What a great weekend! It feels soooo good to get things done that have been getting put off and put off again for one reason or another. I bought my first ever outdoor gas grill and must say it is beautiful. A bargain on sale at Home Depot this sweet little number is just the right size for hubby and me and a few guests.
I fired it up for its premier on Saturday for Girls Grill night… my friend Harchand and I whipped up some grilled tofu, corn on the cob, and veggie kabobs. Once I got over being intimidated by hooking up the propane and firing it up without anything exploding it was a piece of cake.
Also on Saturday, I went to the monthly meeting of the Garden Project for the first time. It’s an organization that works to promote and inspire home gardening. The meeting concludes with a pot luck of sorts… folks all bring veggies/fruits from their gardens, a big salad is tossed together, and a wonderful meal is shared. I got helpful tips for drought gardening and so much enjoyed the atmosphere of sharing, helping each other, and being in the company of just downright regular folks… I love Bakersfield!
Later it was off to Bolles Nursery up on Allen Road to finally get a bunch of starters to plant in my raised bed that I wrote about over a month ago. It took my gardener two trips over several weeks to bring enough lovely rich soil to fill it up, and with my weekend travels and weekday work it became too easy to postpone planting. A little late to get things started from seed, so starters it would be. Between the tomato and pepper starts I received at the gardening club, and $30 at Bolles for 17 various eggplant, pepper, squash, tomato, herb, epazote, and cucumber starts, I had enough to amply fill my bed and some extra zucchini and cucumbers that I planted over by the compost pile where my kabocha is thriving. So lovely!!!
Sunday I got some errands done and then in the early evening, when it was finally cooling off a little, I fired up the grill again. I thought I’d take a stab at some marinated veggies. I cut up a zucchini, 2-3 yellow patty pan, a bell pepper, an onion, and a stalk of broccoli and made a little marinade.
A basic marinade is 2 parts olive oil, 1 part vinegar, garlic, fresh herbs, and a few twists of the pepper mill. I added a squeeze of lemon too, which always seems to make everything taste brighter! Then I sliced up a couple roma tomatoes I’d picked up at the farmers market in the morning.
My plan? Grill a bunch of veggies, toss them with some pasta, and have pasta salads for our lunches tomorrow. It was a good plan. I chopped up the grilled tomatoes and tossed with veggie spiral pasta, grilled veggies, leftover marinade, and a squeeze or two of ketchup (I wished I’d roasted a few more tomatoes), and topped it all off with some Asiago cheese…. Simple, delectable, and perfect to pack.
It was so lovely cooking outside… a little breeze blowing, my veggie garden looking so happy and vibrant, in the golden hour just before sunset! I wish I had taken pictures of it all before today (Monday).
Because today was hot, very hot, like way hotter than yesterday. 108 degrees and my little vegetable garden is doing its best to stay alive and not get cooked right in the soil. I haven’t had a vegetable garden in about 10 years, and that was in Los Angeles. Bakersfield is a whole new ball game. I wish I had bought that garden sun screen netting I’d seen at the gardening store… it may have lowered the garden temp by 10-15 degrees. When I got home from work today the first thing I did was run out there to check on my sweet green babies. They all looked distressed and a few truly looked to be having a near death experience.
Fearing for their lives, I pulled out the hose and doused the earth around each one with cool water and within an hour or two saw some perking up going on. Even so I think I will lose 6-7 tomato, pepper, and cucumber plants, and maybe the Italian basil.
Now it is Tuesday morning and the pic above is of my very sad tomato plants. All of them look more than half dead. Most of the squash, peppers and eggplant are OK. Today we have the edges of a tropical storm overhead, so it is overcast, humid, chance of showers, and still hot, but cooler than yesterday. Tonight after work I’m going to get that garden sun cover and, if the rest of my veggies survive the heat, I’ll head back to Bolles on the weekend for heartier replacements. It would be so sad to forego tomatoes this year!
Here is the recipe for this simple pasta dish. You can really use any fresh herbs or veggies that you like. Toss in some mushrooms, asparagus, and red peppers too! I enjoyed my pasta lunch at work, heated up, with some crushed red chiles and a little more Asiago. It would have been moister with more tomatoes, so the recipe below calls for more! Also I think next time I will chop the veggies in smaller pieces; they’ll cook up a little quicker and better fit in the nooks and crannies of the pasta.
- 1 lb. summer squash (zucchini, eight ball, patty pan, crookneck)
- 1-2 bell peppers
- 1 lb. tomatoes
- 1 small/medium onion, quartered
- 1 stalk broccoli
- 12 ounces vegetable radiatore/fusilli/rotelle (spiral/shell pasta)
- ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil
- 2 tablespoons rice or balsamic vinegar
- 4 cloves garlic, minced
- 7-8 basil leaves, minced (or other fresh herbs)
- Ground black pepper
- 2-3 tablespoons ketchup (optional)
- Chop vegetables in small bite size pieces. Keep the pieces about the same thickness (1/4-Inch). The onion quarters will fall apart somewhat on their own and that is fine.
- Toss veggies (except tomatoes) with marinade and set aside.
- Slice tomatoes ¼-inch to ⅜-inch thick and set aside.
- Bring 3 quarts lightly salted water to boil in stock pot. Add pasta and return to a boil. Let boil for 8-10 minutes until done. Strain and flush with cold water and set aside.
- While heating water and cooking pasta prepare the Marinade by comgining all marinade ingredients. You may add ketchup to the marinade if desired, or to the pasta dish when you toss it all together. I added ketchup because I had roasted only 2 tomatoes!.
- Heat up your grill (indoor or outdoor) and get started grilling the mixed veggies in a perforated grill pan or wok, turning every few minutes until grill marks form and tender-firm. This will probably take 2 batches.
- Then brush tomato slices with remaining marinade and grill on one side until grill marks form and lightly crusted. Then turn over and grill another couple minutes. Be careful not to over cook so they don't fall apart. Then chop the tomatoes into a medium dice.
- Toss grilled veggies, tomatoes, pasta and remaining marinade.
- Top with grated Parmesan/Asiago cheese and more chopped basil.
- Serve warm or at room temp for a salad, or heat up on the stove, adding a little water if necessary.