Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas and a Joyful 2013

We wish you a Merry Christmas and 
a joyful 2013 filled with well being.

In the event you are looking for a stocking stuffer,
this is a great album
http://www.georgejohnson.com/
featuring The Jordanaires and The Memphis Horns



Sunday, October 14, 2012

Tzatziki Sauce with Zucchini Fritters

The last cucumber and what appears to be the last zucchini only mean one thing: Tzatziki Sauce and Zucchini Fritters. Serve this up with the few remaining tomatoes and you want for nothing more_ a great meal. Tzatziki Sauce is a perfect complement.

 Tzatziki Sauce from Diana's kitchen

2 1/2 cups plain Greek yogurt
1 cucumber, peeled, seeded, and diced
1/2 teaspoon Kosher Salt
pinch fresh ground pepper
2 garlic clove, minced
1 TB white or red wine vinegar
1 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 TB fresh lemon juice (1 lemon)
1 teaspoon lemon zest

In a medium bowl combine the above ingredients. Refrigerate for about an hour prior to serving or make a day ahead in order for the flavors to meld.
  
Zucchini Fritters

2 lb Zucchini, coarsely grated
1 teaspoon Kosher Salt
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, minced
¼ cup chopped fresh dill
¼ cup fresh Italian parsley
fresh ground pepper, to taste
4 Large Eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 Cup Ricotta Cheese
1/2 Cup Feta Cheese, crumbled
1/3 cup unbleached flour
olive oil, for frying

Grate the zucchini into a colander over the sink; sprinkle with Kosher salt, mix well and allow the excess moisture to drain for about 30 minutes. Squeeze any moisture from the zucchini, and place in a large bowl. Add the onion, garlic, dill, parsley, a little black pepper and mix well.
Add the beaten eggs, ricotta and feta, and stir until combined. Add the flour and thoroughly combine.

Pour about ¼ inch of olive oil into a saute pan over medium-high heat. Drop 2 tablespoons zucchini mixture into the oil for each fritter, leaving room between each, and cook for 2-3 minutes until golden brown; be careful not to disturb until it has browned. Carefully turn and brown the other side. Drain on paper towel, sprinkle with a touch of salt and hold in a warm oven_ about 200 degrees F_ until the remaining zucchini mixture is used. Plump and juicy they are.

Zucchini Fritters with Tzatziki Sauce

Freezing Shredded Zucchini
 
Ever yearn for fritters later in the year? Select any remaining fresh young zucchini/squash; rinse, dry, and cut off the ends. Shred in a large bowl, transfer to a colander and allow to drain for about 30 minutes. Squeeze excess liquid; then transfer to a freezer bag or freezer container. Label. In the winter, you'll be so pleased you did.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What is "Last of the Tomatoes"

It has not been the best year for tomatoes in our garden due in part to a slow summer start with rain and cooler temperatures, but we take what we can get.

We have yet to have our first frost and have waited at least 90 days for a drop of rain _ forecast indicates the weekend possibility. Time to pick the last of the heirloom tomatoes and a slow roast is in order.


Sunday, September 30, 2012

Full Harvest Moon

As we traveled south within dusk, 
the full Harvest moon gave chase.
with a setting sun west, 
the moon rose east.

setting sun west
rising moon east




Friday, September 21, 2012

Spicy Plum Sauce

After several years of anticipation, our Italian plum tree finally yielded one pound of fruit this year_ not enough to do much cooking, but happy to see it producing. Quite fortunate for us was that our neighbor's trees were overloaded with plums, and we were invited to help ourselves.

Italian plums
Dry them, freeze some, but thoughts were mainly of creating a plum sauce that might lend itself well with a roasted pork tenderloin. Holidays will soon be approaching and I envision this in the center of the dinner table. Chicken or fish would also be a good companion. 

Spicy Plum Sauce from Diana's kitchen

4 pounds plums, washed, halved, pitted (and chopped)
1 medium onion, chopped (1 cup)
1 cup cider vinegar
1 ½ cups brown sugar
1 TB fresh ginger, minced
1 ½ teaspoon salt
2-3 TB finely chopped jalapeno or similar hot chili pepper
4-5 garlic cloves, minced
2 TB soy sauce

Chop plums in a food processor and transfer to a large heavy-bottomed pot. Chop onions in processor and add them to the plums, along with all remaining ingredients. Bring it to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 1 ½ to 2 hours until reduced by about one-third and/or reaches the desired thickness. Stir the mixture often to avoid it sticking to the bottom.

Ladle the sauce into hot, sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch head space. Adjust lids and rings and process 20 minutes in a hot water bath. Remove the jars of plum sauce from the water and place away from any draft; cover them gently with a clean towel until completely cool. Check to make sure all jars are sealed. Yield: 8 (8 ounce) jelly jars

Note: Since it takes time to cook this down, I suggest doubling the recipe for your effort. I am pleased I did.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Eggplant, Solanum melongena and Grilled Eggplant Tomato Stack

This year we tried several new heirloom eggplants, one of which is Solanum melongena 'Listada de Gandia'. Sources vary as to where this was first introduced: some indicate France, Italy and/or Spain around 1850. Its name may reflect Spain, as Listada means striped in Portuguese, Italian and Spanish, but de Gandia is a town on the Mediterranean in Spain. 

A medium-sized eggplant with stunning 6-8" long oval fruits of creamy-white with purple stripes grow on a relatively compact plant. It is a delicious thin-skinned specimen with excellent flavor and takes about 90 days to harvest.

Solanum melongena 'Listada de Gandia'
 S. melongena 'Rosa Bianca' is a repeat performer for us as we grew it for the first time last season and fell in love with not just its gorgeous light pink-lavender fruit with white shading, but the wonderful flavor and tender skin of this Italian heirloom. 80-90 days to harvest, and as with all eggplant, they love sun and heat. Both eggplants can be used in almost any dish.

S. melongena 'Rosa Bianca'
Grilled Eggplant and Heirloom Tomato Stack with Balsamic Reduction from Diana's kitchen

Heirloom tomato, thickly sliced (3/4 of an inch)
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
fresh basil, sliced
Rosa Bianco eggplant, unpeeled and thickly sliced, about 3/4 inch
1 egg, slightly beaten
Panko or bread crumbs
1-2 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
fresh mozzarella, sliced, about 1/2 inch
balsamic reduction (see below)

Slice the tomatoes and sprinkle each with a little kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, and set aside on a platter. Slice the soft mozzarella cheese, sprinkle with basil and put it aside.

Dip each slice of eggplant into the egg, then into the panko, and transfer to a heated frying pan with olive oil. Sprinkle with a touch of salt and pepper and saute until golden brown, several minutes on each side. Saute until slightly fork tender and maintains some firmness. Remove and transfer to a plate for assembly.

Assemble: grilled eggplant, slice of mozzarella with basil strips, tomato, mozzarella (with basil), and top with another grilled eggplant. Drizzle with balsamic reduction.

Note: The 'Listada de Gandia' was fairly comparable in flavor with 'Rosa Bianca', but the girth of the latter is more desirable with the fresh large garden tomatoes. That's dinner tonight, and I can already taste it... like a big thick portobello mushroom, but with enhanced flavor.



Balsamic Reduction

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar

Place the vinegar in a non-reactive saucepan. Heat on medium-high until it begins to boil, then reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the vinegar becomes a syrupy consistency, 5-10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

It will become slightly thicker when cool; if it is too thick, I add a touch more balsamic; if it is too thin, put it back on the stove for further reduction. 1/2 cup of vinegar should yield slightly over 1/4 cup. Keep it stored at room temperature.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Full Blue Moon

Every 2.7 years the new full moon is considered a Blue Moon
Although it is not really blue unless you view her through some hazy sky, hope you had an opportunity to enjoy the beauty.



 







July 20, 1969: "The eagle has landed...
that’s one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind".
~ Neil Armstrong (August 5, 1930 - August 25, 2012)

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Homemade Sauerkraut

Brassica 'Brunswick'
 There are few things I can think of that are simpler to make than good old-fashioned sauerkraut, and clearly, it far outweighs anything one might purchase at the grocery store, both in flavor and benefit of the healthful lactic-acid bacteria (Lactobacillus plantarum) it possesses, even more than yogurt. It is high in Vitamin C and other nutrients.

Unless you are planning to do this year after year, I wouldn't run out to buy things. There are kraut cutters on the market for shredding your cabbage, but you might have a mandoline on hand, or simply a sharp knife (cut carefully) and a steady hand to thinly slice; it all depends upon the quantity you are making and if it will be a repeat performance as to whether you want to invest further. Fortunately, I still have the same cutter as when I made it in 1970.

my kraut cutter... he's the best

Tools

earthenware crock (sterilized)
sharp knife
kraut cutter
wooden mallet (masher)
dinner plate that fits inside the crock
weight that sits atop the plate (jug of water or covered clean rock)
clean dish cloth
cover (i.e. a board) for the crock

Ingredients

Fresh cabbage
Pickling, kosher or sea salt (non-iodized), 2-3 Tablespoons per 5 pounds of cabbage

Notes: 5 pounds of cabbage yield 2 quarts of sauerkraut firmly packed. Only use non-iodized salt otherwise the fermentation will be inhibited 

It is as simple as this: cut and core. Shred, salt, pound... shred, salt, pound.... taste.... then let nature brew.

From the garden we harvested firm heads of heirlooms Brassica 'Brunswick' and 'Early Flat Dutch', removed the outer unusable leaves and discarded them. Heads rinsed, patted dry, and with clean hands quartered the cabbage, removed and discarded the cores, and over a container the slicing begins.

Spread the first shredded cabbage head (about 2-3 inches) into the earthen crock, sprinkle with salt and tamp the cabbage tightly until you see the moisture. Repeat shredding, salting and packing it down. Taste test each layer along the way to ensure the salt amount is correct. Following the mashing in the second and third layer you can see (hear) the brine forming. Take your time and enjoy the process.




By the end the cabbage should be covered in 1 to 2 inches of brine. If there is not enough once you have completed mashing it, add a little water. Just be certain your mixtures stays covered in brine during the fermenting process. Leave 5-6 inches between the cabbage and the top of the crock.

Place a dinner plate over the mixture and a weight atop the plate in order to keep the cabbage submerged. Place a clean, damp kitchen towel over the crock and cover (i.e. a board) over so that air is excluded from entering. After several days, foam will begin to appear; spoon it off and re-cover the crock. Make periodic checks to remove the foam and taste-test. Ours took 3 weeks to ripen (ferment) to that depth of flavor one desires in sauerkraut. We kept the crock in the kitchen and between 70-73 degrees. (Cooler temperature will slow the fermentation process and take longer; just be sure not to have it in hot temperature that will spoil the cabbage.) In addition to tasting the kraut, a thick white ring of mold had formed atop the kraut also indicating it was ready. A piece of this can be dried and saved and added to your fall making of sauerkraut.

Note: Here is a good reference from the University of Wisconsin-Extension.

32 lbs of cabbage yielded 16 quarts of product

Pack the sterilized jars tightly, again allowing for brine to cover the sauerkraut.

Half of the jars were given to friends and the others refrigerated where they will keep for several months. Make a salad, eat it just as is, or combine with a pork roast.  I also froze some in quart bags, something I've not done before. I'll have to let you know how that works out.
 
PS: We also have a small amount of this beautiful B. 'Tete Noir' brewing.

Brassica oleracea 'Tete Noir'



Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Full Red Moon_August 1

We awoke to a clear beautiful August 1 morning and a Full Moon over the valley.

 
 

She has been called the Green Corn Moon, Lightening Moon, Dog Moon and Grain Moon. Native American tribes who fished the Great Lakes and other large bodies of water are credited with naming it the Sturgeon Moon, while other tribes called it the Full Red Moon due to the intensity of color.  
 




Monday, July 23, 2012

Feature Garden Photo

Should you ever hear me bragging, it is generally about our family, our children, my husband... but in this instance I thought it was a fun thing and that you might enjoy seeing it.

The National Association of Realtors contacted me and asked if they could feature one of my photos from our garden on their Houselogic.com site.


Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Quesadilla and Our First Tomatoes

We came in from the morning garden as the temperature was fast approaching 80 °F, plus, my tummy was having a conversation of sorts.

I opened the fridge and what did I see but fresh, fresh, fresh: from the garden an assortment of fresh vegetables_ onions, peppers, asparagus, broccoli..., fresh eggs from our chicks, whole wheat tortillas, and on the counter lay our first fresh tomatoes.

Saute the chopped vegetables in a little extra virgin olive oil; add the slightly beaten eggs, salt and pepper to taste, combine and cook until done. Transfer the mixture to a tortilla, sprinkle with your favorite shredded cheese, top with a second tortilla, and carefully move it back to the skillet to brown, one side and then the other.

Carefully slide the quesadilla to a plate, gently lift the top tortilla shell and insert the sliced tomatoes. Score and serve with a side of homemade green tomato salsa. Simple and fresh is good.


Saturday, June 30, 2012

Saying Goodbye To Robert

As many of you know we got four baby chicks this past spring with the promise that we might have our own fresh eggs some time before fall. But then we decided why not buy two hens that are already laying in the interim, and so we did. We built an enclosed run and separated it so the two older ones could be on one side, and when the little ones outgrew their brooder, they could be placed in the other section. They have been coexisting with the older ones for some time now.

We have enjoyed seeing them grow and stretch their wings over the past 13 weeks. Rosie, the Buff Orpington, seemed to be growing faster than the other chicks, and was actually taller than the Buff hen we had purchased.

Several weeks ago we heard what appeared to be a crow, and my husband said, That's the rooster next door.

Hm, not so sure, because it sounded closer than that. Of course you have guessed the rest of the story: he had begun to crow on a regular basis and was now chasing the girls around. Since our intention was not to have a rooster, we decided to sell him. Yesterday I placed an ad and by evening had received a phone call.

Early this morning we put Robert in the brooder and met a wonderful family of four, two beautiful children who loved talking about their chickens; and a lovely young lady and her husband who smiled and listened as she translated the conversation between us. They too had recently gotten little chicks and were raising them along with laying hens and were looking for a rooster that was gentle. Yes, they wanted Robert.

She began to hand me the money, but I shook my head. You can have him. The smiles that followed were payment enough.What a great start to our day!
 



One more story

Over the years friends of ours have been rescuing feral kittens that show up in their hay barn or behind a wood pile, and successfully, they have found loving homes for them. Well, she did it again: the feral mother cat had another litter of 5. We decided to take one to foster until we could find a good home; within two days she was gifted to a single working mother and her 16-year old daughter.

I called them the following day, and the mom said, "My daughter loves the kitten and they have bonded beautifully." That eased my concern, but each time I see these photos I can't help but wish we had kept her. However, I remind myself that there will always be many that need a home.







Monday, June 25, 2012

Garden Harvest and Roasted Asparagus and Peppers with Goat Cheese

We picked our first head of cauliflower yesterday afternoon while walking in the garden with friends and in between rain drops. As was noted in my garden journal, this was about three weeks later than last year's cauliflower harvest.


Brassica oleracea 'Purple of Sicily' is an Italian heirloom that was a new addition to our vegetable garden this year. A lovely purple that turns to bright green upon cooking, she weighed less than a pound as opposed to an expected 2-3 pounds, but with the cold and rainy season we have had so far, we will gratefully accept what we are given. She was beginning to open up, and I wasn't about to let that happen. Of course I did a taste test as I brought it back to the house, and the report is sweet, tender, tasty, and I suspect we may find it again in the fall garden. Imagine the lovely splash of color on your veggie tray.

Our first tomato, Solanum lycopersicum 'Stupice', an heirloom from Czechoslovakia, is one I always start each year since it is the first one to ripen and the last to produce in the fall garden, a tasty 5-7 ounce beauty. We put this one in a pot in the hoop house in order to speed it along in this year's cold and rainy June. That seems to have paid off.


The broccoli we planted last fall has continued to outperform but is now beginning to go to seed; yesterday I picked what may be the final few of B. oleracea 'Purple Sprouting'. This English heirloom is quite stunning in the garden and tasty right off the vine.


While this goes seed, B. oleracea 'Calabrese' should continue to yield its compact green side shoots throughout the summer. We gathered one pound yesterday.


A few young Walla Walla sweet onions, our first pound of fresh strawberries, and the last of the Spinacia oleracea 'Bloomsdale', made for a great salad with toasted pecans and a vinaigrette dressing.

What is likely the final picking of our asparagus, I could think of no better way to serve them than as an appetizer with roasted peppers and goat cheese during our friend's visit yesterday to the garden.



Roasted Asparagus and Peppers with Goat Cheese
from Diana's kitchen

8 small sweet peppers, cut in half lengthwise, seeds removed
16 asparagus tips
extra virgin olive oil
5 ounces goat cheese, room temperature
1/2 teaspoon finely minced fresh garlic
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary, chopped
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon black pepper

Preheat oven to broil. Place the peppers and asparagus in a bowl; drizzle with olive oil, toss to coat and place on a baking sheet. Broil in the top third of the oven for 5-6 minutes, turning them over several times during the process until slightly brown.

To the goat cheese, add the garlic, rosemary, salt and pepper and combine well. Place a teaspoon of the mixture on each pepper half, top with the asparagus, and spritz with a little extra virgin olive oil.

Served with a chilled Italian sparkling wine, Presecco, and enjoyed in our little tea room in the garden.

Monday, June 4, 2012

May's Garden Speaks Volumes


At this time of year we are normally working a little less and enjoying the garden more, but this year's March snow storm set us back considerably. Compounding that cleanup, which is still not complete, we built a run for our chickens, are now mulching the flower beds, continuing to trim, and of course the vegetable garden has top priority.

But in the midst of all of that we are encircled with blossoms and fragrance and beauty that keep us grounded. And since I've strained a few hip muscles (should be back at it in a few days), it has given me an opportunity to take a little time and share some of our month of May with you... so few words, but it speaks volumes.

Erysimum linifolium

 


Erysimum and Melianthus major
Acer schirasawanan Autumn Moon
Davidia involucrata



Apple blossoms_4 May 2012









The girls at 8 weeks
Malus 'Prairifire'
Picea abies 'Mountain Dew













































Tiggy, our rescued feral, overseeing the garden

"Guarding my oat grass"
Black-headed Grosbeak
9 weeks old
Paeonia suffruticosa, Chinese Tree Peony
Clematis
Allium

 
Syringa vulgaris ‘Ludwig Spaeth’
Spinach and lettuce 'Merlot'
"hm ... there is a good looker in the mirror"


Rhododendron 'Lee's Dark Purple'

  








north side of the garden

  

Brassica oleracea (brussel sprouts)
first cabbage head forming
I. germanica 'Portrait of Laurie'






 


C. 'Nellie Moser'







Picea abies 'Mountain Dew'




Picea pungens 'Montgomery'

Laburnum anagyroides (Golden Chain Tree)

Viburnum plicatum 'Mariesii'



 
 




"I pretty much rule"




Zelda, our Silver-laced Wyandotte
Rosa rugosa
Phlomis
Allium and Athyrium niponicum (Japanese Painted Fern)
Solanum lycopersicum 'Prudens Purple' blossom
Astrantia 'Ruby Wedding'
C. 'H.F. Young'
'Stupice'
the last 3 Cucurbits into the garden
End of the day and Cotinus coggygria 'Golden Spirit'