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!


Comments to "What to Grow in Your Garden"

  1. Hanna

    August 2, 2012

    Yum, thanks for the tasty healthy recipe