Category Archives: My kitchen

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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Julia’s Ratatouille

The Ratatouille harvest basket.

Ratatouille makings. Tomato, eggplant, peppers, squash.

An old fashioned vegetable dish, ratatouille is a combination of all the things I grow in my garden. Julia’s Ratatouille is garden gold in your freezer.

Once you master a great dish like ratatouille, you become confident enough to try variations.

I can hear Julia Child talking about this dish. The full name of the stewed vegetable dish is Ratatouille Niçoise. Her recipe is the classic, start there and then adapt it to your taste.

It’s time to make ratatouille when there is an abundance of eggplant in the garden. Usually the last main crop vegetable to produce in my vegetable patch, eggplant is the star of my version. If your don’t like eggplant then leave it out of the recipe. 

This dish very quickly uses up the seasonal glut of produce that happens in August. By now, I have all the zucchini, tomatoes and eggplant that I can eat. I grow every vegetable that goes into this simple French peasant dish.

This dish is a celebration of my garden bounty. It’s a thanksgiving meal at the peak of the growing season.

Cabin fever cure

Make a double batch because this stew reheats well for the next day or hoard it for your lunches. Make this dish and freeze it. This winter, when the snow is falling,  a reheated ratatouille meal will taste like a garden party in your mouth.

Reading seed catalogs while eating a steamy bowl of home-grown and homemade ratatouille is a ritual guaranteed to cure cabin fever. That vegetable casserole inspires my wintertime seed order.

Julia’s Ratatouille is garden gold in your freezer, A true example of your garden prowess.This versital vegetable casserole can be a featured entre, a side dish, lunch for many cold winter days.

I freeze it in portions for one or two.Serve it over noodles or rice for a heartier meal. Add a slice of crusty bread. Make plans to go to Paris some day.

Here is my version:

Ratatouille home-grown and homemade  IMG_2132

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Grow your own leeks, garlic and onions

A Little Leek Love

Known best in French cooking, leeks are often overlooked in our home gardens. Leek Potato Soup, or vichyssoise, is a cold soup that every French chef has mastered. I use leeks in potato leek soup, three onion pie, and vegetable soup.

Leeks are expensive at the grocery store but you can grow them for pennies. They take up little space, have very few pest or disease problems and can be grown in containers.

Plant leeks deeper than onions. Continue to mulch plants as they grow to increase the tender white part.

Plant leeks deeper than onions. Continue to mulch plants as they grow to increase the tender white part.

Grow leeks from seed or starts. It will probably be your first late-winter or early spring crop. Onions, leeks, garlic can take a late snow or freeze.

Tender young leeks can be used as scallions or green onions.

Plant starts deep er than onions. The deeper, the better able to retain moisture. Select well worked soil with plenty of organic matter.

As leeks grow, continue to mound soil over the stems to blanch them, creating more of the white, tender part of leek. Consistent moisture will encourage tender leeks. Thin leeks to grow six inches apart.

Use only the tender green and white parts.

Use only the tender green and white parts.

Grow vegetables – Make Soup

Grow your own soup. Garden fresh vegetables are loaded with nutrients and cost very little to make. If you don’t think you have time to make soup, make a double batch and freeze half for a busy day. Make soup in the crock pot. Soup usually tastes even better the next day. What could be faster than that?

Chili, chicken and noodle soup, vegetable soup and stews of any kind are better and usually have less salt when made from scratch. I love soup and will be sharing some soup gardening and soup making tips from time to time.

Potato Leek Soup

Jazz up your favorite potato  or cauliflower soup recipe by adding leeks.

Potato soup is a winter time favorite of mine. The leeks in the garden will continue to grow and I will pull them as I need them for Potato Leek soup. Simply add leeks or replace the onions in your favorite potato soup recipe.

I make this big batch because this soup is even better the next day. You can make half this recipe, but I bet you will wish you made more.

Basic Potato Soup

Makes about 8 servings (about 2 quarts).

  • 6 medium potatoes, peeled and sliced
  • 2 carrots, chopped
  • water to cover
  • 6 celery ribs, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped OR, chop 2 or 3 leeks
  • 6 tablespoons butter, cubed
  • 6 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1-1/2 cups milk
  • nutmeg to garnish

Directions:

In a large sauce pot, cover chopped potatoes and carrots with water. Cook in water until fork tender.

Drain and set aside carrots and potatoes, reserving cooking water.

In a Dutch oven, while potatoes are cooking, saute onion and celery in butter until tender. Sprinkle in flour.

Slowly add milk. Bring to gentle boil, stirring until thickened. Add carrots and potatoes, salt and pepper. Gradually add cooking water until the soup in the desired thickness. Taste and adjust seasonings. For smoother soup, use a potato masher or stick blender. This will thicken the soup and create a smoother texture. Add additional cooking water or milk to taste.

Grate a little nutmeg to garnish soup.

potato leek soup with sausage

Potato and Leek soup with kielbasa.

Go Gourmet:

Top your soup as you would a loaded baked potato, crispy bacon, grated cheddar cheese, green onions, a dollop of sour cream or a pat of butter.

Bake: Use baked potatoes instead of boiling potatoes.

Veggies: Add a cup of frozen or fresh vegetables in the last few minutes of cooking to thoroughly heat through all ingredients. Try green peas, chopped kale, corn

Meat: Plan on adding a half a strip of crumbled bacon on top of soup. Use crumbled chorizo or Italian sausage

Herbs: Stir in chopped parsley, celery leaves, chives or thyme.

Enrich: texture and flavor with 4 ounces of sour cream, plain Greek yogurt, cream, butter. Add a little at a time.

Leeks, chopped

Chop tender young leeks to freeze for soups and casseroles.

If you do not like onions, try leeks. They are  milder and easier to digest. These mild alliums are beneficial for cardiovascular and digestive health. Research points to leek’s  potential to fight cancer.

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Garden beer bread

Made from scratch and better than the mix. Add Cheddar, onions, peppers for color and flavor.

While you have a garden bounty, make two loaves and freeze one for later.

beer bread

I make this beer bread using the peppers and onions from my garden.

charred peppers

Make this recipe your own. Use your favorite cheese, whatever beer you like and any pepper combo that suites your palette.

Garden Beer Bread

by Patsy Bell Hobson

Makes one loaf.
Preheat oven to 375-degrees.

beer bread3 cups flour
1 Tablespoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1/3 cup sugar
½ cup shredded cheese
½ cup chopped peppers
½ cup chopped onion
1 (12 ounce) bottle of beer, minus one swig
3 Tablespoons butter, melted

Whisk together in a large bowl, flour , baking powder, salt and sugar. Add cheese peppers and onion. Pour in the bottle of beer.
Using a wooden spoon, mix until the dough forms. Don’t over mix. Dough will have lumps.

Pour dough into a heavily buttered large loaf pan. The dough will be wet.

Melt butter, pour over loaf.

Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, until top is golden brown. Or, until toothpick comes out clean from center.

Let it cool 10 minutes and then turn the bread out on a wire rack. Try to let it cool before devouring.

garlic and onionsChefs notes

  • cheese – Choose your favorite cheese or combination of cheese to make ½ cup.
  • peppers – Combine chopped mild and hot peppers to suit your taste. (Bell peppers and a jalapeno for example.)
  • onions – Your choice of sweet or hot onions. I include a green onion or chives for color and flavor.

You will want to eat this bread still hot from the oven. It’s good that way, but it will crumble and fall apart. To slice and serve, wait for 30 minutes (or, until completely cool).

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Today’s Harvest Basket

Today's Harvest Basket

Three squash: light green Clarimore, Golden Dawn yellow and dark green, almost black, Raven zucchini.

“Pot of Gold” Chard, 3 kinds of zucchini, Chinese cabbage.

 

Soon to be Green Rice, Zucchini cake, and Chinese chicken salad.

 

  • Chard, sweet, mild

This deep green chard with golden stems, is tender and never bitter. Plus, it is beautiful. I’m a chard fan and prefer it to kale. A favorite chard recipe is green rice. It is easy to double the recipe, make two casseroles and freeze one for fall.

Substitute chard for spinach in any recipe. Many versions of this old classic are on the internet. I’ve made many versions of what I call Green Rice Casserole.

Spinach-Rice Casserole inspired by the Moosewood Cookbook by Mollie Katzen. Serves 4 – 6

4 cups cooked rice (white or brown)
2 cups raw, chopped chard
1 or 2 cloves minced garlic
3 tablespoons butter (or, coconut oil)
4 beaten eggs
1 cup milk (or almond milk or, soy milk)
1 1/2 cups grated cheddar
1/4 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs like parsley, chervil, basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 cup chopped walnuts

Saute’ onions and garlic, in butter (or oil). When onions are soft, add spinach or chard or kale and salt. Cook 2 minutes. (Or use drained, frozen chopped spinach, thawed)

Combine the onion mixture with the  rice, eggs, milk, cheese, herbs, nutmeg,  and chopped nuts. Spread into a sprayed casserole.

Bake, covered, 25 minutes at 350 degrees F. Uncover and bake 10 more minutes.

This is Container Chard, “Pot of Gold,” an exclusive from Renee’s Garden Seed. Chard is packed with vitamins A, C, and K, as well as magnesium, potassium, and iron.

  • Ah, Zucchini!

Zucchini, I’ve discovered, is much easy to keep at reasonable sizes if you growIMG_1357 container varieties. Look for specially bred zucchini plants designed container growing. Tender, small squash are perfect for lightly grilling or roasting.

Thin skinned, baby zucchini are tasty eaten raw. Perfect to include in a fresh Pasta Primavera.

  • Chinese Cabbage

Nappa Chinese CabbageChinese Cabbage will be a main ingredient in Chinese chicken salad, Kim Chee, cole slaw. Thanks to the milder summer weather and plenty of rain, I still have a couple for cabbages to harvest. It’s very unusual to have these plants so late in the season.

7/13

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And so it begins

Zucchini season

It's Zucchini season

It’s Zucchini season

Be prepared for the summer squash explosion. My Pinterest has amazing zucchini recipes.

IMG_0210

Zucchini, courgette, summer squash

Find the best zucchini cake recipe on Zucchini Everything at Pinterest. And you have to try the Zuni Cafe zucchini pickles.

If you make just one zucchini recipe, Zucchini Cake with Crunchy Lemon Glaze by David Lebovitz is a must. Can you believe, this guy has to BUY zucchini to make this cake?  See Zucchini Everything

lemon glazed zucchini cake

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The Renee’s Garden Cookbook review

Cooking from the garden

cookbook-renees-garden

A gardeners guide from seed to table.

Most cookbooks will send you straight to the kitchen to make something good to eat. Not this one. With ”The Renee’s Garden Cookbook,” your first trip will be to the garden, and then to the kitchen.,

The recipes are quick and simple enough for everyday cooking. Your garden fresh vegetables and herbs will elevate any dish to gourmet fare. This book is perfect for those who shop at the farmers market.

Vegetables fresh from the garden

Sun warmed vegetables fresh from the garden.

300 kitchen tested recipes are easy-to-make and showcase whatever vegetables and herbs are at the peak of the season. For example, the section on Chard has tips on planting and growing, plus recipes.

Renee’s Garden Cookbook has the answer on what to do with those just-picked tomatoes or chard or, cucumbers.

When I read The Renee’s Garden Cookbook, I ordered more garden seed. The tips on growing cucumbers are interspersed with the recipes for fresh cucumbers and pickles. So, I’m thinking, “it’s not too late to plant more cucumber seed.”

Vegetables grown from Renee's Garden Seed.

Chard, eggplant and green beans.

When Renee brings in fresh vegetables from her trial gardens, she and co-author Fran Raboff get to cooking and creating new recipes. The two launch into a cooking and eating orgy. A fortunate few good friends and advisors join Fran and Renee for the recipe trials.

As a result, the recipes make the most of each harvest. Gardeners will enjoy this trip from Renee’s Garden Seed Catalog to The Renee’s Garden Cookbook. Renee offers a great combo package: The Renee’s Garden Cookbook & Easy to Grow Seed Collection at a discount.

This is a gardeners cookbook and a cook’s gardening book. Get ready to take off your garden gloves and put on your chef’s hat because, gardeners do make the best cooks.

A sampling of Renee’s Recipes include one of the most popular recipes: Lavender Shortbread. Seed packet artist, Mimi Osbone illustrates the book with her familiar watercolors of vegetables and herbs.

Nasturtium, "Cup of Sun"I hope this book will inspire you to include a few herbs and flowers in the vegetable garden. Not only are they tasty recipe additions, but will also improve vegetable pollination. Growing herbs and flowers will attract butterflies, bees and hummingbirds to your gardens.

 

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