Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Late Summer

Well. This has been a year. I feel like I need to pause and catch my breath. I think my plants do too. Here's my nasturtiums, giving one last shot at blooming. I took the picture through the screen door, I like the texture it gave the image.
These are some of my last strawberries, the plant is looking a bit tired. I will never be a farmer, it's too much work. I couldn't even remember to fertilize things regularly. My tomato plant is still going, as are the putative ground cherries.
This is my late harvest. The little tomatoes are delicious, next year I'm not going to waste space growing these silly tomatillo things. You know why? Cause they taste nasty. I'm going to take a stab at making some green salsa with them, but I have rather dim hopes. I am pretty sure those are the last cukes, and the only eggplant I'm gonna get too. Damn that heat wave, it fried all the blooms off my plants at the height of the blooming season. Well, live and learn. There's still time this year to get in another crop of radishes, if I feel ambitious.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Yogurt Cuke Soup

This is a very subtle dish. If the amounts of seasoning seem small, don't be worried. It's important to allow 2-4 hours of sitting time after you make it so that the flavors will have time to blend without loosing the freshness that is such a big part of the appeal.

1 qt yogurt- use greek style. Regular plain yogurt will be much more sour. Fage brand is hands-down the best, but Trader Joe does all right. I made my own using Fage as a starter, but there's no need to go to all that trouble.

1 lb persian, chinese, or pickling type cucumbers. The point is that they should be sweet with tender skins.

1 or 2 regular ol' cukes

1/2 tsp dill- I used dry, and it was just fine. If you use fresh, you may want more.
3 mint leaves, very finely minced
1/2 tsp freshly ground coriander seed

1 small clove garlic
the white part of 1 small green onion, minced a bit.
2 T olive oil- fancy is good here, I like the pepperyness
1 T fresh lemon juice

salt & pepper
toasted walnuts and more green onions for garnish

Put the yogurt in a large bowl with the mint, dill and coriander

Cut the persian cucumbers into little matchsticks and put them in the bowl with the yogurt.


Peel the regular cukes and remove the seeds. Chop into hunks and put them in a blender/processor with the garlic clove, onion, lemon and olive oil. Puree thouroughly. Whether you use one or 2 cukes will depend on how thick you want the soup to be. If you like it thinner, use 2. If you want it more like a dip, use one, and make it be a small one. Add to the yogurt. Salt and pepper to taste.

Top with nuts and green onion bits, if desired, and serve with bread or pita chips. The ones in the picture are sesame flavored.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

I'll be darned!

Back in May or June, I got antsy and went through the spice rack and took everything I had that was a seed and put it in some dirt. I got 2 crops of coriander, a handful of lentils, and this:

It's a fenugreek plant! That long spiky thing is the seed pod! I read somewhere that fenugreek was a legume, so I thought what the heck, I'll plant some. It doesn't look like any bean that I know of, but oh well. This was another thing that snuck up on me and produced a seed when I wasn't looking. It isn't anything like I would have pictured.

On the other hand, the szechuan peppers I planted were duds. They may have been irradiated or something, but just as likely they were too old. Next year I'm going to grow borage and poppies.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Quick! Bake something before it gets hot again!

Eggplant, specifically. I was inspired by a recipe I saw on Vegan Yum Yum. Now there's a real food blog. But needless to say, for me a day without cheese is a day of unhappiness. So my eggplant rolls are pretty conventional.

Here is them in the pan:

And here is whats in them:

2 medium eggplant
olive oil, salt and pepper
1 cup ricotta
1 cup chopped spinach- I used frozen and should have thawed & drained it. Oh well.
a handful of kalamata olives, chopped. They should be quite salty.
2 eggs
some fresh basil and thyme, minced
a cup or two of marinara sauce, whatever you got.
some grating cheese for the top

Slice the eggplant longwise into pieces about 1/3 inch thick, salt them on both sides and set them aside to sweat for a while. After about half an hour, press them in a clean dishtowel to remove the excess juice, brush them with olive oil and a little pepper and bake on racks at 400 degrees for about another 45 minutes. They should be soft and slightly browned in places, but still hold together well. Think Dr. Scholls gel shoe inserts.

While the eggplant cools, mix everything else but the marinara and grated cheese together. I didn't put any additional salt in the mix because of the olives.

Put a generous dollop of marinara in the bottom of a heavy dish. (My frying pan sees more use as a casserole and pie pan than as a skillet.) Roll a scoop of cheese mix up in each eggplant slice and wedge them into the pan so they don't flop open again, top them with more sauce and the grated cheese. Bake at 375 until the sauce is bubbling all over the pan. It took mine about an hour and a half, but the cheese mix was pretty cold to begin with.

Some things to note- I made my slices a bit thicker than I would if I were to do it again. On the other hand, it made the rolls have a very satisfyingly substantial texture. Custardy with a bit of chew. And do drain the spinach, it makes the cheese mix way too watery otherwise. Also, those "heels" from the outside of the eggplant, the ones with all skin on one side? Make sure you cut shallow cross hatches in the skin side before you bake 'em, otherwise the skin will be a big chunk of annoyingness when you go to eat it. It'll make them roll better too. And finally, if you like your cheese less brown, leave it off for the first half of the baking time.

Have bread and olive oil. Fat is good for you.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Avocado Gelato

The original recipe said this was 'avocado coconut ice cream' but I think my name for it is much more euphonious. Here is the recipe:

1 13 oz can coconut milk
1 14 oz can sweetened condensed milk
2 avocados
2 T lemon juice

Put all the ingredients in a blender or food processor and whip the heck outta the lot. Freeze it. (Duh). The recipe assumes that you have a ice cream maker, I don't. I just put it in a metal bowl in the freezer and stirred it about once every 20 minutes until it got hard. That's the other reason I feel ok about calling it gelato, even though I'm a little disaffected when it comes to schmantzy names for stuff. I mean, gelato is characterized by a lack of air being mixed into it, unlike american-style ice cream which in cheaper brands can contain as much as 50% air, known in the ice cream world as 'over run'. Premium ice cream is all milkfat and sugar; el cheapo stuff is an unnatural froth of gums, air bubbles and packaging materials with spritz of butter flavoring.

I actually managed to follow the recipe, too, except that I didn't quite add in the whole can of condensed milk. That stuff is powerfully sweet, and I wasn't feeling it. On the whole, it turned out well, but my thoughts are that

1. It does not taste quite avocado-ey enough for me
2. the coconut flavor gets a bit lost.

I think that the next time I make this, I'll use regular coconut milk, not light, and add another avocado. Also possibly a dash of salt, I can't remember if the original recipe specified it.

My unplanned photo shoot got me some nice pictures, I thought. Somehow, I really like this one of my teensy teacup.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Greengage Pie

Greengage Pie, originally uploaded by Chinkypin.

This pie looked great, but was a terrible disappointment to me. It was amazingly sour, and the filling never set properly. Luckily, my siblings live close by, and I fobbed it off on them.

Why does the way of pie elude me? Pastry crust I understand, I love it, usually it returns my love. But the stuff that goes in it? Maybe I should just stick to savory fillings. Quiche is easy. Fruit pie, on the other hand, seems to be where I am doomed to failure- last year I made a tart with red plums, which looked terrible but at least tasted pretty good, I had that semi-unfortunate experience with the pastry cream, and now this.

It was probably the greengages. They had very sour skins, and there just wasn't any way to add enough sugar without the filling turning into candy.

But I will persevere! Hey, Harriet, what's your secret? You make excellent pie, as I recall...

Monday, August 3, 2009

Breakfast is be best meal

Breakfast is be best meal, originally uploaded by Chinkypin.

Moment of oriental syntax. Moving on.

I got sick of my plain white dishes. My breakfast looks so much more appealing now, don't you think?

Thank god it got cool enough to make eggs again, I was starting to feel despondent.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Damn it got hot.

Last year in June, as I was looking forward to leaving NYC, I suffered a miserable week of 100+ degree days and swore to move to a less inhospitable climate. The irony of that sentiment has not escaped me this week. I am afraid my plants suffered rather a lot. My second crop of cilantro curled up and died- I went to work and it was fine, when I came home it literally looked as if someone had taken a blowtorch to it. I was very irritated. I have felt sluggish and uninspired all week, and I even bought a loaf of bread! I am not insane enough to bake in such weather.

But it's lots better now! I am making pie. I'll put up a picture if it turns out Ok. Meanwhile, here is this week's loot:

Blueberries, artichokes, corn, fresh green figs, half a peach (I got impatient and ate the other half earlier- scrumptious), and tomatoes from the farmer's market today. There were some cherries that didn't make it into the picture. Things in the strainer are some greengage plums somebody left in the kitchen at work. The little red thing sitting on the corn is a pepper from my pepper plant, another thing that narrowly escaped death. Also a dish of coriander seed from the first crop of cilantro. Why the heck is it cilantro if you eat the greens, and coriander if you mean the seeds?

The larger jar contains preserved limes, you'll see more about them in a couple weeks if they go well, if they don't, I'll pretend they never happened.

The smaller jar is homemade pesto from my own plants. Basil seems to be the only green thing I have that didn't falter in the scorching weather. On the contrary, it exploded and started to go to seed, so I cut it back. Here's how I make mine:

Basil, lots
Pine nuts, 2 or 3 handsfull
olive oil

Wash and strip the leaves off the basil. If it has started to bloom, I don't use the flower buds. Just a preference. Put the leaves in a food processor and chop them up with a lot of salt and a rather generous splash of olive oil. I usually don't use fancy oil for this. Put in a couple cloves of garlic. Sometimes I simmer the garlic in the olive oil first, it mellows the garlic, which is nice if you don't want that peppery kick in your pesto. I didn't this time, I was avoiding cooking anything this week. Add the pine nuts and process until the mix is the texture you like. I prefer a medium-fine texture. Pete makes his rather coarse. I have had some that was almost cream-sauce smooth, which was delicious, but I imagine, a bit of work. Also, I don't put any cheese in mine. I think the flavors keep better without, and I like to put cheese on the hot pasta anyway, if that's what I am using it for. I make mine pretty salty. This is because I use it sparingly, and also it retards spoiling.

Lastly, my plants surprised me again. I thought for sure I was going to have to start all over after the heat wave, but this morning I found this!

It's a cucumber. The pointy things just brush right off. I ate it for breakfast- it tasted just like it should. Ha!