The Wise Guy in the Back Yard

Paulie Walnuts died this week, along with Tony Sirico, who played him. Paulie was one of Tony Soprano’s wise guys: a psycho, a dedicated, kind uncle who also happened to kill more people – nine – than any other character during The Soprano’s six-year run. Charming, vain, not too bright. Vicious, in an endearing sort of way.

Kind of like my vegetable garden. I go out there every morning expecting leafy lettuce, succulent peas, budding tomato plants. And some days, that’s what I get. Other days, it’s bolting arugula or petrified radishes. What the hell happened to the radishes? They were tender and sweet last week. There’s baby carrots, and then there’s minuscule carrots. I have the latter. Overnight – seriously – the spinach has gone to seed. The green beans are too afraid to climb their nice bean poles. Maybe, like Paulie and Tony Soprano, they need a therapist.

Unfortunately, the garden and I are co-dependent. I water him, and he feeds me, or something approximately like that. I go out there with the colander and bring back what I can find, because dammit, you gotta eat something.

So tonight, that bolting arugula has lost its head. I cut off all the flowers, hoping to encourage lusher, lower growth. The flowers came back with me in the colander.

They will become arugula flower pesto, with pistachios, olive oil, fresh garlic I was smart enough to buy at the farmer’s market, and some Pecorino Romano. Big sloppy spoons of the pesto is going on some Bristol Bay sockeye salmon. And to cook it, I’ll steam some fat lacinato kale leaves … a garden success story … and wrap each pesto-napped fillet in a leaf, brush with more of that olive oil, and bake for just a few minutes. Alongside, we’ll have some red and purple roasted potatoes.

As our therapist might ask us, “How does that make you feel, Bolted Arugula?”