When Mark and I planted our very first veggie and herb garden last month, I freaked. After years with what I’ve called a “black thumb” as far as gardening was concerned, I was pretty convinced this one was going to turn out to be a dud! For longer than I care to admit, every flower, seed, and stem in my path wilted pitifully or crumbled into sickly sadness in its pot. So traumatizing, right?!
Even though I wanted homegrown, fresh vegetables and herbs so badly (and to stop paying $3-4 per bunch of basil at the grocery store), there was some major convincing on his part to get me thinking it was a good idea and wouldn’t fail. So, off we went for the supplies! It took him a few sweaty hours in the summer sun to build the garden, me about half an hour to paint, and a matter of minutes to sink our gorgeous green plants into the earth. Then, it was just all a matter of waiting.
Let’s just say I wasn’t my typically optimistic self about this one… but I should have been!
Here’s what we have today, versus the same day we planted the beginning of our garden in the ground. It’s amazing to watch this big, bushy mass of greenness continue to grow, and I’m so excited for when we can finally pluck fresh tomatoes, jalapenos and bell peppers from our backyard!
We should have a handful of veggies by July, but I’m more than happy with all the basil I’m getting! Its our favorite herb in this house, and serves as a great canvas for all kinds of delicious dishes. I especially love using it in pesto (here’s a great Spinach-Basil Pesto), sprinkled on pizzas, and stacked in a caprese salad with fried eggplant.
In this salad, though, it’s simply torn into small pieces and tossed into a fresh, summery salad. To me, the basil’s always the star but fresh corn, avocado, tomatoes, and chunks of creamy mozzarella fight for first place!
For a low-carb, high-protein meal, toss slices of grilled chicken, fish or steak on top! This fresh, crunchy salad has hints of sweetness from the corn and saltiness from the cheese that you’ll love. The avocado makes it melt-in-your-mouth good, and drizzled with a fresh and easy lemon-balsamic vinaigrette, it’s just the best a salad can get!
Make this colorful, nutritious salad for a weeknight meal or to impress summer dinner party guests with minimal fuss and big flavor. A side of garlic bread and a glass of wine would make this the perfect al fresco meal!
Once we have some new produce from our garden, you can bet I’ll be sharing more inspired dishes from it. I’m just so glad it worked out well and is continuing to flourish. And, remember, if you’re planting your own, stay optimistic and water, water, water!
Yield: Serves 2-3
3 cups spring mix salad
1 cup chopped tomatoes or cherry/grape tomatoes
1 large avocado, chopped into bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup corn kernels (I recommend fresh, not frozen)
8 oz. (about 1 cup) fresh mozzarella, cut into bite-sized chunks
1/2 cup fresh basil
Juice from 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt and pepper, to taste
In a large bowl, combine all ingredients for salad. Toss to evenly distribute.
In a small bowl, combine lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. While constantly whisking, add olive oil. Season with salt and pepper.
Pour vinaigrette over salad before serving, give it a gentle toss, and place on serving plates.
Add grilled chicken, steak or fish to add a bit of protein and make it a full meal!