Monday, December 22, 2014

Cheddar and Date Biscuits


Ok, so I may have gone a little crazy... I ordered a whole Benton's Country Ham after watching David Chang and Sean Brock rave about it on Mind of a Chef (my current TV obsession). These biscuits are a delightful blend of savory and sweet, the perfect vehicle for a paper-thin slice of country ham. And no refined sugar, just dates!

2 cups flour
1 Tbs baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/3 cup shortening or butter
1 cup milk
1 cup grated cheddar
1/2 cup chopped dates

Preheat oven to 425F.

Whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt. Cut in the shortening with a pastry cutter or a fork, or two knives. Or use my new favorite technique - just squish it lightly with your fingers, a sort of sifting motion. The goal is to have the mixture resemble coarse cornmeal mixed with plenty of bigger flour-coated bits of shortening. For me, this has always been the most frustrating part of biscuits and pie crust, and the reason I don't usually bother making my own pie crust. Another great way to accomplish this step is to grate frozen butter into the flour mixture and then just stir it in with a fork.

Add the milk, cheese, and dates, and stir until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Drop handfuls onto a baking sheet and pop into the oven for 20 minutes or until the edges are lightly browned. Serve with country ham, or eggs, or just slather with butter and enjoy!

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Garden Obsession - May 17

I'm so excited about gardening again! It's been a couple of years since my garden really did well - I got so busy with work that I neglected all kinds of things like adding enough compost, weeding, pest control, etc. But this year I got a full load of compost from Soilutions and started early in March with broccoli and cauliflower starts, arugula, radishes, fava beans, and fennel.

Here is the harvest on April 30: radishes, red-veined sorrel, arugula, garlic scapes, parsley, and purple sprouting broccoli.


And a lot has happened since then!

The Good:

Cauliflowers are doing well, not bolting yet.

 Beautiful radishes!




Escarole! My first try growing this - it's definitely a cool season crop.

Fava beans started flowering around April 30, and now have tiny pods. Hopefully we'll be able to harvest some before the end of this month, when it gets too hot.


Irises, parsley, and red-veined sorrel.


Chervil! A classic French herb with a subtle anise flavor like tarragon. I've been adding it to scrambled eggs.


Both rose bushes are doing great!


Mustard greens are doing well, radishes and gladiolus are coming up along the front of the porch.


Tiny fennel! Coming right along.


The artichoke came back after the winter. It seems to be doing ok in this shady spot, and maybe we will actually get a couple of artichokes!


I planted mint and sorrel in the same bed, because I've heard they like the shade. We'll see. This is always one of the most challenging areas - right under a mulberry tree.


We've harvested about four good-sized heads of broccoli. This photo was from earlier, when they were smaller.


I planted eight tomato plants... Sungold, San Marzano, Principe Borghese, Kellogg's Breakfast, Brandywine, and three Black Krims! I love these cages I made from re-mesh (it's for embedding in concrete slabs). Most of them I bought at Hand to Mouth Foods at the Los Ranchos growers' market - they have THE most amazing selection of varieties I've ever seen.

 

And this ground cherry! I've never tried it before, but I ran into this fabulous woman I met at the Edible Santa Fe food writing workshop, and she convinced me I had to have it.


The pomegranate tree is in full bloom - this is the most flowers it's ever had! Should be a great crop.


The Green Gage plum has tons of baby fruit, so it should be a fantastic crop this year!


And the gooseberry has fruit, not ripe yet, but looking good! It is thriving in the shade of the mulberry tree, with just a little sun at the end of the day.

The Bad:

Stink bug invasion!!! These little guys are sucking the juices of my hollyhocks, which normally never have pest problems, causing the flower heads to droop pathetically. When we saw Eli from Chispas Farms at the growers' market this morning, he suggested we set the chickens loose on them. I was worried they would eat the plants too, but just as Eli predicted, they were far more interested in the bugs! They ate a ton of them, which is why there's only one in this picture. There were dozens congregated on each plant this morning.


Aphids, and cabbage loopers have been at work on the cauliflower, but I think that's an easy fix. Spray them hard with the hose to get the aphids off - they can't crawl back up. And then maybe a little Bacillus thuringensis for the caterpillars.


The other thing that's got me worried is the plague of grasshoppers I've been seeing all over town. But I haven't noticed them doing much damage in the garden yet.

The Weird:

Awww. Like a mama radish snuggling a baby radish!