Monday, August 31, 2009
Here's the haul:
Sorrel, bell pepper (1), corn (4), tomatoes (bunches), tomatillos (several) and garlic. I could have also gotten some basil, but seriously...I've got tons & tons of basil. AGH!
Here's the plan:
Canning tomatoes: Confession: I'm kinda getting bored of tomatoes. I know, I know, it's blasphamey. So, empowered by the recent talk on canning I'm giving it a try. Will post how it went soon.
Chicken Tortilla Soup: I'm using Ina Garten's recipe because, despite being a rather decent cook, I'm messed up this dish by just winging it more often than I'd care to admit. But I am adding some green pepper to it!
Potato and 2 Bean Salad: With my remaining 5 potatoes from prior weeks, I'm going to make a nicose-esque gone Greek salad with what I have on hand: green beans & garbanzoes. Add in some lettuce & lots of Sungold tomatoes with a bit of feta and all tossed with an oregano-spiked red wine vinegarette.
Corn on the Cob: I was going to put it in the tortilla soup, but the husband pleaded to just eat it right off the cob. So we will, perhaps with some BBQ chicken this weekend.
Tomatillo Salsa: I'm a one-trick pony when it comes to these darn tomatillos. The ones from this week will be added to those from last week (I think they are still good) and made into my salsa. And then I will freeze it all & see how that goes!
Sunday, August 30, 2009
But what about for more "moist" herbs like basil or mint?
Well, I've read about a few options on the Internets. Basically, the oils in the herbs start to decline if they are heated above 100*F. An idea solution would be to construct a mesh frame that would be put on blocks outside in the shade in 80*F, non-humid weather. But...um...that isn't going to happen. A second idea would be, perhaps, using a dehydrator. However, I do not have a dehydrator and would prefer not to one as I have no where to put it.
So, my runner up method is using the microwave. Yes, microwave.
The deal: Arrange leaves between 2 paper towels. 'Nuke for 2 minutes checking every 30 seconds (for me, they were done at 1:30). I think next time I'll do 50% power because I think it might have gotten too hot, but it definitely worked.
<-------Here's the before
<-------Here's the after
You want to make sure they are crinkling and crumbling. That's how you know they are good & dry.
Hey, it's a great way to use up the herbs in new and exciting ways!
Anywho, this concoction comes to you courtesy of my husband. It's basically a mojito made with what we have on hand. But it has this fabulous chocolate-lime thing going on like those little candies. So delicious.
3 springs of chocolate mint
1 shot of light rum (we have Cruzan)
2 Tbsp lavender simple syrup (we had this leftover. Regular simple syrup, equal parts water & sugar boiled together & cooled, would work too
1 Tbsp lime juice (we used bottled)
- Put the rum in your cup and bruise it (he used our Mexican hot chocolate thingy, but a wooden spoon would work too.
- Add ice and the rest of the ingredients. Stir.
- Enjoy! (serves 1)
Wednesday, August 26, 2009
But my dear, consoling, I-hate-yardwork husband assured me they were just fine; they would be alright. I didn't believe him. I mean, without leaves, how could my babies make food? He just would look at them and then at me and say, almost confidently, "They'll be fine." He wouldn't let me throw them away.
When winter started to end, we still had almost leaf-less, very pathetic looking pepper plants. I bought some starts from a nursery and tried again to throw away the ones I started from seed. He wouldn't let me. Fine. I took them outside and set them, pot and all, in our fenced raised beds. I refused, however, to plant them convinced I would just be forced to watch them further decline. My husband reiterated: "They'll be fine." But, seriously, what did he know? He doesn't read gardening books, blogs and magazines at all, let alone the quantity I had! Also, he's never grown *anything* before!
After the peppers had survived, mostly neglected, outside for over a month (still in the pots I started them in), my husband took them and planted them in a most unsuitable spot: a pot on the other side of the house that gets MAYBE four hours of direct sun (morning at that!) a day. I told him they would definitely not survive, not there! "I'll take care of them, then," he replied.
Now, my husband, bless is heart, isn't terribly good at remembering things like watering plants. These peppers would go unwatered unless we had rain (which there was a lot of in the spring) or he happened to walk by them (which was rare). They would sulk and he would water only to find them sulking again next time he passed by.
But, my husband didn't give up. Recently, I've been re-landscaping the forgotten side of our house where he planted those peppers and saw this:
I have to say it: He was right. They are fine. And I was a bit melodramatic and foolish giving up on them. This is my lesson learned: In a garden, there's always a hope of success even if you don't always water or don't know exactly what you're doing or stupid aphid attack. If you don't try, you certainly can't succeed. I won't give up so easily next time.
Monday, August 24, 2009
Mercifully, however, this is the reported last week for potatoes. We are rice-eaters and having 7 potatoes per week has been a bit of a challenge for us.
Anywho, here's the haul:
Lemon balm (huge bunch), garlic, potatoes (7), tomatoes (lots!), corn (4), tomatillos (7) and eggplant. Basil was also part of the offerings, but...seriously...we have enough basil. In our garden. In our freezer. In a pot on the side yard. We did not need anymore basil. So I left it for others to take.
Here's the plan:
- Chicken & Potato Indian Curry with Green Beans. Recipe TBA, but I think it'll involve Mark Bitman's Hot Curry recipe for the spice and my husband trimming the green beans.
- Pasta with Raw Tomato Sauce. This is the husband's recipe. Actually the first recipe he ever gave me. Unfortunately, his recipe writing is horrible and I thought it was gross. But, he was cute, so I kept him around...
Anyways, it's about 1.5 lbs of tomatoes (chopped), a bunch of basil (torn/chopped) and 1-3 garlic cloves (depending on your preference, minced) marinated in 1/4 cup nice olive oil, salt and pepper for a few hours in the fridge. Then, boil pasta, drain and toss with raw sauce. Eat room temperature or hot (heat from hot pasta). This is the part he left out. I thought it was like a pasta salad & ate it cold &...well...the oil was kinda solidish and the pasta was just.not.very.good.at.all.
- Grilled Eggplant with Hummus, Olives, Pita, Sliced Tomatoes. This is my favorite summer supper. It's light and easy, even if you make the hummus yourself.
And, finally, here my harvest from last week. I've got a few sweet peppers that should be ready to pick soon and have since picked 2 more Wonder Lights, a half-pint of Sungolds, 3 romas and several more hot peppers. But I'm too tired to take another picture.
Pictured above is basil (purple and green), lavender, thyme, rosemary, and oregano (all used in the herbaceous happy hour), several hot peppers, large handful of Sungolds and 4 Wonder Lights. The herbs alone would have probably cost about $10 at my grocery store for conventional versions (this is assuming they stocked lavender...) and these are organic! And, as of right now, I think the larger tomato plants are done for the season. They don't really have any new buds on them so I may pull them up this weekend.
Saturday, August 22, 2009
Lemon-Lavender Vodka Tonics (lavender from the garden)
Lemon Balm Iced Green Gea (lemon balm from garden)
Herby Goat Cheese Spread (oregano, rosemary, thyme and sage from the garden)
No Recipe Bruschetta topping (tomatoes from garden & CSA and basil from CSA)
No Recipe Tapenade (purple basil from garden & garlic from CSA)
(with crackers & toasted baguette)
Garlic Roasted Blue Potatoes with Garlic Mayo (blue potatoes & garlic from CSA)
Lemon-Lavender Vodka Tonic
3 springs of lavender
1/2 cup sugar
1 cup water
-Bring water, lavender and sugar to a boil & dissolve sugar. Cook on low for 5 minutes or until syrup smells heavily of lavender. Remove lavender and cool syrup overnight.
-For a drink, pour 1 shot of vodka and 1/2 shot of lavender syrup over ice. Top off with tonic water and add a squeeze of lemon. Adjust syrup/lemon/vodka to taste.
Pitcher of Pimm's Cup
1/2 English cucumber, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
2 c Pimm's No. 1
1.5 cup lemonade
1.5 cup ginger ale
-Put lemon & cucumber in a pitcher. Add Pimm's No. 1 and let marinate at least 6 hours. Better if longer, though, longer.
-Add the rest of the ingredients just before serving. If desired, add a "fortifying" shot (or two! or more!) of gin!
Lemon Balm Iced Green Tea
Use the caffeinated mint tea recipe, except substitute lemon balm for the mint & green tea bags for the black tea bags.
Herby Goat Cheese Spread
3 Tbsp of assorted fresh herbs (No basil, though. I used thyme, rosemary, sage and oregano), finely minced
4 oz log of goat cheese
2 oz cream cheese
2 Tbsp plain yogurt
-Whip goat cheese and cream cheese together. Add herbs.
-Add yogurt, one tablespoon at a time until mixture is easily spreadable (can use more yogurt if necessary)
No Recipe Tapenade
-In a food processor, add whatever quantities of above makes you happy (or whatever quantities you have on hand). I like using purple basil and using only 1 clove of garlic!
No Recipe Bruschetta Topping
Tomatoes, seeded and chopped
-Add whatever quantities of above makes you happy!
Garlic Roasted Blue Potatoes with Garlic Mayo
Blue (or white) potatoes, diced
garlic powder (yes, powder. small pieces of garlic tend to burn on me in the oven)
generous amount of canola oil
1/4 cup mayo
1 large clove of garlic, minced
-Mix the mayo & garlic. Let sit for at least an hour. Best if overnight.
-Toss your diced potatoes in canola oil and give several dashes of garlic powder.
-Preheat oven to 475* and roast for 20 minutes or until done (time depends on how much you're putting in your oven & how big your pieces are)
Wednesday, August 19, 2009
Enter the Washington Post's Gardening Calendar.
For August, the tasks at hand are:
- Order spring bulbs
I've looked longingly at the bulbs available at Dutch Gardens. Especially the double daffodils...
- Conduct lawn soil test
This is a "husband task" as the lawn is his baby.
- Cut back perennials/freshen garden
Hmph. Maybe I'll do that next weekend. Most of my perennials are still looking OK. Plus, by then, I think I'll be able to remove some spent tomato plants.
- Pull up clumps of crabgrass
Done! Kinda. The husband started to do this, but then got stung by a bee. Sooo...
Monday, August 17, 2009
Here's the haul this week:
ground cherries (not pictures b/c I ate them on the way home. 20), corn (2), tomatoes (9), peppers (2), basil, mint, garlic (1), squash (1 huge one) and...the previously-alluded-to 7 blue potatoes.
Since the husband isn't going to be around for dinner most nights this week...
- Tapas night: 1 part friends, 1 part alcohol and 1 part produce. Shake it all together and you've got a good happy hour! The food: Bruschetta (with CSA tomatoes & basil), tapenade, & herbed goat cheese (with herbs from the garden) to be spread (separately) on the carb of choice (bread/crackers), Patatas azules sin Bravas (roasted blue potatoes with aioli, no bravas sauce), something squash-related and turkey meatballs. The beverages: lemon-lavender vodka tonics, Pimm's cups, & lemon balm iced tea (for those that have to drive)
- Nachos: Call this a secret single supper. I certainly ate more random crap for dinner in my single days and when the mister is not going to be home from dinner, I indulge. I love my nachos LOADED. This week, I'm going to use the peppers (plus some hotter ones in the garden) to kick up some black beans. Cheddar, onions, tomatoes, corn off-the-cob and sour cream with also be toppings. Delicioso!
- Caffeinated mint tea: Because I can't have enough tea in the summer. Especially when I've got a long weekend of busting up our clay-y soil ahead of me.
What: Washington Gardener Magazine, Washington Historical Society & DC Urban Gardener's Talk on Canning Your Harvest Bounty by Liz Falk of 7th Street Gardens
When: THIS SATURDAY, August 22nd. 1pm - 2:30pm
Where: Historical Society auditorium, 8801 K Street, N.W., Washington, D.C
Why: Because you've always wondered about canning but were too afraid to try it.
More information here.
I'm so there.
Sunday, August 16, 2009
I hadn't been to the National Cathedral. Until now, that is! It seems like a very, very old building, but it's not. The stained glass I found quite unusual as some of it is almost Picasso-esque One window in particular was out of place looking...it was of planets and stars!
While the cathedral itself is lovely and has great views of the city, I was far more enchanted by the gardens. I was unaware that there were any gardens there, but they are very nice. The sort of place you'd like to bring a little snack and a good book and spend a few hours of a nice afternoon. They are a traditionally monastery style.
Here are some more photos (click to make bigger):
Here's my favorite part, though. Something that I might add to my garden: A collection of thymes! Look how lovely the textures and color mix. Love it!
Friday, August 14, 2009
August in the DC area is always hot. It's the quasi-South and a former swamp, after all! But this year it seems particularly intense thanks to the mild June and July we had. I guess you could say that we were living on borrowed time.
Thus, when my CSA had a fat bunch of peppermint, I knew what to do: Make iced tea!
Herbal (non-caffeinated) iced tea is nice, but I like the slightly bitter after note that black tea offers. So, here you go:
1 bunch of peppermint, washed
3 bags of black tea
1 Tbsp-1/4 c sugar (depending on how sweet you like your tea. I do 2 Tbsp)
8 c almost boiling water
2 c ice
- In a pitcher, put peppermint & tea bags. Pour almost boiling water over it.
- Let steep 4 minutes.
- Remove peppermint & tea bags (use tongs if necessary) and add sugar to tea. Stir to dissolve.
- Add ice to cool it down.
Wednesday, August 12, 2009
Heirloom varieties are generally regarded as those that are pre-World War II and are open pollinated. They certainly look different from the more commercial hybrid varieties that are nice red globes, virtually indestructible. Heirloom tomatoes, on the other hand, are often ugly. They are squatty, color streaked, cat-faced, and/or misshapen. The idea is, however, that what they lack in looks, they make up in flavor.
Growing up, I had peripherally heard about heirlooms from cranky old people. But now? Heirlooms are chic. They are pricey. They are Of The Moment. They are the kind of tomato that you would by at Anthropologie, if Anthropologie was a grocery store: folksy, turned fashionable. Much like gardening itself has become recently.
There's also certainly an environmental argument for heirlooms. Preserving the ancestors of tomatoes can ultimately lead to better bio-diversity. Plus, you can save your own seed! Thrifty! And, in a few decades you just might have tomatoes perfectly adapted to your vegetable patch which is very cool.
But, it's my opinion, and that of Ms. Black, that some gardeners/consumers have taken this to the extreme. As I have found out this year with my Wonder Lights, not all heirloom tomatoes are delicious. In fact, due to their rising popularity they are being more commercially produced...something they were not breed to do. And not all hybrids are devoid of flavor (like my darling Sungolds) nor are they a genetically-modified devils. Hybridization can, and does, occur in nature. In fact, heirlooms are really just old hybrids. Genetic modification, on the other hand, is using molecular techniques and not cross-pollination to create a new variety.
As Jay Leno said in an episode of Top Gear about the Prius: "It's about the moral superiority. I'm driving an unattractive car and I am saving the planet. See, in American we like everyone to know the good work we are doing anonymously." Substitute "heirloom tomato" for "car," and I think this also rings true. Right down to the unattractive part.
If you exclusively grow or eat heirloom tomatoes, or any heirloom variety for that matter, this does not make you a superior person. Certainly, seeking out local food sources and different varieties is commendable. Having diversity in your garden is a good thing.
But don't snub a hybrid because it's not an heirloom. That's just like tomato age-ism!
Tell me your favorite variety of tomato. Heirloom or hybrid. What tastes the best and works the best in your garden?
Tuesday, August 11, 2009
By now I'm sure you've heard about Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD). In 2006, bees just up and left the hive in numbers (and ways) never witness before. Researchers are trying to determine if it's pesticides, a disease, a parasite, or a combination of multiple things that just create a perfect storm.
Bees are estimated to pollinate about 1/3 of all the food we eat. Not to mention flowers...if you add those in, according to the show, bees are responsible for the reproduction of 3/4 of the plants on Earth. This includes some crops eaten by animals (like cows) that humans also eat.
No bees = freaky food situation. And a world devoid of showy flowers.
Think that's centuries away? If CCD continues, it is estimated that by 2035 honeybees will be died off in the US. And, they already are in a part of Sichuan province in China. As shown in this documentary, farmers have to pollinate by hand there after pesticides killed off bee populations. That's right, humans play the role of bees. Can you imagine the price of your food if US farmers had to pollinate each flower of their crops?
I urge you to watch Silence of the Bees, look at the update on that site and plant flowers to feed bees (which you probably already do!). It's a really well-done documentary, like most of PBS programming.
The photo to the right is my harvest from yesterday and includes some kung pao peppers, lots of Sungold tomatoes, a purple bell pepper, 3 Wonder Light tomatoes and a Cherokee Purple tomato. More hot peppers were on the plants, but I'm hoping some will turn red. Mind you, I've only planted half of the garden this year, so I'm hoping next year the semi-weekly harvests will be more bountiful!
The Sungolds have continued to be the star of the garden. Not only are they a lovely shade of orange but every 2-3 days we pick about a pint of them between our two plants! I am definitely going to plant those again next year. So far, I am less impressed with the Wonder Light tomatoes. They are a lovely shade of yellow and are shaped like a lemon, but kinda "blah" in flavor.
The herb garden is doing quite well. I'm not sure what to do with all of it, honestly! My (bought) Hidcote lavender is blooming again which is lovely. Also exciting? The lavender I grew from seed is blooming! Hurray! However, I've since learned that lavender doesn't really grow true from seed. So, what I grew from seed probably isn't "perfect" but it's still exciting to me.
The dahlias are still a welcome burst of color. The husband has recently admitted that besides the Sungolds which he eats directly from the plant as he does any sort of yardwork, the dahlias are his favorite thing in the garden. I suspect it is because they are very photogenic and attract lots of bees, and my husband likes the macro photography.
Thus, the garden is really moving right along without much work from me aside from watering.
Next year I think I'm going to weight each harvest. Over at Compost Confidencial, the blog of Joe Lamp'l who wrote The Green Gardening Guide (which is full of good ideas for organic gardening on the cheap), posts have a running tally of both the garden costs as well as the pounds of vegetables it has produced. His goal is 100 lbs by the end of the season all for...wait for it...$25. So far he's up to $15 for 78 lbs! Now, I'm not certain that I could only spend $25 in my garden next year, or produce 100 lbs for that matter, but it's nice to have goals.
I think I'll set some for next year!
Monday, August 10, 2009
I'm also getting a little burned out on tomatoes. This is a good thing as it is my goal every year to get sick of strawberries, tomatoes and peaches when their season ends here. But, man...the season has just started!
Thus, while I have enjoyed my CSA thus far and would encourage everyone to try it out, at the midway point of our growing season, I'm not sure I'll continue it next year. I mean, next year my garden will be a bit more diverse and fully planted. It'll be producing quite a bit of food if all goes marginally well and most of it will be a duplicate of the CSA offerings. I'm starting to think next year might be the year of the Weekly Farmer's Market Visit. That way I could just buy what I want to supplement my garden.
We'll see. I'm going to have to think through this more...
Anywho, here's the haul:
Eggplant (1), heirloom tomatoes (6!!!), a bunch of basil, a bunch of peppermint, tomatillos (7), blue potatoes (7), and a big honkin' cucumber.
Here's the plan:
Caffeinated peppermint iced tea: Since it's officially hot as hell in the DC area, nothing could be better than some refreshing iced tea. And mint gives it just a little kick.
Panzanella: This is an Italian bread salad. Cut up some day old bread into chunks & toast it if it's still really moist. Add in some chopped tomatoes, cucumber, basil, rosemary and olives with a bit of homemade vinaigrette and you've got something totally delicious.
BLTs: The best way to use a tomato. And, it just so happens that bacon was on sale last week so I stocked up. This my friends is what I like to call "fate." Slather on some chipotle-garlic mayo (Chop up some chipotles in adobo and a clove of garlic & mix with some of your favorite mayo. You'll thank me later.) and you've got yourself the best lunch after a morning of gardening.
Chicken, Mushroom, Spinach Enchiladas with Tomatillo Salsa: I talked about this in my salsa verde recipe although this week I'll be adding some leftover grilled chicken into the mix. Honestly, I don't know what to do with tomatillos besides salsa at this point and this is an easy, healthy dinner to throw together. It also makes great leftovers.
Potatoes Provencal: We'll see how this goes. It's a Mark Bittman recipe. I'll use the blue potatoes for it and add in some tomatoes, eggplant, thyme (from my garden) and artichoke hearts. I'll report back. Should be colorful to say the least!
Are you finding yourself with an over-abundance of tomatoes? What are YOU doing with them?!
Tuesday, August 4, 2009
My husband & I are kinda taco snobs. I mean, we dig the flour tortillas with seasoned ground beef and all the fixin's from time to time but taco night at our house means something a bit different than an Old El Paso Taco Kit. (Not that there's anything wrong with that. I've downed many a crispy corn shell loaded with cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, onions, salsa, hot sauce, sour cream and...oh yeah...meat!)
These are our taco night rules:
- The tortillas must be corn and not fried.
- The meat needs to be grilled, braised or stewed. In other words, no ground meat.
- The toppings must be fresh, simple and limited.
But this salsa verde?
Totally worthy of a taco. And while the salsa verde-beef combo isn't traditional, it is delicious. Bonus that the salsa is easy peasy to put together and tastes like your favorite market taco stall in Mexico.
1 lb tomatillos
1/2-1 garlic clove
1/2 c cilantro or parsley (Not a cilantro fan? Use parsley. It can give that "fresh" herb-y taste too)
3 hot peppers (I used our cayenne from the garden. De-seed if you are so inclined.)
1 Tbsp lime juice (It's OK if you use bottled. I promise not to tell!)
Pinch of salt
- Unhusk the tomatillos & put in a medium sauce pan. Cover with water. Bring to a boil & cook for 5 min. Remove cooked tomatillos to cool.
- Put the rest of the ingredients into a blender/food processor. And in tomatillos. Puree until the consistency you like.
So, my Green Zebra and Cherokee Chocolate tomatoes along with the Mystery Freecycle Heirloom tomato are going directly into trash bags & my gardening gloves are going into the washing machine and any shovels used are getting sanitized. Perhaps this is overkill, but whatever. The Sungold & Wonder Light tomatoes are looking fine (and, tonight I harvested my first Wonder Light!). I'm also a bit concerned about my Cherokee Purple.
But, I don't feel as sad about this as I had expected. We've probably gotten at least 6 pints out of our Sungold tomatoes so far & they are still producing like crazy. This year hasn't be a total loss (especially b/c the Sungold are some of the most delicious tomatoes I've ever tasted!).
Plus, when life gives you late blight, make fried green tomatoes!
(The plants had several full sized but unripe tomatoes on them)
Monday, August 3, 2009
But this week's CSA haul is *exciting.* Why? Two words, mis amigos, two words: ground cherries. As you know, I got some ground cherry seedlings from my CSA. However, I have not netted them and I fear that the birds get to them before I do.
I've got corn (4), tomatoes (3 huge ones), tomatillos (8), ground cherries! (16), garlic (1), basil, ground cherries! (16), squash (1), bell pepper (1 small), and eggplant (1).
Last week, the bean enchiladas with mole didn't happen b/c I got sick and the husband wasn't feelin' like cooking. I can report, though, that the rest of it was delicious! This week the plan is:
Grilled Steak Tacos: Marinated then grilled london broil topped with tomatillo salsa and onions, rolled up in a corn tortilla and served with corn-tomato-black bean salad. Ole!
Ratatouille: Eggplant, squash, bell pepper, tomatoes and herbs (thyme & parsley from the garden, basil from CSA) all cooked up together into one fantastic summer stew.
Snackin': Ground cherries! Just pop out of their skins & eat! It's my dessert tonight actually. They kind of taste like persimmons to me. So delicious. Makes me want to go out & net mine. Except I'm kinda feeling lazy right now.
I should be back tomorrow hopefully after finding out what is ailing two of my tomato plants. Fingers crossed it doesn't start with "late" and end with "blight"...