Blog – Now and then in my kitchen and garden

August 31, 2017

First of the heirloom tomatoes from my  community garden space. Juicy BLT, here I come!

July 11, 2017 

Mama junko’s carefully constructed nest with four eggs, tucked away in the asparagus fern by my front door.

Four hungry mouths – I want more, me, me .

When I went out to catch them looking more bird-like, the last two of the four flew away.  Don’t they practice first?  Then there were none. Empty nest ……

August 7, 2016

Pesto presto!

caption

Quick, before it all turns to flowers.

July 25, 2016

Easy, crunchy bread & butter pickles …

Pickles

Mix together in a glass bowl:

  • 1 cup white vinegar
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon celery seed
  • 1 teaspoon mustard seed
  • About 3 cups sliced cucumbers

In microwave, cook four minutes on high. Stir. Cook four more minutes on high. Place all in a container, adding juice to cover. Refrigerate. Pickles will stay crisp and delicious for months.

Quail alert …

July 21, 2016

Love our California quail with their cute little top knots.   But most often see them scurrying into the bushes with their family of puff balls behind . This one perched as a look-out on my deck –  I’ve never had that happen before, although they seem to really like my mailbox –  calling his alarm to his family somewhere down below.  And then, off he went into the oak tree.  I’ve never seen a quail really fly before!

Caption

California’s beloved quail became our state bird in 1931. .

July 19,  2016

What do you do with too many zucchini?

Zucchini

Zucchini – The “fruitcake” of the summer garden.  Recipient of zucchini jokes, “regifted” to unsuspecting neighbors. So, what do you do with too many zucchini?  Well, first of all pick ’em while they’re small.  And then, get inventive in the kitchen. Here’s my latest – so easy and so good that I’d wished I’d invited friends over for dinner for  – ta, da! Zucchini Tacos.

  • Dice two medium zucchinis, set aside with a clove or two of squished garlic.
  • Brown two chorizo sausages, pricked all over, in a medium fry pan.  Set aside until cool enough to cut into dice.
  • Meanwhile,  using the same pan (adding a little oil if too dry, cook the zucchini until crisp tender.  Add garlic and stir together.
  • Add in the diced chorizo, throw in a handful of chopped cilantro and give it a big squeeze of lime juice.
  •   Heat, keeping soft,  corn tortillas – the mixture should be enough for 4 small or 2 large.  Tuck in the zucchini mixture and – optional – add a squirt of your favorite hot sauce.   So-o-o-o- good!

 Keeping your basil fresh …

July 15, 2016

Basil’s abundant in my community garden space right now.  Here’s how to keep it perky for up to a week. Clip off the end of the stems and stick the bunch in a glass of water. Cover loosely with a plastic bag and keep it on your counter top. If you’re lucky, it might even sprout roots!

Basil in glass

May 29, 2016

What do you do with too many carrots?

P1040017

Well, first of all you thin them before something like this happens!  About 100 in this bunch, carrots grown straight, carrots grown forked, carrots grown coo-koo.  I finally got around to digging them up, all the while humming to the tune of “Drunken Sailor” –   “What do you do you do with too many carrots, what do you do with too many carrots, what do you do with too many carrots, early in the morning.”

A carrot cake recipe in my old San Francisco Junior League Cookbook – called for 4 cups of shredded carrots.  That got rid of a lot.

And then, in my wonderful Thomas Keller Ad Hoc At Home cookbook, I found a recipe for pickled carrots. Easy and fast.

Carrots

  • Here’s the recipe:
  • 1 cup champagne or white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup water
  • carrots, depends on size, I used 15 crazy shaped and miscellaneously sized.
  • 1/2 teaspoon yellow curry powder
  • 1/2 jalapeno seeded

Cut carrots into sections of whatever size you like. Put curry powder into a sauce pan and heat over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Careful, curry burns easily. Add remaining ingredients – carrots, too – to the pan and simmer until carrots are barely tender. Place all in a container, cool and refrigerate for up to 2 months.

August 3, 2015

Nectarine Salsa

Nectarines are wonderful right now.  Plump and flavorful.  Perfect, of course, for eating out of hand.  Another way of enjoying their fresh, fruity flavor is in a super-easy salsa.  Here is what you’ll need:

  • 2 firm nectarines, peeled, diced into cubes (not too small)
  • 1 slice of onion, finely diced.  This is a red onion I grew in my garden, very mild.
  • 1 or 2 jalapeno or other chilies.  Remove seeds to keep mild or leave some in if you like heat.
  • 1/4 cup cilantro chopped.
  • Juice from 1 lime.

Tip:  Plunge the nectarines into boiling water for a minute – skins will slip right off. Mix all gently together.  Keep in mind that amounts are not written in stone and that the salsa  gets better if you set it aside for a half-hour to let the flavors meld.   Oh so  good with simply prepared fish, chicken, pork – so many things – with a little white or brown rice alongside. Here’s what it will look like:

November 16, 2014

 Organic fruits and vegetables vs. conventional – when to buy which …

I stopped by Oliver’s Market on Montecito Avenue in  Santa Rosa with a question on my mind. When to  buy organic produce and when might conventional do?

I chose Oliver’s because both “sides” of its produce department look equally glorious, thanks to Dave Diaz, manager of the section for 13 years, and  his dedicated crew that keeps it looking artfully fresh and abundant.

I expected  Dave to have a  ready-made list in his head of fruits and vegetables considered the most and least contaminated by pesticides.  Something akin to  “never buy conventionally grown sweet potatoes,  no need to buy organic asparagus.”

Not so. To my surprise, he started off by saying that if you are normally healthy there’s no reason to pay the often-time, more hefty-priced organic.  However, anyone with a compromised immune system, should stick to organic only.  Buying for babies and small children?  With their not-yet-developed immune system – choose organic. Another reason to always buy organic –  to support an environmentally healthy earth.

How might he shop his own section? “ I’d  always buy organic strawberries, conventionally grown carry a wallop of bad stuff for nematode control. In winter I’d never carry home Chilean-grown grapes, terrible fumigation happens as they’re packed into containers for shipping. I always choose organic bananas, because they’re creamier, and I’d look for a Fair Trade label, as conventional are dipped into harsh chemicals that terribly burn the hands of those – usually women –  who pack them.

“I’d  choose organic when I notice that it’s about the same price as conventional.  Occasionally even cheaper!  Another reason, after eating certain items from both sides of the aisle, I’ve found that some things,  like broccoli and the bananas, just taste better.”

November 12, 2014 

Greens remain abundant in my garden – perfect early-winter  soup with greens and a bit of ham …

Brrrrrr. No rain in sight but it’s coooold outside.  Soup time. Warming, delicious, hearty – and so easy.  You can make this with any kind of dried beans you like, black-eyed peas are also really good. In the  above, I used cannelli. My “farm” in the community garden hasn’t much in it right now, but greens are really flourishing – couple of kinds of kale, collards, Swiss chard.  I picked a mixture. You’ll need about 14  packed cups of whatever torn into bite-sized pieces.

Carrots

Dump 1 cup of  dried beans into a saucepan with enough water to cover by about 3 inches.  Bring  to a boil. Let stand a couple of hours off heat.  Drain.  Return to pot and boil in chicken stock and additional water, if needed,  under barely tender, about 30 minutes.  You don’t want them to get all mushy. Drain.

  • Here’s what else you’ll need:
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 cup each chopped onion, carrot, celery
  • 1 minced garlic clove
  • 8 cups chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 cup diced ham

Heat olive oil in the big pot you’ve cooked the beans in. Sauté ham until browned. Add the vegetables, sauté 8 minutes.  Add the stock, bay leaf, beans, and greens.  Bring to boil, simmer 15 minutes.  Add salt and pepper to taste.  Serves 6 heartily.

Refrigerate any leftovers. This gets even better after a day or so!

October 13, 2014 

Had a rain chain installed – my alternative to doing a rain dance in dry, dry Sonoma County.  This one chosen from RainChainsDirect.com  array of design choices.  Now, just add water!  Please!

Rain chain

Rain chain, super-easy to install and so pretty!

May 13, 2014

Turkeys in show-off full feather parade the garden  – and it’s nowhere near Thanksgiving!

Turkeys

November 10, 2013

If I could have but one of my gardening tools, I’d choose my CobraHead. It digs, makes furrows, gets out weeds all the way down through the roots, cultivates – and more.  Sturdy, feels good in my hand. Here’s what it looks like.  You can buy one on line for about $25.

CobraHead action shot2 400

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