Wednesday, 17 October 2018

Pasta with Spinach, Roasted Squash, Shallots & Ricotta

You'll have noticed that I haven't mixed squash and pasta before, or I don't know, maybe you haven't noticed. I have to say my instinct that they rarely go together still stands. Yes, squash is vegetable, but a starchy/solid one, and I think the combination is usually just a little too stodgy.

That said, this was enjoyable.  Sometimes some good sturdy stodge is just what you  need - chilly yard clean-up days, anyone? Cheese and spinach makes this a complete meal.

We had a bumper harvest of squash this year, and the quality is good. This is just the beginning of quite a few squash dishes for us.

4 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 30 minutes prep time

Pasta with Spinach, Roasted Squash, Shallots & Ricotta

Roast the Squash, Etc:
1500 grams (3 pounds) butternut squash
6 to 8 large shallots
2  tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 teaspoons rubbed savory OR sage
450 grams (1 pound) ricotta cheese

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Peel and de-seed the squash, and cut it into rather large bite-sized pieces. Peel the shallots and cut them in halves or quarters if large, which they are, ideally.

Toss the squash and shallots with the oil in a large shallow baking tray - they should be able to be spread out in a mostly single layer. Sprinkle them with the seasonings and toss again.

Roast the squash and shallots for 30 minutes. Stir them, and dollop the ricotta cheese over them. Return the tray to the oven and bake for a further 20 minutes.

Cook the Pasta & Finish:
320 grams (11 ounces) chunky pasta
1 bunch spinach
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
60 grams (2 ounces) Parmesan cheese, grated

Meanwhile, start a large pot of salted water on to boil. Cook the pasta according to the package instructions so that they will be done cooking within a minute or two of the squash and shallots.

Pick over the spinach and wash it very well, and drain it. Chop it coarsely. Add it to pasta for the last 2 or 3 minutes of boiling - you may wish to add an extra minute to the pasta cooking time to allow for the water to come back to the boil.

Peel and mince the garlic. Grate the Parmesan.

When the pasta is done, drain it well. Take the squash from the oven, and mix the garlic into it at once. Mix the pasta and spinach in gently, trying to break neither squash nor pasta. Sprinkle the Parmesan over the dish and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Cauliflower with Leeks & Carrots.

Monday, 15 October 2018

Stir-Fried Cabbage with Peppers & Shallots

Stir fried cabbage is not exactly a novel idea but I was surprised to see that I haven't combined it with red peppers before. Along with shallots and garlic, the result is rustic and assertive; a good companion for robust roast or grilled meats such as beef, lamb, or pork. It's not too much for chicken or fish though.

Otherwise, not much to say about this - it's a quick, simple and tasty stir-fry. 

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Stir-Fried Cabbage with Peppers & Shallots

4 to 6 medium shallots
1 medium thick-fleshed red pepper
4 cups chopped green cabbage
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 or 3 tablespoons soy sauce

Peel the shallots and cut them into slivers. Core and de-seed the pepper, and cut it into thin strips, then cut them in similar length to the shallots. Chop the cabbage. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, over high heat. Add the shallots and pepper, and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 or 3 minutes until softened. Add the cabbage, and sprinkle with the soy sauce. Continue cooking for another 2 or 3 minutes, until the cabbage is softened and reduced in volume, and the soy sauce is absorbed or evaporated. Add the garlic and stir it in well, cooking for another minute or two until the garlic is fragrant and the cabbage is cooked to your liking. Serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Kohlrabi Soup

Friday, 12 October 2018

Beet & Carrot Salad with Spicy Lemon Vinaigrette

This was a nice, simple salad. Sweet onions are on their last legs, but hopefully there are still a few around. Apply the Aleppo pepper and lemon juice with a fairly heavy hand, as the beets and carrots will cheerfully absorb it. 

6 to 8 servings
1 hour to cook beets; 20 minutes assembly time

Make the Salad:
3 cups peeled diced cooked beets
3 cups peeled diced cooked carrots
1 sweet onion
1 cup loosely packed chopped parsley

Cook the beets by trimming them and covering them in water, and boiling them until tender; 45 minutes to an hour. They could also be wrapped in foil and baked at 350°F for an hour to an hour and a half, until tender. Let cool, peel, and dice.

The carrots should be peeled and diced, then cooked in boiling water for 5 to 8 minutes, until done to your liking. Run them under cold water to cool and drain well.

Peel and chop the onion. Wash and chop the parsley.

Mix the beets, carrots, onions, and parsley in a bowl.

Make the Dressing:
1/4 cup olive oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 to 1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper
the juice of 1 large lemon

Measure the oil into a small bowl or jam jar. Add the salt, pepper, and Aleppo pepper and mix well. Squeeze the lemon juice and add it.

Toss the salad in the dressing.

If you want the salad to sit for a while before it is eaten, keep the parsley out of it and add it just before serving to keep it crisp.

Last year at this time I made Pasta & Broccoli with Goat Cheese & Croutons

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Lo-Bak Pancakes

I love dim sum! It's such a pity the nearest purveyor is mighty close to 2 hours away by car. Whenever we go, we order 2 dishes of lo-bak go; that is to say radish patties. One of them is just for me, and the other is for the rest of the table. Yes! It's my favourite!

It's also kind of a pain to make. I have tried it; the mixture gets boiled, then put in a pan and steamed, then, cut into slices and fried. All that just to have a base to slather on the chile-garlic sauce! These are really not quite the same, but there is a sufficient resemblance for me to enjoy them very much, and they are comparatively very simple to make.

8 to 16 pancakes (4 to 6 servings)
1 hour prep time

White Winter Radish Pancakes

2 cups peeled and grated lo-bak, daikon,
        or other similar white winter radish
3 to 4 green onions
4 to 5 slices of bacon
3/4 cup barley flour
1/4 cup potato flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 large egg
3/4 cup chicken stock
oil to fry

Wash and peel the lo-bak. Put it in a strainer and salt it, and let it rest while you prepare the other ingredients. Preheat the oven to 200°F.

Wash, trim, and chop the green onions. Chop the bacon quite finely.

Mix the green onions and bacon into the barley and potato flours, in a mixing bowl. Mix in the salt and pepper. Squeeze the lo-bak gently, measure it, and add it as well. When it is evenly mixed in, break in the egg and add the chicken stock. Mix until smoothly blended.

Heat enough oil to coat the pan in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Drop in spoonfuls of the batter to form pancakes. Smooth them out a little to keep them even and not too thick. Cook until nicely browned on each side and cooked through. Transfer them to a plate in the oven to keep warm as you cook the rest of them, adding a little more oil to the pan if needed.

Serve the pancakes with chile-garlic sauce, or a drizzle of soy and vinegar if you don't care for chile-garlic sauce.

Last year at this time I made Roasted Peppers in Cream

Monday, 8 October 2018

Crazy About Potato Seedlings

As you know by now, if you are a regular reader, Mr. Ferdzy and I have all kinds of bees buzzing around in our bonnets. One of them is the idea of growing potatoes from seeds. Actual seeds, from an an actual potato fruit, not seed potatoes. Up above, you see us - okay the bottom half of Mr Ferdzy - about to dig up the little section allotted to this project this year.

We tried a different technique this year for starting our seeds. Normally we have started them in pots inside very early in the winter, let them die down, refrigerated the resulting mini-tubers to simulate winter, then planted them out to grow in the summer. Most potato breeders do this; they figure it cuts out a year of the long process of assessing new potatoes. We have come to the conclusion, however, that we lose too many little mini-tubers in this method.

So, this year we started them indoors in pots, but later in the winter to go out into the ground with everything else in the spring. Most of them died down and formed mini tubers - but not quite so mini as in the more usual technique, but there were 3 in particular that grew, and grew, and grew. Eventually we got fed up with them and decided to dig them anyway.

And there they are, with a brick for scale. We thiiiiink 2 of them are from Duane Falk and the Latvian potato seed he gave us, but we are not certain. One of them is not; it was mauve with a white edge to it. It looked a bit like ham. It tasted very good (but not, alas, anything like ham) when we boiled one of them, so it will be replanted. Unfortunately, of the other 2, one tasted "okay" and one tasted downright bad and so has already been eliminated from replanting. We will plant the "okay" one - it may do for future breeding even if the flavour is a bit blah, if it continues to produce like it did this year. And if it has fertile flowers, of course. Always a question, with potatoes.

Of the remaining, more typical potato-lets, we eliminated a number of these little piles - each pile representing a single plant - on the grounds that we were already not impressed by their productive capacities. Many of them, though, went into a paper lunch bag, again one for each plant. From there they go into the house, and a sacrificial victim is selected and boiled for 15 minutes. We then assess it for flavour and texture. If it gets a thumbs up, it will be planted next spring. If it gets a thumbs down, it goes into the compost.

We got about halfway through testing all the new types of potatoes that are under consideration for replanting in the spring before we started suffering from serious potato fatigue. We'll finish testing them on another day, then see how they survive the winter in the cold room... next year we will plant them out and see how they do.

We were a little surprised to eliminate some of the potatoes we had grown from seed last year. They had all been tested for flavour already, but there were a couple that just didn't impress us the second time around. Different growing conditions? We were in a different mood? Who knows?

One of the potatoes we eliminated made me a bit sad. The potatoes it made were not very large, but it made lots and lots of them, and the foliage only grew about 6" or 8" high! But while it rated quite well for flavour last year, this year we didn't think it tasted good at all. Too bad. 

There is something about very little potatoes; they are slightly bitter compared to even medium sized potatoes from the very same plant. We try to keep that in mind when we are testing these tiny potatoes.  However, there is a limit!

Over all, we are quite pleased and excited with the results of our potato seed trials this year, and we are looking forward to even bigger and better things next year - we hope! 

Friday, 5 October 2018

Basque Chicken Terrine

Yes, it's basically a chicken meatloaf! 

It did not work out quite as I hoped, but the problem was mainly one of texture; I don't believe I chopped my chicken enough. So, be sure to chop the chicken fairly finely. It was certainly very flavourful and we enjoyed it very much.

We have arrived at a pivot in the seasons. The kitchen is still full of little heaps of peppers, but the tomatoes - at least the fresh ones - are gone. I pulled in the last of the basil in case of frost tonight, but there will be parsley until it snows. I have started pulling the first of the leeks and they are looking very good. Garden clean up continues apace. I have to say I am looking forward to finishing for the season.

8 to 10 servings
2 hours - 45 minutes prep time

Basque Chicken Terrine

Prepare the Vegetables:
1 small red pepper
1 small green pepper
1 medium leek
3 or 4 shallots
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme leaves OR 1 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil OR bacon fat
1/2 cup dried tomatoes, chopped a bit if necessary

Wash and core the peppers, and chop them finely. Wash and trim the leek, and chop it finely. Rinse it again and drain well. Peel and mince the shallots. Peel and mince the garlic.  Strip the thyme leaves from the stems and mince the leaves (discard stems).

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the peppers. Cook for a few minutes, until softened and slightly reduced in volume. Add the leek and shallots, and continue to cook, stirring occasionally, until they too are softened and reduced. Add the garlic, thyme, and tomatoes, and continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until everything is fairly well cooked and amalgamated. Set aside to cool.

Make the Terrine:
500 grams (1 pound) ground chicken OR turkey
500 grams (1 pound) skinless, boneless chicken meat
3 large eggs
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves OR parsley
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Put the ground chicken into a  mixing bowl. Chop the meat into fairly small pieces and mix it in. Add the eggs. Wash, dry and coarsely chop the basil or parsley (if using parsley, it can be chopped finer) and mix it in. Season with salt and pepper, and mix the ingredients very well. Pack them firmly into a 4" x 9" loaf pan or other similar pan.

Bake at 375°F for 1 hour up to 1 hour 15 minutes until the juices run clear. Let rest 10 minutes before serving, although it is also good served just warm or cold. 

Last year at this time I made Taco Joes.

Wednesday, 3 October 2018

Turkish Eggplant & Potato Kofte

These were yummy! And a rather different take on the theme of Turkish patties. They make a good appetizer or vegetarian main course. Serve them with rice and salad. If you had leftovers, I think they would make a different and interesting sandwich filling. Not that we had leftovers. 

In addition to being vegetarian, these are gluten-free.

4 servings
1 hour puttering around to start
about 45 minutes to form and fry the kofte

Turkish Eggplant & Potato Kofte

Cook the Eggplant & Potatoes:
2 medium or 3 small (675 grams or 1 1/2 pounds) eggplants
3 or 4 medium (350 grams or 12 ounces) potatoes

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Wash the eggplants and pierce them in several places with a fork. Lay them on a baking tray and bake them for 40 minutes to an hour, until tender. Let cool at least enough to handle.

Meanwhile, wash the potatoes. Put them in a pot with water to cover them and bring them to a boil. Boil for 15 to 20 minutes, until they can be pierced fairly easily with a fork but are still quite firm. Drain them and let them cool. 

These steps can be done up to a day in advance, and the cooked vegetables refrigerated until wanted.

Make the Yogurt Sauce:
1 or 2 cloves of garlic
1 cup thick plain yogurt
a pinch of salt

Peel and grate the garlic, and mix it into the yogurt with the salt. Keep covered in the fridge until wanted. 
Finish the Kofte:

1 medium onion
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 teaspoon ground Aleppo pepper
1/4 cup chick pea flour
1 large egg
oil to fry
1/2 cup chick pea flour

Peel and chop the eggplants, and put the flesh into a mixing bowl. Grate the potatoes, discarding any skin not inclined to grate. Peel the onion and grate it as well. Add both of these to the eggplant. Peel and finely grate the garlic, and add it to the bowl, along with the finely chopped parsley.

Add the seasonings and the 1/4 cup of chick pea flour, and mix well. Break in the egg and mix well.

Heat enough oil to cover the bottom of it generously in a large skillet. Meanwhile, put the remaining chick pea flour in a shallow bowl. Take the mixture by large spoonfuls and form it into balls, then roll them in the chick pea flour. Fry them until firm and quite brown, turning once or twice to cook them evenly. Flatten them to ensure they cook through in the middle. You won't get them all into the pan at once, so fill it up - not too crowded - remove them to a serving dish as they cook, and add new ones to the pan. If the oil is all used up, add a little more.

Serve with the yogurt sauce.

Last year at this time I made Gingerbread Pear Crumble. Oh la la! I need to make it again!

Monday, 1 October 2018

Pollo alla Romana

An easy, classic, Italian dish for early fall. How is it different from Pollo alla Cacciatora, you may ask? The answer to which is, not very. Pollo alla Cacciatora, at least as I make it, has a more blended set of vegetables; Pollo alla Romana brings the peppers strongly to the fore. Roasting and peeling the peppers adds a fair bit of time to the operation, but it really does improve them.

Good Italian bread and a crisp salad will round this out nicely, although rice or pasta are good choices to accompany it as well.

4 servings
1 hour 30 minutes - 1 hour prep time

Pollo alla Romana - Roman Chicken with Peppers

4 to 6 large (700 grams; 1 1/2 pounds) pointed red peppers
4 large chicken thighs or small chicken legs
2 tablespoons bacon fat
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 or 4 cloves of garlic
a sprig or 2 of fresh rosemary or thyme
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 cup white wine or chicken stock
6 to 8 medium (700 grams; 1 1/2 pounds) ripe red tomatos

Wash the peppers and place them on a tray to fit under the broiler. Broil the peppers until charred, turning and moving them as the cook to char them as evenly as possible. When they are charred all over, set them in a container and cover them to let them cool.

Once the peppers are cool, remove the cores and seeds. Peel them and cut them into large bite-sized pieces. If you like - and I think it is a good idea - you can prepare the tomatoes as well by blanching them in boiling water for 1 minute, then peeling them and chopping them coarsely. 

Heat the bacon fat and olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces. If you are using whole legs, they should be cut into sections first. Brown them well on both sides. While they brown, peel and mince the garlic.

Add the garlic and sprigs of herbs to the chicken, and stir them about for a minute. Add the pepper pieces and stir in well. Add the wine or chicken stock, and the chopped tomatoes and cover the pan. Reduce the heat to low and let it simmer for 15 minutes. Turn the chicken pieces and leave the lid off now; let the chicken simmer for another 15 minutes or so, until tender and most of the liquid evaporated. Serve with bread, rice, or pasta.

Last year at this time I made Cauliflower with Spiced Tomato Sauce

Friday, 28 September 2018

Broccoli Cheddar Casserole

It is beginning to become clear to me that we have been eating too much cheese lately. Still, I regret nothing!

Well, a little bit. But it's hard to regret something as tasty and satisfying as this. It was also quick and easy to make, and pretty much a full meal in itself. We had it with just one of the last tomatoes from the garden and that was lovely. Also, for those who take note of such things, this is another entry into the list of things to do with stale bread.

6 servings

2 hours - 1 hour prep time

Broccoli Cheddar Casserole

1 bunch broccoli (2 or 3 heads)
1 large carrot
1 medium onion
125 grams (1/4 pound) button mushrooms
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup flour
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cups 5% or 10% cream
3 large eggs
225 grams (1/2 pound) old Cheddar cheese
350 grams (12 ounces) stale, light bread
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Wash the broccoli, and cut the stems from the florets. Peel and grate the stems, and put them in a mixing bowl. Finely chop the florets and put them aside elsewhere.

Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and chop the onion. Add them to the grated broccoli stems. Clean and dice the mushrooms.

Heat the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat until melted. Add the broccoli stems, carrot, and onion. Cook, stirring occasionally, until slightly softened. Add the mushrooms and mix in well. Continue cooking and stirring until the vegetables are softened and reduced in volume. Season with the salt and pepper.

Mix in the flour and the mustard, until the flour is absorbed. Slowly mix in the cream, stirring constantly, until the mixture is smooth. Continue cooking and stirring until it thickens; about 5 minutes. Transfer the mixture back to the mixing bowl.

Put the skillet back on the stove and add the broccoli florets and about a cup of water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until the broccoli is tender but still bright green; about 5 minutes. The water should be evaporated by that point.

Beat the eggs into the mixture in the bowl. Mix in the (drained if necessary) broccoli florets.

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9" x 13" shallow baking (lasagne) pan. Cut the bread into dice and put it in the baking pan.

Grate the Cheddar cheese and fold about three-quarters of it into the contents of the mixing bowl. Pour it out over the bread cubes and mix gently. Spread it out evenly in the pan.

Sprinkle the remaining grated Cheddar and the Parmesan over the top of the casserole. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until firm and golden brown. Let it rest for 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Turkish Tray Kebab.

Wednesday, 26 September 2018

Great Aunt Verna's Tomato Jam Pickle

Last call to finish up the tomatoes! With all the hot weather we've been having, we are rolling into the end of the season with more ripe ones than usual, but it seems very clear the weather is about to turn. 

I've posted at least one recipe that I can recall from Treasured Recipes of the Mount Family before; here's another. It was described as  "a definite family favourite", and when I mentioned to Mom that I had made some, she said "Oh, yeahhh! I remember that! Tomatoes with lots of sugar, right?" That about sums it up, I'm afraid, but all that sugar combined with the acid tang of tomatoes and vinegar and just a touch of spice is surprisingly compelling. I've actually reduced the sugar a bit from the original, but not by much, as that syrupy texture is an important part of this.

"Tomato Jam Pickle" is what Aunt Verna called this, and it's an accurate enough description, although I suppose I would have called it a chutney. Not a very complex one though. As such, serve it with cheese, eggs, cold cuts, or light meats like poultry or pork.

5 x 250 ml
2 hours prep time

2 kilos (4.5 pounds) ripe beefsteak or plum tomatoes
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon salt
2 cups white vinegar

Put a pot of water on to boil sufficient to blanche the tomatoes. Blanch them for 1 to 2 minutes, then transfer them to a pan of cold water. When they are cool enough, peel them and chop them quite coarsely. Put them in a maslin pan or other wide, deep pan with a heavy bottom. Add the sugar and simmer them for about 1 hour, stirring regularly.

Put the canning jars into the canner with water to cover them by at least one inch. Bring to a boil and boil for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the vinegar and spices to the tomatoes. Continue simmering and stirring for another 45 minutes or so, until the jars have finished sterilizing. About 15 minutes or so before all is done, put the lids and rings into a pot with water to cover them and bring them to a boil. Boil for 1 minute.

Fill the jars with the jam pickle, and wipe the rims with a piece of paper towel dipped in the boiling water. Apply the lids, with the rims just firmly tightened. Return the jars to the canner of boiling water and boil for 10 minutes.

Remove them and let them cool completely. Test the seals, and label the jars. This will keep for up to a year in a cool, dark place.

Last year at this time I made Broccoli with Chile & Garlic and Grape, Arugula, & Spinach Salad with Goat Cheese & Walnuts.

Monday, 24 September 2018

The 4th Annual Watermelon Breeding Post

Time to assess this year in watermelons! As it should surprise no-one to hear, this was an excellent year for watermelons, mostly. It would have been nice to have had what rain we had earlier in the summer while the fruits were forming, rather than later when they were finishing ripening, but whatever. We had a few moments of fear and frustration in the beginning, when many of the seeds failed to germinate. We did a second planting but no further attempts at coaxing them to sprout. Do or die; that's the breeder's motto.

Consequently we got going with fewer plants in the beds than we had planned, but enough to go on with, as it happened. The ones that grew, grew. I'm going to spend less time describing individual watermelons than I have in past seasons, because I think this year has marked a turning point. We are still eliminating at least half the watermelons that we get from next years planting, but we are also seeing a consistency in quality that just didn't used to be there.

You can see the reports for 2015, 2016, and 2017 at the links. It is really encouraging to me to see how much the watermelons have improved over the last 4 years.

I'll start with the Golden Rind project (melons who's rinds turns yellow when they are ready to be picked).

GR02-0815 was the second watermelon we picked, but it would have been ripe at the same time as the first one. At just under a kilo, we would have liked it to be a little larger, but it was a decent size. We scored it a 7 for flavour; a fairly typical score this year and anything that scored lower is not going to make the cut next year. This one is in, though; decent flavour, earliness, adequate size.

This look - oval, with thin stripes, was one of three styles that seemed to predominate in the watermelons which turned yellow when ripe this year.

Here's how it looked when cut. Colour a little pale but okay, a reasonable number of reasonably sized seeds, rind a little thicker than I like but not too thick; again all good enough to go on with.

GR04-0820 shows the second distinctive style we were seeing in this patch. At over 1.5 kilos, it was a much better size than GR02-0815, and only a few days later. In spite of being a little watery (I believe it had just rained the day before we picked it) it scored an 8 for flavour. Most of the others of this type did not score so well. This one is definitely in for planting next year.

Dang! Forgot to photograph this one before we cut it. GR08-0820 was in many ways the best of the Golden Rind project this year. I consider the size (over 2.2 kilos) to be just about perfect, and it scored an 8 for flavour.

The colour is a little pale and the seeds, while small, seem a bit all over the place. However the good flavour and texture, combined with a nice thin rind, desirable size, and earliness (it may be melon number 8, but it was picked the same day as melon number 3, which is not shown as it was not a keeper) mean this is probably the top Golden Rind melon of the year. 

Or maybe this was the top Golden Rind watermelon of the year. GR12-0918 was a hair overripe, but sweet and tasty, rating a 7.5 for flavour. The rind was also thin, the seeds seemed a bit better organized, and the colour was a bit stronger. At 2.56 kilos it was the second largest of the year for this set. It was an example of the third style of watermelon in this group - neither quite round or quite oval, but somewhere in between, with little in the way of stripes. Most were much smaller, though.

There were a number of other Golden Rind watermelons besides these, but they were just not that different from those I have already shown. There were still quite a few melons which did not turn yellow when ripe, but most of them were later to ripen and not significantly better in quality than most of the yellow ones. Therefore, next year will be the first year for this project where we do not intend to plant ANY seeds from watermelons that did not turn yellow. This is a real and encouraging turning point. 

The other project, for orange-fleshed melons, also had the same frustrations starting out but went on to produce numerous, good quality melons, with more consistency than we have seen until now. In spite of how much larger these melons are in general, they are only a few days later to ripen.

This melon, PJ01-0818, scored a 7 for flavour - pretty typical, the lowest rating for this project this year was 6, and only one managed to score an 8 - and had a slightly pale colour but was within the acceptable range.

PJ03-0827 had a rather thick rind, but good colour and at 5.588 kilos was the largest of the year. Maybe a bit too large, but eh, I'll take it. It held well in the fridge too.

PJ04-0827 was a bit on the red size but again, acceptable as an orange melon, and scored an 8 for flavour in addition to having a nice thin rind. It could have held a bit better but still, it's in for next year.

PJ09-0904 had a thicker rind than I like, but good flavour (7) and excellent colour. It too is in.

There are still a few melons left to be picked in this batch but they have been considerably more consistent than the Golden Rind project, which in addition to more melons scoring 8, also had melons scoring as low as 2, so I am not expecting anything much different from what we have seen thus far.

Mr Ferdzy is chaffing at being restricted to these 2 watermelon projects, so this one may be dropped next year to give him more scope with other watermelons, but it remains to be decided. If we go ahead and replant them, I think we can hope for continuing progress next year.

Friday, 21 September 2018

Black Bean, Corn, & Tomatillo Soup

Things seem to be taking a turn towards the Mexican around here at the moment; I guess you can thank those Poblano peppers. Tomatillos too. Mr. Ferdzy always wants to grow some and I have so few ideas of what to do with them. However, here's one, and it went over very well.

Gotta admit I just used a can o' beans. I'm going to have to get cooking on all the ones in jars in the basement at some point though. 

4 servings
45 minutes prep time not including cooking the beans or corn

Black Bean, Corn, & Tomatillo Soup

2 cups cooked black beans OR 1 540 ml (19 oz) tin black beans
1 cob of corn
1 medium onion
1 medium Poblano or other frying pepper
300 grams (10 ounces) tomatillos (8 to 16 of them)
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons mild vegetable oil or bacon fat
1 teaspoon cumin seed, ground
1/4 teaspoon more or less chipotle or similar ground hot chile
salt to taste
2 cups bean cooking water, vegetables stock, or chicken stock
the juice of 1 large lime
1 ripe medium avocado to garnish
chopped cilantro to garnish
sour cream to garnish

The beans and the corn must be cooked in advance. For the beans, 3/4 cup raw beans should give the right amount when cooked. Soak them in boiling water overnight, then bring to a boil and simmer until tender, stirring frequently. The corn should be husked and cooked in boiling water for 5 to 7 minutes until tender, then cooled under cold running water. This can be done the day ahead. You can avoid most of this by using a can of black beans.

Cut the cooked corn from the cob and set aside. Peel and finely chop the onion. Core and finely chop the pepper. Remove the husks from the tomatillos and wash them, then chop them finely. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil or bacon fat in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Grind the cumin seed and add it once the oil is hot; let it sizzle for a minute until aromatic. Add the hot chile and a bit of salt. Add the onion, pepper, and tomatillos, and cook over medium-high heat for about 10 minutes, stirring regularly, until softened and reduced in volume. Slight browning is okay. Stir in the garlic and cook for a minute more.

While they cook, mash half the beans. On a plate with a fork is the easiest way for this small quantity.

Add the cooking water or stock, as well as the beans, both mashed and unmashed, and the corn. Let the soup simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the lime juice and serve it with the garnishes - peel and dice the avocado; wash, dry and chop the cilantro; the sour cream just needs a spoon.

Last year at this time I made Bread Fritters.