Ever Eat a Daylily, Bud?

Once again my husband tries something new from the garden. This time it is from the flower garden. We have some beautiful daylilies blooming right now. The perfect ingredient for a tasty appetizer?lily3

But for the ingredient in this recipe you have to look past the lily.lily2

You’re getting close but you have to go a little further past the flower.

budsAh there they are, right next to the flowers. The buds.budThe new buds are what you want to pick to make

Pickled Daylily Buds

2 1/2 cups water
4 Tbls salt
35 daylily buds ( the tastiest are those just about to open)
1 cup apple cider vinegar
1 clove garlic, halved

1. Place 2 cups of water and the salt in a bowl, stirring until the salt dissolves. Add the daylily buds and let stand overnight, covered.

2. In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar and garlic.

3. Put the drained daylily buds in a clean pint jar. Add the hot cider to almost the top, cover, and allow to cool on the counter. When cool, place in the refrigerator and leave for 2 weeks to pickle. We ate them in 24 hours and they were fine.

They taste like pickled beans and are a nice accompaniment to a sandwich or as an appetizer with a piece of cheese and a glass of wine. Fun Summer food!jar

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Rule of thumb: Planting Potatoes

dandelions blooming

Rules of thumb are common guides to navigating everyday life without having to refer to some authority. Wickipedia says the term is thought to originate with carpenters who used the length of the tip of their thumb (approximately 1 inch) as a handy – get it, handy – unit of measure rather than resorting to a ruler. In general, rules of thumb are principles with broad application not intended to be strictly accurate or reliable for every situation. They are easily learned and easily applied for approximately calculating or recalling some value, or for making some determination.

Farmers have many rules of thumb.  One that I remember and invoked today was “Plant you potatoes when dandelions bloom in an open field”.  The logic is that the weather (and soil) is warm enough for the seed potatoes to flourish.  Why in an “open field”?  Because the soil near a foundation is warmer than the soil in a field and dandelions will bloom near a foundation days or weeks earlier than those in a open field where the soil will still be too cool.

These wizened things will sprout in several weeks and yield a nice small but nice crop of Russian Banana potatoes.

These wizened things will sprout in several weeks and yield a small but nice crop of Russian Banana fingerling-type potatoes.

Tomatoes, finally!

longtomAll summer we waited for the tomatoes. Once they were planted in the spring, we worried there was too much rain, then not enough rain, then would the bugs get them or would critters bite them off (deer try anything, then “ack! ptooey!”, spit out the nasty tasting bits, leaving your plants just little stumps in the ground). As the summer rolled on, we hoped the blossoms would set and of course that it would rain. Into August we had a lot of set fruit but naturally it was green. So we worried about blossom end rot. We read in the news about tomato blight. I’m hoping, end of August, red ripe tomatoes, it won’t be long now. So we waited, and waited and waited.  Early September and they are still green, except for an occasional cherry tomato. Hardly what I wanted for my BLT sandwich.

But then they started getting red (finally!!!) and we went from famine to feast. In the beginning it was joyous. Fresh tomatoes from the garden are ruby-red treasures. We had them with our scrambled eggs at breakfast, on our sandwiches at lunch and sliced fresh on the table at dinner.  Curt would just grab cherry tomatoes out of the bowl on the counter and eat them like candy. He made tomato soup and roasted tomatoes to freeze. He even smoked some. (getting them lit is the challenge, ha-ha).

Roasted. Ready to pack and freeze.

Roasted. Ready to pack and freeze.

As I write this, October is only 4 days away. Not only have we eaten a lot of tomatoes, I have given them to family, friends (who now run when they see me) and even strangers (I have a table with tomatoes at the road and a “free, take them” sign). They are in baskets everywhere in my kitchen.

Free! Free! Free!

Free! Free! Free!

I love fresh tomatoes and nothing I buy at the grocery can compare and I hate it when the season is done but can there be too much of a good thing? There are still quite a few on the plants and they will continue to ripen till the first frost, which may be late this year, so the end is not in sight, yet. Eventually Curt will finally say, ‘forget about them,’ but after waiting sooo long, it just seems a shame not to pick and use every one. And so it goes…

basketI wonder, can you get tired of bacon, lettuce and tomato sandwiches?

Like finding money in the street

banner.1
When I was a child I often had dreams of finding money in the street. Usually it was small change, nickles, dimes and quarters that I would find lying in the gutter. First a single coin or two which I would pick up, then look around to see if anyone else had noticed these unwarranted riches. Seeing no one else interested, I would look along the gutter and invariably find more coins that I would gather up. Sometimes even silver dollars. Now this dream is no doubt rife with psychological meaning. In my dream I always felt both elated at finding this money but also slightly guilty because I knew it wasn’t really mine. And why find the money in the gutter? We lived in a semi-rural area and we didn’t have gutters on our street.

Vegetable havest

Vegetable harvest

This is the season of harvest. I don’t always plant potatoes but this spring I found a bag with three types of potatoes that I had bought last fall at our local farmer’s market, and promptly forgot. I don’t have a picture of them as I found them but I’m sure you can imagine what they looked like; shriveled, spongy and with ghostly spindly roots and sprouts entangled with each other.

Being of frugal German stock, I thought why not plant them rather than toss them. They were already well sprouted and if they failed to grow I wouldn’t lose anything but if they did grow so much the better. Well, they grew – at least most of them did after a late spring frost – and vigorously too!

Yesterday I dug them. When I dig potatoes I’m taken back to my childhood dream of finding money in the street. Digging potatoes, to me, is magical. You loosen the earth around the plant with a fork and when you pull it up, magically, there are jewels attached to its roots. And seemingly unwarranted for the little effort on my part.

Loosening the potato vine

Loosening the potato vine

You loosen the earth around the plant with a fork and when you pull it up, magically, there are jewels attached to its roots

Jewels hidden below

Jewels hidden below

Invariably, a toad has found a resting place in the shade beneath the potato vines

Invariably, a toad has found a resting place in the shade beneath the potato vines

I don’t know what variety these potatoes are. The small beige one is probably Russian Banana, a fingerling type. The dark blue, almost black is of the type sometimes called All Blue. And the red is a mystery.

Dusty jewels

Dusty jewels

Washed jewels

Washed jewels

Cut jewels

Cut jewels

 

 

 

 

When cut they are quite the surprise. Creamy yellow, shocking blue/violet and rich pink inside.

 

 

 

One of the benefits of the season is a quick harvest lunch.  I am quite pleased to say that all the fresh ingredients; potatoes, onion and garlic come from my garden.

Potatoes, sliced and starting to fry

Potatoes, sliced and starting to fry

Fry.2The three potatoes were sliced, tossed with a little olive oil and salt and fried until barely tender. Then a sliced onion and a clove of minced garlic were added and the potatoes continued frying until they and the onion brown a little and maybe get a bit crispy around the edges.  Add salt and pepper to adjust the seasoning.  Sit down and have lunch and dream of finding riches lying in the street or hidden under a potato vine.

Summer Soup

 

soup bannerI love soup.
I love making soup.
Soups make a quick and easy meal.  A few vegetables, maybe some left-over meat, maybe some noodles or left-over rice if you want to add some bulk, an herb or two; and in very little time you can make a delicious and healthy soup.  I like soup so much that I sometimes even make soup for breakfast (I’m not a fan of sweet bakery type breakfast foods).  With a kitchen full of vegetables from the garden and the Farmer’s Market, I recently created a tasty and beautiful soup for our lunch last week. Here it is in all it’s glory.

soup

Summer Lunch Vegetable Soup

 

Summer Vegetable Soup

1 small onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
4 small carrots (or 1 large) carrot, copped
1 Tbs. olive oil
4 small (like baby) yellow summer squash, halved length-wise
2 small (also like baby) patty pan squash, scalloped edges only, cut into bite-sized pieces
1/2 C. fresh mushrooms, chopped (chicken-of-the-woods, shiitake, lobster or other firm mushroom)
1/1 C. dry white wine
1 C. chicken broth
1/2 tsp. thyme
1/2 tsp. summer savory
8-10 small cherry tomatoes, whole
1/2 C. shelled peas (frozen are fine)
3 radishes, sliced
Salt and pepper to taste

Sweat the onion, celery and carrots in the olive oil for 10 minutes – do not allow to brown.

Add the squashes and mushrooms and saute for 5 minutes.

Add the wine, broth and herbs and simmer 15 minutes.

Add the peas and radishes and simmer just until the peas are tender.

Divide the soup between two shallow bowls.  Place a roasted tomato (see below) in the center of each bowl.  Drizzle with the olive oil and any accumulated juices from the tomatoes.  Serve with crusty bread.  Serves 2

Roast Tomatoes

2 baseball sized fresh tomatoes
4 small garlic cloves, peeled
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400˚ F.  Remove the stem core from the tomatoes.  Poke a small garlic clove into the center of each of the tomatoes.  Place the tomatoes in an oven-proof dish, lightly drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil and place additional garlic in the pan.  Lightly sprinkle with coarse salt.  Roast for 15 minutes, until the the skin is blistered and the tomatoes are tender.

Eating the Babies

Spring came late to Northeast Wisconsin which means the crops are just getting started. This is a good thing because what you get when you go to the Farmer’s Market are the babies: the baby carrots, the baby beets, little fresh peas, tiny zucchini, spring onions and mushrooms.

Farmer's Market bounty

Farmer’s Market bounty

Mix those sweet little veggies with cherry tomatoes and tiny peppers and little celery sticks and you have the essential ingredients for a Vegetables a la Grecque.

Vegetables a la Grecque

Vegetables a la Grecque

Marinade:

4 cups water
1 cup red wine vinegar
3/4 cup olive oil
1 Tbls salt
2 cloves garlic, whole, bruised
1 bay leaf
3 sprigs fresh thyme
grindings of black pepper
One thick slice of onion

Put all the above together in a shallow pan and simmer for fifteen minutes. With a slotted spoon scoop out all of the solid stuff. Poach the vegetables in the remaining liquid till they are tender but firm. Do them individually since different vegetables cook at different rates. The zucchini and mushrooms should go last since they really soak up the marinade. And If you use beets do them last otherwise your poaching liquid and all the other vegetables will be pink.

Arrange the poached vegetables in a serving dish, pour some marinade over the top and let cool.

Add a nice grilled piece of chicken, some crusty bread and you’ve got a great summer dinner.

Note: Cherry tomatoes don’t poach well, serve them on the side.

Note 2: Later in the summer, add green beans.

 

 

 

Too Good Not to Share

byaldi3

In a quest to find a use for the tomatoes, zucchini, eggplant and onions pouring in from the garden I decided to make ratatouille last week. But for some reason the traditional recipe just didn’t work for me that day.  So while I was sifting through recipes on the internet for an alternative I came upon this one from Chef Thomas Keller of the French Laundry restaurant. The back story on the recipe is that Mr. Keller was a consultant to the makers of the movie Ratatouille. The producers supposedly asked him what sort of ratatouille he would make if he knew he was serving it to the world’s most famous food critic and this is what he came up with.  While strictly not a ratatouille (Mr. Keller calls it a “confit” although it’s not really a confit either) it is in the same ballpark and uses the same ingredients as the traditional ratatouille.  Mr. Keller explained that his version was a riff on Michel Guérard‘s riff on a traditional Turkish dish called Imam Byildi.  Imam Byildi is roughly translated as “the Imam swooned”, a reference to the Imam’s reaction to the original Turkish dish. Mr. Keller’s version is a more elegant and lighter version of the traditional ratatouille.  It also just looks beautiful. My variation on Mr. Keller’s recipe follows.

Confit Byaldi

Piperade

1/2 each red pepper, orange pepper and yellow pepper: seeds and ribs removed
2 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 clove garlic, finely minced
1/2 C. yellow onion, finely diced
1 C. Marinara sauce or 12 oz. peeled, seeded, finely diced fresh tomatoes
1 sprig thyme
1 sprig flat leaf parsley
kosher salt

Vegetables

1 medium zucchini
2 Japanese eggplant
1 medium yellow squash
4 large Roma tomatoes
2 medium red onion

Slice all of the above into thin slices, 1/16 to 1/8 inch thick.

Vinaigrette

1 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper
1 Tbs reserved piperade from above

For the piperade , heat oven to 450 degrees. Place pepper halves on a foil-lined sheet, cut side down. Roast until skin loosens, about 15 minutes. Remove from the heat and let rest until cool enough to handle.  Peel and chop finely.  Alternately, roast whole peppers over an open gas flame or very got grill until blistered and charred.  Wrap in paper toweling to steam while cooling.  When cool enough to handle, peel and seed.  Use half of each pepper for the piperade and reserve the remaining half for another use.

Combine oil, garlic, and onion in medium skillet over low heat until very soft but not browned, about 8 minutes. Add Marinara sauce (or tomatoes and their juices), thyme, parsley.  Simmer over low heat until very soft and very little liquid remains, about 10 minutes, do not brown; add peppers and simmer to soften them. Season to taste with salt, discard herbs. Reserve a tablespoon of this mixture for the piperade and spread remainder in the bottom of a 9 x 12 oven-proof baking dish.

byaldi

Sliced vegetables ready for the oven

For the vegetables, heat oven to 275 degrees. Down center of pan, arrange a strip of alternating slices of vegetables on top piperade, overlapping so that 1/4 inch of each slice is exposed. Around the center strip, overlap vegetables in a close spiral that lets slices mound slightly toward center. Repeat until pan is filled; all veggies may not be needed.

Drizzle 2 tablespoons of olive oil over the sliced vegetables. Cover vegetables with a sheet of parchment paper cut to fit your pan. Bake until vegetables are tender, about two hours. Uncover and bake for 30 minutes more. Lightly cover if it starts to brown. At the end I used a propane torch to lightly kiss the top of the vegetables with an attractive light char.  Set aside to cool. May be served warm or at room temperature.  Covered and refrigerated they will keep up to 2 days (reheat in 350 degree oven to warm).

For the vinaigrette, combined reserved piperade, oil, vinegar, salt and pepper to taste.

Drizzle vinaigrette on vegetables. To serve use a spatula to gently lift out of pan when serving.

byaldi2

Confit Byaldi

All Garden Dinner, Almost

Salad Nicoise detail

Elegant looking but soooo easy.

I’m talking Salad Niçoise (pronounced nee-suaz) a classic from the city of Nice on the French Mediterranean coast. This is a hardy composed salad much like the American Cobb Salad but with tuna, green beans and potatoes instead of chicken, bacon and avocado. It is also Americanized because the French would use anchovies and raw vegetables but we use tuna canned in oil, and we boil or blanch the vegetables.

To begin, gather your vegetables. If you don’t have a garden or a farmer’s market your local grocery store’s produce section will be just fine. Or if you have a friend with a great garden tell them if they give you vegetables you’ll prepare them a French dinner. Oui!

Some good choices are green beans, yellow beans, green onions or sliced red onion, baby carrots and peppers (red or yellow are best for color but if you only have green,  green will do). Potatoes should also be part of your salad and fingerlings like Russian Banana are perfect. We used small yellow beets and tomatoes (we used red and yellow cherry and a green fleshed variety) as well. I think cherry tomatoes are fine but wedges of a red ripe tomato are just beautiful in this salad.  Marinated artichokes are a welcome addition too.

You can stop there but a true Salad Niçoise should have some protein and as I mentioned earlier we use canned tuna. A light tuna in oil is what I prefer and I don’t even like fish but for some reason this is one of my exceptions. Another fine addition is hard-boiled eggs; one egg per diner. While you are at the store pick up some pitted olives, we prefer Kalamata; they are a nice salty addition and their dark purple color give a good contrast to all the reds and yellows and greens.

Once you’ve decided on your vegetables, blanch the beans until tender-crisp.  Boil potatoes, beets, carrots till tender (peel all after cooking) and hard-boil the eggs. Cut your tomatoes into wedges, peel and cut your eggs into halves. We roasted a red pepper and then cut it into strips or you could use jarred roasted peppers if you’d prefer not to roast them yourself.

Arrange everything, artfully on a large platter. You could put down a bed of nice lettuce, although we didn’t.   I usually put the potatoes in the middle and arrange the other vegetables in groups around the perimeter, put the tuna on top of the potatoes and strew the olives over the entire shebang.  Drizzle a vinaigaratte dressing over the top and voila! dinner for 4 or a smaller version can make for lunch a Nice lunch.  Nice, get it!

Salad Nicoise

Salad Niçoise

This can be expanded or contracted to suit your occasion, platter size or the availability of ingredients.

An Expanded Vinaigarette

1 tsp dry mustard
1 clove garlic, minced
1 shallot, minced
1 small Roma-type tomato, seeded and diced
3 green olives, minced
2 Tbs flat-leaf parsley, minced
2 Tbs red wine vinegar
6 Tbs extra virgin olive oil
salt/freshly ground pepper to taste

Put mustard, garlic, salt, pepper and vinegar in a bowl and whisk together. Continue whisking while slowly adding the oil until the dressing blends. Add the shallot, tomato, parsley and olives and whisk to combine.  Taste and adjust salt or pepper if needed.

Serve the salad with a nice Sauvignon blanc or a Petit Syrah. Your guests will love you for being so Nice to them.

A Bumper Crop of Gooseberries

No, that’s not the punchline to a joke, we really have a lot of gooseberries. We planted a single bush in my herb garden a few years ago but it didn’t produce much except fine thorny stems which scratched me when I tried weeding around the bush. When it did have berries we didn’t remember to look for them until they were all on the ground going bad. But this year Curt happened to check the bush when the berries were still on the stems and they were just starting to ripen. Eureka!  Hiding under those leaves were clusters of fat, juicy, rosy, lovely berries.

ripe gooseberries

Ripe gooseberries in the garden

Okay. Now what? We realized we had no idea why we planted this bush because frankly we have no ideas on what to do with gooseberries.  We’ve all heard of Gooseberry Fool, but frankly that didn’t seem appealing.  The berries are sort of tart/sweet but have a thicker skin like a grape so sprinkling sugar on them doesn’t easily sweeten them up. So Curt did what he usually does when he has an ingredient that stumps him – he goes to the internet. In a little while he knew more about goosebeerries than he ever wanted to know plus he had a few possible recipes. The winner, from a blog in the UK by Madalene Bonvini-Hamel called The British Larder: Inspirational Recipe Diary, was Gooseberry Polenta Slice.

We happen to have a scale that reads in ounces or grams so we followed Ms. Bonvini-Hamel’s recipe as she wrote it, so kids, get out your conversion scales, all the measurements are in grams.

Gooseberry Polenta Slice

Polenta Pastry

50g caster sugar (caster sugar is also known as Bakers Sugar in the U.S. – it is finer than granulated but not as fine as powdered sugar.  You can approximate it by running granulated sugar in a dry blender for 1-2 minutes)
5g custard powder (this is not something I’d ever encountered but a search of the internet reveals that you can successfully substitute Vanilla Instant Pudding mix)
125g unsalted butter, room temperature
125g plain flour
50g polenta (I only had coarse polenta – see comments below)
2 medium egg yolks

Cream the butter and the sugar until creamy and fluffy.  Add the egg yolks one at a time, cream well.
Add the custard powder and flour and mix until the pastry comes together.  The pastry will be sticky and soft – don’t worry, you didn’t do anything wrong, it’s supposed to be that way.  Wrap the pastry in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least one hour.

Line a large baking pan (I used a 12″ x 18″ commercial half-sheet) with parchment paper.  Separately, roll the pastry out between two sheets of parchment paper until its 1/4″ thick and roughly a 7″ x 17″ rectangle. Remove the top sheet of parchment and transfer the pastry, still on the bottom sheet to the baking pan.  Yes, you’ll have two pieces of parchment under the pastry – all the better to catch any errant gooseberry juices when baking.   Place the lined pastry pan in the fridge until needed.

Gooseberry Filling

400g gooseberries
12 sugar cubes
40g polenta + 5g for dusting
1 egg white

Preheat oven to 340 degrees. Wash the gooseberries and remove the stems and tails, drain well.  Whip the egg white until fluffy and slightly aerated.  Break the sugar cubes into pieces, but not too small – you want them to be chunky.  Fold the gooseberries into the whipped egg white and fold in the polenta  and half of the broken sugar cubes.  Retrieve the pastry pan from the fridge ands spoon the gooseberries onto the polenta pastry on the lined tray leaving about 1-1/2″ margin on all sides. Fold the margin of  the pastry from each side over the filling and press together to make a smooth edge encasing the gooseberries.  Scatter the rest of the sugar lumps over the gooseberry mix and sprinkle 5g polenta over the tart.

ready for the oven

Ready for the oven

Bake the gooseberry slice for 40 minutes, turn the oven up to 355 degrees and bake for 15 more minutes.  Let the slice cool on a rack before cutting.  Serves 6.

Out of the oven it is a beautiful rustic looking pastry.

postgoose

Gooseberry Polenta Cake fresh from the oven

The verdict? Well it tasted good. The gooseberries keep their tart sweetness, sort of like rhubarb. Curt thought the cake was dry but I liked it. The juiciness of the berries was a nice contrast to the firmer cake. The downside for me was the crunchy bits of polenta. Cooked polenta is soft and creamy but baked polenta, or at least our baked polenta, still had crunchy bits, sort of like little raspberry seeds, throughout the cake.  Did we eat it, yes, all of it. We even served it to a guest who seemed to enjoy it. Using a finer polenta or even a Mexican Masa Harina in whole or part as a substitute for the coarse polenta might work.  Likely it would give the cake a more refined and less rustic mouth feel.  We found that leftover cake kept for 4 – 5 days in the fridge, reheated in a covered microwave dish with a little water sprinkled on it, helped to softened the polenta bits. Add a drizzle of syrup on the warm cake and it was quite tasty.

Would we make it again? Probably not but we still have a lot of gooseberries.

A slice of Gooseberry Polenta Slice

A slice of Gooseberry Polenta Slice

A Spargelfest in my Garden?

spear

Three years ago in May I was crabbing and carrying on and blogging about our 3o year old asparagus patch and how it just didn’t produce like it did in years past. Not sure why I was giving those poor old roots such a hard time, I don’t exactly produce like I did thirty years ago either.

The patch is now three years older and after a hard cold winter and a pretty chilly spring I wasn’t expecting much. So yesterday when Curt waved at me from his riding mower to get my attention and then made a lot of hand gestures and starting doing charades I didn’t know what was going on.

Sounds like – growing, garden, um…breaking, take a break? take a nap? No, break..cut …cut growing things. Then he pointed emphatically toward the far end of the garden and I figured out the message was, “Go pick the asparagus, Sweetie!” I added the sweetie since I’m sure that’s what the squinting and grimacing and the final hand gestures meant.

Down to the garden I trekked, basket and knife in tow. Sure its been warm (finally) and it has rained a bit, but seriously how much could there be amongst the dandelions, the thistles and the migrating raspberry plants in the OLD, decrepit, post-winter patch?

Lots!

Lots!

Three and a half pounds worth to be exact.  Surprise, surprise. And today, another pound and a half.

So what was the first thing we made with our bounty of green spears? Curt whipped up a couple of omelets that were just perfect. I guess a game of charades was worth it.

omelet

Well that leaves about four more pounds and remember, it hasn’t stopped growing. I think gifts for my book group tomorrow will be asparagus. Yep, gift bags of asparagus it is.

And Spargelfest? Well that’s German for asparagus festival of course. Many German cities hold an annual Spargelfest. They crown Asparagus Queens and have asparagus peeling contests and consume copious amounts of beer and wine. Hmm, something to think about for next year.