Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Heirloom Cabbage 'Red Acre' and Red Cabbage Salad with Pistachios

Brassica oleracea 'Red Acre' is a beautiful and rich reddish-purple heirloom cabbage variety, firm and compact. We harvested five heads on July 28, measuring 6-7 inches in diameter and weighing nearly 3 pounds each. One was shared with a neighbor and the others set aside until we could decide upon the preparation. Another positive attribute is that it stores extremely well in the refrigerator.

Following is a new recipe I found. Simple preparation, a beautiful addition to any meal, and oh, so good. I must admit that after my first bite, I thought, Yah, that's okay, and then a second bite had me with That's pretty good. The third bite speaks for itself as I made it for a second time this month, and finally last evening, August 29, I used the last beautiful and fresh head so we could enjoy it once more. Fall's harvest cannot come soon enough.

Red Cabbage Salad with Pistachios from Diana's kitchen
(adapted from Cilantropist, courtesy of James Peterson)

one small red cabbage, chopped into ribbons
1 tablespoons salt
1/3 cup sherry (red wine or rice) vinegar
1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
1/4 cup canola oil
ground black pepper
1- 1 1/2 cups shelled pistachios

Remove outer leaves of cabbage, quarter the head and remove the cores. Thinly slice each quarter into 1/4 inch ribbons. (thinner = less crunchy, thicker = crunchier) Place cabbage in a large bowl and toss with salt, stirring/rubbing to be sure all pieces are covered with salt. Then remove the cabbage from the bowl and place in a strainer over a bowl or the sink and let drain about 30 minutes.

Whisk together vinegar, sesame oil, canola oil, and a few grinds of black pepper.

After 30 minutes take handfuls of the cabbage and squeeze out excess water and place in a large clean bowl. Mix the dressing with the slaw and refrigerate, enough time for it to become nicely chilled. Just before serving toss the pistachios in with the cabbage and enjoy.

Note: the recipe calls for toasting the pistachios in the oven, but we located some roasted and shelled pistachios that worked just fine. Since one head makes a nice quantity, enough for leftovers, we put some aside and only mix the pistachios with the portion of salad to be served. (pistachios become soggy overnight)

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Nursery Visit

Last week we traveled with some friends, and one of the highlights was a visit on the grounds of Monrovia in Dayton, Oregon... a beautiful location and with expansive plantings in all directions. I would have enjoyed more time there.

Hydrangea paniculata 'Unique'

Entrance to the right of H. paniculata

Looking back across the stone walkway

Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'

Honey bee attractant

C. alnifolia 'Ruby Spice'

Hydrangea aspera var Robusta Green

Cimicifuga racemosa 'Black Negligee'

As far as the eye can see

Meanwhile, back at home: our landscape has some maturity at this stage, and the last several years focus has been on expanding our organic garden, heirloom vegetable seeds and an attempt to grow year round. So I must admit to not having supported the plant industry for several years, but this visit to Monrovia got me psyched again. What must one do? We headed to several nurseries. From inspiration to participation, my dear husband says.

Although some of the plants are not new introductions, they are new for us, and a few are ones we lost during a prolonged freeze several years ago and thought worth another try. So without further ado, this is the plant list we obtained.

Taxus baccata 'Standishii': an addition to our numerous vertical evergreens
Carex 'Ice Dance': new add to our garden;
Penstemmon 'Bev Jensen': we lost all our penstemon last year, and this was a lovely companion with the Echinacea;
Hebe 'Amy': was lost last year (among other Hebes) following many years of enjoyment;
Melianthus major: went by the wayside many years ago, but worth another try.
Hydrangea paniculata 'Limelight': after seeing H. paniculata 'Unique' at Monrovia, I settled for this one... actually two; ok, my husband wanted three;
Echinacea 'Fatal Attraction': new and do love the nearly upright magenta blossoms with its darker stem;
Clethra alnifolia 'Ruby Spice': new and the one gallon size (not pictured);

Also not pictured:

Gunnera chilensis: lost it a number of years ago, worth another try
Lobelia speciosa 'Fan Blue': new and loving it

Monday, August 22, 2011

Fava Beans and Fava Beans with Garlic

Broad bean, Field bean, Horse bean, Fava bean... the botanical name being Vicia (VIK-ee-uh) faba (FAH-va).

Are you aware that Favas are ancient, one of the oldest cultivated plants, said to have survived 5000 years? A fact sheet from Purdue University claims it is one of the most important winter crops for human consumption in the Middle East, and we are aware of it being a favorite among Italian cuisine.

Last year while researching which heirloom beans we would plant in this year's garden, I was especially drawn to this one of which we were aware, but had not planted before. The character of the dried bean itself was so compelling.

A cooler weather plant, it likes well drained soil and actually adds nitrogen back into it. It is one that is easy to grow, and whose beautiful blossoms are edible.

Beans begin to form at the bottom of the plant first, thus those will be the first to harvest. Six (6) plants yielded 3 and one-half pounds of shelled beans for us. String the bean, shuck it, and remove anywhere from 3 to 5 (and sometimes 6... but who's counting) in each pod. And once inside, the plump 5-10 inch long pods have a most unusual cushioned lining.

The waxy outer coating needs to be removed. Blanch them in boiling (slightly salted) water for just 30 seconds; remove, drain, rinse with cold water; then plunge into an ice bath in order to stop the cooking process. Drain again.

Gently pinch the bean opposite of where it was attached to the pod, and the coating slips off to find a seductively luminescent and gorgeous shade of green.

How did we prepare them? a simple rendering.

Fava Beans with Garlic from Diana's kitchen

2 cups shelled fava beans
1 Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
1 small garlic clove, chopped
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil on medium heat; add the garlic and saute for about 30 seconds (careful not to burn). Add the Fava beans, a sprinkle of salt and pepper and saute on low for just a few minutes. They are young and tender to begin with, so very little cooking is required. Sprinkle with any additional salt or fresh pepper to taste... voila. Buttery and nutty flavor, but with an ever so slight bitterness, you can eat them warm or cold, steamed or smashed...

... serve them as a side with a simple meal, burger with blue cheese, caramelized onions, and sauteed mushrooms.

Note: Extra steps are required after harvesting these beautiful beans. Was it worth it? Yes, in that they are gorgeous, and we enjoyed them. Will we plant them again next year? Not entirely sure, as the other heirloom beans that we planted have yet to be judged. Nonetheless, we are saving seeds just in case.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Full Sturgeon Moon

Full Moon Rising

For three nights she awakened me as she fled into our room,
but disappeared before the dawn and masked in a mass of gloom.
Ah, but this morning found me wake enough into her lovely glow,
red face rising, morning vigil kept, I'm here you see... and bestow.

~ Diana

Credit is given to Native American fishing tribes for the Full Sturgeon Moon. Another name for the August moon which requires no further explanation, Full Red Moon.