Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Total Eclipse of Full Hunter's Moon_ Blood Moon

Wednesday's celestial event, the moon will line up with the Earth and the sun and become progressively redder between 5:15 a.m. EDT when it enters Earth's shadow and 6:25 a.m. EDT when it becomes totally eclipsed.

West coasters had to arise at 2:15 a.m. to see the moon enter the earth's shadow. The moon appears red as the light refracts in the atmosphere and increases in redness as it gets closer to becoming totally eclipsed, hence the Blood Moon.


Friday, September 5, 2014

Spicy Homemade Chili Sauce and a Tomato Pie

This is written especially for my brother-in-law Phil who is wondering what to do with all his tomatoes.

Sweet and hot peppers are coming on in the garden while tomatoes continue to ripen.

Having canned or frozen all that we plan and given much to friends and family, what else can be done with tomatoes? Tomato Jam, Tomato Pie (our friend Chef Jeff gave us a recipe_below); Salsa; Insalata Caprese, and most useful of all is our  Roasted Heirloom Tomatoes, a tomato base that we use all year long in various soups and stews, Tomato soup and sauces.

We made a spicy Ketchup last year, and yesterday Chili Sauce came to mind. How will we use it? The possibilities are endless: atop a meatloaf, hamburger, scrambled eggs, omelet; mixed with horseradish and ketchup for a shrimp sauce…

Spicy Chili Sauce atop today's Frittata
Spicy Homemade Chili Sauce from Diana’s kitchen
yield: 9 half-pints and 3 pints

2 TB extra virgin olive oil
2 cups onion, diced
2 cups sweet red pepper, diced
2 cups green pepper, diced
1 cup orange pepper, diced
2 jalapeno pepper, diced
4 garlic cloves, diced
1 TB kosher salt
10-12 pounds ripe heirloom tomatoes, cored, skins removed and chopped
2 tsp ginger
2 TB pickling spice in a bag (see recipe below)  
1 bay leaf
3/4 cup brown sugar
½ cup organic cider vinegar

In a large cast iron Dutch oven, heat the oil and sauté onion, peppers, garlic, and salt for 5-7 minutes or until onion is translucent. Add the tomatoes and heat to boil. (Excess juice from the tomatoes can be drained off and used in another recipe; this should reduce some cooking time.)

Tie spices in a cheesecloth bag. Add all remaining ingredients_ ginger, spice bag, bay leaf, brown sugar and vinegar. Bring to a boil and reduce heat to simmer for about three hours or until desired thickness. Stir frequently to prevent sticking.

Remove spice bag. Pour into sterilized jars, leaving ½ inch head room. Wipe rim, adjust the lid and screw bands; process jars in boiling water bath canner for 10 minutes. (If you have any questions on proper canning, be sure to consult Canning Guidelines from the professional sites.) 

Note: An immersion blender could be used to puree some of the sauce, but for now we like the chunkiness of the vegetables.

Pickling Spice 

2 TB mustard seed
2 TB whole allspice
2 tsp coriander seed
1 tsp black pepper seed
2 tsp whole clove
1 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp dried red pepper flakes
1 bay leaf, crushed
1  2" stick cinnamon
1 tsp dill seed

Combine all and store in a glass jar. 

Tomato Pie adapted from Chef Jeff 

1 (9 inch) pie shell (I made it with lard)
4-7 ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 sweet onion, caramelized
3/4 cup mayonnaise
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons fresh basil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Bake the pastry shell for 8 to 10 minutes or until browned.

Slice tomatoes and lay out for a few hours, season with kosher salt and crushed black pepper. Slice and caramelize onion in olive oil. Shred cheeses and mix with mayo.

Place onion in the bottom of cooled pastry shell. Slice tomatoes and arrange over onions. Add black pepper to taste.

In a medium bowl, combine the cheeses, mayonnaise and basil. Spread this mixture evenly over tomatoes. Bake in 350 degree oven for 30 minutes, then 400 for 5 more minutes to brown on top.  Let sit 30 minutes. Slice and enjoy. Once cooked, garnish with more fresh herbs.

Note: We made a few adjustments because of our calorie counting. :) Nonetheless, a delicious pie!!!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Physalis peruviana or Cape Gooseberry

These berries grow wild at high altitudes in Peru and Ecuador, were grown before 1807 at the Cape of Good Hope and from whence they were exported to Australia, England...

Mildly tart, and very pleasing to our pallet is this citrusy pineapple-flavored burst of wonderful!

Like the tomatillo, its relative, it has a papery calyx that turns yellow to gray when the fruit is ripe. In picking them off the vine, merely place your finger at the top of the mature shell, give it a little squeeze and if ripe, the fruit will release.

Nothing to do but pop one in your mouth for a burst of great flavor. Dip them in chocolate, make jam, jelly, into a salad, or as we did, make a quick sauce to server alongside a pork roast. Delish! 

Physalis or Cape Gooseberry Sauce from Diana's kitchen
1  1/4 pound berries
1/3 cup water
1/4 cup raw unfiltered honey or brown sugar
1/2 stick of cinnamon
 2-3 whole cloves
pinch of salt

Place all ingredients into a saucepan. Bring to a slight boil, and with the lid on, simmer for about 5 minutes until the berries begin to collapse. Remove the lid and allow to cook until desired thickness, 10-15 minutes. Discard clove and cinnamon.
Note: there is a natural sweetness and wonderful flavor about these, so I chose not to mask that.

PS: thank you, Julio for bringing these seeds back from Germany and allowing us to experience them

Ananas D'Amerique A Chair Verte Melon

Mighty can come in small packages.

The sweetest, most flavorful, down-your-arms-juicy melon, is this 1 to 1 1/2 pound specimen from our garden. A rare melon from 1794 and grown in Thomas Jefferson's garden, tells me if it was good enough for him, then so be it for us.

It was a special treat to receive these seeds as a free gift_included in our order last year from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Dill Pickles_Naturally Fermented

Too many cucumbers? Pickles of course. And not just any pickle, but the good old fashioned Dill Pickle that we don’t see anymore. No vinegar! 

We’re talking about a simple water-salt-garlic solution (and any other spice you might employ) that is allowed to naturally ferment and create live cultures_ probiotics _ that good bacteria we need in our gut.  Studies show probiotic foods as helpful in keeping our digestive system in balance and combating problems with IBS (irritable bowel syndrome), lactose intolerance, vaginal yeast infections, Chron’s disease…

Sandor Katz is well known for books pertaining to fermentation, including The Art of Fermentation, a rather in depth presentation_ the history and science behind all things fermented, should you be so inclined.

If you want to get right into making the pickles, here is Sandor's recipe for Dill Pickles from his website,  

and this from Mark's Daily Apple if you want to make just a quart _ same principle but useful for those with smaller gardens, no large vessel for fermenting, and a way to see how you like the process. 

Burpless from the garden
Cloudy brine tells you the process is working and part of a good fermentation.
Note: The ingredients used in our first batch: salt, garlic, dill sprigs, black peppercorns, mustard seed, dried hot chili pepper. Now I'm off to try some pickles with fresh ginger and garlic.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Tomato Jam

Easy and delicious! What could be better?

The ever-sweet-tasting heirloom tomatoes are coming on, but that which sparked the need for this was basically two-fold: my cousin Paula and husband Bob came to visit, and we traveled to King Estate Winery for lunch; the appetizer that was ordered had a side of tomato jam about which Paula and I oohed and aahed. Sweetener... clove? cumin?

Tomato Jam from Diana's kitchen

1 1/2 pounds of (Cherokee Purple) tomatoes, skins removed, cored and diced
1/4 cup raw unfiltered (local) honey
1/4 cup, plus 2 teaspoons Sucanat (Organic unrefined sugar cane) 
2 TB of freshly squeezed lime juice
1 TB of minced ginger 
1/4 tsp ground clove
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp salt
1 jalapeno, finely diced (optional, but we like a bit of heat)

Combine all ingredients in a heavy saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until mixture has a thick, jam-like consistency_ 60 to 75 minutes. Stir often. Freeze or can, but it will keep in the refrigerator for several weeks.

Served atop a sourdough rye crostini that we make, goat cheese, and folks with whom we have shared this appetizer have exclaimed, "We could make a meal out of this!" Accompanied by a dry champagne, hope you enjoy it as much as we.

Love that Cherokee Purple
Cherokee Purple

Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Fruits From The Garden

Just a few days and we are into the face of August as most of this year seems to have escaped our grasp. The good news is it appears we have gotten a grip on approximately five months of health issues with which we have wrestled. And better news is we have had family visit, friends have joined us for dinners, and the garden seems to be responding rather nicely to our limited efforts.
yesterday's pick
Organic, heirloom and indeterminate is what you will find in our garden when it comes to tomatoes. They grow on larger vines that produce throughout the growing season, whereas the determinate varieties have a more compact height and produce their fruit at approximately the same time_within a one to two week period.

The tomatoes this year have been as pretty as I can recall. But then we do baby them_growing generally from our saved seeds, using kelp to foster their growth, and paying close attention to our soil by using only compost from our garden and organic fertilizers. No chemicals.

Heirloom lineup
Ashleigh (75-90) Large, somewhat heart-shaped meaty and beautiful red heirloom with great taste. This is a stand-by for us. Nearly a pound.
'Cherokee Purple'
Cherokee Purple (75-90 days) Each year at the top of our list is this Cherokee Indian heirloom, pre-1890 variety that is both delicious and beautiful. Uniquely colored purplish red hue and with dark shoulders, this tomato never disappoints. Up to 1 pound.

Mrs. Maxwell’s Big Italian (75-90) A new variety for us this year and we have yet to analyze. Dark pink beefsteak. 1-2 pounds 

Amish Paste (80-90) Bright red Amish heirloom that is great for sauces, fresh salsa, eating... 8-12 ounce fruits and the second year we have grown this one.

Brandywine (90) Baker Creek Rare Seeds says this is the most popular heirloom vegetable! A favorite of many gardeners, a pink tomato weighing 1 1/2 pound each, so we thought we would give it a go this year. Patiently waiting for the first one to ripen. (not pictured above)

Indigo Rose (about 91 days) deserves a spotlight all its own_ an extraordinary tomato due to its color and the anthocyanin property. Although introduced in 2012 and developed by Oregon State, this is our first year to try the first true purple tomato that was a cross of two heirlooms_ wild species from Chile and the Galapagos Islands. Open pollinated and NON-GMO!

Note: Indigo Rose must be allowed to ripen fully for complete development of sugars and acids. The purple will become a dull purple-brown and the green bottom to red.
'Indigo Rose'
smaller tomatoes
Stupice (55-70 days) A smaller tomato on compact plants and potato leaf foliage, it bears clusters of 2 inch fruits. We love it because it is the first to produce in the garden and great for salads. Additionally, since it hails from the former Czechoslovakia, it produces well in cooler climates. 

Black Cherry (65-75) What can I say? We plant this one every year: beautiful, delicious, great producer, wonderful in salads or simply stand and eat them off the vine. 1 inch in size.

Principe Borghese (70-75) A grape type Italian heirloom that is good for sun drying. The only determinate in our garden and one I would not have purchased but given to us by a neighbor when I babysat his seedlings for several weeks while he went on vacation in February. Grateful for the plant, but indeterminate is my favorite.
- - - - -
Beans: The last several years we have grown a wonderful stringless heirloom, Lazy Housewife, and never a string on this bountiful and large, great tasting bean. This year we decided to order the Organic stringless Blue Lake pole bean instead from Sustainable Seed Co and added Renee's Garden_ Spanish 'Musica'_ stringless.

Needless to say we were greatly disappointed in our first 2.5 pound harvest from the stringless Blue Lake Pole Beans as they were anything but! I wrote to them, and this was their response: "many beans no matter how "stringless" will develop strings if the plants are stressed by lack of moisture, excessive heat, or poor soil nutrition".

Sometimes my head wants to explode with pat answers and no admission of a possible problem. My reply indicated that we have plenty of moisture here in the Pacific northwest, and this was the first picking. Where would the stress be? (no response).

Just so you know that right next to this row of beans is the Spanish 'Musica' and without one string! The Lazy Housewife beans grown in years past never had strings. And how long have we had a vegetable garden here? Oh, only about 20 years. (Note: We will never order again from Sustainable Seed. Note 2: Renee stands by her seeds.)

lower left: Stringless 'Blue Lake' Pole; upper right: Spanish 'Musica'_grown side by side
From our "stringless" Blue Lake beans
Our cabbage this year was extraordinary_ lots of slaw, cabbage soup, sauerkraut, cabbage rolls... and plenty shared with family and friends. Now we wait until next year.
(Seeds ordered from Baker's Creek_
'Late Flat Dutch' cabbage
 The zucchini 'Black Beauty' has taken over nearly the entire raised bed. 

The Walla Walla onions are about as nice as we recall,
'Walla Walla' sweet onion
and on occasion the compost gives us a gift. This year it happens to be our favorite winter squash, Japanese 'Red Kuri'.
from the compost springs reward
'Red Kuri' winter squash
Who knows what hiccups next years garden will bring, 
but we are thankful it has been good to us this year.

I am linking to Pam's Garden for Garden Tuesday.