Friday, 31 August 2012

Peach Jelly

I've made this before, but this time I simplified the technique a little bit (what can I say, I'm deeply lazy) and I was surprised when the mixture came out of the food processor so foamy. But, what can you do? I poured it into my pan and stuck it in the fridge. Either it would settle out, or it wouldn't. And, in fact, it didn't. That's a good thing as it turns out! The foamy textured jelly was unusual and good.

Also those berries - right out of our garden. Wow! such a treat. But if you have no berries, a little custard, whipping cream or ice cream would also be delicious. 

6 servings
20 minutes prep time - plus 3 hours set time

3 cups diced fresh peaches (5 or 6 medium)
the juice of 1 large lime
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons plain powdered gelatine
1/3 cup sugar
3/4 cup water
berries to garnish (optional 

Blanch the peaches and peel them, and cut them into fairly small pieces. Set them aside. Juice the lime, and put it in the bowl of a food processor, along with the 1/4 cup of water. Sprinkle the gelatine evenly over them.

Heat the sugar and remaining 3/4 cup of water to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved. Add it to the food processor, and whizz until the gelatine is completely dissolved.

Add the peaches, and process until the mixture is extremely smooth and rather frothy. You will likely need to scrape down the sides several times.

Pour the mixture into a generous 1 quart or litre mold (or a glass pie plate would work as well) and put in the refrigerator until set, about 3 hours. Unmold and serve, garnished with berries if you like.

Thursday, 30 August 2012

Fresh Corn "Polenta"

Delicious! More like a dense, rich creamed corn than polenta, I have to admit, but nothing really wrong with that. You can serve this as a side dish, but we enjoyed it as the centrepiece of our meal, topped with cheese, basil, sliced tomatoes, and bacon. 

Scraping the corn is a little tedious. If you like, you can just cut it from the cobs then run it through the food processor. However, my feeling is you won't save all that much time doing that, especially if you take into account washing the food processor afterwards. It will give you a smoother and probably more polenta-like texture if you do it that way though, so that's something to consider. Personally I was just as happy to have the crunchy texture of the corn kernals be apparent.

You can omit the cheese if you like, especially if this is meant to be a side dish.

The amounts listed will serve 2 as a side dish, but only one as a main dish; in fact if you are not serving a great deal else or are feeling particularly hungry, you may wish to allow 3 cobs per person. We found 2 cobs each sufficient, but in the company of a plate of tomatoes and bacon, and slices of bread and butter. So multiply the ingredients by the number of people you wish to serve, although if you get up to more than 6 or 8 cobs you should expect it to take noticeably longer to cook. (And you will need a good, big, heavy bottomed pot, yo.)

1 or 2 servings
30 minutes to an hour - 15 to 45 minutes prep time

2 cobs of corn
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
salt & pepper
30 grams (1 ounce) mild cheese
1 or 2 tablespoons finely grated Parmesan cheese
finely shredded basil to garnish

The above quantities are per person - be sure to multiply by the number of servings you wish to make!

Husk the corn, and cut down the centre of each row of cobs. Holding the corn upright, cut down each side, but not deeply - you are just cutting off the surface. When this has been done all around the cob, scrape all the flesh from the cob and discard the cob. You need a good, large, sharp knife and a broad surface to catch the corn as it is removed. Repeat with all the cobs of corn, and collect the corn, scrapings, juice and all, into a good and sufficient pot.*

 Add the butter or olive oil, and the salt and pepper (just a pinch of each per portion will be sufficient) and bring to a boil. Simmer gently for 15 to 20 minutes, until thickened, stirring frequently, especially towards the end as it gets thicker. Have the cheese, diced or grated, standing by ready to go in, and just as the polenta is done, stir it in until well melted. You can keep aside some of the Parmesan to sprinkle on top, if you like.

*But it doesn't have to be 16' x 24'.**

**Ontario historical architecture nerd joke.

Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Green Bean, Sweet Onion & Cherry Tomato Salad with Parsley-Mint Dressing

I'm really not a big fan of raw onions these days. I find they tend to outstay their welcome. But if you can get some really nice sweet ones they do have their place. We've been growing some extremely sweet, mild ones and eating them mostly in slices on hamburgers. I decided it was time to branch out with them a bit. Sprinkling them with salt then letting them rest makes them even milder, and a bit softer in texture than they would be otherwise - perfect for salad.

As for the dressing, parsley is said to be good for counteracting bad breath from eating raw onions.And if it doesn't work, well, never mind, it makes a nice fresh and sprightly dressing. This would be good over cucumbers instead, or any tossed green salad  for that matter. 

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time - allow 30 minutes rest time

Make the Dressing:
1/4 cup packed parsley
2 tablespoons packed mint leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon sugar
1/3 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
the juice of 1/2 lemon

Wash and drain the parsley and mint well. Put them in the bowl of a food processor, and add the salt, pepper, and sugar. Process until finely chopped. Add the mayonnaise and lemon juice, and process again, until well blended. Remove to a serving container, and keep refrigerated until wanted.

Make the Salad:
500 grams (1 pound)  green beans
1 medium sweet onion
2 cups cherry tomatoes

Wash and trim the green beans, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Cook them in boiling water until just tender, about 4 to 6 minutes. Rinse in cold water and drain well.

Meanwhile, Peel the onion and cut it in half from top to bottom. Cut each half into thin slices, as thin as possible. Spread them out on a plate and sprinkle them generously with salt. Set aside for about half an hour.

Wash and destem the cherry tomatoes, and cut them in halves if you feel they are large enough to warrant it.

To serve the salad, arrange the well-drained beans on a serving plate. Rinse the onions in cold water and drain them well. Arrange them over the beans, along with the cherry tomatoes. Drizzle the salad dressing over the salad, or pass it on the side.

Last year at this time I made Balsamic Beans.

Monday, 27 August 2012

Mexican Pickled Carrots & Jalapeños

I have given instructions to can these for long-term storage (up to a year in a cool, dark place) but if you just want to can a couple of jars for consumption within a month, you could just put them in clean jars then store them in the refrigerator. They should sit for at least a week, in that case, before you open them.

This is a fairly traditional Mexical condiment/salad, a great topping for tacos or tostadas or just served as a pickle when you want something with a bite to it. You can control how much bite by adjusting the proportion of Jalapeños to carrots. Or, if you really want them hot, you can cut the core with the seeds neatly out of the chiles as you prepare them, and add a piece of it (with the seeds attached) to the jars. Don't eat it, but the seeds should add extra heat. Of course, it also depends on how hot the Jalapeños are that you can find. I grow my own, and it took a while to find someone who was selling seeds for a hot strain. Most Jalapeños sold nowadays are mere look-likes, so you will need to look carefully to find good ones.

Traditionally, these have a tablespoon or so of olive oil in them as well, but that does not allow for safe canning. Once you have opened a jar and removed a couple of pieces though, you may want to add some to the remainder. Either way, once opened, like all preserves they must be kept in the fridge.

The ingredient list is for one jar; multiply it by the number of jars you wish to make. Multiply the time allowed for prep too. 

per 250 ml jar
1 hour - 15 minutes prep time - 6 weeks rest time

Mexican Pickled Carrots and Jalapenos

2 medium sized HOT Jalapeño chiles
2 medium carrots
1 clove garlic
1/2 tespoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/4 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 bay leaf
3 black peppercorns
1/4 cup clear vinegar
1/4 cup water

Put as many 250 ml canning jars into a canner and cover with water to an inch above the rims. Bring them to a boil and boil for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat so that the water stops boiling, but keep the canner ready.

Meanwhile, remove the stems and seeds from the Jalapeños. Best to wear gloves for this! Cut them into thin strips. Peel the carrots and cut them into strips of the same size as the Jalapeños. Peel the garlic cloves.

When the jars are sterilized, remove them from the canner and put into each one the 1/2 teaspoon each of salt and sugar, and the 1/4 tespoon oregano, along with a clove of garlic, a bay leaf and 3 peppercorns. Fill the jars with the strips of chile and carrots.

Put the vinegar and water into a pot and bring to a boil. Put the lids and rims into a pot of water and bring them to a boil. Pour the boiling brine over the carrots and chiles until they are filled to within 1 cm of the rims. If there isn't enough, you will need to make a little more.

Wipe the rims, and seal with the lids. Put the jars back into the canner and bring the water back up to a boil. Once it boils, boil for 10 minutes before removing. Allow to cool and check the seals. Let rest 2 to 6 weeks before opening.

Last year at this time I made Scrambled Eggs with Tomatillos.

Thursday, 23 August 2012

Making Meringues

Meringues are extremely simple to make, but they require both a sense of leisure and a dry day, or at least good central air conditioning in order for best results to be achieved. The requirements for good results are strict, but easily achieved: room temperature egg whites, squeaky clean oil free implements, well dissolved sugar and that dry day. These are not a good rainy day project, I'm afraid. The good news is they keep very well and can be made in advance.

I only made 6 meringue nests with the recipe below, and I have to say they really were too big. Not that we didn't all of us eat every bite of them, but still; too big. Next time I will make them smaller. These are more of a versatile componant of other desserts than a thing to eat by themselves, in my opinion, but there's no reason why you can't.

8 to 12 meringue nests
OR 36 cookies
OR 2 cake bases
2 hours - 30 minutes prep time PLUS time to cool completely

3 extra-large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar

You need to have your egg whites at room temperature. I always forget to take them out early enough, so set the eggs in a bowl of warm - not hot - tap water for about 5 minutes. Then, preheat the oven to 200°F.

Separate the eggs and put the whites in a clean dry mixing bowl, ceramic, glass or metal but not plastic. It is important that the egg whites be completely free of any oils, and plastic tends to be oily. Also be very careful when separating the eggs to not permit any egg yolk to contaminate the whites.

Add the vanilla and cream of tartar, and beat the egg whites with an electric mixer, on low to medium speed, until just past frothy and starting to gain some structure. Begin adding the sugar, a bit at a time, beating for a few seconds between each addition. Once it is all in, continue beating until the sugar is completely dissolved and the egg whites are very stiff.

Cover a baking tray with a sheet of parchment paper, and spoon the meringue mixture out into little mounds for cookies, or larger flattish discs for nests - use your spoon to build up the sides a bit if you want them to be more nest-like.

Bake them for 1 hour and 30 minutes, then turn off the oven and let them cool completely in the oven.

What you do now is up to you. I piled mine with whipped cream and fruit, but you could eat them with custard, or just plain, or if you are treating them like cake, layer them with mousse and frost them. They will store for a week or so carefully and loosely wrapped in a plastic bag, so can easily be made in advance.

Last year at this time I made Strawberry-Banana Sorbet. Another thing that could be put in a meringue nest!

Tuesday, 21 August 2012

A Visit to Dunnville Farmers Market

It's been quite a while since I've been to a new farmers market, but when I spent a week down visiting Dad & Trevor, we went off to the Dunnville Farmers Market. It's in a nice open-air but roofed building right near the Grand River. It's officially located on Market Street beside the Arena, and runs from March until the end of December, on Tuesdays and Saturdays, from 7:00 am to 12:00 pm. 

There are quite a few general produce farmers in the area, and there is a good selection.

More veggies, and some local crafts as well.

Melons! And looks like we could have gone to a giant corn maze, had our tastes so run...

Eggs, jam, honey... all the usual local Ontario farm stuff is here.

Including quite a lot of fruit from Niagara which is not that far away.

Even the flowers are local.

Maple syrup, baked goods...

Mmm, bluebobs! Yes please!

The site is really close, as noted, to the mouth of the Grand River - and by the time it hits Dunnville, it really is quite Grand - and there is a nice little park there in which you could enjoy some of your market finds.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Basil-Garlic Mayonnaise

I'm surprised to say I actually liked this, and thought it was delicious on those little tomato kebabs you see in the picture, and also on the boiled potatoes and green beans that followed them. I'm surprised, because I've always kind of hated mayonnaise, not just the prepared stuff you buy in plastic jars but even home-made mayonnaise. Especially home-made mayonnaise, in fact. I guess my tastes have changed.

 And of course, I'm a sucker for basil and garlic. There is no reason why you have to use the basil and garlic; you can leave it out and make plain mayonnaise. But I have to say that at this time of year, they really make that mayonnaise sing.

1 generous cup
20 minutes prep time, plus 1 hour to marinate

Basil-Garlic Mayonnaise

Prepare the Oil:
3 cloves of garlic
4 or 5 sprigs (3 or 4 leaves each) of basil
1 cup extra-virgin sunflower or olive oil

Peel the garlic, and rinse the sprigs of basil and drain them well. Slice and bruise the garlic, and shred the basil finely. Mix them with the oil, and let rest for about 1 hour. Strain well, pressing the solids to extract all the oil. Discard the solids (the basil and garlic).

Make the Mayonnaise:
2 large egg yolks
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground mustard powder

Put the egg yolks, lemon juice and salt in a very clean, dry glass, ceramic or metal mixing bowl. Beat them together with an electric mixer, also taking care that the beaters are clean and dry. Let the mixture rest for 4 or 5 minutes.

Then, begin beating in the oil, a few drops at a time. The mixer should be on a fairly low to medium setting; do not beat it too quickly. The mixture should thicken slightly as you work, and by the time about half the oil is in, it should be looking distinctly like mayonnaise. At that point, you can add the oil in larger and larger amounts, until it is all in and the mayonnaise is thick and creamy. Beat in the mustard powder.

Friday, 17 August 2012

Eggplant Casserole

I admit, this is a somewhat odd dish. I really like it, though. Maybe you could think of it as the offspring of ratatouille and stuffing. You want a good large Italian or Spanish type eggplant for this. I used a Listada de Gandia for it, which we are growing for the first time this year. They've done really well for us this year and have been much easier to grow than I expected.

It's important to use the right bread too. You need a good, sturdy, solid yet not too dense bread for this. Whole wheat is probably best. Avoid light fluffy sandwich breads as they will just get soggy and collapse. Whatever bread you use, it should also be on the stale side, again, to add some structural integrity. 

To me, this is a vegetarian main dish, but if you wanted to serve it with meat I would suggest keeping it light. Fairly plain chicken or fish would be best. Actually, this does have a very meaty texture - I served it to a vegetarian friend once, who was quite suspicious that I was pulling a fast one on them and giving them meat, as if I would. 

4 servings
1 hour 10 minutes - 40 minutes prep time

Eggplant Casserole

1 large (500 grams, or 1 pound) eggplant
2 large (500 grams, or 1 pound) tomatoes
1 large onion

4 or 5 slices (250 grams, or 1/2 pound) bread, see above
3 tablespoons good olive oil
1/2 teaspoon rubbed thyme
1/2 teaspoon rubbed sage
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns, ground
1/4 teaspoon salt
150 grams (6 ounces) old Cheddar cheese, grated
50 grams (2 ounces) Parmesan cheese, grated

Slice the eggplant, and arrange them on a plate in a single layer. Salt them heavily, and weight them with another plate on top. Set aside for 20 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, blanch and peel the tomatoes, and cut them into 1" dice. Set them aside. Peel and chop the onion. Set it aside.

Cut the bread into 1" dice. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet, and toast the bread cubes in it until nicely browned all over; turning regularly to achieve this. When ready, put them in a 9" x 13" lasagne pan.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Rinse the eggplant slices, gently squeezing them dry. Cut them into 1" dice (or a little smaller). Heat the remaining oil in the skillet, and cook the eggplant until softened and slightly browned all over, turning regularly. Add the onions when the eggplant is about half done. Sprinkle the seasonings over the eggplant and mix in well. Add the diced tomatoes and cook until they are soft. Mix the vegetables in with the bread cubes in the baking pan.

Grate the cheeses and sprinkle them evenly over the top of the casserole. Bake for 30 minutes, until the cheese is golden and bubbly.

Last year at this time I made Eggplant, Potato, Bean & Pepper Stir-Fry and Cocoa Zucchini Loaf. No excess zucchini for us this year, alas. We are not even getting enough for regular cooking. Our 8 plants are managing to produce about 2 runty zucchini a week. That's not each. That's total. *sobs*

Thursday, 16 August 2012

Cauliflower Patties

Cheese and cauliflower, such a classic combination. These delicious little pancakes can be eaten as a vegetarian main dish, as an accompaniment to other things - although I would keep it light; a simple fish or chicken dish, or perhaps made small and served as hors d'oeuvres.  I would even put one in a bun, and eat it like a burger. There's a thought. Maybe with a little extra cheese in that case, as well as some lettuce, tomato, pickle and wee bit of ketchup. Hm.

12 patties (4 to 6 servings)
45 minutes prep time

8 cups cauliflower florets

1/2 cup soft unbleached flour
1/4 cup finely grated old Cheddar cheese
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon rubbed basil
3 large eggs

oil to fry

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Wash and trim the cauliflower, and break it into fairly small florets. Cook the cauliflower for 6 to 7 minutes, until fairly soft. drain well.

Meanwhile, mix the flour and the grated cheese with the salt and seasonings in a large mixing bowl. Beat in the eggs. When the cauliflower is ready, mix it into the cheese and eggs, stirring well and breaking up the cauliflower a bit more. It shouldn't quite be mashed, but it should be in fairly small pieces.

Heat a couple tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat - the temperature at which you would cook pancakes or eggs. Spoon the cauliflower mixture into the pan, spreading it out to form little pancakes about 3" across. Cook for 2 or 3 minutes on each side, until well browned.

Remove the finished patties to a warm plate, and continue making and cooking patties until the batter is gone. It will likely be necessary to add a bit more oil to the pan as they get made, although there should not be more than a moderate film of oil over the bottom of the skillet, or they will not brown well.

Last year at this time I made Bean Soup and Fruit Streusel Cake.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Early Riser or Kwintus Beans

These, my friends, are beans. Eight to 10 inch long, flat, Romano style beans. According to our preference, they are a pole bean, but they are ready in as few as 55 days; or about the same time as most early bush beans. I would say they beat Blue Lake this year by about 10 days. They can be expected to last all season too, unlike most bush beans. So far, they have been churning them out pretty steadily, although after a month it looks like they might take a little break. They'll be back though; there are new flowers forming on the vines.

People claim they are good even when very large. I'm finding they actually have a fairly narrow window of opportunity for picking. It isn't that they aren't good at a range of sizes from moderately small to quite large; it's that they grow so fast they can whizz through that window within a day, easily. So, like just about every other bean it's best to pick these every day. They can get as long as they like, but once they start to thicken they toughen fairly rapidly.

In addition to having been apparently renamed from Early Riser to Kwintus, some people say that Northeaster is the same variety as well. I'm not finding a lot about the history of these beans under any name. They are an Italian type, but said to be French, or Dutch. One suggestion is that they are, in fact, Piatelli (Plate); definitely Italian in that case, although that name describes more a class of bean than a specific variety. It does makes a certain amount of sense, however. If that is the case, then if I let them get too large to cook as green beans, they should be good as shelly or dried beans.

How and when they made the jump to North America and acquired all the new names, I don't know. But they are well worth growing for their extreme speed of production.

They have been extremely healthy and rampant. By now they are up to the top of the trellis and making forays into the territory of the beans next to them, and growing back down again. Many of our larger beans did this last year; ultimately going up to the top, back down to the bottom, and back up to the top again by the time they died down, meaning that ultimately the vines would have been over 20 feet in length. It's too early to say for sure that these will do that, but I will not be surprised at all if they do. We aren't having disease problems with the beans this year, but overall, these are lush and dark green. Like all beans, they prefer hot weather and should not be planted until the soil has warmed up sufficiently.
Those flowers in the picture are not the bean flowers, but from a trumpet vine I was pruning.

Monday, 13 August 2012

Buttered Beans

This is ridiculously simple, but ridiculously good, too. We did this all winter with our frozen beans, and they were as good as fresh, but if all you have is fresh beans, why, they are as good as fresh too.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Buttered Beans
500 grams (1 pound) green or yellow wax beans
1 tablespoon butter
salt & pepper to taste

Wash and trim the beans, and cut them into bite-sized pieces. Put them in a pot with water to cover, and bring them to a boil. Boil for 5 to 8 minutes, until just short of desired level of doneness.

Drain the beans very thoroughly, and return them to the stovetop. Add the butter and continue to cook the beans for 3 to 5 minutes longer, until you can smell the butter just beginning to brown. Stir frequently. Season with salt and pepper, and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Bean & Potato Skillet.

Friday, 10 August 2012

Peach & Blueberry Pie

The day before I was due to come home from visiting Dad, we dropped into the local blueberry farm  and I stocked up. Then when I got home, we bought the peaches that would not keep, so in addition to putting them in the salad I made a pie. Bluebobs - that's what Trevor the Irishman calls them, and he's infected me - and peaches are a great and classic combination. A little lemon doesn't hurt any either...

8 servings
2 hours - 1 hour prep time - cooling time not included

Peach and Blueberry Pie

pastry for a double crust pie (I used this one)

3 cups blueberries
3 cups sliced peaches (4 or 5 medium)

2/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup arrowroot or tapioca starch
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
the juice of 1 lemon
the zest of 1 lemon
2 extra large eggs

Make the pastry and set it aside to rest.

Wash and pick over the blueberries, and drain them well. Blanch (drop into boiling water for one minute, then remove to a bowl of cold water) the peaches, and peel them and slice them. Set these aside. 

Mix together the dry ingredients and rub in the butter, then whisk in the lemon juice, lemon zest and eggs. Set this aside.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, of about 60% and 40%. Roll out the larger piece, on a floured board or piece of parchment paper, until evenly thin and large enough to fit the pie plate. Use a little extra flour to keep it from sticking, if necessary. Flip it into the pie plate, and add the blueberries and peaches in layers. Pour over the sugar and egg mixture.

Roll out the remaining dough, and cover and seal the pie. Seal the edges as carefully as you can, trim them if necessary, and cut steam holes in the pie. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until nicely browned. It's best to put this on a cookie tray as it goes into the oven; it's a leaker.

Let cool thoroughly before cutting and serving.

Last year at this time I made Lemon Bread Pudding with Blueberries.

Thursday, 9 August 2012

Jaune Flammé Tomato

Jaune Flammé is a delightful little tomato that we grew last year for the first time. We picked this years tomato list entirely by taste preference and usefulness in canning, and forgot to select a variety for earliness. Fortunately, Jaune Flammé is a fairly early tomato, starting to produce in about 70 days from planting out.

The tomatoes are not large - about the size of an egg, or a golf ball - and a brilliant, glowing orange to vermilion through and through. The flavour is just as intense, balancing strong acidity with rich sweetness and fruitiness. They are what I would consider to be a salad tomato, too juicy to cook and a bit messy for sandwiches, although that doesn't stop me from trying... Actually, a lot of people rave about them, and use them for salads, sandwiches, sauces and even for drying, which does surprise me a bit. They really are so very soft and juicy.

The plants are vigorous and tall, which helps them survive what looks like it will be a regular assault by septoria spot in our garden. They are indeterminate, and even though they start producing early, they will continue to churn out nice little tomatoes all summer long. In fact, we got a bit tired of them by the end of last summer. Right now though, they are a real treat, and have not worked up a sufficient head of steam that each and every one isn't spoken for as it comes off the vine.

Jaune Flammé is generally regarded as reasonably disease resistant, but it may be prone to blossom end rot. I've had no troubles with that, but then I haven't, with any of my tomatoes. Reports are that it produces well in cool wet summers and hot dry summers. Both the summers we've grown if have thus far been hot and dry, and it's produced well for us. They are crack resistant too.

Amy Goldman wrote of them in her book, "Heirloom Tomato, From Garden to Table", that Flamme (as she refers to it "originated with Norbert Perreira of Helliner, France. Commercialized in 1997 by Tomato Growers Supply Company." Not a bit more information can I find, but it is generally described as an heirloom tomato. Certainly, it is open pollinated. It has also become a very popular tomato world-wide in just 15 years. Such is the speed of a seed - and a flavour.

Wednesday, 8 August 2012

Sautéed Beets & Greens

I've always liked beet greens, even when I hated beets, which was for about half of my life, at least thus far. And when you get a nice bunch of beets with beautiful leaves, it's a shame to not make the most of them. I do think the milder beets such as the golden ones, or Chioggia (Bassano) make better greens in general. Also the stems can be tough, and should be discarded.

This recipe can be scaled to however many servings you like; it's one beet per person. I didn't do the toasted sesame seeds because I didn't think of them at the time, but they would be good, I'm sure. Beets and their greens call out for robust flavours to keep them company, like, uh, bacon. But you can't put bacon in everything (can you?) and sesame has the kind of oomph that works well too. 

We were actually quite surprised to find beets in the garden this week. It wasn't that we didn't plant any, it's that the deer discovered them early on and pruned them regularly. We had given up on them. But 3 weeks of managing to keep the deer O-U-T, and voilà; beets. And it has to be admitted that the regular pruning left the leaves very young and tender.

2 servings
20 minutes prep time 

2 medium beets, with their greens
2 teaspoons mild vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce or tamari
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)

Wash the beets, and cut them from the greens. Cut off and discard the stems, and chop the greens coarsely. Rinse them well again, and set them aside.

Peel the beets, except for the stem end. Grate them coarsely, down to the stem end nub, which should be discarded.

Heat the oil in a large skillet. Add the greens, and cook, stirring frequently, until evenly wilted. Add the grated beets and cook until everything is well amalgamated, about 5 minutes. Mix in the soy sauce and the sesame oil, and serve 'em up.

Last year at this time it was Roasted Bean & Beet Salad with Blue Cheese. I don't mean to do this kind of thing, I really don't. But when it's time, it's obviously time.

Tuesday, 7 August 2012

Golden Midget Watermelon

Here is a rather interesting little watermelon we are trying for the first time this year. Golden Midget was released in 1959 after about 10 years of work. It was bred by Elwyn Meader and Albert Yeager at the University of New Hampshire, as a cross between New Hampshire Midget and Pumpkin Rind. Those are thoroughly obscure watermelons these days, and even Golden Midget can be a little hard to find, although it seems to be having something of a resurgence lately.

 Golden Midget is a very fast ripening watermelon, ready in as few as 70 days after planting out. Indeed, it was the first melon produced in our garden this year and I would say we may not see another kind of watermelon ripe for another month yet. Its name comes from the fact that the watermelons turn from green to bright yellow as they ripen, and when they are ripe, they are yellow all over. (And yes, they're pretty small.) As someone who never seems to guess right when it comes to judging the time to pick my watermelon, this is a very appealing quality. We did indeed pick our watermelon as close to perfectly ripe as I have ever managed; I do think another few days might have improved it. But close, very close!

Watermelons of this small size are often referred to as "personal size" watermelon. Well, maybe. You'd have to be quite the watermelon fiend. We thought it served 4 very nicely. I didn't weigh mine, but they can apparently get up to about 3 pounds.

Many people complain of them being seedy. I didn't think so, particularly. It had a good number of seeds, but they grew in fairly well defined channels and they were easily removed with a spoon. On the other hand, I've heard people say that they are not particularly good-tasting melons, and I'm afraid they are onto something there. We enjoyed ours, and thought it was pleasant, but there was nothing outstanding about the flavour.

I also suspect that it would be fair to describe these plants as determinate. It wasn't just the watermelon that turned yellow as it ripened; it was the whole plant, the yellow spreading out from the ripening fruit. We appear to be getting one, or at most 2, fruits per vine. This is fine; they are really very compact. We have four of them planted across a 5' bed and they won't need much more than 2' in length. I think we will plant this variety again just to get those very early melons, even though later varieties are better, if harder to get at the moment of ripeness.

I'd like to try using this melon to breed better melons, with the early ripening and yellow skinned traits that make this so interesting, but with better flavour and maybe a bit more heft and quantity per vine. I suspect it's easier said than done. Still, something to try!

Monday, 6 August 2012

Curried Chicken & Peach Salad

Well, hello, my dears. I've been back from visiting Dad & Trevor for a week, and things seem to be getting back to normal around here, for the Ferdzy value of normal. The garden is actually under control, we had some rain yesterday (9mm! Whoo-hoo! No impact on the watering schedule) and I even cooked a couple of things. That, plus it occurs to me that I've got some varietal reports I can do means I've decided to get back in the saddle.

This dish occurred because I thawed out some chicken then went to the butchers and absent-mindedly bought more meat, so I had chicken I had to cook but could not eat that same day. Also, we bought some peaches that were wonderfully flavourful but inclined to start getting bad patches and so needed using up quickly.

You will note that I called for dried cranberries but there aren't actually any in the picture. That's because I think it really needed some, but we didn't have any, on account of I went off and left Mr. Ferdzy alone with the pantry for a week. He is not really your typical dude or I would not up with him put, but he does have his moments. I don't think he ate a single vegetable while I was gone, even though he very carefully spent all his time weeding and watering the vegetable garden. Didn't pick any either, which was even more of a problem. Apparently, "he forgot". Okay, moving on. 

I'm hard put to say how many servings this is; as usual we ate the lot, but it was all of dinner. If you make something else as well, it will go further. Also, we are pigs. There is that.

2 to 4 servings
30 minutes prep time, not including cooking the chicken

Curried Chicken and Peach Salad

Make the Dressing:
the juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
2 to 3 teaspoons mild curry powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Whisk together these ingredients and set them aside.

Make the Salad:
2 cups chicken, cooked & chopped
100 grams (scant 1/4 pound) bacon, chopped & cooked
125 grams (1/4 pound) farfalle or other small pasta shape
2 large peaches
2 large tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped green beans
1 cob corn
1 green onion OR a handful of chives
1/4 cup chopped almonds
1/4 cup dried cranberries

Don't forget to cook and chill the chicken in advance! Leftover chicken is fine, but I used 4 medium chicken thighs baked in advance with this idea in mind.

Chop the bacon and fry it until crisp. Drain it well and set it aside.

Put a large pot of water on to boil; salt it well. Cook the pasta until tender. While it is cooking, use the boiling water to blanch the peaches and tomatoes for 1 minute. Rinse them in cold water, peel them and chop them. Put them in a mixing bowl. Cook the corn in the pasta water for 5 minutes, then rinse it well in cold water, and cut the kernels from the cob. Add them to the mixing bowl.  Add the chopped beans to the pasta to cook for the last 5 minutes or so, and drain it with the pasta. Rinse the pasta and beans in cold water until cool, then add them to the mixing bowl.

Trim and clean the green onion or chives, and chop and add to the salad. Add the chopped almonds and cranberries. Toss with the salad dressing, and serve the salad sprinkled with the bacon bits.

Last year at this time I made Bean & Rice Salad with Dill & Feta.