Thursday, May 31, 2012

Garden, End of May

Everything is planted.

Tiny seeds are becoming green things poking out of the dirt.  Herbs are flourishing.  The early perennial flowers are blooming.  We've had tons of rain and the green-y-ness factor is running high around here.

Just look at those bright peonies!  I have a jar of them on my table surrounded by green and white hosta leaves.

A part of my herb garden.  The perennial herbs are flourishing and I'm using the in lots of cooking.  Annuals planted are 6 basil, 4 parsley, 1 rosemary, 1 pot of mint, and a mess of nasturtium seeds.

Just to fly in the face of conventional gardening wisdom, I don't get nearly enough sun, but somehow I manage to get a bumper crop of herbs every year.

Morning view of tomato plants.  We put 16 of them in on Sunday, and then Sunday night a whopper severe thunderstorm came flying in.  Sirens, wall clouds, all the good stuff.  The tv said there was potential for 2 inch  hail and I thought of my tomato plants.  My teenage son wisely said "better now than in August when they are loaded with tomatoes."  Exactly.  Thankfully, our hail was only pea-sized and the garden did fine.  Buckets of rain, but that's not the end of the world.

Hello bush beans.  Lots and lots of them.  Rows and rows.

The final tally for veggies is carrots, radishes, zucchini, tomatoes, bush beans, cucumbers, lettuce and a whole bunch of zinnias.  Now we trust that the sun and the rain and the soil and the heat do their job to provide us with a summer and fall of yummy fresh goodness.

How's your garden coming along?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Fairy Garden

This is my 9 year old daughter Elsa.

With her fairy garden, under a bush, at the edge of my perennial flower garden.

We've read books, visited shops, taken pictures, gathered ideas, and planned out just the perfect fairy garden for us.

If you don't have fairies that visit your garden, I am very sorry for you.  They usually come without invitation or a space to rest, but you have to want them to come.  And you have to believe.  We believe here.

What you see above is 3 flower pots, dug into the ground, and one flower pot saucer.  Eric helped a bit with design and execution, Elsa and I gathered materials and ideas.  Sally hovered, but isn't quite as into fairies as her big sister.  Wesley is threatening to add toy soldiers and storm the castle.

Here's the parts:

This is the bedroom and bathroom.  Succulent plants from the garden store, shells from Florida, bark from our trees, moss from our woods, rocks from an obliging neighbor, a few beads, and some fairy dust on the roof top.  Just as a welcome beacon.  The big shell is a tub, the bark structure houses the bed and dressing area.

This is the dining room.  Table, 3 chairs, plant and a gold bead for decoration.  Eric sawed the wood into nice shapes.

This is the beginning of the vegetable garden.  That's a tiny thyme plant.  We'll put in a few lettuce seeds.  Those are dolphins, in case you wondered.

There's a tower from an old wooden princess castle.  A tiny balcony around the back is the perfect place for a fairy to wait for a suitor, someone to recite poetry or play the lute.  There's some coral from Florida, a few more plants, and a little bench.

And below is the whole set-up.  We plan a series of suspension bridges to connect it all (twine and twigs) and no doubt there will be little flowers and gifts left from time to time.  We hope the weather doesn't wreak havoc much, and we know that both the fairies and the lovers thereof will straighten and repair and decorate as needed.  If you have a little girl, or are a little girl at heart, you will be delighted to have something like this in your garden.  And watch at night!  There are lights and sounds and flutterings that mean fairies are afoot!

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Oven-Roasted Potato Salad with Herb Dressing

I strenuously dislike yellow-mustard-mayo-potato-salad.  The kind from the deli, mostly, but even the home made varieties are usually not my favorite.

But my cook's heart just knew there was a way to make potato salad taste great, have the potatoes hold their shape nicely, with a dressing that is nicely tangy and herby and lighter than the usual routine.

Good ideas come when driving in the car.  Oven roasting the potatoes first was a revelation.  I might have seen sunbeams from heaven and heard angels sing.

Golden Roasted Potato Goodness!

My herb garden is full of green things already.  This was helpful.  I saved a huge, thick slice of good bacon from breakfast this morning, also helpful.  I had a 5 pound bag of Yukon Gold potatoes that needed a purpose in life.  Hello, salad!

Here it is.  It makes a HUGE amount, so plan accordingly.  It tasted good when the potatoes were still a bit warm, better when it was slightly chilled, and I'm pretty excited about serving it tomorrow night for company, too.  Great summer picnic food!

Oven Roasted Potato Salad with Herb Dressing

1 - 5 pound bag Yukon Gold (or red) potatoes, skin on, washed and cubed
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
salt and pepper
handful of fresh lemon balm, chopped
1 sprig fresh rosemary, chopped
several garlic or regular chives, chopped
1 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
3/4 cup mayonnaise
large pinch of sugar
1 or 2 slices bacon, cooked, diced
more salt and pepper to taste

On 2 baking sheets, toss the potatoes with the 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a generous sprinkling of salt and pepper.  Roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes.  You can turn them if you like or remember, but I didn't.  Cool to room temp.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the herbs, mustard, lemon juice, vinegar, olive oil, mayo, sugar, a pinch of salt and pepper, and bacon.  Let sit for at least 30 minutes while the potatoes roast and cool.

When the potatoes are barely warm or room temperature, toss gently with the dressing.  Refrigerate for about 30 minutes before serving, toss again, and taste for seasoning.

Monday, May 7, 2012

Frijoles Borrachos (Drunk Beans)

My best friend Katie introduced me to these luscious beans years ago, at her dad's Mexican restaurant.

There's no reason why beans can't get drunk on Cinco de Mayo, or any other holiday or meal for that matter.

You'll need to plan ahead a day, as the beans need to be soaked overnight.  Eight hours minimum.  Throw a splash of vinegar in the soaking water - helps the sprouting process and that whole unpleasant <ahem> issue.

All the best parts of cooking are here - smoky bacon, sweet rich dark beer, spices like chipotle and cumin, and my favorite bean, the humble pinto.

These would be perfect at a summer barbecue or picnic, great with burgers or brats, and of course anything Mexican like fajitas or tacos.

Frijoles Borrachos

2 cups dried pinto beans, soaked in plenty of water for at least 8 hours
4 ounces bacon, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
4 cups water
one 12 ounce dark Mexican beer, such as Negra Modelo
2 teaspoons dried oregano
2 teaspoons dried cumin
one whole dried chipotle
freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
large pinch sugar

Drain the beans.  In a large kettle or pot, cook the bacon, onion and garlic until they start to soften.  Add the cumin and oregano.  Pour in the beer, then add the water and the beans, and the chipotle and black pepper. Bring to a boil and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender, about 1 1/2 - 2 hours.  Stir every so often, and you may have to add more water if it is getting dry.  The final consistency should be barely soupy.  When the beans are tender (VERY IMPORTANT) then you can add the salt.  If you add it sooner, they'll get hard.  Also add a pinch of sugar.  Stir, taste, and enjoy!

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Coconut-Curry Chicken and Cilantro-Lime Rice

I had a sorta-kinda blogged recipe of this under another title, but I keep changing the recipe, so I needed a do-over.  I wonder how many hyphens I can use in the title and body of this post?

Hopefully you can find a Thai Green Curry blend in your grocery store.  Or maybe an Asian grocery?  Or on-line?  Oh, look!  There's a hyphen.

Coconut-Curry Chicken

8 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 - 14 or 15 ounce can of coconut milk (NOT light)
3 or 4 tablespoons Thai green curry blend
fresh cilantro and lime wedges for garnish

In a 9x13 glass baking dish, place the chicken, sprinkle half of the curry blend, then pour the coconut milk over, and sprinkle the rest of the curry blend.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes.  Garnish with cilantro and lime wedges, serve with Cilantro-Lime Rice.

Cilantro-Lime Rice

2 cups white rice
4 cups water
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon butter
2 garlic cloves, chopped
zest from one lime
big pinch of chile flakes
small handful of cilantro stems, chopped
juice from one lime
large handful cilantro leaves, chopped

In a large pot, place the rice, water, salt, butter, garlic, lime zest, chile flakes, and cilantro stems.  Bring to a boil, cover, lower temperature, cover and simmer until rice is tender and water is absorbed.  Remove from heat, add lime juice and chopped cilantro.  Toss gently and taste to see if it needs  more salt.