Category Archives: My kitchen

Padrón, the surprise party pepper

Fun & Tasty Little Snack Peppers

Padrón Peppers (Pimientos de Padrón)

These little Spanish peppers are usually fried in oil, salted and served as tapas. I first tried them in a restaurant and soon began a search for seed. They are easy to find in many seed catalogs.

Padrón Peppers are picked when about 1 1/2″ long.

They are cone-shaped and picked when very small, at about 1″ or 1 1/2″ long. They are pictured here with medium-sized red bell peppers for size comparison.

 

 

 

 

 

Playing with your food

Eating these snack peppers is a great garden party game. It’s “Spanish roulette,”  nine out of ten peppers are mildly flavored. One in ten is a taste explosion in you mouth.

Size is not an indicator of heat.

You won’t know until you eat the pepper whether it is hot or mild. The look or size of the Padrón peppers offer no clues. The weather or time of the growing season is not a heat indicator.

I grew Padrón peppers on the deck in 5-gallon buckets and in the garden along side other hot and sweet peppers. Next year, I’ll grow more plants because I love the taste of these tiny peppers.

 

 

recipe

Blistered Padrón Peppers

1/2 pound of Padrón peppers

1 Tablespoon olive oil

Course sea salt

Heat a large skillet over high heat, add oil.  Add peppers to the hot oil, tossing to stir. Cook for about 3 or 4 minutes or, until skins are blistered and peppers are softened. Transfer to a bowl, sprinkle with salt, and toss to coat.

 

Sizzled in olive oil and sprinkled with salt, the flavor of these delicious peppers is down right tasty. Course salt will add not only flavor but also some texture to this simple summer appetizer.

 

Padrón Peppers (Pimientos de Padrón) Ready to serve in 4 minutes.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 10/17

Tomatoes in October

Tomatoes weighing a pound to and ounce fill the basket. Makings for the last garden fresh ratatouille and gazpacho are in this basket.

October 2017 tomato, pepper and eggplant harvest is the biggest all year. Everyday from now on is borrowed time. Green tomatoes just a few days from ripening can be picked just before that first frost warning.

The dehydrator is filled with tomatoes. Some will be made into tomato powder. It will thicken and enrich soups and sauces. Plus, this dehydrated bounty takes up very little room. A good thing since the pantry and freezer are loaded.

All the tomatoes and peppers that the family will eat from now till next summer, are canned, dried or frozen. I bought some of the produce at the farmers market, including onions, corn and green beans. I know where this food came from and how it is grown.

True homesteading isn’t possible in our case. But eating locally grown, tomatoes all year is possible. That includes fresh tomatoes for 5 or 6 months, plus, all the salsa, pasta sauce, canned tomatoes, tomato sauce, and tomato soup we will eat for one year.

The canned, dried or frozen tomatoes will go into, chili, soups, stew, enchiladas, and casseroles. It’s comforting to know that we won’t have to buy any tasteless mass market tomatoes or imported peppers all year.

Tomato soup made fresh from scratch.

Whole paste tomatoes are frozen. On a cold snowy day the full bag will simmer on the stove top into something “tomatoey”. Maybe a dark, thick tomato sauce simmered low and slow, or vegetable soup.

These fresh picked heirloom tomatoes will be savored fresh as insalata Caprese, ratatouille, gazpacho and in salads.

There are a few more tomatoes, peppers, eggplant. The only other produce left in the garden are herbs and sweet potatoes. Butternut squash is curing on the covered porch.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 9/2

Peppers kick into high gear, watering required.

All these vegetables are grown from seed.

Cherry tomatoes, sweet and hot peppers, Swiss chard, Padron peppers, bell and, Anaheim.

Peppers, growing in the garden or in containers, do better when the weather gets cooler.

Padron, little one inch long peppers, could be called surprise peppers. Or, Russian Roulette peppers. These are a mild tasty pepper. Most of the time. But now and then, WOW! you get a hot one.

Randomly Hot

Blistered Padron Peppers

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 pound Padrón or shishito peppers
Course sea salt

Heat large skillet over high heat, add 1 tablespoon oil. Add half of the peppers, tossing to cook until peppers are softened and blistered. You may cook in multiple batches in a single layer, not over crowding.

Empty skillet onto a warmed platter, add half the salt. Repeat, blistering the rest of the peppers in more hot oil. Add more salt. Serve right away.

Black Bell Peppers

There is a big color choice of bell peppers in the garden. Red, yellow, green, purple, milk chocolate color and these beautiful black peppers. The plants are loaded with medium-sized thick-walled sweet peppers.

All the bell peppers taste alike, some bigger or thicker. Regardless of color, peppers not eaten fresh are chopped or cut into strips and frozen for winter use. Freeze chopped peppers in a single layer on a cookie sheet. Once frozen, pop peppers into a heavy zip lock bag and return to freezer. Easy to do.

Cherry tomatoes

Pickled cherry tomatoes with rosemary and thyme.

Cherry tomatoes are the first to ripen in the summer. As full-sized tomatoes come on, the cherries just keep producing until frost.

I dehydrate most of them, making sun-dried tomatoes. These little jelly jars are filled with tomatoes, rosemary, thyme, vinegar and salt. These pickled cherry tomatoes will be served on appetizer trays or anti pasta platters.

Peppermint Stick Chard

This chard is heat tolerant and pretty enough to be in flower containers or planted in the garden. I use chard leaves like spinach in casserole dishes, vegetable lasagna, of enchiladas.

Stems can be pickled like Jardiniere. I just pop the stems in an empty jar of pickle juice after I’ve eaten all the Jardiniere. The chard stems become a crispy refrigerator pickle in a couple of days.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/26

Today’s Harvest Basket is the little red wagon. A couple of these big butternut squash would fill the usual harvest basket.

Yellow Finn potatoes and butternut squash.

Potatoes

It’s fun to dig up potatoes and see what’s there. Grown in a are specialized fabric “pots,” Grow Bags that make it possible to grow potatoes anywhere there is sun and water access. This year, I harvested a whopping 20 pounds of potatoes.

The potato harvest will become a potato salad made with the littlest whole roasted potatoes. Some spuds will be cooked with green beans and caramelized onions.

Potatoes have pretty lavender flowers. Choose a variety that you don’t find at the local grocery store. Try some fingerlings next year.

 

The endless stuffed yellow squash blossoms of spring did not deter an abundant fall harvest of butternut squash.

Winter Squash

Butternut squash soup.

Beautiful butternut squash  appeared in the garden, I did not plant it, the seed must have been in the compost. The plant took over a 4’x4′ raised bed and then tumbled out to cover about a third of the garden! The rambling plant kept down weeds, plus I got all this free squash with only an occasional watering.

This sudden abundance of squash sent me to Pintrest to collect recipes. Here are a few alternatives to my usual brown sugar and butter topping: Butternut Squash. Checkout my choices. Butternut Squash chili, ravioli, enchiladas and stuffed will be on the menu this winter.

 

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Today’s Harvest Basket 8/20

A rainbow of peppers both sweet, mild bells and mildly hot Anaheim and poblanos.

Yellow eggplants, chocolate, red and black bell peppers, butternut squash and Anaheim peppers

Today’s harvest basket is full of colorful peppers and eggplant. That means it’s time for ratatouille, a French vegetable dish  hardy enough to serve as an entrée.

I now have all the herbs and vegetables for ratatouille. There are faster but not better ways to make this French peasant stew, but Julia Child’s recipe is simply the best. Find the Ratatouille recipe in her cookbook Mastering The Art of French Cooking.

Try this vegetable dish that has summer squash, eggplant, and bell pepper tied together by a fresh tomato sauce. I add a few more herbs than Julia does but her classic recipe can be a springboard for your own version.

Green, red and black peppers all on the same plant.

All the pretty bell peppers are meant to be eaten fresh or chopped and frozen for winter cooking. I make lots of stuffed peppers and freeze some for quick comfort food this fall. Depending on the degree of ripeness, bell three peppers start out green and color as they ripen.

We always grow more than we can eat fresh so there will be plenty for freezing. Most peppers are chopped and can be added frozen to any cooked recipe. Also, some are cut in strips to use in fajitas and wraps.

Roasted peppers are quickly blistered on the grill, outside.

I’m roasting and peeling the hot peppers, Anaheim and poblanos. What we don’t use fresh, will be frozen in cubes for winter use. Many are going into pint jars of salsa.

Each ice-cube square in the plastic tray holds about the equivalent  of 1 or 2 roasted and chopped chili peppers. The frozen pepper cubes can be added to soups, chili, casseroles.

If you are growing heirloom peppers, it’s easy to save seed. Be sure to let one stay on the plant until big and fully ripe.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 7/30

July 30, Harvest Basket

Eggplants, sweet peppers, Anaheim and poblano green chile peppers, giant heirloom tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, sweet onions.

Tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, onion

Eggplant at last!

Finally, the eggplants are plentiful. That completes the ingredient list for ratatouille. Ratatouille is a showcase of summer garden in one main dish. By the time all the ingredients are assembled, the dish is big enough to ensure leftovers. I believe the dish is better the next day.

This vegetable casserole is great served with rice. I make a slightly under cooked version of this and freeze it. One snowy winter day, I’ll enjoy my homegrown taste of summer.

Julia Child’s Ratatouille

Eggplants* grown in a container on the deck.

Tomato Tarte Tatin

Cherry tomato pie

I love cherry tomatoes, they start producing early and just keep on growing till first frost. With the full size tomatoes coming on strong, cherry tomatoes are good for dehydrating.

Mix colors and shapes of cherry tomatoes for a mix of sweet and tart tomato flavors.

Easy, fast, tomato tart suitable for serving at any meal. The tart is a lighter version of tomato pie. Tomato Tarte Tatin is a simple summer-only treat.

This is a great way to use up a lot of cherry tomatoes. I used a mix of red and yellow cherry and pear tomatoes. Caramelize a small onion, and fill the skillet of onions with a single layer of little tomatoes. Cover with a layer of puff pastry. Bake tart until crust is puffed and golden, about 30 minutes.

Cool tart in skillet 10 minutes. Loosen pastry around the outside of the skillet. Place large platter over skillet. Hold skillet and platter firmly together and invert, allowing tart to settle onto platter. Garnish with fresh chopped basil and Parmesan.

*   Container Eggplant Little Prince grown from Renee’s Garden Seed.

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6 /12, 6/16

Squash blossoms and herbs

No more complaining about too many zucchini. Pick the flowers to prevent zucchini squash overload.

Pick zucchini blossoms in the morning.

Today’s harvest basket is loaded with big yellow flowers, blooms from the zucchini plant.

Fragile and short-lived squash blossoms are pricey, if you can find them at the farmers market. Any kind of squash can be used in this gourmet dish.

Add the flowers to pasta primavera, salads or omelets. Fried squash blossoms are a big restaurant hit. My favorite is baked, stuffed squash blossoms.

There is a monster squash plant in my garden.

By monster I mean, it has completely taken over the 4 ft. x 4 ft. raised bed and is creeping out several feet on all sides of the bed. It is a squash blossom factory.

The monster sized squash plant is a volunteer plant that I don’t recognize from any seed catalog. The new 4×4 raised bed is filled with lots of compost, garden waste and kitchen scraps that I’ve added since last fall. This spring, the monster squash plant appeared.

I have well-behaved zucchini plants growing in containers on the deck. The monster squash plant’s only purpose is to produce flowers. I don’t want more zucchini squash, for heaven’s sake.

Pick flowers in the morning. Rinse and hold in cool water until time to prepare. Freshly picked flowers will stay fresh for a couple of days when wrapped in damp paper towels stored in the refrigerator.

The only purpose of this squash plant is to produce blossoms. I did not grow this zucchini for squash. Collect blooms every day or two.

Oven Roasted Stuffed Zucchini Flowers

Remove the stamen from the flower.

Yield: Serves 4

Ingredients:
  • 12 zucchini blossoms, center pistil or stamens removed
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh herbs (such as parsley, basil, thyme, mint)
  • 2 tablespoons pepitas and/or sunflower seeds
  • ½ cup ricotta
  • 1 egg
  • salt and pepper (optional)
  • olive oil, for drizzling

 

Add 1 or 2 teaspoons of cheese mixture.

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly oil a baking sheet or line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Gently remove the stamen from the center of the flowers.
  3. Combine the ricotta, herbs, pepitas, sunflower seeds and egg together. Season with salt and pepper (optional).
  4. Carefully open the blossoms and stuff with the 1-2 teaspoons of ricotta mixture per flower depending on the size of the flower. Gently twist the flower at the end to enclose the filling.Lay stuffed zucchini flowers on prepared sheet pan or baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
  5. Bake for 25 or 30 minutes, or until the baby squash is tender-crisp and blossom starts to brown on bottom.

Suggestions. Add 1 Tablespoon garlic pesto or any pesto to ricotta mixture instead of chopped herbs. Serve warm squash blossoms with pasta sauce on the side for dipping.

I grow zucchini from seed in containers. Container Zucchini Astia  from Renee’s Garden. Serve roasted, sautéed, grilled or baked.

Pick squash when about 5″ or 6″long.

 

Too many zucchini? Go To: my Pinterest board Zucchini Everything

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Today’s Harvest Basket 6/4

Last of the lettuce.

Salad and stir fry ingredients

Picked the last of the lettuce today. The lettuce, radish and green onion will make a salad topped with strawberry poppy-seed salad dressing. Sweet local strawberries make the bright pink dressing.

Today’s harvest: kale, mustard, lettuce, peas, green onions, radish.

Fresh, red ripe local berries make this dressing bright pink. It looks like food coloring is added. There is no onion, usually found in poppy-seed dressing.

Strawberry Lime Poppy-seed salad dressing

1/4 cup chopped strawberries
1/4 cup lime juice (about 2 limes)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 Tablespoon honey
1 Tablespoon poppy seeds

salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients except poppy seeds and blend till pureed and emulsified. Stir in poppy seeds.

Heads Up

Zucchini plants are loaded with golden blossoms. Zucchini Everything is my collection of zucchini recipes.

Zucchini is on the way.

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Learning to Cook Vegan Meals

I’m a gardener and love my herb garden. My cooking tends to have several meatless meals every week. In summer, vegan meals are practical and they celebrate my home-grown vegetables.

Quinoa-Stuffed Pepper with cannellini salad, pistachios.

After a life time of meat centered meals, sometimes, I simply don’t know what to use instead of ham or bacon as seasoning in vegetables. Thanks to the chef created recipes at Green Chef, I’m learning how to make crunchy stuffed bell peppers and savory stuffed squash without loads of meat or cheese filling.

Stuffed Zucchini

Stuffed zucchini with sautéed chard & roasted chickpeas, couscous salad.

“A nourishing veggie-centric dish perfect for spring nights. Sautéed zucchini, garlic, and shallot are mixed with a basil cashew cream, then piled into zucchini halves. Sprinkled with pine nuts and breadcrumbs, the stuffed zucchini are roasted to a tender finish. Israeli couscous studded with peas and carrots, plus cooked chard and chickpeas…” – Green Chef

The instructions for beautiful and tasty Stuffed Zucchini is on the Green Chef website. With all the chard and squash about to burst into production, this recipe is a gardeners treat.

In summer, recipes like vegan fajitas, tacos and wraps are going to show off my booming vegetable garden. They are also lighter and faster meals on hot summer days.

Super grain Collard Wraps with sunflower seeds & pepitas, mint, roasted potatoes.

I like the delivered meals and, I’m learning to make good vegan meals that my meat-and-potatoes loving husband will eat. Once I make something like Green Chef wraps or stuffed peppers, I’m confident enough to try my hand using the vegetables I grow.

One of my favorite things about these filling meals, is that they include seasonal recipes with fresh ingredients and herbs. Being a herb gardener, that’s a big plus. The recipes in these photos are on the Green Chef website.

Or try some of these meals for yourself. If you use this link, I get a credit and you get 4 free meals.

I’ve bought vegan cookbooks and pinned a ton of vegan recipes on Pinterest. But, I’ve been using butter and bacon all my life. And learning to prepare a really good meal without those familiar ingredients isn’t always easy.

After working so long and hard to produce great herbs and vegetables, it makes sense to prepare and serve them at their best.

Herb Pasta Primavera with asparagus, artichoke hearts, snap peas, tomatoes.

 One of my favorite meals was Herb Pasta Primavera. After learning to make this vegan recipe, it’s easy to take the recipe and use it as a basis for my garden grown creations.

This is not to say I am a vegetarian. But I’m eating less meat and dairy and my  cholesterol and blood pressure are lower. I’m proud that I’ve lost a little weight and I feel better.

We spend part of the grocery money at the farmers market every week. We don’t grow all our food, but I like to garden and have the time and energy to grow some of our fruits, vegetables and herbs.

My goal is to grow all the tomatoes we will eat this year. So for me, it’s the year of the tomato. Vegan style.

All the photos are from Green Chef.

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In Praise of Onions in April

April in National Poetry Month

Growing onions takes very little space. Plant in containers or tuck into empty spaces between other vegetables.

The raised beds are ready and waiting to be planted. About half the onions are already in the garden.

The garlic planted last fall is thriving. Early bird chives have been up for a couple of weeks. The leeks and sweet onions are just waiting for me to work the soil and plant.

Ode To The Onion

     by Pablo Neruda

Onion
luminous flask,
your beauty formed
petal by petal,
crystal scales expanded you
and in the secrecy of the dark earth
your belly grew round with dew.
Under the earth
the miracle
happened
and when your clumsy
green stem appeared,
and your leaves were born
like swords
in the garden,
the earth heaped up her power
showing your naked transparency,
and as the remote sea
in lifting the breasts of Aphrodite
duplicating the magnolia,
so did the earth
make you,
onion
clear as a planet
and destined
to shine,
constant constellation,
round rose of water,
upon
the table
of the poor.

You make us cry without hurting us.
I have praised everything that exists,
but to me, onion, you are
more beautiful than a bird
of dazzling feathers,
heavenly globe, platinum goblet,
unmoving dance
of the snowy anemone

and the fragrance of the earth lives
in your crystalline nature.

When little onion starts arrive in the mail, they don’t look very promising.

Plant. It’s onion planting time. Onion starts and onion sets are at the garden centers now. Plant them 1″ deep and too close, thinning them out to use as green onions, spacing about 4″ apart. Choose a full sun area with well-worked soil.

Spacing depends on the variety of onion. Generally, planting to 3″ – 4″ inches apart for green onions and thinning to at least 5-6 inches apart for large bulbing onions. Proper spacing will affect the size of the mature onion.

Weed and water. Onions have every shallow roots, so don’t let them dry out. Keep onion patch weeded. Do not make them compete for nutrients in the soil with weeds. When the onion tops start falling over, stop watering. Allow the soil to dry and more of the tops fall over.

Harvest. Wait for most of the onions to fall over. You can bend the stems of any remaining upright plants, signaling the plants to enter dormancy.

At this point, stop watering and leave the onions in the ground for 7 to 14 days (depending on how dry or humid your climate is) to allow them to fully mature.

Pull onions in the morning and leave them laying on the ground to dry for a day or two.

Cure. How long your onions will keep depends on this critical step and how you handle them after harvest.

Spread the onions out in a single layer. Choose a shady spot or a covered porch. I use an open garage with good ventilation. Do not clean off the onions.

Turning the onions every few days, this curing process will two to three weeks. A shaded area with good air circulation is very important. The stems and roots must be completely dry.

The papery outer skins will tighten around the bulbs and a few layers of the dried onion skins will fall off when removing the stems. Clip off the roots and stems.

Sweeter onions won’t store as long as stronger onions. Use the sweeter onions first. Store onions in a cool, dry, well-ventilated area in mesh bags or netting to permit airflow.

My Favorite red onion recipe.

The red onions turn pink and are quick to make. Great with sandwiches or in potato salad. Keep a jar of them in the fridge for up to two weeks.

‪Pickled Red Onions‬

1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 ½ – 2 cups of white vinegar
herb sprigs or peppercorns (optional)

Slice 2 or 3 medium size red onions in 1/4” slices.

In a small sauce pan, add sugar, salt and vinegar. Heat and stir until sugar and salt are completely dissolved. Add onion slices. Heat through and cook for 1 minute.

Add a sprig of herbs or a few peppercorns to the bottom of each container or jar.
Pack onions into pint canning jars or a container with tightly covered lid.

Pour vinegar over onions to completely cover the onions. Close the jars or containers and refrigerate for 24 hours.

Keeps up to three weeks in refrigerator.

Suggested herbs: oregano, dill, small nasturtium leaves.

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