Say it Ain’t So

A recent diagnosis involving the words “lactose” and “intolerance” struck fear into the hearts of the eaters and cookers here at POD.

And the gardeners.

veganpestobasilSee all this lovely basil? Ordinarily it would get chopped into a luscious Parmesan-rich pesto. But Parmesan-rich isn’t the greatest thing right now, even with its relatively modest lactose count. (And we’re trying to save those handy pills for things like, you know, ice cream. And cheese dinners.) ‘Cause ya’ know what? It’s kinda’ nice not to be tooty and stuff all time. Seriously.

Before traipsing too far down that unpleasant path, let’s get back to the basil in question. Thanks to an enterprising and totally amazing Endurer, vegan pesto has entered the world of POD.yeast

Never thought the day would come.

And while something so appetizingly named “nutritional yeast” hammered that fear in good and deep, this recipe, adapted from Food 52, actually worked pretty well. Yeah, you’ll notice that it’s dairy free, despite the recipe’s promise, but you’ll still enjoy it. POD promises.

Vegan Pesto
Makes 1 generous cup

  • 2 cups tightly packed fresh basil
  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, roughly chopped (to taste)
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • Sea salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste (you’ll need more of both than your instincts would have you add)
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons nutritional yeast
  1. Use a mezzaluna to coarsely chop the basil, garlic, and pine nuts.
  2. Put the chopped basil, garlic, pine nuts, and the remaining ingredients into a bowl and use an immersion blender until you’ve achieved your desired consistency. (Nope, it’s not a terribly traditional recipe, but whatevs, it works.)

Presto Pesto, Baby

basilThese days, POD’s minder is all about the easy. And what’s easier than that guy-who-puts-up-with-so-much’s pesto?

Strangely, the past few days have provided perfect growing conditions: not too hot and just the right amount of delicious rain. That makes for a happy gardener. And that’s the strange part.

Anyhoo, the basil shot up and was already beginning to flower– so it was time o chop it down to the bones. The plants may look naked, but the trim will result in many, many future pestos.

Seed Giveaway!

Okay, Plants on Deck is cleaning house.Wanna’ help? Volunteer to adopt some seeds!

Gardening tools have been cleaned and hidden away (for that matter, shelves have been dusted, bathroom scrubbed, kittens emptied, and kitchen cabinets scoured — but that’s all a little tangential, sorry) and pots have been stashed for the winter.

And guess what? There’s a pile of seeds that aren’t going to wind up on deck again next year. Want ’em? Just let me know.

Fire off an email to plantsondeck at gmail.com and they’ll arrive in your mailbox. Voila. It’s that easy. Just sharing the gardening love.

POD Seed Giveaway!
POD Seed Giveaway!

Parmex carrots (Cook’s Garden): Cute, little golf ball-sized sweet carrots. Great for containers and companion planting.
Not-A-Poblano (Happy Cat Organics): AKA jalapenos — produced heavily.
Isis Candy (Territorial Seed Company): Super-sweet indeterminate cherry tomato
Black Cherry (D. Landreth): Pretty, dark-skinned indeterminate cherry tomato
Mammoth Basil (Cook’s Garden): Super-huge leaves. Great for pizzas. Fairly mild.
Iznik Hybrid (Cook’s Garden)
True Lemon (Happy Cat Organics): Prolific lemon cucumber. Assertive, slightly bitter taste.
Spacemaster Cucumber
Purple Beans (who knows?)
Bambino (Cook’s Garden): Tiny purple eggplants
Filet Fin Des Bagnols (Cook’s Garden): Heirloom French bush beans
Pepper Cress (?): Spicy cool-weather accent green
Cleome Solo (Cook’s Garden): Tall white “spider flower”
Lavender Munstead (Cook’s Garden)

It Tastes Better When You Share

Each year POD grows two containers of basil — a quantity that pretty successfully sustains the garlic-breathing monsters who live below the deck.

Sweet, Sweet Basil
Sweet, Sweet Basil

Something that’s nearly as enjoyable as the wonderful husband’s pesto, is sharing bags and bags of extra basil with fellow monsters. This year’s basil wasn’t quite as prolific as it was in previous years, but a co-worker was just bestowed with bag chock-full of green goodness.

What a terrific thing, vicarious pesto: the same joy (almost) without any of the accompanying garlic-consciousness.

A recipe for growing basil:

  • Some like it hot — basil thrives in full sun and likes the heat. With the waning sunlight, POD expects basil’s day’s are limited.
  • Heavy harvesting — to keep your basil full and bushy, harvest it frequently.
  • No flowers for you — do your best to prevent the plant from flowering. If it does flower, pinch them off. You want all the plant’s energy devoted to leaves, not flowers.
  • Watered, not wet — basil plants are thirsty buggers, but they hate perpetually soggy soil. Well-drained pots are crucial.
  • Feed me — like every other plant in the garden, basil needs to be fertilized to produce those deep green tasty leaves.

Pesto+String Beans+Potatoes+Pasta = Yum

We do love our beans and our basil. Add them together? Heaven.  Here’s a super quick and super simple weekday dinner — a traditional Ligurian dish, actually. Mmmmm. Starchtastic.purple beans

First, butcher your basil. Be ruthless, it’ll grow back bushier and happier than ever. Then, make your favorite pesto.

pesto ingredients chopped

serves 2
Parmesan, grated
1 c. beans, snapped into 1-2″ pieces (we used purple, French, and yellow string beans)
2 medium-sized red-skinned potatoes, cut into 1/2″ cubes
8 oz tortellini
Pesto

1) Bring a large pot of water to boil. Toss in a bunch of salt.
2) Add potatoes, boil 5 minutes.
3) Add tortellini, boil 2-5 minutes.
4) Add beans, boil 5 minutes (adjust bean cooking time to your personal preference)
5) Drain, toss with pesto, top with cheese. Eat.

Happy Meals

panzanella ingredients

It’s high summer. The tomatoes, cucumber, and basil have hit that wonderful stage: panzanella.

For some of us summer begins in March, when the seed catalogs arrive and the shopping sprees begin. For those same folks, summer begins winding down with the fourth of July’s flowery fireworks. For others, panzanella marks the true beginning of summer. Who’s the optimist/pessimist here? POD or her wonderful garden widower? Discuss.

Either way, panzanella is a happy, happy meal.

Ingredients:
serves 2-3
basil, a nice handful or two, cut into a chiffonade
tomatoes, we’re using a healthy 1/2 lb of tumbling toms and gold nuggets, chopped
2-4 cucumbers, sliced (POD’s first lemon cucumber is pictured above)
1 ball (1/2 lb or so) fresh mozzarella, cubed
leftover crusty bread, a dozen 1/2- 3/4″ slices
3 tbs. high-quality balsamic vinegar
3 tbs. olive oil
salt & pepper

1) Toss the basil, tomatoes,  cucmbers, and mozzarella in a large bowl.
2) Combine your vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper in a jar. Shake like crazy — until your vinaigrette appears almost creamy.
3) Rub the bread slices with garlic and olive oil. Grill until toasty and golden.
4) Break the bread into bite-sized pieces and add to the vegetables and mozzarella.
5) Pour on the dressing, toss thoroughly, let it rest for 5 minutes, eat.

Beach to Deck

Just because you’re growing vegetables, doesn’t mean you can’t have a little fun. Or, for that matter, import a little bit of beach beauty into a city garden.

michigan rocks

Here, basil is accented with lake-evoking glass tiles from last summer’s miserable (but successful) bathroom renovation; bathroom tilelong walks on the beach are commemorated by pots bearing herbs and seashells; shattered pottery finds new life with still more basil; iron- and copper-infused rocks, petoskey stones, and granite from the shores of Lake Michigan keep the bachelor buttons company; actual beach glass lends some contrast to the slow-growing bay; and Kalamazoo’s and Battle Creek’s finest brews — the delightful Bell’s and Arcadia —  shellsare honored alongside some beautiful eggplants.

beer capsbroken potterybeach glass

Spring Panzanella

Hey, fresh peas! And the asparagus looks awesome! Oooh, swimming in Swiss chard. What to do? What to do?

Ta da! Here’s a welcome-to-garden-fresh-produce panzanella-like salad. The bread was sliced off a lovely husband-baked loaf (both the husband and the bread are lovely, thank you) of French bread and POD provided the Swiss chard, basil, tarragon, and thyme. Coulton Organics via South Philly’s Headhouse Farmers’ Market must be thanked for the amazing little peas and toothsome asparagus. Genovese basil seedlings from Longview Farm joined the ranks several weeks ago.

Spring Panzanella

GRILLED BREAD
8 oz bread, cut into thick slices — stale is fine
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 tbs olive oil
salt and pepper

VEGETABLES
¼ c. + 1 tbs. olive oil
1 lemon, juiced
¼ c. fresh basil, chiffonaded
1/3 c. parmesan
1 bunch fresh asparagusSwiss chard, basil, tarragon, thyme
3 cloves garlic, very thinly sliced
3 c. fresh peas
5 c. fresh spinach OR Swiss chard
salt and pepper

CHICKEN MARINADE
1 chicken breast (appx. 6 oz)
1 tbs. olive oil
3 tbs. fresh herbs (tarragon and thyme or basil and oregano, for example)
2 tsp. balsamic vinegar
2 cloves garlic, crushed
½ tsp salt
½ tsp black pepper

1) Marinate the chicken breast for 1-5 hours (ideally 2-3, but whatever works).

2) Prep the bread for the gill by brushing the crushed garlic clove over both sides of the bread. (Actually, try grating the clove on a small cheese grater — you get more of the garlic oil on the bread that way.) Brush the bread with olive oil. Salt and pepper to taste. Set aside

3) Whisk ¼ c. olive oil with lemon juice in a large bowl. Brush the asparagus with the sauce and place the asparagus in a grill tray (line the tray with aluminum foil so none of the tasty asparagus slips out – supposedly you can skewer asparagus, but it’s never worked for us). Leave remaining juice and oil in the bowl – add a little more if you like your panzanella wet. Toss in basil and parmesan. Stir.

4) Heat  remaining 1 tbs. olive oil over medium high heat. Add thinly sliced garlic and sauté until the garlic turns a light golden brown. Scoop the garlic out and set aside.

5) Place a few ice cubes in a small bowl with cold water. Toss the spinach or chard into the hot, garlicky oil. Sauté very briefly until barely wilted. Scoop the spinach or chard out of the pan and into the ice water to “shock” it. This will prevent further cooking and maintain a nice bright green color. Squeeze out most of the water and add to the big bowl of lemon juice and oil. Stir.

6) Bring to boil enough water to cover the peas. Throw in the peas. Cook until desired consistency. We like our peas tender-crisp – maybe 3-4 minutes. Drain the peas and add them to the big bowl. Stir. Add salt and pepper to taste.

7) Grill the asparagus until desired tenderness, grill the chicken until it’s cooked through but not puck-like – we usually cheat and slice open the center of the breast before turning off the heat and accidentally serving raw chicken. Grill the bread until it reaches your desired crunchiness.

8 ) Slice the asparagus and bread, mix them into the vegetable base. Spoon onto plates, sprinkling reserved garlic chips on top. Slice chicken on top of the panzanella.

Basil Fueled Pizza

Nothing says signs-of-summer like fresh basil (which is nothing at all like those sad little anemic hydroponic cones that get us through the winter) atop homemade grilled pizza. This one has flecks of fresh rosemary and minced garlic hiding in the crust. (Thanks, Digable Pizza — if you’re ever in Asheville, NC, check them out.)

Grilled Pizza with Basil, Chevre, and Grilled Onions
Grilled Pizza with Basil, Chevre, and Grilled Onions