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Archive for September, 2009

Grapes at Corner Stone

We were just talking about the lack of locally grown veggies in Napa because of the high price of land and all those grapes, and here’s what I run across when I sit down to catch up on a little gardenish reading this morning. The article from the Press Democrat, (which I wish I had seen before I left so I could have gone to Benziger last weekend) talks about some of the vineyards and their workers planting vegetable crops. Several of the wineries and vineyards are setting aside days just for working in the garden and have such abundant crops they are selling their produce to the restaurants and setting up farm stands in their tasting rooms. This seems like a head slapping, about time, epiphany for the Valley.

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Zucchini Patch

The zucchini sharing, (or dumping) holiday was August 28th. That day came and went because I didn’t have a bumper crop of zucchini that particular week. I had extra the weeks prior and there is an abundance of zucchini in my life right now. Pictured above is just one of 4 robust corn and zuke patches…there are also zukes planted around a few tomatoes. I am talking zucchini. Here is a couple of recipes I will put on the counter along with the sign “Free, take one. Please!”.

For the kids:

Plain Pasta-Boil up some short pasta, my current favorite is de checco rotelle (check out the site and peruse the shapes gallery), boil up some pasta. Right at the end throw in a couple of handfuls of very thinly sliced zucchini. Blanch with the pasta for seconds…depends on how thinly you sliced…just enough to brighten the color and warm through. Strain and in to a bowl. Add seasoning according to your child’s current preferences. Olive oil and parm are always nice. Sneak in some basil on a tablespoon of tomato sauce or with fresh diced tomato.

Zucchini Timbales-Layers of rice, tomato sauce, zucchini rounds, mozzarella, herbs, rice, tomato sauce zucchini rounds herbs…you get the picture…now bake. You can even nuke it when you are too hot or busy to turn on the oven. Better yet, make a water bath with a roasting pan and cook them on the grill next to what ever protein you are cooking up.

Grilled Zucchini-Marinate. Brush with olive oil, red pepper flakes and herbs. Grill. Squeeze a little lemon. Serve!

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Monarch & Zinnia
While my yard is not an official Monarch Way station…the basil and zinnia bed certainly qualifies for a butterfly garden.  Zinnias are on the list for nectar plants adult Monarchs love and I can say first hand they do!  Easy to grow from seed and really hearty in the hot hot sun.  I wonder if it’s too late for another good crop?  I think I’ll plant a couple of flats in the front tomorrow and see how it goes.  Couldn’t hurt!

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Basil & Zinnia Porch

Zinnia from seed mixed in with the basil starts –  my new favorite combo right at the front porch.  Nothing better than opening the door and grabbing handfuls of basil, bunches of sorrel, ears of corn, and a few flowers for decoration.

Zinnia-1

Zinnia-2

Zinnia-3

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Flavorella Plum Hand Pies
This summer’s favorite dish for the concerts in the park…was hands down the hand pies. Nectarine, plum, strawberry or a combination of all three.

The best of the lot was the elusive Flavorella plum pie, which I could only produce one time…I must have caught the tail end of the season for that tree. The ease of this dish is what makes it such a favorite of mine and the tangy deliciousness combined with puff pastry made it a real crowd pleaser.

Buy puff pastry sheets and let thaw in the fridge. Each box makes about 8 pretty good sized pies. I just lined the giant muffin tin with squares of parchment paper, then with the puff, then dollops of the fruit mixture, topped with tangy strawberry preserves. Pinch together and bake!

Fruit Filling-Cut up 8 plums and toss with a couple of tablespoons of flour and sugar. Strawberry preserves-made earlier in the summer, just mash up berries and cook down a bit with 1/4 (or less) the amount of sugar for jam…and lots of lemon juice. It won’t set up, but use as sauce…way tastier!

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juliets

Ahhh, the summer sun dried tomatoes!  This year I have been making them with Juliet tomatoes from my garden…As the season ends…I will stock up from the farmers market on heirlooms, cherry, pear, and small roma varieties so I can have the taste of summer well in to winter.

The only sun-dried tomatoes I enjoy these days are plump fresh oven dried from home.  Mario Batali made these on a show one time and I have  been making them ever since.  I just do not reccomend you start them at 8pm like I did last time…luckily I woke up (the aroma wafting through the house roused me) in time to save them from becoming over dried tomatoes.

Here’s how easy it is:  cut in half, place cut side up on a couple of sheet pans (might as well make a lot).  I like to line the pans with parchment.  Mix equal parts sugar and kosher salt.  Sprinkle tomatoes with white wine vinegar, and the sugar/salt mixture.  Place in the oven at 200-225˚ for approximately 4-6 hours depending on the size of the tomatoes.  I check frequently and remove them as they are ready.  I like them to have a little plumpness left in them…dried, but not crispy.

To store:  layer with olive oil and basil leaves.  I use like to toss with pasta and any number of additional items from shrimp and feta, to chicken and fontina on top of flat bread.  Enjoy!

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g-Basil patch

Okay- tonight was a real Crisper Crap Shoot.  From the home garden I have corn, basil, sorrel and zucchini.  From the farmers market I have garlic and pasilla.  From Little India I have red rice.  From the fridge I have a little cream and white wine.

Hot, hot heavy enamel pan.  Dry the scallops.  Sear scallops in a little butter.  Remove and set aside.  Throw in whole head of garlic (cloves just smashed and skinned) and push around the pan….lots of brown bits forming….deglaze with a healthy pour of the wine, some in the pan and some in the glass.  Scrape all the bits, add a couple cups of sorrel.  Add a bunch of basil.  Add the juice from the resting scallops.  Add a cup or two of the heavy cream.  Walk away.  Let simmer and reduce.  Add 1 1/2 roasted pasilla chile.  Grab the kick ass immersible blender and puree.  You now have a thick veggie cream sauce!  Add the scallops back in to the pot and heat through.  Pour over (in this case) fresh raw julienne of zucchini  and top with a little rice.  Best case scenario is fresh pasta of some kind (papardelle) or risotto made with a fish stock…yum.

Rich loves everything…but loved this more!  I think the secret ingredient of pasilla added a nice little twist without over powering the greens.

Kiely asked for a big bowl of the fresh raw zucchini and just sauce…now that’s sayin’ something!

I really do think that picking the veggies about 5 minutes before cooking does add a level of deliciousness and healthfulness that you can just feel when you’re eating.  The corn, from the breezeway (just a 4 x 15′ patch between the houses) is hands down the best corn we’ve ever eaten.  We grew corn last year, but out at the Family Plot…picked hours and hours before cooking.  Well this year, I had the pot boiling and threw in the ears seconds after they were plucked and shucked, then turned off the heat and served a few minutes later.  We could all taste the diff.

Bon Appetite!

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