Monday, November 30, 2009

Winter Reading

This past weekend it really started feeling wintery in the DC area. It makes it a bit unpleasant to be outside when it's overcast and windy. Well, maybe that's because I've got thin, Floridian skin?

Anyways, I like spending most of my winter inside with some hot cocoa or tea, curled up in a blanket with a gardening book. I've found a few to read in between my books for class. Namely:

Winter Harvest Handbook. This book primarily discusses unheated greenhouses but also has a section on cold frames. My ultimate goal is to have a small greenhouse attached to our house (currently saving up for this. it's going to take awhile..) and I do have some old windows that would be perfect for a cold frame.

Designing the New Kitchen Garden. I've got a few years until my raise beds rot out, but I'm still dreaming about how I'd redesign my kitchen garden. This book (I've leafed through it) has a good mix of history of food gardens, illustrations, etc.

In Defense of Food. I'm probably the last person on earth to read this book. I'm almost done with it. I find most of it to be stuff I already know or common sense. But an interesting read, especially the part of taking food out of context.

Also? Not a book, but good garden movie watching:

Greenfingers. Let Clive Owen, as an inmate that finds a love of horticulture in prison, warm you up this winter. I mean, this movie is a little cheesy. But it's a good kind of cheese!

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Long Time No Post, eh?

It's been awhile, huh?

Truth is I've been kind of overwhelmed, kind of lazy and kind of tired. I've started taking landscape design classes part-time and I still work full-time at the paying-the-bills gig (which has ramped up as well). The weather has been pretty gross this fall making gardening a muddy, mucky mess and the last thing I wanted to do or think about after spending hours reading about trees or drawing them or learning how 17th century French landscape designers used them in their plans. Plus, an exciting project has popped up that I hope to be able to announce soon. Fingers crossed on that one.

Anywho, that's how I've been spending my free time. Learning about plants instead of interacting with them. It's interesting for sure but I do need to manage my time better. It seems silly to have to neglect the things that made you interested in the subject in the first place, no?

I promise to not be a stranger but this winter will probably be a bit scant on posts. I hope you'll stick around though! I've got big, lofty plans for my spring garden.

Monday, November 9, 2009

Recipe: Portuguese Kale & Potato Soup

My typical way to make dark, leafy greens to to braise them and finish them off with a dash of cider vinegar, hot sauce and sugar. But, when I found myself with some kale (sadly, not from my garden. At least, not yet) and potatoes, I was looking for a more complete meal that would use both. Enter the wonder of and their Portuguese Kale & Potato Soup. I followed their directions exactly, so no need to copy the recipe here, just visit the link. But, I do have some observations:

-You need to use the cured chorizo (think salami) not the fresh one (like italian sausage).
-This soup is good the first day, but it's fantastic the second.
-On the second day, it was a bit saltier than on the first. So, add any additional salt needed to individual bowls on the first day and not the whole pot.
-Potatoes don't freeze well. If you want to ultimately freeze this soup, omit the russets and use garbanzos (or other favorite bean) instead of red potatoes.

This was quite a delicious way to consume your kale! We had some rosemary crackers & they went very well with the soup (if you are the sort that likes to dunk something in your soup...)


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Putting Up: The Collection

There is something intensely satisfying about knowing that your freezer and cupboards are loaded with summery goodness just sitting there, waiting for you. I have froze, dehydrated and canned to create this impressive collection of food:

Yeah, it just looks like a bunch of bags and jars. But it contains so much awesomeness. Like: Several pounds of dried tomatoes waiting for pasta or an unusual pesto, apple halves to be used for making apple cakes & muffins, 5 lb frozen organic bell pepper strips (from PA peppers on sale at Whole Foods for...$1/lb!!!) for chilis and soups, dried herbs for...well...anything, frozen watermelon puree for a taste of summer anytime, jars & jars of Green Tomato & Apple Chutney, apple sauce, frozen blueberries from my boss' garden, frozen grated zucchini for zucchini bread, dried mint for peppermint tea, garlic scape pesto for a pasta or pizza, garden-fresh canned tomatoes for Ribollita...

I'm very excited to have all this seasonal (mostly local and organic) produce ready for my out-of-season use. Of course, the frozen apples and peppers won't be crisp like they are fresh, but that's OK for fall & winter purposes. This time of year I crave soups and stews & other "wet food" as a friend of mine used to call it. In short, the lack of crispness isn't as important if it's going to be simmering in an Chicken Tortilla Soup for 30 minutes, ya know?

It's going to be a good winter.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Recipe: Sage Shortbread

I am not a baker. I mean-- don't get me wrong-- I love baked goods and sweets. I just don't particularly enjoy making them. For me, baked goods seem more tedious and dirty all the bowls, scoops and measuring utensils I own whereas for most of the savory dishes I make I dirty no more than a knife, cutting board and Dutch oven (part of it is that you don't need to measure, certainly).

However, my friend Sarah (now living on the left coast), is quite the baker. And, when I was complaining a while about about the amount of sage I needed to deal with, she gave me a recipe for Sage-Scented Shortbread. Sarah knows me all too well...if it's uncomplicated and dirties only 1 dish, it's for me. And, this recipe comes together all in a food processor. (Or, in my case, the mini food processor attachment to my immersion blender). Additionally, Sarah reports the dough freezes fabulously.
What does this cookie taste like? Well, they're not terribly sweet. In fact, they're a tad bit salty. The sage is very subtle...I'll increase the amount in the future. They would be perfect for a tea party or something different at holiday cookie exchanges. So delicious. Thank you, Sarah!

Below is the recipe & how I made it in my small-capacity food processor.

  • 2 c all purpose flour, divided
  • 1/2 c powdered sugar, divided
  • 3 tbsp thinly sliced fresh sage leaves, divided (the original recipe has 2 tbsp, but I think a bit more would be nice)
  • 1 tsp coarse kosher salt, divided
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, room temperature, divided
  • Put 1 c flour, 1/4 c powdered sugar, 1.5 tbsp sage leaves and 1/2 tsp kosher salt in a food processor. Process until combined.
  • Add 1 stick of butter (cut into a few pieces) to the food processor and process until the dough is formed.
  • Lay dough on a piece of wax paper, parchment or cling wrap and form into a 1-1/2 in wide log. Refrigerate for 30 minutes or until firm or package for the freezer.
  • Repeat with the rest of the ingredients.
  • To bake, preheat oven to 350*F. Slice cookies and place on lined baking sheets (you can place them fairly closely; they don't spread). Bake 10 minutes, rotate pans and bake another 10-15 minutes.