April 23, 2013 § Leave a Comment
As a child I never liked mushrooms. Strike that—I never had the opportunity to eat mushrooms because my parents didn’t like them. Entering adulthood I just stayed away from encounters with mushrooms, picking them off the late-night pizzas ordered with friends at college and steering clear of them on Chinese food take-out menus.
Time has moved on, and so have my taste buds. I now love mushrooms. The earthier the mushroom, the better. Every shopping trip sees me sorting through the bins of different kinds. What a silly kid I was, I think as I marvel at the fresh and dried fungi.
This is the year I stop relying so heavily on store-bought mushrooms and I attempt to grow my own. With the popularity of “grow-your-own” everything—from bean sprouts to dinosaur kale to heirloom tomatoes—several different companies now offer grow-your-own mushroom kits. There are two that I know of:
Back to the Roots: Probably the most well-known of the mushroom-growing kits, the Back to the Roots kit promises to produce up to 1.5 pounds of pearl oyster mushrooms in about 10 days, and can produce at least two crops worth of mushrooms—maybe even three crops. Each box, which is shaped like a cardboard milk carton, contains 100% recycled plant-based waste which performs as the growing medium. Just open the lid, mist with water, and set it by a sunny window. How convenient to grow indoors! www.backtotheroots.com
Happy Cat Farm: This organic seed producer from Southeastern Pennsylvania offers a Shiitake Mushroom Log for outdoor mushroom growing. The log comes inoculated with a strain of mushroom spawn. Given proper shade and moisture, the log will produce shiitake mushrooms every 8-12 weeks for several years. Just place the log right on the ground in a place like a shaded mulched planting bed and keep it moist. If it dries out for more than a week, soak the log overnight in a container of water and it’ll be as good as new. www.happycatorganics.com
March 7, 2013 § Leave a Comment
I made a spontaneous weekend trip to the Philadelphia Flower Show last weekend. What you usually see at early spring flower shows are flowers and shrubs and even trees that have been heated and pampered to produce blooms long before they’d do so with Mother Nature’s guidance alone. That’s what people come for—to be inspired by what the warmer weather promises.
Flower Show visitors don’t have to wait for long to see a few of the plants that were in full bloom indoors. The hellebore (Helleborus) is a good example of that.
Hellebores bloom in late winter and early spring—some varieties as early as January. There’s been a resurgence in interest in this perennial plant over the last decade or so, and plant breeders have introduced all sorts of cool flower colors and foliage colors. The hellebore’s leaves, by the way, are evergreen – they won’t die back in winter, which is another cool thing about this plant.
Take Helleborus ‘HGC Mahongany Snow’, for instance. This variety can begin blooming as early as January in some areas. And the blooms are beautiful—dusty rose buds open into creamy white flowers. The leaves are chocolatey in color and the flower stems reddish. The whole package—leaves, stems and blooms—gives the garden some low-key color at a low-key time of the year. And they’re astounding planted en masse like this.
There’s been a push in recent years to sell hellebores as potted plants in the late fall through winter. Give them as Thanksgiving and Christmas gifts, that sort of thing. Think of them as temporary blooming houseplants biding their time until you can plant them outdoors in spring. It’s a good idea. In fact, I have had a potted hellebore ‘Jacob’ in my office window since late December. It’s looking a little weak right now, but that’s ok—it’ll be heading outside in a few short weeks.
Why you might enjoy hellebores:
- Blooms way early in the year, just when your garden needs it!
- Come in some great colors—both flower and leaf color
- Perennials, so you’ll have them year after year, and they’ll get bigger each year
- Evergreen foliage for year-round color
- A good choice for your partial shade garden, under bushes, and so forth
- Deer resistant—bonus!
- Nice as winter houseplants—another bonus!
Have you tried hellebores? How have they held up in your garden? Leave a comment and let me know.
July 27, 2012 § 4 Comments
Zucchini. It doesn’t stop.
Turn around for a minute and the long green veggie is 3 inches longer on the vine. Not kidding. Hold off on picking it for a day and … well … it becomes a billy club. Growing up, we’d throw the very large zukes into the pig pen. Healthy, zucchini-loving pigs, that’s what we had.
Lately, thoughts during my 25-minute walk back home from yoga have turned to how to use that day’s zucchini. Pizza. Pasta. Salad. I’ve done them all and wanted something different. Last night, my craving for a burger—really, the craving for something meaty between two bready buns—decided dinner for me. Why should sliders be reserved for meat eaters? Zucchini can play that game, too.
1 5-6 in. zucchini
2 tbs olive oil
1+tbs balsamic vinegar
1 spring oregano
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
6 small French rolls, cut into top and bottom halves
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1-2 tbs olive oil
1 deliciously red heirloom tomato
1. Slice zucchini into rounds slightly thicker than 1/2 in. Discard (or eat!) the smaller rounds. Shoot for using 12 rounds.
2. Combine oil, vinegar, oregano, a big pinch of kosher salt and several turns of the pepper grinder in a medium bowl. Dip your finger in there and adjust seasoning if you’d like (more vinegar? more oil? It’s your food—make it taste the way you like!). Add zucchini slices and toss. Put aside.
3. Smash those garlic cloves with the back of your chef’s knife (on a cutting board, of course) and schmear it together until the garlic becomes kinda pasty. You can add a sprinkle of salt or not. Add this to a small bowl of 1-2 tbs olive oil. Brush this oil onto the bun halves.
4. Set a grill pan onto medium-high heat. When it’s hot, place buns, cut side down, onto the pan and flatten slightly. 10-15 seconds will do. Put grilled buns into a bowl and cover with a tea towel for now. Turn off grill pan.
5. Meanwhile … we’re still waiting for the zucchini to marinate a bit. Take this time to make a small side salad and whip up a quick vinaigrette.
6. Okay, done with the salad? Time to move on. Get that grill pan back up to medium high. Place your zucchini rounds onto the grill pan. Using a brush, dab some of the liquid remaining in the bowl onto each slice. Let them sit for 4-5 min, or until they get some nice-looking grill marks on the bottom.
7. While those are grilling, slice the tomato into 6 slices and add to whatever liquid remains in the bottom of that bowl.
8. Mozzarella. Time to slice it. Slice it about 1/4 in. thick or less, and into whatever size will sit nicely on top of a zucchini round.
9. Back to those zucchinis. They should be ready to flip onto the other side. Do that. Then place a bit of mozzarella on top of each. Let them grill for a minute.
10. Get your buns ready, working with one top and bottom at a time. This part is optional: Make some room in that grill pan and place the buns cut side down into the goodness the zucchini has been cooking in. Only takes a second, and remove quickly. If not doing that: Place one zucchini slice onto the bun bottom, and overlap a second on top of that. Add a slice of tomato. Top it off with other half of the bun. Repeat with the remaining zukes and buns.
Super. Good. I ate one and a half. Coulda had two. Or three.
Enjoy. I’m off to make zucchini bread now.
Do you have a favorite zucchini recipe? Share it in the comments section.
July 9, 2012 § 1 Comment
Pesto makes me happy. It just does. Just like the pop of a champagne bottle means something celebratory is about to happen, the knowledge that pesto is in a dish means something tasty is about to be experienced.
Basil is just the tip of the pesto iceberg. It’s the easy and expected version. But when the garden presents one with an abundance of other herbs, it’s a prime opportunity to explore other pesto flavors. That’s how this batch of cilantro pesto came about. A 3-ft. row of cilantro plants was beginning to bolt (i.e. grow quickly and produce flowers), and rather than let it go to seed, I opted to harvest it all. And what’s the best way to use large amounts of herbs? Pesto.
Like anything with cilantro, this pesto goes pretty darn well with Mexican food. It’s also tasty spread inside a grilled cheese and as a base for a pizza. And the best thing about this version is … it’s accidentally vegan.
- 1 cup loosely packed cilantro leaves (and I also threw in the flowers)
- 1 cup loosely packed parsley leaves
- 1/3 cup whole almonds
- 1 small fresh chili (jalapeno is good)
- 2 garlic cloves coarsely chopped
- 2 tbs fresh lime juice (I used a whole lime)
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- salt and pepper to taste
-Place all ingredients except lime juice and oil in a food processor and pulse several times to chop finely.
-With the foodpro on, add the juice and oil in a steady stream. If you like your pesto saucy, add a bit more oil.
All my pesto recipes come from the The Moosewood Kitchen Garden cook-garden book. The dill pesto recipe is also a keeper. I’ll share, but first my dill needs to grow a bit more.
June 26, 2012 § 2 Comments
Hey, hi. Remember me?
Nope, haven’t forgotten about Dainty Dot. Truly have not. It’s been a bit of a busy month. And I’ve had other things on my mind. Dainty took a backseat for a bit.
A backseat to what, you ask? I’ll review in photos …
Boo – she’s growing too fast. My iPhone can barely hold all the photos I take of her.
June has so many Instagram opportunities. I can’t keep up. Pretty, huh?
I’m slightly obsessed with yoga. Just slightly, but in a good way. Maybe I’ll talk to you about it someday. But for now, know that this mat has become a good friend of mine. And it’s fashionably orange.
So, I’m a potato farmer’s daughter. And an avid gardener. And for the first time this spring, it dawned on me: Why not grow some potatoes? And it shall be so. Technically once the flowers bloom, there should be potatoes under the ground. But I want them bigger than peas, so I’ll await awhile.
Oh, yeah, and by the way … we’re buying a brand-spankin’-new unit in a brand-spankin’-new building. New as in, this was a vacant lot last July. And it’s highly energy efficient and will have solar panels and is built like a German tank – and that’s with good reason. Obviously, more on this later.
But just because I haven’t been writing here doesn’t mean I haven’t been writing. I’ve been taking a spin at fiction. More of a poetry-short fiction hybrid type of writing. And the cool thing is it’s fiction inspired by photos. The images are all iPhone Instagram pics taken by a friend who has a knack for knowing there’s a story behind a scene. Take this one, for instance. Who left the phone? Why? Who was on the other end? I took a stab at it—and a bunch of other photos, too—and am publishing them at The Skinny Fedora. The one above is “Hope Asked.”
So, give The Skinny Fedora a quick read and let me and the other skinny girl know what you think. Leave comments here or at www.theskinnyfedora.com.
April 23, 2012 § 3 Comments
Stones. That’s my usual response to what fills my first harvest in my community garden in early spring. I spend days clearing the surface of these leaden balloons. But not really. They’re always right below the soil, ready to buoy themselves up. Stones float. That’s the only possible reason for their constant surfacing.
This year, though, my garden has a new, less stony epidermis. Long story short, there’s 6 inches of new soil in my garden. Stones, still, but not as in springs past. Give it some time.
This spring’s first harvest is chives. Thrilling, I know. I had never planted them in my plot. They were just sorta there, leftovers from previous gardeners. But just before that 6 inches was layered down, I thought to rescue the just-emerging greeny spikes. And because I gave them a second chase at life, I decided to fulfill their purpose. I decided to use them in some way in my kitchen.
Right. And exactly how would I do this? What does one do with chives, anyway? I’m sure something, but nothing came to mind. Google rescued me, of course, sending me to several different sites. Oh yes, biscuits were made—cheddar-chive biscuits. And a chive chip is on my wait list. But for now, let’s start with something easy. Let’s get all vinaigrette.
Epicurious, thank you for this green-as-goodness dressing. Faced with a minimalistic salad (i.e., I really didn’t have much in the fridge and the salad, therefore, was a bit weak), this vinaigrette perked up what was paltry. You could say, I suppose, that the chives did indeed fulfill their purpose.
Chive Vinaigrette, ala Epicurious:
- 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
- 1/4 cup Champagne vinegar
- 1 small shallot, coarsely chopped
- 1 tsp honey
- 1 tsp Dijon mustard
- 2/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1. Blend the first five ingredients in a blender. Just a note here: I used white wine vinegar – didn’t have Champagne vinegar in the house. And show yourself some respect—use a good Dijon.
2. Next up, the oils. With motor running, slowing add in the veg oil and evoo. Hold off on the last quarter of that 1/3 cup evoo. Give it a taste first and see if more is needed.
3. You’re done. Well, not really. Before you’re done, give it a taste. It’ll benefit from a pinch of kosher salt. Or two.
The result: a more-beautiful-than-you-expected green green green dressing with a light but full-flavored expression. But I give you fair warning before you enjoy —you’ll want to be sure the person you kiss next has also partaken. Chives are onions, after all.