Grow it. Eat it.

It’s GARDEN weekend!

John assures me that by the end of this weekend, we’ll not only have a lovely, animal-protected garden area built on the back hill, but there will be things planted in it. Yay!

Together, we’ve had a decent green thumb history. In Salt Lake City, we worked together to build and plant a garden at John’s house. For two years, we ate fresh herbs and veggies throughout the summer. There’s nothing like wandering outside in your bare feet, picking whatever looks good from the garden you planted, and eating it. Look how happy the garden was!

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Last night, John worked on drawing up some plans for the garden here. The growing season in Park City is much shorter, and the climate is different. This will be our year to learn. Instead of Mother’s Day, we’re targeting the first week of June as the no-freeze date (crossed fingers). We’re taking into consideration the elk and deer and fox that kick it in our backyard and would love nothing more than a free-for-all salad bar. We’re kind of ignoring the fact that we haven’t seen one other garden in our neighborhood (maybe they know something we don’t?). With a little work, that beautiful, sunny patch of the hill will soon be home to herbs and veggies.

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Here’s the for-sure list: 2-3 varieties of tomatoes; jalapeno, Serrano, and habanero hot peppers; zucchini, yellow squash, and cucumbers. I’d love to add red bell pepper and carrots if we have space! And, of course, there will be a whole bunch of herbs: dill, chives, mint, Italian parsley, and BASIL.

Basil says “summer” to me. I chop it up into salads. I make fresh caprese salads. I muddle it into cocktails. And, if I have enough of it, I make batches of pesto. I discovered a Barefoot Contessa pesto recipe through one of my favorite blogs recently. Pasta, Pesto, and Peas sounded fresh and light, and started with the bold summer flavor of homemade pesto. Look at these simple, fresh ingredients!

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When making pesto, the food processor is your best friend. So is garlic. I smashed, peeled, and roughly chopped 8 or nine cloves of garlic. Aside from grating parmesan cheese and removing stems from the basil, that’s the only prep work here!

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The garlic went right into the food processor, along with pine nuts and walnuts. A whirrrrr or two resulted in a moist, nutty base to the pesto.

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Next, I stuffed as many basil leaves as I could into the food processor (it’s a mini) and blended them down, then added more. A generous sprinkling of salt and pepper, too!

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Now the mixture resembled pesto. A very thick ball of pesto. To make it smooth, I streamed good olive oil into the food processor while it blended. I added quite a bit of shredded parmesan, too. The result was a thick, fresh, creamy, GARLICKY pesto. So easy!

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From here, I moved on with the pasta recipe. I didn’t need all of the newly made pesto, so I stored some of it in a container topped with a thin layer of olive oil. (The Barefoot Contessa said, “Air is the enemy of pesto.”) I’ll use it on paninis, in wraps, or in another pasta dish sometime soon!

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Now that the star ingredient of the pasta dish was done, dinner came together easily. There were just a few additional ingredients. The hardest prep work was grating more parmesan cheese!

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First, I boiled and drained my pasta, putting it right back in the pot. I gave it a drizzle of olive oil to keep it moist.

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Next, I scooped some of my delish pesto back into the food processor, along with some thawed frozen spinach. I squeezed in the juice of a lemon and blended away. Last, a scoop of good mayo went in. Now I had a lighter, creamier pesto sauce with a brightness from the lemon. Yum!

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All that was left was assembly! Into the hot pasta, I stirred some mostly-thawed frozen peas and some pine nuts. A generous pile of parmesan cheese and the pesto cream sauce followed. Once it was combined, it was DONE.

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I served the pasta with more cheese on top, and a plate of toasted bread on the side. The dish was summery and light, despite the creamy sauce. It was full of big flavor- garlic, lemon, basil.

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John called it “a keeper” and I decided it would be a fabulous side dish- tasty hot OR cold. We tested that theory last night and served it al fresco, sprinkled with feta, alongside grilled salmon. Now THAT is a summertime meal!

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With any luck, we’ll have a fat, happy basil plant in our own backyard later this season. One year, I made such a big batch of pesto that I froze it in ice cube trays for easy fall/winter dinners! I’ll keep you posted on the garden progress.

Hmm. I wonder if squirrels like fresh herbs…

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Do you grow your own veggies or herbs? What are your favorite homegrown goodies?

Pasta, Pesto, and Peas (courtesy of Ina Garten)

You’ll need:

  • ¾ pound fusilli pasta
  • ¾ pound bow tie pasta
  • 1 ½ cups pesto (packaged, or make your own- recipe below!)
  • 1 10-ounce package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
  • 3 tablespoons fresh-squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 ¼ cups good mayonnaise
  • ½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 ½ cups frozen peas, defrosted
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts
  • ¾ teaspoon salt
  • ¾ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Cook pasta and drain. Toss in a bowl with olive oil. Cool to room temperature.

In a food processor, puree the pesto, spinach, and lemon juice. Add the mayonnaise and puree. Add the pesto mixture to the pasta and then add the parmesan cheese, peas, pine nuts, salt, and pepper. Mix well, season to taste, and eat outdoors with your squirrel friends. YUM!

Homemade Pesto

You’ll need:

  • ¼ cup walnuts
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 3 tablespoons chopped garlic (9 cloves)
  • 5 cups fresh basil leaves, packed
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½ cups good olive oil
  • 1 cup freshly grated parmesan

Place the walnuts, pine nuts, and garlic into a food processor and blend. Add the basil, salt, and pepper-blend. With the processor running, slowly pour the olive oil into the bowl through the feed tube and puree. Add the parmesan and puree. Use right away, or store the pesto in the fridge or freezer with a film of olive oil on top. Air is the enemy of pesto! 

**Want more yummies? Check out the FOOD BLISS link above for recipes!**

17 replies »

  1. This is one of our favorite recipe’s around here! Thanks for sharing and i can’t wait to see your garden. I love that you start with plans. We always just buy a bunch of stuff then kinda go hmm now what? xo

    • This zone in our backyard is just a dirt pile, so we have to start from scratch. I think the animals will pose a special challenge so John got really into the plans! Miss you!! xxxx

  2. Super like! I will be watching to see how your garden grows. I share yield with smaller critters, but deer or elk can really empty a garden space. I just pulled a leek, some garlic, basil, blueberries, and beet greens for dinner tonight. Several squash fruit already set, waiting to get a bit bigger. Beautiful tomato bushes and eggplant are a ways off — but making my mouth water still.

    We get to direct sow here in SE Texas around mid-March. I just posted about making soil from trash…might be up your alley. Happy gardening!

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