Tuesday, May 31, 2011

How the garden grows

And so, I finally got to get back on my knees: pulling up weeds; snipping energy sapping suckers, and inspecting the underside of leaves for signs of larvae. Yes, I gave the man and the dogs some love first but I was definitely distracted.

As soon as the hellos and hugs turned to “have you eaten?” I put on my garden shoes to see how things have gone in my absence. A quick survey caused great elation within me as the tomato plants where starting to look heavy with developing clusters

and a splay of blooms. The cabbage and broccoli are recognizable and clearly vying for a place at the county fair. Not all things have withstood the elements well – the eggplants, clearly a favorite for the leaf-cutters that have been enjoying a buffet. I was warned and in my bag along with underwear, socks and t-shirts was tea tree oil tincture and lavender scented castile soap, which was to become my hope for rendering the plant unappetizing. A few drops of each into a misting bottle diluted in water and I went to work. I will continue this wash every morning for a few days, and then sit back hoping for signs of un-interpreted life. Now admittedly, eggplants are not a top favorite of mine but this a community and I am committed to treat all equally – except for unwanted, gluttonous pests.

Yet still, there is more to rejoice in then wallow. My mixed lettuce greens begged for immediate tossing; arugula flowers offered a bucolic as well peppery note to that salad mix. The runt of the garden, a fragile three-leafed pineapple sage was left by me a month ago, with what I believed to be a realistic belief, anticipating it would not make it. Has it proven me wrong! It might not have achieved the height its botanical descriptive might lead me to hope for but it is leafy, green and smells divine. I will allow it to climb skywards before I start clipping those leaves for some fantastic scenting. Tonight though, my other aromatic dream will be snipped. The infant lemon verbena left to bask in the sun has taken off. I can so envision a tree by the summer’s end – and what a fantasy come true.

I left a raised bed of loamy soil moist from a good-bye soaking. I can see that my rows of corn will be knee high by the fourth of July.
It has been decades since I was able to go grab a cob from its stalk husk it and go at it. Patience. Adjacent to mid-summer’s iconic kernels are a dozen or so broad-leafed stems rotating with the path of the sun. I never knew you could set your east-west direction by observing the position of a sunflower. I have watched them start leaning in one direction ending the day on the opposite tilt; waking up in the same place only to quickly bend to meet the morning light. It’s alive! They are absolutely going to be my last view of the day and first visit the following morning.

Turkey Skewers – yields 4 to 6 servings
1 poblano chili
3-pound turkey breast (boneless and skinless)
3-garlic cloves – finely minced
2-tablespoons za’taar spice mix
Juice of 1lime (approx. 3-tablespoons)
1/4-cup roughly chopped cilantro
Salt to taste

Cut the poblano chili in half lengthwise, and remove the seeds and stem. Then cut the poblano into 9 pieces.

Cube the turkey into 2-inch chunks. Place the pablano and turkey in a work bowl and toss with the garlic, za’taar, lime juice and cilantro. Le the meat marinate for one to fours in the refrigerator. Using 8 or 10-inch skewers thread two pieces of meat than a piece of poblano then meat. Finishing the skewer with a piece of turkey meat. Season with salt.

Heat the grill and cook the skewers for about 15 minutes over a high – rotating the skewers every so often.

Friday, May 27, 2011

Here it comes

Memorial Day weekend beckons as does the bourgeoning stalls and backyard gardens all around. My arugula is peppering nightly salads and farmers who have more than three sprouting bulbs in their plot are harvesting scallion-like garlic while crimson, showy lilies flirt with everyone who stops and stares.

I am still waiting for a splash of color other then the spectrum of green that goes beyond the pantone chart. Rhubarb, strawberries and radishes continue to accent and excite my meals. Anxiously, I anticipate the ripening of those nascent cherry tomatoes and blossoms of crooked-necked zucchini to morph into those elongated, carved squashes.

I am still visiting with continuous theme in my life, patience.

Instead of biting at the bit for what is coming I remind myself the practice being in the moment, where all that is expected will be when its time is right – this afternoon; tomorrow; next Wednesday. Until, I will revel in the bounty laid out before and season it to its full potential.

Swiss Chard Won-ton Raviolis - yields 8 servings
1 bunch red or white Swiss chard (approx. 2 pounds)
2 garlic cloves - finely minced
3/4 cup Parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper
1-package Won-ton wrappers (approximately 50 count)
1/4-cup cornstarch
1/2-cup olive oil

Remove the rib from the leaves of the Swiss chard. Wash both, but keep them separate. Bring a four-quart pot of water to a boil and cook the leaves for 3 to 4 minutes. Drain. Roughly chop the leaves. Meanwhile, dice the ribs into small pieces and sauté in 2 tablespoons of olive oil with the garlic for 5 minutes. Drain the ribs through a fine sieve over a large bowl collecting the cooking liquid given off from the cooked ribs. Reserve the liquid.

Toss the Swiss chard leaf, rib and cheese together. Taste and correct seasoning with salt and pepper.

On a won-ton skin place about a tablespoon’s worth of the Swiss chard mixture in the center of the skin. Lightly dampen the edges with water and lay another won-ton skin on top. Carefully, squeeze out any air from the ravioli and pinch the edges to seal. Place the completed raviolis on a tray lightly dusted with corn starch (this helps prevent the raviolis from sticking to the surface). Continue with the rest.

Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.

Lightly oil a baking tray and lay the raviolis down in a single layer. Lightly brush the tops of the raviolis with oil. Place in the oven and bake for 8 to10 minutes, or until golden brown.

Bring the reserved Swiss chard liquid to a boil, season with salt and pepper and add remaining oil. Drizzle a little liquid over each serving.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Believe the impossible

With every day another seed germinates
Beads of dew dip moistening the crust
A moment a breakthrough a moment of cheer
Upward the climb filled with potential
Rife with struggle but committed
An earthworm a helping hand
All can make it though not all is equal
Even still love fertilizes offered about
Grabbing on soaking it up
Stronger becomes the roots stronger becomes the resolve
Making it skyward including the challenged
Stalked by the elements an extra tender touch offered
Continued support continued belief

Minted Avocado Mousse - yields 8 to 10 servings
1-can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk
3/4-cup sugar
6 mint stems
1 lime - juiced
3 large avocados - ripened
1/4-cup fresh orange juice
1-1/2 tablespoons unflavored gelatin
5 ounces bittersweet chocolate - chopped up
1-teaspoon canola oil

In a 1-1/2 quart saucepan gently warm the coconut, sugar and mint over a low heat for about 5 minutes, or until the sugar is dissolved. Let the cream mixture cool, and strain through a sieve, discarding the mint.

Place the limejuice in the bowl of a food processor fitted with a plastic blade or blender. Add the avocado and process till very smooth. Dissolve the gelatin in a 1/4-cup of orange juice over a low flame stirring well to avoid it from lumping up. Add the gelatin to the avocado mixture, and incorporate thoroughly.

With a whisk sir the cream into the avocado and blend till well incorporated.

With a paper towel moistened with some oil, lightly grease a Charlotte mold, or use a bunt pan dish, and pour in the mousse mixture. Tap the mold lightly on the container to dislodge any air bubbles, and refrigerate 6 hours or overnight. To un-mold the mousse place in a pan of warm water for no more than a minute or two. Wipe the mold dry. Place your serving dish on top of the mold, and turn it out. Tap on the mold to ensure the entire mousse releases at the same time. Once you have un-molded the mousse place it back in the refrigerator for a half hour to an hour to firm it back up.

To make the chocolate glaze place the chocolate and remaining oil in a stainless steel bowl, and melt completely over a double boiler. Alternatively, the chocolate can be melted in the microwave oven, just use a non-metallic bowl and heat for approximately 1 minute. Make sure the oil and chocolate is well combined, and let it cool for a few minutes.

Drizzle the chocolate over the mousse. Refrigerate for 20 to 30 minutes before servings.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Going Green...Eating Green

I have been separating paper and plastic from my disposables for years. Then a few seasons back I started culling my compostibles and schlepping it down to the farmer’s market two to three times a week. The gratification is that my actual throw-aways has been substantially reduced to where I tend to visit the garbage bin once, maybe twice a week. And earlier this season I needed to re-pot my one and only house plant, and I was excited to buy soil from the collection spot for my compost and nestle that palm into earth I may have had a hand in making. The warm scent of loamy earth is as appealing to me as the spicy release of an Oriental Lily.

Now, that the earth has re-awoken from its barren winter slumber I am once again relishing the perfume rising from my backyard. This year it has taken an even more intimate concern for me, as I am spending a considerable amount of time in the environs of Atlanta and the burgeoning pleasures right out the backdoor. I am now not just a fanatic, supporter of seasonal pleasure but a dirt-under-the-nails purveyor of my daily feed. I am being taught patience as I wait for Mother Nature to allow life to unfold and mature. I toss and turn during evening thunderstorms hoping the pellets of water don’t land to aggressively, yet grateful for the quenching relief it is giving. The asparagus in the lower garden is only in its second year and I must wait at least one more year even though I was desperate to snap a tender stalk or two. Fortunately, the lettuces, arugula and Tuscan kale have taken to being offered up rather quickly. I have joyously headed down to the garden, scissors in hand, planning dinner on my return to the house.

But still I am impatient. Biting at the bit for when all but the protein I will be using comes from the yard, or when in New York, the farmer’s market using the seasons as my shopping list. I will keep busy until then, and upon my return to my garden I am planning to build a three-sided compost container for the will be plenty of plants requiring soil next year.

Whole Wheat Panzella Salad – yields 6 servings
3 cups of cubed whole wheat bread
1 pint yellow cherry tomatoes – halved
1 pint red cherry tomatoes - halved
1 hot house cucumber - 3/4” diced
1 small red onion - sliced thinly
3 celery stalks - 3/4” diced
5 scallions - diced
2 bunch arugula - washed and roughly chopped
2 garlic cloves – crushed to a pasted
Freshly ground pepper and salt to taste
2 tablespoons pine nuts - toasted

Spread the bread cubes on a baking tray and dry out in a 250-degree for 5 to 10 minutes. Do not allow the bread cubes to develop too much color.
Toss all ingredients together along with 1-1/2 cups Green Goddess Dressing (recipe follows) making sure to distribute the dressing thoroughly. Serve within a half hour. If you want you can assemble the components of the salad up to 24 hours in advance. Keep the bread and dressing separate until you are ready to serve.

Green Goddess Dressing – yields approx. 3 cups
1-pound silken tofu
2-tablespoons olive oil
1-teaspoon lime zest
1/4-cup fresh limejuice
2-tablespoons Dijon-style mustard
1-tablespoon fresh oregano leaves
1-tablespoon Italian parsley leaves – roughly chopped
1/4-cup chopped chives
1 clove garlic – roughly chopped
1/8-cup fresh chervil leaves
1-packed cup sorrel leaves – center rib removed
2-teaspoons salt
1/4-teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Pinch of cayenne
Place the tofu in a sieve sitting in a bowl, and let the tofu drain out its excessive water in the refrigerator for 12 to 24 hours. Discard the water that the tofu has released.

Into the blender or food processor place all the ingredients, and blend until completely smooth.

Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.