Herbtastic Pork

parsley sage rosemary and thyme90 degrees, you say? Grill, here we come. A cornmeal and herb crusted pork loin made for an easy-peasy Saturday dinner. Plus, it employed generous amounts of POD’s thyme and parsley; PID’s (plants in den) rosemary; and POF’s (plants out front) sage.

And yes, that’s parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme, in case you’re keeping track.

Bring it On Home

Philly’s extended forecast predicts some chilly nights, with temperatures dipping into the 40s. So, like the geese who use the tennis courts at FDR for target practice as they move south, it’s time for POD’s herbs to migrate as well.

The husband’s May dreams of herbes de Provence never blossomed (stupid lavender) but the thyme and tarragon are far too valuable (after all, roast chicken season is looming) to leave to the elements.

How to bring it on home:

  • Transplant before temperatures become too cold — certainly before the first frost
  • Move your plants from the sun to the shade for a few days prior to the trek indoors
  • Don’t be afraid to be a little brutal. Using a very dull ex-fillet knife, simply slice the herbs into a manageable size. Keep as much of the plant’s root system intact as you can. In this case, all of the tarragon made the cut while only about a third of the thyme did. The rest remains in its pot on deck and will be left to fend for itself throughout the winter.
  • Look at the plants very closely for bugs and other nasties. You certainly don’t want to bring outdoor pests indoors to infest your delicate houseplants.
  • Snip off a decent amount of the transplanted herby goodness, so your plant’s energy is devoted to surviving the transplanting trauma, rather than sustaining existing greenery.
  • Ideally, once you’ve repotted them in fresh nutritious soil, you’ll be able to isolate the plants  for a couple of days in an unheated room, with the windows open and the door closed. This will minimize the shocking impact of the outdoor-to-indoor temperature change. If you can’t do this (which is this lazy gardener’s version of reverse hardening), bring them inside for a few increasing hours each day and then return them to their outdoor environment. After a week or two, they’ll be house-trained.
  • Give your transplanted herbs a good watering and place them in a sunny window. They probably won’t produce as vigorously indoors in the winter as they do outdoors in the summer, but you’ll have enough for your roasted chickens and won’t have to buy new plants in the spring.

Pesto alla POD

Here’s a super easy (truly, it is) weekday meal that puts your over-producing herbs and under-producing (but adequate) Tumbling Tom and Gold Nugget cherry tomatoes to good use.

Serves 2 — preparation time appx. 20 minutes

Tumbling Tom and Gold Nugget Cherry Tomatoes
Tumbling Tom and Gold Nugget Cherry Tomatoes

Ingredients:
Handful of almonds, lightly toasted (maybe a 1/4 or so) and chopped

1/2 c. fresh herbs (tarragon, rosemary, and thyme), chopped
OR 3/4 c. fresh basil, if you want to be a little more traditional

1 clove garlic, chopped

pinch of red pepper flakes

10-15 cherry tomatoes
salt and pepper

8 oz. spaghettini or capellini

parmigiano-reggiano, grated

Directions
1) Bring a large pot of water to boil. When it boils, add a generous dash or four of salt to the water.
2) While you’re waiting for the water to boil, stick the almonds, herbs (or basil), garlic, and red-pepper flakes in a blender (or a food processor, if you own one) and blend until chunky. Drizzle in about 1/4 c. olive oil until pureed, but still chunky. Add the cherry tomatoes and process until incorporated. The sauce should look a little like a bolognese — thick, rich-looking, and yellowish/reddish/orange. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Boil the pasta. Just before it’s done, scoop about about 3 tbs of the cooking water and dump it into a large bowl. Drain the pasta.
4) Scoop the sauce into the large bowl that contains your cooking water. Stir until smooth and the water is incorporated.
5) Add the hot pasta and toss until it’s coated. Serve. Top with cheese.

Hello, My Pretties

POD began with visions of gorgeous flowers, cascading from well-designed containers. And, for the first few years, visitors to the little blue deck were greeted by a riot of color.

Then, almost surreptitiously, a basil plant slipped in, then a jalapeno and Mr. Stripey…Now, the little blue deck sports almost entirely vegetables. There are enough flowers to encourage pollination, but great gobs of satisfaction — culinary, environmental and yes, aesthetic satisfaction — can be derived from growing vegetables in containers.

The red lettuce surrounding these spacemaster cucumbers and Minnesota Midget melons provide a nice splash of red against a small sea of soon-to-be towering green.
The red lettuce surrounding these spacemaster cucumbers and Minnesota Midget melons provide a nice splash of red against a small sea of soon-to-be towering green.
This lone glazed terra cotta pot stars tarragon, thyme and lavender. Contrasting greens, varied heights and textures combine to present a pretty striking container.
This lone glazed terra cotta pot stars tarragon, thyme and lavender. Contrasting greens, varied heights and textures combine to present a pretty striking container. (Sorry the picture isn't so hot!)

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.

Herbes de Provence

Tarragon, Thyme, and LavenderAs much as POD enjoys the vegetables produced from its little containers, no meal would be complete without a good herbal uplift.

Herbs have proven to be easy to grow, resilient, flexible, and disease-resistant. In other words, if you’re new to this whole gardening thing, grow them.

Then dry them and make yourself some herbes de Provence. Chow has a great recipe for the classic French mixture.