Friday, August 29, 2014

Unintentional Gardening

I made big plans.  I worked the compost into the soil.  I mulched.  I planted seeds in neat rows.  And it all seemed to be working out.  In late May there was tender, green lettuce. 

June brought sugar snap peas, I trained the vines to grow up the chain link fence of the dog pen.  In spite of an unknown pest, the beans grew and I began to harvest them in July.  As expected, weeds and uninvited plants began to pop up here and there.  But I was able to stay on top of them by yanking them out and adding them to the mulch between rows. By midsummer, my garden was growing, producing and looking neat and cute in the back yard.

Then August came and hell broke loose. It seemed that overnight, volunteers overtook every available walking space I had made between the rows.  Suddenly, there were a few too many tomato plants.  Where did they come from?  Must be the compost that I used to enrich the soil. I was far too lenient by allowing (only) two "squash" vines to meander instead of pulling them out and throwing them in the compost pile.  I felt bad about ruining perfectly good plants even if I hadn't intended to plant them.  Perhaps "hell" isn't exactly the best way to describe a flowering, flourishing garden, is it?

I could make an attempt to clean up the madness.  I could pull out the bolted lettuce, get a handle on some the of the weeds that rival my tallest tomato plants.  And what I really should do is redo the perennial flower garden that provides a border along the house.  That Montauk daisy is out of control. But I don't want to do any of it.  I like it when the garden is a bit unruly, doing its own thing, growing and not caring if it fits inside my little make shift fence, or not.

I began to feel better about my lax rules in the garden when I saw that the two monster vines that are now beginning to overtake our entire yard have a few butternut squash growing from each one.  At least they are showing me that they are grateful for my generosity of spirit by producing something for me to eat.  As for the tomato volunteers, they all have tiny green orbs in clusters of six to eight that promise to turn red anytime in the next week, or so.  I can no longer access the bean plants as the monster squash vine has wound itself into a barricade.  It's o.k. I think the beans got tired and stopped growing anyway.  I've come to realize that it's best to plant the intention then let the garden do the rest.  And if that means there will be butternut squash soup, so much the better.

The Most Amazing Tomato Sandwich...EVER!

I'm all for tradition.  Hellman's slathered all over two slices of soft white bread, piled high with garden ripened tomatoes, that makes a pretty darn good sandwich.  But last summer I came across something that makes freshly picked tomatoes even better. I found a version of this recipe in Bon Appetit (July 2011). The page was torn out and shoved in one of my many folders full of recipes to try.  Only I actually had drawn a star above the recipe for "Chicken Breasts with Tomato-Herb Pan Sauce".  Perhaps I tried it, liked it and filed this page away.  I don't recall.  I actually adapted this recipe for "Basil Rouille" from the recipe for a Bouillabaisse that occupies the same page as the chicken dish.  I never tried the Bouillabaisse. I don't plan on it.
Anyway, back to the "Rouille".  It adds the perfect amount of salti-umaniness to slices of fresh tomato.  It also allows me to utilize the basil "bushes" that Val miraculously grows in her garden.  Seriously, these plants are huge and someone has to take advantage of the abundant harvest. But the uses for this delectable spread don't stop at tomato sandwiches: it makes BLT's even more delicious, dollop it on salads, grilled vegetables or serve it as a dip. I can't get enough of it so I keep a batch on hand at all times for tomato harvest.  And I always lick the spoon.

Basil Rouille
2 garlic cloves
1/2 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup mayonnaise
1 1/2 teaspoons anchovy butter
zest from 1/2 lemon
juice from 1/2 lemon
Mince garlic cloves and transfer to blender.  Add basil and olive oil.  Puree, stopping to scrape down sides, if needed.  Add mayonnaise, anchovy butter, lemon zest and lemon juice.  Puree until combined.  Store in refrigerator for up to one week.