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Let's get cookin': The Artist, the Cook, and the Gardener

Celebrate the beauty and fresh taste of gardening

Created date

April 23rd, 2013
The Artist, the Cook, and the Gardener, Recipes Inspired by Painting From the Garden by Maryjo Koch

This time of year bursts with an explosion of colors and flavors as flowers bloom and vegetables take root. Gardeners look forward to sinking their hands into the soil and chefs anticipate the exquisite tastes of fresh from the garden produce. The new cookbook, The Artist, the Cook, and the Gardener, Recipes Inspired by Painting From the Garden by Maryjo Koch (Andrews McMeel Publishing, 2013) celebrates the vivid beauty and fresh taste of eating what your garden grows.

The author/illustrator of nearly two dozen books, Koch is a highly regarded naturalist painter who teaches art out of her studio in Northern California’s Santa Cruz Mountains. Come lunchtime, students in her class gather around a picnic table set with tapestry napkins and real silverware to enjoy a homemade lunch prepared by Koch with fresh ingredients from her garden.

“When I plan my meals, visual interest plays an important role along with what is available and what is seasonal,” says Koch in the book’s introduction. Recipes favor the mid-day meal and include a variety of soups, salads, pizzas, and tarts. With this book, Koch says she hopes to nourish creativity, “whether it’s in the kitchen, in the garden, or at the easel.”

Open-faced watercress, nasturtium, and cucumber-cream cheese sandwiches


Serves 6

These colorful, open-faced sandwiches combine the mildly spicy flavors of watercress and nasturtiums with cream cheese. The variegated colors of nasturtiums are fun to paint, so I make sure to plant Dwarf Jewel Mix in my garden. The colors are bright and sunny: yellow, pink, red, and orange—the perfect colors and size for sandwiches and salads.


  • 40 unsprayed nasturtium flowers, washed and dried
  • 1 large bunch of fresh watercress, washed, dried, and large stems removed
  • 8 oz cream cheese, softened
  • 1 medium cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
  • ½ tsp fine sea salt
  • 1⁄8 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 slices of hearty whole-grain bread, such as rye, whole wheat, or multi-grain


1. Setting aside 12 nasturtium flowers for garnish, finely julienne the rest with a sharp knife. Setting aside 6 watercress sprigs for garnish, finely chop the remaining watercress.

2. In a medium bowl, mix the cream cheese with the chopped flowers, chopped watercress, cucumber, salt, and pepper. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for 1 hour to allow the flavors to blend together.

3. Remove the cream cheese mixture from the refrigerator half an hour before serving to allow it to soften slightly. With a sharp knife, finely julienne 6 of the reserved nasturtium flowers. Spread the cream cheese mixture on the bread slices. Top each slice with some red onion slices and a sprinkling of the julienned flowers.

4. To serve, place 1 slice of the prepared bread on each plate, and top with a whole nasturtium flower and a watercress sprig.