The Case for a Kitchen Garden—and the Tart to Make with Your Haul
Mississippi-based jewelry maven Nicole Rottler Harlow, founder of Niett Metals, started gardening when she was looking for ways to destress and feel a little healthier. But she really fell in love when she got to show off the fruits (and veggies) of her labor: “The first time that we had a dinner party and I was able to run out to pick arugula and herbs for the salad, with a cocktail in one hand, I was hooked!” Here, her tips for putting roots down yourself—and a recipe that will give you the chance to say, “Yes, I grew the basil and the tomatoes.”
PUT IN THE WORK—AND GET OUT YOUR FEELINGS.
“If there’s something on my mind that I need to feel out, there’s no better way to de-stress than being (harmlessly!) destructive. In that sense, pulling things out of the ground is an amazing way to just go at something—and then you stand up and see the immediate benefits! Free therapy.”
DIVE IN DIRT FIRST AND PICK QUICK SEEDS
“Good soil is key. You can start small with herbs in pots if that’s all your space will allow, but you still need a rich soil. Arugula is an easy grower that is quick to come up and can be used in many dishes. Pick appropriate seeds for the season and your location—easily found online or usually on the packet of the seeds themselves—and then just follow the directions. We experiment with different seeds and plan each season by creating grids of where things will go, comparing them to past season records. It ranges from beets, collards, carrots, peppers, kale, and lettuces in the spring and fall to summer squashes and tomatoes in the summer—also known as BLT season. I keep steady amount of herbs like thyme throughout the year, supplementing with more seasonal kinds like summer basil.”
DITCH THE SCARY STUFF
“I’m a big believer in not using chemicals! There are plenty of toxin-free ways to tackle bugs, and many can actually be made with ingredients you probably already have at home.”
NAIL A SIGNATURE RECIPE
“My garden-fresh garlic and mozzarella tomato tart is a winner. I’ll tell you how to make it!”
- 1 pre-made pie crust
- 1 ½ tablespoon olive oil
- 5 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
- ½ ball freshly shredded mozzarella
- 4 basil leaves, chopped
- 2 medium, very ripe tomatoes, cut into ¼ inch slices
- 1 tablespoon chopped oregano
- A few pinches each of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes to taste
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Lay your pie crust flat on the bottom of a pie plate. Heat the oil in small skillet on medium-low and cook the garlic until it’s golden and crispy. Turn off the burner and add pinches of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes, tossing the garlic to coat.
Spread the crisped garlic in the center of pie crust, taking care to reserve about half the oil in the pan. Evenly top with shredded mozzarella and half the basil and all of the oregano. Next, arrange the tomatoes in an overlapping layer and drizzle the remaining olive oil from the pan.
Finish off with an extra drizzle of fresh olive oil, a sprinkle of salt, and the rest of the whole basil leaves. Fold up any excess edges of the crust. Bake for 30 to 45 minutes, watching for the edges of your crust to golden. Slice and serve!