Although I was excited to join a community garden and grow my own vegetables, I was also worried (still am) that I do not have what it takes to mother plants to life. In my last apartment, the landlord left behind a plant that died a slow and painful death at my hands. Following that unfortunate event, Mike and I adopted a cactus and an aloe vera plant at a nearby botanical garden plant sale. I am sad to say that my aloe vera plant is looking very sick.
My parents did garden every year when I was a child but I do not remember participating much except to pick and eat the raspberries, strawberries and peas. And I think I had to grow a seedling at one point in elementary school, but that is where my gardening experiences end.
I also had some very unfortunate pet experiences such as leaving my poor kitty outside for 2 hours in minus 40 degree weather. When I remembered to let her in she could barely walk; she crawled under my mom's living room chair and stayed there for a week. It might have been the saddest experience of my life.
It was almost as sad as the time I tried to catch my little sisters hamster that had escaped from its cage. I thought I could throw a towel over him and scoop him up before returning him safely to his prison. I successfully caught him under a towel, but as I was crouched down in our carpeted apartment hallway I lost my balance, and fell forward, my knee crushing the poor rodent's head. I will spare you the gory details, but the images still haunt me. My sister called me a murderer and barely spoke to me for weeks
The point is that I question my ability to nurture plants for several months and successfully keep them alive. It is a big responsibility, watering and feeding and tending to plants; it requires commitment and patience. I have this annoying aversion to failing at anything, thus I am determined to turn over a new leaf and paint my thumb green. Last weekend I borrowed some manure, soil and eight little pots from my community garden space. I planted eggplant seeds in half of the pots and butternut squash in the remaining half. Little sprouts started coming up almost immediately. I was excited but suspected they might be weeds.
Yesterday morning, I woke up bright and early and went to check on my seeds as I do every day, about ten times a day. This time though, something was different. There were these huge seedlings bursting up and out through the dark and dense soil of the butternut squash pots. The seedlings were about 10 times the size of the little weedlings that surrounded them. I watched the sprouts all day; every time I would look at them they would be just slightly more unfolded and upright and today they are standing 3 full inches tall. Is it weird that I actually love them? They are so majestic.
I will be very nervous the day I have to uproot them and put them out into the community garden. I think I will have to set up a sleeping bag by the garden and watch over them to make sure they make it through the night.
I made this personal sized pizza with the intention of testing out using marinated shredded eggplant (mine was from Cannensi) as a pizza topping. I paired the eggplant with some capers and anchovies that I picked up from Bosa Foods. I topped it with some bocconcini and used a fresh tomato sauce that I had made the night before. The pizza was really salty, savory and satisfying. It was extra yummy topped with fresh torn basil leaves and freshly grated aged parmesan cheese.
Anchovy, caper and marinated eggplant personal pizza
You can use any pizza sauce or dough for this pizza but I highly recommend making your own sauce. It does not take long to simmer down some tomatoes, all you need is to season with a little salt and honey. A simple, fresh tomato sauce is a great compliment to salty pizza toppings. Also, the recipe below is for one personal sized pizza but you can obviously expand as needed. The success of this pizza is also dependent on keeping the toppings very light. Capers and anchovies should be thought of as more of a seasoning or garnish then an actual topping.
3/4 cup prepared pizza dough (About 1/3 recipe from this post)
~1/4 cup fresh tomato sauce (see below or this post)
~1/4 cup fresh tomato sauce (see below or this post)
1/2 tbsp capers
2 anchovy filets
Small handful of shredded, oil-packed marinated eggplant (find at Italian import food stores)
5 pearl bocconcini
Freshly grated parmesan
A few torn basil leaves
1 - Preheat oven to 500F with pizza stone on the top rack of the oven.
2 - Press out about 3/4 cup prepared pizza dough (about 1/3 of this recipe) to an 8" round, use flour to prevent sticking.
3 - Place dough on a baking sheet, covered with parchment paper.
4 - Spread a few spoonfuls of sauce onto the dough.
5 - Top with marinated eggplant, capers and finely chopped anchovies.
6 - Tear bocconcini pieces and scatter over pizza.
7 - Bake pizza about 8-10 minutes.
8 - Top with freshly grated parmesan and torn fresh basil leaves.
Quick fresh tomato sauce
Bring a small pot of water to near boil. Cut a small slit in the bottom of 3 tomatoes and add to water for one minute. Remove from hot water and place in cold water until cool enough to handle. Heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a seperate pot and add 1 crushed garlic clove. Cook for a couple of minutes. Slide the skins off of the tomatoes, cut them roughly and add to pot with a pinch of sea salt and 1 tsp of honey. Simmer until thickened for about 10 - 15 minutes. Stir periodically and break the tomatoes apart further with a spoon while you stir.