Plant. Water. Eat. Repeat. – Adventures in Urban Gardening & a Recipe Featuring Tomatoes

by Kelly on August 4, 2010

Outdoor space.  It was high on my list desired apartment features, right next to the kitchen of my dreams.  I fantasized about outdoor entertaining and a spot to read a book on a cool summer night.  But mostly, I thought about gardening.  I’m not sure where this passion comes from.  Maybe it all stems back to a particularly successful tomato plant I had one summer as a kid or my tendency to over-romanticize things.  Whatever the origin, I adore urban gardening.
Tomato Plants
Since I last posted about my tomatoes in early June it’s been a gardening adventure of ups and downs.  I’ve been contending with dry, hot weather, insane rainstorms, and blossom end rot.  There’s nothing like growing your own food to realize all the hard work that goes into a perfectly ripe tomato at the farmers’ market or a grocery store.  A bountiful yield is never guaranteed.  Nothing is predictable.  Yet, for all the uncertainty and labor it’s been worth it.  Watching the plants develop from day to day and week to week has been fascinating.
Some people say dogs look like their owners, but I say my tomato plants look like me, at least when I am wearing my hair curly.  Vines are growing tangled and unruly, branching out every which way.
tomato plants2
But as long as they keep yielding sweet fruit I could care less what they look like.  And so far the yield has been satisfying, at least by my terms.  I’ve started weighing all the tomatoes I pick so at the end of the summer I can try to calculate whether I’ve saved money by growing them myself.  So far I’ve gotten a little over 2 pounds, plus a few handfuls I picked before my official calculations.  Not bad.
I’ve been enjoying the tomatoes freshly sliced with Italian Burrata, basil, a little sea salt and a generous drizzle of aged Balsamic.
And Phyllo Pizza with Goat Cheese, Basil, and Sun Gold Tomatoes, which I discovered via Elina at Healthy and Sane who made the recipe from Cooking Light.
A mixture of fresh goat cheese, Parmesan, mozzarella and dried herbs are sandwiched between layers of delicately thin phyllo.  The entire stack is topped with a thin layer of tomatoes, more cheese, and green onions.  It’s baked until golden and then given a generous sprinkle of sweet basil.

It’s such a perfect balance of fresh and decadent, sweet and savory, that it will have you convinced that going meatless isn’t just for Mondays.  Pair it with a fresh salad for a unique main course, or serve it as an appetizer that is perfect for pleasing both vegetarians and omnis.  Best of all, it seems like a method that invites infinite possibilities.  I’m thinking it would be equally delicious with a bit of homemade pesto between the layers.  Paper thin zucchini or mushrooms would also be fantastic as toppers.  I recommend making this with perfectly ripe tomatoes for the best results.

Phyllo Pizza with Goat Cheese, Basil, and Sun Gold Tomatoes
Serves 6

-1/2 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella
-1/2 cup finely crumbled chevre
-1/4 cup grated fresh Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
-1/2 teaspoon Italian Seasoning
-1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
-10 (18 x 14–inch) sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed
-Cooking spray
-2 cups thinly sliced Sun Gold or cherry tomatoes
-1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
-1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, chopped
-Aged balsamic vinegar, if desired, for drizzling


Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Combine first 6 ingredients in a bowl.

Cut phyllo sheets in half crosswise. Working with 1 phyllo sheet half at a time (cover remaining dough to keep from drying), place phyllo sheet on a baking sheet coated with cooking spray. Coat phyllo sheet with cooking spray. Repeat with 2 more layers of phyllo. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cheese mixture. Repeat layers 5 times, ending with 2 phyllo sheets. Coat top phyllo sheet with cooking spray; sprinkle with 2 tablespoons cheese mixture. Pat tomato slices with a paper towel. Arrange tomato slices on top of cheese, leaving a 1-inch border. Sprinkle with onions and the remaining 6 tablespoons cheese mixture. Bake for 20 minutes or until golden. Sprinkle with basil leaves.

For those of you who are also urban gardeners, what are you going and what is your greatest success story so far?

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Elina August 4, 2010 at 8:15 am

Thanks for the shout out 🙂 Your tomatoes look gorgeous – well done! 😀
And that pizza is definitely a winner. I find that working with phyllo is not easy but the results sure are amazing. I’m tempted to use the leftover dough in the same exact way – it’s too tasty not to 😉


Kelly August 4, 2010 at 1:48 pm

Elina – You are very welcome. Thank you for turning me on to the recipe. I’m wondering if the brand if Phyllo or the temperture makes a difference. I used the Fillo Factory’s dough and defrosted it for a couple of days in the refrigerator. I removed the sheets I needed and kept them damp under a wet towel and found I had the easiest time ever with the dough. Not sure what made a difference but it was definitely easy!

Brandi – Sorry to hear about that. I honestly thought I was doing terribly until I started weighing out the tomatoes and seeing how many I really got. I think I lucked out because my back porch is very sunny. There is also an overhang available so if it gets TOO rainy I move the plants underneath it. That said, I thought they were goners because recently when we had a rain storm there was probably about 2 inches of water sitting atop the soil in each planter. That’s what I get for not drilling holes in the bottom. Next year. I was out there with a turkey baster sucking out all the excess water.


brandi August 4, 2010 at 8:44 am

Wow, you’re having much better luck with tomatoes than we are! I live in a rural area, but we probably have one of the smallest gardens around 🙂 Most of our yard is one big hill, so we only have one semi-flat spot to plant. But our tomatoes aren’t doing very well this year – it’s been too hot and we haven’t had enough rain. We have a bunch of tomatoes that are green, so I just hope they start turning soon!


The Duo Dishes August 4, 2010 at 3:58 pm

This is so rewarding. If only we had more room really grow the gardens we’d like to have. Lucky you! And your phyllo pizza is just the way to use them up!


Kelly August 5, 2010 at 11:59 am

Duo Dishes – Trust me, I’m very appreciative of my outdoor space. I didn’t have any in Boston, so now I am all about maximizing it.


UrMomCooks August 5, 2010 at 1:18 pm

Congrats on your success with tomatoes! I have never been happy with my results… So I find myself hunting them down at farmers markets because they are a must-have this time of year! The recipe looks lovely! Thanx!


Kelly August 5, 2010 at 1:57 pm

UrMomCooks – Thank you. I’d like to claim it was some kind of gardening proweress, but like most things I do I’m kind of making it up as I go along. That said, my herbs look absolutely terrible. So funny since they are supposed to be foolproof. :-/


Cara August 5, 2010 at 9:44 pm

oh boy – if I added up all the money we spent on supplies to build just 2 small raised beds and the soil to fill them, nevermind the plants we bought, we’d no doubt be a failing business! I did have one good tomato to eat today though. glad your plants are doing well 🙂


Hannah August 9, 2010 at 5:15 pm

Oh, such beautiful tomatoes! Any day now, mine should be ripening… Thanks for the inspiration, I’m already brimming with ideas on how to use them all!


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