It's been too long since I've written on here, and you know what's to blame? Spring. It arrived in full force about 2 weeks ago--around the same time I made my last blog post--and I've tried to be outside as much as possible since. I'm blessed to have a deck that's about the size of my tiny apartment, effectively doubling my living space once warm weather comes to town. I'm taking full advantage of my own private urban oasis by growing a variety of flowers, herbs and vegetables in containers.
I've always enjoyed gardening. As dorky as that sounds to say, the hobby fits right in with my other domestic inclinations like cooking, baking and thrift/dollar store shopping; I guess I'm just an old Jewish grandmother at heart, huh? Anyway, when I was growing up in Brooklyn Heights my parents had a similarly beautiful and peaceful deck, and from the time I was small I loved the springtime ritual of shopping for flower seedlings and transplanting them into their summer homes with my father. My dad was the master gardener of the house and took on this task every year; he still does, and the result is without fail a lush, green, cool and colorful little corner hidden away above the hot Brooklyn pavement. And so although I would occasionally lay claim to a pot or two in which to plant my own tomatoes or herbs, I pretty much left the green thumb-ing to my dad (as did my mom, who sometimes seems to possess whatever would the opposite of a green thumb--a brown thumb?) (Hi, Mom!)
Well this spring, things have changed. Now that I have an outdoor space all my own, I've gone crazy for gardening. I've lined the deck with planters full of petunias and pansies. I've sown nasturtium, zinnia and poppy seeds, and I'm patiently waiting for the flowers to mature. But what I'm most into are the edibles that I've planted. An herb box contains fresh parsley, lavender, thyme and cilantro; next to that is a pot of basil; and finally another mini-planter that holds chives and Greek oregano. They're thriving; take a look:
Left to right: cilantro; lemon thyme; lavender; parsley
Chives, Greek oregano
I don't think I need to tell you how drastically the constant availability of fresh herbs improves my cooking, but I will. Having these plants around makes me want to make fresh, flavorful, summer-appropriate food that will showcase their bright tastes. It's easier to cook off-the-cuff, because so many of the ingredients that I previously would have had to shop for are right there for the taking. And my food tastes better because I'm layering in many more flavors than I sometimes manage to during the cold, flat winter months. It's a sweet deal all around, really. Here are just of the few of the things I've made with my bounty:
Cheese ravioli dressed with a puree of olive oil, garlic, thyme, parsley and chives
(The makings of) pico de gallo
Stay tuned for updates on my garden (which also includes tomato, bell pepper, Japanese eggplant and zucchini plants not yet ready for their close-ups)--and for more of the dishes it's inspired.