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The garden bounty continues and this week the featured delights are tomatoes and basil…which means it’s time for homemade Caprese Salad.

Simple, easy, classic and utterly delicious. Chop some tomatoes and fresh mozzerella, slice some basil, and drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, a dash of vinegar (I’m into white balsamic right now), sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. #amazing!

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Recently, I spent a lovely summer evening sipping white wine out on the deck with my friend Meredith. In between catching up on riveting details on our respective puppies (I don't need to remind you of Pelu's adorableness…or maybe I do; she just started fostering puppies for her friend's rescue mission at kill shelters–I know, I know! SO awesome!!), she regarded my garden dubiously.Finally, after a courage-building sip, she said, “I've always wanted to try having a garden, but I need to start slowly. What do you recommend?”

No question: HERBS! Herbs are hearty, easy to grow, and most rewarding to all gardeners, are easily incorporated into dinner.

This summer, I'm growing parsley, rosemary, oregano, dill, and pots and pots of basil. In fact, I'm growing three sorts of basil just to compare them: traditional Genovese basil that you'd use in Italian dishes, Thai basil that you'd presumably use in Thai cooking (I'm a novice there, stay tuned), and Aussie sweet basil. I have no idea what that means or should be used for–consider yourself forewarned.

This weekend, two Australian friends stayed with us and we spent Friday night cooking dinner, drinking wine, listening to music, and laughing. (Note: these activities should be thoroughly mixed at all times.) On the menu: pesto fresh from the garden. The three of us headed out there (Pelu supervised) and picked a colander full of Genovese basil which I then whipped into a batch of pesto and served with a side of sauteed collard greens (also from the garden) and roasted beets, carrots, and sweet potatoes (also organic but not from my garden).

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So easy. So healthy. So delicious!

Pesto basics:
Nuts (traditional recipes call for pine nuts, I like almonds instead. Can also use walnuts). About 1/3 cup.
Parmesan cheese (freshly grated). 1/2-1 cup.
Basil! 2 cups.
Garlic – 2+ cloves depending on your taste
Olive oil. Traditional recipes call for 2/3 cup. I like to substitute pasta water to make it healthier.
Salt and pepper to taste. I like it salty and peppery.

Bring a big pot of water to a boil. Add the pasta of your choice. Sometimes I use fun shapes of traditional pasta. Sometimes I use brown rice pasta for a gluten-free option if a guest needs it or I just want to change it up.

As it's cooking, hand grate the cheese or run it through your food processor with the shredder attachment. Put aside in a big bowl. Change to the blade option and throw the basil, garlic, and nut in. Blend until pureed. Add the cheese and drizzle olive oil in to keep the pesto from sticking to the sides. Remember that you can do this with pasta water as a substitute to cut calories and keep it healthier. Add salt and pepper.

When the pasta's done, RESERVE AT LEAST 1 cup of PASTA WATER!! Then drain the pasta and throw in a big bowl. Add the pasta water into the food processor to thin it out (you want it soupy but not too thin), then pour it over the pasta. Voila! Healthy easy dinner in less than 20 minutes!

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div dir=”ltr” style=”text-align: left;” trbidi=”on”>Last week I was just coming back from the LA Film Festival where I was teaching yoga and doing PR for Dead Man's Burden.

This week I'm harvesting green beans and administering therapeutic massage for a geriatric bunny. Ah, how the mighty have fallen.

I kid! I kid! But not about the bunny massage. Or the beans. Those parts are true.

First things first. In my excitement about actually being able to have a garden this year, and in my delight at being surrounded by green in the heart of a city, I neglected to note that the beautiful green bean blossoms I've been enjoying looking at turned from mere blossoms into real beans! This is partly due to the fact that the bushy leaves of the bean plants hide their bounty well. This is also due to the fact that I didn't realize the blossom to bean process was so fast.

Let me tell you–if you are not already growing something (anything!) you should get going and start growing because there is literally nothing as satisfying as growing your own food. Also, there is nothing as delicious. I promise nothing will taste better.

So get thee to a garden center pronto! It's cheaper than therapy and also more enjoyable.

Now on to the bunny massage. Yes, there is such a thing. My friend Dee is on vacation and while she's gone, I'm on bunny patrol. You see, Dee, the plant-loving, animal-loving, big-hearted lover of all live things, adopted two rescue bunnies. Due to her TLC, one bunny has lived to an advanced age (an estimated 14?) unheard of in the rabbit world. He is totally blind in one eye, mostly blind in the other and may or may not have survived a stroke. And yet he lives on, because he is loved and cared for.

Also, he receives a daily massage to incentivize him to keep living. And when Dee isn't there to tend to him, it's yours truly who steps up to the plate.

Dee trained me in the art of bunny massage, which consists of massaging him flanks to bunny nose, in order to keep him engaged and committed to life. The crazy thing is…it works!! This tiny elderly bunny will be mid old-man nap when I arrive. But he promptly comes out of his peaceful doze and starts eating/grooming/hopping around as soon as his massage begins. Which makes me wonder if we all shouldn't be getting daily therapeutic massages…

And on that note, I'm off to the hutch.

Yes, this is actually my life. I'm not sure how.

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23
May

It's Plantin' Time!

Posted on May 23, 2012 by Sara in gardening, pictures, Puppy with 2 Comments
OK. Big news: Just this week, the totally shaded porch of our new home somehow started getting sun. This is no doubt due to the Earth's position now shifting to a place where the sun's rays can tickle the future-plant-bedecked porch in spite of the fact that the building next to us blocks the sun we should've been getting all season. Whatever. I only care that NOW I CAN GROW THINGS! HOORAY!

I immediately headed for the nearest garden center and, in an over-zealous frenzy that surely must be indicative of addiction, bought way too many plants. I got tomatoes, peppers, collard greens, two kinds of lettuce, and far, far too many beans. In the herb fam, I snagged some rosemary, thyme, and three different kinds of basil.

Here's the method to my madness:

Basil: A must. Hardy, pretty, and if you grow enough of it, you can not only save yourself the horror of pay $4 for three sprigs at the store, you can also make copious amounts of pesto. Make a double bath and the extra can be frozen in zippy sandwich bags for a summery treat in mid-winter. Trust me, it's heaven.

Beans: Hardy, fast growers that, as a fun little perk, also produce beautiful pink flowers.

Lettuce: Nothing better than a fresh-picked salad! Bonus: they don't like the heat of July-August, so when they're done, I can pluck them out and replace with a heat-lover.

Collard greens: New to me. {gulp}

Peppers: As my friend Dee once said, “Peppers are so rewarding to grow.” SO true. Love seeing them on the vine.

Tomatoes: True confession: they aren't my favorite fresh fruit (and to me they'll always be a veggie, but whatevs). But, much like peppers, they are SO rewarding to grow. When you see them covered in their brightly hued fruit, you sit back and think, “Yeah. I grew that.” Bonus: I like to give them away to neighbors. And now I have new neighbors to meet and impress with my growing acumen {blows on fingernails and rubs on imaginary lapels}


Parsley and Dill: Self-propogated from last year! Yup–these determined crops spread their own seeds from last season and came up by themselves. SWEET!! I like your spirit, guys!

So much to do…except for the self-propogating herbs. Yeah! Nice work, guys!

I spent the weekend planting. There is something so primal, so deeply instinctual about digging your hands into the dirt and planting. Hours and hours later, tired and hungry, with an aching back, I felt connected to something bigger and older than me. I also felt excited about what this season will bring. Stay tuned!

Seeing how much work there was at hand, Pelu immediately
became overwhelmed and had no other option but to take a nap.
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12
Nov

A Gift From the Gardening Gods

Posted on November 12, 2010 by Sara in Funny, gardening, Random with 2 Comments
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ust in time to get the weekend started off on a good note! I got my organic produce delivery. And there, nestled among the butternut squash, bananas, lemons, and various other veg, was this magnificent example of just how awesome nature can be…

¬†And just in case you missed it…

And in case you need the close-up in order to see the naughty…

Happy Friday

6
Nov
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k, so I’m coming to grips with the fact that the season’s really over (except for lettuce and herbs, but more on that later).

Come spring, I can imagine a world in which I’m buoyed up by the hopefulness of a new season stretching out in front of me. Intoxicated by the endless possibilities and with winter having dulled my memory of things like the ten plagues and cucumber beetles, and monsoons and aphids, and zucchini that can’t get it on without my help, I can imagine myself planting again this seasons biggest losers.

So to keep the scent of incredibly putrid cucumber beetle-eradicating measures fresh in my mind, to remember just what a pain in the ass it is to wash every single effing leaf (front AND back!) by hand with soapy water, and lest I forget that I didn’t really enjoy acting as a zucchini sex aide, here’s a rundown of the seasons winners and losers:

Winners. AKA “I’d like to thank the academy…”

  1. Peppers. Fun to grow, disease-free, and produce plenty of fruit to make it all worthwhile. I recommend Carmens (horn-shaped sweet reds) and golden bells.
  2. Tomatoes. See above–fun and disease-free. Lots of fruit. Also, a perk for us urban gardeners, lots of foliage to provide a green screen from neighborhood eyes. Try the Mortgage Lifter and the Black Krim.
  3. Green beans. Try the Bush Bean Contender. Quick to harvest, lots of beans. Easy to care for. Disease-free.
  4. Herbs! Rosemary, oregano, parsley, sage, thyme, and basil. Nary a problem and very productive. Highly recommend. Next year I want to also try dill and chives. My gardening guru, Aunt Joan at Primex, tells me my herbs are perennials (they’ll come back next spring if I let them die/rest over the winter). She also said I can transplant them inside for continual harvesting. I’m opting for the latter – who doesn’t want fresh herbs all winter?!

Losers. AKA “I blame my agent, the director, the screenwriter, the makeup artist and that homeless guy on the corner…”

  1. Cucumbers. Disease- and pest-magnets. If there is an aphid, cucumber beetle, predatory bug, a bug that nobody’s ever heard of, or even a hint of powdery mildew within a 200-mile radius, it will find your cucs. Unless you enjoy the smell of rancid farts (in the form of organic pesticides) or have absolutely nothing better to do than wash each leaf front and back with soapy water (to treat aphids), SKIP. Soooooo much work and not one single cuc. SKIP. SKIP. SKIP.
  2. Zucchni. Same as above. You might as well put out a welcome mat and advertise in neighboring counties. Aphids, cucumber beetles, and powdery mildew will make a beeline to these plants. Too much time spent spraying those buggers with organic pesticides and soapy water. Also too much time spent compulsively showering after treating them in a desperate and futile attempt to remove the scent of rancid fart and millions of dead aphid carcasses off me. All that and only one zuc?! BIG FAT NEVER AGAIN.
  3. Basil. Basil’s going on both lists because the first crop mysteriously died and had to be replaced–picky little bastards. If you can get it to grow, big winner. Fresh pesto is fabulous. If you get a picky little bastard batch, try again. If the second kicks the bucket too, then you know it’s a sign.

So there we have it–a rough guideline for the spring that will hopefully help at least one other gardener. Any and all suggestions are welcomed and encouraged! :

31
Oct

Earthbox Update – Week Twenty-Eight: A Big Bucket of Dirt

Posted on October 31, 2010 by Sara in gardening with No Comments

A week ago I haphazardly planted innumerable lettuce seeds, threw some dirt over them and let the garden gods take it from there.

I watered. I waited. And now these teeny tiny, itty-bitty, positively minuscule little things appear. Um…baby lettuce? Is that you?

Despite the fact that it’s almost November and the temps have definitely started to feel chilly¬† overall , we got a glorious late-summer blast of 76-degrees and sunny. Maybe that lured these little guys out of the soil. Hopefully they’ll keep on growing despite the return to more-season 50-something degree days.

In the meantime, I’ll just keep tending to what basically looks like a big bucket o’ dirt.

Whatever will I do when it’s too cold to garden? Oh yeah, get back to yoga.

But in the meantime, I’ll keep the peppers going inside and the bring the herbs in when it finally gets too cold from them out there.

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