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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Tarragon Roasted Chicken

Tarragon is growing by leaps and bounds and the delicate, fresh anise-like flavor pairs beautifully with salads, eggs, fish and chicken. Today we made a simple roast chicken stuffed with tarragon. I picked a small handful of tarragon shoots cutting to the soil line to encourage new growth. As mentioned in earlier posts I grow tarragon in a container.

To infuse the tarragon flavor throughout the chicken I gently lifted the skin and pressed tarragon under it on as much of the chicken as possible. I placed the stems in the cavity along with several more sprigs. Notice the pattern tarragon makes under the skin.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

1 large fryer/roasting chicken
10 to 12 shoots fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon Dijon type mustard
1 tablespoon cooking oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated pepper

Remove giblets and any excess fat that can be trimmed away. Work the tarragon under the skin. Mix oil, mustard, salt and pepper together and rub over chicken. Place additional tarragon inside cavity, reserving one tablespoon leaves. Place chicken in a small roasting pan and place in oven. I started with the breast down for 45 minutes. Every 15 minutes or so I give the pan a little shake to keep the breast from sticking. When back has browned carefully turn the chicken and continue cooking until breast is browned in approximately 45 minutes. An instant thermometer placed in the thigh or breast will read 170 degrees when done. When thigh and leg move easily and juices no longer run pink chicken is done. Thermometer test is easier.
Strain and defat juices, salt to taste and add one tablespoon minced tarragon. Use juices as a sauce. Heat and add a little white wine, white vermouth or apple juice until right consistency. A couple teaspoons of cream smooth the flavors if you desire a little extra richness. Let rest 15 to 20 minutes before carving and serving.

Salad Greens & Edible Flowers

Salad with Edible Flowers

As we move into cooler weather I see our salad garden is a bit uneven. We have lots of greens for cooking, mesclun, racdiccio and arugula but sometimes I begin to crave a crunchy salad that’s packed with flavor and color. So I broke down and purchased some lovely local Romaine lettuce. The garden pantry contributed radiccio, which we cut at the soil line instead of pulling because the plants often produce a second head.
In spite of some near frosty nights we still have some of my favorite edible flowers. Nasturtiums add color, a wonderful fresh peppery bite and the anise hyssop echoes the tarragon with it’s own sweet anise flavor. Each anise hyssop flower head is actually dozens of tiny flowers that I stripped from the stem. Mild flavored calendula petals are twisted away from the head and sprinkled like confetti over the greens.

1 head Romaine lettuce
1 small head radicchio
1 rounded tablespoon fresh tarragon leaves
(if fresh tarragon is unavailable use a small handful of parsley)

Dressing:
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1 small clove garlic, minced or pressed

Edible Flower Mixture
Nasturtiums
Calendula
Anise Hyssop

I gathered about one cup edible flowers not packed, this was about eight nasturtium blossoms, 2 flower heads of anise hyssop, and half a dozen calendula flowers. Always use flowers that are not sprayed with chemicals.

Rinse, dry and tear salad greens into bite size pieces. The tarragon leaves can remain whole. Mix dressing ingredients and toss with greens. Add salt and pepper to taste. Sprinkle the flowers over the salad greens, do not toss and serve. Serves 2-4.

Tarragon Beet Salad

Today I made “essence of tarragon”. To do this, cut the Tarragon vinegarplants back, carefully rinse the foliage, spin or shake away excess moisture and strip leaves from the stem. Pack the leaves into a jar and cover with hot white wine vinegar or rice vinegar. I store this in a cool pantry and that’s it. After it sits for a few days the vinegar becomes a richly flavored and aromatic concentrate of tarragon. Add small amounts to salad dressings, tartar sauce or use for any of your favorite tarragon recipes. I like to mix a teaspoon into two tablespoons of Dijon mustard and coat a chicken inside and out before roasting.

Tarragon Beet Salad
Balsamic vinegar, fresh Beets with Tarragon Saladchopped tarragon and minced onion combine complimentary flavors in an easy winter salad. When roasting beets leave 2” of stem so they don’t bleed. When they have cooled trim and remove skins. In England, I’ve seen ready to go plastic pouches of whole roasted beets which seems like a great convenience.

Our garden beets are left in the ground during winter and gathered as we need them. We usually stirfry the greens as a separate dish.

6 sliced roasted beets
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon
1 tablespoon minced sweet or green onion
Salt to taste, I use a light sprinkle

Combine beets and vinegar and sprinkle with remaining ingredients

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