Friday, August 28, 2009

Container Gardens and the Lazy Cook


Apartment dwellers and those with less than perfect gardening options can still enjoy the fresh food experience. Any small space outdoors that gets good sun for some of the day is a great place to grow culinary herbs; of course, the closer to the kitchen, the better.
Get bigger pots and intense plant all the herbs together. This allows the soil to hold the moisture better between waterings as well as looking big, abundant and beautiful. I always add at least one plant in the group just for 'pretty'. Mesclun mix, lettuces and spinach do really well in large pots in any sunny area. This is a good time of year to plan for next year. Pots and garden stuff is on sale too.

Squirrels can be a big problem. Finding a fertilizer that is safe for food can be a challenge. There is one solution for both of these concerns in the form of 'bone and blood meal'. I put about an inch of the granules on top of the soil in each pot. The little rascals will not dig through it, guaranteed. This layer needs to be refreshed about once a month. Some people place chicken wire near the top of the soil. This works too.

I always plant tomatoes and basil together in the same pot. For parsley, if you have the space, in the fall dig a hole and put in pot and all. Cilantro (coriander) and dill will self seed. Rosemary will have to be brought in, but will survive through the winter. Spearmint will usually survive anywhere, and often pokes up everywhere. However, mint is an essential addition to a summer herb garden.

When my garden was limited to a balcony, I just had to bite the bullet and buy new transplants every year. It was still worth it to have abundant and readily available fresh food all summer and early fall.


It is hard to be enthusiastic about cooking when one is hot and hungry. Pasta is easy to cook in huge batches. Divide the cooked pasta into serving sizes and store them in airtight containers in the freezer. When you need it, either leave it to defrost, or run cold water over into the container and then drain.

For those who need to avoid wheat or gluten, consider rice pasta. Rice pasta tends to smell strange during cooking, but are a great alternative. If you aren't happy with the results, try another brand. The golden rule is to cook pasta el-dente, especially if you are going to freeze it.

When I get a wind-fall of sweet peppers, I grill them (counter-top or preferrably over charcoal), and then freeze them in zip locks.

The ‘no time to cook’ Basic Pasta with Fresh Herbs

ü 1 Tablespoon cooking oil
ü 1 Onion cut in crescents
ü 1 clove garlic crushed
ü ½ red pepper cut in slivers
ü 3 mushrooms, sliced
ü 5-6 sugar snap peas (or ¼ cup frozen peas added at the very end)
ü 1 Morga Soy Cube softened in a little hot water, (or sake, or wine)
ü (1-2 Tablespoons) ½ to 1 cup of fresh herbs chopped coarsely – mint, basil, rosemary, Italian parsley, curl leaf parsley, cilantro
ü ½ to 1 cup fresh greens
ü Fresh scallions - optional
ü Grated Parmesan cheese to taste

Defrost Pasta and reserve. Heat oil in a skillet/wok or saucepan and Sauté onions and garlic until lightly browned. Add the peppers and mushrooms and cook until just tender, add the peas and cook until just tender-crisp. Add the pasta and the water/soy cube and heat to serving temperature. Serve by topping with fresh greens, herbs scallions and parmesan.

Uncooked Pasta Sauce
This is made in a food processor, and is the easiest ever. Because the homemade pasta has such a good flavour, you can keep the sauces simple and it will be wonderful. Use diced style Fire Roasted Tomatoes for a chunky sauce or crushed style for a smoother more typical looking tomato sauce.

1 can fire roasted tomatoes- drain and reserve excess juice (or 2 cups fresh tomatoes, skinned)
1 cup chopped parsley
½ cup chopped green onions
1 clove garlic, minced
1 red pepper, diced. (Optional grilled)
1 Tbs virgin cold pressed olive oil
1 Tbs balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs basic sprinkle

1 Tbs Tamari or Braggs, or 1 soy cube dissolved
2 – 3 drops essential oil or 1 tsp of fresh herbs: basil, thyme, rosemary, bay

Pulse 2 or 3 times after each addition. Don’t over process.
Taste and add herbamere if needed.

This can be made quickly, and is wonderful and simple. If you use green pepper you will have to peel off the skin as it will be bitter. Yellow, red or orange peppers are better.

To serve, top with more parsley or thin slices of lettuce fresh ground parmesan cheese a sprinkle of dip mix and fresh ground pepper.
Sometimes I build a salad on top of the pasta and put a light dressing on it and top with grated parmesan. Any grilled meat or seafood can be put on top.

When using store bought pasta, you will need to make the sauce more flavour intense, as it will be diluted over flavourless pasta. I would definitely use 1 or 2 soy cubes that were dissolved in a little of the warmed tomato liquid or hot water. Add this back to the food processor.


No comments:

Post a Comment