bella terra: long overdue

My goodness.  I have really been slacking on the bella terra posts.  And its a shame, really, because things are progressing beautifully in our little garden.  And now, looking at all of the pictures I’ve uploaded I feel a bit overwhelmed because there are so many things to tell you all about.

snaps 1

Such as how strawberries make a lovely addition to a simple salad, especially when you drizzle poppyseed dressing over the top. And how sugar snap peas are a fine enhancement for that same salad with their delightful crunch and sweet flavor.  Oh, and that lettuce and spinach?  Fresh from our garden as well.  All the rain we’ve had this year has kept our lettuces very happy, we didn’t have nearly the bounty in 2008 as we’ve had this summer.

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And I can’t forget to mention that a strawberry rhubarb syrup is delicious spooned over a lemon bundt cake, a recipe I’ll share with you as soon as I can weed through the gazillion other drafts waiting (im)patiently in my drafts folder.

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And what about the blackberries?  They’ve multiplied exponentially this year, completely taking over the southern edge of the garden and providing respite from the afternoon sun for the tender herbs, onions and lettuces in their shadow.

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Even as I write this post, these pictures I am about to share with you are already inaccurate.  For now, the blackberries have started to turn a rosy red.  In just a few weeks they will morph into plump purple berries the size of my thumb and provide endless possibilities for jams, pies and ice creams.  I can’t wait.  I really can’t.

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But the sugar snaps, they are our greatest accomplishment yet this season.  In years past we’ve started the seeds to0 late, so that just as the plants are starting to produce the heat zaps them and they crumple to the ground, leaving us with just enough peas to munch on in the garden but never enough to make it back to the kitchen.  This year though, we’ve got more peas than we know what to do with.  Each day I am bringing a bowl-full inside after popping half a dozen into my mouth while picking.  They are delicious in salads and added last-minute to a stir-fry.  The less you cook them the better – you don’t want them to lose their wonderful crunch.

snaps merge 1

My latest use for sugar snaps comes from the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit.  The peas added a nice sweetness to a salad that threatened to be overwhelming with its spicy radishes, red onions and caesar dressing.  I loved the textures as well – the crunchy sugar snaps and radishes were a nice compliment for the softer potatoes.  Its a nice addition to any picnic or cook-out, and if you make it just for you there will be plenty for lunch all week long.

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I decided to make this salad the day before we were to join some friends for dinner, thinking that potato salad is always more delicious after having sat overnight in the fridge.  And it was delicious the second day, although no more so than the first, and certainly less beautiful.  The vibrant colors you see below were captured just after the salad was assembled, with the potatoes still slightly warm.  The next day all of the colors mellowed and meshed together, leaving a not-nearly-as-nice presentation.  I won’t make the mistake again.

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Caesar Potato Salad with Sugar Snap Peas

from Bon Appetit, June 2009


  • 1-1/2 lbs unpeeled assorted baby potatoes, cut cross-wise into 1/2 inch slices
  • 8oz trimmed sugar snap peas
  • 1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan


  1. Steam potatoes on steamer rack set in large pot until almost tender, about 10 minutes.  Add sugar snap peas and steam until crisp-tender, about 1 minute.  Transfer veggies to a large bowl, cool slightly, then add radishes and onion.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic clove and dijon mustard together in a small bowl until well blended.  Whisk in parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add dressing to potato mixture and toss to coat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

25 responses to “bella terra: long overdue

  1. Andrea-

    I am SO impressed by your garden! Wow!! I am loving my two little herb pots on my balcony. I can’t imagine growing so much of your own food.

    If you still have sugar snaps, you should try Smitten Kitchen’s picking recipe. I made some yesterday and tried one out today and oh man they are good. I’m going to post about them in the next few days but here is the recipe.

    Love all the potato colors too. So beautiful 🙂

  2. i love how colorful that salad is! I wish we were growing berries, but we didn’t this year.

    All that rain we’ve had in this corner of VA made our peas grow like crazy though! We ate our first batch last night and they were so plump and sweet 🙂

  3. Wow, what a lovely garden! All that produce looks delicious. The salad looks so beautiful, too. It’s so colorful and fresh 😀

  4. What a lovely garden you have! So colorful and full of delicious fruits and veggies. Yum.

  5. Stunning photos of your garden! The strawberries are so vibrant. I’m looking forward to blackberry recipes… 😉

  6. Do you find blackberries hard to grow? I know stawberries are fairly easy and blueberries fairly hard…how are blackberries?

  7. Whitney : Thank you! I’ll try the pickling recipe with the bowl-full currently in my fridge. 🙂 How big is your balcony? Can you get a couple of vining tomato plants or some bell peppers? The both do well in pots…

    Brandi : I LOVE the peas this year! So delicious! 🙂

    Anne, Shelby, Jen : Thank you!!!

    Alison : I find blackberries INCREDIBLY easy to grow! This plant was literally just a stick two years ago when it went into the ground, and you see how big it has grown! We do nothing to it but cut back the branches that fruited in the fall and train the new growth in the spring before the leaves pop. Blueberries ARE tricky, we planted a little bush 4 years ago and I swear it hasn’t grown an inch! We do get about 30 berries off of it each summer though. 🙂

  8. I love your garden! Do you compost? I want to start doing that – I just need some ideas as to how to get started.

  9. yummysmells

    I wish I could find such a variety of potatoes for my table – we only really have Yukon Gold, White, Red and Russets around us. Mini potatoes are even harder to find! I love the idea of radishes and sugar peas in potato salad too – and no hardboiled eggs!

  10. Wonderful post Andrea. We tried our hand at gardening several years in a row, only to have the bunnies and deer eat us up!

    This year we joined a CSA – can’t wait to see what I get, but have to wait until July 12 for my first box!

  11. traveleatlove

    All of your photos are SO beautiful! I am loving my balcony garden this year. We just need some sunshine now!

  12. Gorgeous pictures. I really can’t wait until I have a yard (or at least a sunnier balcony) and can grow some of my own food.

    Sugar snap peas are one of my favorite vegetables, too.

  13. smallchangesaddup

    Those strawberries like AMAZING! I can’t wait until I have my own garden and can plant my little heart out 🙂

  14. I love the idea of a caesar potato salad- yum! those purple potatoes are so pretty 🙂

  15. GORGEOUS PICTURES! woww, i’m jealous of your cute little garden

  16. I just ate and stumbled on this..I love fresh salads..I will have to get some steaming done soon! Very impressive..

  17. Thanks everybody!!!

    lynetteess: Thank you! Yes, we do compost. We have a small stainless steel bucket with a well-sealing lid that we keep in the kitchen for scraps, and take it out to empty it in a tumbling compost bin in our garden. I should do a post sometime… Good luck!

  18. oh wow! everything looks so fresh and delicious! nothing beats garden-fresh ingredients! yum!

  19. TasteStopping

    We, too, are having great luck with our lettuces this years, thanks in part to starting earlier, having more rain, and fencing the whole area off, so the bunnies don’t come calling on the all-night snack bar! Your salad looks beautiful.

    I found you on TasteSpotting and am writing to say that if you have any photos that aren’t accepted there, I’d love to publish them. Visit my new site (below), it’s a lot of fun! I hope you will consider it.


  20. Just gorgeous; I’m insanely-jealous of your garden, as ours is bathed in shade and not the ideal for many vegetables. Your strawberries are perfect and your blackberries show such promise!

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  22. Ceaser salad with pototoes. . . so creative! I never would have thought of it, but I know that this is going to be a keeper in my recipe files. Thank you for sharing and for such gorgeous photos of your garden and your fresh, colorful veggies!

  23. Pingback: bella terra: bridging the gap « bella eats

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