Arugula & Rigatoni with Tomato Sauce

If you have arugula or “garden rocket” growing in your June garden, it’s probably become a little spicy and is ready to bolt. Try this delicious pasta recipe. You will easily use up a couple fistfuls of arugula and have yourself a salad and side dish in one. The arugula flavor mellows when combined with the hot pasta and savory sauce.

We were having fish for dinner so I made a few changes. Didn’t seem as though we needed cheese tonight so this was omitted. Our tarragon is still tender so I stripped the leaves from three long stems and threw those on top and that was a good partner with the fish. Decided to eliminate the basil.  Arugula pastaAlso the onions need to be used before I take off to the New York Botanic Garden to speak about and demonstrate how to grow a food garden in containers.  Next I chopped an onion and stirred it around in the  olive oil and garlic. There is nothing like travel time away from the summer garden to send us bustling around trying to get everything done.

4 cups arugula leaves washed, drained and trimmed
1 pound uncooked rigatoni or other small pasta
2 cups chopped fresh or canned tomatoes
3 garlic cloves pressed or minced
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil or 2 teaspoons dried
salt & red or black pepper to taste

Tear arugula into generous bite-sized pieces. Lay the leaves in a large, heat resistant, shallow serving dish. Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water until it reaches that barely tender stage. Remove and drain. While the pasta is cooking prepare this easy tomato sauce: Heat olive oil and stir garlic around until softened and fragrant. Add tomatoes and seasonings and heat to a simmer. Remove bay leaf.  Pour the hot, drained steaming pasta, over the bed of arugula.  Spread the tomato sauce over the pasta. Let a few bright green leaves show around the edges of the pasta. Do not toss together. Serve with grated parmesan cheese. Serves 4-6.

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How To Grow Tarragon

Tarragon is one of my most easily grown herbs. I say this because it wasn’t always this way. Our home garden soil tends to be wet and cold in winter. Tarragon dies back in winter and is often the slowest plant to reappear in late spring. After a particularly cold wet winter we may not see it at all. The photo below was taken in early November shortly before harvesting.

Tarragon container

The solution is to grow it in a container. Drainage when using potting soil is no longer a problem, the container warms early in the spring and you’ll harvest tarragon all season. Best of all, if you have a division or a small container bring it indoors in January when foliage has died back and soon vigorous delicious shoots will appear.
Tarragon’s roots will tightly intertwine and it can choke itself out if not divided every one to two years. If planting in the ground pick a sunny well-drained location. Plants benefit from a good fertilizing at the start of the growing season. Work some crab meal or aged chicken manure into your soil. I recommend container gardeners fertilize with fish emulsion
French tarragon does not set seed, so don’t be tempted to buy a seed packet. It will be Russian tarragon which is nearly tasteless. Regular using and cutting of plants early in the season develops a desirable compact growth habit. Later I will post some cooking hints for this classic herb

Those Terrifying Thai Peppers

Some days begin with a good chuckle. This morning I opened BBC news and read about a terrorist alert in London. You can go to this url for the full story:Burning chilli sparks terror fear. http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/london/7025782.stm It really does sound right out of Monty Python. However, since this blog is The Gardener’s Pantry, I remembered my container planting of Demon Red Thai Peppers surrounding a plant of Thai Basil. This container will move indoors for a few months as I continue to harvest those little red hots and basil.

Thai Pepper and Basil

When I bring a container indoors I check it for insects and anything that might be living near the drainage hole. Insects on peppers and basil aren’t usually much of a problem outdoors but may emerge inside your home or greenhouse. Keep an eye on plants and wipe off any eggs you see on the underside of leaves. if you see those little round pillbugs coming out of the drainage hole place the container on a tray filled with cornmeal. If something is flying around or on the leaves figure out what it is before trying to treat the problem.

Papalo or Summer Cilantro

Papaloquelite, Porophyllum ruderale known as papalo or summer cilantro, is a Mexican and Central American herb. The leaves have a warm pungency like cilantro with a hint of citrus and a more powerful flavor. I recommend using about 1/3 as much papalo as cilantro when preparing salsa and then adjust flavor to your taste. In Mexico, restaurants often place a little vase of papalo cuttings on the table and the diner adds leaves as desired.
The use of Papaloquelite “butterfly herb” predates the introduction of cilantro, Coriandrum sativum to Mexico by thousands of years. It’s easy to understand why cilantro with it’s similar flavor was so quickly adopted. It is used for salsas, sandwiches, guacamole, salads or simply sprinkled over rice and beans. The flavor is lost when cooked. This Cornell U website has information on papalo.
http://www.gardenmosaics.cornell.edu/pgs/science/english/papalo.htm
Plants grow in ordinary garden soil with moderate to full sun. This summer mine has grown well in a shallow container and never bolted in summer heat. Today I sowed seeds in a small rectangular container for a windowsill garden. The intense flavor may possibly substitute for cilantro in Indian and SE Asian cooking. If you enjoy cooking with unusual herbs this is one to try.Papalo or summer Cilantro

Rustic Salsa
6 ripe Roma Tomatoes
1 Bell Pepper, any color
2 Pasilla chiles or ‘Holy Mole’
1 jalapeno or Serrano pepper
½ small mild onion, peeled & chunked
½ cup lime juice
¼ teaspoon salt
Chopped papalo leaves (1 to 2 tblsp).

Take a large skillet, heat and add whole tomatoes and peppers, heating until skins are slightly charred. Rub off skin from tomatoes and chunk. Remove skin from peppers, and don’t be concerned about a few charred bits as they will add flavor. Cut peppers in half and remove seeds and surrounding light colored tissue to temper the heat. Place all ingredients except papalo in a food processor or blender and process only until slightly chunky. Pour into dish and add 1 tablespoon papalo. Taste after five minutes and add more papalo if needed.