Over the past few years, I've flirted with gardening. Some years I do a ton of flower beds. Other times it's all about vegetables. I've done it half-heartedly, mostly because I am a total gardening novice without a very green thumb. But this year, I was determined it would be different. Between the economic benefits of growing your own herbs and vegetables, the therapeutic aspects of getting your hands in the soil and the lessons it can teach my almost-seven-year-old son as we work side-by-side in the garden, it was really a no brainer. It was just a matter of digging in. Figuratively and literally.
We started with the easy things … herbs. Nothing beats the smell of fresh basil. Well, maybe cilantro. But it's right up there at the top with one of the best smells that signal Springtime. Our basil has been growing by leaps and bounds, and my son and I have been working in the kitchen to put it to use. It just tickles me to see him go out on the deck and snip the basil we need, wash it off and get ready to work on making a recipe with me. I love that he can identify the herbs by their leaves and that he takes such pride in watering them and checking on their progress daily. So many good lessons there for him.
One of our favorite ways to use up basil, particularly in the warm weather, is in a Panzanella. An Italian bread salad, it's a bowlful of Springtime celebrations that gets the thumbs-up from the whole family, baby included. My favorite recipe for Panzanella over the years has been Tyler Florence's version from his Eat This Book cookbook. Toasted bread, fresh basil, juicy tomates … you just can't go wrong. Go on and celebrate everything that Spring has to offer … and tuck into a fabulous Panzanella.