Ronnie Paul: The vegetable burglar
I feel lucky to live in a community where farmers markets flourish. But their success and the painful persistence of my ineffectual gardening make me certain I harbor an inner-masochist.
For instance, the money I spend adding soil nutrients — which practically needs a Noble Prize winning chemist to balance — quadruples the cost of every veggie I grow.
Then there’s the ongoing tournament of the insects versus the eggplant, the dirt clogging the drip line, and the damage done by our 20 pound Tabby who cartwheels on the basil.
Another downer is that our zucchini plant produced a grand total of one zuke which grew hidden beneath the leaves until it was the inedible size of a Louisville Slugger. Gone are the days when our zucchini abundance became the base of our household’s every casserole, skin moisturizer and cooling cocktail.
It’s not that I have a black thumb; I’d call it a light gray. But I realize that the energy and money I put into our home garden embarrassingly exceeds our meager harvest.
So I appeal to all you zucchini growers who joke about leaving the extras in your neighbor’s unlocked car: please do it! And don’t forget to send me its license number and location. If I get arrested for zucchini theft, I’ll plead the traditional I-needed-veggies defense.
I hope you don’t have to steal any veggies for these new recipes.
Polenta with roasted tomatoes
Local tomatoes are bursting with vine fresh flavor. Grab some and savor this treat.
1/2 cup polenta
2 cups water or broth
1 tablespoon butter
2 ounces chopped spinach
1 pressed garlic clove
1 tablespoon grated Parmesan
2 pounds good-size ripe tomatoes, quartered
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 packed cup fresh basil
Make the polenta by slowly stirring it into simmering water.
To prevent sticking, stir it frequently for about fifteen minutes until thick and fairly smooth. Turn off the flame and stir in the butter, spinach, garlic and Parmesan.
Pour the mixture into a well-buttered eight-inch square glass pan and refrigerate so it has time to set.
Put the quartered tomatoes in a glass pan and toss with the olive oil, balsamic and basil. Then roast them for 45 minutes at 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
To serve, spoon the tomatoes over a square of polenta. Don’t panic if the polenta isn’t firm. A mashed potatoe consistency makes for equally delicious polenta.
Balsamic alert: try some of the new infusion balsamic vinegars. So far I’ve used mandarin orange, fig and strawberry.
Singing the summer blues salad
Although it’s a bit blue, I dare you to find anything down about this salad.
1/2 cup fresh blueberries
4 ounces mixed salad greens
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1/4 cup toasted pecans
1 avocado, cut in pieces
Whisk together until smooth:
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey
Salt and pepper
Please resist the temptation to gobble the season’s luscious blueberries before putting them in the salad. Instead, toss them in a bowl with the greens, cheese, pecans and avocado. Mix with the dressing and serve.
Ronnie Paul is a Nevada County freelance writer.
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