Sunday, October 18, 2009

mixed harvest

Late blight (potato blight) hit the tomatoes bad this year, as it did all around the region, thanks to our local big box stores which buy tomato plants from the south, and the people who bought their plants from them, and then the virus spread through the air. My tomatoes were started from seed, and only caught the virus late in the season, unlike some friends out in Trumansburg and Lodi who lost pretty much everything. I was able to salvage parts of a lot of the bigger tomatoes. The damaged parts had to be cut out, and the rest could be used. The smallest cherry tomatoes did the best – Ildis and Jelly Beans. Also the Principe Borghese showed very little damage and had a good crop. Usually I use them mostly for the tomato preserves and dried tomatoes, but this year they pinched-hit for all fresh uses along with the little cherries. One Rutgers plant survived surprisingly well – at least it was Rutgers according to my records, but the fruits were on the small side, a little bigger and rounder than the Principe. I should save some seeds from that plant! We've still been covering it up at night along with a few other things since frost has threatened at night. So still been eating some tomatoes about every day; just have a lot fewer jars on the shelves. Tomatillos did not seem affected so do have a lot of salsa verde. More to make tonight.

Have a great crop of kale and collards this year, thanks to early planting for a change. So I've had it all summer, but now I really am appreciating them, as there's little else. The dinosaur or Tuscan kale is most susceptible to the cold, so I'm cooking, eating, and freezing a lot of that now before frost gets really hard. It's always surprising to pick a few lower leaves from each plant, and then strip the skinny leaves from the stem and slice them and there is actually a big pot of greens. These don't cook down to a tiny volume like spinach, but hold their texture, and consequently put up with more cooking.

The serviceberry tree is entering is entering its glory time.

Monday, September 7, 2009

Labor Day feast

UntitleInspired by having company, we did a barbecue for Sunday of Labor Day weekend. The meat was simple; the vegetables were almost all from the garden. Western-style pork ribs marinated in Stubbs' barbecue sauce. A couple chuck-eye steaks. The queen of the barbecue: sweet corn. We don't have the room to grow it, so we've gotten a few bushels over the past few weeks which we barbecue and freeze. First the ears are soaked in a bucket for an hour or more, then barbecued in the husks. They don't need much cooking but even if they get singed, that only accentuates the flavor in the kernels nearby. Cut off the kernels and freeze in bags. Cole slaw – thinly sliced cabbage, sweet onions, and grated carrots lightly dressed with olive oil and cider vinegar, and sprinkled with a few chunks of apple, raisins, and roasted sunflower seeds. Potato salad with hard-boiled eggs, yogurt, and basil. Broccoli-tomato salad: Sauteed the broccoli lightly with garlic. Added tamari and balsamic vinegar, and then chunks of tomatoes. Added sliced olives and goat cheese. We grew the tomatoes, cabbage, potatoes, broccoli, onions, garlic and basil. I gave up growing carrots. I can't grow everything well.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

rhubarb pie

It's Fourth of July so will do something traditional - rhubarb pie! This time I'll put in some serviceberries since they were abundant this year and last. Although I was eating them fresh last week, we still had some in the freezer from last year when Steve put a tarp down and shook the tree. I've been laboriously separating stems from berries, so just a few will go in. They do make it extra special - a few red gems thrown in!

The serviceberry, by the way, is a wonderful landscape tree. Native to eastern North America, it's covered with delicate white blossoms late April or early May. The berries are delicious and very popular with the birds and squirrels. In the fall it's astounding as the leaves turn from red and purple to burnt orange.

Whatever fruit is available for a pie, I fall back on the same basic recipe. The pie crust recipe comes from Craig Claiborne's The New York Times Cookbook and the filling part is based on the fruit pie recipe in Let's Cook it Right by Adelle Davis.

Pie crust:
Stir together: 2 cups flour and 1 tsp salt
Add: 2/3 cup shortening
Mix until lumps are no bigger than little peas.
Sprinkle in ice water (about 1/3 cup but it depends) and mix until it stays together. I start mixing with forks and end up with my hands making balls.
Form two balls - one bigger than the other, and cover and put them in the refrigerator for an hour or more. It makes it easier to roll out.

This next step is probably not necessary but it prevents a soggy crust.
Preheat oven to 425°. Roll out the bigger ball for the bottom crust and put it in a 9" pie pan. Flute the edges. Pierce with a fork intermittently over the surface for air to escape. Place a smaller pan like a cakepan on top to keep the crust from rising. Cover with foil and put in the oven for 8 minutes. Remove cakepan and foil and bake for another two minutes. Take it out of the oven.

Fruit pie:
Preheat oven to 375°
4 cups fruit - cut up
1/2 to 1 cup sugar depending on sweetness of fruit
3 to 4 Tbsp whole wheat pastry flour depending on wetness of fruit
dash of salt
Mix together and add to pie crust. Roll out top crust and cut into long strips and lay them criss-cross on top.
Bake for about 40 minutes til it looks done.

For the rhubarb I used the full cup of sugar. Sometimes I make pies with fruit I had previously canned, like peaches and plums, and they already had sugar so then I just 1/4 cup sugar to the pie.

Monday, June 29, 2009

early summer eats

As usual, the night's menu revolves around what is fresh in the garden. Lately there's a lot of peas: sweet peas and snap peas. The snap peas are tempting for a crunch right off the vine, but cooking them every so slightly really brings out the sweetness. I generally put just a little oil on the fry pan and get it good and hot; sauté the snap peas briefly, sometimes with minced garlic, and then toss on soy sauce. They're good in a salad, and of course in a stir-fry with other things over rice.

I remember clearly the first time I tasted fresh sweet peas out of the pod. I was in junior high and ironically my classmate from Manhattan shared some on our end-of-the-year school outing taking the boat around the island. I was skeptical at first as the cooked peas my mother served were only surpassed in vileness by the cooked spinach. But these were a totally different thing, and the beginning of an awakening to fresh vegetables.

The sweet peas go well into a spring tabouli. I don't even cook the little ones but mix them into the still-warm bulghur. The basic recipe I borrow from The New Moosewood Cookbook, but then I vary the vegetables.
1 cup bulghur
1 ½ cups boiling water
1 tsp salt
black pepper, to taste
¼ cup lemon juice
¼ cup olive oil
2 cloves garlic, crushed
Add the boiling water to the bulghur and cover and let sit 30 minutes or more. Mix in the other ingredients above. Then the recipe says to refrigerate before adding the vegetables, but that might be a more essential step when tomatoes and cucumbers are to be added. This time of year, I don't necessarily refrigerate at this stage, but toss in the peas, and some parsley and maybe mint. Dill, why not? Whatever I got that seems suitable. A few chickpeas are nice. Green onions, yes!!

Tonight are a lot of collard greens. Torn from the stems and cut into ribbons; add them to the garlic saut̩, and then liquid Рthis time broth from the hambone that had been secreted in the freezer for months. Some are added to tonight's black bean soup; and the rest saved for another day in the freezer.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

White clover is blooming in the lawn and even my mother noticed how beautiful it was on this rainy day, which otherwise she considered a miserable day since it rained all day. She remembered how she picked the clover for her mother when she was a little girl. I told her I love the rain. I got out a lot of the dusty house plants; the philodendron and ivy, spider plant, begonia and peace lilies; and spread them out on the patio in the light rain. Walked around the garden, knowing I didn't have to do any planting or even bother weeding today. Wait til the rain stops. Time to admire how lush the plants look in the rain. Picked the swelling peas and a bulb of fresh garlic.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

veggie burgers

More than ever I'm working on using things up and cooking more efficiently – minimal waste of food and ultimately effort. My mom's penchant for having the refrigerator fairly empty so that she can see everything, is finally rubbing off on me. It's a challenge to please my mother, my daughter, Steve, and myself. Rachel is a vegetarian. Mom and Steve and convicted carnivores. I'm somewhere between, preferring meat as a condiment rather than a main course.
I've pretty much mastered burritos. Now I'm working on veggie burgers. Steve and my mom prefer the real thing. I like the real thing only if it's barbecued. I've tried a few veggie burger recipes – like the lentil walnut burger from The Moosewood Cookbook. When they came out with The New Moosewood Cookbook, I noticed that the lentil burger recipe had changed! I liked the original but the new one is good too. Recently I wanted to incorporate tofu in a veggie burger so searched online for such a recipe and the mushroom tofu veggie burger from the Harvard School of Public Health recipe looked pretty good, so I used it with modifications. The nuts should be finely ground so that they hold together better.
Now that I have an idea now of the various possible ingredients, I figure I can improvise and throw various things together in a rough balance of ideas of taste and the right consistency (and what is on hand!). In my first attempt I started with some tofu, which I had previously shredded and marinated and sauteed. Added cooked lentils and bulghur, finely chopped walnuts, and a couple eggs. Threw in a little hot sacue and of course salt and pepper. At the end added a bit of cornmeal as it seemed a bit wet.
Forgot the mushrooms! Rachel just put them on top. Buen idee!
A few nights a week there's more greens to cook up, since the salads can't keep up with the quantity. Last night cooked up lambsquarters, swiss chard, and spinach: LSS. I try to label the greens accordingly when I put little containers in the freezer, so that I can remember whether they were DGM (dandelion garlic mustard) or BGM (bacon garlic mustard), for instance.

Saturday, May 23, 2009


A beginning gardener is an impatient one. A mature gardener is a composter. The rich soil in the beds, built up over the years from compost, can be seen now where the dill is volunteering heavily. In the beds it grows dark green and tall, but between the beds where the soil is shallower and scraped away, the dill is lighter in color and shorter. It's harder to pull out of the ground in the paths too since it is so packed, not lofty as in the beds.

Friday, May 22, 2009

salad days

I must hard-boil some more eggs tonight for Steve's salads. This has been a great year for salads already. Spinach, swiss chard, and radicchio overwintered under the leaves. As the last summer's spinach is practically gone, now the spinach seeded in March is coming on strong with big fat dark geen leaves. One of the best spinach crops I've ever had.

Lately been eating a lot of violet leaves (I forgot to pick the flowers when they were good); there's some young lettuce thinnings to add to the mix. The lambsquarters are just starting to be big enough to bother picking and adding to the salads.

When I see garlic mustard in the yard, that goes into the mix too. I try to pull it out every year, but there's always some that still pops up here and there. I'm surprised not to have heard from Betsy Darlington this year about garlic mustard pulls in the woods.