I know I’ve told you this before (and let me just add that by time I post my 365th blog, there will be absolutely nothing that I haven’t told you before; bet you’re all looking forward to that), gardening is one of those things that I want to like to do, but simply don’t.
When we bought this house in Denver, the owners apparently were avid gardeners and enjoyed their backyard. One of the notable things about this house for me, in fact, was the raised garden bed in the back yard. ( Remember – I WANT to like to garden.) The homeowner told me the soil was chock full of nutrients and good for growing all sorts of vegetables, “even celery” I remember her saying. Like that meant anything to me.
But for the next three or four growing seasons, I gave it the ol’ college try. I would talk Bill into helping me turn the soil in the spring. (And by help me, I mean he would do it and I would watch.) I would plant seeds for early vegetables such as radishes and carrots and lettuce. I would push beans into the ground, thinking about all of the yummy ham and green beans I would make mid-summer. I planted five or six tomato plants, determined that I would can what we didn’t eat. Zucchini, green peppers, jalapeno peppers, even cauliflower and broccoli.
With great excitement, I would watch the little plants sprout. But pretty soon I saw weeds begin to sprout too. That’s when the trouble began. You see, I hate to weed. So before too long, there were more weeds than plants, and I could almost hear my beans gasping for air. And what wasn’t being overpowered by weeds was being eaten up by pests. Slugs? Ewwwwww.
After a few years, Bill got tired of turning over the soil for a garden that would not live to harvest. Thus ended my short-lived gardening career.
Instead, we accepted a donation of a children’s play set and had it placed right on top of where my garden used to sit. The kids have had many, many hours of fun. And I’ve gotten my garden vegetables from farmers’ markets.
As sort of an aside, there is an area in our yard with a grouping of evergreen bushes. When we moved into the house, the former homeowner had carefully pruned the trees into the shape of three birds. That, too, was a short-lived experience. Here’s what the area looks like now…..
At one point, Bill used his electric pruner and when he was all finished, we decided it resembled a pick-up truck. You can see the very slight resemblance even yet….
But no birds. Who do you think we are? Walt Disney?
Now I’m very happy to have three tomatoes planted in the ground – a yellow heirloom, an Early Girl hybrid, and a grape tomato. I also have one potted red heirloom tomato plant that seems to like its location on our patio. A basil plant sits in the ground amidst my petunias.
I mostly focus my attention these days on my herb pots. I have one pot of Italian parsley. Another container holds dill, oregano, sage, thyme, and chives. I used to plant my herbs in a strawberry pot – you know, those tall pots that have the little pockets on the side? But each spring when I would go to empty out the dirt in order to refill the pot with fresh soil and herbs, invariably a centipede would be present and my heart would momentarily stop. I looked like the screamer in Edvard Munch’s famous painting. Now I go for a flatter pot from which I can easily dump the dirt into the garbage with my eyes closed, thereby negating the need to see a centipede and recreate The Scream.
All of the grandkids, and Kaiya in particular, love to rub their hands on the fresh herbs, thereby releasing the fragrant smell. They will sniff their fingers and excitedly pick off a piece of the herb plant and put it in their mouth to taste. My goal this summer is to teach them to cook with herbs.
Here’s one yummy recipe….
Scallopine Saltimbocca, Roman Style, courtesy Lidia’s Italian-American Kitchen
4 portions veal, chicken, turkey, or pork scallopine
Freshly ground black pepper
4 slices Italian prosciutto, cut in half crosswise
8-12 large fresh sage leaves
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil
6 T. butter
¼ c. dry white wine
1 c. chicken stock or chicken broth
Season the scallopine lightly with salt and pepper, keeping in mind that the prosciutto is cured with salt. Cover each scallopine with a half-slice of the prosciutto. Tap the prosciutto with the back of a knife so it adheres well to the meat. Center a sage leaf over the prosciutto and fasten it in place with a toothpick, weaving it in and out as if you were taking a stitch.
Dredge the scallopine in the flour to coat both sides lightly. Tap off excess flour. Heat 3 T. olive oil and 2 T. butter in a large heavy skillet over medium heat until the butter is foaming. Slip as many of the scallopine, prosciutto side down, into the pan as fit without touching. Cook just until the prosciutto is light golden, about 2 minutes. Turn and cook until the second side is browned, about 2 minutes. Remove and drain on paper towels. Repeat with remaining scallopine, adding more oil if necessary.
Remove all the scallopine from the skillet and pour off the oil. Return the pan to the heat and pour in the wine. Add the remaining 4 T. butter and cook until the wine is reduced by about half, about 3 minutes. Pour in the chicken stock and bring to a vigorous boil. Tuck the scallopine into the sauce. Simmer until the sauce is reduced and lightly thickened, about 3 – 4 minutes.