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Maximizing garden bounty

Boonsboro woman chooses quick meals with fresh ingredients

Boonsboro woman chooses quick meals with fresh ingredients

May 06, 2007|By TIFFANY ARNOLD

BOONSBORO - For the Harnes, garden-fresh gourmet can happen in less than an hour.

"We grow oregano, basil, parsley, mint, rosemary, dill - I just maximize whatever's in the garden," said Ann Harne, 66.

She and her husband, Harold, live just north of Boonsboro. They've devoted about one-eighth of their 2-acre backyard to gardening.

The best of the Harnes' garden bounty comes in the summer, when Ann Harne likes to make her Shrimp and Fresh Basil pasta, which incorporates the fresh tomatoes and herbs grown in the garden. The dish is made with angel hair pasta, Roma tomatoes and fresh basil, with sherry cooking wine (or sherry vinegar, if you prefer), extra-virgin olive oil for flavor and shrimp for the meat.

For presentation, she'll add a few sprigs of basil and a couple of cherry tomatoes for garnish.

The meal goes well with salad and crusty bread, Ann Harne said. For beverages, the Harnes - both nondrinkers - go for iced tea and lemonade. But Harne said a nice white wine could work just as well.

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Other pluses for this summertime meal: Its ingredients are inexpensive, it generously serves six, and it takes less than an hour to prepare.

Harne, a real estate agent, said she is busy, but she likes to have friends and family over for dinner. To cut cooking time without compromising the taste, she uses precooked, frozen shrimp.

If time weren't a factor, "I would have been a Martha Stewart, cooking and baking all day, but after a long day - 30-minute meals," Harne said.

Q&A with Ann Harne

Q: So, what kinds of things do you like to cook?

A: The traditional stuff. The roast turkey and stuffing and that whole bit. There isn't anything I wouldn't want to fix. ... My husband and I always say we'd like the challenge of having houseguests over, something impromptu and having to whip up dinner.

Q: Is there anything that poses a challenge for you in the kitchen?

A: Sometimes, new cookie recipes. They look one way in the kitchen, but then it often takes you a couple of tries before you get them how you want them. And yeast breads. I really don't have the time, though they smell heavenly.

Q: So, say you're not doing the cooking. What is your favorite thing to eat?

A: Seafood. Any kind of seafood.

Q: So you would do sushi?

A: Oh no. No sushi. Absolutely nothing raw. Ethnic stuff is not my thing.

Q: So what would you say is the most exotic thing you've ever eaten?

A: Just about any kind of game you could imagine. My husband used to do a lot of hunting.

Q: You mentioned earlier that you've been cooking since you were 7. What kinds of things were you cooking then?

A: One of the first things I was doing - we grew up on a farm, remember - peeling potatoes, chopping vegetables for soups. We did a lot of soups. I did a lot of baking at a young age, too. There, too, in the summertime (we ate) anything that was in the garden. My dad was a real meat-and-potatoes kind of guy, so it was always meat, potatoes and some kind of vegetable and dessert - always had to have dessert.

Now, my grandkids get disappointed when we don't have dessert. (Harne does not make dessert often.)

Q: What are some other things you used to cook?

A: We had a wood stove, and the top of it was cast iron. We'd put potato slices on it, and it was kind of like a potato chip ... we called them potato cakes.

Shrimp and Fresh Basil Pasta

2 pounds fresh plum (Roma) tomatoes, peeled, seeded and coarsely chopped

1 cup fresh basil leaves, coarsely chopped

1 (3 1/4 ounce) jar of capers, drained and rinsed (optional)

3 tablespoons sherry cooking wine or sherry vinegar

Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste

1 pound angel hair pasta

3/4 to 1 cup extra- virgin olive oil

1 1/2 pounds precooked shrimp

Combine tomatoes, basil and capers. Blend into the mixture the cooking wine, oil, salt and pepper. Let it sit at room temperature and set aside. Can be refrigerated until you're ready to add it to the pasta. You also can refrigerate the tomato-basil mixture overnight.

Bring about 2 quarts of salted water to a rapid boil in a large stock pot. Add pasta and cook 8 to 12 minutes. Drain well and return pasta to stockpot. Set temperature to low. Add the tomato mixture, tossing until well blended. Cover to keep warm.

Saut shrimp in olive oil until well heated. Gently add shrimp to the stockpot. Let stand for about 5 minutes.

Toss in a large serving dish and garnish with extra fresh basil leaves and tomato wedges or grape tomatoes.

Serves 6.

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