Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Pear Mincemeat

I can't believe how many people have told me recently that they've never had mincemeat pie! Its name is an artifact of its origin in medieval times, when spiced meat and fruit pies were common. Modern versions usually just contain apples, raisins, and lots of warm spices. I made a lovely pear mincemeat using the tiny, hard pears from our backyard tree. The recipe is adapted from the excellent Ball Complete Book of Home Preserving; it makes enough for two pies, or two quarts for canning.

1 C. dried currants
1 C. golden raisins
1/2 C. chopped dried apricots
Grated zest and juice of 1 orange
Grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 C. lightly packed brown sugar
2 t. ground cinnamon
2 t. ground nutmeg
1/2 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. ground ginger
10 C. peeled, cored, chopped pears
1 C. slivered blanched almonds
1/4 C. brandy (optional)

Combine dried fruits, zest, juice, sugar, and spices in a large stainless steel pot. Mix thoroughly, then add the pears, folding them in carefully if they are soft. Cover and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then turn the heat down and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and cook, stirring occasionally, about 15 more minutes until thickened but not dry. Add almonds and brandy; simmer for 5 more minutes.

For canning: If you wish to can some or all of the recipe, heat canning jars in a boiling water bath. Remove the jars from the bath and fill, leaving 1/2 inch headspace. Remove as many air bubbles as possible by running a knife down the sides. Dip the lids in boiling water bath using your tongs, or pour boiling water over them in a bowl to heat them. Wipe the jar rims, center the lid on each jar, and screw the band down fingertip-tight. Place the jars in the water bath and boil 20 minutes (30 minutes at 5000 feet, 35 minutes at 7000 feet). Remove jars and set them on a towel until completely cooled, preferably overnight.

For pies: Preheat oven to 350°F. Lay bottom crust in pie plate and sprinkle with 1/2 teaspoon sugar and 1/2 teaspoon flour (this helps keep the bottom crust from getting soggy). Spread one quart of mincemeat evenly into the bottom crust, cover with the top crust, and crimp edges. Poke holes in the top to make a pretty pattern and allow steam to vent. Bake 45 minutes or until crust is golden brown.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Pork Roast Tacos with Pineapple Salsa

Mmm, tacos. The perfect food. Do I say that every time I write about tacos? Skarsgard Farms has been getting pineapples from Mexico, and  Majestic Valley Farm has grown such beautiful cabbage this year. This makes great use of both!  I've always wanted to try recreating the barbacoa with pineapple we used to get at taco places in L.A. - this isn't it, but it's pretty delicious.

Pork butt is one of my favorite cuts of meat, because it's cheap and flavorful. I wanted to smoke it, but that's a huge project that takes about 6 hours, and we were low on charcoal. So here's a cheaters' version - we just put what little charcoal we had left into the grill with one small hickory chunk on top, smoked the butt until the charcoal was gone, then finished it off in the crockpot. While waiting for the coals to go ashy, we grilled some pineapple slices, and while we were at it, we smoked a few poblano chiles too.

2 lbs. pork butt
1 T. brown sugar
1/2 t. salt
1 cup water
1 pineapple, sliced 1/4" thick
1 poblano chile
2 T. cilantro
1 green onion
Juice of 1 lime
1 dozen corn tortillas
1/4 small head of cabbage, sliced

For the pork:  Rub pork butt with sugar and salt and let it stand for a while to come to about room temperature. Light one chimney-load of coals (we use a chimney that you light with newspaper). When they are hot, pile them on one side of the grill. Clean the grate and rub with oil. Grill pineapple slices right over the coals just until they get grill marks on each side. When coals are covered with gray ash, set a hickory chunk on top. Set the pork butt and the poblano on the grill, away from the coals. Cover the grill and cook until the coals are pretty much gone. Place butt in a crockpot or regular pot with just 1 cup of water, and cook until tender and falling apart.

For the salsa:  Chop several pineapple slices, the poblano, and the green onion into small bits. Add lime juice, cilantro, and salt to taste.

Tacos: Chop some of the pork into bite size bits, mixing with the liquid in the pot. Heat tortillas directly over a stove burner; pile with pork and top with salsa and cabbage.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Cabbage with Fennel Seed and Apple Brandy

At the kickoff of the new extended season of the Albuquerque Downtown Growers’ Market, farmers’ tables were bursting with wonderful wintery crops. A menagerie of winter squashes rubbed shoulders with garlic, broccoli, cauliflower, kale, arugula, and some absolutely amazing cabbages. I bought a gorgeous ruffled cabbage from Chispas Farms, and it’s probably the best cabbage I have ever tasted. It’s worth seeking out for its fabulous texture and flavor, which is more like Brussels sprouts or Dino kale.

For the 2013 winter season, the Downtown Growers’ Market will be held in the parking lot between Java Joe’s and Firenze Pizzeria, Saturdays from November 9 to December 21. I am so excited! For years I’ve been hoping they would do this, because it’s so hard to go all winter without my weekly fix of local veggies and community spirit. Also, I’ve always thought it would be a great place to do my holiday shopping! Other winter markets include the Corrales and Los Ranchos Markets, which are held once a month from November, and the Santa Fe Farmers’ Market, held inside their lovely building.

This is a simple recipe worthy of that beautiful cabbage. A quick saute with French grey shallots from my garden and ground fennel seed round out the warm, nutty flavor. A splash of apple brandy, produced from local apples by Santa Fe Spirits, lends a gentle but noticeable hint of apple and sweetness. If you can’t find ruffled cabbage, feel free to try it with any kind of savoy cabbage, Dino kale, or Brussels sprouts.

1 small ruffled cabbage, such as Famosa
2 shallots
2 T. butter
1 t. ground fennel seeds
1 T. apple brandy
2 T. cream (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste

Quarter the cabbage, remove the core, and slice into half-inch strips. Finely chop the shallots. Melt butter in a wide skillet over medium heat. Add the shallots, saute for just a minute, then add the cabbage and fennel seed, tossing to coat with butter.

Cover with parchment or a lid left slightly ajar, and cook without stirring for several minutes, until the cabbage is just tender and slightly browned. 

Add the brandy and toss to cook off the alcohol. Turn off heat and stir in cream if desired. Season with salt and pepper and serve hot or warm.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Whole Orange Cake with Honey

I don't have much of a sweet tooth, so I hardly ever make cake, but somehow the idea of this cake made with whole oranges got me. The recipe is adapted from one in a recent issue of Sunset magazine, which is similar to one published in the Australian magazine Taste a couple years ago. It was so delicious, not too sweet, but very moist and flavorful. And it came out fine with no modifications for high altitude. Next time I might try adding some cocoa for a chocolate orange cake!

Since I've been interested in baking with honey, I adapted it to use honey in the cake, but I didn't quite go all the way to using honey in the glaze. It didn't rise quite as high, and it came out perhaps a little too moist, but it was still fantastic! Next time I'll add maybe 1/4 cup more flour.

1 lb. oranges, ends trimmed, then cut into chunks and seeded
1 cup butter, softened
3/4 cup honey
3 large eggs
2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
2 Tbs lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325° and butter a 10-cup Bundt pan. Cut a thick slice off each end of the oranges, and cut into about 1-inch chunks. Pick out as many seeds as you can. Grind orange chunks in a food processor until the mixture has the consistency of relish (not puree).
Cream together softened butter and honey, and beat in eggs one at a time. Beat 1 1/2 cups of the orange mixture into the batter. In a separate bowl mix flour, salt, baking soda, and baking powder. Add this gradually to the batter and mix until smooth.
Spread batter in prepared pan (it's pretty thick). Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with only a few crumbs clinging to it, about 55 minutes. Cool pan on a rack 10 minutes, then invert cake onto rack and let cool completely.
Whisk together powdered sugar, lemon juice, and any remaining orange puree in a small bowl. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and let it set before slicing. Although I have to admit, I couldn't wait! So I put the glaze on the hot cake and just let it soak in/drip off, and it was still delicious.

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Roasted Cauliflower with Pecans and Cider Vinaigrette

I was thrilled to find cauliflower at the Growers’ Market last weekend! Roasting this delicate vegetable gives it a whole new character – bold and nutty. A vinaigrette made with reduced apple cider and a sprinkling of pecans make this dish irresistible. Like all cole crops (the cabbage family) it goes well with mustard, so don’t leave it out even if you’re skeptical. I can easily eat a whole cauliflower all by myself this way, but it is great as a side dish with just about anything.

It is a rare sight at our Growers’ Markets, but Aaron of Majestic Valley Farms in Corrales has grown a huge, beautiful crop of cauliflower, broccoli, and cabbages. I consider these crops some of the most difficult to grow in Albuquerque because of our hot summers. As I marveled, he explained that for a good yield, cole crops must be planted in July, much earlier than most people think to plant them. That way, the plants are big and healthy by the time they start to “head up” in September’s cooler weather. Next year I will have to plan ahead! They need lots of water, rich soil, and full sun. Many people think shade will keep them cooler, but they won’t grow as well. It may help to cover the young plants with a row cover during the summer, however, to keep the cabbage loopers off of them. If you see those pretty white butterflies flitting about your garden, you know you’re going to have a problem. As fall turns to winter, the cabbage family survives frosts that kill most pests, and the plants will thrive well into December and even January.

The reduced apple cider in this recipe is a real treat, and if you find yourself with plenty of cider, you can make more of it using this recipe from the Washington Post.

1 large cauliflower
1/4 C. olive oil, divided
1 clove garlic, unpeeled
1 cup unfiltered apple cider
1 T. apple cider vinegar
1 T. Dijon mustard
1/8 t. salt

Preheat oven to 450°F. Cut or break cauliflower into about 1-inch pieces. (The smaller you break them, the faster they will cook.) Toss with 2 tablespoons olive oil on a large roasting pan, and spread out in a single layer. Set the garlic clove on the pan with it.

Bring apple cider to a rolling boil in a small saucepan. The goal is to reduce it to about 1 tablespoon. It doesn't need much stirring at the beginning, but as it boils down you'll need to keep a close eye on it.

Roast cauliflower for about 10 minutes, until browned on the bottom. Turn the pieces so they can brown on the other side, and roast 10 more minutes. Take out the garlic clove. Add pecans and roast about 3 minutes more, until they smell toasty.

Whisk together the vinegar, mustard, salt, and 2 tablespoons more olive oil. Mash the garlic clove and whisk it into the vinaigrette with the reduced apple cider. Toss the cauliflower and pecans in the vinaigrette and serve hot or warm.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Lamb Meatballs with Rosehips and Rosemary

For the Eat Local Challenge this month, I'm seeking out a variety of local meats. Northern New Mexico lamb is available at the Los Ranchos Growers' Market from Mañanica Farm, or at the Santa Fe Farmers' Market from Shepherd's Lamb. At the Downtown Growers' Market, Ranchline All-Natural Meats sells lamb raised at Felix River Ranch in southern New Mexico. This year, I'm thinking of buying a whole lamb!

These rich, savory meatballs are a warming meal for a cold fall evening. The flavors of rosemary and rosehips mingle beautifully with a sauce of red wine and figs. Serve with mashed potatoes or polenta to keep it local.

6 oz. fresh rosehips
1 lb lamb
1 large onion
2 T. rosemary
1 t. cinnamon
1 t. salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1 egg
1 T. oil
6 shallots
1 bay leaf
2 C. red wine
2 C. beef stock
4 oz. dried figs

Cut rosehips in half and use a small spoon to scoop out all the seeds and fine hairs. Chop coarsely. Thoroughly mix rosehips, lamb, onion, rosemary, cinnamon, salt, pepper, and egg. Form into meatballs about the size of a golf ball.

Heat oil over medium flame. Brown meatballs on all sides, working in batches, and set aside. Add shallots to the pan and cook until soft. Add wine, stock, bay leaf, and thyme. Arrange the meatballs in the pan with the figs in a single layer, and simmer for about 30 minutes, until the sauce is nice and thick. Serves 4.

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Tumbleweed Greens with Creamy Garlic Grits

Yep, that's right - tumbleweeds are edible!

Long before they become the dried-up ball of thorns you see rolling across an empty highway, they are tender little green things that are actually pretty tasty.

We were walking near the river last weekend and came across these little guys (the one at the bottom of the photo is what you're looking for).
According to my favorite Texan, Mary, they are delicious fried up with bacon and onions atop a mess of grits. So I tried it, and I concur. I'd eat it again any day.

1/3 cup cream
1 2/3 cup water
1 clove garlic
1/2 cup stone-ground grits
1/2 tsp salt
A big bunch of baby tumbleweeds
A little piece of bacon
A small onion
A splash of cider vinegar

Bring the water and cream to a boil, toss in the garlic clove, then whisk in the grits and salt. Cover and simmer until the grits are thick and creamy, stirring once or twice, about 30 minutes.

Wash the tumbleweed greens very thoroughly and tear into small pieces, removing any tough stems. Chop the bacon into tiny bits, and fry in a wide skillet on medium heat, adding a little oil if necessary. Mince the onion and add it to the skillet, and cook until just softened. Add tumbleweeds and cook until thoroughly wilted. Add the splash of vinegar and a little salt if needed. Serve over bowls of hot grits.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Tomato Jam with Honey, Black Pepper and Smoked Paprika

I first discovered tomato jam at the Corrales Farmers’ Market, a simple concoction of tomatoes, sugar, and lemon juice. I thought it was strange at first, a savory jam… but as I found more and more delicious ways to use it, I couldn’t get enough. It’s wonderful on an everything bagel with cream cheese, an English muffin with a poached egg, or alongside roasted chicken.

It took me a while to find a recipe that was similar (and along the way I found this recipe, which is also delicious) but just recently I found perhaps my favorite version yet, in Saving the Season by Kevin West. I used some gorgeous little Indigo Rose tomatoes that my favorite neighbor grew. This open-pollinated variety is extra-high in lycopene, and the purple tinge comes from anthocyanins, another great antioxidant. I love black pepper and smoked paprika, so I used way more than in the original recipe, for lots of intense flavor. I also modified the recipe to use honey instead of sugar, and it was a triumph!

4 pounds Roma or other meaty tomatoes
3 T. lemon juice
1 C. honey
1 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 t. smoked paprika

Chop the tomatoes coarsely. Combine all ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil, uncovered. The pan should be no more than half full, because jam tends to bubble up so much that it might overflow a smaller pot.

Cook about 30-40 minutes, stirring often, until reduced and thickened. The jam takes on a translucent quality when it is getting close to done. To test, you can put a drop on a chilled plate - if it holds together, it's done; if it leaks liquid at the edges, it needs a little more time.
Meanwhile, heat two half-pint canning jars in a pot of boiling water for a few minutes, then drain and set upright (the heat from the jars will dry them quickly.) Keep the water at a low boil. When the jam is ready, pour into jars and wipe the lip with a wet paper towel. Dip two-piece lids into the boiling water to warm them, and screw on fingertip-tight. Process the jars in the boiling water bath for 10 minutes at sea level, 20 minutes at 5000 feet, or 25 minutes at 7000 feet.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

Sweet Corn Polenta with Summer Vegetables and Italian Sausage

Sweet Corn Polenta with Summer Vegetables and Italian SausageThis recipe is a celebration of the corn harvest!

Schwebach Farms came to the Downtown growers’ market this weekend with a trailer full of sweet corn, so I bought half a dozen ears. Then some friends who have a wonderful garden called to see if I wanted to come over and help them eat their harvest… when it rains, it pours. What could I do but make this fabulous fresh polenta?

Because it’s so sweet, this polenta needs big, savory flavors to stand up to it. The recipe is adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s wonderful vegetarian cookbook, Plenty. He uses feta stirred in to provide some heft, but I didn’t have any, so I used parmesan. He cooks the tomatoes to form a wonderful sauce with eggplant, but we have such beautiful fresh tomatoes now I couldn’t bear to cook them. And I wanted to grill my eggplants instead of simmering a sauce on the stove. So feel free to experiment!


My version uses some gorgeous little Fairy Tale eggplants from Vida Verde Farm, basil and marjoram from my garden, thick slices of red tomatoes, and hot Italian sausage from Tully’s Market.

Eggplant is a marvelous vegetable in that it has a rather subtle flavor, but it really stands up to strong herbs like marjoram or oregano. Basil and sweet corn are a match made in heaven. The combination of eggplant, tomato, and herbs is meaty enough to stand up to the sweetness of this polenta even without the sausage. But there are so many great handcrafted sausages available locally that I just couldn’t resist. Several local businesses such as Tully’s, Keller’s, and my favorite, Joe S. Sausage in Los Ranchos, make their own sausages – the kind you’d actually be happy if you saw them being made.

1 pound Fairy Tale or other thin eggplants
2 Italian sausages
6 ears sweet corn
2 1/2 C. water
1/2 C. shaved parmesan
1 clove garlic, minced
1 t. salt, divided
Freshly ground black pepper
2 T. olive oil
2 T. basil, minced
1 t. marjoram or oregano, minced
Juice of 1/2 lemon, or 1 T. good-tasting vinegar
2 large red tomatoes, thickly sliced

Heat a charcoal or gas grill to high temperature. Oil the grate and grill the eggplants whole, until their skins are brown and blistered. Turn heat down to medium, and put on the sausages. Cook until internal temperature is 160F.

Meanwhile, cut all the kernels off the corn cobs, and combine them with water in a large pot. Bring to a boil and simmer uncovered until the corn is very tender and the cooking liquid is mostly evaporated, about 10-12 minutes.

Transfer corn with any cooking liquid to a food processor or blender, and process several minutes to break up the skins of each kernel as much as possible. It should be creamy but still a bit chunky. Add the garlic, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and pepper as desired. Stir in most of the parmesan, reserving a few curls for garnish.

When the sausages are done and have cooled a bit, remove the casings and crumble them into a medium-size bowl. Chop the eggplants crosswise into bite-size chunks, and add them to the bowl with the sausage. Toss with olive oil, herbs, lemon juice, and remaining salt.

Serve polenta in wide bowls, with a few tomato slices topped by the eggplant and sausage and a few curls of parmesan. Serves 4.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Chilled Watermelon “Gazpacho”

Photo by Sergio Salvador www.salvadorphoto.com

This is technically not a true gazpacho, just a savory and refreshing chilled soup, because it doesn't include bread. It's lovely garnished with crumbled queso fresco or goat cheese. It would also make a great margarita or bloody mary mix. Or you could leave out the tomatoes and celery, add sugar, and make fantastic popsicles similar to the pepino y chile flavor you can sometimes get from the Mexican paleta carts.

2 pounds (about 4 cups) watermelon, cubed
1 pound ripe tomatoes, chopped and seeded
1 medium cucumber, peeled and chopped
2 T. fresh lime juice or red wine vinegar
1/4 cup fragrant extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup diced celery or a handful of lovage leaves
1 t. red chile powder or chopped jalapeno
OR leave out celery and chile and use a handful of fresh basil
1/2 t. salt

Puree all ingredients in a blender or food processor. Adjust seasoning as needed. Pour into pretty glasses and garnish as desired. Serves 6.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Garden Update - Early August

~The Good~

Finally, the rains have arrived! This is the best monsoon season we've had in years. Too bad it's not actually enough to pull us out of the drought. But it's exciting. Three weeks ago, we had the heaviest rain I have ever seen - that's my street, with water up over the curb.

As a result, the weather has cooled off and I'm ready to do some fall planting! Dave moved one of our raised beds out from under the mulberry tree where it was too shady for anything to grow, and I'm going to plant kale, fava beans, garlic, and maybe even some cabbages and fennel. We put the bed right on top of some nasty bermudagrass, with a layer of newspaper on the bottom, so we'll see how that does controlling the grass.

The most beautiful thing in my garden this year is the zinnias! This is what I get to look at each morning over breakfast. Although... it was supposed to be two beds of okra, and the zinnias are volunteers from last year's planting.

There are still a few okra in there, though.

We have a modest crop of tomatoes. I think we just need to use more compost and/or fish emulsion. The Punta Banda and Nichols heirlooms are doing pretty well.
These are the first few big ones, a variety called Ace.

The tepary beans I planted in July are climbing up the tomato cages with purple blossoms now.
The corn I planted in July is not growing very fast, but we put more compost around it and planted some more - you can see it coming up between the big ones.
The pomegranates are ripening nicely; we have about a dozen! The first decent crop since it died back to the ground in the -10°F weather we had a couple years ago.
I got some beautiful "rescue" plants from Plants of the Southwest, things that had been in their pots too long or didn't sell well... Vietnamese Cilantro on the left; Nicotiana, California Poppies and Purple Basil on the right.

Sunflowers and French Tarragon are wonderful.

It was a busy weekend harvesting grapes and pears! We got 12 pounds of little wild grapes, the Roberts Red, which is busily expanding its territory on the front fence. It took us three hours to pull them all off the stems. I'm still deciding what to make with them.

We picked all the pears, quite a bit earlier than last year, and put them in the bottom drawer of the fridge. Hopefully with a month or two of cold storage, they will ripen without rotting.
And we were lucky to get this handful of plums - hardly anyone has any fruit at all this year due to an especially bad late freeze that killed everything, even the apple blossoms.


~The Bad~

Squash bugs are moving in on the volunteer squash in the okra bed. Not a single squash seems to be forming on the Peñasco Cheese squash, though there are lots of male blossoms.
The watermelons are still just blossoming; one tiny baby watermelon is forming, but people are selling ten-pounders at the growers' market now! What am I doing wrong? I put a bunch of steer manure in there, and I thought I was giving them lots of extra water... someday I will figure out how to grow melons.
My awesome yard-long Red Noodle beans are languishing in the shade. I guess they are really sun-lovers, and I haven't found quite the right spot to grow them. They're only about knee-high, when they should be ten feet tall.
All the cucumber plants died; I planted some more seeds but they are still tiny. Also maybe too shaded there with the beans.

Nasturtiums are still tiny. Maybe I'll add some more compost around them and see if they bloom before fall. They do like the cooler weather.


~The Weird~

There are just an insane amount of flies this year, I guess because of the moisture. We decided, to our own incredulity, that hanging a plastic bag full of water above the table actually does seem to help keep them away.

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

Wheat Berry Salad with Tomatoes and Sweet Potato Greens

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about how to use local grains as well as local produce, and how to eat more whole grains in general. I found some beautiful hard red winter wheat berries at the Co-Op and got excited. The Sangre de Cristo Agricultural Producers’ Cooperative, a group of farmers who have been producing organic wheat in Taos County since 1995, are pioneers in the local wheat movement that is gaining momentum around the country. This wheat berry salad is shockingly delicious, full of umami from just a few perfect local ingredients.

Sweet, juicy, gorgeous tomatoes are finally here, along with all the other wonderful summer produce. It always seems like an interminably long wait, but thus begins my favorite time of year.  And just this past weekend, I learned something new – sweet potato greens are edible! I bought a bunch from Jesse at Amyo Farms, and they are fantastic, without the weird mouthfeel of spinach.

The wheat berries do take a long time to cook, but it works really well to just make them ahead of time. Next time I might try cooking them in the pressure cooker, or overnight in the slow cooker. This recipe really only feeds two, so I'd double it next time.

1 C. hard red winter wheat berries
4 T. olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1 bunch sweet potato greens (or other greens)
1/2 t. salt
1 t. honey
1 lb tomatoes, diced

Bring 3 cups of water to a boil, turn down the heat, and add the wheat berries. Simmer for about 2 hours, until tender. If none of the grains have popped open, it's nice to chop them up a bit in the food processor.

Heat oil and garlic on medium flame. Strip the leaves from the sweet potato greens and add them to the pan. Cook until just wilted, then add honey, salt and tomatoes, stirring to dissolve and distribute the honey. Toss with wheat berries and adjust the amounts of honey, salt, and olive oil as needed. Serve warm or cold.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Celery Collins

This is my new favorite summer drink! All the more refreshing because it's non-alcoholic. I modified the recipe from this month's issue Bon Appetit. I got so excited I made a quadruple batch to keep in the fridge this week, but it's really better fresh.

I was incredulous and thrilled to discover locally grown celery at the downtown farmers' market this weekend. I didn't think anyone could grow it here, in such heat! The stalks were pretty slender, and it came with lots of leaves, so I just used the whole thing in this recipe. It was pretty intense, much like lovage, one of my favorite obscure herbs.

4 celery stalks with leaves, or a fistful of lovage
1/4 cup water
1 Tbs honey
1/4 tsp Angostura bitters
4 oz. fizzy water

Chop celery coarsely, then puree in a blender with water and honey. Strain into a pint glass and stir with bitters and lots of ice. Divide between two collins glasses. Garnish with a few celery leaves. Serves 2.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Eggs with Smoked Salmon, Goat Cheese, and Lamb's Quarters

This morning Dave made breakfast, and as I took the first bite he said "Guess what's in these eggs?" It was a variation on our usual breakfast of scrambled eggs with green onions and goat cheese. I thought about what we had in the fridge. Kale? Nope. Radish greens? Nope. Uhh... I looked out over the backyard garden, with its wide array of weeds. Lambs' quarters? Yes!! I love surprises.

Lambs' quarters are one of the most common weeds in my garden. Here it flourishes among the gladiolus... and pretty much everywhere else.

I'm here to tell you, they are delicious. Like spinach, only better. Seriously, people, why fuss over spinach when you could have this stuff for free? It's a lot easier to grow, and at least as tasty. (I'm not the only one who thinks so.)


We smoked a salmon last weekend. When I say we, I mean that I plan the project and cure the meat, by rubbing it with spices, salt, and sugar, and tending to it in the fridge for anywhere between a few hours to a week... and Dave does the smoking. In this case, it meant that we started the smoking around dinnertime, then Dave stayed up until midnight tending the coals to keep the temperature between 150-160°F until the fish reached an internal temperature of 140°F. He likes to stay up late anyway, and the salmon turned out just as delicious as I'd hoped!

1 green onion
1 tall stalk of lambs' quarters
1 oz. smoked salmon
1 T. olive oil
4 eggs
1 oz. goat cheese

Mince or slice the green onion and strip the leaves from the lambs' quarters. Break up the salmon into little pieces. Add all this with the oil to a skillet on medium heat just to warm it up a bit. Whisk the eggs and add them to the pan. Gently scrape the eggs into the middle as they cook, so that the liquid flows onto the bottom of the pan at the edges, until it's all just barely cooked - still soft, but not runny. Crumble the goat cheese and gently fold it in. Serve hot, with sourdough toast and strong coffee.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Garden Update - Early July

~The Good ~

The season's first tomato! This is Punta Banda, a cherry-size paste tomato. This may be the earliest I've ever had tomatoes.

And the first tiny okra! Texas Hill Country Red.

My first squash blossoms of the year! Peñasco Cheese Squash. I planted it in May, although common advice is to plant in July for less problems with squash bugs.

And this is a random volunteer... can't wait to find out what it will be. Volunteers always seem to be hardier and less susceptible to the dreaded squash bugs.

Navajo Red-Seeded Watermelon has blossoms! I feel like it is still awfully small, but I added steer manure, so I'm not sure what else it needs.

I planted Mitla black tepary beans where I pulled up my garlic, and they have sprouted already! I also planted some corn on the other side, and I think I see a few sprouts. It's a great variety called Precocious, and the name is apt! I grew it last year and it had ears within two months. I still have some in the freezer and it's delicious.

The nasturtiums we planted in June are coming up well, and I mulched them well, so maybe they have a chance.

 ~The Bad~

And now for the bad news... all my pickling cucumbers have bacterial wilt, which is transmitted by insects. Possibly this bad boy in the picture? I'm just going to hope it's not verticillium or fusarium wilt, which are easily confused with bacterial wilt, because that would mean it's in the soil and I'm screwed forever.

~The Weird~

Ants on a pear. Are they eating something sweet coming out of the end there? But these are harvester ants - I thought they just ate seeds. It was still cool in the morning, so they were totally still. I picked a few of the tiny green pears to see if they would ripen on the counter or after a time in the crisper. Still trying to learn when is the right time to pick this variety.