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Archive for March, 2009

Not much actual cooking and gardening going on at Green Acres getting ready for NYC and now here-on a little vacay.  So I am bringing over a couple of recent garden and foodie posts from The Family Blog to share.  The back story on the foodie field trip is that a few of us wanted to get in a several quality kid-free excursions in before the summer schedule freak show.  We have a long list and here is Little India…

little-india-wicks

The Foodie Field Trips are on. First stop, Little India! The terrific little grocery store was the highlight for me. There among the spices and food stuffs, was this package and it’s terrific label. The cottony items inside had me baffled…for much of the morning so far I had been thinking what the? and here with my mind on food, these cocoonish looking things had me stumped! What the H are these? I blurt out…ironically they are wicks for praying. I better start praying I don’t end up in H. Anyway, I love the label!

little-india-chickoo

Julie picked up a bottle of the chickoo flavoring. This is a magical collection of unusual extracts. You will not find chickoo and mango green on the baking aisle at Vons. I feel a cupcake inspiration in the wind! The daughter of this store was wonderful about asking us if we needed help and answering questions. Turns out chickoo is a delicious fruit. Also known as sapodilla in Spanish, is a Native plant of Mexico and was introduced in Asia during the Spanish colonization of the Phillipines. An actual chickoo on the tree…

chickoo
I just found this helpful site Indian Food Forever, I will be checking it out thoroughly. The ice cream spot Christy found had a chickoo ice cream, Saffron Spot.  And here is a link to a blog that looks really fun, Enjoy Indian Food. Type in chickoo and google sends you many fascinating sites…here’s one I like called Mumbai daily photo, the saris we saw the other day were amazingly vibrant and the blog has a great photo of ladies in saris – real life, in Mumbai.

little-india-bombay-sweets

And I guess no sweet shop, snack shop, Indian deli would be complete without the vast array of barfi. Every shop we went in to had some combination of identical looking barfi. I am sticking to my assumption that there is a large professional barfi bakery that supplies all shops and restaurants with barfi. I say it all comes from a central location daily, a barfi commissary. I want to see that place.

Since we are in NYC visiting a friend  from Mumbai, perhaps we can share an East Coast foodie field trip to her favorite spots!

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Gourmet 1954

gourmet-feb-1954

I have a special place in my heart (and garage) for my collection of vintage Gourmet magazines. I love the really old ones pre 1965 that have illustrated covers.  One of my favorite sites – Cooked Books, “All things culinary at the New York Public Library” – features a menu from a dinner held for James Beard and Julia Child and made me want to go paw through my own shelf of culinary ephemera. I will be taking a peek inside the culinary collection on Friday.  The Cooked Books librarian has generously offered to show us around the landmark building and the collection. Thanks, Rebecca!!

Flipping through the stacks of magazines, filled with advertisements touting the medical benefits of brown goods, the cover of this particular issue really jumped out at me.   Having just discovered Nose to Tail, and now Hunter Angler Gardener Cook and Offal Good, I am taking a second glance at the animal and the unusual.   This issue is February 1954, and it’s just a fantastically kitchy platter of what must be an aspic coated cows head filled with pate! That’s just a guess, having seen some crazy old European stuff like that in my time served in the Century Plaza Hotel kitchen. It’s just, wow.

You might think there is an awful lot of pig and cow head lately for a blog called green acres…but I say – you have to have an open mind!  I watched some videos on Chris Cosentino’s Offal Good and discovered an amazing looking Vegetarian salad with shaved raw parsnips tossed with a hot dressing of tarragon and sauteed grapes. It looked really good and the Veg he made it for was swooning. Over at Hunter Angler, I found a recipe for cardoon. Cardoon! Not a common ingredient, and one I have unlimited access to in the school garden. We are lousy with cardoon there for sure. There will be cardoon gratin added to the recipe box when I get back next week!

So you see, it’s not all guts and glory over at the seemingly carnivorous blogs. There are side dishes, vegetarian salads and there is adventure!  They are respecting the animal by placing a high value on every single piece of it. To quote Hank, he is an omnivore who has solved his dilemma.

Oh, and this heads for you Ryan!

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100-sq-ft

Last night the White House announced that Michelle Obama is taking out 1100 square feet of the White House lawn and planting a vegetable garden. You can read more about the “eat the view” movement at Kitchen Gardeners International, and see the plans. This is awesome! It’s the first step toward food reform and a promising indication that they GET IT! They get that we desperately need to overhaul our food policies and farming in the U.S.

But, not everyone has 1100 sq ft. in a sunny location. Which brings me to the idea for a Community of Gardens. A local garden club with an edible bent. An Urban CSA, if you will. A gathering of like minds and dirt. I have a community garden plot, because the trees in my yard limit the sunlight for certain crops. I wanted to have real farm conditions and grow “crops” to feed my family. And to know that the food I was feeding them was free from pesticides, irradiation, bacteria and full of the nutrients that are supposed to be in them.

Many of my friends and neighbors expressed the desire to grow their own, buy and eat local. Many want to convert front yards to drought tolerant herb gardens and backyards in to robust vegetable gardens. But there are hurdles. So, I was thinking…wouldn’t it be nice to pool our local resources, the land immediately to my right, or left. I can grow celery in my shady yard…pretty much year round. Maybe you have a super sunny yard and cannot grow lettuce during the summer…And there is the time. And the knowledge. You see where I am going with this?

Okay, I can think of 20 projects right now! The local schools have gardens but limited resources, they need teachers and volunteers to run the school garden programs. We could start a community compost, so the green waste being incinerated could go back in to the earth instead of into the atmosphere. We can pick the low hanging fruit, literally…there are dozens, if not hundreds of fruit trees loaded with citrus right now, that just goes to waste. We could take the citrus peels and make our own cleaning wipes. We can grow hundreds of pounds of tomatoes and have a canning party! We could volunteer at the Rancho, and help them with their gardens. We could collectively support bringing a community garden plot in out neighborhood. We can identify friends and neighbors with plenty of space and but no time to farm. There are strips of land for guerilla gardening as well.

But we have to start somewhere and perhaps a little meet up and food/seed swap would be a good start. What do you say the 1st Sunday in April? Now, where should we gather? How about the benches outside Rancho Los Cerritos? If you park in their lot, and walk straight ahead and take the low road…there are picnic benches in a pretty lovely setting! The alstroemeria on the little slope will probably be blooming by them…and the orchard in front of the Rancho is intoxicating right now…there are a zillion orange blossoms on the trees!! There is a red bud tree that is in full flower and their wisteria vine has begun to show as well. It would be a fun place to start and a nice walk around the grounds is an added bonus! The Rancho doesn’t open until 1:00pm, so we couldn’t get in to the area before that time. Hope this works, let me know!!

If you’re on Facebook, we have a Community of Gardens page that you can join. If you’re not on Facebook, get on Facebook!

Also, the photo above is my 10 x 10 raised bed in December, last year. I planted a bunch of peas in the middle on the black rack. There was an x of celery, and four triangles filled with radishes, carrots, onion, cauliflower and broccoli. I jammed the plants in close together and thinned as I went, eating baby vegetables and making room for some of the plants to reach full size. I would go out and break off a few ribs of celery all summer, before they bolted late in July. You would be amazed at how much you can grow in a small space!

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nose-to-tail

Nose to Tail, At Home is a site where the author is attempting to cook through a challenging cook book by chef Fergus Henderson called The Whole Beast: Nose to Tail Eating.  I have to admit I love these cooking through the cookbook blogs.  I love the quest for ingredients and living vicariously through their culinary adventures.  There is no prerequisite involved…you do not have to have any experience with the ingredients, or professional training.  Logic helps, determination a must and you do need coin.  It has got to be pretty expensive to buy all of the required ingredients!  And I would need a dishwasher, not the machine,  an employee.

I love to look at people’s links.  At Nose to Tail, my favorite blog title is Offal Good.  I haven’t been there yet…but I will be going there soon.  Maybe later.  Maybe not right before bed.

Maybe I’ll look for a cookbook to cook through.  Maybe weekly posts on progress.  Madhur Mondays.  Ripert any day of the week.  I would like to challenge myself in the baking department.  I should make bread.  That’s it, I will start a baking challenge.  Flour isn’t expensive!  La Brea Baked.  A loaf, coming soon.

photo

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spring-lettuce

The lettuces went in the ground after the broccoli came out about a month ago. They are tasty and beautiful right now, but it might be done in a couple of weeks if it gets hot. Out at the Family Plot a neighbor and resident lettuce expert, has been just mowing his crop down and they come right back. He has done this three times, and I was the beneficiary of two large bags of lettuce last week. To get started he broadcast seeds, which means throw the seeds out willy nilly, and has large square areas just completely full of mixed greens. Needless to say this method looks to be quite successful and I will try it this way next year.

This year I am already thinking about moving lettuce and greens from ground to containers. In general, I really like to grow from seed because of the wide variety available and of course, the economic benefits are great. So right now I am starting several greens in flats for transplanting. Mache, cress, oak leaf, romaine, spinach. You can grow lettuce greens all summer in the shade and should because it’s so easy! I like to use the vintage baby bath tubs, because they keep my salad bowl, my living pantry at a nice height for daily picking and the snails and slugs don’t even know to look there!

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apricot-blossom

Just a few, scant weeks ago the apricot tree was in full bloom. Tree covered with blossoms, blossoms covered with bees, us covered with smiles. Spring has sprung we thought. Kiely could see her special apricot & cream cheese delight in the offing, Griffin is focused on NOT hitting the baseball through the tree. However, I have seen it all before and was hopeful but skeptical. Well, It looks like we are lousy with apricots!! The blossom above was photographed the last week of February. The photo below was taken this dewy morning. There are more apricots on one of the dozens of branches, than there were on the entire tree last year! I don’t know if many will make it in to the house, I for see a pile of pits at the base of this tree.

apricot-tree-3-18-09

Although it’s a little late for bare root trees (December through mid February), it’s never too late to go to the nursery and pick up a specimen tree for your own yard.  The California Apricot council has a lot of general information to help you decide on a variety. From listening to local chefs, home gardeners and boutique farmers I gather the following “late” bloomers to be among the favorites:  Tilton, described as large fruit with firm texture and tart flavor.  Tomcot, large fruit with very orange sweet flesh.  And the Blenheim seems to possess a somewhat celebrity status with the pastry chefs…boasting a medium size fruit with intense flavor.  Late season indicates fruit ripening middle to late June.  I believe my tree is a Royal Blenheim and seems to be in the early category, but I guess we’ll have to wait and see!

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wisteria-march-07
The spring indicator at my home is the white wisteria bush on the front fence.  This photo was taken March 13, 2007.  The buds are just beginning to grow long, and the sculptural vine is still mostly bare.  The photo below was taken 30 days later, in April o7.

wisteria-april-07

This is what the vine will look like this year in about 1 week.  So, looks like we are one month ahead of the 07 spring season.  I wonder what the research on conditions would show.  More rain this year?  Doubtful.  More warm weather? Perhaps.  Global warming?  Maybe I should check it out!  Okay, I just found this insanely cool site Weather Underground.  You can look up historical temperature data here, check it out!  In December, January & February of 2007 there were an average of  30 “growing degree days”, and in 2009 the number of growing days where the average temperature is 50 degrees, is 27.  It’s interesting but temperature seems to be a small part of the growing and flowering habit of fruit trees, vines and perennials.  I would guess a detailed journal that includes water, feeding and pruning might shed more light.  Also, the age of the plant?  Maybe.   I am going to wander over to the Rancho Los Cerritos and check out their Wisteria Vine.  It’s old and giant, and I am curious to see if it’s blooming!  Get planting…looks like we are having an early Spring!

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