Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Cherry Tomato & Shallot Bruschetta

I never used know what the heck to do with cherry tomatoes as I am just not that fond of them. However I believe that little problem has now been solved.

And how many people does 12 pieces of toast serve? Well, there were 4 of us, and it served us. I have a feeling, though, that if there were 24 pieces of toast, or 2 of us, there would have been the same amount left over; namely none.

Ridiculously good? Why yes; I'd say so.

12 pieces of toast
20 minutes prep time

Make the Chile-Garlic Oil:
1 large clove of garlic
1 1" piece of fresh red cayenne or other hot pepper
1/4 cup sunflower or olive oil

Have the garlic peeled and sliced, and the pepper de-stemmed and sliced. Heat the oil in a small pot until it is quite hot, but not smoking or bubbling. Remove it from the heat and add the garlic and hot pepper. Allow it to cool, then strain it and store it in a tightly capped jar. This can be done at least a day in advance. The longer you let it sit before you strain it, the stronger it will be.

This makes enough for 2 batches of bruschetta.

Make the Bruschetta:
4 large shallots
16 to 24 cherry tomatoes
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 small baguette loaf
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

Peel the shallots and cut them in slivers. Wash the cherry tomatoes and cut them in halves. Wash, dry, and mince the basil. Toss all these in a shallow pan with the oil - which can be the flavoured oil, or not, depending on how strongly it is flavoured and how strong you would like the finished bruschetta to be. Broil the vegetables until softened and cooked, with lightly charred spots. Stir once or twice during this process to make sure they are fairly evenly cooked.

Meanwhile, slice the baguette in half lengthwise, then into serving sized pieces; 1 got 12 pieces approximately 2" square. Place them on a baking tray. Drizzle them with about 2 tablespoons of the chile-garlic oil.

When the vegetables are ready, remove them to the stove top and place the bread pieces under the broiler. Remove them when they are toasted to your liking. Spoon the bruschetta topping evenly over the toasts along with any juices that they have given off, and drizzle the balsamic vinegar over them as well. Return them to the broiler for just a minute to be sure they are served piping hot.

Monday, 29 August 2016

Corn & Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese

Here is a simple and substantial salad; very nearly a meal in itself. Some bread will finish it off nicely, or you could serve it as part of a selection of salads.

Broiling the pepper is surprisingly slow, so you will be able to prepare most of the rest of the salad while it chars. Don't forget to watch it though!

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Corn & Tomato Salad with Feta Cheese

1 large red pepper
4 cobs of corn
3 medium tomatoes
1 small sweet onion
1/3 cup finely chopped cilantro
200 grams (7 ounces) feta cheese
1/8 to 1/4 teaspoon ground red chile pepper
1/4 teaspoon rubbed oregano
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons sunflower or olive oil
the juice of 1 large lime

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Turn on the broiler. Wash the pepper and broil it until the skin is fairly charred, turning it to broil it evenly. When done, set it aside in a covered bowl to cool.

Meanwhile, husk the corn. When the water boils, cook the corn in it for 6 to 8 minutes. Remove them to a basin of cold water and allow to cool. Use the boiling water to blanch the tomatoes for 1 minute, then remove them to the basin of cold water as well.

Cut the corn from the cobs, and put it in a large salad bowl. Peel the tomatoes, chop them and add them. Remove and discard the stem and seeds from the pepper. Peel it, and chop it. add it to the salad bowl. Peel and chop the onion. Wash, trim, dry well, and chop the cilantro. Add the onion and cilantro to the salad bowl. Crumble the feta and add it as well.

Sprinkle the salad with the chile pepper, oregano, and black pepper. Drizzle over the oil and the lime juice; toss the salad until well blended.

Friday, 26 August 2016

"Mexican" Pesto

Or at least pesto adapted to use some typical Mexican ingredients. If your pumpkin seeds are raw, it would be a good idea to toast them in a dry skillet first. You can also tweak the proportions of cilantro and basil according to which you would prefer to be predominant.

We had ours with pasta but you can use this wherever you would use classic Basil Pesto.  Like that recipe, this can be frozen, and cheese added once it is thawed. If you live in a place where you can find Mexican or at least Central American style cheeses, so much the better. The feta worked quite well however.

4 to 6 servings
20 minutes prep time

Make the Pesto:
2 to 6 cloves of garlic
1 Jalapeño chile  (see note)
1 cup lightly packed cilantro leaves
1 cup lightly packed basil leaves
1/2 cup pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/4 cup sunflower or olive oil

Peel and cut the garlic cloves in half, and put them in the bowl of a food processor. Wash, core, and roughly chop the Jalapeño. Test it to see how hot it is, and add a bit less than you think you will want. Wash, trim, and pick over the cilantro and basil leaves, and drain them well. Add them, along with the pumpkin seeds and oil. If your pumpkin seeds are unsalted, you may wish to add some, but keep in mind the cheese that will be added later.

Process until everything is very well chopped but still retains some texture. You will need to stop and scrape down the sides of the bowl a couple of times. Add more of the Jalapeño if that seems like a good idea.

This can be used at once, or frozen in an ice cube tray or zip-lock baggie, for future use.

NOTE: Since Jalapeños vary considerably in strength, and people's liking for heat also varies, the amount to use is hard to pin down. Just remember my motto: You can always add more, but once it is in it is in. Also, pickled Jalapeño can be used instead of a fresh one, but it is likely to be much stronger so keep that in mind too.

To Serve with Pasta:
250 grams pasta
2 medium zucchini
1 large onion
1 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil
100 grams (4 ounces) feta cheese
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

Put a pot of water on to boil for the pasta. When it boils, salt it well and cook the pasta according to the directions on the package.

Meanwhile, wash, trim, and dice the zucchini. Peel and chop the onion. Heat the oil in a large skillet, and cook the vegetables until softened and slightly browned (cooked to your liking).

When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the pan of vegetables, and mix well. Add the pesto and the crumbled feta and grated Parmesan. Mix again and serve.

Wednesday, 24 August 2016

Seedy Fried Cauliflower

I don't know what it is about cauliflower that calls out to me for seeds, but plainly it does.  This version owes a lot to my old family favourite, Mexican Style Cauliflower. Like that dish, this is substantial enough to be a main dish, although you could serve it with a simply cooked piece of fish or chicken as well. Keep it simply cooked though, because this dish does keep you busy.

I used white poppy seeds for this because that's what I had*; I imagine the black would be fine but I have to say the white ones are particularly appropriate for this; more discreet.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Seedy Fried Cauliflower

Mix the Spices:
2 tablespoon pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
2 tablespoons sunflower seeds
1/4 teaspoon fennel seeds
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
1 teaspoon coriander seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds
1 tablespoon mustard seeds
1 tsp sesame seeds
1/4 cup quinoa flour
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Chop up the pumpkin and sunflower seeds until they are more the texture of the rest of the seeds. Grind the fennel, cumin, and coriander seeds coarsely. Mix all the seeds, the quinoa flour, and the salt and pepper in a mixing bowl. The 4 cups of cauliflower will be added to it, so make sure it is big enough.

Prepare the Cauliflower:
4 cups cauliflower florets (about 1 small cauliflower)
2 large eggs
1/4 cup water
2 tablespoons quinoa flour
1/3 to 1/2 cup oil to fry

Put a pot of water on to boil. Wash, trim and cut the cauliflower into bite sized florets. Blanch them for 2 to 3 minutes in the boiling water, then rinse them under cold water to cool and drain them well.

Whisk the eggs and water into the bowl of spices to form a smooth batter. Heat the oil in a large skillet. Dust the cauliflower with the quinoa flour, then mix it into the batter as gently yet as thoroughly as you can.

Fry the cauliflower pieces in the hot oil, turning them to cook on each side. Do not over-crowd them. Remove them as they are done to a dish with paper towel in it, and keep them warm in the oven (at about 200°F). If you have a very large skillet this won't be necessary; you should be able to get them all in at once. Once they are all in the skillet, drizzle any batter remaining in the mixing bowl evenly over them.

Once they are all done, remove them to that dish with paper towel to blot up excess oil, and serve them promptly.

*This recipe has been brought to you by Operation Find-the-back-of-the-cupboard. 

Monday, 22 August 2016

Zucchini Blossom Stracciatella

I have made stracciatella a regular part of my soup repertoire this year. As the seasons change so do the vegetables used, but the basic and very easy technique stays the same.

With the very high levels of heat and dryness this year, the zucchini plants have been more prone to make male blossoms than female blossoms. Making fruit is a much more resource-intense process. So, I put some of them to use in this soup. They are actually very mild as are most of the veggies in this soup. They mostly add colour and texture, while it's the basil and garlic that really sing.

In spite of the eggs and cheese this is a fairly light soup, and even if it just serves 2 will need at least a roll if not a sandwich to keep it company. For 4, it would make a good starter to a meal.

2 to 4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Zucchini Blossom Stracciatella

1 medium zucchini
1 small onion
1 clove of garlic
12 to 16 zucchini or squash blossoms
2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil leaves
2 large eggs
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon olive or sunflower oil
3 cups unsalted chicken stock
freshly ground pepper to taste

Wash, trim, and cut in small dice the zucchini. Peel and chop the onion. Peel and mince the garlic. Separate the petals from the rest of the blossoms; discard anything not the petals. Rinse the petals, roll them up, and cut them in fine shreds. Do the same with the basil leaves.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl with the Parmesan cheese. Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pot.

Cook the zucchini and onion in the oil over medium heat until softened and slightly browned. Add the zucchini blossoms, garlic, and basil, and cook, stirring, for another minute or so until well wilted. Pour in the chicken stock and bring the soup up to a simmer. Season with pepper to taste (and salt too, if you don't think the cheese added enough).

When the soup is simmering, pour the egg and cheese mixture slowly into it, stirring the soup fairly briskly as you do so. The more briskly you stir, the smaller the shreds of egg and cheese will be.

Friday, 19 August 2016

Pastel de Choclo

Well I hate to sound ungrateful but it can stop raining any time now. We're rapidly heading for 4 inches of rain in the last week, which would have been lovely if it had been spread out over the summer. I had been consoling myself about it being so hot and dry with the idea that at least my tomatoes and melons would be fabulous. I am now watching them all nervously for signs of splitting, and don't expect great things from them.

I did get a few tomatoes picked before the deluge, and served some of them with this, which is a traditional northern South American dish. You know what I mean. It's usually regarded as Chilean, but perhaps not entirely; and it is also popular in Peru and Bolivia. Whatever its origins, it's an easy if a little time consuming casserole which makes great use of seasonal vegetables.

The Chilean corn used for this is apparently less sweet and more starchy than ours, so this is a great way to use corn that's a little over-mature. I've still omitted most of the sugar that many recipes call for, and between the corn and the raisins we thought it was plenty sweet. I've also omitted the milk usually called for, and the chicken. Chicken is an ingredient that only shows up sometimes in Pastel de Choclo recipes. If I happened to have some leftover cooked chicken on hand I would add some to the filling before the final topping goes on, but it is an elegant sufficiency without it.

4 to 6 servings
2 hours - 1 hour prep time

Pastel de Choclo with Tomato Salad

Prepare the Seasonings & Get Organized:
2 large tomatoes
3 large eggs
2 or 3 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons cumin seed, ground
2 teaspoons sweet Spanish or Hungarian paprika
1 teaspoon rubbed oregano
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put a pot of water on to boil, into which you can fit the tomatoes. Blanch them for one minute then rinse them in cold water and peel them. Chop them and set them aside, with their juices, in a bowl.

Meanwhile, put the eggs in a pot with water to cover. Bring them to a boil and boil them for 1 minute. Remove them from the heat but leave them in the pot of water with the lid on for 10 minutes. Rinse them in cold water until cool and set them aside as well. 

Peel and mince the garlic, and grind the cumin seeds. Put them aside, with the remaining seasonings, in a small bowl.

Prepare the Filling:
2 large onions
1 medium red pepper
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
500 grams (1 pound) ground beef
1/3 cup raisins
1/4 cup olives

Peel and chop the onions. Wash, core, and chop the red pepper. Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat and cook the onions and pepper until softened. Crumble in the beef and cook, stirring regularly, until the beef is cooked and starting to brown in spots.

Add the garlic and other seasonings, mix in well, and cook for another minute or so. Add the tomatoes and their juice and mix in well. Cook, stirring regularly, for 10 or 15 minutes until the filling is still moist but the tomatoes have cooked down and their juice has been absorbed into the filling.

Remove it from the heat and mix in the raisins and the olives; the olives should be pitted and may be chopped if you like. They can be black, green, or stuffed - your choice.

Prepare the Corn Topping & Finish:
6 large cobs of corn
1 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup cornmeal
2 tablespoons corn starch or flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup unsalted butter
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon sugar

Husk the corn, and cut the kernals from the cobs with a sharp knife. Put the kernals from 2 cobs aside. The rest of them go into a food processor. Scrape the cobs and put the scrapings in a large pot.

Add the chicken stock, cornmeal, cornstarch, and salt to the corn in the food processor. Process until everything is well blended and fairly smooth. You can add the basil to the food processor or add it later, chopped by hand if you prefer.

Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Heat the butter in the large pot (along with the cob scrapings) and add the contents of the food processor once the butter is mostly melted. Mix well and cook, stirring frequently, until it thickens.

Spread about 1/3 of the corn mixture evenly in the bottom of a 9" x 13" pan. (I used my 8" x 10" pan, and it all went in and was okay, but it was fullllllll, so a larger pan might be better.)  Spread the meat filling evenly over that. Peel the hard boiled eggs and cut them in slices, and arrange them over the meat filling. Top with the remaining corn mixture, also spread out - you guessed it - evenly.

Bake the pastel for 35 to 40 minutes, until bubbling around the edges. Sprinkle the sugar evenly over the top of the pastel, and put it under the broiler for another 5 minutes or so - but WATCH it! - until the sugar browns. Let rest for 10 to 15 minutes before you serve it.

Wednesday, 17 August 2016

Savory Zucchini Roll

I have become a bit obsessed with Swiss rolls, or "jelly" rolls, or roulades, or whatever it is you want to call them, ever since I made my first successful one. They look so fancy, it's hard to believe that once you have the right pan and some parchment paper, they are easy-peasy.

I've been obsessed with them but I haven't actually been making many, until this one. The problem is that I really try not to make too much cake. However, there are a lot of savory versions and they make very glamourous vegetarian main dishes. They are also suitable for a fancy brunch or afternoon tea.

And at this time of year, with the zucchini piling up, this is a great way to use some up. This is modelled to some degree on the Turkish Mucver that I love so much, but it is milder in flavour and definitely more refined and elegant.

We thought this was very good, but it needed something - being perhaps a little too refined and mild. It would be great with very thinly sliced smoked salmon laid over the cheese before rolling it up, or maybe roasted red peppers or red pepper jelly, thinly spread. Thinly sliced  ham, even. Or you could up the quantity of herbs used, and add crumbled feta cheese to the filling and make it even more like the original mucver.

8 to 16 servings
1 hour 15 minutes - 45 minutes prep time
not including cooling time

This makes quite a long roll; 16 inches in fact. The picture above shows about three-quarters of it, since I had to cut it to fit my longest serving plate. You could cut the recipe in half, or you could cut the roll in half before filling and put in 2 different fillings.

Serve it with light salad and maybe some bread and butter. I found the leftovers were okay, but got a bit soggy with sitting. I think the milk from the filling was being absorbed back into the "cake". You can make this in advance but it should still be the same day it is served, and if you think it is more than will be eaten by a significant amount, making half the recipe would be a good idea.

Make the Roll:
750 grams (1 1/2 pound) zucchini
1 green onion, finely minced
2 to 3 cloves of garlic, finely minced
1/4 cup finely minced fresh parsley
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh dill
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh mint
1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
the yolks of 6 large eggs
1 1/4 cups soft unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
the whites of 6 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Wash the zucchini, and trim off the blossom ends. Grate them using the regular (coarse) side of the grater. Lay them in a colander or sieve in layers, sprinkled with salt, and set it aside to drain for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile wash, trim, and mince the onion and garlic. Wash and dry the herbs, and mince them finely. Finely grate the Parmesan. Put these in a large mixing bowl.

Line a 12" x 16" jelly roll pan with parchment paper. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Add the shredded zucchini to the bowl of herbs, first lifting it out of the strainer by the handful and squeezing it as hard as you can to remove as much moisture from it as you can. Throw each handful into the bowl as it is done. When it is all squeezed dry and added, mix the herbs into the zucchini then mix in the egg yolks. Mix in the flour until it is evenly distributed and the zucchini is coated in a thick but lump-free batter.

In a smaller mixing bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until very stiff. Fold a good spoonful of the egg whites very gently into the zucchini, then when it is somewhat lightened fold in the remaining egg whites evenly. Spread the batter evenly over the prepared parchment lined pan.

Bake for 11 to 13 minutes until firm and just showing a little colour at the edges. Put the pan on a rack to cool. After 5 minutes only, flip the zucchini roll onto a clean tea towel, and roll it up along the long edge. Put the towel-wrapped roll back onto the rack - without the baking pan - to finish cooling.

Make the Filling:
300 grams (10 ounces) soft goat cheese (chevre)
about 1/3 cup yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk, or milk
 salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Put the goat cheese into a mixing bowl and mix in the other dairy product of your choice, a spoonful at a time, until the mixture is the texture of thick frosting. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Gently and carefully unroll the zucchini roll. Peel off the parchment paper. Spread the roll evenly with the prepared cream cheese. If you wish to also add such items as smoked salmon, ham, roasted peppers, etc; now is the time.

Re-roll the zucchini roll, leaving out the tea-towel this time (important!). Manoeuvre it, with the help of the tea towel and whatever broad lifting devices you may have, the the centre of the dish from which it is to be served. I note that this is a large roll, and you may wish to cut it in half and serve it from 2 plates. Garnish it with salady things and so serve it forth.

Last year at this time I made Seedy Summer Savory Pesto (with Cauliflower).

Monday, 15 August 2016

Green Beans with Peppers & Onions

Pretty much what it says on the tin. Red peppers would be prettier, but it is still very early in the pepper season and the only peppers ready in our garden so far are the sweet banana peppers. Onions are fattening up nicely and the beans are producing their second wave. Into the pan with all of them...

Makes 2 to 4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Green Beans with Peppers & Onions

250 grams (1/2 pound) green beans
2 large banana peppers
OR 1 large red pepper such as Chervena Chushka
1 medium onion
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon hot red chile flakes (OPTIONAL)

Wash the beans and trim off the ends. Wash and core the peppers, and cut them in long strips about the same length as the beans (i.e. the length of the peppers). Peel the onion, and cut it in half from top to bottom, then into thin slices also lengthwise.

Heat the oil in a medium sized skillet. Add the beans and a few tablespoons of water, and cook over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until the water is evaporated and the beans are about two-thirds cooked. If the water is gone before that stage, add a little more.

Add the pepper and onion slices, and cook, stirring constantly until they and the beans are cooked to your liking. Add the soy sauce and hot chile flakes, and cook for another minute or so until they are evenly distributed and absorbed onto the vegetables.

Last year at this time I made Green Beans à la Poutine. A fancier dish than this, but mighty fine.

Saturday, 13 August 2016

It Rained!

It actually rained! According to our rain gauge; 30mm between last night and this morning. We were hoping for a little more this afternoon but no such luck. I think that about doubles our rainfall since the beginning of May. Yeehaw!!

Friday, 12 August 2016

Eggplant Cordon Bleu

Well I can't say this looks very glamorous, which is too bad, because it was quite fabulous. If I had been ambitious enough to run out and pick a little parsley or basil to garnish it might have helped. At any rate it did not sit around long enough for its looks to matter much. The list of ingredients is short and simple, and so is the technique, but the results are delicious!

I'm saying this takes an hour and a half to make, but an hour of that is salting the eggplant and letting it drain. This is less to pull out bitter compounds (not much of a problem with modern eggplants) than to soften it up and allow it to cook quickly, which in a pan it needs to do. I suppose you could bake this on a sheet of parchment paper, but I have not tried it. If I were to try it, I would do it at 375°F and bake it for 20 to 30 minutes. Could it take as long as 45 minutes? I don't know; I haven't tried it. This way was perfectly good.

2 servings
1 1/2 hours - 1/2 hour prep time

Sauteed Eggplant Stuffed with Ham and Cheese in Tomato Sauce

1 medium (450 grams; 1 pound) eggplant
100 grams (4 ounces) thinly sliced old Cheddar cheese
100 grams (4 ounces) thinly sliced lean ham
1 large egg
1/4 cup soft unbleached flour
1/2 cup fine breadcrumbs
3 tablespoons mild vegetable oil
1/2 to 1 cup tomato sauce

Trim the skin off 2 opposite sides of the eggplant, so as to leave them fairly flat. Cut off the stem and cut the eggplant in half lengthwise. Peel the remaining skin from the eggplant pieces. This should leave you with 2 very similar flat "filets" of eggplant. Carefully cut a pocket into one side of each filet, right through as close as you can reasonably get to the other side without detaching it, leaving about a 1/4" seam.

Salt the insides of the pockets and the outsides of the filets of eggplant. Lay them next to each other on a plate, top with another plate and put a weight on top. Leave for 1 hour to drain.

Rinse the eggplant pieces well, including the pockets, and press dry in a tea towel or a bit of paper towel. Fill the pockets with the cheese and ham, as evenly spread out in it as possible, with as little of it hanging out as possible. I trimmed off the overhangs and stuffed them back inside.

Sift the flour over the slices of eggplant, turning them to coat both sides. This is an approximate measure of flour; they should be evenly coated.

Beat the egg in a shallow bowl or plate with some sides to it, and coat the stuffed eggplant pieces all over in the egg. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a large skillet over medium heat - no hotter.

Have the breadcrumbs ready in another shallow bowl or deep plate, and coat the eggplants pieces all over in the crumbs.  Fry them in the oil for 5 or 6 minutes each side, adding the extra tablespoon of oil when you turn them. Make sure they do not brown too fast, and if you have a spatter guard to put over them as they cook, so much the better.

Meanwhile, heat the tomato sauce is a small pot and pour it over the cooked eggplant pieces just before serving.

Wednesday, 10 August 2016

Cauliflower Salad

I got a lovely cauliflower last week, and when I was thinking of what to do with it I thought of a salad. Plainly my brain has been infected by all those dieters who have been replacing potatoes with cauliflower, because I thought, "like potato salad, only cauliflower!".

In fact the result is really quite good. This is more of a supporting player than a superstar, but then so is your classic potato salad. I suppose if you cooked the cauliflower longer it would have a softer texture more like potato, but it would also be more like overcooked cauliflower so I suggest you don't cook it too much longer than I have suggested. I do like mine al dente, it is true, so you have a little leeway.

This version is pretty basic, and the cauliflower flavour shines through. You can tweak it to be more like however you make your usual potato salad; if I had any peas left I would throw some in, and I added a chopped hard boiled egg to the leftovers.

4 servings
15 minutes prep time

Cauliflower Salad

Make the Dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh dill
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Whisk all these ingredients in a mixing bowl.

Make the Salad:
3 cups cauliflower florets
2 large stalks of celery
1/3 cup finely minced parsley
1 medium sweet onion (about 1 cup minced)

Put a pot of water on to boil for the cauliflower. Wash the cauliflower and break it into florets. Blanch it for 2 to 4 minutes in the boiling water, then rinse it in cold water until cool and drain well.

Wash, trim and chop the celery and parsley. Peel and chop the onion.

Add the vegetables to the bowl of dressing and toss until evenly blended and coated.

Monday, 8 August 2016

Kohlrabi Slaw

Sharp eyes may catch that this is basically my recipe for Tartar Sauce, expanded into a salad. And nothing wrong with that! Yes, I would serve it with fish but in this case it made an excellent accompaniment to hamburgers. It's a good all around summer slaw, and it should keep in the fridge for several days too.

4 to 6 servings
15 minutes prep time

Kohlrabi Slaw

Make the Dressing:
1/3 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
3 tablespoons dill pickle brine
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
a squeeze of lemon juice, if available

Whisk all the ingredients in a smallish salad or mixing bowl.
Make the Salad:
1 medium kohlrabi, "bulb" only
1 medium carrot
1 large dill pickle
1/4 cup chopped parsley
2 sprigs fresh dill

Peel and grate the kohlrabi. Peel and grate the carrot. Finely chop the dill pickle. Wash and dry the parsley and dill, and chop them finely. Mix them into the salad dressing in the bowl.

Friday, 5 August 2016

Late Summer Garden Update

As the season progresses, the balance of work in the garden shifts too. We are still watering pretty much nonstop, given how dry it is, but we are doing harvesting almost every day now. A few days ago we dug up the garlic.

Garlic is quite drought tolerant, and our garlic this year looks like it is very high quality. We are pleased! Now it is hanging from the rafters in the garage to cure for 2 weeks, before we trim it and bring it into the house.

We've had the micro-tubers from the potatoes we started from seed last winter sitting in the fridge until now. They have been planted in part of the space that the garlic was in.

We had one potato that formed 13 little tubers. Some were quite small and went shriveled and moldy in storage, but we planted out 10 - that's amazing. I have never had a potato grown from seed produce so many little tubers. This was from the Latvian seed we got from Duane Falk, as was the next most impressive plant, which produced 9 cute little pink tubers. We did not even get around to potting them up - this was all in the original seed starting tray. After that there were only a few other plants that produced anything worth planting out. Hopefully these will all come up and grow through the rest of the season.

The leeks going to seed that once were towering over the tomato starts are now just about disappearing into the tomato plants. Looks like we should have lots of seed, but I was a bit exasperated by my Inegol (Turkish) leeks which flowered a lot later than any of the others. We'll see to what degree they managed to cross with the others next year, I guess.

No ripe tomatoes yet, but some are finally starting to turn pale yellow in preparation.

Ooo, look at that lovely gravel path! I am still enjoying having it done very much. Not shown; Mr Ferdzy has hauled all the gravel we had delivered. There are still 2 sections of path to be done, but they should be done next year for sure.

On the right, brassicas are mostly looking good but getting a little bug chewed. On the left, melons are getting viney and starting to form fruit. These are the non watermelon melons. We are just growing one kind, Sweet Freckles, in order to save seeds.

My small, hopefully yellow when ripe, watermelon project is not a complete bust, but it's not a roaring success either. The vines are finally forming melons, although they sure look like they are going to be TINY. That is my first and best melon so far, and I am not at all convinced that it intends to get any bigger. At least I expect to get seeds to keep on keeping on. I'm interested to note that all the vines are VERY short, and all the melons are round and look like being similar in size although some are slower than others; the only place I am seeing any variation is in the colour and pattern of the rinds. Many do have stripes, although the pale green netted look of the Grover Delaney is asserting itself. I'm seeing signs of yellowing in many leaves so I expect this generation to include quite a few yellow when ripe melons. I will have to hope for larger and earlier melons next year I guess.

On the other hand, my Orangeglo x Sweet Siberian watermelons are looking fabulous. I can hardly wait! They will get their own post at some point. 


This is, I think, the dill I got in Turkey. It is very large and leafy, which is nice. Not so nice is that all the dill this year is being attacked by some nasty little worm that gums up the seeds. Potatoes on the other side of the path are doing okay in spite of the dryness and the Colorado Potato Bugs, which have been kind of relentless this year. There is always something, and those 3 things are the problems for this year so far. Apart from the fact that I desperately wish it would rain, the pests could be - and have been many years - worse.

Here are 2 plants I grew from seed this year. The dahlias are kind of fun, but it is the chocolate cosmos in front of them that I am really excited about. Until recently it was thought that there was one chocolate cosmos "plant" in existence, and it was not self-fertile. It could only be propagated by cloning (divisions). Then, a few years back, word got out that there were some gardeners in New Zealand who had more chocolate cosmos plants, and they produced seeds! Jelitto has recently started selling them and I got some! They have been pretty easy to grow and are starting to bloom. I see why they are so desirable as cut flowers. The stems are long and the colour is terrific. I have not cut any though as I am hoping to collect more seeds. (And it's true - they smell delicious.)

This is part of our our zucchini patch. Yes, stand by for zucchini recipes. COMING UP. These plants are from crossed seed we saved. We are very amused by the one on the bottom and left of the picture. It produces a reasonable amount of zucchini, but it is definitely a vine and not a bush. I think it's getting close to 20 feet long.

With 14 zucchini plants in the garden we are getting lots, but not as much as you might think. Between the heat and dryness there is a whole lot of aborting going on. Same with the beans, eggplants, maybe the cucumbers, and the melons. Tomatoes seem okay, but maybe there too. It's a little hard to tell how many we are getting. As usual we have over-planted and are generally getting a sufficient quantity anyway. 

When last seen, this bed was determinate peas I believe. Peas are long out, and beans are planted in their place. They are growing like crazy in this heat. These are a favourite Italian variety called Anseloni's Bologna bean.

The last of the peas from the spring planting are drying down. We are not watering them as the peas are fully formed and we are just waiting for them to be dry for seed collection. Then they will come out and we will plant the beds with spinach and lettuce for next year.

This years lettuce is long over. It went bitter and bolted very early thanks to the heat and drought. We will be collecting seed in the next few days. We might plant some more for the fall.

To the left of the lettuce you can see the transplanted leeks settling in. We did not get them transplanted until quite late due to having a hard time keeping up with weeding and watering. However, they seem to be settling in and we expect to have some good leeks this fall.

Wednesday, 3 August 2016

Green Beans with Mustard - Tahini Dressing

A very distinctive dressing lends interest to just a few simple vegetables to make a simple and unusual salad.

One of the people who ate this salad thought the combination of rich tahini and spicy mustard was almost curry-like. I served it as part of a menu of assorted salads, but it would be great with grilled meat.

8 servings
20 minutes prep time

Make the Dressing:
2 tablespoons tahini
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
the juice of 1/2 lemon
2 teaspoons soy sauce

Mix the tahini and mustard to a paste in a small bowl, then mix in the lemon juice a bit at a time to keep it smooth. Mix in the soy sauce.

Make the Salad:
375 grams (3/4 pound) green beans
2 to 3 stalks of celery
1 small sweet onion

Trim the ends from the beans, and cut them into bite-sized lengths. Wash and trim the celery, and cut it into slices. Put a pot of water on to boil, sufficient to hold both vegetables. Boil them for 4 minutes, then drain and rinse them in cold water until cool.

Peel and cut the onion into quarters, then cut into slices. Put them in a strainer and salt them; let them drain for 15 or 20 minutes.

Mix the cooled beans, celery, and drained onions, and toss them with the dressing.

Monday, 1 August 2016

Tuscan White Bean Salad with Tuna

This classic Tuscan salad is so quick and easy to make, just as long as you remember to cook the beans the day before. You could  use a tin of beans if you prefer, but we used our Deseronto Potato beans and they were perfect. Cannellini beans are the classic but oddly enough I don't like them much. I don't like Great Northern beans either. You would think that beans are beans, but apparently there is enough difference that I have preferences. Navy beans would work very well too.

6 servings
15 minutes prep time not including cooking the beans

Tuscan White Bean Salad with Tuna

Cook the Beans:
1 cup dried white beans
1 teaspoon salt

Put the beans in a pot with plenty of water to cover them. Bring to a boil, then turn them off and let them soak for an hour to overnight. Bring them  up to a boil again, add the salt, and cook until tender. Let cool. 

Make the Salad:
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1 or 2 stalks of celery
1 small sweet onion
the juice of 1/2 lemon
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tin chunk or solid tuna

Wash and dry the parsley, and chop it. Put it in a large bowl. Wash, trim and chop the celery, and add it to the parsley. Peel and chop the onion and add it to the bowl. Drain the beans (don't rinse them) and add them. Add the lemon juice and the olive oil, and mix gently but thoroughly. Open and drain the tuna. Add the tuna, and break it up into bite sized chunks. Mix it gently in. Turn out the salad into a serving dish.