Monday, June 29, 2009

Our little corner of Eden

It's time for a garden update.
Ours is small, about 10 x 25', and fenced. Though the fence is there purely for groundhog discouragement, it also serves its purpose as a Pete Containment Apparatus. Once the plants are past catfoot-squashable stage, when I go to the garden, Pete goes, too.
You will never meet a happier cat than Pete when he's in the garden. It's Pete who stampedes to our back door every morning and campaigns piteously to be let outside, Pete whose favorite food is fresh grass. It's Pete who's fallen off our second-floor porch not once, not twice, but three times (last to the tune of a $350 vet bill, good kitty). Yes, he is an indoor cat with the soul of a wild beasty. His garden time is blissful and fleeting.

There are birds to be watched, and bugs to be eaten. Huge zucchini leaves to hide under, and dirt to roll in. While I weed, he thoughtfully snacks on the grass around the edge, keeping it mowed.
Yesterday, I gave myself over to hedonistic urges and thought like a cat. I laid in the grass. I listened to birds and happy shouting children. For a meditative ten minutes, I watched clouds. I saw a ladybug larva in the parsley, systematically eating one aphid after another as it moved up the stalk. It's summer. Why not laze about in the grass and watch bugs? In good weather, there's no better place to be than in the garden, with Pete.
Despite all the rain, the garden is right on track. We should have zucchini within a week or ten days, and green beans not too far beyond that. Our broccoli is sending off side shoots, our tomatoes are loaded with fat green orbs. Mostly, late June is a time of great anticipation for the bounty of high summer.

Bring it on.

Friday, June 26, 2009

Lilies in the rain

Happy Friday.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Strawberry fields forever...

I was listening to an oldies station as I nosed my car up into the rolling hills above Binghamton, humming and not really paying much attention to the music, until, yup, just as I was careening over the grassy bumps towards a parking spot, those fabulous Beatles started crooning this song. I popped the car into park and laughed. How can you ignore timing as perfect as that?

It was 8:30 in the morning. This was the scene:

Damn son. Berry pickers are some early risin' folks. It seemed like the strawberries took forever to ripen this year. I suppose weeks of dull gray rain will do that. Now that they're finally here, the jammers aren't wasting any time. Myself included.

(And no, I didn't stop here. I didn't stop until I had a full bucket, which came to twelve pounds. Anyone want free berries, swing by my house.)
Once home, I surveyed the scene. I had jars:

(Boy howdy, I had jars.)
I had my canning kitchen-partner-in-crime:
And pretty soon, I had this on the stove:

Which led to this on the windowsill:

And I am one happy woman.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Homemade calzones

I'd never made calzones before last night. It was Patrick's idea. Faced with half a container of leftover ricotta cheese, I turned to him for inspiration. Calzones. Brilliant.

And guess what? They're a piece of cake. Start with some pizza dough, stuff in some cheese and veggies, bake on a cookie sheet. Pour some tomato sauce on top, dinner. Cool.

Broccoli-Cheese Calzones


1 cup water
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cups flour (I used 1/2 whole wheat)
1 tbsp yeast

Put ingredients into your bread machine, set it to dough, and walk away. Or, mix and knead by hand to make your dough, and let it rise one hour.

Once the dough has risen, punch it down and divide it into four more-or-less-equal pieces. Flatten each piece into a round, and let it rest for ten minutes. After resting, stretch each piece of dough into a roughly pizza-crust shape, about 6-8 inches across. You can use a rolling pin, or toss your dough in the air while singing Dean Martin. When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore...

A word of caution: do not let your dough get too thin, or one of your calzones may spontaneously vomit its contents all over the bottom of your oven. I speak from experience. You are forewarned.

Anyway, that's the dough part.


4 cups broccoli florets
1 cup pesto of your choice
1 cup ricotta cheese
1 cup grated mozzarella

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Put your broccoli in a microwave-safe bowl, and pour in about an inch of water. Microwave on high for two minutes, or until broccoli is steamy and bright green. Discard the water. Add the pesto. Mix well, and spoon 1/4 of the broccoli mixture on one side of each of the four dough rounds. Top with ricotta and mozzarella. Fold the dough over the filling, and press it down on the other side. A little bit of water helps it to stick.

Place your calzones on an oiled baking sheet, and slide 'em into the oven for about fifteen minutes. After fifteen minutes, carefully slide them off of the baking sheet and onto the oven racks, as close to the bottom of your oven as you can get. This helps make the bottom crispy. Bake another ten minutes.

Remove from oven, and eat, topped with sauce of your choice.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The Great Scape

There's no getting around it: garlic scapes are weird. I mean, look at them. They shoot up like arrows from the heart of the plant, straightforward enough, and then turn head-over-heels in midair, hanging there like a freeze-framed gymnast. Or a misguided rocket. There's something sort of prehistoric about them too. And, forgive me, but has anyone seen Tremors? Don't these guys oh-so-slightly remind you of the littler evil-looking snake heads that shot out of the monster's gaping maw? Anyone? Okay.

Scapes. I don't know why we call them that. They're nothing fancier than unopened garlic flowers, which admittedly doesn't sound very appetizing. Somewhere along the line a sort of Garlic PR person must've decided they'd catch on better if we called them scapes. I don't mind-- it does lead to some excellent puns.

Anyway. This story begins last weekend, when Patrick and I attended a barbecue under an enormous blue tarp. Through the sheets of rain pouring down, I beheld a mason jar sitting on the food table, holding mysterious contents. Pickled garlic scapes. I was trepedatious. I feared a pickled garlic scape just might be pungent and fiery enough to burn a hole in my tongue.

I need not have worried. They were about as potent as your average dill pickles, and, when washed down with ample beer, quite good. At one point, Patrick, myself and three other friends stood in a circle passing the jar around, taking turns extracting the long green garlicky straws within. Furtively passing a jar around and giggling, it might as well have been moonshine.

As I said, addictive. Last night after work, I picked a bundle and, using a recipe for Dilly Beans, did my first canning of the season.
And oh, it felt good.

And tomorrow, I make jam!

Find more information on garlic scapes, including how to grow them.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Slow Sunday supper

This is June: fresh greens from the garden, rhubarb soda, and a simple Sunday night dinner on the porch. After two weeks of (nearly) constant rain, it was heavenly to sit and watch the clouds gently clearing themselves away from the sky, whisp by blue-gray wisp. As we sat and reflected on our weekends, thinking and planning and scheming the week to come, a bright ray of sun found its way to the tree at the end of our street. As anyone who's ever suffered through weeks of gloomy weather knows, when you see sunlight again, it's pure magic. Without speaking, I noticed that Patrick and I were wearing the same exact giddy grins. Welcome back, sunshine!

I'm thinking I'd like to do more of this over the summer: simple, slowed-down times to reflect and recharge, and together times to speak quietly of things to come. As Pearle reminds me nearly every day as I leave her house to head home for the day, "Enjoy this time. This is the best time." When a (nearly) ninety-year-old woman imparts wisdom, you listen. And she's right: this is a very good season of life to be living, best enjoyed on a big airy porch with my husband.

This marinated chickpea salad is fast becoming one of our spring/summer staples. It's as easy as opening a couple of cans and sauteeing some onions. Enjoy!

Chickpea Salad with Artichoke hearts and Sundried Tomatoes adapted from The Voluptuous Vegan

1 tbsp olive oil
a sprinkle of dried rosemary
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2 cup sundried tomatoes
2 stalks celery, sliced
1 15-oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 12-oz jar marinated artichoke hearts
a splash of your favorite vinaigrette-- something lemony is especially nice
greens for serving (optional)

First, warm the oil in a skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle in the rosemary. Add the onion abd sundried tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onions are golden-brown and softened, about 5 minutes. Add the celery, and cook one more minute. Turn off the heat and add the remaining ingredients to the pan. It's ready to serve as is (slightly warm), or it can be chilled for a few hours to let the flavors meld.

Toss with a little vinaigrette and serve over greens.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Marking time

Ahhh, dinner with friends. Goofy smiles, good-natured jabs, lots of catching up... hungry hands darting into the fry basket and back again. Good times.
We converged for a pretty bittersweet occasion-- the closing of our favorite cafe in Ithaca-- but tried not to let that darken our mood. Mostly, it was an important time for the three of us gals to get together and eat, laugh, and plan fun times for the summer ahead.

For the first time in our lives, we all had significant others to bring to the table.
(I'm assuming no one's going to be offended by Patrick's completely goofy and good-natured middle finger here. I give him the stink-eye, but it doesn't seem to help.)

We're all in love! I spent a lot of time the other night just sitting and enjoying that simple fact. Conversation, great food (the best), marking the end of an era. And the beginning of a new one, in Ithaca, and for our lives.

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