Monday, 22 September 2014

Squash Harvest

"So, Ferdzy, what's for dinner tonight?"


"What's for dinner tomorrow?"


"What's for dinner on Wednesday?"




"...Uh... Friday?"


Well, since we planted our squash about a month later than earlier this year, and since we planted them in the dry upper garden instead of the lower wet one, and since we had enormous swarms of squash bugs and cucumber beetles, I wasn't expecting much from the squash. However, we had generous (!) amounts of rain this year, and somehow they all came through. Quality is not high; some of them, especially the Thelma Sanders, are deformed from the sheer quantity of bugs sucking at them, plus we harvested them after we were caught unaware by a light but early frost so some have a little damage on the rinds. Pity there is no room in the freezer.

Let them eat squash.

*And wait until they hear what's for breakfast, lunch, and snacks!

Friday, 19 September 2014

Peppers Stuffed with Lamb & Feta

If this is September, it must be time for stuffed peppers! And it is September, so here they are. I was a bit surprised at how mild a dish this was, what with the garlic and the feta and the mint and all, but it was delicious and well received so no complaints. I didn't actually put in any basil or oregano, but I think next time I will.

These were very easy to make. I made the filling and stuffed them in advance, because the afternoon was dedicated to the never-ending production of tomato sauce. They just had to be stuck into the oven at the appropriate time, and lo! There was dinner, and it was good.

4 servings
1 1/2 hours - 30 minutes prep time

Peppers Stuffed with Lamb & Feta

1 medium onion, with the greens if possible
2 to 3 cloves of garlic
2 cups finely chopped cauliflower florets
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
2 large Red Shepherd peppers
500 grams (1 pound) lean ground lamb
1/4 cup finely minced fresh mint
1 teaspoon rubbed basil and/or oregano, optional
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1 large egg
1 cup tomato sauce

Peel and mince the onion, including the greens, providing they are fresh and in good condition. You could also use one regular onion and a green onion or two. Peel and mince the garlic. Chop the cauliflower.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and add the onions and cauliflower, along with a couple tablespoons of water. Cook, stirring constantly, until the water has evaporated - the cauliflower should have softened noticably - and the onions and cauliflower begin to brown slightly. Add the garlic, and continue cooking for a minute or two more. Turn the vegetables out into a mixing bowl and let them cool.

Cut the peppers lengthwise in half, and remove the cores and stems. Place them in a shallow, flat-bottomed  baking pan, into which they fit fairly snuggly. Yes, it's my 8" x 11" lasagne pan again. So handy. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Add the ground lamb, the mint, basil or oregano if using, black pepper, crumbled feta cheese, and the large egg to the vegetables in the mixing bowl, and mix well. Divide the mixture evenly into quarters, and fill each half pepper with one quarter of the mixture, pressing it firmly into the peppers, and mounding it slightly as needed.

Add a little water to the baking pan, just enough to cover the bottom. Bake the stuffed peppers for 40 minutes. Take them out of the oven, and pour the sauce evenly over the tops of them. Return to the oven and bake them for another 20 minutes. Let sit for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Last year at this time I made Fresh Corn Pancakes.

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Late Summer Garden Update

Well, there is no getting around it: things are winding down. The powdery mildew hit early and hard this year, when August took a turn towards the cooler. Cooler? It's been downright chilly! Sweet potatoes and peanuts are still looking good, but that's because they basically spent the summer under cover. The squash are definitely heading for the finish line.

These are beans, supposedly dried beans. They should have been planted June 1st and got planted July 1st instead. Mathematically, they should be able to make it - in practice we shall see. I am a little nervous about how far along they aren't. Especially since this is pretty much all my seed from the cross between Cherokee Trail of Tears and Dolloff that I found last year. On the other hand, even though the regular green beans went in just as late, we are going to have a freezer full of them, no problem.

Our carrot crop looks to be amazing, which is, well, amazing. They had to be seeded 3 times before they managed to achieve any sort of critical mass, and then they looked so frail and pathetic for months, not to mention how massively they were infested with purslane this year... I'm glad we didn't give up on them. We thought about it, I have to say!

The vines look terrible now, no thanks to our perpetual problem with septoria leaf spot, but I am very pleased with these tomatoes. They are now an F4 grow-out of a cross that showed up in our Jaune Flammé tomatoes, uh, 4 years ago. I liked it so much I've been growing it ever since, and it seems pretty stable. The cross seemed to be between Jaune Flammé and an unknown red beefsteak type tomato, and it has the flavour of a large, late beefsteak tomato in an early, small salad sized tomato that, like Jaune Flammé, produces prolifically all season.

In general, all the tomatoes look pretty bad. As I've said before, it seems the only way to have tomatoes survive septoria leaf spot is for them to grow faster than it can kill them. We've been picking tomatoes by the bushel every week and making litres of sauce, but I'd say that's winding down. One or two more batches, then it'll be time for chow-chow and garden clean up. Once the tomatoes come out, we can plant garlic in their place, at least in one of the beds.

I'm still hoping for a few ripe watermelons. Not so much to eat, as to have seed to continue my mass watermelon crossing project next year. They went in so very late, and the weather has been so unfriendly to watermelons, that if I achieve any ripe seed I will count it as a win. Some watermelons would have been nice too, but ho hum.

The sunflowers are funny. Normally they all line up and face the sun, but this year they were facing all over in random directions. I was perplexed, until I remembered that I did not plant them directly but put in a row of transplanted sunflowers that came up in spots where we had added compost. Apparently they are oriented as to which direction they will face to bloom before they are 6" high!

Another couple of seed projects. We did not attempt to grow any veggies in the wet bed this year, but we did leave the Turkish celeriac from last year to go to seed. Behind them, we planted a trellis full of 4 kinds of peas and 2 kinds of beans which are being grown out strictly for seed. They too went in a month late, so we will see how much we actually get. I expect a lifetime supply of celeriac seed, though.

Also down in the wet beds, we left the Turkish leeks from last year to go to seed. They are not entirely happy here, but they survived the winter surprisingly well, even though they looked pretty limp and mushy in the spring. They have their flaws: besides not being in an edible condition in the spring, they are amazingly attractive to slugs and snails, nor did any of mine achieve the impressive heft of the ones we saw in the Turkish markets. Still, they have such wonderfully long shanks that I intend to save seed and let them cross with my more hardy varieties, specifically Giant Musselburgh and Bandit, just to see what happens. The flowers were really lovely too, in surprisingly varied shades of cream and lilac.

As you can probably tell, I get more and more interested in saving seeds and crossing different varieties. It's a good thing we are getting more efficient with the amount of vegetables we get out of each bed - quite a few of them are now being set aside for seed saving. It's been a rather cool summer, and it doesn't look like it's going to warm up for autumn, so it will be a bit of a race to see if I can get everything ripe on time. Most things are going to make it though!

Monday, 15 September 2014

Fish & Eggplant Casserole

Well, that was a busy week. Far too much interfacing with the medical system to get much cooking done, but I did make this. It was also peak tomato harvest last week, so in between times we have been making vats of tomato sauce.

Dad has now had his second cataract operation done, which seemed to go well, and everyone else seems to be doing okay too. I'm hoping the next few weeks may be calm enough for us to start cleaning up the garden.

We've had a bumper harvest of eggplants this year for some reason, so here are some more of them. This is based on a popular Chinese dish but simplified quite a bit, particularly by not deep-frying the eggplants then stir-frying them with the other ingredients. Stir-fry first, then bake - much less greasy but just as tasty, and no last minute hanging around the stove.

4 servings
1 hour - 40 minutes prep time

Fish & Eggplant Casserole

Make the Sauce:
2 tablespoons Sucanat or dark brown sugar
2 tablespoons arrowroot or cornstarch
4 tablespoons apple cider or rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
1 cup water

Mix the brown sugar, cornstarch, vinegar, soy sauce, and water in a small bowl, and set aside.

Finish the Casserole:
500 grams (1 pound) long, narrow Japanese eggplants
1 large mild red or green pepper
1 or 2 Jalapeno peppers or other fresh mildly hot peppers (optional)
4 stalks of celery
2 medium onions
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
400 grams (scant pound) boneless whitefish fillets
1 tablespoon finely minced ginger
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Cut the eggplants into 1/2" slices and the remaining vegetables into slightly smaller pieces.

In a large skillet, sauté the eggplant slices in 2 tablespoons of the oil until soft and slightly browned on both sides. Place them in a shallow baking (lasagne) pan with the fish, cut into large bite-sized chunks, and the finely minced ginger. Sauté the remaining vegetables in the remaining oil until soft, and add them to the casserole.

Mix the sauce up well and pour it evenly over the casserole. Drizzle with the sesame oil and stir gently to mix everything up. (I don't so much stir, as lift and turn gently with the spatula used to sauté the vegetables.)

 Bake at 400°F for 20 to 30 minutes, until the fish is done to your liking. Serve with rice.

Last year at this time I made Pot-Roasted Chicken with Tomato-Sage Gravy, and Apple & Blackberry Pie.

Tuesday, 2 September 2014

Blueberry & Apple Salad with Nuts & Blue Cheese

We went out to celebrate my birthday at a local restaurant about a week ago, and my mom ordered this salad. Well, not this salad, but one that had lettuce, blueberries, apples, nuts, and blue cheese. So mighty like this salad, in fact. I know I've mentioned that all my favourite salads have fruit, nuts, and cheese so this was one I definitely had to do at home. The only reason I didn't order it at the restaurant myself was that they had Kolapore trout!.

With the cheese, this is pretty much a meal in itself; if you want to serve it with other things you may wish to omit the blue cheese. Or not; it's awfully good.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Blueberry & Apple Salad with Nuts & Blue Cheese

Make the Dressing:
3 tablespoons apple butter
3 tablespoons apple cider or raspberry vinegar
3 tablespoons sunflower seed oil
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
a little very finely grated lemon zest

Stir or shake the dressing ingredients together in a small bowl or jar. 

Make the Salad:
8 to 12 cups mixed salad greens
OR 1 large head of lettuce
2 cups (1 pint) blueberries
2 medium apples
the juice of 1/2 small lemon
1 cup chopped hazelnuts, walnuts, or other nuts
125 grams (1/4 pound) blue cheese (optional)

Wash the greens (lettuce) and cut or tear up into bite sized pieces. Rinse it well again and dry it thoroughly. Rinse and pick over the blueberries, and wash the apples. Cut them in quarters and remove the cores, then cut them into dice about the size of the blueberries. Toss them in the salad bowl with the lemon juice while you work, to prevent them turning brown.

Toss the salad greens, blueberries, nuts and crumbled bluecheese into the apples, and then toss again with the dressing. Serve promptly!

Last year at this time I made Minty Watermelon Agua Fresca and Peach Upside-Down Cake.