Let’s Grow Mushrooms
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
Zucchini Tomato Mozzarella Sliders
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.
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.
An easy DIY green wall
February 3, 2012 § 6 Comments
As soon as I whispered under my breath that I would post EVERY day in February, I promptly skipped a day.
But I have a great excuse. Really, I do. I was working.
Now, I don’t normally share my work stuff here. I’m making an exception, however, because a) I feel I need to make up for yesterday and b) I spotted a pretty cool product that is applicable to both food and garden topics. Trust me on this, it’s something you’ll think is neat. And you may even be inspired to buy one.
First, the details. Where was I? I was at a trade and educational show here in Boston called New England Grows. Lots of inspiring seminars with landscape designers, plant breeders, horticulturists, arborists, etc etc. And it has a pretty big trade show attached to it, too, with aisle upon aisle of vendors exhibiting everything from plants and pavers to forklifts and whimsical garden art. The trade show is the reason I go—to find new stuff.
Green Walls Made Simple
Green walls—whether outside along the side of a building or installed on an indoor wall—are a big thing nowadays, very trendy. I’ve seen them in stores, in and outside restaurants, in botanical gardens, in museums and all sorts of places. And they’re usually large and decorative and have intricate irrigation systems. But really, can these things be everyday items for everyday people?I had serious doubts.
But a product I saw yesterday has made me reconsider. It’s called GroVert. And it’s simple, really. It consists of a plastic tray with a number of cells. Think of it as a big ice cube tray with the cells angled a bit. When the tray is filled with potting soil and hung with just two screws on the wall, the cells, because they are angled downward, don’t lose any of the soil.
Within each cell you can plant small plants—whatever plants you want, but ones that stay kinda small are best. If the GroVert will be installed outside, then any type of colorful bedding plant will do, or fill with small evergreen groundcovers. If the GroVert will hang indoors, then the typical houseplants will work best.
Here’s a culinary twist: Plant herbs in the cells and hang near your outdoor grill or on the wall in your kitchen. Brilliant!
How do you water it? Another simple concept. Above this tray is a water reservoir. I’m not positive how it works, but I think the water slowly drips from there, trickling downward from cell to cell. And there’s a basin at the base to catch anything that leaches through.
Another cool thing about GroVert is that you can buy a wood frame that fits over and around the tray and reservoir, basically covering the black plastic and turning it into a living piece of art.
Why stop at one? Place two or more together to expand the footprint of your GroVert green wall.
The things I like about GroVert are: 1) it seems easy to install, 2) maintenance is basic enough, 3) there’s options to expand and 4) if the plants don’t do well, removing individual plants and replacing with new ones seems simple.
Where do you find GroVert? Good question! This is a new product and should be appearing in local garden retail stores soon. If I hear of where you can find it, I’ll try to let you know.
Think this will inspire you to create your own green wall? Flowers, foliage or herbs? Leave me a comment and weigh in on the subject!
Homegrown Food Challenge—Days 6 & 7
October 21, 2011 § Leave a comment
No, we did not whither away and die from lack of food after Day 5 of our Homegrown Food Challenge. We survived quite nicely, thank you very much. I’ve just not been … well … in the blogging mood, I guess. If you’re a blogger, you’re pickin’ up what I’m puttin’ down. Hey, it happens. I’m back on track now, though, no worries.
Day 6—it was all the way back last Saturday. I had promised we’d kick it up a bit with something for breakfast that was more interesting than yogurt. And we did—omelets! Not an omelet, per se, but more of a flat egg. That’s what my mom called them when I was growing up. It’s just two eggs, slightly beaten and NOTHING added to the eggs, as you would were you making omelets. Just a straight ol’ egg. We added in some local goat cheese and diced homegrown tomato right at the last second, folded and called it breakfast. A slice or two of toasted homemade bread made it a filling meal.
After, Jennifer took off for the weekend to attend to some business, leaving me to fend for myself. Lunch was … honestly, I can’t remember. Must have been the last of the grilled eggplant paninni … yum … By the way, that post was way popular. Way. Popular.
Dinner was when I got creative on Day 6. Earlier in the week I had cooked up some homegrown Vermont cranberry beans. Used the pressure cooker, actually, and the process yielded some terrific bean broth. Add some homegrown leeks, homegrown carrots, and a neighbor’s small bunch of homegrown celery, and it’s the beginning of soup! I added to that the leftover Vermont cranberry beans, some leftover homegrown/homemade tomato sauce, a fading homegrown zucchini and a couple of locally grown potatoes—along with salt, pepper, homegrown oregano and sage. Soup and bread for dinner—the end of a great gardening day.
Our weeklong Homegrown Food Challenge ended not with a big banquet ala Julie and Julia, but on a much more common, everyday note. Plans for going out with a bang—lasagna of homemade pasta, homegrown broccoli, eggplant and kale—faded with the afternoon. Instead we hunkered down, ate our soup and toasted our accomplishment with the last of the local beer.
Next year … I truly wonder what that will bring.
Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 5
October 16, 2011 § 6 Comments
Has this been the longest week ever? Were there 10 days in this particular week? God, it just seems never-ending. What is up with that, calendar?
Not to imply that the Homegrown Food Challenge is getting old. It’s not. As I said yesterday, we actually have too much food to work with, and I haven’t end gotten around to using our homegrown leeks and beets and … whaddaya know … we have a head of broccoli ready to go.
It’s just that, well, I’m realizing how boring my breakfast (or lack of it) is becoming. It’s the same, every time. Coffee, well, duh, I require daily morning intakes. It’s just the non-liquids that go along with that meal. It’s not as mind-numbing as the time in Jr. High that I ate a Toaster Strudel every day for two years. But … unless I’m going to have home-baked baked goods for breakfast, I’m not so sure I have any thrilling alternatives. Suggestions, anyone?
On to Day 5, which, I must admit, was borderline local …
Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic milk. Stonyfield yogurt. Local apple. Thank god for good coffee.
I feel almost sinful having the grilled eggplant paninni with smoky mayo two days in a row. But I did. And I loved it. Really and truly. No tomato this time.
Another local eatery. This time with our new-found friend who was flying solo that night. We headed to Gaslight. No, they aren’t a struggling local place that needs our money. But the place has darn-good food and surely the fish on the menu is local, right? And the broccoli rabe under the fish, I hope. The Harpoon IPA definitely was local. Ring it up—we liked it all.
Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 4
October 15, 2011 § 1 Comment
Day 4 … halfway through our week of eating and drinking stuff as homegrown and as local as possible. How’s it going? Great. In fact, we might have too much food. Well, we’ll make it to the end, definitely.
Okay, I had promised some scintillating breakfasts. Not happening on Day 4. The morning meal, to me, is utilitarian. I know, that’s the wrong way to think about it. You’re supposed to eat breakfast like a king, lunch like a queen and dinner like a pauper. Or something like that. I honestly don’t have the stomach for breakfast until, say, 9 am.
Day 4 was a whole two days ago. Let’s see if I can remember what we had.
Flat Black coffee. Maine’s Own Organic Milk. And honestly, I may have had an apple. I know it wasn’t much. I was kinda busy and on a role with things, work-wise. Sometimes that happens. Kids, eat your breakfast and don’t be like Auntie Dainty.
Lunch … I have to say what I made for lunch was the best thing ever constructed out of two pieces of bread. Seriously. Some cookbook-writing chef is going to see my delicious creation and will put it front and center in his/her lunch options.
It’s a grilled eggplant and tomato paninni with smoky mayo. Recall the smoky mayo originally topped the broiled bluefish on Day 2. Imagine that spread not-too-thinly on two slices of homemade sourdoughish bread. And remember the eggplant on the grilled pizza from Day 3? Lay a couple of those grilled eggplant slices down on top. Add some sliced tomato, top with another mayo-slathered slice of bread. Put a bit of olive oil in a hot cast iron pan. Lay down the sammies. And add some wait to make them “pressed sandwiches.” In this case, I used a very heavy Dutch oven. Grill both sides to a nice crispness. Smoky mayo+grilled eggplant=the world’s perfect pairing. I wanted to share it with everyone and no one all at once.
We still had two bluefish fillets in the fridge from our Cape Ann Fresh Catch share on Tuesday. We did another round of Broiled Bluefish with Smoky Mayo since it was so good on Day 2. And we had a small side salad. See those beans on top? Vermont Cranberry Beans – the best homegrown beans. Ever.
That was it for Day 4. We won’t tell you if we finish the remaining Topsfield Fair-made kettle corn. We’ll let you think on that.
Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 3
October 14, 2011 § 1 Comment
Day 3 on the Homegrown Food Challenge and no fish heads were lopped off on this particular day. But the grill did get lit, and that’s always a fun thing. Here’s how our day progressed.
Starting to look very familiar. Flat Black coffee with Maine’s Own Organic Milk. Stonyfield yogurt with local apple, honey and a crumbled Effie’s oatcake. We’ll get a bit more creative with breakfast on the weekend, no worries.
Jennifer and I both had big salads with local stuff, similar to the one I had for lunch on Day 2. Local lettuce and red pepper, pickled beets, homemade dressing, etc etc. I even made some homemade croutons from homemade bread.
This is where the grill gets lit—finally! We cranked it up for some pizza made with homemade pizza dough. Two pizzas are usually enough to take care of dinner plus give us enough for lunch the following day.
Pizza #1: Homemade sauce using slightly green homegrown tomatoes (similar to the roasted cherry tomato sauce I make), grilled eggplant (from farmers market) and locally made mozzarella.
Pizza #2: Homemade pesto using homegrown basil, grilled eggplant, roasted red pepper (from farmers market) and caramelized homegrown leeks.
Can’t have pizza without beer, right? We had some Whale’s Tale Pale Ale from Cisco Brewers on Nantucket. Pretty tasty stuff!
As I am two days behind in posting, I can hint at what awaits you for Day 4: One of the most fabulous creations to ever have been sandwiched between two pieces of bread. Think I over-exaggerate? Oh. No.
Homegrown Food Challenge—Day 2
October 12, 2011 § Leave a comment
One day down in the Homegrown Food Challenge, and it went quite well. A local eatery and leftovers – we eased into it. Nothing wrong with that. Day 2, as I promised, was much more exciting.
Chopping a head off a fish-type of exciting.
But, alas, I’m getting ahead of myself. Let’s begin at the beginning.
More coffee from our favorite local coffee roaster, Flat Black Coffee Company, with the Maine’s Own Organic Milk.
More Stonyfield plain yogurt with half a local apple, Topsfield-produced honey and an Effie’s Oatcake crumbled on top. Hey, they’re a local company. It counts. And I’m inspired to make my own oatcakes now.
A big ol’ salad using:
- lettuce and red pepper from the farmers market
- a homegrown carrot
- a local apple
- a boiled egg – the eggs are local
- homemade salad dressing – just something I whipped up, no biggie
- my very own and awesomely tasty pickled beets. That’s right, pickled beets on a salad. It was awesome.
- some shavings from a homegrown head of red cabbage
Filling and tasty. I washed that down with some home brewed iced tea.
Jennifer had the rest of the leftover pasta and a local apple.
This is where the fish head comes in. Or I should say, where the fish head comes off. Realizing there was way too much to say about last night’s dinner, I posted about the fish and side dish separately. (Click on the lick to check out the dish.) On the menu:
- Cape Ann-caught broiled bluefish with a homemade smoky mayo
- Roasted romanesco
- A glass of white wine. Okay, okay, it was Tohu from New Zealand. BUT, it had been opened a few days earlier ans was in the fridge. That counts as a leftover, right?
- I may or may not have had a handful (or two) of kettle corn purchased at the Topsfield Fair. It was popped on site! That’s local, right?
Day 3 is already two-thirds complete, and I’m happy to say we are both still on track with this Challenge. Tonight’s dinner is just an hour away. Grilled pizza is always a fun thing to make.