Sunday, February 10, 2013

Bioshelter = Cooking with Winter Greens

We got snowed in this weekend, plus it was Jonathan’s birthday.  What better thing to do than cook lots of food?  And what better food to cook than food fresh from the bioshelter?

Saturday night Eric and I brainstormed a magnificent Thai-inspired coconut fish soup.  Eric made his trademark sticky rice to go with it.  We used chicken broth, grated ginger and galangal, winter squash, potatoes, tilapia and vietnamese catfish (which we will soon be raising ourselves!), salty little shrimp, and fish sauce.  Right at the end we dumped in a bowl of greens from the bioshelter, including tatsoi and purple mustard.  Each person added their own toppings of ground peanuts, hot sauce, sardines, and our own fresh cilantro.  Fantastic.  And fun.  A bunch of friends came over to share the bounty and be cozy in the blizzard.  Oh, and we made a local blueberry pie for dessert.  Oh yeah.

I was still feeling the cooking bug today, so I created a homemade polenta casserole.  I had never made polenta myself before and it was much easier than I thought it would be.  While I was stirring the polenta, I sent Jonathan out to the greenhouse for a pound of mixed greens.  He came back with a bounty of ethiopian kale and tree collards.  I quickly blanched the greens, chopped them up, and mixed them with ricotta, parmesan, lemon zest, cayenne, salt and pepper.  I dumped half the polenta in the bottom of a baking pan, then spooned on the cheese and greens filling, and then topped it with the remaining polenta and some cheese for good measure.  All baked up it tasted so good!  At the last minute I made a quick tomato soup to go with it.  Yummmm.

The bioshelter is so good for our stomachs and souls this time of year!  Viva Paradise Lot!  Viva Holyoke Edible Forest Garden!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Fall Sea Kale Medley

Hello!  It's been a while since I posted.  Life just got busy.  And the garden got slow.  But one of the beautiful things about perennial greens is that they often have a fall season to go along with their spring season.  And that is the case with sea kale, one of my garden favorites.

Fall sea kale shoots      

In the spring we enjoy the flower buds of the sea kale - we eat them like broccoli raab.  In the summer the sea kale is beautiful and attracts bees with its honey-scented flowers.  And then in the late fall, as we turn towards winter, the sea kale gives us one last tasty treat: tender new growth leaves.

Jonathan is the kale master in our kitchen, so he took charge and cooked up a medley of the sea kale along with some regular kale that is still hanging on in our front garden.

Regular kale in the front garden
He sauteed up leaves from each plant, along with a healthy dose of chopped garlic, some tamari, olive oil, salt, pepper, and a dash of balsamic vinegar at the end.  So tasty, and what a treat to be eating garden greens even as we approach Thanksgiving.

Yay for the garden!  Yay for sea kale!

Monday, October 31, 2011

Garden Storm

Hmmm....  Well, I missed a week of posts due to being sick and working hard on a mayoral race I'm helping with.  And then came this (see photo).  We had a big storm Saturday night that dropped more limbs and branches than I thought possible onto our backyard.  Note the flattened greenhouse.  I was going to start digging and sampling some of our perennial root crops, but things are bit hard to get to right now.  Hopefully the sun will shine, the air will warm up, and the snow will melt just enough for me to get at some more tasty treats before winter really settles in for the long haul. 

We took the opportunity to hack back the banana trees for the season.  While we were at it we found a couple figs that were ready.  So we enjoyed the fresh figs while looking out at snow and ice.  How strange!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Enchanted Bottle Gourd

This year we experimented with growing a Bottle Gourd, or calabash.  We planted one out front, and one in the greenhouse.  The one in the greenhouse grew so big it exploded out of the greenhouse and draped down, out, and over our blueberry bushes, like a green lava flow.  The one in front chose to grow up a pole, so we gave it a string and it grew across it and back down the other side to make a beautiful arch over the sidewalk. 

The arch became a fixture in our neighborhood this summer.  I would often see teenagers walk by, stop under the arch, and show each other the flowers.  People enjoyed walking under it, and it lent some enchantment to the street, encouraging people to stop for a minute in their travels and admire this vibrant plant.  We ate its shoots this spring and they were quite tasty.  This one in the picture was growing a great, large gourd this fall.  Someone cut it off and took it over the weekend.  I hope they are enjoying it!

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

The Persimmon Needs No Recipe

The persimmon is my favorite fruit in the whole garden.  It is a full gourmet dessert in and of itself.  Have you tried one?  It tastes like brandied caramel apricots on butterscotch-vanilla pudding.  No joke.  They are fabulous.  Exquisite.  AWESOME!!!!  They are in season right now and each morning I creep out to see if any have fallen from the tree.  You have to time it just right.  If you get impatient and try to eat them before they're ripe (before they've fallen) beware!  As a friend said, if you eat them when they're under-ripe you'll feel like your face is turning inside out.  Astringent!  And if you wait too long, the squirrels will have eaten them first.  That's why I check for them daily.  Eating a persimmon is one of the great joys in life.  I savor it and remember that life is good.  It's like eating a sunset.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Last Hurrah Pesto

Fall is certainly here.  It's 6:00 right now and almost dark!  Today we harvested some lingering greens to make a pesto for tomorrow's Edible Forest Garden Workshop.  I used a variety from the garden: Thai basil, perennial arugula, parsley, and kale.

Thai basil, perennial arugula, parsley, and kale leaves for pesto

I rinsed off the greens and then put them in a plastic bag and beat them with a rolling pin.  I've read that roughing them up like that is a good way to release the cracken.  No, I mean to release the flavor.

Releasing the flavor (how often do you get to hit something with a rolling pin?  Fun!)

Then I combined the greens with some roasted garlic cloves, olive oil, and salt and blended them up, traditional pesto style.  Put the green awesomeness in a bowl and mixed in a healthy dose of parmesan cheese (I do love parmesan, as some of you know.)

Finished product: Last Hurrah Pesto

Tomorrow the guests for our workshop will have this for lunch and we'll find out how it turned out!  It tasted pretty good on a spoon, so I'm expecting good things.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Chestnut Puree

Sunday night I tried my hand at the famous Hungarian Chestnut Puree (Gestenyepure).  It wasn't the same as my host mother used to make it, but it was quite good!

First I roasted a pound and a half of chestnuts.  We had four people helping to cut "X"s into the shells so that the nuts could expand without exploding (yes, we have had explosions before).  I spread the nuts out on a cookie sheet, sprinkled some water on top, and roasted them for about 25 minutes at 425 degrees.  When they were done, I took them out of the oven and we cooled them briefly before peeling the shells off.  I put the shelled, roasted nuts in the food processor and chopped them up as finely as I could.  The way I had this dessert in Hungary the nuts must have been ground nearly to a flour consistency.  My chopped chestnuts ended up in bigger chunks than that, sort of like ground walnuts. 

I set the chestnuts aside and mixed 1/4 cup water and 3/4 cup sugar in a saucepan and set it on the stove to simmer and create a simple syrup.  When the syrup was ready I combined it with the ground nuts in a medium sized bowl.  In retrospect I would use less syrup.  It was very sweet, and my sweet tooth is rather small!  Then I added some whole milk, maybe a tablespoon or two, and a tablespoon or two of rum.  Stirred it up and set it in the fridge while we ate dinner.  After dinner I made some whipped cream, and served the chilled puree with whipped cream on top.  We ended up mixing the whipped cream into the puree, and a few hardy souls added even more rum and said it was great. It was a delicious, filling, chestnutty dessert.  So good!