleased when Margaret asked if I’d be interested in participating again. How fast can one say yes?

Since Margaret is the professional type and spent years in publishing and me, well, I’m just a Career Troublemaker, I’m gonna let her tell you the 411:


Summer Fest 2009 is a four-week, cross-blog celebration co-created (alphabetically listed) by A Way to Garden, Matt Armendariz of Mattbites, Jaden Hair of Steamy Kitchen, and Todd and Diane of White on Rice Couple, with guest appearances from Shauna and Daniel Ahern of Gluten-Free Girl, Simmer Till Done’s Marilyn Pollack Naron, and Paige Smith Orloff of The Sister Project.  And from you—that’s critical. Your contributions are desired, and needed.


  • Tuesday, July 28: HERBS. Any and all.
  • Tuesday, August 4: FRUITS FROM TREES (also known as stone fruits, but we won’t scream if you toss in a berry or another fruit, promise).
  • Tuesday, August 11: BEANS-AND-GREENS WEEK (either or both, your choice).
  • Tuesday, August 18: TOMATO WEEK. How do you like them love apples?


summerfest-badgeSo now it’s your turn: Have a recipe or tip that fits any of our weekly themes? Starting Tuesday July 28, you can contribute in various ways, big or small. It’s up to you: Contribute a whole post, a comment—whatever you wish. It’s meant to be fun, viral, fluid. No pressure, just delicious. The possibilities:

Simply leave your tip or recipe or favorite links in the comments below a Summer Fest post on Margaret’s blog at A Way To Garden, and then go visit the collaborators and do the same.

The cross-blog event idea works best when you leave your recipe or favorite links (whether to your own blog or someone else’s) at all the host blogs. That way, they are likely to be seen by the widest audience. Everyone benefits, and some pretty great dialog starts simmering.

Or think bigger: Publish entire entire posts of your own, if you wish, and grab the juicy Summer Fest 2009 tomato badge (illustrated by Matt Armendariz of Mattbites).

Get in on the fun: Come comment, link to things from your own archives or the archives of your favorite blogs, post entire recipe in comments or on your blog.

And that, ladies and gentleman, is how a Summer Fest works. Isn’t that grand?


small cocktailThe kickoff subject this week is HERBS, and I chuckled just a bit when Margaret said “Any and all” because I pictured her in a ’78 van emblazoned with super graphics and a bubble window while riding along with Cheech and Chong. Of course we’re talking about delicious happy culinary herbs so I’ll put my overactive imagination to rest.

Man, if there’s one thing I can grow it’s herbs. Ok, maybe one doesn’t really grow herbs as much as let them do their things, and that’s fine with me. Of course my tiny herb patch is an embarassment when you look at the garden of my friends Todd & Diane but then again my cooking needs are modest in comparison to those two. I’ll need a sprig or two to finish a dish or a chopped handful to add to an omelette, but where I really believe my herbs shine are in my cocktails.

What? You didn’t think I wasn’t going to bring all this back to booze, did you?

• MINT Well there’s a reason it’s called a Mint Julep in the first place. And you cannot make a Mojito without it.  But my cocktail mint love doesn’t end there. I love springs of mint as garnish with vodka and soda, mixed into daquiries and just about any place where I want a bright dash of unexpected flavor.

• BASIL Ooh child, let me tell you something: basil was meant to be used in cocktails. You can make Basil Mojitos, add it to strawberry puree and vodka, put it in a martini, and it’s fantastic in a bloody mary.

• CILANTRO Ok, so there’s that love/hate thing with it so I don’t use it often. But I do love the long tall springs in a bloody mary or I’ll use it for garnish when it begins to flower. Que purdy.

• DILL Well, maybe I spoke too soon. I only know of one cocktail that uses dill and it’s call — wait for it — The Real Dill. It has tequila, vodka, fresh lime juice, agave nectar, English cucumber and a sprig of dill. It’s kinda nice but not my favorite.

• THYME and bonus points for LEMON THYME Thyme Bellinis, Berry Thyme Margaritas, Cucumber & Thyme Martinis, you catch my drift? I’m in love with Thyme in my drinks. It gives an herbal note without being too strong and seems so perfectly suited for spirits.

• ROSEMARY If there are a million ways to feature rosemary in a cocktail I wouldn’t know it. I’m stuck on one: A Rosemary Salty Dog. I’ll go so far as to say it’s a stellar drink that has spoiled me from an original. Seriously folks, try this:

1 grapefruit wedge and kosher salt
one 1-inch piece of rosemary sprig, plus 1 sprig for garnish
1/2 teaspoon sugar
2 ounces fresh red grapefruit juice
1 1/2 ounces Hendrick’s Gin

Moisten the outer rim of a martini glass with the grapefruit wedge and coat lightly with salt. In a cocktail shaker, muddle the 1-inch rosemary sprig with the sugar. Add the grapefruit juice, gin and ice and shake vigorously. Strain into the martini glass and garnish with the rosemary sprig.

What else what else! Do you have any interesting uses for herbs in your drinks?


• Want to know how to grow and preserve a year of parsley? Margaret is your gal!

• My good friends Todd & Diane of White On Rice Couple give us a primer on Vietnamese herbs. H-E-A-V-E-N-L-Y is all I can say.

• A wonderful twist to traditional pesto using peanuts and basil with my gorgeous friend Jaden of Steamy Kitchen


  1. says

    The funny part is: I posted my entry today about freezing parsley (or other green herbs) for year-round use, and, um, the method looks an awful lot like a stash of weed…rolled tightly into the bottom of plastic bags. But what would *I* know about that?

    Thank you for the perfect accompaniment to all our Summer Fest posts today, and for the official artwork. Love that juicy tomato (which yes, it’s true, I made into a huge magnetic decal and affixed to the side of my ’78 van, which incidentally is a Low Rider). And love you, too.

  2. says

    My rosemary plant is eating up my back yard! It’s sprawling everywhere, taking over all space.

    What a fantastic cocktail to make with …oh…1 inch of rosemary…

    Well then, I’ll just have to make GALLONS of this drink and enjoy all summer long!

    My contribution to Summer Fest is right over here:

  3. says

    What a great idea! I will have to go check out all the other contributors.
    I love using fresh herbs in any of my recipes although the heat here in Umbria the past month has not done our herb garden any favors. We do have rosemary though so I may have to try out that drink recipe!

    One of my recent favorite recipes I do for entertaining I found in Amy Sherman’s cookbook about appetizers.
    Here is my version of Goat Cheese Mini Bites at http://tinyurl.com/lz7ku5
    We also have rosemary bushes that are shoulder height growing like weeds on our property so I created this recipe for Apple Cake With Rosemary Syrup to use some of the rosemary. http://tinyurl.com/kpetve


  4. says

    We can always count on you, Matt, to rock the house with the booze! It’s never a party without your gorgeous and deeeeeelisheous (already drinking, can’t ya tell?) cocktails! Better yet, what a brilliant guide to using herbs in cocktails!
    We’re always thinking about how to “eat” herbs, but you’ve just opened up a whole new level of herb-inebriation appreciation!!
    Let’s mix up a round of cocktails , shall we? We wanna dive head first into that Berry Thyme Margarita!

    -diane and todd

  5. says

    Could there be a better use for herbs than spicing up summer cocktails? I just learned a couple new pairings here — cucumber + thyme martinis? Yeah! Thank you! I also love basil paired with any orange juice based cocktail, and rosemary infused with pear liqueur for a pear-tini.

    Here’s my basil tip contribution. Thank you, Summer Fest collaborators!


  6. says

    I love cooking from my little kitchen garden here in France, but these cocktail recipes give me inspiration to expand my herb garden! As my contribution for the first week of Summer Fest 2009, I would like share my recipe for Aïoli with fresh garden herbs that I just recently posted on my blog – http://www.thecooksatelier.com.

    Thanks to all the collaborators of Summer Fest 2009 for this great idea.

  7. says

    Absolutely, a bloody mary must have cilantro. Just not the same without it. Lemon basil is good in drinks, really brightens the flavor.

  8. says

    Oh boy, I can’t wait to try these delicious sounding cocktails! I especially want to try using dill…never thought of that before.

    For my contribution to Summer Fest I did a post on cooking with MINT. There are more than just the usual spearmint or peppermint varieties out there. Apple mint and orange mint are great in the kitchen too.


    Thanks to everyone for all the great recipes and herbal ideas!

  9. says

    Now I can’t wait for cocktail hour. I love this Summer Fest idea, here are a few more of my fav herb recipes!
    All of the recipes sound delicious! I like to use fresh herbs to make my Lemon Herb Salt for Roasted Potatoes, http://www.thenaptimechef.com/2009/02/napping-with-spud.html

    And to add to my Baked Tomato & Zucchini Gratin: http://www.thenaptimechef.com/2009/07/napping-with-edible-vineyard-sunday.html

    Not to mention homemade pesto – so simple and delicious! http://www.thenaptimechef.com/2009/06/napping-with-perfect-pesto.html

  10. says

    Hm, I love herb-y cocktails the most. I think I need to make a basil strawberry beverage tonight…
    Here’s a contribution: This is one of my all-time favorites – Herbed Ricotta-Stuffed Chicken Breasts with Sauce Aurore. I think you could get away with using any herbs that float your boat.

    The pictures leave much to be desired, so I think that’s a sign that I should make this again soon and re-vamp the original post!

  11. says

    I’ve never used herbs in my cocktails before, but as luck would have it, we’re having a BBQ with friends this weekend and that sounds like the perfect time to share some herb-infused cocktails! Especially since some of the herbs are growing like crazy (the dill and coriander are overflowing… but ooo, not so many cocktails there… mmm) with the exception of my favorite herb, basil, which is growing fast but is also being eaten fast by little nibbling thingies… Anyone has an idea on how to get rid of those?

    In the meantime I’d like to share my dill, feta and smoked chicken quiche!

  12. says

    This is such a great idea. A Rosemary Salty Dog is SO up my alley. It’s all I can do to not ditch this computer and go make myself one to sip in the back yard. My favourite rosemary recipe, if I was put up against a wall and forced to pick one, is homemade rosemary-raisin pecan crisps (Raincoast Crisps, to which I am addicted): http://tinyurl.com/mab2jl

    I have the best luck with flat-leaf Italian parsley, and always have tons in my garden for fresh parsley hummus: http://tinyurl.com/mamrv5, brown and wild rice salad with dried fruit and pecans: http://tinyurl.com/l4tljn, and today I loaded up a lemony new potato salad with peas: http://tinyurl.com/lfkhby

  13. says

    Hey Matt, I love this Summer Fest idea. My wife and I grow pretty much all our own herbs and friends in our tiny backyard from Cilantro to Mint to Thai basil and a few in between, including peppers and strawberries. It’s really easy to do and just being able to go out and pick fresh herbs is great.
    Here’s one of my recipes where I did just that.

    Looking forward to the next few weeks.
    Thanks man.

  14. says

    Do you know that it’s 100 degrees in Seattle today?

    Do you know how good this cocktail looks to me right now?

    Good god, Matt.

  15. sharon says

    Great tips everyone! Here’s another use for cilantro: Wash, save, and freeze the biggest roots as the plants peter out. It’s used in Thai cooking, such as Larb. Yum.

  16. Vivian says

    A blog I check in with everyday (dinnerwithjulie.com) sent me off in your direction and I am compelled to go clip some rosemary right NOW, Matt, doggonit! Must indulge in that version of Salty Dog. Here in central Alberta, we’re lucky if a little clump of rosemary gets to be even 8″ tall…but one herb which thrives here sort of makes up for that. It is an oldie and not in many little herb plots that I’ve seen. Lovage grows 8 feet tall over the summer and the really neat thing about it is that its stems are hollow and make intriguing “straws” for Bloody Marys and Caesars while adding a subtle celery/parsley note to the beverages. It is also always the first green to push its way out of the cold ground in spring, even before rhubarb!

  17. says

    Yum … right up my alley, perfect concoctions for sunrise, sunset or the Summertime Blues! An avid cook since childhood, my site is filled with favorite ‘herb studded’ seasonal recipes, too many to mention. My life mission … to encourage all to plant a simple herb garden, a must for every cook. For a starter, try my last post … BEEF BURGERS with DRAMBUIE ONIONS ( http://joeyrandall.blogspot.com/ ) Love the summer fest idea ~ great fun for this bountiful season.

  18. says

    What a fun idea! I love growing and cooking with herbs with my 3 young daughters. Just the other night we had zucchini critters (my 3-year old combined zucchini fritters and zucchini cake and got “critters”) filled with marjoram, thyme, or whatever you happen to have growing in your garden.

  19. says

    What a great idea! I have been cooking so much with fresh herbs this summer. One of my favorites is panko and feta zucchini pancakes (my husband prefers pancakes, I usually call them fritters). They use fresh dill, parsley, and scallions and are so amazing, we can’t get enough of them.

    It’s 103 degrees today and 93 in our apartment. So wanting that cocktail right now!

  20. CarolSB says

    MMmm, fresh herbs in cocktails. Why didn’t I ever try this before?
    My basil is finally growing… and volunteer cilantro and dill are happily nodding good morning in my garden. I know they can have no better destiny than some of these remarkable cocktail ideas.
    p.s. Like Vivian (above) I found you from dinnerwithjulie.com. But you’re now added to MY favorites, Matt. I love your attitude. Nice!

  21. says

    Now that looks like a refreshing cocktail. I used mint as well for my dish. It is from my garden and it is so exciting to be able to step out and just pick your herb of choice!
    I made Mast-o-khiar a delicious summer soup made with yogurt and cucumbers. Fast, easy, and refreshing in this LA heat.


  22. says

    Hi Matt,
    I just love this summer fest idea! Our organic farm & farmers market are brimming with goodies…to say nothing of the Inn’s herb garden…so I am sharing a recipe for Virgin Mojitos I make for guests at teatime. You can add some rum or vodka if you like, but at the Inn, we go strictly virgin (at least for the guests:-) I hope you’ll enjoy this recipe and and I’m already planning ky contribution for next week!
    Main Street Manor Virgin Mojito
    1 big fat bunch of fresh mint, freshly plucked from the garden…washed & cleaned
    1 cup granulated sugar
    4 lemons, cut in eighths (leave skin on)
    4 limes, cut in eighths (leave skin on)
    Ice cubes
    1 liter club soda (I use Pellegrino)
    In a large pitcher, muddle the mint sprigs with the sugar, lemons and limes. Continue to beat the mixture along with the lemons and limes to extract the juices for about 5 minutes. Put mixture into refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Add ice, club soda and stir together. Pour into glasses, straining out mint & lemon & lime pits. Drink, Cool off & Enjoy!

  23. says

    I don’t remember anymore how exactly I found you but it was certainly a blogroll from another foodie. I love your post because your writing is so funny and your pics are great. Another great thing: I found Margaret and her http://awaytogarden.com/ here and I’m delighted. Your and her site are the greatest common intersection of the things we like. We only started http://www.trivialbliss.com this summer (or what we call summer in Germany) and immersed ourselves into the joy of food and garden blogs. We enjoy following your stories, pictures and recipes so much. Now I’m drooling for your Rosemary Salty Dog but have to wait until tomorrow. Keep on entertaining us, please.

  24. says

    Cucumber and Thyme martinis are just the ticket! I picked 32 cucumbers in the garden yesterday and was wondering what to do with them!

  25. says

    W-o-n-d-e-r-f-u-l Idea!.

    My contributions on herbs (sorry I’m kinda slowww) are:

    – my favorite green ( cilantro) chutney recipe from talented Matt of No recipes
    – from my blog I want to share with you two recipes that involves herbs and some kinda drinks, or *drinky* stuff..
    Pineapple and Parsley jugo
    Gazpacho a la asiatique (with mint and basil)

    bon, that’s all. besos to you all!

  26. says

    This tomato treat is a favorite for summer teatime (or wine-time) at the Inn. Our organic farm and local CSA keeps us supplied us with a rainbow of heirloom tomatoes. The vibrant colors along with the addition of licorice-y thai basil makes this dish a pleasing one to serve as well as to admire. Its tasty and cheerfully refreshing even on the hottest August day. Enjoy!
    ~Ken’s Heirloom Bruschetta~
    4 rough-chopped Heirloom Tomatoes
    1 large clove minced garlic
    2 chopped scallions
    2 big bunches of thai basil, torn
    3 T extra-virgin olive oil
    1T balsamic vinegar
    kosher salt and crushed black pepper to taste
    ~~Allow the mixture to sit for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator. Drain the excess liquid from the bruschetta. Top the toasted italian bread rounds with a heaping teaspoon of the bruschetta and serve on a platter garnished with sprigs of basil.

  27. Norma Jane says

    Ok so I live in the Northeastern part of the good old USA and it’s now quickly approaching Thanksgiving. I’m sure you all know that not only is it not summer anymore but it can get pretty cold here around this time of year. Sorry I missed out on this great blog in the genuine summer months but I’ve decided to join in anyway since today was sunny and in the sixties! Already poured the cocktail so now I’m heading out to the garden to grab some herbs. Feels like summer to me! At least it’s not snowing. Thanks for the fun.


  1. […] Sticky summer weather has struck with a vengeance, and my salad spinner is getting a workout this week. I decided to pull out an old favorite last night, and it just so happens that the ingredient that makes this salad so special fits right in with this week’s theme for the 2009 Summer Fest. […]

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