Saturday, October 30, 2010

Frittata, Cantata

Last night's sunset

We have had out-of-town guests join us for dinner the past several days and a brunch this morning prior to departure. One of my favorite and simple go-to items is a frittata, easy to make, and limitless are the possibilities and combinations that suit ones tastes: onions, garlic, olives, peppers, various meats and cheeses, potatoes, kale, mushrooms... and one that we particularly enjoy is a Spinach and Feta Frittata. However, since something ate the spinach in the garden, a little fresh basil would be complementary to the bright red roasted peppers that remained from the previous night's dinner preparation.


9 eggs, beaten
Extra virgin olive oil
2 shallots, chopped
Roasted red bell peppers, chopped
Basil, chopped and according to taste
Kosher salt, to taste
freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled Feta cheese

I like starting the frittata in a cast iron skillet and once assembled and cooked for a short while, it is finished in the oven.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. In a large bowl, beat the eggs, add salt and pepper, and set aside.

Heat the skillet over medium heat and with enough olive oil to coat the pan. Add shallots, touch of salt, and saute for a minute or two. Add the roasted red peppers and stir to heat and combine. Add the beaten eggs and basil. Continue to cook on low to medium heat until the eggs begin to solidify around the edge of the pan, about 5-10 minutes. Add the feta cheese and gently stir it in. Place the skillet in the oven and bake until the egg mixture has increased in volume and set, about 10-15 minutes. Remove and allow to cool for 5 minutes.

A few potatoes from the garden were parboiled, then browned in olive oil with salt and pepper; and the Pineapple heirloom tomato, with just a touch of salt and pepper, was a great companion.

And here is a beautiful Cantata that I hope you enjoy.

J. S. Bach Cantata BWV 147
Herz und Mund und Tat und Leben

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Autumn Evening Sunset , SkyWatch Friday, and Varied Thrush

Autumn burned brightly,
a running flame through the mountains,
a torch flung to the trees.
~ Faith Baldwin

For beautiful skies from around the world
visit SkyWatch here
Thank you Klaus, Sandy, Wren, Fishing guy, and Sylvia for hosting this.

Seen for the first time in our garden, a Varied Thrush

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Sadie's Horse Bean and Chicken Stew

Yesterday we shelled our Sadie's Horse Beans. Since the shell is tough, unless it is quite young, the inside seed is what you want. Those beans that had developed earlier and dried on the vine, were shelled and put aside for seed.

The remainder (pictured above) yielded 4 pounds of beautiful beans. Our harvest would have been larger, but something ate many of beans as soon as they were newly formed. (Suspect: grasshoppers) Nonetheless, enough was on hand to make a hearty pot of stew.

Considered a rare heirloom over one hundred years old, I am fascinated by this bean: by the size of seed, the lovely multi-colored blossoms of white and scarlet growing on vigorous vines; and the gorgeous array of colored beans, from a solid white to mottled gray, brown, pink and purple. More importantly, it is a substantial and flavorful bean. Look at the size next to my husband's hands.

Considered a runner bean, Phaseolus coccineus), please be aware that they contain traces of the poisonous lectin, Phytohaemagglutinin, found in common beans and hence must be thoroughly cooked before consumption.

Will I grow it again next year? Likely, but I would like to try several other heirlooms about which I have recently read.

Sadie’s Horse Bean and Chicken Stew from Diana’s Kitchen

2 1/2 pounds Chicken (2 large chicken breasts and 5 drumsticks I had on hand)
1/4 cup unbleached flour

3 strips thick-sliced bacon

2-3 TB Extra virgin olive oil
1 onion (1 cup), chopped
4 celery stalks (1 cup), chopped
1 large carrot (1 cup), chopped
Kosher salt
Black pepper, freshly ground
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 tsp fresh lemon thyme
1/4 cup fresh basil, lightly chopped
2 fresh bay leaves
1/4 to 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

3 cups roasted heirloom tomatoes (see recipe) or canned plum tomatoes
1 cup white wine
2 cups chicken stock
4 pounds of freshly shelled Sadie’s Horse Beans

Remove any skin from the chicken and discard. Season the flour with salt and pepper. Lightly coat each chicken piece in the flour mixture and set aside on a plate.

Brown the strips of bacon in a Dutch oven, remove and place on a paper towel to drain. In the same Dutch oven and on medium heat, brown the chicken pieces in the remaining bacon fat, about 6-8 minutes each side. Remove the chicken to a side plate.

Add several tablespoons of olive oil to the Dutch oven and add the onion, celery, carrots, salt and pepper, and sauté for about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add garlic, lemon thyme, basil, bay leaf, cayenne pepper; stir and sauté for a few more minutes.

(The chicken breasts were cut on the diagonal in one inch slices.) Add tomatoes, wine and chicken stock to the mixture, stir and heat. Put the chicken back into the pot, add the fresh beans and bring the stew back to a simmer. Place the stew in a preheated 350 degree F oven, uncovered, and for about 1 hour.

Serve with a glass of a nice slightly chilled white wine (Pinot Gris) and a crusty multi-grain bread… now that is comfort food for us.

Note: The bacon is optional, but since this was an old-fashioned bean, I thought an old-fashioned flavour was in order.

As for cooking with wine: be sure you cook with the same wine you are planning to drink.

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Revealing, Full Hunter's Moon

Yesterday's cloud cover gave little promise
of seeing the night's Full Hunter's Moon.

Evening into blackness, masked was her face.
Reflection? no, the fateful tears returned,
A somber stance, obscured.
Morning soon appeared the same
With darkness, veiled cover.
Could it be a glimpse perhaps
Here and there, unmasked?
For a moment, unveiled,
Revealed, but like a final act
The curtain drawn again.

~ Diana

Don't forget: for beautiful skies from around the world

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

It's Still About Tomatoes

Between Thursday and Saturday we picked another 44 pounds of tomatoes, and with last night's low of 34 degrees F, we are harvesting what we can. What am I doing with all these tomatoes? Eating lots of fresh ones with just a touch of salt, but the majority have been roasted and frozen for winter use, and made into special dishes, like I have done for years.

Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes from Diana's kitchen

6 pounds fresh heirloom tomatoes, cored and quartered
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
6-8 garlic cloves (to taste)
extra virgin olive oil (drizzled over the top; estimated 1/4 to 1/3 cup)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Remove the top core of the whole fresh tomatoes, and give each a squeeze to release some of the juice and seeds. Place them into a large roasting pan or Dutch oven.

Sprinkle with some Kosher salt and a little freshly ground black pepper. Add the garlic cloves, basil, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, stir and bake uncovered for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Set aside and allow it to cool to the touch; remove the skins, taste for any additional salt or pepper and do taste it, for the flavor of heirloom tomatoes is wonderful!

Fill plastic containers (re-purposed cottage cheese, yogurt, sour cream... ), label your lid, and freeze. It is a most flavorful base for so many things: we use it in soups, stews, sauces, dressing... and we enjoy making tomato soup all winter long.

Sweet and Hot Peppers, the last 11 pounds were harvested, and with many of them I made Pipiraini (and be sure to roll the "r"). You don't know what that is? Well, first, I hope I spelled it correctly for it does not appear in any of my searching. This was something my Lithuanian grandmother (Bobu) made at the end of the season with onions, peppers and tomatoes.

Pipiraini from Diana's kitchen courtesy of Bobu

extra virgin olive oil (she used lard)
medium onion, sliced or chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
sweet peppers, seeded and chopped
hot Hungarian yellow wax peppers, seeds removed, chopped, and according to taste
fresh tomatoes, chopped

In a dutch oven or skillet, add onions in a little extra virgin olive oil, add touch of salt and ground black pepper and saute for a few minutes. Add garlic (she didn't use it), sweet peppers, and some hot peppers, and continue to cook a few minutes more. Add fresh chopped tomatoes and simmer until it is reduced to a nice sauce, about half hour to 45 minutes.

Served as a side dish or atop an omelet, hamburger or simply with a slice of multi-grain bread... you decide. Additionally, how much heat would you like? The first batch made had two Hot Hungarian yellow wax peppers and the next batch had three.

San Marzano 'Gigante'
I mentioned this tomato in this blog, and after processing more yesterday, cannot say enough about how wonderful this tomato is. I even saved a little extra seed in case somebody wants to try them.

They lay on the countertop for a few days, and when I cut into them I could not help but take a taste of a few: plump and sweet and so delicious. I had a batch of Romas that I roasted (pictured above), and they are good tomatoes; seeds have been saved, but I plan on several San Marzanos and again one Roma for next years garden.

Pineapple vs Old German Heirloom Tomato

I dare you to taste test the difference. (wink) My husband and I decided to do that last night. We added a touch of salt, allowed them to sit a bit, and after trying each of the two several times, he said this reminds me that technically tomatoes are a fruit. Sweet and so delicious, these two heirlooms, both indeterminate, look almost identical: large beefsteak, 1 to 2 pounds each, meaty and juicy golden tomatoes with reddish streaks, rich and full bodied like a fine Merlot (not really the last element).

I will mention again that the Old German has barely produced in our garden this year (we are blaming it on the weather), but for the second year in a row, Pineapple has yielded an abundant crop.

Sugar Baby Watermelon

Dark green rind and a sweet and juicy pink interior, Sugar Baby weighed in at slightly over 9 pounds and measured 8 1/2 inches in diameter.

This was the first year we tried growing melons. I started just two plants from which 3 melons developed: our kids got one, we enjoyed it, and our friends have the other. Will I grow it next year? Perhaps, but would do so with a black plastic ground cover to help heat the soil; likely our cooler gardening year was not conducive to a good melon environment. I do have seeds should anyone care to try their hand at it.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

SkyWatch Friday and Sharp-shinned Hawk

For beautiful skies from around the world
visit SkyWatch here

Our morning sunrise

Tuesday morning we had a visitor emerge amidst the fog.
Birds love the trellis outside my studio window.
Did this juvenile Sharp-shinned hawk think he might find some breakfast?

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

September Harvest and Heirloom Tomatoes

September Harvest Total (in pounds) = 122.82 lbs
Year to date = 435.70 lbs

Apples 3.5
Broccoli 4.4
Cauliflower 1.2
Green Beans 3.09
Cucumbers 15.05
Eggplant 4.64
French Orange Melon 9.6
Pears 11.21
Hot Hungarian Yellow Wax Pepper 4.0
Sweet Peppers 0.75
Strawberries 1.85
Tomatoes 43.07
Zucchini 20.46

As for October: interesting is that tomatoes harvested in the entire month of September totaled 43 pounds, whereas the last several days I was tied to the kitchen processing nearly 64 pounds that I picked on Friday alone. First we had few and then there were many. All we needed were those days of sun and high temperature. (not pictured and in a separate container were the Pineapple tomatoes, for I could barely lift this one into the wheel barrow)

Due to our unusual cold and rainy June, we had no tomatoes until the month of August: cherry tomatoes ripened the first part of the month, but heirlooms delayed ripening until the end. And now it seems that the garden will be winding down as last nights temperature dipped to below 40 degrees F. Where was our summer?

Heirlooms Nile River and Ashleigh (pictured right) were the first tomatoes to ripen, but the former has since disappointed. Also curious is that heirloom Old German has produced only one tomato this season! For now I will blame neither seed nor plant, but rather this unusual gardening period.

San Marzano 'Gigante' fruits (left) are not as large as I expected, but the tomato is beautiful and with a taste so sweet, as is the one Roma we planted. I see a nice marinara sauce in our future.

Cherokee Purple (left) had little showing in August but came on strong at the end of September as one of the top producers along with Ashleigh.

Russian Black Krim
did not yield as heavily as last year, but I love the tomato.

Heirloom Pineapple is a great performer! A sweet and beautiful yellow tomato with red-orange stripes, lower acidity, it is one of my favourites. A friend telephoned the other day to invite us to dinner and requested, "If you are going to start the 'Pineapple' tomato again next year, I'm placing my order now. It is the best tomato we have ever planted."

Will I start all these same tomatoes next year? Yes, I do believe so as I am currently collecting seeds. Plus, I want to give those that didn't do so well a second chance.

Note to self: remember to plant only 1 of each of the following: lemon cucumber, yellow squash, and zucchini

Oh, and look who kept me company while I picked vegetables the other day.
Isn't he handsome?

Monday, October 11, 2010

Whatever Ails You

There are times when I'd like to share something with you but my Voice in the Garden site does not seem the appropriate place, thus, I have created a new blog, Whatever Ails You. It may include experiences (reality), thoughts and opinion, my views on how I see the world around me and my family... or simply whatever ails you, or in this case whatever ails me.

May you find some food for thought in this first post: Our Values Reflect

Thursday, October 7, 2010

SkyWatch Friday

Following our granddaughter's winning soccer game on Saturday,
celebration and a winning autumn sky





For beautiful skies from around the world
visit SkyWatch here

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Honey, Honey

Until I lived in the Pacific Northwest never did I realize that honey isn't just honey and that there are several hundred different types. Normally, Clover is the source for most found in grocery stores.

We always seek 100% pure, raw, unfiltered honey, and last evening was an exciting experience for us as we discovered two new flavors, and they are as distinct in taste as in their color. (If you are buying locally, be sure to ask if you are to bring your own jars.)

Gathered by bees in blackberry patches this Blackberry Honey (left) is a deep coppery color and richly flavored, and I'll probably use that one in my Bran Muffins.

A most unusual variety and what appears to be a rare one is the Fireweed and Pumpkin Blossom (center), a beautiful deep amber that is thick, rich and with a unique and slightly spicy flavour. The lady said "either you like it or you don't". Well we did... and have never tasted anything quite like it.

Have you ever heard of Poison Oak Honey? Neither had we. It is said to have medicinal purposes that has cured some of their poison oak allergy. Since I am highly allergic (of course my "honey" hubby is not allergic to much), I doubled up on it. (wink) She offered, a teaspoon in my black tea in the morning and one in green tea in the afternoon.

Note: Should your honey crystallize, place it in a container of hot water for 20-30 minutes, stirring on occasion. Do not boil. The unprocessed honey tends to resist crystallization longer.

And how can one say Honey, Honey without thinking of
the wonderful production of Mamma Mia

Friday, October 1, 2010

Family Time and Cooper's Rock State Forest

We returned last evening from a wonderful trip back east to see some of my family. Nearly each waking moment was shared with those we love and lots of them. My brother said he was not going to leave our side the entire time we were there, and except for going back to his home to sleep, he kept his promise. (smile)

The day after our arrival, my sister Theresa and brother-in-law asked that we come for lunch at their home in Pennsylvania, and to our surprise and joy, she had invited my nephew, his wife and two sons, one of whom is married and expecting my nephew's first grandchild; I had not seen my nephew and his family in over 20 years! Steve, you are as handsome and as funny as ever. Ro (my niece), we missed you, but know you could not get off work.

Late afternoon we arrived back at our hotel and in time to visit with one of our sons, his wife and our grandson and take them to dinner. The following morning my husband, brother and I drove to Tunnelton, West Virginia, the childhood home of my father, to pay our respects and visit his grave site.

We stopped for lunch in Kingwood, WV (Preston County), home of the Buckwheat Festival. What would I have for lunch? Yes, they have the real (sour) buckwheat cakes and sausage. We would miss the 69th annual opening by a few days, but not the cakes. And they were just as good, if not better, than I had remembered.

Our next stop was Cooper's Rock State Forest, an extraordinary park, and one that my mother loved to visit when she was alive. We listened to the silence, relished in the beauty, paid our respects, and my brother and I stood next to the oak that knew a little of her.

leaving the park

Thank you cousin Ellie for bringing us together at your home so we could enjoy you, your sister Cil and daughter Jess, and your mom, my 88-year old aunt... soon to be 89. Since her knee surgery she says she feels great and cannot understand why some of the women in the apartment complex in which she lives won't walk with her. It's all in your head... one foot in front of the other, she says. Then she asked my brother, "wanna dance"?

We traded several phone calls with our oldest son who was going to drive up from Nashville (and almost immediately return) in order to see us. We finally agreed that driving that distance was not in his best interest. Hopefully, we will get to see him in the not-too-distant future.

The day before we drove to the airport to catch our flight back home, we invited ourselves to go to the allergist's while our grandson had his testing. What a brave and "advanced" young fella... see him checking his own blood pressure while giving his grandma a wink.

Son Aaron and daughter (in-law) Jocelyn (she calls me Ma), thank you for the fun we shared in your lovely home. We laughed and sang and danced and dined... and they sent this photo (left) yesterday while we were en-route to say their "kids" missed us.

What a trip! We had a wonderful time with family, good hard working people with big hearts and whom I find difficult to leave. Indeed we are blessed.