Don’t they look delicious? But I forgot to weigh them. Next time!
We are into July and I have been keeping track of everything that we have harvested from our little garden, as promised.
The beginning of the growing season seemed slower than usual. And some plants had a harder time than others. My pepper plants are even now not doing as well as usual, but on the other hand the collard greens had a great start. But for the most part we are getting lots of tasty veggies.
We also have enjoyed a good amount of salad greens, asparagus, radishes, rhubarb, rappini, beets and beet greens, and blueberries. This week we started getting carrots, zucchini, patty pans and a few green beans. Fresh mint, basil, cilantro, oregano, marjoram, chives, bay leaf and “baby” leeks, as well as nasturtiums and pansies, have also been adding lots of flavor and color to our meals. Tomatoes have yet a few weeks, but are looking good. And the cucumber and butternut squash vines are taking over!
Amazes me to see all this produce come out of our little garden every year. I can’t wait for the first tomatoes.
Since I was a child, picking cherries has been a favorite activity of mine. As a kid we used to climb the large cherry trees on my uncle’s farm, perch on a branch and eat cherries. Spitting the pits was part of the fun. We imagined multiple kinds of weaponry as my brother and I tried to hit each other with the pits. If you’re going to try this, make sure you are always higher up then your opponent!
I don’t practice my cherry pit machine gun technique anymore, or…maybe if no one is watching.
The cherry trees in our neighborhood are ready for picking, so an afternoon of gleaning with the kids was in order. First we picked our favorite, sour cherries. Makes the perfect filling for Sunday morning clafoutis. Then sweet cherries, many of these are enjoyed onsite. It’s hard to walk away from all the other cherries left on the tree, but we had a great time.
At home the girls and Laura pitted the cherries. Many were consumed as payment for this task. And then Laura froze the remaining cherries IQF (“IQF” is kitchen lingo, meaning “individually quick frozen”) for future use. Now, that’s true love!
This is shaping up to be a strange growing season–great rain for the garden, but maybe out of balance with the amount of sun. The plants are growing, but not as well as I would like.
At least the blueberries are doing well so far. I first planted them a couple of years ago. Last year a chipmunk stole all the fruit. This year, my girls were able to pick their first blueberries!
Over the past few months I’ve been getting to know a little bit about Pittsburgh’s refugee community, particularly the Bhutanese refugees who have been coming to Pittsburgh over the past several years. But I always say, you don’t really know somebody until they cook for you. Food is a good way to get close to an unfamiliar culture, so… let’s eat!
A couple of weeks ago I made a special “climb” to Everest Restaurant (map) to sample some Bhutanese cuisine. The restaurant is right next to the Nepali market on Saw Mill Run Boulevard. The menu included many Indian (Punjabi) standards we’re all used to, but one of the dishes we tried was a very typical Bhutanese dish: a soup made with gundruk, which I had never had before. And like any chef, when you serve me something I’ve never seen or heard of before, YOU HAVE MY ATTENTION!
Gundruk is a combination of multiple fermented leafy greens traditional in Nepal, Bhutan, and even India. This vegetables are then used as an appetizer, a side dish, or in soups. Like many foods pickled and preserved in traditional cuisine, Gundruk is an excellent source of vitamins and minerals during the long winter months.
The restaurant owner, Rup Timsina, tells me that they are currently working on the menu to have broader appeal since right now they basically only cater to their community. I say don’t change it too much.
The soup, gundruk suruwa, is incredibly delicious! It’s full of flavor, different textures you wouldn’t think of having with just vegetables, almost like dried mushrooms and seaweed, nothing but umami. A spoonfull of gundruk suruwa and I was transported to a different world. I couldn’t get enough of it!
I’ve been gardening for many years, and often wonder how much food my garden actually produces. Years ago, my summer garden covered a whole field. Now that I have kids, I only have time for a small plot — 112 square feet. Pretty small and manageable for a busy guy like me, right?
I garden for the love of it, and of course it provides organic food for my family. But how much food comes from this small garden?
This year I decided to find out.
At harvest time, I’m going to try to count and maybe even weigh every vegetable and fruit (yes, we even have fruit: young blueberry bushes, a fig tree, a sour cherry tree and two plum trees) that we harvest from our yard. Besides the main garden, I also have two secondary plots that measure 9′x3′ and 24′x3′. That’s a total of 211 square feet under cultivation.
I’ll probably wish I had never started this project by the time the zucchini comes in, but maybe this way I’ll be able to see if gardening is more than a hobby that is good for my soul
If you are like me, you notice different plants–trees, weeds, flowers–during the day and you wonder what they are. Have you every seen a plant like this? Clumps of it have been appearing my yard this spring. It kind of reminds me of wasabi. The roots smell like garlic. Could it be edible?
Here’s the verdict from Tom Patterson at Wild Purveyors:
Garlic mustard, eat it! They are best eaten at this stage of growth before flowering. It can be eaten fresh, but I prefer it cooked and treated like spinach. Makes a good pesto.
Enough said! I served it fresh with tender greens like red vein sorrel, green oak, and green mustard frill, with a simple dressing of balsamic, olive oil, and mustard.
A little more research reveals that garlic mustard–Alliaria petiolata–is an invasive species. Uh oh. Not another one! (The Plant Conservation Alliance calls it an “Ecological Threat” to native plants like spring beauty, wild ginger, bloodroot, Dutchman’s breeches, and trillium, saying “garlic mustard outcompetes native plants by aggressively monopolizing light, moisture, nutrients, soil and space.”) Everyone in North America must do their part to eat it all up!
If you don’t have any garlic mustard in your yard, check with Wild Purveyors. Buen provecho!
Sundays are my bread baking day. Well–the bread making begins the night before, on Saturday evening, but Sunday is when I put the bread in the oven. This is my one day off, and you might think baking bread is too much like work, but I have it down to a system. Let the dough rise during a leisurely breakfast. The oven is already hot from crisping the breakfast bacon, so crank up the heat and it’s ready for bread.
The bread has gotten better with each week. With the advice of some friends who are expert bakers, I developed my sourdough starter and learned how to “read” it and make good dough from it. Lately I have been working with a very wet dough that gives me a great finished loaf: even distribution of bubbles, elastic but tender texture, and a crisp, chewy crust. But then I ran into an unexpected problem.
I have been making baguettes in my nice USA Pans baguette pan. Like all USA Pans, it’s coated in silicone to be nonstick, but it’s perforated to help you get a good crust. When I lay the raw dough on the pan, it is so wet that it seeps through the perforated surface and keeps on expanding out the bottom of these holes as it bakes. Imagine the bottom of this pan with a 5 o’clock shadow made of bread whiskers. The only way to remove the bread from the pan was to scrape off the bread beard, leaving a hundred little bread dots everywhere. It had become a sort of little tradition for my girls to ask me about all the little bumps on the bottom of the bread, which is cute. But cute or not, I was sick of the “whiskers.” I tried a number of approaches, including over-spraying the pan with cooking spray, but didn’t find a good solution.
Finally, I thought of my training behind the line. What would I do to prevent food from sticking to a sauté pan? I would heat up the pan for a fast sear. So last weekend I tried it: I heated up the pan in the oven before putting the dough on it. And it worked like a charm. No little bread dots, no sticking, no problem. And the girls didn’t seem to miss the whiskers when they were eating a hundred pieces of bread… I wish I had thought of this sooner.
I wonder if commercial bakeries handle this problem the same way, or whether they encounter this problem at all. I’ll probably find out one day, but in the meantime I’ll try to use my experiences behind the line to help me become a better baker.
Happy baking, and buen provecho!
I think of myself as a down to earth guy in the kitchen. As with most things in life, it’s important to take care of the basics first. Fresh food, sharp knives, clean counters, and so on.
This is why some people laugh when they discover my array of fancy coffee-related equipment.
To them I say, “Here’s some freeze-dried decaf–off you go!”
Life is too short to drink bad coffee. And though you can make a good cup of coffee with basic equipment, I prefer to make a fantastic cup of coffee. We have a number of different coffee machines in our house: french presses, an old school moka pot, a drip machine for family gatherings, even a ROK manual espresso maker. Each one performs best with a different grind.
We used to use a little Krups coffee grinder from the grocery store to grind coffee beans. You could only grind a small amount of beans at a time. In each batch, the coffee at the bottom was always ground to powder. I would carefully save this for espresso, but then I wasn’t able to have freshly ground coffee for my espresso. And we were always just guessing about how fine the grind was. If you opened the grinder to check, it made a mess. So there’s some inaccuracy, some inefficiency, some waste of coffee, and sometimes not the best coffee.
I know what you’re thinking: How can you live under these conditions? Exactly. This is how I justified splurging on a new, state-of-the-art grinder. With this grinder, you dial the type of grind (filter, press, etc.), enter the number of shots or cups, and the brew strength you want and it automatically produces just the right amount in the correct grind. It’s perfect. Easy and fast. I have only had it a couple of months now, but so far this is the best home grinder I’ve ever had.
(Don’t worry: the Krups is still put to good use as a spice grinder.)
If you’re still trying to think of something fun to do on Valentine’s Day, I have a suggestion for you. Last week I attended the first “Hoppy Hour” event scheduled by the Giant Eagle Market District in Robinson. Hoppy Hours are beer tastings intended to showcase various breweries, where you can sample selections from the brewery’s lineup along with food pairings that the menu described as “light bites” (but they were substantial enough that eaten over the course of the evening, they made a satisfying meal). This first event featured Cleveland’s Great Lakes Brewing Company.
For this event, we gathered at 6:30 at the bar (yes, a bar inside the grocery store—-how can you refuse to go grocery shopping now?) and the tasting began right there with a light malty Conway’s Irish ale and a mini shepherd’s pie. This was a great start and a favorite of mine, but the tasting had just begun.
Then we went upstairs where the event room was set up with five more tasting stations closely supervised by brewer Luke Purcell. At the first station we were greeted with a lager, Dortmunder Gold, and a slice of Hawaiian pizza. At the next station, a trio of French bleu cheeses was accompanied with a citrusy Burning River IPA. Next an amber lager called Eliot Ness with spicy smoked salmon on grilled sourdough bread. (As a baker and sourdough aficionado, I was interested to learn that the bread is made in house at the Market District every morning from scratch.) Gyro burger sliders were served with Commodore Perry IPA, a dry fruity IPA. For desert? Edmund Fitzgerald Porter, a bittersweet beer with hints of coffee and chocolate, the perfect match for a parfait of chocolate ganache and berries. I wasn’t crazy about the ganache, but I’d enjoy drinking the beer again.
Brewer Luke Purcell took the time to answer all our questions at the end of the tasting. And perhaps to keep the Pittsburgh crowd friendly, he pulled out a bourbon barrel aged stout. This beer is made in such small batches that it’s not even available for sale at this time, and maybe I shouldn’t be talking about it. I’m not a beer expert, but to call this complex beverage mere beer is almost demeaning. This beer was as sophisticated as a port or a well-aged bourbon. Great beer and a great evening.
If you’re looking for something different to do, the Market District will be hosting these beer tastings for several more weeks and the next one is a Valentine’s special. Ladies, your man will love it!