05 August 2009

Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme

It's been bird-o-rama here this summer. I'm not sure why we seem to have more flitting around than usual, but we've seen multiple varieties of hummingbirds, finches, sparrows, the Western bluebirds and for the first time in a long time, scrub jays. Plenty of others as well, and they've all been highly entertaining, particularly the finches and a rufous hummingbird.

I grow a lot of edible things in my kitchen windowbox: basil, sage, peppermint, strawberries, and whatever else I remember to throw in there. The basil and strawberries have been quite productive this year, which is good, because we tend to use a lot of both.

One reason I like growing strawberries in the windowbox is because the slugs and snails can't get at them, and generally neither can the birds, though I've caught some of the smaller sparrows taking fly-by bites of the fruit they can see. It's made for some great cat TV for Milton.

But the big winner of summer? Basil! The plant was starting to get a little unwieldy, so I finally let it bolt, and the hummingbirds came in droves because they liked the flowers. Whether they actually get anything from them, I don't know, but they do enjoy visiting them. The real surprise came when the stalks started to go to seed:

It turns out the plant is just hardy enough to hold a small finch. And evidently, finches are fond of the seeds if this one and its mate (not pictured) have been any indication.

They are also protective of their food. When I went out a bit later to pick some basil for the pasta salad I was making, the two of them sat up in the magnolia tree yelling at me.

I suppose I won't be seeing any volunteer basil plants in the windowbox next year.

Grilled Vegetable Pasta Salad

6 oz. penne pasta
6 oz. whole wheat penne pasta

Italian salad dressing

2 large portobello mushrooms
2 bell peppers, 1 red, 1 yellow, halved lengthwise
2 zucchini, halved lengthwise

8 oz. black pepper feta cheese, crumbled
1/3-1/2 c. slivered fresh basil leaves

Prepare bbq (medium-high heat). Cook pasta according to package directions; drain. Place in large bowl and toss with desired amount of dressing, 1-2 tablespoons. Brush vegetables with additional dressing, and grill until tender and slightly charred, turning occasionally, about 5 min. Cut vegetables into 1-inch pieces.

Add vegetables, cheese and basil to pasta, toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4 servings.

(This is an adaptation of a pasta salad recipe that appeared in Bon Appetit, August 1994, p. 84).

Go listen to some music: "Scarborough Fair/Canticle" from the album Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme by Simon and Garfunkel.

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