I'm off for a bit of a vacation (and I'm not sure about Internet access when I get there), but before I go I want to talk gardening. My new apartment has Eastern and Southern exposure, and friend of mine recently told me that I could grow anything there. He suggested taking out the dining-room table and putting in raised beds, but he's such an avid gardener that he once commandeered a shared patio in his Manhattan building and put in enough plants to start a small farm, if not a hip new restaurant devoted to greens.
I opted to start small. I bought a little spearmint plant the other day, and it's been doing okay, though the leaves are going black on the plant. Is that supposed to happen? Isn't it practically a weed? Shouldn't it survive on its own?
When I was a child, we had a little garden in the back corner of our quarter-acre suburban lot. One summer my mother tried growing zucchini, and she suceeded—in a big way. That thing grew like a weed! We had zuchini bread, zucchini sides, zucchini tea, zucchini-everything for about six weeks.
I don't know if I'll ever get that proficient, but gardening can lead to a great way of life, as this guest post by Jamie Robertson shows. He's the main cook in his household. He lives with his wife and daughter in the beautiful interior of British Columbia Canada. He was fortunate to have been taught how to cook in his teens and is now passing on that knowledge to his daughter Hannah. He is thrilled to be able to work with his wife Kia in their two companies as the vice-president of Today I Ate A Rainbow (healthy eating tools for kids) and president of their web design firm Cutting Edge Concepts. Here is his story:
I think one of my favorite things about cooking is the ability to take raw produce and make it into something delicious. Not to say that raw produce isn't delicious in its own right, but taking fresh items and cooking them until they all blend into a delicious sauce or dish is a beautiful thing. I'm glad that my parents taught me how to cook when I was a teenager as it has served me well. I am now teaching my daughter all the things I've learned and I'm sure one day she will be grateful that she learned how to prepare healthy meals for herself! Equal to my love of cooking is my interest in organic gardening.
Last year we did some container gardening on our deck it got us hooked. This year we've built three organic raised bed gardens. We're growing tomatoes, zucchini, onions, lettuce, kale, cucumbers and strawberries. Once the garden is in full swing, I'll be able to go into the back yard with my 8 year old daughter and pick the veggies that we need for the evening meal. I think it's very important to teach our kids where their food comes from! It's sad that there are kids that believe that produce just comes from a supermarket. This illusion creates a huge disconnect between the earth and our mouths. By growing a garden as a family, we are able to keep our fingers connected to the earth and be proud of the food we have grown.
One of our favorite meals is pasta with a homemade tomato and zucchini sauce. We were able to get a couple of small, yellow and green zucchinis from our own garden as well as some sweet basil and oregano, we bought the rest of the ingredients at our local farmers market. While at the farmer's market we picked out a sweet white onion, some tasty garlic, roma tomatoes, and another zucchini.
This is the recipe that I have created for our homemade pasta sauce. The sauce is extremely simple and carries a ton of flavor. There's no need to add any extra sweeteners because the zucchini gets so sweet when it's cooked! I like to use a stainless steel pan with a thick bottom for nice even cooking. Here's the recipe - I hope you enjoy it!
Tomato-and-Zucchini Pasta Sauce
- 1/2 large white onion - finely diced
- 3 or 4 cloves garlic - finely chopped
- salt and pepper to taste
- 1 or 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 4 leaves of sweet basil - finely chopped
- 1/2 tablespoon oregano - finely chopped
- sprig of parsley - finely copped
- 6 large roma tomatos - diced
- 2 medium zucchini (green or yellow or both!)
- 1 cup of organic chicken stock (or organic chicken bouillon)
- Heat up a 12 inch sauce pan on medium heat on the stovetop and then add the olive oil.
- Once the oil gets hot, drop in the diced onions. Cook until translucent or lightly browned and then add the garlic.
- Stir in the basil, oregano and parsley as well as a pinch of salt to start to draw out the liquid from the onions
- Stir in the zucchini and lightly cook them for 2 minutes
- Add the roma tomatoes and stir well
- Reduce the heat to medium low and cover stirring occasionally
- Let the tomatoes and zucchini reduce until the tomatoes are no longer in chunks
- Add the chicken stock
- Add salt and pepper to taste
- Reduce the heat to simmer and leave uncovered to thicken the sauce for about 20 to 30 minutes
We put ours on a bed of Kamut pasta with a side of fresh Romaine lettuce in a tasty Caesar salad.