Monday, 30 July 2018

Mid to Late Summer Hodge-Podge

When I looked at all the lovely vegetables we have right now, I couldn't decide which one to cook, so it was "All of them, Katie!" I've made Hodge-Podge before, with a slightly different selection of vegetables. This one will take you later into the summer, once the peas are gone (which, let's face it, they are).

We ate this as our entire meal so a little grated cheese seemed like a good idea. If I was serving it as a side dish, I wouldn't add it and I would expect it to go a lot further than just the 2 of us. 

3 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Mid to Late Summer Hodge-Podge

2 cobs of corn
4 to 6 medium new potatoes (about 2 cups when cut)
1 cup cauliflower florets
1 cup diced green beans
1 cup chopped green or Savoy cabbage
1 medium-small zucchini
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh dill, parsley, chives OR basil
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/4 cup sour cream
freshly ground black pepper to taste
a little more salt if needed
grated cheese to top, if liked

Put a large pot of water on to boil. Husk the corn, and when the water boils, cook the corn for 5 to 8 minutes; however long you like to cook your corn. Remove it with tongs to a bowl of cold water to cool once done, but keep the pot of water on the stove.

While the corn cooks, prepare the other vegetables. Scrub the potatoes and cut them into chunks. Break up the cauliflower florets. Top and tail the beans and cut them in pieces. Chop the cabbage. Wash, trim, and cut the zucchini into chunks. Wash, dry, and mince the herb of your choice.

When the corn comes out, add the salt to the boiling water and put in the potatoes to cook for 10 to 12 minutes. When there are 6 or 7 minutes left for them to cook, add the cauliflower, beans, and cabbage. When there are 3 or 4 minutes left, add the zucchini.

Meanwhile, drain the corn well and cut it from the cobs.

When the vegetables are cooked, drain them and return them to the pot on the stove. Add the butter and the corn. Season them generously with pepper, and with a little more salt if you think they need it. When they are well mixed and bubbling again, mix in the minced herb, then the sour cream. Transfer to a serving dish. Serve with a little grated cheese to sprinkle on top, if you like.

Last year at this time I made Naan.

Friday, 27 July 2018

Summer Fish Cakes

These are a little different from the classic fish and potato fish cakes, being made with corn and zucchini instead of the usual potatoes. Nothing wrong with that! Serve them with the same chow-chow, tartar sauce, or wedge of lemon that you might serve with more typical fish cakes. Accompany them with some lovely sliced tomatoes and a roll, and you have a terrific summer meal.

8 fish cakes
4 servings
45 minutes prep time

Summer Fish Cakes with Corn and Zucchini

300 grams (10 ounces) boneless whitefish
2 cobs of corn
1 medium zucchini
2 green onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
3 tablespoons potato starch
mild vegetable oil to fry - about 1/4 cup

Skin the whitefish and discard the skin. Chop the flesh into small pieces, discarding any bones should you find them.  Put it in a mixing bowl.

Husk the corn and cut it from the cobs. Add it to the fish. Wash, trim and grate the zucchini; add it in. Wash, trim, and chop the green onions finely. Peel and mince the garlic, and add both to the bowl. Peel and grate the ginger; add to the bowl.

Break in the egg; season with salt and pepper. Mix well. Add the potato starch and mix well again.

Heat enough oil to coat the bottom of your skillet generously over medium-high heat. Spoon in 1/8 of the batter at a time to form 4 patties (assuming that is what your skillet will hold) and cook until set and lightly browned, about 3 minutes. Turn over the cakes and cook on the other side. Keep the finished cakes warm in a 200°F oven while you cook the remainder. Add oil to the pan as required to keep them cooking and browning well.

Last year at this time I made Keema Mattar (Ground Meat Curry with Peas).

Wednesday, 25 July 2018

Zucchini Soup to follow Turkish Stuffed Zucchini

When I made Turkish Style Stuffed Zucchini (and tomatoes), the recipe made no use of the centres taken out of the zucchini and tomatoes. So rather than waste them, I saved them and made this soup. You could also make it with new, unused zucchini and tomatoes if you didn't want to make the stuffed vegetables. If you had a bit of rice left over from eating the stuffed vegetables, you could add it and make this a more substantial soup. As it is, this would serve four as a starter, or two with just a roll or small sandwich to make a meal.

With the zucchini and tomatoes already chopped and ready to go, this went together very quickly. It was quite delicious, and I suspect I will indeed make it again without making the stuffed vegetables first.

2 to 4 servings
30 to 40 minutes prep time

Zucchini Soup with Turkish Flavours

3 cups finely diced or grated zucchini (1 medium)
1 small onion
1 medium carrot
2 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons finely minced basil
1 tablespoon finely minced mint
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon flour
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 teaspoon, or to taste, Aleppo pepper
1 cup diced raw tomato (1 large)
2 cups broth (saved from cooking stuffed veg)
1 tablespoon wine vinegar
a bit of yogurt or sour cream if desired

Chop the zucchini up a bit more if it needs it (or dice or grate it if you are starting with a whole one). Peel and chop the onion. Peel and grate the carrot. Peel and mince the garlic. Wash and finely mince the basil and mint. (If you are starting with a whole tomato, you should dice it now too.)

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed soup pot. Add the carrots, onions, and zucchini, and cook, stirring regularly, for about 5 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are softened and reduced in volume, and the zucchini is looking a little browned in spots. Add the garlic, basil, and mint, and mix in well. Sprinkle the flour over the vegetables and add the seasonings. Mix in well and let cook for another minute or two, stirring frequently.

Make sure your tomato is chopped up fairly finely, then add it to the vegetables. Cook for another 5 minutes or so, again stirring frequently. Add the broth and wine vinegar, and continue to cook for another 5 to 10 minutes, stirring frequently.

Serve with a dollop of yogurt or sour cream, if you like.

Last year at this time I made Corn, Zucchini, & Barley Salad with Feta & Herbs.

Monday, 23 July 2018

Turkish Style Stuffed Zucchini (or Tomatoes)

There is nothing difficult or complex about these, but it has to be admitted that they are a little time-consuming. Best to approach them with a sense of leisure. On the other hand, they are really delicious. We had them with steamed rice, which was all they needed as an accompaniment.

I'm saying you can stuff zucchini OR tomatoes, but I ended  up stuffing some of both, and that worked very well. The tomatoes are certainly easier and quicker to prepare than the zucchini, but the zucchini are so nice, and they look so charming all set together.  And, well, we have a lot of zucchini at the moment. What else is new?

Since this recipe does not use the carved out bits of zucchini and tomato, save them (separately) to make soup - that will be the next recipe up. Also save the cooking liquid to use as broth.

4 servings
2 1/2 hours - 1 hour 15 minutes prep time

Turkish Style Stuffed Zucchini and Tomatoes

Prepare the Vegetables & the Bulgur:
6 to 8 medium-large zucchini
OR 8 medium-large tomatoes
1/2 cup bulgur
boiling water

Wash the vegetables. I used 4 zucchini and 4 tomatoes, which made a nice combination.

If using zucchini, you want to have ones that are 1 1/2" to 2" in diameter and nice and straight. Cut off the stem and scar ends, and cut the zucchini into pieces 2 fingers wide (about 1 1/2"). Carve out the middles of them, leaving a ring of zucchini. I found it easiest to cut a cone-shaped wedge from each side, which left a thick point in the middle, which was then easily whittled down. Salt the interiors of the zucchini rings and leave them on a plate to drain as you prepare the other ingredients. I tossed the scraps into a coverable storage container to use to make soup tomorrow.

If using tomatoes, cut off a good lid, about 1/4" thick. Use a grapefruit spoon to scoop out the insides. They too can be reserved for another use. Salt the interiors of the tomatoes and set them aside until required, as with the zucchini.

Put the bulgur into a mixing bowl, and cover it generously with boiling water. Let soak until needed.

Prepare the Oil & Herb Sauce:
2 tablespoons finely minced fresh basil
1 tablespoon finely minced fresh mint
a pinch of salt
1/4 cup olive oil

Wash, dry and mince the basil and mint. Do try to get them really finely minced. I thought I had, but not as well as would have been ideal. Really fine!

Mix in the salt and the oil, bruising the herbs into the oil well to infuse their flavours into it.  Set aside until needed.

Prepare the Yogurt & Garlic Sauce:
1 clove of garlic
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup thick yogurt

Peel the garlic and mince it very finely. Sprinkle it with the salt, mince it some more, then mash it with the side of the knife. Mix it into the yogurt. Keep in the fridge until needed.

Prepare the Filling & Finish:
450 grams (1 pound) lean ground lamb
2 shallots OR 1 small onion
1/4 cup fresh basil, finely minced
2 tablespoons fresh mint, finely minced
1 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 to 1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Drain the soaked bulgur well, and return it to the mixing bowl. Add the ground lamb.

Peel and mince the shallots or onion, and add to the bowl. Wash, dry and finely mince the basil and mint. Add them to the bowl, along with the seasonings. Mix well until smoothly blended.

Rinse the vegetables and drain them well. Use the oil to grease your shallow baking pan for roasting the vegetables. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

Use the meat mixture to stuff the vegetables, arranging them in the prepared pan as you go. They should fit together just snugly. If using the tomatoes, set the caps back onto them once the are stuffed. Pour in enough water around the vegetables to cover the bottom of the pan by about 1/4". Cover the baking pan, with its own lid if it has one, or with aluminium foil if it doesn't.

Bake at 375°F for 45 minutes covered, then 15 minutes uncovered. Let rest for 15 minutes before serving. Drain off most of the liquid before serving - I saved the cooking liquid for soup.

Just before serving, drizzle first the yogurt sauce and then the herb oil over the vegetables. I tend to not use it all, and then pass the extra for anyone who wants to add a little more.

Last year at this time I made Snap Peas with Chive & Dill Dressing.

Friday, 20 July 2018

Apricot Panna Cotta

I love apricots, and I regret very much that they are a bit hard to find and have such a brief season.  When I get my hands on them I dry a bunch, and can some, and gorge on them fresh. And if there are still a few more, then I might make something fancy like this. Actually, this was so very, very good that I'm going to have to move it up the list.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time
3 hours to overnight to set

Apricot Panna Cotta

Cook & Purée the Apricots:

500 grams (1 generous pound; 12 medium to 18 small) fresh apricots
1 cup water
the finely grated zest of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons rum
1 teaspoon arrowroot

Wash the apricots, split them in half and remove the pit, and put the halves in a pot with the water, lemon zest, rum and arrowroot. Mix in the arrowroot to dissolve it.

Bring up to a simmer over medium-high heat. Stir frequently. When the apricots are falling apart, which should take 10 to 15 minutes, remove from the heat and let cool for just a few minutes. Run the mixture through a food processor or blender until very smoothly combined. 

Finish the Panna Cotta:
the juice of 1 small lemon (1/4 cup)
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
1 tablespoon powdered gelatine
1 cup hot apricot purée
1 1/2 cups light cream or rich yogurt, or combination

While the apricots are cooking, squeeze the lemon juice and mix in the almond extract. Sprinkle the powdered gelatine over it and let it soak.

When the apricots are puréed, measure out one cup and mix it into the lemon juice and gelatine until the gelatine is completely dissolved - this is why the apricot purée must still be hot. If it is not you should re-heat it until it is steaming hot.

Let the mixture cool for 10 or 15 minutes, then mix in the cream or yogurt. Pour the mixture into a lightly oiled mould. Refrigerate until set, probably 3 hours at least. It's best to make this a day in advance.

Unmould the panna cotta onto a serving plate. The remainder of the puréed apricots should be passed with it as a sauce. 

Last year at this time I made Devillish Egg & Broccoli Salad.

Wednesday, 18 July 2018

Spicy Ginger-Garlic Cream Sauce

I really wrestled with what to call this. It is not quite the sauce used to make Butter Chicken. I consulted various versions at length, though; and if you cooked chicken in it and called it Butter Chicken it wouldn't be the stupidest thing anyone has ever said. I was aiming for something a little more lightly spiced, but with plenty of verve, and I wanted some vegetables.

If I made this again with chicken - and I very well may - I would use boneless pieces, and mix the yogurt and sour cream into the paste the day before cooking, and let it marinate in the fridge. Then I would melt the butter and scrape the whole mess in to cook. I can see putting this on fish too, but in that case I would cook the fish separately and pour the sauce over it. 

I'm saying this serves 4, because it really should, but 3 of us fell on this like starving jackals and finished with licking the bowl.

4 servings
45 minutes prep time

Spicy Ginger-Garlic Cream Sauce on Beans & Cabbage

Make the Paste:
1 tablespoon finely grated ginger
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
3 or 4 pods of green cardamom
1 tablespoon sweet Hungarian paprika
1/4 to 3/4 teaspoon Aleppo pepper (or similar)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
a few scrapes of nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1 tablespoon chick pea flour
3 tablespoons tomato paste
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey

Peel and finely grate the ginger and garlic into a small mixing bowl. Crush the cardamom, and extract the papery hulls. Grind the remaining seed and add it to the bowl, along with the rest of the seasonings and the chick pea flour. Mix well.

Mix in the tomato paste, vinegar, and honey until smooth and well-blended.

Cook the Sauce & Vegetables:

500 grams (1 pound) vegetables of choice, about3 tablespoons unsalted butter
3/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup yogurt

Wash, trim, and chop your vegetables in advance; I used yellow beans, cabbage, and an onion. I can also see this with snap peas or cauliflower. Put a pot of water on to boil or steam them, and start them cooking at the appropriate time - it will take about 20 minutes for the sauce to cook.

Melt the butter in a large skillet, over medium-high heat. Add the prepared paste and cook, stirring frequently, for a few minutes.

Stir in the sour cream and yogurt, reduce the heat to medium, and continue cooking for about 15 minutes, stirring frequently, until smooth and thickened. Don't worry if the dairy products look a bit curdled early on; the sauce will smooth out again as it cooks. If the sauce wants to stick to the pan, reduce the heat a little more.

When the sauce is ready and the vegetables are cooked, drain the vegetables very well and toss them with the sauce. Serve at once, with rice or pasta.

Monday, 16 July 2018

Zucchini & Ricotta Phyllo Roll

Okay, here come the zucchini! They seem to be the one thing the heat doesn't slow down, as long as they are watered. 

There is, of course, a distinct resemblance to Spanakopita here. Since zucchini is less robust in flavour than spinach, I paired it with a mild cheese and kept the herbs fairly discreet. It's still a lovely summer dish, and would do well served with a pasta or potato salad.

6 to 8 servings
1 hour 15 minutes- 30 minutes prep time

Zucchini & Ricotta Phyllo Roll

450 grams (1 pound; 3 medium) zucchini
2 medium carrots
1 medium onion
3 tablespoons finely minced parsley
2 tablespoons finely minced mint
1 tablespoon finely mince dill
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

450 grams (1 pound) ricotta cheese
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 large eggs
1 tablespoon flour
225 grams (1/2 pound) frozen phyllo pastry, thawed
1/4 cup olive oil

Wash, trim, and grate the zucchini. Put them in a strainer, sprinkled generously with salt, and let them drain as you prepare the other vegetables.

Peel and grate the carrots. Peel and chop the onion. Wash, dry, and mince the herbs.

Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat, and add the carrots and onions. Rinse and squeeze the zucchini dry, and add it to the pan. Cook until wilted and somewhat reduced in volume, stirring regularly. Mix in the herbs, then turn the vegetables into a mixing bowl. Let them rest for 15 minutes or so to cool.

When they are cool enough to work with, crumble in the cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Break in the eggs, add the flour, and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 375°F

Lay one or two sheets of phyllo at a time on a large baking sheet, and brush them with olive oil, until you have a stack of about 3/4 of the phyllo in a neat rectangle. Spoon the cheese and vegetable mixture into a long mound along the middle of the phyllo, parallel to the long sides.

Brush the remaining phyllo sheets with oil, and lay them over the vegetables, aligned with the rest of the sheets of phyllo. Fold the sides in, then fold up the top and bottom long sides; they should overlap slightly. Roll the finished packet over so the seam is on the bottom.

Bake the phyllo roll for 30 minutes, until golden-brown and crisp. Let the roll rest for at least 15 or 20 minutes before serving, or serve just warm or at room temperature.

Last year at this time I made Curried Baked Chicken Thighs.

Friday, 13 July 2018

Chinese Style Chicken Salad

This was a pleasant one-dish meal for another hot, dry day. There is something just very appealing about cold noodles in a zingy sauce. I'm calling for you to poach the chicken, but this would be a great use for leftovers from a purchased rotisserie chicken, which in turn is a good way to keep the heat down in the kitchen. If you can't stand the heat in the kitchen, outsource it!

I picked about 8 little zucchinis the other day so stand by for zucchini action. Beans should be showing up soon too.

4 servings
45 minutes prep time

Chinese Style Chicken Salad

Make the Dressing:
2 teaspoons sugar
1 teaspoon 5-spice powder
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons soy sauce
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
a bit of chile-garlic sauce or other source of heat, as desired

Mix the sugar and 5-spice powder in a small bowl, then add the sesame oil and mix well to a smooth paste. Mix in the soy sauce and vinegars. Add a little chile garlic sauce or chile oil if you would like some.

Make the Salad:
450 grams (1 pound; 4 medium) chicken thighs, poached
2 cups finely shredded cabbage
1 or 2 stalks of celery, finely sliced
2 or 3 green onions
1 medium zucchini
200 grams (1/2 pound, scant) Chinese egg noodles

The chicken needs to be poached in advance; cook it in a covered pot in a small quantity of lightly-salted chicken broth or water. Ten to twelve minutes should do it; then leave it covered in the pot until it is cool enough to store. The chicken should be cold. You could also use other leftover cooked chicken, such as from a roast chicken.

Finely shred the cabbage. Wash, trim and slice the celery and green onions. Wash, trim and cut the zucchini into fairly long, thin, narrow slices (julienne). Put the zucchini in a strainer, and salt well. Leave it to drain in the sink while you cook the noodles.

Put a large pot of lightly salted water on to boil. Cook the noodles according to package instructions; it is a good idea to add an extra minute or two to the time, especially if the package is under the impression that you are going to go on to add these to soup or stir-fry them.

Pour the boiling water from the cooked noodles over the salted zucchini in the strainer, thus blanching them, and dump in the noodles on top to drain. Rinse well in cold water until cool, then drain very well. Put the zucchini and noodles into a large mixing bowl with the other prepared vegetables. (You may wish to save a bit of the green onion to sprinkle over the top.) Toss with about two-thirds of the dressing.

Shred the chicken and toss it with the remaining dressing, then mix it into the salad.

Last year at this time I made Fattoush, and Turkish Style Zucchini in Yogurt Garlic Sauce.

Wednesday, 11 July 2018

A Hot, Dry, Midsummer Garden Update

Has it only been one month since I posted a garden update? Apparently! It looks amazingly different. It always does, between early June and early July. It looks pretty good from a distance, and lots of things are doing well. As usual, there are problems too, not least that our total rainfall since then has been 20mm (1"), all of it in one day. Let's take a closer look.

This ought to be an excellent year for watermelons. Somehow, it is not. Mostly because I just could not get the little buggers to germinate in any reasonable quantity. I tried direct planting, and I tried starting them in damp coffee filters in little plastic bags, and between the 2 techniques we ended up with a barely adequate number of plants. Then they struggled to get started in the drought. At last I am starting to see some flowers, but this is not going to be the bumper watermelon year I was hoping for.

Next to them, the herb bed has had a complete melt-down and is an unspeakable weedy mess. I am presently working on it, but it is bad enough that it will take a few days to clean up. It is so dense and so dry it is extremely tedious work. 

Zucchini went in late, but have roared into production. If we can keep them watered, we should be eating ridiculous amounts of zucchini. Cucumber have yet to start but are flowering, and otherwise look good. Melons seem to be doing well.

 It would be impossible to keep things watered without this soaker hose. Mr. Ferdzy or I move it every half hour for several hours each morning and evening, and we seem to be keeping up adequately. The lettuce is long over though, and whatever is left will just go to seed.

Speaking of seeds, the hardy leeks we saved to go to seed are starting to bloom. I am a little surprised to see some signs of Inegol lineage in their characteristics; I had thought they were mostly Verdonnet crossed with Bandit. But apparently not. At any rate I am looking forward to growing them out next spring.

Behind them, the tomatoes look good. I'm starting to think, though, that we will get 2 distinct waves of tomatoes. There are quite a few forming, which look like being our earliest tomatoes ever. But then it looks like there is a gap, and I suspect that very few tomatoes were set at the peak of the heat and drought. Hopefully that will change and some more tomatoes will form now that we are at least having some cooler days interspersed with the really hot ones. 

Peppers and eggplants look good as plants, but again there is very little sign of any fruit being set. They have been flowering a bit more determinedly this week, so hopefully soon. You can see the other watermelons next to them, looking quite sparse. Behind them the squash plan for world domination. Well, looks like they will at least be able to achieve bed domination. 

To the right, potatoes grown from seed this year are almost as big as the potatoes grown from potatoes grown from seed the year before. Behind them, the onions are finely looking adequate, and some are even forming bulbs. On the left, we finally gave in replanted the carrots, which came up promptly and in large quantities. Why does the first planting of carrots never take well? I don't understand it at all. 

You may have noticed a certain amount of mulch in the preceeding pictures. We asked our lawn mower if he could hook us up with some woodchips for mulch, and he called a guy he knows who cuts trees. We got one load delivered. A week after that some dude turned up at the door asking if we wanted to have our driveway paved, on the spot, for $8000. We looked at each other (and another driveway they were doing up the road) and decided we did. So they hauled the mulch off, paved, and hauled the mulch back on. For better or for worse, our drive is paved and I hope never to have to think about it again.

Then the tree-cutting company showed up again, in the middle of our one and only pouring rain, and delivered ANOTHER load of mulch. When I went running out to ask about it, they said "we were told you would take all the mulch you could use." I said, "This IS all the mulch we can use." Well, they didn't charge us any more for the second load of mulch. And guess what Mr. Ferdzy is doing for the rest of the summer. Still, it really helps keep the moisture in place so we are piling it on and very glad to have it.

Cauliflowers look fabulous. Pusa Meghna  has already formed itty-bitty cauliflowers which went to seed and are now ripening. We planted some more in the hopes they will be more in line with other varieties. Goodman is now the next one to be forming some heads. I hope others will do so soon. Behind them, the broccoli is struggling a bit. In the next bed, cabbage and Swiss chard are doing okay, celeriac is okay, and the leeks have just been transplanted for the final time. The can barely be seen in this picture, but they are doing okay. They will need a lot of watering in the next week though. In the third bed, Brussels sprouts are looking good.

One month ago these beans were about 6" tall and untrellised. Now they are reaching for the top, or even coming back down. All them are at least in bud, and some have started to form small beans. We should be picking our first beans within a week, I would say. This is a mixture of tried and true varieties, and some experimental crosses that I am quite excited about.

I haven't said too much about the peas. They are definitely somewhere between slowing down and over. We have gotten a decent crop, but the heat and drought has kept them from being a really good crop.

We are also having a lot of trouble with rabbits eating the garden; peas, beet tops, chick peas, and sweet potato tops are their favourites. They were eating the lettuce but gave up on it about the same time I did. This should be a fabulous year for sweet potatoes, but the tops keep getting munched to the ground so maybe not. Peanuts are flowering - I can see it clearly because all the top leaves have been eaten - so I hope we will have enough for seed, at least. Chick peas I think have been eaten to death, which is too bad as that was 3 years of selection.

All in all, it's an average year in that some things are doing well, and some things are not. On the other hand, it's a strange and difficult year in how very hot and dry it is. I drive around and see how bad the corn and soybeans look; you can expect that to show up at some point as higher meat prices I expect.

How are all you doing out there? Are you dry-dry-dry or are you getting a bit of rain?

Monday, 9 July 2018

Garlic-Dill Cabbage with Peas & Sour Cream

Apart from a bit of extra chopping and mincing, this is not really any more difficult or time consuming than serving a simple boiled vegetable. It seems so much fancier, though! The rest of the meal can be pretty straightforward - some grilled or broiled fish or chicken; some rice or noodles. Potatoes would be lovely but we are still waiting for the first of them to show up. Very soon, I hope!

Stored cabbage with frozen peas are a favourite combination in the winter; they go together even better when both are fresh and summery.

4 servings
20 minutes prep time

Garlic-Dill Cabbage with Peas & Sour Cream

1/4 cup minced garlic scapes
1 cup shelled peas
3 cups finely chopped cabbage
2 teaspoons minced fresh dill
1/4 to 1/3 cup sour cream
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste

Wash and trim the tops and tough lower stems from the garlic scapes; mince the remainder fine. You will likely need 4 to 8, depending on size. Shell the peas. Wash and chop the cabbage.

Bring about 2 cups of water to a boil in a pot. Add the garlic scapes and cabbage and boil for 2 to 4 minutes, then add the peas and boil for a further 2 to 3 minutes. While they cook, mince the dill.

Drain the vegetables very well - press them gently to ensure they are as dry as possible. Return them to the pot, and stir in the dill. Add the sour cream, and season with salt and pepper. Mix well and transfer to a serving dish.

Last year at this time I made Strawberry Upside Down Cake - so popular it has been made a number of times since.

Friday, 6 July 2018

Cheesy Pea & Pasta Salad

I have to say right up front that this isn't the best pea and pasta salad ever; that would be this one, because everything is better with bacon. However, you can't have bacon with everything, so I will grudgingly admit that this one is pretty good too. It's still quite rich, lack of bacon not withstanding. I see it more as a salad that will do well as part of a menu consisting of a medley of assorted salads, rather than a meal in itself.

I am amazed we have gotten any peas at all, given how hot and dry it has been. We are currently aiming to get up at 6:00am and out, and back in from working in the garden not much later than 10:00am. Anything else rapidly becomes unbearable.

4 to 6 servings
30 minutes prep time

Cheesy Pea & Pasta Salad

Make the Dressing:
150 grams goat cheese (chevre)
the juice of 1/2 lemon
1/4 cup mayonnaise (light is fine)
1/4 teaspoon salt
freshly ground black pepper to taste
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh chives
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh dill

Cream the cheese with the lemon juice, then mix in the mayonnaise. Season with the salt and pepper.

Wash, dry, and finely mince all the herbs. Mix them into the dressing. 

Make the Salad:
150 grams (6 ounces) conchigliette, orzo, or similar pasta
2 cups shelled peas
1 stalk celery

Put a pot of salted water on to boil for the pasta and peas. Cook the pasta for the time listed on the package, plus 1 minutes. Add the peas when there is 3 to 5 minutes left for it to cook. Rinse in cold water and drain them very well.

Wash, trim, and finely chop the celery.

Mix the celery with the pasta and peas, then gently mix in the dressing until evenly distributed. 

Last year at this time I cooked a beef tongue and made Tongue Tacos.

Wednesday, 4 July 2018

See Three Peas, Oh

The last few years, Mr. Ferdzy has gotten mildly annoyed at my propensity to want to try new peas every year. They take up room, they may or may not be productive, they are something else to store and keep track of. So I was prepared to not try any new peas this year.

When we were ordering seeds though, he said "let's pick out 3 new peas to try" and I just exercised the smart spouse's ability to keep their tongue under control; I said "sure" and left it to him to pick some. So! Here we are with some new peas and I have not even had to listen to any grumbling. But the peas - how are they doing?

All these peas came from Prairie Garden, which is where we get our favourite Knight peas from.  I never updated that post! Knight peas do very well for a fast early crop that gets something else planted after it, quite possibly an early dry bean. In spite of selecting varieties from the earliest peas, we did not expect any of these others to be as fast, and we have not been disappointed. Only one of them might do for that technique.

Below, Hatif d'Annonay in the front are just about done, while the Early Onward behind them are just getting started (and flopping all over the path). Behind them, in the next bed in the upper right, you can see the last of the Strike peas, which have distinctive, blue-tinted foliage. 

Hatif d'Annonay and Early Onward Peas in the garden

Hatif d'Annonay is the one that might do for succession planting. The plants were impressively loaded with pods, and they are early enough that we could probably use them in the same way as Strike and Knight. On the other hand, both plants and peas seem a bit pale and insubstantial. The pods are small, and don't contain high numbers of peas. Descriptions say 6 to 8 peas; 6 seems much more typical - at best. I'd say their days to maturity was about 65, which is pushing it - 60 is the number we are aiming for if we are following them with beans. It's close though. There are lots of other things that could be planted after them.

Mr. Ferdzy placed a spine of tomato cages down the centre of the pea beds, and they seem to have been helpful in keeping things upright. The Hatif d'Annonay have flopped badly though, and they look like dying down quite quickly. The dying down would be fine, if they are to be pulled and replaced; the flopping is a bit annoying.

Hatif d'Annonay Peas

Given their die-away looks and small pods and peas, I was a bit surprised to realize that they are on track to produce a noticeable amount more peas per square foot than the Strike. I may have planted them more densely, though, and the Strike definitely had some problems with germination so they are not as densely planted as usual. The Hatif d'Annonay are tender and tasty, but care must be taken to not let them get overripe as they will get starchy fast. It's possible their pale and floppy qualities have somewhat to do with how very hot and dry it has been this summer. They might look better in a more pea-friendly year.

They are said to be very cold-hardy - one source said down to -18°C - and I understand that in France they are planted to essentially overwinter, producing peas up to a month earlier than spring-planted peas. The dry (seed) peas are round and yellow, as is common in cold-hardy peas; these contain less sugars than wrinkled green (when dry) peas, which is why you must be so careful not to let them go too long. Even when picked at their peak though, I don't think they are quite the equal in flavour of the other 2 new peas this year.

Early Onward Peas

Early Onward is an oldish English pea, not nearly as early as you would suppose from the name. Most sellers say they reach 2 feet in height, but ours are much taller. Mind you, we planted them around some parsnips left to go to seed so they are competing for space (water, light, etc). I did find a few people saying up to 5 feet in height, so maybe most people are just wrong... it happens! Also, sellers tend to give you the height at which peas start producing but they often go on for a fair bit beyond that. Ours have toppled the tomato cage put in the middle of them to keep them upright, and they are only just starting to have a few ripe peas, while the Hatif d'Annonay are essentially over. So, 70 to 75 days to maturity would be my estimate. Definitely a "second early" rather than an early pea, and I think they may produce for a while which would be one of the reasons they are popular with home gardeners elsewhere.

A few sellers have mentioned that they are good for eating the fresh tips as greens. I have not tried them, but since I have an outbreak of trying to grow peas for "dau miu" (pea greens) every few years, I may save a few seeds to test them out at some point. I would say, from the few I have eaten so far, that these are the best-tasting of the 3 new peas this year. In spite of the heat, they are rich, sweet, and tender. I do wonder if we are getting some poor setting due to the heat and drought.

I can't find much about their history; the date 1908 gets mentioned, and an origin in East Anglia. Beyond that, everyone simply mentions their extreme popularity. And yet, they are very hard to find here in Canada and the only company carrying them at the moment seems to be Prairie Garden.  Again, they are described as having 6 to 8 peas per pod and this year I'd say the figure of 6 is more accurate.

Aristagreen peas

Aristagreen: about the only reference I can find for these says: "Breeder: WECO. Vendor: Ellis. Characteristics: extensive root system under wide range of soil conditions, same maturity as Dark Skin Perfection, very concentrated pod set normally three, three-four, three and three. Resistance: fusarium wilt race 5; tolerance to fusarium wilt race 6. Similar: DST Maturity. 1983." So there you have it. I don't see them being sold anywhere but by Prairie Garden.

These are nice, but perhaps not quite as tasty as the Early Onward.  The peas are a little smaller and more tightly packed, but volume produced seems pretty similar.

Aristagreen peas concentrated at the top of the plant

What the description above means when it say "very concentrated pod set" is that all pods are produced at the top of the plant. I was enticed by the description at Prairie Garden, which says "Most pea varieties are double-podded, i.e. having two pods growing at each node, but this is one of three of our triple- (and occasionally quadruple-) podded cultivars (number of pods growing at each node)." 

True, but the number of nodes at which peas are produced seems smaller than with other, double-podded varieties. Overall, the amount of peas produced per plant is about on a par with most other varieties. 

These also grew quite tall before they started to produce peas; they are probably 4-footers. I suspect they will also turn out to be quite determinate. If properly trellised, that would make them very good for processing (freezing) and pulling. Unfortunately we really don't want to go to the work of trellising our processing peas, and they are just not quick enough for our 2-crop plan, at a good solid 75 days to maturity. Unless these surprise us and produce a fair bit more than I think they are going to, they are probably out of the picture for future growing.

Monday, 2 July 2018

Stir-Fried Zucchini

First zucchini of the season! Purchased, alas - our zucchini went in kind of late. We're seeing signs of some forming, though, which is exciting. This heat is good for something. Oddly enough, our first zucchini look like being yellow ones too.

This was quick, simple, and tasty; words I always like to hear. Best served with some rice or noodles. We ate it with some broiled fish and noodles; any simple protein will do.

2 to 4 servings

Stir-Fried Zucchini

Make the Sauce:
1 to 2 tablespoons hoisin sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
chile-garlic sauce OR dry chile flakes to taste

Mix it all in a small bowl and set aside.

Cook the Zucchini:
1 small onion, with greens if possible
2 medium (500 g, 1 pound) zucchini
1 clove of garlic
1 tablespoon mild vegetable oil

Peel the onion and cut it in half, then into slivers. Chop the greens and set aside by themselves, if you have them. Wash and trim the zucchini, and slice them into large bite-sized pieces. Peel and mince the garlic.

Heat the oil in a large skillet, and when it is very hot add the zucchini and onion. Cook stirring frequently, for 4 to 7 minutes, until the zucchini is browning and is nearly cooked to your liking.

Add the garlic and onion greens if possible, and stir them in well; continue cooking for another minute until the garlic is nicely fragrant. Scrape in the sauce, and mix in well. Continue cooking and stirring until the vegetables are well-coated in the sauce and it has been absorbed or clings to the vegetables; just another minute or so. Turn out onto a serving dish and serve at once.

Last year at this time I made Haskap Frozen Yogurt.