Gardening is one of those basic skills — like changing a tire, tying a bow tie and brewing coffee — that everyone ought to master. Post-deluge, you'd hate to be left decaffeinated with a packet of seeds, a lax tux and four flats.
Which is why I plant a garden. I don't expect the family to survive on a cluster of exploded radishes, a few gnarly carrots and a bucket of mint. But I like to foster the illusion that we could. My crop is not so much the hearty tomato, as heartiness itself.
By enlist I mean conscript. My gardeners do not volunteer. Nor do they succumb to bribery. They are forced into hard labor. Minutes of it.
To lighten the load, I encourage them to foster crops they admire. Nonetheless, they know it's a long trudge from sprouted spud to french fry, from strawberry seedling to strawberry shortcake. In between, there will be much digging, watering and weeding .
On our first garden outing this year, my french-fry farmer announced he likes all gardening tasks that do not call for bending.
Nevertheless I persist. One day they will be glad to know how to turn a seed into a meal. One day, they might even enjoy it.
Mint pesto lamb chops
Prep: 20 minutes
Cook: 6 minutes per batch
1/3 cup sliced almonds
1 clove garlic
1/2 teaspoon coarse salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 cups fresh mint leaves
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
Zest of 1 lemon
1/3 cup olive oil (plus a little)
2 tablespoons crumbled feta cheese
8 single-cut lamb rib chops, about 1 pound
Scatter almonds in a small heavy skillet. Slide into a 350-degree oven and toast golden brown, about 8 minutes.
Split garlic the long way and pull out any green sprout (the "germ"). Measure salt and pepper into the food processor. With machine running, drop in garlic, buzzing to bits. Add mint, lemon juice and lemon zest. Pulse a few times. With machine running, drizzle in 1/3 cup olive oil, making a thick pesto. Add feta and toasted almonds. Pulse a few times.
Scoop out half the pesto; cover and chill. Smooth remaining pesto onto the chops, covering both sides.
Heat 2 teaspoons olive oil in a medium cast-iron skillet over medium heat. Working in batches, add chops and cook until crisp outside and just done inside, about 3 minutes per side. Serve with chilled pesto.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune Newspapers special contributor. Email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.