Tuesday, December 18, 2007

What to plant in December

So I have all this space in the garden and now it's too late in the year to plant anything. I don't know what to do.

I did just plant some shallots, but only 5 of them. That's all they had at the nursery. I planted them just under the surface of the soil at the edge of my garlic area. The nursery also didn't have cauliflower, and their spinach was pretty pathetic. I might as well grow them from seeds myself.

The plan now is to plant some more spinach (Loris really prefers it to chard), hopefully some more cauliflower, and maybe some peas. And radishes! Sorry Loris, but I really need something for my salads besides onion. And we're certainly overdosing on lettuce these days. Yum! But some of these things will have to wait until February.

And in the meantime, I have to get through Christmas.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Some cauliflower recipes

Cauliflower soup

1/2-1 onion
Butter and/or olive oil
1/2-1 onion
2-3 boiling potatoes
1/2-1 cauliflower, broken into florets
3-6 cloves of garlic
a handful of drained canned or cooked garbanzo beans
Mushroom broth (optional)

Chop the onion and the potato, peel the garlic (and cut any large cloves in half), and break the cauliflower into florets.

In a medium-large pot, heat the olive oil and/or melt the butter over medium heat. Add the onion and saute for a few minutes until it is soft and translucent (but not browned). Add the potatoes and garlic, stir for a minute, then add broth to cover. If you have some mushroom broth, add it too. Cook for 10-15 minutes. Add the cauliflower and garbanzo beans, and more broth to cover. Leave as is if you prefer a thicker soup, or add a bit more broth if you prefer a thinner soup. Simmer until all the vegetables are soft, then blend with a food processor or blender. Boil soup to make it thicker, or add broth to make it thinner (optional). Serve warm.

Cauliflower and turnip risotto

1/2 to 1 head cauliflower
5 turnips
1 cup arborio rice
1/2 to 1 onion
olive oil
wine (white would be best)
parmesan cheese
Peel the turnips and dice them. Boil them in the broth until they start to get tender, about 5 minutes. Remove them from the broth and set aside.
Chop up the cauliflower and add to the broth. Cook until tender, then lower heat to low, but keep warm.
Chop onion finely. In a medium-large pot, add olive oil and onion, turn heat to medium, and cook onion gently until it becomes translucent, but not browned.
Add the rice. Add more oil if necessary so the rice is coated in oil. Stir constantly so the rice does not stick and burn. After a few minutes, the rice will start to make a sound like beads knocking together. At this point, add the wine (about /2 cup to 1 cup). Stir constantly but gently until the wine is absorbed.
Now start adding broth, about a ladle-full at a time. Stir the rice gently as the broth is dissolved. After a few ladles of broth, add some of the soft cauliflower as well. Try to mash the cauliflower as you add it.
Meanwhile, if desired, saute the turnips until slightly browned. After adding broth to the risotto for 15-20 minutes, begin to taste to see if the rice is done. When it is done, remove from heat, strain the remaining cauliflower from the broth, and add the cauliflower and turnips to the risotto. Serve with parmesan cheese.

December garden update

I haven't had much time for the garden recently. The weather and the rest of my life have been conspiring against me. It hasn't rained much, or actually it hasn't rained almost at all, but it has been windy and the wind can be bitterly cold. Especially during the few hours I ever have free, which are typically early in the morning or in the evening.

We have been eating broccoli and cauliflower lately. We still have peppers in the fridge, although some of them aren't in the best shape. The pepper plants are still in the garden, but they're very sad-looking. I really need to get them out along with the weeds that grew up around them. I'll have a huge space freed up as soon as I take care of that.

Recent meals we've had include a broccoli and cauliflower frittata, cauliflower and turnip risotto, pasta with broccoli and ricotta, and lots of roasted peppers. I'd like to try making some cauliflower soup pretty soon. Really, I need more ideas for cooking with broccoli and cauliflower. Which is funny, because I used to put broccoli in EVERYthing! Pizza, pasta, stir-frys, everything. And now I'm stumped for ideas. I did make a delicious creamy broccoli soup last year, I'll have to see if I can remember how I did that.

I just planted garlic, and I've been considering planting shallots as well. Especially since I have a decent amount of space available, and apparently they grow like the garlic does. I'll have to follow up on that if I end up planting them.

We have a lot of green lettuce, but the red lettuce isn't really big enough yet, nor is the chard or spinach. I'm looking forward to some chard and spinach, I've been craving greens in general lately. I don't know if that's because my stomach has been leading a minor revolt against fried and heavy foods. I can't tolerate that stuff at the moment, which is unfortunate, but it does encourage me to eat more healthfully. But I even had a reaction to the frittata.

Loris has been pointing out that we're not eating much of the food that I froze - mostly zucchini and peppers. I hate to point out that we still have fresh peppers to eat. I don't know if the frozen zucchini would do well in soup, but I don't see why not. I'll have to try experimenting with that sometime soon. We haven't eaten any of my canned dill pickles, either, I'll have to drag them out of storage. Ditto for the strawberry syrup, strawberry jam, and butternut squash jam.

Veggies still to come include leeks, carrots, and beets. I'm excited about all of these, because I've never tried growing beets or leeks before, and I haven't been terribly successful with carrots. It's certainly difficult to keep these veggies weeded. And I can't forget the cabbage. I think we only ended up with one cabbage last year, but it was delicious. This year, we should get 6 greens and 6 reds. I'm very excited about that!

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

pre-Thanksgiving update

It's Thanksgiving, and the garden is going well. I STILL have peppers! I probably could have kept the eggplant around longer, but I just wanted the space. We still have eggplant in the fridge in any case. And now it's finally getting cold, so the peppers won't last much longer.

The turnips are doing well. We should be ready to eat some of them really soon. One mistake I made was to not thin the first planting well. I tried to thin them recently, when the actual plant is pretty big, by moving the ones that haven't really formed bulbs yet, but they don't look great. Even if they recover, that was a royal pain. For my second planting, I've already thinned them, even though they barely have two sets of leaves. There's no point in having 5 beautiful plants that don't have space to form even one nice turnip.

The carrots seem to be doing well also. They grow so slowly that it's really hard to tell. The leeks seem fine as well. They are very difficult to weed, because they blend in with the grass sprouts. They are also planted behind some of the peppers, which I think are probably blocking out some of the sun. I really didn't expect the peppers to still be there at this point!

I just planted 32 garlic cloves, mostly big ones. I think they're from approximately 5 or so bulbs, so hopefully that will be enough variety. More notes on those later, when they actually start doing something!

The mixed lettuce I bought from the nursery is doing great, keeping us well supplied for our salads. It's really fantastic to have home-grown salads again, I'm loving it. I planted some red lettuce too, which hasn't quite recovered from being transplanted yet. I think next year I will try again to grow from seed, I'm learning a lot from growing the leeks, carrots, and turnips this year.

The cauliflower is really impressive - 7 out of 8 are producing, and 4 already have decent-sized heads. We're picking one for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow. Loris will bread and fry it and we'll serve it with lemon. He did the same for some fresh porcini mushrooms we found at the farmer's market. I know we're both looking forward to it.

The broccoli is starting to form little crowns. I suspect they'll be ready soon, which is great! I love broccoli. The cabbage is also starting to form little heads, but I think it'll be a while before we eat it. They can grow to be quite big. The chard and spinach is not growing too quickly yet. Unfortunately, the first spinach I planted is really being overshadowed by one of the red cabbages. Whoops.

I think there's a very good chance that the peppers will come out this weekend. I will probably plant turnips or beets in the spot by the leeks. In the larger spot, I might plant carrots and possibly peas. I had no luck with peas last year, but I have learned an awful lot since then.
In general, I've learned a lot about the importance of weeding. I think it's made a huge difference since last year. It does take a lot of time, but when I put in 20 minutes after work a few days a week, it's not such a big deal. My plants are all so much bigger and healthier than they were last year, and growing much faster.

I also have a different layout. Last year I did 6-7 rows, but it was hard to move around the garden, and hard to weed. This year, I have four large beds with three walking rows. It's not always easy to reach the middle of the beds, but I've created areas where it's ok to step into the beds, so it works pretty well. The automatic sprinkling system has so far adapted pretty well, especially b/c I bought some sprinklers that use a finer spray which is much better for seeds.

All in all, it's so far turning out to be a successful fall!

Friday, November 16, 2007

Liquore di basilico 2

My basil liquor is more or less finished. It's bottled anyway. We have around 4 1/2 bottles. We unfortunately spilled some when we were bottling it, but I guess you have to make sacrifices sometimes.

I boiled a LOT of sugar and water, and then let the syrup cool. After that, we combined everything into a large bowl and used a tiny funnel to bottle it (hence the spilling). Then my hunky husband pounded some corks into the bottles (b/c I wasn't able to do it), and now they're waiting a couple weeks.

Not that we didn't taste it first, of course. Delicious!

As an afterthought, though, it doesn't seem to be as green as I expected.

Monday, October 29, 2007

Remember the ketchup?

I'm not sure I ever wrote about the ketchup I made - the last post I can find is about the long process of actually making it. Which turned out not to be all that long after all. Although my directions said to boil for 6-7 hours, I found that it was sufficiently thick after only 2-3 hours. I think I made around 6-7 small jars, which is plenty since we don't eat all that much ketchup.

I don't know how to describe it except that it's delicious. After Loris constantly telling me how superior his parent's homemade ketchup is, I expected it to have a very different taste from standard, store-bought or fast-food ketchup. The strange thing is that it really didn't - it tasted like ketchup. But a lot better. It didn't have that overly sugary sweetness (Loris was surprised to hear that his parent's recipe had any sugar at all). This tasted of fresh tomatoes, the tang of vinegar, the sweetness of a sprinkling of sugar, and that distinctive flavor of cloves that gives ketchup its, well, ketchupy taste.

Giardiniera with friends

A few weeks ago, Candace and Beth came over to make giardiniera. It was quite a production, with 2 large pots and one small one on the stove, and an extra burner set up for boiling jars. We had three large canning pots going at one time, and ended up with 41 jars! I think they're pretty happy with what they accomplished.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Liquore di basilico

So after nagging my husband to get the recipe for liquore di basilico from his brother for weeks or probably months now, I finally looked up some recipes online. Most of them followed a similar format, although one was a bit different (it involved soaking the basil in the water rather than the liquor). Here's my take on the process so far.

The first thing I had to do was deal with the fact that you just can't get 95% grain alcohol in California. Actually, I was really grateful to find 75%, as I had heard that grain alcohol didn't exist at all here. So I did some calculations to try to take into account the dilution it already had. I used two 750 mL bottles of alcohol at 75%, which is 1500 mL, or about 1250 mL of actual alcohol. I poured it into our clear water pitcher (it's the only thing I could think of to use) and added 60 basil leaves. These immediately started turning black around the edges and getting black spots on them. Although the recipe said that the liquor would start turning green after a few hours, it didn't seem like it was happening, so I wasn't too happy.

The next morning was great, though, a lovely greenish color that's been getting more and more beautiful ever time. The leaves are really pretty black now, except a few, which are staying green for reasons that are beyond me.

The next step will be to make a simple syrup of sugar and water and use it to dilute the liquor, and then to filter out the basil leaves (or maybe vice versa), then stick this stuff in bottles and let it sit for a couple weeks. I'm hoping to have some ready for Thanksgiving. I'm very excited about this. Yay! I'll have to remember to post some photos.

October update on winter garden

My winter garden is finally shaping up. It's taking a lot more work than last year because I had my gigantic summer garden to get rid of first. It took me a whole day just to remove one zucchini plant and all the tomatoes. Now I've also removed the other zucchini, the butternut squash, dill, melon, and most of the basil. I'm drowning in basil, I have to make more pesto and freeze more so I can get the last of it out of the ground. Luckily we're still having warm days, so the peppers, eggplant, and basil are still doing ok, despite my laziness.

It's taken a lot of hard work to haul all that stuff out, turn the soil, and dig in compost. So far I've planted cauliflower, green cabbage, red cabbage, spinach, lettuce, broccoli, leeks, turnips, beets, carrots, and fennel. I still want to plant swiss chard and garlic, some more beets and turnips, and possibly fava beans and/or peas. I still have 1/4 to 1/3 of the garden available, although as usual it's going to be crowded. But I'm excited and looking forward to eating all of this come winter and spring. We've already have two salads with veggies from the garden - lettuce, the last of the zucchini, and peppers.

More updates to come when I get around to doing the hard work of clearing out the last sections.

Corsican cuisine in Davis

I just cooked my dinner of Corsican cuisine on Tuesday, and it turned out amazingly well. We started with some home-made giardiniera, not Corsican at all but I guess you can't be too picky.
The first course was soupe de poissons, of course, made with only two kinds of fish (butterfish and cod). I actually made it once already, with three kinds of fish, but I don't think it made much difference to have only two. I chop up the fish and toss it into a pot with potatoes, carrots, onions, LOTS of garlic, and herbs, boil it for a while, blend it, then pass it through a food mill. I think I'm doing something wrong, though, because it never gets very smooth, and in fact stay chunky enough that it doesn't pass through the food mill very easily. My main goal is to get the bones out, which isn't always successful.

I made rouille, which was more successful this time than the last as well. Last time, I tried crushing dried red pepper and mixing it in, but it didn't turn out that well ... some bites were spicy because they had a big piece of pepper, and others were bland, with no pepper. This time, I added a bit more garlic, whipped up some aoili, then added some saffron and powdered cayenne pepper. Perfect! And stuck it in the fridge overnight, which helped it thicken. It was the perfect color, taste, and consistency. I was a happy woman. Served with sliced and toasted bread and grated ementhal cheese, it was delicious in the soup. Two of my guests had second or third helpings and finished everything.

The next course was stuffed eggplant, which I hadn't tried before, and came out really well also. I used eggplants from my garden, which I sliced length-wise and boiled. I wasn't clear on the boiling time, and I'm still not sure I picked the right amount of time. It was tough to scoop out the flesh without breaking the skin, and I mangled a few of them. I soaked the inside of some white bread in milk while this was going on, and when I had my eggplant pulp in a bowl, I drained as much liquid as I could, then I added the drained bread, garlic, basil, eggs, butter, and cheese - tomme and parmigiano. Mashed this together, stuffed it back into the eggplant skin (even the mangled ones), then fried both sides in a skillet. That was a bit weird, but it turned out just fine, and gave the top of the stuffed side a nice, golden color and texture. In the meantime, I cooked up a tomato sauce with onion, garlic, and red chili pepper, which I put in the bottom of a baking dish, set the eggplants on top, and stuck it in the oven to stay warm until dinner. I would definitely make that recipe again, it's not as hard as it sounds.

Last we had a dessert, fiadone. It's basically a brocciu cheesecake, although of course you can't find brocciu here so I used ricotta instead. Mix that with eggs and sugar and lemon or orange zest (I used lemon juice), stick it in a pie or tort dish and bake. That's it, it's easy and really delicious.

The only thing we didn't think of was a nice rose wine to go with the dinner, but white did just as well, along with a moscato for dessert. I can't help smiling when I think of that meal.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Food at our Italian wedding

The food at our wedding celebration was wonderful. All of it was homemade by Loris' family and Bruno. I can't even count how many appetizers there were. Several different kinds of bruschetta, including one with tomatoes, one with gorgonzola and walnuts, one with a vegetable spread, and one with, rather unfortunately, foie gras. Also one with some type of cheese (I'm not sure what it was).

And a rather interesting watermelon apperitif.

Then a dish of sit-down antipasta, roasted peppers with tuna sauce, wild mushrooms, raw pepper salad, melon with prosciutto, several types of frittata, and bagnet. I'm sure I'm forgetting something.

This was all followed by pasta with leek sauce, then pasta with tomato sauce, and finally, wild boar with polenta. This is a photo of Bruno cooking the meat, the day before the wedding celebration.

Needless to say, that was the only meal we ate that day.


A few notes after eating a LOT of meat in Italy (and France).

I guess I'm no longer a vegetarian, as I've eaten a lot of meat since I've been here. And I think that's acceptable in some ways because I'm somewhat certain that the meat isn't industrial, and is probably pretty healthy. The more I read (and I read a lot), the more I realize that eliminating an entire category of food from my diet isn't necessarily the way to be healthier, or promote a healthier planet (read The Omnivore's Dilemma, among other things, to get an idea of what I mean). On the other hand, I still prefer a diet with more vegetables, and some days here I almost don't eat vegetables at all, which upsets my stomach and feels like a very heavy diet indeed. It's always amazing to me to see a culture which criticizes the US so much eat meat twice a day, every day of the week. Most of the meat that I've eaten here has been delicious, to the point where I'd consider adding it back to my diet. But then I run into this issue: should I buy Italian meat in California, so I know it came from a good meat-raising system? Or should I buy Californian meat, avoiding the preserving and shipping process, but potentially buying into the industrialized system? This is why I generally avoid meat when possible, especially in restaurants. After I learned that much of the meat in Corsica is not only industrialized, but actually imported(!), I feel like the only way to venture into such a situation is to do it myself. Although that's the general rule in life, right? If you want something done right, do it yourself.

Some generalizations on Italian food and drink

I don't really know where to start, since I've been eating Italian food for a few years now, and some of it isn't so exciting anymore. Also, I make a lot of it at home now, too.

Probably the best thing about Italy for me is the cheese. I mean, a lot of the other food is amazing, but it's reproducible at home. The cheese just isn't (and I've tried). Actually, we've had some luck locating acceptable substitutes for some of the Italian cheeses we eat when we're here, but they're always either difficult to obtain (i.e. from the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley, which is closed on Sundays, random holidays, etc.), or ridiculously expensive. After a while, it's possible again to eat the "creamy" gorgonzola in the US and not think about the really creamy gorgonzola we've left behind. And we usually bring some stracchino and parmesan with us to last a little while. But the variety of cheese that is all so fantastic and almost guaranteed to be delicious no matter which one you pick, that almost doesn't exist in the US, and certainly not in Davis. Loris thinks I should open a Cheeseboard Collective of my own, but then again, I also need to open a bakery, and a restaurant, and a deli, etc.

OK, on to other things. The meat here is generally pretty good, but as I don't usually eat meat in the US, it's hard to describe it, or compare it. Some of it is just too spicy for me. Although I ate it anyway. And speaking of spicy foods, I ate a dish of pasta with garlic and red pepper that I wasn't sure I'd survive. I was certainly proud of myself. I would like to develop an ability to eat spicy food, although I probably won't ever enjoy it, but just to get by when, for example, I'm a guest and have to eat what is put in front of me.

We haven't eaten a lot of vegetables here (see my post on vegetarianism), but of course the ones we eat are always delicious. We've had some roasted peppers, a ratatouille (at least, I think that's what it was), stuffed onions (with meat, of course), green beans, eggplant parmesan, and to be honest that's all I can remember. This vacation has been really low on vegetables, considering that theoretically, it should be the time of some serious harvesting.

We've been to dinner twice in the fort. The first time was for a fish dinner, which was pretty decent. We ate whole sardines (I think), which were not worth the time it took to remove the head, skin, and bones (and then keep fishing little annoying bones out of your mouth), two delicious fish steaks (one was salmon), and a variety of other seafood (calamari, etc.). And a dish of mussels, yum. The only vegetables that appeared here were some heavily battered and fried squash and eggplant. Which were good. But heavy. The other meal was a pasta dinner, where I ate the aforementioned spicy pasta and pasta with tomato sauce (which was, sketchily, the only veggie of the meal). This was preceded by a dish of meat. Spicy meat. In retrospect, that was probably the spiciest meal I've eaten in a long time. And the pasta was followed by a slice of apple that was, once again, heavily battered and fried. Another heavy meal. But good.

What else can I talk about? The delicious chocolate budino? The delicious goat milk ice cream we had at Manuela and Franco's? They also made us three pizzas, one with gorgonzola, one with olives and cheese (not sure if there was some sort of white sauce), and one with raw onions. They were all good, and served with real German beer from a mini-keg. It was quite possibly the best beer I've ever had, as the carbonation was different from typical beer carbonation - more like root beer, softer, less harsh, and taking a lot longer for the foam to go down. Once again, the meal started with meat, although I thoroughly enjoyed this meat. Speck from Valle d'Aosta, and some type of salami (NOT spicy). Yum. I'm not sure I've ever had speck before.

And that is my "brief" outline of the food in Italy on this trip. I'll add another post if I remember some other things.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

On preserving food

So the last two days before I left for Italy were filled with not only packing and cleaning but some major food preservation. I think I went nuts. Here is a list of everything I did:

1. Chopped and froze 4 large bags of zucchini
2. Chopped and froze 4 freezer bags of red and yellow peppers
3. Roasted, peeled, and froze one large tray of red and yellow peppers
4. Grilled two large jars of eggplant slices, preserved in oil and placed in fridge
5. Made two large containers of melon sorbet
6. Placed 10 butternut squash in the sun to dry out and preserve for winter
7. Canned 7 jars of tomato juice (yum!)

I'm looking forward to zucchini soup and risotto, peperonata, grilled eggplant, sorbet, and all kinds of winter squash recipes. Like toast with butternut squash jam and a glass of tomato juice on a cold winter morning (or a cup of herbal tea).

A brief note on my upcoming fall/winter garden

Just so I don't forget what I have in mind:

  1. Fava beans
  2. Broccoli
  3. Cabbage (green and red)
  4. Cauliflower
  5. Lettuce
  6. Carrots
  7. Beets
  8. Leeks (and onions?)
  9. Spinach/chard
  10. Turnips
  11. Fennel

What am I forgetting?

Sunday, September 9, 2007

Coriscan food

There's so much to write about since I've been in Italy, including many of the meals I've had here, but I'd like to use this post to describe the week I've just spent in Corsica before I forget too much of the wonderful food I ate there. As it is not a common destination for American tourists, traveling in Corsica meant a few things for me: 1) the food wasn't very Americanized , which was great (although it was probably still standardized to French or Italian cuisines more than was necessary); 2) I didn't hear very much English, and figuring out the menus was sometimes difficult; 3) much of the local food simply doesn't have an English translation, and the best I could do was to guess that something was "some type of Mediterranean fish (i.e.)". That being said, I spent a week eating some amazing things.

Most of the restaurants Loris and I dined at served various "tourist menus", meaning they had several fixed price menus consisting of several courses that were much cheaper than buying each course individually. While in some cases this could be a bit limiting, and also indicated that we may not necessarily be eating 100% authentically, it was great because we could afford to eat multi-course meals and by each taking different menus and then sharing, we could sample twice the variety of food. Most of the time, this worked out great for us.

One of my favorite first courses was the soup de poisson, a local dish of Southern France, but also of Corsica. It's a soup made with fish and vegetables and then pureed and served with toasted baguette slices, rouille, and sometimes Swiss cheese (gruyere). You spread the rouille (a sort of orange, spicy aoili) on the toasted bread, dunk it in the soup, and sprinkle cheese on top. It's delicious, but apparently difficult to make as you have to pass it through a food mill several times. I'm thinking I'll try making a big batch of it and freezing it. Or finally getting the pressure canner I've been wanting so I can can it.

Other memorable first course dishes were the salade de chevre chaud, which is, I think, more typical of France than Corsica, Bonifacienne eggplants (roasted and stuffed with some sort of brocciu cheese mixture - similar to ricotta), and stuffed zucchini (with a similar mixture, including what Loris thought was mint). In addition, we ate a lot of fish. The sole was in general a bit disappointing, I think we only had it once at the worst restaurant we ate at overall. I also got cannelloni with brocciu, and Loris got a sampler dish that included wild boar, cannelloni, lasagne, stuffed zucchini, and tripe. Good stuff!

Our last courses were always excellent. Corsican cheese is good stuff, especially the goat cheese, often served with fig jam. Delicious! Desserts included a sort of light chestnut cake, chocolate mousse, and a brocciu torte.

There's so much more to write about, including the food we've had in Italy, and my plans for my winter garden, that I must stop here. But thankfully, I bought a cookbook of Corsican cuisine, and I'm really looking forward to trying it, if I can find the necessary ingredients.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

It will be a late fall harvest this year

Poor, poor garden. It needs so much work, it's overrun with weeds, and I won't be able to take care of it for a month. Theoretically I should be planting my fall seeds in the next couple weeks, but I won't be here. Before I do that, I should be pulling out old plants, starting to turn the soil and add compost, and getting things ready for the fall, but I'm going to be a month too late. It's so sad =(

Today I think I picked the last of the green beans. We didn't have a bad harvest. I think we had around 12-15 plants in the end. Lessons for next year include planting them in easier to reach locations, such as in a row along a path, or around a block of other plants. Planting them in a big block made it really difficult to pick the ones in the middle. Also, picking them regularly in small amounts is much easier than spending 1-2 hours picking them in the hot sun.

The tomatoes are totally pulling their supports over. Lessons for next year include using more stakes, putting the stakes in deeper, planting the rows slightly farther apart, doing a better job of tying up the plants, and doing a MUCH better job of cutting off the suckers before the plants get out of control. And that goes double for the heirlooms, which are finally easing off, as well.

Next year I also want to do ONE green zucchini plant and one yellow one. And that's it. Also, just one pickling cucumber and no other ones. And maybe not a melon, either. I'll put the peppers closer together and maybe have more of them, and keep the eggplants all together, too. And maybe not so many. Certainly more purple ones and fewer white ones.

My garden is also invaded with bermuda grass. I'm terrified of having to get rid of it when I get back. I'm going to have to spend an entire day in the garden, and I really hope the weather will cool off. And it would be great to get some help, but I don't think that's going to happen. I'm looking forward to planting: beets, radishes, carrots, cauliflower, cabbage, spinach, chard, onion, garlic, and hopefully quite a few other winter veggies this year. It's going to be a LOT of hard work! Whew!

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Getting ready for vacation ... poor garden

My garden is not in such great shape these days. It's really overrun by weeds, and some of the plants desperately need to be cut back or removed.

I picked a bunch more peppers today, and an eggplant, some zucchini (it never stops), and tomatoes. There are actually still a few green beans, but I don't know if it's worth it to pick them.

The last two days we've done a great job of eating veggies, since we're trying to get rid of stuff before we leave for Italia. Two days ago we had another peperonata and a zucchini frittata. Last night we had an heirloom tomato appetizer with gorgonzola, onions, oil and vinegar, and ratatouille made with tomatoes, eggplant, zucchini, green beans, garlic, and parsley from the garden (and onions and potatoes not from the garden). It was really delish.

I think I might make roasted peppers for dinner tonight. I have to get started on bread for dinner, too, but we are actually having a hot day today (which I can't complain about considering the mild summer we've had), and I don't feel like turning on the oven. But as long as I'm turning it on for bread, I might as well roast me some peppers.

I also have to make and can some tomato juice, but as I've mentioned in previous posts, I'm a bit tired of canning. There's always tomorrow ...

Monday, August 20, 2007

Tomatoes, tomatoes and more tomatoes (and peppers!)

Just went to the garden after a weekend away, and I came away with a cloth bag 2/3 full of romas again. I counted my jars of sauce today - I think I have around 54 (they're not all pint jars, but a few are bigger and a few are smaller, so I think they balance each other out). I think that's enough tomato sauce for one year. Luckily, the last time I made sauce, after straining it through a T-shirt to try to get rid of excess water, I found that at a certain point it just wouldn't strain anymore and I ended up using a hand-held strainer to scoop out the tomato flesh and dump it into my anti-seed-and-skin machine. What I was left with looked like tomato juice, so, being the tireless kitchen taster that I am, I tried it. It tasted like tomato juice, too, except better and with a lot less salt. Yum! So that's what I'm going to do with the last of my tomatoes before I leave for Italy in something like 5 days.

A note on preserving basil. I have made TONS of pesto. More than we will ever use (well, maybe not). But anyway, I wanted to preserve some basil as just basil, and not a paste with olive oil, and salt, and garlic. So I looked up info online and in my various cook books and garden books and herb books (yes, I have books just about herbs), and consulted with my food-snob Italian husband, and decided to freeze it. I stripped the leaves from the stems, blanched them in boiling water for about 8-10 seconds, patted them as dry as possible, and packed them in a thin layer in a freezer bag and stuck them in the freezer. I haven't tried them yet (I still have way too much fresh basil), but it seems to have worked well. So today I'm doing a ton more basil, a bit of purple basil, and some parsley. I guess we'll see this winter.

And the peppers are coming! The peppers are coming! They're all turning beautiful shades of red, orange, and yellow, in spite of their burned spots. A few of them unfortunately rotted, but I am getting quite a few. Right before I leave, of course. I think we'll make peperonata today (still need to post that recipe), and at the end of the week I'll roast whatever's left and preserve them under oil or vinegar or something. I guess we'll see.

Our last two melons (out of five) came off the vine today. It's possible there are more I haven't noticed, but I'm not sure the melons were worth growing. They only cost 50 cents to a dollar to buy them, and they take up a lot of space in the garden. But they are really good. I'll have to think about it for next year.

A last note - I decided to check on one of my butternut squashes that is close to the sprinkler, to make sure it wasn't rotting from sitting in a wet spot. I lifted it up and twisted it a bit to check underneath and snap! Off it came. So it's my first experiment in curing winter squash. I think I'll stick it outside in the yard in the sunny end where the sprinklers don't reach, and see what happens in 5 days or so when I have to pick all the rest right before I leave. If I can say anything, it's that we won't starve this winter with all that tomato sauce and butternut squash!

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

I didn't go to the garden since last Thursday because of my friend Amy Lu's wedding, up in the mountains. Although I am aware of how many bags of veggies I bring home each week, it's still a bit of a shock to come home with one bag completely full of tomatoes and another bag completely full of other things. I hadn't really realized how fast the zucchini grow, until after three days without a trip to the garden I ended up with five huge zucchini. I'm definitely going to have to can or freeze some of this.

And I am completely full of tomatoes yet again. After canning 9 large jars of giardiniera yesterday, I'm getting sick of canning, but it's hard to turn down another 5-10 jars of homemade tomato sauce. This time I guess I can make big jars (since I'm completely out of pints), to use when we have guests or we're making melanzane alla pargmigiana.

Today I'm going to check out the butternut squash. I've read that it's ready to pick when you can't puncture the skin with a fingernail, and some of mine are certainly starting to look like they are at that stage. You then cure them at room temperature for 10-20 days, and then store them (although I must admit I don't have anywhere significantly colder to store them at the moment).

I'm going to Italy in just about 10 days, so that will be the perfect time to cure the butternut squash. But I haven't figured out how I'm going to get my garden cared for while I'm gone. Or my kitty!

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Musings on tomato sauce

I'm making more tomato sauce today, possibly the last big batch of the season. The last two batches produced, I think, around 28 or 29 jars, total. Unfortunately, they were pretty watery. I cooked the tomatoes and ran them through the "Sauce Master", but didn't do anything to try to thicken the sauce, so that's probably why I got so many jars. My friend Gianluca advised me to scoop out some of the water that the tomatoes release when cooking, which I did try, but it didn't help too much. So this time, before running the tomatoes through the sauce master, I'm straining them in a colander lined with a T-shirt. It works pretty well, but it takes a bit longer.

I watered the tomatoes yesterday (and accidentally left the water on - oops). Someone from the garden apparently turned it off and disconnected the hose, but the problem now is that I don't know when that happened, so I have no idea how much water they got. I'll have to keep an eye to see how fast the ground dries out.

We seem to finally be getting towards the end of the tomato season. It's been a strange season here, we had such a mild, early spring, I was able to get the plants in the ground really early. Which is why it's the beginning of August and I'm already finishing the tomato sauce season, and the beans are drying up. Then, after a REALLY short hot spell (instead of the usual two months), it's been unseasonably cool. I'm not complaining on my own behalf, but I don't know how happy the garden is.

Loris is making peperonata tonight, so I can post that recipe once I'm reminded how to do it. We are also making sauteed carrots with teleme jack cheese. You just slice up a bunch of carrots, chop up some garlic, saute the garlic in a bit of olive oil before adding the carrots and some salt, and then saute everything over medium heat until it sort of caramelizes. Eat each bite with a bit of teleme jack cheese (or stracchino/crescenza if you can find it).

Wednesday, August 8, 2007

More of everything and zucchini soup

I spent a good part of my morning in the garden, picking veggies, weeding, and generally checking on things. I picked green beans, sauce tomatoes, heirloom tomatoes, only one zucchini (woohoo!), an eggplant, a bunch of peppers (with burned spots), and parsley. And a ton of weeds. I have bermuda grass in the garden. That really sucks, especially because it's underneath a lot of my plants I don't want to disturb too much, and getting rid of it requires disturbing things, so I'd rather wait until I pull the plants out altogether. Which means I have to hope the grass doesn't take over the garden by then.

Bermuda grass is really evil stuff. It spreads everywhere. It's incredibly invasive, and difficult to get rid of without completely turning over the soil and digging out all the roots. I'm not looking forward to it.

I'm learning more and more about growing peppers. Since my plants aren't standing up, they are (of course) falling over. Which means sometimes a pepper or two is sitting in the water when the sprinklers have been on. Which means that sometimes they rot. Sorta the way some of the tomatoes do. So having a plan for next years' peppers is going to be crucial. Especially since buying peppers costs more than a mortgage for a house. Anywhere but Davis, that is.

So anyway, after spending a good part of the day making and canning more ketchup, for dinner tonight we had zucchini soup, based on Loris' family recipe (which, as all Degioanni family recipes, is rather loosely passed on). So here goes:

A bunch of zucchini (two large ones made a good pot of soup)
Some onion
2-3 potatoes
Olive oil

Chop up the zucchini into smallish chunks. Chop up the potato as well.

Chop the onion pretty finely. Put some olive oil into a decent sized pot and set it over medium heat. Add the onion, and stir-fry for several minutes until the onion starts browning and getting fragrant. Add the zucchini, potatoes, and enough broth to cover the veggies. Cover and let cook until the veggies are soft. Add the parsley (to taste) and salt (to taste). Blend. If you prefer a thinner soup than what you've got, add more broth. Adjust the seasonings (parsley and salt), and serve. That's it!

Friday, August 3, 2007

finally Friday!

I am finished with canning, at least for this week. After 13 jars of tomato sauce, 8 quarts of giardiniera, and 6 jars of ketchup, I'm done.

Giardiniera, btw, is an Italian pickled vegetable recipe. It's basically vegetables cut up into small chunks and cooked in a mix of crushed tomatoes, vinegar, oil, salt and sugar. It's heavenly. I could probably bribe a few of my friends to do just about anything if I promised them a jar of giardiniera. As it happens, I've been promising those same friends to teach them the recipe. Which means I won't have bribing capabilities anymore.

The garden was looking good yesterday. Some of the peppers are finally getting mature. They've been turning red on only the side that faces up, while staying green underneath. Some of them have now turned partially a color closer to brown. I'm not sure if that means they're done changing colors, or if it's a step between green and red. Overall, they're disappointingly small and most of them have spots of thin papery brown skin where I believe they have burned. I'll have to chalk it up to a learning experience. Except that buying peppers is so damn expensive.

The good news is that the tomatoes are still doing well. After my huge canning spree the other day, I have brought home two more baskets of tomatoes, and I just have to decide if I want to make more ketchup or just make sauce. I also keep bringing more heirlooms, but they finally seem to be slacking off, thank goodness.

I cut back one of my areas of basil about halfway, to see what will happen. I haven't been able to keep this section pinched back enough, so I was constantly fighting the basil in an attempt to keep it from flowering. So I finally decided to just cut it all back and turn it into pesto. I'm starting to get a bit tired of making pesto. We have plenty for ourselves at this point, and the garden just keeps producing basil. I've grown it in pots before, and it never grew much, so when I decided to put it in the garden I tried to make up for what I thought was slow growth by planting a lot. Now I'm drowning in it.

I'm probably almost not going to the garden today, I need a day off. Especially after I cut my finger open trying to cut peppers off the plant. I will probably be making the pretzel recipe from the Fresh Loaf website (see link to the right), which is an excellent recipe, but requires a lot of reading to figure out which version of the recipe to make. I do the easy version and dunk the bagels in a bath of 1tbsp. baking soda to 1 cup water, and it turns out really well. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Another busy day

We had our first slices of ambrosia melon last night. They were so good! I was worried because although the melon "slipped" off the vine, it didn't seem ripe and I thought maybe I had just been pulling too hard. But after a day or two on the counter, it got softer and developed a wonderful ripe smell. Whew.

I'm not too happy with the new mixer so far. I tried to make a really wet dough this morning, and it seems like the dough hook only mixed the top 1/4 of the dough. Underneath, the flour wasn't incorporating at all. I don't know if the bowl is too big for the recipe, the calibration of the machine is off so the hook doesn't go down far enough, or what. I had to scrape down the sides to the point that I was more or less mixing the dough by hand, then I switched to the paddle attachment just to get the dough mixed (since the dough was so wet that it was somewhat batter-like), then switched back to the hook to knead, although it still seemed like it was only moving around the top of the mixture, so I don't know how effective the kneading was. Really disappointing. I'll have to try some stiffer doughs before I see if there's really something wrong.

The ketchup yesterday turned out delish, btw! Thank goodness for that! And it cooked down in only 3-4 hours (which helps since it took so long to get rid of the peels and seeds).

For the rest of the day, I made tomato sauce and giardiniera. And that took forever. I got thirteen jars of tomato sauce (fourteen originally, but one broke while I was sterilizing it), and so far 4 large jars of giardiniera. I ran out of pint jars. And then I ran out of time. I was sweating so badly in the kitchen with the hot giardiniera, the boiling water from the canning bath, the oven from baking bread, and the heat outside. Whew! Doing all this stuff is hot sweaty work!

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Melanzane alla parmigiana

Those of you who asked for my eggplant parmesan recipe (or actually the recipe from Loris' mom), here you go:

Two large eggplants
1-2 eggs
Bread crumbs
Cooking oil
Plain tomato sauce (i.e. spaghetti sauce or pasta sauce)
A handful of basil
An onion
Olive oil
Parmesan cheese

Peel the eggplants and slice them thinly (1/4 inch thick). Place one layer in a colander, sprinkle with salt, and cover with a paper towel. Continue to layer them until they have all been salted. Let sit for 1/2 hour. In the meantime you can prepare the sauce if you wish.

For the sauce, chop up some onion (to taste). In a frying pan, saute the onion in olive oil for a few minutes. Add the tomato sauce (at least one jar, more if you like a lot of sauce), stir well, and let cook over low heat for a few minutes, adding a few pinches of salt to taste. Chop up the handful of basil and stir in. Voila! The sauce is ready.

Beat one egg in a small bowl, and mix in a few pinches of salt. Dip the eggplant in the beaten egg
and then dredge well in the bread crumbs, until you have breaded all the eggplant. Heat the cooking oil over medium high heat in a frying pan. Fry the eggplant on both sides until it is golden - continue to add cooking oil as needed, it will soak up a lot of oil.

Place a layer of eggplant in a lasagne dish. Spoon some tomato sauce over it, then grate a layer of parmesan cheese. Repeat. You should end up with 3-4 layers. You can store it in the fridge to cook later at this point, if you wish.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees for 30 minutes, or until heated through. To prevent it from drying out, you can cover it for most or all of the time it is in the oven. Slice and enjoy!

Tuesday ... afternoon

Today is a busy day. My KitchenAid mixer arrived! But I've been too busy to even unpack it yet. I went out to the garden to turn the water on in the tomatoes. I have only been watering them about once a week, especially because we're having a rather mild summer here in Davis. But now I've lost track of the last time I watered them. They got about 3 hours of low-pressure watering today.

The ketchup situation is progressing. I kept two baskets of tomatoes out until they got pretty soft, then stuck them in the fridge last night (I was starting to worry about them going bad) - probably slightly more than 4.5 kilos overall. I washed them, then chopped them up and started feeding them into the machine. It was still tough to turn the handle, but what the heck, it worked! The output was a bit foamy. And then I started having problems because I think some of the solids eventually built up in the works and wouldn't let the liquid part of the tomato go through. In fact, I eventually just put the ketchup on the stove even though some of the liquid is sitting in the input funnel of the machine. I'm not sure what to do about that, especially since I might make a huge mess if I try to move the machine or take it apart. My current solution is to ignore the situation for the moment. I'll get back to it later.

So now it's on the stove ... for 4.5 kilos of tomatoes, I added .5 liters of vinegar, .4 kilos of sugar, 4 whole cloves, and a handful of salt. Loris is still getting back to me on the chili pepper question - I am against them (I don't tolerate those things). Now I just have to wait for it to boil 6-7 hours. And then can it. It's going to be hot in the kitchen today. More later, once I get my new toy out of its box (and run a BUNCH of errands).

Monday, July 30, 2007

Some notes

Tomorrow I try ketchup again. It takes 6-7 hours of cooking, so I need a day when I'm sure to be at home all day. Tomorrow seems auspicious.

My stand mixer didn't get delivered yet :( I sent it to Loris' office, and they tried to deliver it on a Saturday. So it arrives tomorrow! Hopefully they let him sign for it. I'm so excited!!!!!!!! It's going to be a beautiful silver color. Not as pretty as my old yellow mixer, though - this is the 600 series 6qt. mixer from KitchenAid, the largest they have available through standard retail. My last one, a yellow KitchenAid artisan, died when I overpowered the motor.

I just sorted my tomatoes - I have slightly more than 4.5 kilos soft, overripe ones for the ketchup, and almost 9 kilos that I'll save for more tomato sauce.

What I really want to do is roast peppers, but I only have a few, and it doesn't seem like a good idea to really heat up the oven for only a couple peppers. My peppers are so disappointing this year. One of the brown spots (that I think is a sunburn) has turned black in the fridge. Next year I'll have to figure out some way to prevent that particular problem.

The other problem I'm having right now is how to tell when my butternut squash is ripe. I think I picked my first melon before it was ripe - I'll have to cut it open just to be sure, but that's a bit of a disappointment.

The family comes for lunch

This weekend we hosted my family for lunch, after going to the Davis Farmer's Market this morning. I made focaccia and pretzels for bread. Our first course was handmade taglatelle with our own canned tomato sauce and taglerini with homemade pesto (with basil and garlic from the garden). For a second course Loris made a frittata with zucchini, and we finished with an heirloom tomato, basil, and mozzarella salad. Natalie bought some pastries from the market for dessert.

I didn't have time to visit the garden during the weekend. Today there were a lot of tomatoes, since lately I've been picking them every day. I've got several baskets ripening on the counter, but I still can't tell when they'll be ready for ketchup. Some of them seem pretty soft, but that doesn't seem like a good thing. Some of them are also getting sort of a wrinkly skin.

I got ten heirloom tomatoes from the garden, one of which is really huge. Too big for a salad for me and Loris, for sure.

One other thing I'm sorta struggling with is the basil. I've already made lots of pesto. I'll probably make a lot more. I'd really like to make basil liquor with Loris' brother's recipe, but we can't find plain liquor here in the US for a reasonable price. I'm thinking about doing it anyway, simply because I really like basil liquor and what else am I going to do with all this basil?

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Ketchup - I mean tomato sauce

So yesterday I tried to make ketchup using Loris' mother's recipe from Italy. Unfortunately Loris' family recipes are usually so vague that they're impossible to follow unless you pretty much already know how to make the recipe. For example, the ketchup recipe begins with "Pass the raw tomatoes". I happen to know that when they say "pass" they mean to pass through my nifty tomato machine that remove the seeds and the skin (or alternatively a food mill). So I have my baskets of beautiful red roma tomatoes and I cut them all in half and tried to put them through my magic tomato machine.

Total disaster! It was impossible to crank. My beautiful tomatoes, now cut in half, did NOT want to go through that stupid machine. After a few minutes of hard sweaty work, I ended up with a tablespoon or so of pink foam. That didn't seem right. After a conference call to Italy, Loris' mother as usual made me feel stupid by saying the tomatoes must be so ripe that they're very soft, and you have to cut them up into tiny pieces. I'm not sure how I was supposed to get that out of the one line she gave me "Pass the raw tomatoes."

So I took my baskets of beautiful, now cut, tomatoes, and made tomato sauce instead. Yummy! I canned 7 jars, which isn't a lot, but I still feel justified. And I still have two baskets of tomatoes which I guess will have to sit there until they get very soft.

My new mixer arrives tomorrow, supposedly! Very exciting!

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

First recipe!

I made up this recipe tonight, and it was delish! Loris thought so too. A great way to use up a decent amount of zucchini. I didn't really measure stuff, so you'll have to play it by ear:

Risotto agli zucchini (con zucchini)

One largish zucchini and 1 or 2 smaller ones
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil
Some onion
Veggie broth
1.5 cups of arborio rice
Some wine (.5 to 1 cup?)
Parmesan cheese

Chop up the large zucchini and bring to a boil in a pot with just enough broth to cover it. Boil until soft, then puree with a blender or food processor. Set aside.

Chop up the smaller zucchini and saute for about 3-4 minutes in olive oil, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Finely chop some basil to garnish, and set aside.

Bring some veggie broth to a boil (I think I used about 4 cups), then lower the heat to low.

Chop up the onion and saute for about 4 minutes in olive oil in a medium to large saucepan. Add the rice and stir until it starts making clicking sounds, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and stir until it is absorbed.

Start adding a couple spoonfulls of the zucchini puree and about 1/4 cup of broth at a time, slowly stirring the rice with a wooden spoon while it absorbs the liquid. Each time you can see the bottom of the pot when you stir, add some more liquid and puree. It will take anywhere from 25-45 minutes for the rice to cook and absorb all or most of the liquid. After 25-30 minutes, start tasting for doneness.

When it tastes done, add the fried zucchini and chopped basil. Pass the parmesan cheese at the table to add on top.


My first lessons

My first lesson has been to remember to dig in a lot of compost before I get started. I have a feeling I should have done this at the beginning, because now I'm not sure that I will ever have the entire garden empty again, so it's going to have to be piecemeal now. A much bigger lesson would be to learn how to compost myself, but it always seems like such a big job, and I don't know where to do it - out at my garden or in my backyard? In my backyard would be handy, except that I'm a renter and I don't know when I'll move, and also it would be hard to transport to the garden. And my rented community garden isn't really big enough that I want to use my planting space for composting. So that's a lesson I have yet to learn.

Here are some brief notes of what I've learned so far with this summer garden ...

Peppers - plant them close together! This way, they support each other physically, and the leaves protect the pepper fruits from getting burned. I'm pretty sad about my burning pepper fruits, but too lazy to find something to block them from the sun. They're getting these awful brown spots, which sometimes eventually burn all the way through to the inside of the pepper. And they have so many peppers that they're all falling on their sides, which I'm hoping isn't a huge problem. Their buddies aren't close enough to hold them up.

Green beans - plant them closer to the edge of the garden, not in one big block. It's really hard to pick the beans on the plants that are farther from the path, so I find myself constantly stepping into my garden and compacting the soil. I think the smart thing would be to put the peppers in the middle of the block, maybe in two close rows with stakes the way I've staked my tomatoes, and the green beans around the edge.

Zucchini - one is probably enough. And buy plants, don't grow them from seed. Because really, what's the point if you only have one or two plants? And then you end up with something like what my yellow squash is - some weird hybrid that looks more like a winter squash and I have no idea what to do with it. That will probably be the first space available for my winter garden (so the first I'll have to compost!).

Cukes - maybe don't plant pickling cukes and slicing cukes right next to each other. I haven't accidentally pickled slicing cukes, because I planted the pickling cukes first and got sick of pickling before I even had any slicing cukes. So I don't know if it would be a big problem in future years. Also, I need to try to be more diligent about training them.

Tomatoes - pick the darn suckers off early and constantly! Actually, I did a decent job with my two rows of romas, and they're doing really well, although I must have left at least a couple too many suckers on one or two plants, because I faithfully tied everything up, but they're so dense I can barely get in to find the ripe tomatoes. And the heirlooms are out of control, all over the place, and producing far more tomatoes than we can eat. I am trying to decide if it's worth trying to can some of them for a fancier tomato sauce ...

Squash (winter) - cut the vines before they get out of control! I didn't know you could do that. I think I've got at least 10 butternut squashes growing, I have no idea what I'll do with so many except give them away. And they've more or less taken over my garden.

As for everything else, it seems to be doing ok - the eggplant, melon, basil, and parsley. I'll write more about those in future posts.

Monday, July 23, 2007

The first post

So this is my attempt to journal some of my favorite activities and hopefully to eventually learn from my mistakes. At the moment, these activities consist mostly of spending way too many hours in my garden and with my head in the oven (in a non-suicidal kind of way). Considering the heat we're having here in Davis, I'm trying my best not to sweat in my food.

I'm a total amateur at most of what I'm doing. I had a semi-successful winter garden, the lessons of which I hope are not too faint for me to record them before I give it another go this coming winter. And my current garden is doing great, despite quite a few mistakes on my part. Before I go further, I have to give a big thank-you to Loris, my watering guru. He waters my garden faithfully whenever I ask, and set up a sprinkler system for me as well (although I guess that benefits him as much as me, under the circumstances).

My garden is supposedly 18 by 20 feet (although I haven't actually measured it), and I've managed to grow an awful lot of vegetables in it. And herbs. No luck with the carrots or onions, really, and the peppers are suffering for reasons I'll have to write about in future posts, but the various squashes, tomatoes, eggplants, and cucumbers are doing fantastically. I'm certain that planting squash alone will solve the world's hunger problems (which I know, aren't as simple as all that). But this brings up the other subject I'm struggling with - how to cook and/or preserve all this extra food!