I always daydream about planting the perfect garden; growing only those herbs, fruits and veggies for dishes I already make. It never happens, of course but I am optimistic each spring. The onion sets have been in for about two months.
The rest of the garden space is mangy and, as yet, unplanted. Meanwhile, I keep thinking about tomatillos, zucchini, tomatoes, cilantro, Asian basil (my favorite kind), Japanese cucumbers (lovely) and everything else I have hauled home from the nursery in the past. This year, if it’s meant to be, I’ll have all of the above and more.
The Japanese cucumbers are so good in Tzatziki, the Greek dip (is it only a dip?) that’s perfect with baby carrots and sugar snap peas. I’ve also used them in Vietnamese noodle salads with marinated and grilled pork, a lime and fish sauce on the side for dipping. Tomatillos get used in green chile sauce, fresh green salsa and, when they get out of control, they get tossed whole into bags and frozen. I do the same with tomatoes and jalapeños. Zucchini are picked while the blossom is still fresh and make their way into Chocolate Zucchini Cake or pancakes (same idea as Potato Pancakes).
I also tend to go way overboard with herbs this time of year: chocolate mint, pineapple sage (when I can get it), lemon grass, any and all basils, tarragon, epazote, lemon balm, lemon thyme, marjoram, oregano, garlic chives, lavender, on and on. We grow lettuces from seed in half wine barrels, along with cilantro.
Because I get a craving for fresh green salads and the lettuces are not up yet, I like to put together spinach or arugula, thinly sliced red onion and orange segments, dressed with an orange vinaigrette.
Juice of 2 oranges
2 tablespoons. balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
1/3 cup olive oil
Combine all ingredients except the olive oil and mix well. Slowly add olive oil while mixing to create an emulsion. Chill until served. Serve on the side to add as desired.
Makes 2 cups.
Lori Bowles was raised in Southern California. She is currently serving on the board of directors as the advertising and publicity chair for the Lodi Bowmen Inc. She lives in Lodi with her husband Jeff and has three children and five grandchildren. She enjoys cooking, reading about cooking and reading about cooking while eating.