Garden Update

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So far, pretty much so good, here. It’s been a cool, windy, rainy spring. By Mid-May our overnight temperatures are supposed to not dip below 55, so safe to plant (per my Dad). That still hasn’t happened, but plant away, I have!

These are actually pictures from a week or two ago when I was going to post. I was excited to see the success of the plant shelters I bought. A true hit, though I wish I had purchased one more. They worked perfectly for the tomatoes, and pretty well for the peppers (one of my main goals was to keep varmints out of the plants!).

The tomatoes probably grew almost a couple of feet. I did open the tops when we had bees around so that they could get to the blossoms. There were even a few tomatoes setting by the time I opened them. I decided that even though it was breezy, they needed to be out in the open, and have their supports added.

For the rest of the garden, I hadn’t bought flowers yet. I’d concentrated on getting a good start for the edibles. Not a fabulous selection – and if I would either order online, or start seedlings, I could have a better variety. But this worked for the moment.

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Tucked in there was a 12-pack of marigolds to go around my edible plants to discourage those other rascals. As well, a little lobelia, which is a favorite – though it probably won’t last over the summer.

I did have a little help in the garden – Milo loves being outside.

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I was super-excited to see the little tomatoes forming! It’s always so much fun to see your efforts pay off (well, it will be!!)

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I’ve added a few plants, and had to replace a little basil (not warm enough when I started them). And I think I have the watering generally balanced out – though there’s still a bit to do. The garden continues to be a source of enjoyment. And the birds love it too, so more to come!

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CCC – September – a month of make-ups and re-visits!

This month for the Cottage Cooking Club, we had another “make-up” or even “revisit” month. I ended up doing a little of both.

To start, I was so inspired by my fellow club members who raved about last month’s Summer garden lentils niçoise, that I decided I just had to make it. Well, I did. And it was fantastic. And I didn’t take a photo. Hmm. I loved the dressing on the lentils – and will definitely make that again.

Another recipe that I was supposed to make was the Tomato and mozzarella risotto. Others who made the recipe weren’t extremely excited about it, but I wondered if I could change the method just a little and make it a bit more interesting and less pizza in a bowl. I had just gone to the farmstand and purposely bought 3 lbs of tomatoes so that I could make the roasted tomato sauce again. This time – it turned out better – I think I roasted the tomatoes longer. But it still made all of 2-1/2 c of sauce. Not sure it was worth it. But we will see when it gets a bit later in the year and I pull out a bag from the freezer – it might just brighten up whatever I’m making.

Anyway – I decided that I would make the risotto without the tomato sauce, just adding fresh mozzarella at the end, and add the tomato sauce on top.

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Well, it was tasty – but not even close to my favorite. Still and all, a fun process.

Another recipe that I wanted to try was the Leek and cheese toastie. This one was a huge hit with others, and I had every intention of making it before. But. Well. This is a super simple recipe. The leeks are cooked until tender, cream is added, then cheese. It all gets piled onto the top a substantial piece of toast, topped with a bit more cheese and broiled until browned and bubbly. Some fresh herbs are added – thyme in this case.

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I also had some cherry tomatoes from the garden – a few of which were starting to be a little sad. So I also prepared the Honey-roasted cherry tomatoes – one of my favorites. I made a “toastie” with those as well and it turned into a very festive, colorful and flavorful lunch! I used a combination of swiss and gruyere for my cheese. I’m certain other cheeses would be terrific too. This is definitely one to make again (and again!).

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Finally, I had a small dinner party. The goal was to serve vegan. As it turned out, the friend that practices a vegan diet isn’t all that strict, but it’s always a fun challenge. While the Mushroom “risoniotto” isn’t strictly vegan, I just eliminated the butter, didn’t add any cheese (just at the table), and would have left out the cream – but was told I should just go ahead and add it. I’ve made this before and it’s delicious! To go with that, I made the Grilled asparagus spears with lemon dressing. To be honest, this is a pretty typical offering, so instead of the skewers, I just used my grill pan.

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The spears get “dresssed” with some lemon juice and a little shredded fresh mint.

IMG_4638For our salad, I decided to make the Tahini-dressed zucchini and green bean salad. I thought it was interesting that the dressing was at least inspired by Yotam Ottolenghi. Because of Andrea, our Lioness, I have his latest book on order. But aside from that, this just looked and sounded good to me.

The salad calls for grilled zucchini and oven-dried cherry tomatoes – I decided to just grill the tomatoes along with the zucchini on my grill pan – I’ve done them that way before and they are delicious. The green beans get blanched. And the dressing comes together easily. It has the juice of half of an orange in addition to the lemon – an interesting combination. And quite yummy too!

IMG_4640The dinner was a huge success. I had some fresh baked bread to go along with. A delicious, healthy evening!

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And what better for dessert than an apple pie? IMG_4634

So despite being late to the party for posting (and only iPhone photos!), it was a delicious month with the Cottage Cooking Club

CCC – Thai Tomatoes in August

This month for the Cottage Cooking Club I made Tomatoes with Thai Dressing – I love Thai flavors, and I also love tomatoes – and fortunately had plenty from the garden.

Like many of the “raw assembly” recipes, this was simple to put together – designed to highlight the flavor of the tomatoes, while adding something a bit more interesting. The dressing is made first – with a bit of hot(ish) red chile, garlic, balsamic vinegar, rice vinegar, sesame oil and honey. The suggested herb was mint – but I forgot mine, so I went with one of my favorite herb combinations in Thai food – fresh basil and cilantro.

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To this, I added my halved cherry tomatoes along with a little salt and pepper.

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Alone, this is a gorgeous dish. The Thai tomatoes shared the table with a fresh/charred corn salad, a tian of summer vegetables and a cheese platter designed to compliment the nectarine cinnamon-basil nectar that I’d made the weekend before (we had cambazola and manchego – yum!).

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Since all of the meals were made from farm/garden fresh vegetables and herbs picked that day – it was difficult to find a favorite – but I will certainly say that when I was offering “go-packages”, the tomatoes topped the list.

They were refreshing and the complex dressing complimented the sweetness of the tomatoes. If I were making this again, I would certainly want to add the mint to the mix. I would also probably either substitute the sesame oil with some fish sauce – or at least reduce it and add some. That would make this dish a bit more Thai to me – and I think would work well with the other flavors.

There were other recipes that I had planned to make this month, and others that I had on my short list as well. I hope to get back to those when things slow down a but. But until then – you and I can visit the Cottage Cooking Club, and find out how well the other dish choices went over with our members this month. Fortunately, members often make different recipes during the month – so you can see a preview of any recipes you missed.

CCC – Cottage Cooking Club, July Edition

This month in the Cottage Cooking Club, we had another wonderful selection of recipes to make and enjoy, all out of Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s lovely cookbook – River Cottage VEG. I committed to three, but then, well, I still had other meals to cook, so I ended up making a few more…

I wanted to be sure to have fresh ingredients for my recipes, but with my crazy schedule, I can’t always get to my favorite roadside stand. What makes it so? It’s a family affair. There are usually kids working the counter, and always adults harvesting something. You can pick produce that was on the vine or in the field literally moments before.

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I didn’t start out the month with vegetables from this stand, but I did find some fava beans at the market. I’ve never made anything with them, I’m not certain that I’ve ever eaten any, so I decided that I would try them out, making bruchetta with fava beans and asparagus. The vegetables are cooked separately, sautéed together, and then seasoned and goat cheese added – finally ending up on small toasted bread rounds.

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I prepared these after I’d been out of town for a number of days, returning home, craving vegetables! So along with, I thought that the marinated zucchini with mozzarella sounded delicious. I had some fresh mint from the garden, and decided to try that combination with the grilled zucchini – something light and refreshing.

The zucchini are sliced thinly, and the grilled until they get browned around the edges and are softened. They marinate in a light dressing of garlic, olive oil and lemon, along with some fresh pepper and the mint. Just before serving, the mozzarella is added.

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Around the same time, I found myself with day-old French bread, fresh tomatoes and garden basil on my hands – so what else? Panzanella! I’ve made other versions of this, though it’s not a typical recipe for me. This one sounded great with the addition of olives and cucumber.

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My “official” recipes for July were supposed to be the tomato, thyme and goat cheese tart, pasta with raw tomatoes and eggplant parmigiana. Full disclosure – I didn’t end up making the tart. Forgot the puff pastry… and another full disclosure, I probably don’t need any puff pastry, so I didn’t get there. I did, however, make this before, but with mozzarella and basil. totally worth making again.

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The pasta with raw tomatoes was quite good. Anything with capers always works for me. It’s very light and flavorful.  I did have a couple of different types of tomatoes from the farm stand, so that added a bit of nice color. The tomatoes are peeled and seeded, straining the seeds to capture the maximum juice, which gets mixed with fresh basil, capers, a bit of garlic and olive oil then tossed with the pasta. You can add some cheese if you like, but I took the suggestion and chose to go without.

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Finally, eggplant parmigiana. In this recipe, a simple tomato sauce simmers together, and gets layered with lightly fried eggplant slices and cheese. I decided to veer a bit away from the recipe with the sauce. It seemed like the flavors were intended to be delicate to let the eggplant shine through, but I still couldn’t resist adding some fresh oregano and basil – but I put in whole sprigs instead, that I could pull out after it simmered for a bit, imparting a subtle herby note. I almost always roast my eggplant, but decided to try the frying method in the book. But with my first batch, I started worrying about the oil content – so I combined methods – brushing each slice of eggplant with oil, then letting it cook in the pan until slightly browned and softened. This reduced the amount of oil that was absorbed by the eggplant, and it turned out quite well once I got the hang of it. All of this gets layered with parmesan and buffalo mozzarella and then baked until it’s bubbly and browned on top.

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As it turned out, all of the dishes were quite good. Maybe because I made it most recently, I’d say that the eggplant was my favorite. Fava beans… well, that dish was good, but I am guessing that they were not the early fresh beans that were called for. But very fun to try. The zucchini was delicious as well, and quite beautiful. I also liked the pasta, though I’m not sure that all of the straining and steps were worth the effort (who minds a few tomato seeds?), but super light and tasty. I’m not sure when I’ll make the panzanella again, but it was quite delectable as well. This ended up being (not at all surprisingly) a wonderful group of dishes to make – perfectly seasonal, and perfectly delightful.

If you’d like to see what others in the Cottage Cooking Club made this month, you can find their posts here.

 

 

 

CCC – It’s June! tomatoes, potatoes, eggs and herbs

I thought that with my busy June schedule, I’d pick recipes that were related somehow. With a common thread connecting them. I do that all the time with dinner parties and celebratory feasts – if there’s something that provides a degree or two of separation to other items on the menu, then you can be sure everything will come together harmoniously.

Um, that seemed like a great idea, and also a way to take advantage of some of the ingredients included in the recipes. What I didn’t really take into account is that I don’t always eat the same things/ingredients. Thankfully, all of the recipes were terrific, but I may not need to eat a potato for a while…

First up, I made the pizza with potatoes, rosemary and blue cheese. I already had the dough for the pizza in the freezer, and was anxious to see how it turned out after freezing, as well as how it would work if I actually did take the advice of rolling it very thinly. I had rosemary from the garden, so this was easy. The main time-consuming thing was making the caramelized onions. I should probably do a big batch and freeze them, I just forget.

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Luckily I had a reasonably not-so-hot day, so that I could heat my oven up to cook the pizza. There might not be too many more of these for a bit, but everything came together with the pizza sliding from the peel to the stone satisfyingly, and the whole thing getting tasty and bubbly in no time.

100_3403On the same day, I decided I should make the honey-roasted cherry tomatoes. I thought that they would be nice to accompany the pizza. I’ve made similar recipes before, but the honey-garlic sweet-savory topping sounded great. After assembly, they get a quick roast.

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I served both together, and it was a great combination. The tomatoes contrasted with and complimented the flavors of the pizza.

100_3410Another recipe for this month was the frittata with summer veg and goat cheese. The recipe suggests a few vegetables, and certainly the method. This is another that relies on potatoes, eggs and herbs. Fortunately, I brought back a bunch from my place in Sedona, so was able to enjoy those fresh flavors. What I did not have were a lot of green vegetables, I decided to just rely on some peas, and a few more of my leftover roasted tomatoes. I subbed out some red onions for scallions, and added some fresh yellow peppers to add a bit more color. I used fresh thyme and oregano, along with a few chives.

100_3431The vegetables get sautéed in a bit of olive oil, based on the amount of cooking required, then arranged in the pan with the herbs. The beaten eggs go on top, and cook until about 2/3 set, topped with the cheese, and popped into the oven for a few minutes to set.

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Once out of the oven, the frittata sits for a few minutes, and indeed can be cooled to room temperature for serving. In this case, I was hungry… so the first piece was served hot!

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My final recipe for June was the new potato, tomato and boiled egg salad. This is an arrangement of those ingredients, generally room temperature, mixed with a mustardy vinaigrette. The trick here is to not-quite hard boil the eggs (7-minute eggs!), and smash them a bit with the dressing.

100_3441100_3443100_3444100_3448This is something that I would definitely make again, though I might tweak the dressing a bit. I don’t even know what “English mustard” is, but used traditional American yellow. ?? But I thought it might be improved with a pickle-ish element, either my home-made ones, or some capers. But really, and excellent concept. It was delicious, fast and filling, so it was a perfect lunch. I could see this for dinner too.

Altogether, these were delicious recipes this month. I really liked every one of them, though I could see a tweak here or there – but even as presented, they suited me. I learned a few new things along the way, and was reminded of a few more. A delicious experiment!

I can hardly wait to see what recipes July brings! If you’d like to see what other participants in the Cottage Cooking Club made, you can check them out online.