Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Really quick garden update

Cucumbers - taking over the garden. Should have given them more space. Had a cucumber salad the other day with our first one - delicious!

Peppers - Really producing, 95% of them doing fantastic, a few that I still can't tell if they're going to pull through.

Zucchini - the yellow squash really faltered and still hasn't really recovered. The light green variety I planted from seed died, but I replanted it about a week ago and now I've got three little sprouts. I'm hoping with these temps they catch up soon!

Tomatoes - first Juliet is almost ripe! Hopefully more will follow soon.

Green beans - producing like crazy. We have 2.5 pounds just from the last few days. Will need to look into canning them.

Eggplant - getting established. Not expecting big things any time soon.

Melon - Really taking off, but no little melons yet.

Winter squash - not doing much, I'm hoping with the heat it'll perk up soon.

Onions - almost entirely harvested - only about 10 left, but we have at least 15-25 at home still.

Carrots and beets - still quite a few left, will need to pick soon (but we still have carrots in the fridge!).

Monday, June 22, 2009

Cooking (mostly meat)

Lately we've been experimenting a lot with meat from the farmer's market. We have a local pork producer who often has lamb and grass-fed beef. There's also a fisherman from the Bay Area, and now a local free-range chicken grower. Over the past year, we've branched out from our original purchases of filleted white fish (usually cod or something similar) and pork chops to crab, salmon, tuna, scallops, prawns, pork loin, grass fed ground beef, sirloin steaks, lamb stew meat, and most recently, a whole chicken and a 5-pound leg of lamb.

Memorable recipes have included seared tuna on heirloom tomato salad, risotto with asparagus and lamb, basil-stuffed scallops, prawns and crab with homemade mayonnaise, and hamburgers on homemade focaccia with a variety of cheeses and toppings.

A few weeks ago, we bought a whole chicken and I roasted it, stuffed with some garlic and herbs, and basted with lemon juice and olive oil. It was divine, although it could have used more salt. I don't know if I could have or should have brined it. I saved the bones in the freezer to make stock, which I'll try to do soon.

Last night, Loris cooked a leg of lamb. I'm not sure of his exact recipe or method - I just know that it took a lot longer than he expected, there were rosemary, garlic, potatoes, onions, and carrots, and it was amazing. Eight of us finished off that 5-pound sucker. It was tender and juicy and really fantastic. My husband is a wonderful cook.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Garden update

Holy cow, I will never get those garden pictures posted.

The garden is doing really well! The tomatoes are getting huge, the vining ones are growing nice and tall and the determinates are getting nice and bushy. I've already been pruning and staking them, although at my sister's garden today I noticed that someone using the same stakingm ethod ties the vine much closer to the stake, so I will probably give that a shot. Quite a few of the plants have little (or big) green tomatoes.

The peppers are looking good. I'm excited! There are a few little ones here and there getting started.

The green beans have already started producing, and are getting huge. I am going to have to start picking them regularly.

The onions are almost out of the ground, I'll probably pick a few more today. The carrots look great, I need to pick more of those before it gets too hot. We might squeeze a few beets out, too.

Eggplant went in recently, four of them, and I've got two more waiting to go in. The cucumber is rapidly recovering from its post-planting malaise and I'm trying to get it trained up the trellises before it takes over its little corner of the garden.

The melon is doing fantastic, as are the butternut squash and yellow summer squash. The zucchini I grew from seed, however, is just not looking good. I'm a little worried and disappointed about that.

And that's it! I've started a mini-herb garden at home - two kinds of rosemary, sage, basil, and soon some parsley (when I get around to buying it). I've braided the garlic, and I'm drying the onions and shallots. Pretty soon, I'll be canning giardiniera, tomato sauce, zucchini, jam, and ketchup.

Oh, and a post about making mustard should be coming up soon. Just find me some time to write and post pictures!

Friday, June 5, 2009

Onion soup

I've been busy harvesting onions, although to be quite honest I'm not sure what to do with them. There are about 20 left in my garden, and we've got maybe 15 at home - not sure what happened to the other 35 I planted, unless I'm really not counting correctly.

They didn't really dry out the way the garlic did - most of them were still green and happy. And we've been experiencing rain! And lightning! And thunder! IN JUNE! It's crazy. So I guess they're not going to dry out anytime soon.

Some of them are HUGE. And some are small. The ones I thought didn't do anything at all actually did produce nice little onions. What to do with all these onions?

Loris made a frittata for dinner a couple nights ago, which was delicious. And last night I made onion soup, using a recipe I more or less made up after browsing a few cookbooks and looking online to get some ideas. It was divine. Here's the recipe.

2.5 large onions (or more smaller ones)
Olive oil and butter
Marsala wine (dry)
Turkey stock (or some other stock - I used some concentrated frozen stock from my Thanksgiving turkey, about 1/2 cup or so)
Broth (around 4 cups - I used Knorr's veggie boullion)
Bay leaves

Slice the onions thinly. Put some butter and olive oil into a medium pot over medium-low heat, and wait for it to get hot and the butter to melt. Add the sliced onions and saute for at least 45 minutes, adjusting the heat so that they are cooking slowly (with my electric stove, I have to start with higher heat, and then lower it once everything heats up). Stir often, keeping an eye so that the onion gets soft and carmelizes, but doesn't brown. If it seems a bit dry, add more olive oil and/or butter.

Add the concentrated stock and a good helping of marsala wine, enough to make a sort of sauce, and let cook another 10 minutes. Then add the broth and bay leaves, and bring to a simmer. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes or longer (probably less is ok too).

Take out the bay leaves, and serve.

This can probably be served with a dusting of parmesan cheese, or traditional-style with a toasted slice of bread and some melted cheese.

Garden update - shallots, bermuda grass, new plants

I picked the shallots on Saturday, May 30. While a few were mushy, most of them were nice and firm. I feel really lucky about that ... whew! I'm either going to braid them (which doesn't seem as straightforward as braiding garlic), or I'll just do what I did last year and let them dry in some mesh bags hanging in the closet.

I finally had it with the bermuda grass (which I lamented last week). I spent hours on Monday and Tuesday after work digging the stuff out, even around the tomato plants as carefully as I could. It was back-breaking work, but I think I got about 90-95% of it, and I'm determined to start catching it again as soon as I see it. I might even pull out my parsley so I can get rid of what's hiding in there, and then start over.

The only problem is my neighbor, who has tons of bermuda grass in the corner right by the common border we share. I can't do anything about that, but I'm considering buying a big piece of plywood or something similar (and cheap), digging a trench (oh my poor back), and planting that thing in there. I figure one foot below ground and one foot above should stop that grass from coming over. It might come around, but at least I'll limit my vulnerability.

And last - I've planted some more stuff! New plants include two types of melon (ambrosia melon and a variety of Israeli melon - maybe Ogen?), butternut squash, yellow patty pan squash, my zucchini genovese that I grew from seed (2), two black beauty eggplants, and two rosa bianca eggplants. I'm pretty much done with my summer planting, yay!

Oh yeah, and after all that digging and weeding and planting, I did some mulching. I'm essentially mulching only the area around and between the winter squash and melons, since it won't be watered, will supress weeds (I hope) and provide a nice place for the melons and squash to hang out while they grow on their vines.

Here's my garden diagram:

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

Potato leek cauliflower soup

I made up this soup the other night because I wanted to make cauliflower soup. I wanted to use potatoes to make it thicker and creamier, and I usually use an onion family member in my base. That sounded a bit like potato leek soup, and honestly, I couldn't think of a better addition to potato leek soup than cauliflower.

This is a really simple recipe which makes a thick, creamy, rich soup.

Leeks (quite a few small ones or a couple big ones - you want at least a cup sliced)
Potatoes (I think I used about 4 medium-sized potatoes)
Cauliflower (I used most of a head)
Bay leaves

Slice the leeks legnth-wise and rinse them under running water, being sure to get all the dirt from between the layers. Then thinly slice them width-wise. Melt some butter in a medium stock pot and saute the leeks over low heat until soft.

In the meantime, peel and dice potatoes, and wash and chop cauliflower or separate into florets. Add the potatoes to the leeks and let cook a few minutes. Add the cauliflower and cover all ingredients with broth. Add 3-5 bay leaves.

Raise the heat so the soup is at a simmer. Cook for at least 20-30 minutes, checking to see when the poatoes and cauliflower become very soft. If in doubt, overcook.

Fish out the bay leaves, then puree soup using a submersion blender or a food processor. If it's too think, thin with more broth.

Serve with a swirl of olive oil and some croutons. Enjoy!