Enjoying nature’s bounty.

I’m sure some of you are surprised that I have yet to talk about cooking on this blog. It’s always been my refuge — I’m one of those strange people who finds total relaxation in chopping vegetables or baking bread. It’s also a creative exercise to put ingredients together, to experiment and to coordinate many dishes all at once. Like conducting an orchestra.

I don’t spend a lot of time in my house — or sit down much, for that matter — so I haven’t been cooking recently outside of what’s required for general daily sustenance. In the last week, though, it’s been little sweeties galore as they’ve ripened in the garden, so I’ve had to be decently creative.

(Let me preface that I am a TERRIBLE photographer, so don’t expect one of those blogs with the beautiful, artistic photos highlighting every step. I’ll do my best to provide some sort of visual though just to break the monotony of my droning on and on. Many apologies in advance for my lack of skills.)

One night I threw together a pantry meal of spaghetti, sweeties, garlic, basil (also from the garden), olive oil and a dash of parmesan. I just boiled pasta, then sautéed and tossed. Easy, simple and delicious.

I now have a second harvest, so I decided to stick with the Italian genre and make a pizza. I’ve been on a hunt for the perfect pizza crust as of late, without much luck. I can’t bring myself to buy one from the store — who knows what’s in some of them, and I didn’t care for the TJ’s version. (Let’s not even talk about frozen pizza.) I’ve been using a homemade crust recipe that’s passable, but not yet “the one.”

I wonder why everyone is so afraid of working with yeast — it’s really so much easier than you think. Plus, making things from scratch guarantees that you know and control what goes in it, if you care about things like that.

A couple of weeks ago I was watching an old “Tyler’s Ultimate” episode, Ultimate Pizza, on Cooking Channel (food on TV, doesn’t get any better than that). I co-opted his crust recipe and tried it out. But something went horribly wrong. Due more to my actions than the recipe. I think I tried to get too creative with substitutions and bread flour, and it just tastes like … bread that’s crispy on the bottom. Pizza crust should have that chewy quality, and that’s definitely lacking. So, I’ll try again. The hunt continues.

I caramelized some onions with a sprig of rosemary and topped my pizza with those, the little sweeties, some olive oil, mozzarella, parmesan and basil. It’s basically a pizza rendition of my pasta dish. The little sweeties roast in the oven and then just pop with sweetness. Yum.

I’m sure there are a dozen other things I can do with little sweeties. I have a recipe for a tomato-avocado-corn salad that’s to die for. But let me know if you have other trade secrets.

I’m learning to love cooking with items from the garden. It’s gratifying to work hard to care for a plant and then watch it harvest something you can eat and enjoy. Plus there’s no comparison between the taste of a fresh, vine-ripened tomato and the ones at the grocery that they pick green, load on a truck/ship/plane and then spray with ethylene gas to make them turn red. Yuck.

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