Category Archives: Gardening

Tomato inspiration

What started out as a charmingly laid-back summer rushed to its end.  School has started, and with it, a tighter schedule.

The transition seems like a good time to reflect back on some of the summer projects.  It feels a teensy bit mean to do this as tomatoes wind down their season, at least in our neck of the woods.  But I think for perhaps the first time, we had our surfeit of ripe tomatoes.  Here’s a few of the simple way we used them, in addition to canning salsa, and regular doses of pico de gallo.

One of the simplest meals, and a nice breakfast or lunch is to simply saute with a couple of eggs over-easy, and top with basil and crumbled cheese (queso fresca here, or you could use feta).

 

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I made a few quick pasta sauces. This is tomatoes, onions, peppers with sausage from a local butcher I discovered!


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Several times, I threw a bunch into my Pyrex with onions, garlic, olive oil, salt, pepper and fresh herbs.  I roasted them at about 450 until they collapsed and browned slightly, then pureed them into a tomato sauce.  They turn intensely sweet and a little bit creamy.

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The abundance of tomatoes was joined by tons of peppers.  I made a quick piperade that we tossed with various things–pasta, on pizza, with chicken for fajitas.

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Tim loves bulgur or couscous salads to pack for his lunch.  Herbs, vegetables (onions, tomatoes, peppers, cucumber), cheese (queso fresca or feta), lemon or lime juice or vinegar, olive oil.

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And homemade pizza has become a standby at our place. Garlic, olive oil, thinly sliced tomatoes, garlic and herb goat cheese, kalamata olives, and fresh basil tossed on after it comes out of the oven.

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Porch Garden (beginning of August)

It was a live-and-learn summer with the porch garden.  Paired with the unusual weather (hello, more rain than I remember in any other summer down here!), there were some porch garden casualties.  After dozens of blossoms, I had 4-5 healthy zucchini from the porch, before the plants drowned in the deluge.  I think zucchini would work in a future garden, I think I would drill holes in the storage container to allow for more drainage.

The Asian long beans were lovely.  I had carefully created a bamboo support system from poles that I had foraged.  But then, alas, an infestation of spider mites demolished the plants while I was still playing Dr. Google to find home solutions to the problem.

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The tomatoes (cherry, pear and patio), however, and the yellow “snacking” bell pepper plant have been abundant beyond my wildest hopes.  Here’s today’s harvest, at least what made it inside.  The kids decided that the cherry tomatoes are like candy, and eat them by the handfuls.

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In the meantime, I’ve scattered green onion seeds over the containers of plants that bit the dust, hoping for an autumn harvest.  May pop in some garlic gloves a bit later on as well.  Need to come up with some other (easy) fall vegetable plants as well.

 

 

Eating the harvest: Teriyaki Salmon and Squash

With the gardens, I’ve felt pulled in two different directions: fresh, easy meals, and preserving food for later.

We’ve had an abundance of squash and zucchini, though between the heat and the torrential rains, that’s slowed down a bit.

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Teriyaki Salmon and Squash

For the first meal, I mixed 1/2 cup Trader Joes’ Soyaki sauce with some extra ginger and garlic (a teaspoon or two of each grated on a microplane), and lime juice.  I divided it half, putting some in a bowl and some in a baggie.  I marinated about 1.5 lbs. of salmon in the baggie for about an hour in the fridge.

In the meantime, I sliced two each largeish zucchini and yellow squash lengthwise into 1/2 inch wide strips.  I mixed some hoisin sauce and sweet soy sauce into the Soyaki sauce to thicken it (just because I had them on hand–you totally could just use the Soyaki sauce, or mix in a little maple syrup and/or brown sugar).  I lightly salted and peppered the squash.

I heated my cast-iron grill pan to medium-high on the stovetop, and grilled the squash first, brushing each side with some of the reserved marinade. for about 3-4 minutes on each side, rotating the slices half-way through to get hatch marks.  I turned them when they looked a little bit transparent and were browned on the underside.

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After the squash was done, I grilled the salmon, for about five minutes on the first side (again rotating them after a couple of minutes for hatch marks), and 3-4 on the second, brushing each side with the reserved mixture.

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You can serve the salmon and squash slices as is, or cut them into cubes.  I did it both ways as we ate it for three days in a row.

Community garden, July 2

 

 

 

Our hard work is paying off!

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Canninsanity

Between some good deals on fruit at local places (thank you Aldi’s!) and our community garden, a lot of this week has revolved around canning.  Here’s our take-home before stashing it away.

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I still have a couple of projects left in the near future (like corn salsa from some locally grown corn, and our neighbor offered for us to take some of their figs when they ripen), but I took today off from canning.

I did, however, have a mess of greens given to me by one of the families that I teach piano, so I threw those in the slow cooker for some palak paneer from one of my favorite cookbooks (The Indian Slow Cooker).  I usually cut out the jalapeno peppers and reduce the hot chili powder significantally.  However, I’ve found taking a pretty picture of palak paneer is nearly impossible, so I won’t include a picture with this post.

Porch garden: first harvest

First harvest

 

Our first little crop from the porch garden.  A good sized zucchini with a few more to be harvested in the next couple of days, a couple of snacking bell peppers, a few cherry tomatoes, and a couple of green tomatoes that fell off as I was trying to creatively stake them to our porch (will post pics when I’m more happy with the results).

Stuffed zucchini flowers–or how to blow your five year olds’ minds and be pleasantly pretentious at the same time

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At our little community garden, someone suggested cutting some of the zucchini blossoms to cook.  I had been curious about this for quite a long time, and as no one else wanted to take them home, I cut a dozen or so to take with me.  I cut a couple from our porch garden as well.

Cooking zucchini blossoms felt very hipster to me, like I should have been wearing thick glasses and a patchwork skirt, and be living in Portland.  The kind of thing you want to put up on your blog to impress your friends with your back-to-nature attitude.  But it also boggled the minds of two five year olds (“We’re having flowers for dinner?!?  Really, Mommy?  I want to eat flowers!”), and was quite tasty.

I poked around the web for a little bit looking for recipes.  I found this recipe, and used the process (generally).  It made way too much batter for what I had (I just did the flowers, no baby zucchini), so I would play around with that if I made it again.  Rather than plain ricotta, I mixed a few things into some homemade ricotta I made and cooled earlier in the day (it’s so simple, it actually was much easier than dragging two five year olds to the grocery store to buy some).  To about a cup of ricotta, I added

1 garlic clove grated on a microplane

Salt and pepper to taste

1/2 a preserved lemon finely minced

A tablespoon or two each of minced fresh basil and mint

2 tbsp. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

The flowers tended to tear when I pulled out the stamen and also when I accidentally overstuffed some, but I tried to do it as gently as possible.  Kept the kids out of the kitchen with the hot oil.

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Realized last minute that we needed to have a bit of something on the side.  So, I quickly sliced a couple of yellow squash onto a plate, and poured some tomato vinaigrette over it.  Snipped some fresh basil over it, and sprinking some Mexican crumbling cheese (Queso Fresco) over it just because we happened to have in the house (feta would have been great).

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