Monday, April 27, 2009

Summertime in the City: Urban Gardening

Perhaps it was a little overly optimistic of me, but I planted a container herb garden this weekend. Union Square's Saturday market was awash with plants of all kinds, so I figured now was a good time. And figured weekend temperatures in the 80s and 90s couldn't hurt either.
With full-sun Southern exposure, I have had great success growing herbs in the past. I typically stick with those that "keep on giving," like basil, mint and chives as opposed to things like cilantro and parsley, which don't tend to keep growing new leaves throughout the season (at least in my container). My other tip? Miracle-Gro (I use the kind formulated for tomatoes). I always buy a mint plant, since they are apparently harder to grow from seed. And although I was tempted to try growing basil from seed this year (and even purchased a packet), by buying two $2 plants at the green market, I also got instant gratification: a small handful of the bigger leaves perfect for rounding out an Asian-style noodle salad. Now if those smaller leaves would just start growing... In this heat, I could really use a mojito or basil-infused cocktail.

Peanut Noodle Salad

This is a nice variation of the standard summertime pasta or macaroni salad and goes great with all types of protein - chicken, shrimp, steak, tofu. Feel free to make the dressing in advance but don't toss with the noodles more than a few hours ahead as the acid will sometimes break down the pasta.

Ingredients For the dressing .5 c. Lime juice 1 T. Peanut butter (creamy or chunky is fine) 2 T. Sesame oil 2 cloves of Garlic, peeled and roughly chopped 1 t. of Ginger (fresh grated or fresh from a jar, not powdered) 1 T. Low sodium soy sauce 1 T. Tomato paste (or sauce or whatever tomato product you have around 1 packet Splenda or 1 t. brown sugar* Hot sauce or Sriracha (to taste) *Depending on how acidic the dressing tastes, and what kind of tomato product you used, you may want to add a bit of sweetness for balance For the salad 8 oz. Soba or whole wheat spaghetti, prepared to packaged directions, drained and cooled .5 c. Snow peas or sugar snap peas, julienned .5 c. Zucchini, shredded and drained/water squeezed out .24 c. Carrots, shredded .5 Red bell pepper, julienned 2 Scallions, thinly sliced .25 c. Unsalted roasted peanuts, chopped 2 T. of Basil leaves and Spearmint leaves, cut into long thin strips (chiffonade) Method For the dressing, using a standard or immersion blender, blitz the first seven ingredients (lime juice through tomato paste). Sample and add sweeter and hot sauce to taste. For the salad, combine pasta and vegetables. Toss with dressing a few hours before serving. Serve chilled with hot grilled chicken, shrimp, beef or tofu.

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