Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Winter prep

This Saturday was a beautiful sunny day, though below freezing. The weather called for a snow storm that night. So, Rick and I finally did the last clean up in the yard before everything got coated in white. The leaves this year had stuck on the trees very late, so there were still a lot of them to rake up and compost. I cut the raspberry canes down to a foot height. I'm always nervous about doing this as it seems extreme, but whenever I look it up I am assured that this is the right thing to do. And besides, I know from experiences, it's pretty much impossible to kill a raspberry patch. Try as you might to the contrary, they will always grow back.
Finally, I decided to trim all the collards since they were flopping over and were partially frozen. There were at least 8 full sized plants - that's a lot of collards. So I cut the stalks and discarded the tough and discoloured leaves. Then carried arm-loads of collards up to the kitchen. I cut each leaf off the stem, filling the sink and two soup pots up with the leaves! After washing each leaf, I cut out the stems. Then I divided the lot into thirds, two thirds to be blanched and frozen and one third I made into Collard pesto, which I adapted from a recipe I got off the internet that was surprisingly good.

Freezing Collards (or any other greens)
Blanching method
-Cut out stems and trim off any discoloured or whithered bits
-Boil a large pot of salted water
-Have a pot of ice-cold water ready on the counter
-In small batches, bath the collards in the boiling water for about 1-2 minutes (the tougher the greens, the longer they should be blanched), they should turn a vivid green
-Scoop out the greens and immediately dunk into the ice water to stop them cooking
-Drain and let drip dry in a colander
-Chop into bit-sized pieces and pack into freezer bags in appropriate serving sizes.
-Put in freezer

I'm looking forward to using them in soups, stews, stir-fries or just as steamed greens on those days cold winter days when I am in need of some GREEN. Collards are extremely healthy being high in Vitamin A, iron and calcium.

Collard Pesto
-10 black olives (without pits)
-2-6 cloves of garlic (depending on how much your household loves garlic)
-olive oil
-chili pepper
-Parmesan cheese
-10 almonds or pine nuts
-salt and pepper

Boil the de-stemmed collards in a big pot of salt water for about 8 minutes. Drain and let cool for a few minutes.
Meanwhile, in a blender, grind the olives, garlic and almonds until almost a coarse paste. Add the collards and chili pepper. Blend until smooth, adding olive oil to taste and to get the right consistency. Grate in good quality parmesan cheese and add the salt and pepper.

This creates an amazingly emerald coloured pesto, a much brighter green than the traditional basil. Works just as well on pasta or bread as the regular stuff.

Friday, September 28, 2007

No more garden but still good food

We're in Berlin right now so we're missing out on the final harvest of the garden. However, we are still enjoying cooking here, though our the kitchen of our sublet is rather tiny. There really is only room for one to be working at a time, the other has to sit at the table or stay clear of the kuche altogether. Yesterday, we bought some popular local mushroom called pfefferlings. They resemble oyster mushrooms is shape but are a mustardy-yellow colour and are smaller. I combined the pfefferlings and some shitake mushrooms into a beautifully simply soup for lunch yesterday. Just the thing for a raining day. (It was actually the first lousy weather we've had since being here. It's been remarkably sunny and warm).


-3 medium kartoffel, chopped
-1 zweibel, chopped
- 2 cups of wasser
-1 cup of pfefferlings and shitakes, chopped finely
-1 tbsp butter
-2 knaublauch
-fresh basillica
-salz und pfeffer
-1 cup of milch

Put the kartoffel and zweibel into a pot with wasser. Bring to a boil, reduce and let simmer for 1/2 hour. Once the kartoffel is soft, mash them up a bit so that the stock is thick. In a separate skillet briefly sauté the mushrooms in butter and garlic. Add them to the soup. Simmer for a few minutes. Add the basillica, salz und pfeffer. Reduce heat to minimum. Add the milch.

Serve with good german brot und kaiser.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Soup for a tight budget

One of my favourite recipes when there's not a lot in the cupboard or in my wallet is Lentil Soup with Couscous and Kale. I invented it one cold night when we had some left-over couscous and not much else in the house. I always love to make soups and this is one of my best. It's satisfying, healthy, colourful, easy and above all dirt cheap. Lentils are the perfect budget food since they very inexpensive when you buy them dry, which is actually the best way to buy them anyway. Canned lentils aren't very good. Plus unlike dried beans, they don't have to be soaked overnight and cook up quickly so you don't even have to be good at planning dinners ahead. This recipe has come in handy numerous times when we've been tight for cash, which sadly happens more often than not as a couple of artists. But you never feel poor when you've got this in your belly.

I made this last week because we have a lot of kale on our hands from the garden and we're saving up for a trip to Berlin, so I'm trying to be ever so frugal.

Lentil Soup with Couscous and Kale

the soup:
- one onion
- several garlic cloves depending on how much you love garlic and how fresh it is
- a red or green pepper (optional, raises the price)
- a carrot or two
- a medium fresh tomato or about 1/3 cup of canned or strained tomatoes
-1/2 tsp coriander seeds
-1/2 tsp onion seeds or mustard seeds (optional, not everyone likes these)
-1/4 tsp cumin seeds
-1 tsp curry powder
-1/4 tsp garam masala
-small hot pepper
-1 tbsp cooking oil
-1 cup orange lentils (the really little ones)
- 2-3 cups of water or stock
-Salt and pepper to taste

-steamed kale
-cooked couscous

Toast the seeds in hot oil, add onion and simmer until the onion softens. Add chopped peppers and carrots. Add the chopped tomato and the curry powder and garam masala, finely diced hot pepper and garlic to make a rue of spices. This should not be an overpoweringly hot soup, just a little piquant, so be cautious with quantities of spices. Wash lentils then add to pot, stir for a minute then add the water or stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat to simmer for 15-20minutes.

Meanwhile, if you don't have already cooked kale and couscous, you can now prepare these.
Serve in a large bowl, pouring soup in first, then spoonfuls of the couscous on top like a crouton in french onion soup and the bright green kale over-top of that.

A Veggie Feast

I'm getting very behind with posting because I'm getting so busy at work and getting ready to go to Berlin in September and October. As a result of our trip, we won't be able to do a fall harvest in the garden. But things have been very dry and a lot of plants have withered so there may not be much to harvest come October anyway.
In effect, we had our harvest feast early. Last weekend I picked the few decent beets and carrots, the last of the green beans and a few of the heritage tomatoes. Since the beets were very small, it didn't make sense to boil them. Instead I shredded the beets and carrots into a small salad dressed with sesame seeds, lemon and a little olive oil.
The tomatoes just got the basil and salt and pepper treatment, while the beans and beet greens were steamed. Rick did a masterful job of transforming left-over rice into a beautiful spicy biryani and created his own home-made falafel balls, which included home-grown coriander seeds. We topped the falafels with plain yogurt.
It was a very colourful and delicious feast. I'm going to miss the garden.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


There are some kitchen gadgets that seem to be just a big fat waste of counter space and money, but then there are others that I wouldn't do without. One of those is our bread machine. It really is super easy and useful. You just measure out the ingredients, select which type of bread and hit the start button. Three or four hours later you have fresh baked bread. Or, you can put the ingredients in the evening, set the time and in the morning you wake to the incredible aroma of baking bread. That will get anyone out of bed!
This weekend, I tried making focaccia for the first time. I've made numerous pizzas (someday I will show this in the blog) with the "dough setting" but never tried focaccia. With so many ripe cherry tomatoes to use up each day I thought I'd give it a whirl. I added fresh sage, rosemary and oregano to the basic focaccia recipe. When it was finished rising, I removed the dough from the machine and spread it out in two corn-meal dusted pans. After brushing lightly with olive oil I then dimpled the top with cherry tomatoes and scattered some sea salt on top. It baked up beautifully in the oven in about 25 minutes.
Voila. Lovely for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

Friday, August 3, 2007

You say toe-mat-toes and I say toe-may-toes...

Yes, they are here. The great red globes, the tiny scarlet pearls, the pointy ones and the giants. We've got tomatoes!
It's always such a thrill to have the first cherry tomato right off the vine. This actually happened more than two weeks ago, but I've been very busy and haven't been keeping up with posts. But the first full sized tomatoes ripened last weekend. We had two tomatoes from the store in our fruit bowl, so we did a "blind" taste test. (Blind is in quote because we put the slices on the plate, looked at them and then decided to close our eyes). Hands down, there really isn't any competition even if it wasn't a very fair test. Indeed, the judges were rather biased from the start, but nonetheless... The garden tomato wins for flavour, texture, colour and smell. Oh, that smell. How I love it.

In this photo, left to right: Early girl, Nebraska Wedding, Cherokee.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Great Garlic

Rick pulled the first garlic the other day. The leaves are starting to wither so we can probably pull all of them this weekend. I want to see if I can braid them to hang them to dry. This first bulb was used in a simple pasta with herbs and olive oil. We were blown away by the favour and fragrance. Just amazing. For our first experience with it, garlic has been a resounding success. Aesthetically too, they've been a real treat. The scapes earlier in the season were beautiful curls and now the bulbs are a pleasing pink. Considering that Rick and I basically don't make a dinner without garlic these are definitely plants worth growing again.