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Here is to another week!

Rice, Sausage, pesto, Berries

Last week was an interesting one! Between

cooking with Chef Elizabeth Falkner

and attending my first ever weekend


focused on using technology to solve the issues in food servicing, I thought I had enough adrenalin pushing things on the menu. So, when Sunday evening rolled in, I was hardly expecting any more excitement. Yet, at about 6pm you would have seen me smiling like a mad scientist and running about with camera to capture what I was sure to be illusionary.

Well, it all started rather peacefully. Wait, let me backtrack. I have a history of being a black thumb. I have a strong propensity to kill plants. Over the last few years, I have sporadically attempted to grow herbs and other small plants in my kitchen sill. Every single one of them promptly left for a better place. I never knew why. Originally, it was not watering and then it was too much of water. Anyway, this Summer when I decided I would try again, it was only with cautious hope but abundant optimism that a new surrounding would make a difference. So, very very slowly I started populating the fire escape landing outside the window. This is urban gardening! Any 'outdoor' space is game for it.

Squash and peas

I bought seedlings of basil, thyme and parsley and replanted them into a long pot; rosemary into another. Seeds of squash and pea in another long pot, left patiently to germinate. I did make a mistake here, which, I will tell you about shortly. Everyday in the morning, I would pull back the curtain and peek nervously to make sure, they look alive and with look longingly at the pot with the seeds to tell me they were ok. Then the basil started growing and I learned to trim and keep it growing and not let it prematurely flower. Then one day, tiny little seedling started emerging in the squash and pea pots. I was super excited. All was going well in the world!

Then came the torrential rains here. As the winds and rains lashed against my window in the night, I barely slept in trepidation of the carnage I expected to find in the balcony the next morning. As soon as dawn broke, I peeked out. Imagine my surprise, when I found that my plants were still rooted, bravely defying the forces and courageously instilling faith in me. I was absolutely gratified. That emotion is hard to describe really. After years of not being successful in the green stuff, I had not expected this much success. I am getting used to nipping to the balcony, plucking some fresh leaves and deeply inhaling their aroma before perfuming my food with their divine flavor. They even seem to taste better than the store ones.

Rice, Sausage, pesto, Berries
Basil + Thyme
Seedlings and Rosemary

I did have a tiny issue. The seedlings and herbs were planted in the wrong pot. In my inexperience, I choose a long container that is typically used for overhang for window sills and for pot to sit within. So, it not have drainage. My pots with plants were water logged and bloated. So, I went in with a screw driver and punched some holes. It was a shoddy job that somewhat helped I think. The soil had been loosened by the water and it was easier to stick my hand through it. Yet, I wasn't able to do much with the herb pot because the soil had been bound more with the roots of the plant. I did what I could and let it be.

Over the next few days, the excess water dried out but so was my parsley plant. It had been abundant and thriving before the storm. It was turning yellow very fast now though. Google gardeners said that was possibly water logging. I accepted my mistake and took responsibility for my idiotic choice of planter. I left it to fate to see if it could be salvaged at all or it would simply die away. I had made peace. Except, over the last two days, I saw fresh green leaves peeking through. My heart skipped and I let it be.

Yesterday, I was spending some quiet time with myself in the garden, repotting this, fixing some anchors for the peas to creep on, water the pots after yet another parching day. Whatever they say about gardening is true. It is very, very, very relaxing. Somehow, the mind shuts off. It takes you to a different zone. I didn't think it would do this and I wrote off people who said that. Last evening was the first I let myself realize how much space the activity creates within me.

Black Swallowtail Caterpillar
Black Swallowtail Caterpillar

So, there I was looking at the fruits of the labor, quietly contemplating about nothing, and, in general, just being, when it struck me that I should trim the dead leaves off the parsley. In I went with my mini-shears, snipping away the brown stems when I stopped suddenly as I spied some creepy crawly things clinging to the plant, three of them with bands of yellow, green and black. I was really annoyed and ran back to my desk to find out what to do with the pesky pests. What a surprise, when I found that they were actually butterfly caterpillars of the Black Swallowtail family. Ok, it is still theoretically a pest. It is going to eat my parsley. But, the way I see it. It is another harmless and gorgeous life form I am sustaining in my tiny garden. It is validation for me. That's all. Where I thought the experiment would bear me nothing, I have two different life forms thriving!!!

I am so so so so delighted! Thats all! I just wanted to share that energy and happiness with you as we start the week!

Rice, Sausage, pesto, Berries
Seedlings - Squash and pea

Do you have a garden story? Do share! I am all about hearing learning more and also let me know if you have suggestions for what else I can grow in small spaces.

Before I go, I have a recipe here too. One for a simple and hearty meal that is very versatile. At the very basics, it is a grain, sausage, herb and fruit dish. The types of these four ingredients can vary with the season from light and refreshing like now to hearty and meaty in the colder months. Also, a lot of the flavor comes from the pesto used in the dish. It doesn't have to be the traditional basil one. Use whatever you have made. I had on hand one I had made using avocado, radish leaves and a little basil. It just needs to have some green/herb component, fat (oil) and a little nuts. It is quick enough for a weeknight dinner (under 40 minutes!) and undeniably satisfying.

Before you go,

Check out my recap on a recent cooking class with a recipe for BAKED CHICKEN ROULADE WITH FENNEL, PARSLEY AND CHEDDAR.

Pesto Rice with Braised Sausage and Blueberries

{This recipe serves 2. Simply scale for more people}

1 cup brown or wild rice or barley

2-1/2 cups broth

1/2 cup white wine

3 T fresh pesto

2-3 sausages, meat, chicken or seafood

handful of blueberries (or sliced peaches, ripe cherries)

2 sprigs of thyme

basil to garnish

Drizzle a little oil in a pan and place the sausages in one layer. Pour the wine over and bake for 30 minutes at 400F until cooked through.

Meanwhile, cook the rice in the broth. Leave it on the slightly wetter side, risotto consistency. Trace the pesto through the rice.

Then, divide the rice into bowls. Top with sliced sausage and garnish with blueberries (or other fruit) and touch of fresh basil or parsley or purslane.

Serve immediately.


Share your creations tagging @ashafsk on Instagram and hashtag #MadeFromFSK