Monday, October 31, 2011


 This is the perfect period of transition for me, for the warmth of summer still clings precariously in the air while the push into winter works its way to rid any trace of balminess.

Wait a second in a blink of an eye all has changed.

 A nor’easter clipped the northeast dumping snow earlier than I could ever remember. The effects were felt as a sizeable layer of frozen precipitation covered still green grass spreading its frosty tentacles into the south where temperatures dipped to the freezing point. Goodbye the last remnants of summer. Up until this third to the last day of October the markets represented a moment of transition with eggplants, tomatoes, corn and okra occupying corners, displaced by myriad beets, full blown cabbages, stiff stalks of Brussels sprouts and apples lined up to the horizon’s line. The corners have been lost.

Yes, I already miss cucumbers, peaches and melons though I know they will return next year. Mother Nature’s generosity means that not all will be lost with this flip of a switch change. Herbs like sage, parsley, sorrel and thyme seem to be handling the deep chill, and my cabbage, beets, kale and carrots are showing no signs of frost burn. So, clearly I will not be going hungry yet.

The initial lost may provoke an extreme sense of despair, but given time for reflection I know all will return. Pining for my desire absolutely makes their return all the sweeter. So, now I am spending time hollowing out pumpkins, toasting their seeds and making purees, pies, breads and roasts. You know summer has come to its end when the oven is turned on and you welcome the ambient heat.

Whole Roasted Cauliflower - yields 4 to 6 servings

1 head of cauliflower
2-tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.

With a pairing knife make "X's" in the core of the cauliflower, and then using the knife carefully cut out the core -- making sure not to cause the head to fall about.

Place the head of cauliflower on a baking tray, and pour 1/2-cup water onto the tray. Drizzle the oil over the cauliflower and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Place in the oven for 35 to 45 minutes until browned. Serve warm with a squeeze of lemon juice. 

Friday, October 14, 2011

Looking Up...looking forward

Spots of upturned earth
 tug of the Harvest Moon
Dividends are stored

Carrot/Apricot Bread – yeilds  9x3 loaf
3-cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking soda
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
½-teaspoon ground cinnamon
¼-teaspoon ground mace
1/4-teaspoon ground cardamom
1/8-teaspoon salt
4 whole eggs
1-cup sugar
1-cup canola oil
1-teaspoon pineapple extract
1-teaspoon oragne water
½-teaspoon grated orange zest
2-1/2 cup grated carrots
¾-cups diced dried apricots

Pre-heat the oven to 350-degrees.

Sift the flour, baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, mace, cardamom and salt together.
In a mixing bowl beat the eggs and sugar together until light and fluffy. Then slowing add in the oil, oineapple extract, orange water and orange zest.

Then mix the flour to combine. Then mix in the carrots and apricots to thoroughly distrbute. Pour into a buttered and floured loaf pan and bake in the oven for 50 to 60 minutes.

Remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack and allow the bread sit for 20 to 30 minutes before turning it out to completley cool. Slice and serve with citrus scented cream cheese.

Citrus Cream Cheese Smear
8-ounces cream cheese
½-teaspoon orange water
½-teaspoon grated lemon zest
1-cup powdered sugar
Beat all the ingredients until well combined, and smooth.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

It is all an Opportunity

Of course, we all know the adage, “when life gives you lemons..” that is exactly how I have felt the last few days. No, it is not that life has been particularly difficult of late I am managing to negotitate the highs and lows of being alive quite well. It is the garden that has been trying my patience and resolve. The okra has a new tennant, kudzu bugs, whose workings are not too harmful but annoying nevertheless. And, I am sure there is a chipmunk or field mouse by the daily signs of someone digging in the garden besides me. Though these are just the daily conversations to be found out in the yard.

With an impending rain storm that was to be accompanied by a lowering temperature I thought is was best to harvest the glut of chili peppers that were tinted from green to red to yellow before they became too water logged, which would compromise its heat potential. So, yet another quart of hot sauce is nestled against the back wall of the refrigerator. I also had to bite the bullet and give up on the tomatoes. We planted a total of nine tomato seedlings of different varities; one was lost early in the season to an undetermined disorder. The others seemed to flourish, growing tall and strong putting out copious quantities of flowers. Frustratingly, in August, when I expected too be over-run by these summer icons – nothing. I was lucky to get one to two a week, and of that fifty percentage of the time an insect had gotten there first. Working with an eye on the future next year I will plant them in a different spot, perhaps not as sunny and enrich the soil with compost and mature manure, and try again.

Then in mid-September, just as the heat had its edge taken off, a profusion of new flowers then fruit. I prayed; I hoped; I thought finally some tomato good fortunate. For a month I waited for the glow of ripening to show – a handful of cherry tomatoes ripened and two yellow lemons managed to come to completion. Now, I find myself with 3-pounds of underripe cherry tomatoes and close to 20-pounds a various green tomatoes. I got my tomato haul, just not the one I was expecting. All is not completely lost for there are plently of recipes utilizing green tomatoes. I indulged myself with fried green tomatoes for dinner, and I am considering a green tomato pie, which is a southern specialty that I have been curious about. I now have a 2-gallon jar in the refrigerator crammed with tomatoes pickling away and I stashed the most developed green ones in a brown paper bag to see if they might mature further. Those cherry tomatoes are simmering on the stove transforming into a chutney that’s going to be jarred becoming unexpected gift from the garden.

Green Cherry Tomato Chutney – yields 8 pints
2-tablespoons canola oil
1-large onion – thinly sliced
3-ounces fresh ginger – peeled and minced
2-ounces fresh turmeric – peeled and minced
1-teaspoon whole fenugreek
1-teaspoon cumin seed
2 to 3 dried red chilies
2-teaspoons kosher salt
4-ounces jaggery (or dark brown sugar)
1-cup golden raisins
3-pounds green cherry tomatoes
½-cup white distilled vinegar

Heat a 8-quart pan over a medium heat, and add the oil, onion, ginger and turmeric. Cook until the onions are golden brown then add in the fenugreek, cumin, red chilies and salt. Cook for a few minutes until they release their fragrance. 

Then mix in the jaggery, raisins, cherry tomatoes, vinegar and a ½-cup of water. Bring to a boil, and then reduce the heat to simmer, and cook, covered, for 1 to 2 hours. Stir the chutney occassionally in order not to let it sorch on the bottom.

Store the refrigerator, or can in sterlized canning jars for 15 minutes.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

What I time I have had!

I have gone through two full seasons engaging in this exercise, called gardening. I was an absolute novice a mere six months ago struggling to keep the palm in the house alive. However, I have learned that trying to grow something in the earth exposed to the elements is actually easier. That is not to say, that the labor in involved is inconsequential or that gnawing, cutting, boring pests that work to thwart the desired outcome are effortlessly out maneuvered. I have raced out during whipping thunder storms to save young corn stalks from being uprooted and mourned the death of cauliflower due to an obliterating infestation of black fleas. I have successfully nursed my loveage, sorrel and chamomile through the wilting heat of summer to watch them reclaim their productive lives in the past few weeks. 

Since the autumnal equinox the sun is positioned in a less aggressive position for those plants that can tolerate a life without air conditioning. I have crunched on plum radishes, candy-stripped beets, and I awaited the broccoli both common and Romanesque as well another attempt at cauliflower. We have built up the topsoil deep enough that a crop of carrots have actually taken hold. I feel good about getting through this final push of dirt. I am most proud of the achievements and how we have managed to live off the generosity of our modest plot.

I am buoyed by the response I have received for next year’s plantings. I already have started my list of things I want to try to grow: sesame, fenugreek, water radish, cumin, shiso, garlic, and if I win, start raising chickens. Of course, this is addition to all that was grown this year and come February the dining room will be lined with a hefty, plastic bag and become home to seeds that have been collected, and with fingers crossed will sprout. 
                                                       Pork Meatballs – yields about 16

¼-cup amaranth
2-tablespoons loveage – chopped
1-tablespoon Italian parsley leaves – chopped
1 medium carrot – grated
1-small onion – finely minced
3-garlic cloves – finely minced
1-poblano pepper – seeds discarded; then finely minced
1-1/4 pound ground pork
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
                                                ¼-cup white wine

Place the amaranth in a small work bowl and cover the hot water. Let the amaranth sit for an hour.  Then drain.

In a large work bowl mix all the ingredients, except the white wine, together in order to distribute everything well. Form into 16 meatballs, approximately the size of a golf ball. Refrigerate the meatballs for 30 to 60 minutes.

Heat a 10-inch saute pan over a high heat, and brown the meatballs. You will want to do this in two batches. 

Once the second half of the meatballs are browned add all the meatballs to the pan, and pour in wine. Reduce the heat to lower, and cover the pan. 

Cook for 15 to 20 minutes. Serve immediately over wilted greens.