Early Spring’s Sweetest Things…

March 30th, 2011 § 8 comments § permalink

The New Sugar Shack at Deer Ridge Farm in Guilford, Vermont

Spring, oh spring, where are you? You certainly are a bit coquettish this year; teasing us with early catkins on willow, then snapping us with a sharp, cold sting. Yes, Spring has been withholding many early-season pleasures here in New England, but she always shows us just a bit of sweetness at this time of year in the form of maple syrup. Cold nights and warm days are part of the swing-season magic responsible for sap production here in the Northeast. And this year —with the chilly weather lingering a bit longer than usual— the maple sugaring season has been starting, stopping and sputtering along. Some days it’s too cold for sluggish sap to run —buckets sit frozen on trees— but on warmer days, the percussive sound of drips echoing along the road makes my morning walk something of a maple dance. And I think it’s always fun to end an early spring walk with a hot stack of fresh blueberry pancakes or lemony French toast, smothered in sweet maple syrup. Yum…

Though less efficient than modern methods of sap collecting, the classic tin sap-buckets are still my aesthetic favorite

The Scenic, Seasonal View Along the Road in My Neighborhood

This sugar maple has three buckets. What’s the largest number you’ve ever seen on a tree?

Though I have participated in the maple syrup-making process many times, I don’t boil sap here at my place in Vermont. However, locally made maple syrup is one of my favorite sweet treats, and since many of my friends and neighbors produce and sell maple products every year, I have access to some of the best syrup in the world. In fact, driving up and down the mucky roads in Vermont and elsewhere in the Northeast this month, it’s impossible to go far without seeing the familiar, early-spring sights of tin buckets hanging from maple trees (Acer saccharum) and steaming sugar shacks. Here are a few photos of the maple-syrup-making process, which I shot at local Deer Ridge Farm over the past couple of weeks (many thanks to Jerry Smith for allowing me in to the sugar shack during this busy season). Learn more about how maple syrup and other products are made from maple tree sap at the official Vemont Maple Syrup website, and for more links and resources on sugaring season in Vermont, be sure to check out this excellent post at the lovely Traveling Near and Far blog.

The heat necessary to boil maple sap down, creating sweet syrup, is usually generated by a wood burning stove or furnace

Jerry Smith of Deer Ridge Farm in Guilford, Vermont is Busy at Work, Boiling Sap He Collected from Local Sugar Maples

Sweet-scented steam fills the air inside the Deer Ridge Farm sugar shack

It takes an average of 40 gallons of sap to make just one gallon of maple syrup*. Just imagine how much time & work goes into that sweet topping, next time you take a bite of your Sunday pancake, waffle, pop-over, French toast or a sip of your Sugar Moon cocktail!

Maple Syrup is My Favorite Breakfast Topping, and I Particularly Love it on Lemony French Toast (click here for recipe)

My Sugar Moon Cocktail (click here for recipe) is Made with Locally Produced Maple Syrup

Blueberry Breakfast Popover (click here for recipe) is Absolutely Delicious with Fresh Maple Syrup

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Special thanks to Jerry Smith and Deer Ridge Farm. Maple products and other produce from Deer Ridge Farm may be found at the Brattleboro Farmers Market (click here for more information).

*Thank you also to Traveling Near and Far for links, resources and fun facts!

Article and photographs are copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden, all rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used, reproduced or reposted elsewhere without written consent.

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Oh Sweet, Sweet, Sugar Moon: Celebrate The Vernal Equinox & Celestial Beauty With a Seasonal, Maple Syrup Cocktail…

March 19th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

The Sugar Moon: A Maple Syrup Cocktail to Celebrate the End of Winter & March’s Full Moon at Perigee

With the full moon at perigee, Winter’s end and Spring’s beginning, it seems there’s plenty to celebrate this weekend. Last night —eager for a preview of tonight’s celestial events— I took a tour of the local Connecticut River Valley, seeking a spot to watch the big moon rising. I wasn’t disappointed. With the sky still blue and clear, La Luna rose proud and full on the horizon. What a spectacular dress rehearsal. And tonight —with beautifully clear conditions in Vermont— I am looking forward to bundling up and taking my front row seat on the terrace here at home.

Moonrise is at 7:23 pm ET tonight, and as the glowing orb inches over the horizon, objects in the foreground will have a tendency to magnify her already super-sized appearance (click here for an article explaining tonight’s “super-moon” at perigee from Space.com). With the silhouetted maple trees —swollen buds on full view— for inspiration, I decided to concoct a special end-of-winter/super-full-moon, cocktail. And at this moment of seasonal transition*, it seemed only natural to combine the sweet flavor of locally produced maple syrup with the earthy, warm taste of bourbon; creating a special, celebratory drink. Meyer lemon adds a perfect floral note to this delicious, golden cocktail, and offers the slightest hint of sour to contrast with maple’s rich sweetness.

So enjoy the evening, whatever your pleasure. And wherever you may be, I hope the skies are clear and the moon is bright and the new season brings you health and happiness

Cheers! xo Michaela

*The Vernal Equinox will occur at 7:21 pm ET tomorrow, March 20th (23:21 UT), making today the last full day of Winter in North America.

The Full Moon Over Budding Trees

The Sugar Moon Cocktail

Ingredients

(makes one cocktail)

2 Ounces of Bourbon

1 Ounce Fresh Squeezed Meyer Lemon Juice

1 Ounce Grade A Vermont Maple Syrup (+/- for sweetness)

Lemon peel for garnish

Method

Pour maple syrup, bourbon and lemon juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake, shake, shake. Strain into a chilled cocktail glass. Garnish with a bit of sliced lemon peel (or a twist).

Toast as the Full Moon Rises

Sugar Moon, Sap Moon, Lenten Moon, Crow Moon or Worm Moon. Call it What You Will… This One is Sure to be Super!

Photo ⓒ Anita from “The Croggery” via  In the Company of Stone: the Art and Work of Dan Snow (click here for a peek at the maple sugaring process in this post by Dan Snow)

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The Sugar Moon cocktail is an original variation of an old, New England classic known as the ‘Maple Leaf’

Article and photographs (with noted exception) copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent.

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The Scent of Homemade Bread on a Honey Drizzled Morning…

February 26th, 2011 § 2 comments § permalink

Homemade Whole Wheat Bread and Farm-Style Butter

I Keep Dried Ornamental Grass —Miscanthus sinensis cut from the Garden– In My Bedroom Through Out the Winter Months. I Love How the Feathery Plumes and Golden Curls Catch Morning’s First Light…

Of course, I also enjoy looking at ornamental grass in the garden throughout the winter. This Miscanthus sinensis ‘Strictus’ always springs back, even after the heaviest of snow and freezing rain.

I admit, it’s tempting to jump on the anti-winter bandwagon at this time of year —seems that’s all the rage right now— but I’m not going to do that today. There’s simply too much to love about the pace of late February and early March in New England to rush things along. I enjoy watching the freeze and thaw process, and subtle changes in the fields and forest surrounding my home. Slowly now, the trees are beginning to wake up; sap running on warm days and sluggishly retreating to winter slumber each night. February snow squalls are often illuminated by bright, golden sunlight and sunset’s afterglow lingers long past five o’clock on the hills. Spring is drawing nearer every day. So, I’ll enjoy the last few weeks of hibernation from the world —weekends of sleeping in before the springtime rush begins— with homemade bread and cozy fires, and moments that linger like sweet, thick honey on a spoon.

And speaking of bread and honey… Lately my favorite spin on Jim Lahey’s famous, no-knead bread —you may remember this post about no-knead rosemary bread from last year— is a rustic, whole wheat loaf; adapted slightly to taste —at the author’s suggestion— from his fabulous book, My Bread. I like whole wheat bread served warm in the morning; fresh from the oven with farm-style butter (and by the way, I love this easy, homemade, organic butter tutorial from one of my favorite blogs, Kiss My Spatula) and a drizzle of golden honey. The scent of baking bread fills my little house with a scent I can only describe as love…

The Sweet Smell of Whole Wheat Bread Fills the House with the Most Incomparably Warm and Cozy Scent. If Unconditional Love Had a Fragrance, I Think the Scent of Homemade Bread Just Might Be It…

Whole Wheat Bread

Based upon Jim Lahey’s no-knead method from his book: My Bread

Ingredients: (makes one loaf)

2               Cups all purpose flour

1               Cup all-natural, whole wheat flour

1 1/4        Tsp salt

1/2           Tsp yeast

1 1/2        Cups cool water

Olive oil for coating bowl

Cornmeal for dusting

Directions:

First Afternoon: Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large working bowl. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, (room temperature), and blend to a shaggy looking mix. Use olive oil to lightly coat a second large working bowl. Transfer the dough to the second bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm room, (70 degrees fahrenheit is ideal), for 18 hours. Bubbles at the surface of the dough signal that it is ready to rework.

Next morning: Dust the work surface with flour and place the dough in the center. Lightly flour the top of the dough. Gently fold over a couple of times. Cover with a clean kitchen towel and allow the dough to rest for 15 minutes. Once again, dust the work surface and your hands with a bit of flour and quickly shape the dough into a ball. Sprinkle a plain, smooth cotton towel with cornmeal and place the dough on center. Cover with a second cotton towel. Allow the dough to rise until double in size, (about 2 hours).

After an hour and a half of final rising: begin preheating the oven to 500 degrees fahrenheit. While preheating, place a  2 3/4 – 8 quart heavy, lidded pot (such as a classic Cast Iron Dutch Oven) in the center of the oven. Heat pot for 1/2 hour. Very carefully remove the hot container from oven with heavy mitts.

Slide dough into the hot pot and shake to evenly distribute. Cover the pot, return to the hot oven, and bake for 25 minutes. Remove the lid and continue baking for 10-15 minutes, or until golden brown. Oven temperatures will vary, so observe very carefully the first time you bake bread.

Remove bread from the oven. Roll the loaf out of the pot and cool on a wire rack. Homemade bread will stay freshest in a bread-bag, loosely wrapped or a paper bag. Wrapping a loaf of bread tightly in plastic will make the surface soft instead of crusty. It’s best to eat fresh bread the day it is baked. Smear with farm-style butter, a drizzle of pure honey and enjoy !

Late February light is different…


Promising us something a little bit softer on the other side…

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Article and photographs copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved. All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent.

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Vanilla Sky & Blueberry Breakfast…

February 6th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Hot Popover Pancake with Summertime Blueberries Pulled from the Freezer

Blue sunrise. This morning I awoke to find every windowpane blasted with frozen droplets of water from last night’s winter storm. Thunder, lighting, snow and freezing rain; it seems all four seasons passed through New England yesterday in the blink of an eye. And today —with ice-laden trees swaying in the wind— I held my fingers crossed for a melt that never came. The sound of crashing limbs and shattering branches fills the forest surrounding my home and the power has been flickering on and off all day. Fortunately I’ve a warm wood stove and plenty of work to do in my studio, because it looks like I may not be leaving here for the rest of the day…

Vanilla Sky at Sunrise

Winter Windowpane

Sunrise Through Frozen Water Droplets

Certainly ice storms are dangerous —and often incredibly destructive— but in the sparkling sunlight, there’s just no denying their beauty. Early this morning, a vanilla-tinted sunrise and cool, bluish clouds created some of the most spectacular winter skies I’ve ever seen. And as the first light of dawn caught ice-coated branches, my entire hilltop became a kaleidoscope of sparkling wonder. So with this gorgeous landscape for inspiration, and the sound of Chet Baker’s ‘Almost Blue’ floating around the kitchen (thank you for the suggestion Barbara B.) I decided to try something new from Ruth Lively’s Cooking from the Garden, in a similar hue…

Blueberry Popover Pancake

Blueberry Popover Pancake

{Adapted from Ruth Lively’s Cooking from the Garden}

Ingredients: (serves two)

1 1/4       cups whole milk (farm style is best)

3              eggs

1              cup all-purpose flour

1              tablespoon farm-fresh, melted, unsalted butter

pinch of fine salt

3/4           cup fresh blueberries (or thawed, frozen berries)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 450 degree fahrenheit. Butter an 8″ pan (cast iron or non-stick sauté pan with ovenproof handle).

Combine all ingredients, except blueberries, in a blender. Blend thoroughly for several minutes until the batter is light and fluffy.

Gently pour the mixture into the buttered pan. Distribute blueberries (or other berry) over the top of the pancake batter and place the pan in the hot oven.

Bake for 35-40 minutes without opening the oven! If you open the oven door to peek, the popover-pancake will implode! The less you disturb the pancake while baking, the puffier it will be when you remove it from the oven. If you have an oven window, you can turn on the light and watch it through the glass. But be patient!  You can check for doneness after 30 minutes by slipping a knife in and out of the center. It should pull clean. If not, give it a few more minutes. The top should be crispy and brown and the inner part should be moist and fluffy.

Remove from the oven and serve with butter and warm blueberry syrup, maple syrup or jam. It’s pretty fun to tear the pancake and dip it into syrup with your fingers. There’s no sugar in this recipe, so you’ll want to jazz it up on your plate with a bit of sparkling sweetness…

Ice-Laden Hops Vine (Humulus lupulus) Twisted Round a Steel Cable

The Valley Cloaked in a Heavy Coat of Cool, Crystal-Clear Ice

The Silvery Hilltop Glinting in Morning Sunlight

 

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Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent.

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A Twilight Walk Along the Wintry River And Hearty, Potato-Cheddar Soup…

January 30th, 2011 § Comments Off on A Twilight Walk Along the Wintry River And Hearty, Potato-Cheddar Soup… § permalink

Winter is Soup Season: A Bowl of Potato-Cheddar Really Warms the Spirits

“The Dead of Winter”. I spent a good part of yesterday ruminating on this phrase. Is winter really dead? I suppose it might seem that way if you spend all of your time indoors. But if you are curious, and bundle yourself up properly, it’s easy to find signs of life –even in January. A walk along the river yesterday afternoon revealed green-tinted leaf-buds, browsing rabbits and flocks of noisy ducks. Reflective waterways are always gorgeous places to enjoy the beauty of sunset. And even in the chill of winter’s twilight, I choose to linger along the shoreline, basking in the pink-tinted afterglow…

Mallard Ducks Swim Along the Pink River at Sunset

Birch Against a Winter Sky

Mallards Gathered Along the Snowy Shoreline at Sunset

Of course it helps to cozy up beside the wood stove after a romp through the snow, and nothing beats a hearty bowl of potato-cheddar soup for warming the bones and spirits. I love soups and make a big pot at least once a week during the winter months. I think the key to great soups is always in the base stock, and this old family recipe is my hands-down favorite. Use good, flavorful potatoes and the best homemade stock (chicken or long-simmered vegetable). I always add a cup of rich beer (an amber style brew or dark, sweet beer) and fresh herbs to my potato cheddar, and a very fine quality local cheese. With a pot of soup waiting back home on the stove, I never seem to mind the cold weather…

Winter Walks are Nicer with Thoughts of Warm Potato-Cheddar Soup

Favorite Potato- Cheddar Soup

Ingredients (makes 6-8 servings):

5          Cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth

1          Cup high-quality amber ale or porter beer

3          Tablespoons butter

1          Cup chopped onion

3          Cloves garlic, chopped

1          Tablespoon freshly chopped sage

1          Tablespoon freshly chopped thyme

2          Bay leaves

3          Lbs potatoes, peeled & diced (I like flavorful golds for this soup)

Kosher salt to taste (about a teaspoon)

Freshly ground black pepper to taste (at least a teaspoon or more)

2          Cups grated, sharp cheddar cheese (I use Grafton VT cheddar)

Sour cream for serving

Freshly chopped chives for garnish (or sub other herb)

Directions:

Pour homemade broth and beer into a large stock pot and simmer over very low heat. Meanwhile, heat a sauté pan on medium-low and add butter. When melted raise the heat to medium and add the onions and sautee for 10 minutes, until translucent. Add the garlic, sage and thyme and reduce the heat. Cook for several minutes to release flavors and then remove from heat. Add the onions and herbs to the stock pot, grind in freshly ground black pepper and add salt to taste, and toss the bay leaves on top. Cover the broth and continue simmering on low heat.

While the broth is simmering, wash, peel and dice the potatoes. Slowly add the potatoes to the broth, raise the heat slightly and cook for 20 minutes or until the potatoes can be pierced with a fork. Do not boil the soup. Remove from the heat. Fit a food processor with the metal blade and process the soup in small batches (or puree in very small batches in a blender). Be very careful when handling hot soup, and never fill the processor or blender beyond the max liquid line or you will be scalded! You can process the entire pot of soup for a very smooth texture, or leave half unprocessed for a chunkier soup.

Add all of the soup back to the pot and simmer. Now is the time to check texture and consistency. If the soup seems to thick, add a bit more broth or beer. When the soup is at the desired thickness, add the cheddar cheese and stir over medium low heat to blend and melt.

Once the cheese is melted, Remove from heat. Serve hot with a dollop of sour cream and a garnish of freshly chopped chives.

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Mallards on the River at Twilight

The Shoreline’s Pink Afterglow

Time to Head Home…

And Cozy-Up Beside the Fire

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Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent.

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Ruby-Gold Cake & Silvery Snowflakes: Warm Cranberry-Apple Buckle, with Sweet Vanilla Crumb, Kisses the Dawn…

January 15th, 2011 § 8 comments § permalink

Cranberry-Apple Buckle with Vanilla Crumb – Lace Plate by Virginia Wyoming

Why pine for springtime when winter mornings arrive with sparkling frost and sunlight pouring across the hillside like sweet honey? I savor the slow, quiet days of winter, and I’m in no rush for spring. For now I’ll linger in my cozy chair, indulging in garden fantasies, verdant catalogues, leisurely breakfasts and steamy cups of tea. Instant gratification has its place, but waiting can be exquisite pleasure. In fact, I truly believe that anticipation is one of life’s greatest delights.

In the fall of 2009, I visited Vermont artist Virginia Wyoming‘s pottery studio for a feature article here on The Gardener’s Eden. The moment I stepped inside the artist’s work shop, I was immediately smitten by her lace-patterned plates. They were sitting out on her work table, some still in progress. I loved everything about them: the color, the texture, the hand-formed shape. I wanted one desperately, but I made myself wait. I felt I needed to earn such a lovely reward. Of course, I thought about the lace plates quite a bit; stalking them online in her Etsy shop for an entire year. And then, just before the holidays, I returned to Virginia’s studio to collect a few treasures. Anticipation… Thank goodness, the lace plate was still there…

Impossible Geometry: Crystalline Lace on Barn Boards

Morning Light Silhouettes a Mountain Silverbell on the Studio Wall

The Tree Line Glimmers and Shimmers with Silvery Hoar Frost

Even From a Distance, Each Tiny, Frost-Coated Branch Stands Out Against the Hillside’s Blue Shadow

Morning Star Dust: Rustic Charm meets Sugar-Coated Glamour

Today —with the garden and surrounding forest covered in tiny, frozen ice crystals— I remembered that frost is what first came to mind when I saw Virginia’s lace plates. With their striking textural contrast —rough-hewn shape and delicate lace pattern— and wintery color, they recall the work of my elusive friend, Jack Frost. Delighted by the cool ice crystals and the warm morning light, and the similarity in Virginia’s plate, I decided to play with the theme in my kitchen.

Rustic Fruit Desserts by Vermont-native Julie Richardson, and co-author Cory Schreiber, is one of my favorite, recent cookbook acquisitions. Given my weakness for all things tart —as well as everything apple, pear and berry— I simply had to add this delicious collection of recipes to my kitchen library. The buckle I made today is actually a combination of two recipes from Rustic Fruit Desserts. In winter, I keep local apples in cold storage in my cellar, and cranberries in my freezer. I thought the two would combine well to make a nice breakfast buckle. Indeed. You really shouldn’t take my word though, you must taste for yourself. Mmmm. Anticipation…

Cranberry-Apple Buckle with Sweet Vanilla Crumb

From combined treasures found between the pages of Rustic Fruit Desserts

Ingredients:Cranberry-Apple Buckle:

1               Tablespoon unsalted butter at room temp

1 3/4        Cups all-purpose flour

2               Teaspoons baking powder

1/2            Teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2            Cup unsalted butter

3/4            Cup granulated sugar

Zest          Of one orange

2               Eggs at room temperature

1               Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2            Cup sour cream

2               Cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)

1               Cup apples (cored, peeled and diced)

Vanilla Crumb Topping

1/2            Cup all-purpose flour

1/4            Cup brown sugar

1/4            Cup granulated sugar

1/8            Teaspoon fine salt

1/4            Cup cold, unsalted butter (cut into cubes)

1 1/2         Teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit. Butter a 9″, square baking dish and set aside.

To make the vanilla crumb topping: combine the butter, flour, salt and sugar in the bowl of a food processor or stand mixer: Pulse or mix on low speed until coarse crumbs form. Slowly add the vanilla and and mix briefly. Cover and set aside in the fridge.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer w/paddle (or use a hand mixer) cream the butter and sugar together with the orange zest on med-high speed until creamy and light (5 minutes). Slowly add each egg, one at a time –be sure to mix the sides in well– and then add the vanilla. Pour in about half the sour cream, then half the flour mixture. When blended, add the other half of the sour cream, and finally add the remaining flour. Mix well, making sure to stop and pull in all ingredients from the side of the bowl. Stop the mixer and stir in one cup of cranberries and one cup of apples.

Spread the mixture into the buttered baking dish. Pour the remaining cup of cranberries over the top of the buckle in one even layer. Remove the vanilla crumb topping from the fridge and sprinkle it evenly over the top of the cranberries.

Place the pan in the oven and bake for 50-60 minutes, or until a wooden stick pulls out clean when inserted in the center of the buckle.

Cool for a few minutes and serve.

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Virginia Wyoming’s Pottery may be viewed and purchased online at her Etsy shop by Clicking Here

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Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent.

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The Delights of a Cozy Winter Kitchen: Warm Oven, Fragrant Herbs & Freshly Baked Focaccia with Onion & Rosemary

January 11th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Freshly Baked Slices of Focaccia with Rosemary and Onion

Rosemary Blossoming in my Kitchen

There’s just something about cold, wintry weather that makes a girl want to bake… Know what I mean? Yes it’s nippy outside, but here in the house, things sure are warm and cozy. The wood stove is popping and cracking and the kitchen oven is hot, hot, hot! When I know that I’m going to have a busy day, I try to get up extra early in order to prepare something ahead of time for lunch and dinner. And just yesterday, while flipping through my new copy of Jerry Traunfeld’s The Herbal Kitchen over morning coffee, I was inspired to harvest some rosemary from my indoor herb garden for fresh-baked focaccia…

Sunlight, Shining Like Crazy in My Kitchen

In addition to this herbal cookbook, I received two wonderful kitchen gifts for Christmas this year. I love to listen to music while I’m cooking, but my audio system was really old and cranky, and the speakers wired in the kitchen had become so scratchy that I rarely turned them on. Well, lucky me! This year, one of my gifts was a Bose SoundDock system –and it’s amazing. Now I can listen to music again in my kitchen –every single day!

My other favorite gift is ‘Rosie’. See that gorgeous, red, KitchenAid stand mixer in the photo below? Mmm hmm. That’s Rosie, and she’s all mine. I am so excited! See, I’ve never owned a stand mixer before (yes, I know, I can hear the foodies gasping audibly). Well, there’s an explanation of course. Although I love to cook, until recently I haven’t been much of a baker. But two years ago, I was bitten by the bread-baking bug when I discovered Jim Lahey’s no-knead method, (see the post about it, and recipe here). And since then —particularly while experimenting with Rose Levy Beranbaum’s bread, pie and cake recipes— I’ve been having much more fun with my oven.

Meet Rosie: My Christmas Present & New Kitchen Playmate

Of course I’ve always used fresh herbs in my cooking, so it only seemed natural to involve them in bread baking. During the winter months, I grow herbs indoors both on the kitchen windowsill and in larger pots beside the glass French doors. Many of my potted, culinary herbs are located right outside on the kitchen terrace during summer, so they make just a tiny hop inside before the hard freeze in October. In addition to rosemary, I overwinter sage, thyme, mint and chives in my kitchen. I also start fresh pots of basil, parsley, cilantro and other herbs on my windowsills. During the dark, cold months, I reduce watering and hold off on fertilizing my overwintering herbs until late March or early April. Then —when outdoor temperatures begin to stabilize in May— I slowly acclimate my herbs to the great outdoors by setting them out on the terrace during the daytime and bringing them back in —and/or covering them up— at night.

Rosemary has a reputation for being a fussy houseplant, but I’ve never had much trouble with it. I think the key is to give it a bright, sunny location with plenty of air circulation, and to keep the well-drained potting soil on the drier side of moist. I have three rosemary plants indoors: one on the kitchen counter, and one on either side of the French doors. I remember being told —quite a long time ago, because I can’t remember the source of my information— that rosemary plants dislike drafts. But based on my own experience, I have to disagree. My kitchen doors are constantly being opened and closed to bring in firewood, and the rosemary plants on either side of the door look fantastic. In fact, they seem much happier than the rosemary on the counter (I need to repot that plant later this month) and are currently blooming their heads off.

Rosemary Blooming by the Door

Two Great Books for Herb-Gardening Cooks: The Herbal Kitchen & The Herb Society of America’s Essential Guide to Growing and Cooking With Herbs

Cippolini Onion Braid

Freshly harvested herbs are wonderful in breads; particularly focaccia. To create the quick bread featured in The Herbal Kitchen cookbook, I used rosemary and some of my braided cippolini onions (see my post on braiding onions here). If you don’t have a stand mixer, you can also make this bread in a food processor or even by hand. The stand mixer just makes it fast and easy. As far as the recipe goes, other than a last minute addition of parmesan cheese, I pretty much stuck to what was printed. But of course with focaccia you can add many different kinds of herbs, olives, tomatoes, etc. I did alter the method slightly, as I prefer Rose Beranbaum’s fold-over technique for herbed focaccia. When the herbs and cheese are placed just under a thin flap of dough —as opposed to spread over the top of the loaf— they remain moist and un-scorched, while the top of the bread turns golden brown. Rose Levy Beranbaum’s The Bread Bible is a fantastic resource for home bakers, as is her website/blog linked here. And on a cold winter day, a warm, herb-filled bread is just delicious…

Rosemary & Onion Focaccia

Rosemary & Onion Focaccia

Ingredients:

1 1/2          Teaspoons dry yeast

1 1/2          Cups warm water

1                 Teaspoon fine salt

6                 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 1/2           Cups all-purpose flour

1                  Large onion sliced (or 2-3 med. cippolini onions)

3                  Tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

1/4               Cup freshly grated Reggiano Parmesan cheese (optional)

3/4              Teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

Attach the dough hook to a stand mixer. Add the warm water to the mixing bowl and sprinkle the yeast on top. Wait a couple of minutes and stir to dissolve. Stir in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 1 teaspoon of fine salt. Turn the machine on low and slowly add the flour through the mixing chute. Mix on low speed for a couple of minutes, and then knead on medium speed for 5 minutes. The dough will look sticky. Stop the machine and remove the bowl from the mixer. Cover the bowl with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and set aside in a warm location to rise for at least one hour (more is good —Rose recommends a 3 or 4 hour initial rise—but fast sometimes must do, and in this case I think  well).

Meanwhile, heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a skillet and cook the onions on medium heat for about 3 minutes. They will be slightly under-cooked. Add the rosemary and cook one minute longer. Remove from heat and set aside to cool.

When you are ready to prepare the focaccia, preheat the oven to 450 degrees fahrenheit. The oven should heat up for at least an hour. On a lightly floured surface turn out the dough and sprinkle lightly with a bit more flour. Roughly shape the dough into a rectangle. There are two ways to assemble:

1.Herbs on top method: At this point you can coat the top with olive oil, press and poke to form indentations and sprinkle with the onions, herbs and cheese. With this fast method, you simply cover and let the focaccia rise for at least one hour before baking. If you do this, skip ahead to the last step, or try the fold-over, flap-top method…

In the fold-over method, the herbs, onions and cheese are covered up, just beneath a thin flap of dough.

2. Fold-over method: With a rolling pin, roll one long edge of the rectangle outward to form a thin piece of dough, equal in width to the rectangle loaf. This will be an over-flap for the herbs. Now spread the herbs, onions and cheese on top of the thick rectangle, and cover with the thin flap; as if you are closing a book. Roll the top of the loaf with a rolling pin until the bits of herbs are visible beneath the dough. Press at the top of the loaf with your finger tip to form indentations. Some of the herbs may press through, and some will be just visible beneath the surface. Brush off any wayward herbs and cover the loaf with a towel and let it rise for at least 1 hour (or more).

Last step: When your focaccia is ready to bake: Transfer the loaf to a parchment paper lined pizza peel (or lined cookie sheet) and brush or drizzle the top lightly with oil. Sprinkle the surface with kosher salt and slide the bread into the oven. I use a pizza stone when I make bread in my oven. Bake for approximately 30 – 35 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow the bread to cool before slicing and serving.

***

Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent.

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Celebrating the Winter Solstice: Welcome the Season with a Sparkling Ode to Krampus…

December 21st, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

The Ode to Krampus

As the final hours of Autumn slip away with the low sun, and Winter arrives in her frosty chariot, I’ll be celebrating the Solstice this evening with friends and family. Marking the Winter Solstice is one of my favorite holiday traditions. And this year, while searching for a special cocktail to serve at a holiday party, my very resourceful friend Mel happened to send me a fabulous list of libations from the New York Times Online. Jackpot!

Being an Alpine-kind-of gal, the very first recipe on the list immediately caught my eye (although Mel and I both agreed that the name didn’t do it justice, so I immediately re-named it The Krampus). This pine and elderflower-essence-infused, sparkling drink honors Krampus: a mythical, demon-like, pagan character from familiar childhood tales. According to Alpine legend, St. Nicholas (Santa Claus) travels with the rusty-chain laden Krampus from house to house, warning and punishing bad children (sound familiar?). Krampus is one of those hold-over pagan elements —much like the decorative evergreen tree, yule log, and other little bits of holiday cheer— that accompany Christmas. I think this Alpine-influenced story and recipe make a particularly appropriate cocktail to celebrate the longest night of they year, don’t you? Have you been naughty or nice? I think a visit from Krampus would be exciting either way!

Krampus and Nikolaus Visiting Children in Austria (image: Wikimedia Commons)

Unfortunately, one of the main ingredients —pine liqueur— proved impossible to locate on short notice, (though it can be found online and in specialty liquor stores). However, I did find a good piney substitute —rosemary liqueur— to use in its stead. And with a sprig of fresh white pine (Pinus strobus) tucked into the glass, this drink is tasty, fragrant, horticultural and festive.

Enjoy the Winter Solstice, and the stark, white beauty of this spectacular season. Cheers!

Pinus strobus -Eastern White Pine

Winter’s Stark, White Beauty

Ode to Krampus

(From the New York Times “For Every Holiday Party, the Right Drink”… with a teensy tweak)

Ingredients: Makes One Cocktail (multiply for a party)

3                ounces of dry white wine

1/2            ounce dry vermouth

1/2            ounce elderflower liqueur

1/4            ounce pine liqueur (or sub rosemary liqueur)

1                ounce club soda

1                ounce dry, sparkling wine (a brut prosecco is perfect)

1                slice grapefruit peel garnish

1                sprig fresh eastern white pine (Pinus strobus)

Here’s the mix…

Add ice to a large cocktail glass and combine the wine, vermouth and liqueur. Stir and top off with the prosecco and club soda. Twist a grapefruit peel over the cocktail and stick it in the side of the glass. Garnish with a small sprig of white pine.

Cheers !

From Winter’s Dusk

To Winter’s Dawn…

May You Find Beauty and Happiness in this Sparkling Season. Happy Holidays!

You may also enjoy the Persephone. Click here or on the image below for story and recipe from last Winter…

The Persephone

***

Article and Photos ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast…

December 17th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast

Oh yes. I know what you’re thinking. What is she doing, lounging about in the afternoon with a plate of French Toast? Oh the sloth, the sloth! It’s just nothing but wickedness {smirk}. OK. Yes, Santa Baby, I have been a little —how shall we say— self-indulgent recently. But, try to go easy on me. During the short New England growing season —with gardens to plan, plant and tend— there are few leisurely days on my calendar. So I really treasure this quiet time of the year, and I like to treat myself a little.

Mid-Day Snow-Squall

With snow flying, and daytime temperatures struggling to reach the double digits, outside work is off the schedule. These days, I like to wrap myself in fluffy office-attire and slip into cashmere power-slippers before I settle into my couch desk for the day. Oh, I’m still keeping busy -of course. I read and review garden and landscaping books. I write. I research. I draw and sketch out new design ideas. I edit photos. I begin to shift focus to my painting studio. And you know, it’s amazing how much you can get done when you’re comfortable. That said, I find it really hard to stay focused when my stomach starts to grumble. And, it seems this little conversation with my tummy always takes place in the late afternoon. So rather than argue, I give it some love. Which brings us, of course, to the Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast…

Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast

Love in the Afternoon French Toast

Ingredients (serves two with an appetite, divide or multiply according to desire):

6             Slices of day-old, thick, French bread

3             Extra large eggs

1/2        Cup of cream

1/4        Cup of Vermont maple syrup

1             Teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (plus extra for sprinkling)

1             Teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1             Teaspoon vanilla

1            Teaspoon freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

A pinch of  Salt

Fresh zest of one ripe, golden Meyer lemon (Do you grow your own yet? Oh… you really must)

For Pan:

1/2           Stick of sweet butter

For Serving:

Real Vermont Maple Syrup to Taste (warmed)

Confectioners sugar for sprinkling on top

Sweet, Organic Meyer Lemon from VivaTerra’s Lemon Topiary

Directions:

If you’re making breakfast for a group, warm an oven to 250 degrees fahrenheit to hold batches of toast on a platter until you are ready to serve.

When I make French toast I mix the batter in a bowl with a fork and then pour it in a shallow dish (a pie plate or any shallow dish will do the trick). Add each slice of bread to the dish one at a time; dunking each slice in and swishing it around as you go, to absorb the batter. Allow the slices to sit in the dish while you warm a couple of tablespoons of butter in a good sized skillet. When the butter is melted, raise the heat up to medium and add the toast. Use a good sized skillet to hold at least three slices at a time.

Add the slices of bread to the skillet and fry each side until golden brown. As the toast is frying, I like to drizzle it with maple syrup and sprinkle a bit of cinnamon on each slice. Be sure not to over-cook French toast. You want the bread moist and luscious on the inside, and golden-brown/lightly crispy on the outside.

Sprinkle each serving with confectioners’ sugar and serve with a pat of fresh butter and warm Vermont maple syrup.

Can you feel the love?

With proper care, Meyer lemon trees make wonderful houseplants. A lemon topiary is a beautiful & unusual holiday gift that keeps on giving. Here’s one good source: Organic Meyer Lemon Topiary from VivaTerra. Trees from this company are sent priority, in pretty clay pots. And if you hop to it, there’s still time to order before Christmas.

***

Article and Photos (excepting links from VivaTerra) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. Advertisers do not pay for editorial placement here, but do remit a small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden affiliate links to this site. All proceeds will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Red Riding Hood’s Delightfully Tart Cranberry Christmas Cake…

December 9th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Red Riding Hood’s Cranberry Christmas Cake

For an adult, I spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about fairytales (as you may have noticed). And no, I don’t mean those saccharine, watered-down characters you find at Disney amusement parks. I’m talking about the dark, weird, fantastically-twisted and sometimes frightening characters from the Grimms Märchen (Grimms Fairytales, in German, by the brothers Grimm). I grew up reading and listening to the original, shadowy tales of Black Forest terror -and they haunt my dreams to this day. Little details from the individual stories often blur together in my mind with characters, drawings and narratives by Edward Gorey and Tim Burton, creating a delightfully strange and slightly Gothic/Medieval blend of inspiration.

One of my favorite fairytales has always been Rotkäppchen (aka Red Riding Hood), and I am definitely looking forward to the new Warner Brothers/DiCaprio film —which releases in March 2011— starring Amanda Seyfried as Red, Julie Christie as Grandma and Gary Oldman as the Hunter. In spite of the not-so-awesome trailer, from what I’ve read, I expect it to be quite entertaining. I understand that the film is actually something like Sleepy Hollow —one of my favorites— and the set and costumes look amazing (would you get a load of that cape in the photo below)? When we were kids, my sister and I used to beg my dad to “read” this story to us, because his version was particularly imaginative. My father is a brilliant storyteller, which came in handy because our copy of the Grimms Märchen is written in German, and although the vast majority of my extended family lives in Europe —where my mother is from— my father speaks only a handful of foreign words.

Amanda Seyfried as Red Riding Hood

Dad often used the exquisitely illustrated Grimms Märchen as an inspirational launch-pad for a far more modern —but equally dark— improvisational rendition of “Red Riding Hood”. So, how weird can this possibly get, you wonder? Well, to begin with, the Wolf always wore black leather and rode a Harley. Sure, he was nasty as all get-out, but he was also seriously cool (I picture him as Clive Owen). And Granny, well, she wasn’t the nice little old lady you probably remember… No, not at all. This Granny was actually pretty crotchety, and she wasn’t very attentive to personal hygiene or home upkeep either. Of course, the Hunter was heroic in my father’s version of the story…  I assume this is because at the time, my dad was an avid hunter, and he probably wanted to give the dude a PR-make-over due to the whole ‘Bambi’ thing (don’t worry dad, we won’t go there today). But it’s my father’s heroine, Red Riding Hood herself, that I always found most fascinating. Red was of course exotically beautiful and sweet -but she wasn’t overly sweet. She had a bit of an edge to her. In fact, you might even go so far as to call her tart. Smart, savvy and quite skilled in marshall arts and of course botany, Red was no shrinking violet. I thought she was an excellent role model. And then, there was the swoon-worthy, crimson velvet cloak -who wouldn’t want that? Plus, Red was clever enough to carry some lip-smacking goodies in her basket, in addition to the carefully marked, poisoned cupcakes she handed over to the bad guys. After all, most forest-dwelling heroines know that the way to the Woodsman’s heart, and ‘happily-ever-after’, is usually through a slightly-tart, ruby-glazed sweet cake…


Red Riding Hood’s Delightfully Tart, Cranberry Christmas Cake

For the Cake:

2          Eggs

1          Cup Greek yogurt (I use full-fat)

1          Cup sugar

1/3      Butter, melted and then cooled slightly

1          Tsp vanilla extract

1          Tablespoon golden rum

2          Cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2   Teaspoons baking powder

1/2      Teaspoon baking soda

1/2       Cup of freshly washed cranberries (or more, as you like)

1/2       Teaspoon nutmeg

1/2       Teaspoon of cinnamon

Butter for greasing the pan

For the Cranberry Sauce Glaze:

1/2       Pound freshly washed cranberries

1           Cup sugar

1/4       Cup water

1/2       Cinnamon stick

1/4        Teaspoon ground nutmeg

Zest and juice of 1 orange

Don’t worry, no one will kick you into the oven while you’re checking on the cake… That’s a different Fairytale.

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Melt the butter and set aside to cool down. Grease a 10″ round ceramic dish with butter. Mix the yogurt, eggs, vanilla, rum, sugar and melted butter together in a large bowl. In another, smaller bowl, sift together the flour, baking soda and baking powder. Combine the dry and wet ingredients and stir until just blended. Add the fresh cranberries and turn them in gently. Pour the mixture into the greased baking dish. Sprinkle with nutmeg and cinnamon and slide the dish into the oven. Bake for about 40 minutes.

Meanwhile start preparing the cranberry sauce…

In a medium size sauce pot, combine cranberries, water and sugar. Bring to a medium boil while stirring. Add the spices and reduce the heat. Simmer for just under 10 minutes. Mash the mix up a bit, leaving some whole berries and add the orange juice and zest. Remove from the heat and fish out the cinnamon stick. Allow the mixture to cool and gel up slightly.

Round about now…

After 40 minutes, remove the cake from the oven and test for doneness with a stick. If the stick comes clean, allow the cake to cool for about 1/2 hour.  Glaze and cool in a chilly room, outside or in your fridge to set the sauce up. Carry through the woods in a basket covered with a red-checked cloth and serve at room temperature. Be sure to avoid the wolves. They will gobble you and your cranberry cake right up.

***

‘Tis the Season for Ruby Fruit and Candlelight

You may also enjoy this Golden Version of the Cake, Fragrant with Spice and Bartlett Pears (click image above or here)

Rudbeckia hirta with ice crystals

Hydrangea paniculata with frost and snow

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) in Snow

The Ice-Cloaked Blue-Green Dragon Stands Sentry at the Secret Garden Door (Acer Palmatum x dissectum ‘Seiryu’)

***

Article & Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Savoring a Quiet Moment & Raising a Glass to Friendship and Good Company: Soul-Warming, Spicy Mulled Wine…

November 24th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Mulled Wine and a Thanksgiving Toast to Friendship

The last few days and hours before a holiday are always a busy time. With all of the necessary preparations —shopping and cooking, packing and travel— it’s easy to lose sight of the more important aspects of our gathering amid all the hustle and bustle. Sometimes it can be helpful to remember that many hands make light the work; free up yourself, so that others may enjoy your company. A perfect pumpkin souffle is no match for a sweet kiss. Savor a few quiet moments with those you love, for those are the times we all remember most.

Do you know someone working a bit to hard, trying to please everyone but him or herself? Perhaps they might benefit from a back rub and a soul-warming serving of mulled wine beside the fire. Sit those worker bees down, pull off their shoes and hand them a glass. The napkin-ring polishing and guest-bedroom primping can wait. Time always speeds up around the holidays, and it’s up to us to pull the emergency break and slow it all down. Grab someone’s hand and take a walk through the forest or a stroll through the local park or garden. Tell a story. Share a secret. Give something of yourself to keep forever…

I love a glass of warm, mulled wine on a cold autumn evening. Last year I posted a recipe for mulling spices —which can be used for regular or spiked apple cider, and for mulled wine as well— but I have another, extra-special recipe I call ‘Mulled Autumn Wine’. This concoction is a little headier and takes a wee-bit more time prepare than the one I previously posted. Of course, I think it’s worth the wait. So if you know someone —or a group of someones— you’d like to spoil over the holidays, this might just do the trick. Feel free to tweak away at the ingredients – everyone seems to have their own special twist…

Happy Thanksgiving Friends!

Soul-Warming Mulled Wine for the Holidays

Mulled Autumn Wine

Ingredients for Mulled Wine: (serves 8)

1            Bottle of good, dry red wine (750ml)

1 2/3     Ounces of good quality brandy

1 2/3     Ounces of Grand Marnier

1            Teaspoon superfine sugar

3            Teaspoons of honey (plus or minus to taste)

2            Ounces of fresh squeezed orange juice

2            Ounces of fresh squeezed lemon juice (Meyer if possible)

1/2         Orange, sliced into wheels

Mulling Spices:

1            Cheesecloth spice bag

2            Teaspoons freshly grated orange peel

1            Cinnamon stick, broken in half

4            Cloves (approximatey)

3            Cardamon pods, split open

3            Star anise

2            Bay leaves

Garnish: (for 8 glasses)

1            Lemon, sliced

24          Cloves

8            Cinnamon sticks

Directions:

Crack open cardamon pods and muddle lightly. Add all spices to a cheesecloth sack and toss in a large pot. Pour in the wine, brandy and Grand Marnier. Stir in the orange slices and the juices, and cover. Let the mixture sit for approximately 3 hours. About an hour an a half before you are ready to serve, remove the orange slices with a slotted spoon and bring the mixture to a very, very low simmer. Add the honey and sugar and stir to dissolve. Continue simmering for a total of an hour an a half (be careful to never let the wine overheat or boil).

In meantime, slice the lemon crosswise into 8 wheels. Stud each lemon wheel with a few cloves and garnish the individual glasses with a lemon wheel and cinnamon stick.

Remove the wine from the stove and pull out the spice sack with a slotted spoon.

Carefully divide the wine between the 8 glasses and serve warm.

Happy Thanksgiving… Cheers!

***

Article and photos are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Spicy Cream of Carrot & Ginger Soup And the Last Rays of Golden Sunlight…

November 14th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Spicy Cream of Carrot & Ginger Soup

Alas, another late autumn weekend is drawing to a close; November sun flickering as it slips beyond bare tree-tops. The wood has been stacked, the bulbs all planted and sweet carrots harvested for soup. What a gift, these late-season days of warm weather. I love working in the garden until the last light of day, watching the low sun as it dances across the garden; illuminating the bright red twigs of dogwood and buff-colored tufts of ornamental grass…

Stacking Wood on the Terrace

The Entry Garden in November: Tufts of Miscanthus sinensis ‘Variegatus’ illuminated against a background of  dark green juniper (Juniperus x pfitzeriana ‘Sea Green’), delightful, glowing red-twig dogwood and the stark white bark of paper birch (Betula papyrifera)

Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and Fagus sylvatica ‘Riversii’ against the November sky

Before I slip back outside for a stroll through the caramel-colored forest, I want to share this delightful recipe I concocted at lunchtime. My carrot-based soup was inspired by a recipe featured in this month’s Martha Stewart Living, which I’ve been wanting to try (and still will). In the end though, today’s soup became something entirely different, because I didn’t have the harissa —a chile sauce from North Africa, which is included in that recipe— and instead of leeks, I decided to use up some of my onions. I definitely wanted spice, and I always seem to have Sriracha sauce in my kitchen, so I used that to generate heat. And in addition to my freshly harvested carrots, I just happen to have a bit of ginger root on hand —I love the combination of carrot and ginger— so I added a bit of that to the mix. Then, at the last minute I thought, well, why not add some warm spices and heavy cream to this and see how it goes. Mmmm. I really liked the ginger-carrot/spicy-creamy combination, and I think you will too. It’s just the right mid-afternoon pick-me-up, and I bet it would be a delightful start to a harvest dinner. Give it a try and let me know what you think. If you are looking for a lighter, healthier soup, simply omit the cream…

Spicy Cream of Carrot and Ginger Soup

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

1         Medium onion, peeled and diced

2         Cups fresh young carrots, peeled and sliced

1         Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1         Two inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

2         Cloves of peeled and crushed garlic

1/2      Teaspoon Sriracha sauce (more or less to taste) or sub other hot sauce

2          Cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth

1          Cup of heavy cream (sub w/ another cup of stock for low-fat soup)

1/8      Teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1/8      Teaspoon fresh grated cinnamon

1          Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Fresh Ground black pepper and salt to taste

Directions:

In a medium stockpot or large saucepan, heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium. Add the onion and cook for about 5 minutes, or until soft. Add the carrots and Sriracha sauce, reduce the heat a bit and cook about 10 minutes. Add 2 cups of stock (use three cups if you are omitting the heavy cream) and bring turn the heat back up to medium. Add the ginger, garlic, nutmeg, cinnamon and salt and pepper to taste. Cook for approximately 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and add one cup of cream if you would like a creamy soup. Very carefully puree small batches of the soup in a blender. Warning: DO NOT attempt to puree large batches of hot soup or you may burn yourself. This soup may be completely or partially pureed, as you like.Try pureeing a cup or two at a time. Add the pureed soup back to the pot and warm on low heat.

Ladle the soup into shallow bowl, garnish with freshly chopped parsley and serve.

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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The Never-Ending Vegetable Harvest & Penne with Roasted Potatoes, Arugula and Rosemary…

November 7th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Penne with Roasted Potatoes, Arugula and Rosemary from Alice Waters’ Classic Cookbook, Chez Panisse Vegetables

Ah, New England and the sudden changing of seasons. It really feels like late fall now… There’s even snow and sleet in tomorrow’s weather forecast. S-n-o-w. I feel chilly just typing those letters. The word always has a certain weight to it, doesn’t it? And although the wunderground.com weather report indicates no more than an inch or two of frozen, wet precipitation, I realize that it’s time to finish buttoning things up in the garden.

Mulching beds in the potager with compost and straw

Last week I spent quite a bit of time readying the potager for winter; testing and amending the soil, and adding a thick layer of compost to the mounded vegetable beds. My late autumn check-list also included mulching the newly planted garlic and root vegetables —including carrots and beets— with clean straw. I am in the habit of sprinkling a bit of greensand —as well as necessary supplements— into the beds as I shovel black-gold atop everything in a thick, dark blanket. While turning over a couple of planting beds, I unearthed some little jewels – more late-season potatoes. As I slowly lifted my shovel, I was surprised and delighted to find a few shocking-pink Desiree (beautiful pink/red- skinned potatoes) nestled in the loose, dark earth. I gathered the colorful loot, along with some fresh arugula from the hoop house, and brought them indoors for dinner.

The last of the late-season gourmet potato harvest, pulled from the ground

Arugula in the Hoop House

Gourmet Potatoes, Including Desiree, Pink Fir, Purple and Yukon Gold

Long one of my favorite cookbooks, Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables, includes a delightful recipe combining pasta, roasted potatoes, onions, garlic, rosemary and arugula. Right now, my garden and root cellar are filled with these crops, making this pasta the perfect late-fall dish. And although delicious in its original form, I also enjoy the sauteed vegetables served alone, or with a piece of crusty, French bread. I like to add a bit of balsamic glaze (a balsamic vinegar reduction) to the onions as they cook, but other than that, I usually follow Alice’s recipe…

Newly harvested potatoes gleam like rough-cut gems, pulled  fresh from the earth

Penne with Roasted Potatoes, Arugula and Rosemary

– A long-standing favorite from Alice Waters’ Chez Panisse Vegetables

Ingredients:

1           Pound small, firm potatoes (I used gourmet red, purple and yellow varieties)

1           Small red onion

4           Cloves hard-neck garlic (I used German red)

1           Sprig of rosemary (leaves from a roughly 6″, freshly harvested piece)

1/2       Pound of arugula (in this instance, the mature, firm leaves are best)

3/4       Pound of penne

1          Tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze (optional)

1/2       Lemon

1/2       Cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Wash and slice potatoes into 1/3″ rounds. Toss with a bit of olive oil, salt and black pepper and spread the potatoes in as single layer across a baking sheet. Place in the oven and roast for about 15 or 20 minutes, until golden and tender.

While the potatoes are roasting, thinly slice the red onion, chop the rosemary leaves and peel and finely chop the garlic. Set aside. Wash and drain the arugula leaves (pat off with paper towels or run through a salad spinner), lightly tear them up and set aside.

Fill a large pot with water, lightly salt and bring to a boil.

Remove the roasted potatoes from the oven and set aside to cool…

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a saute pan and add the sliced onion. Cook and stir for 15 minutes or so, until soft and a light, golden-brown color begins to appear. Drizzle lightly with balsamic glaze, and add the potatoes, garlic and rosemary while lowering the heat. Stir until well mixed. Add the arugula leaves.

Drain the pasta well and slowly add to the vegetables, tossing with olive oil and the juice of half a lemon as you go.

Serve warm in shallow pasta bowls.

Warm, Beautiful, Fragrant and Delicious – The Perfect Autumn Pasta

The Muted Beauty of November Skies

White ‘Spooktacular’ Pumpkins from the Garden

Wild Milkweed (Asclepias) Blowing in the Meadow Wind

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Recipe source: Alice Waters – Chez Panisse Vegetables

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Harvest Gold: Sweet, Sauteed Butternut Squash and Yam with Warm Spices…

October 17th, 2010 § 8 comments § permalink

Autumn nights are growing colder now; wood smoke curling from chimney-tops on still evenings. And although still vibrant, the forest is slowly shifting from red and orange to burnished bronze and rust. On walks along woodland paths, fallen leaves carpet the floor, and my feet kick up a familiar, October-crunch. Radiant as stained glass, the cathedral-like forest canopy glows in late afternoon light; at once beautiful and melancholy, this bittersweet season. But we’ve had a good, long run in the garden this year; light frosts barely touching the potager in mid-October. And with the cooler temperatures and early darkness, I find myself craving traditional, slow-roasted comfort foods: pumpkin, squash and root vegetables…

This afternoon I filled a pan with butternut squash and yams, and left it roasting in the oven while I wandered around the forest; Oli tearing a wild trail ahead of me. Upon our return an hour or so later, the sweet, warm scent of roasting squash welcomed us back into the house. Delicious. And now —with the temperature dropping and sky streaked with magenta and dusty plum— I am about to settle down for a cozy meal.

Autumn foliage reflected in a pool of rain water

Zucca disfatta is a roasted, hand-mashed and sauteed, sweet squash dish. Enjoyed in northern Italy and elsewhere in the cool, mountainous regions of Europe, this recipe is is traditionally served on holidays – but there is no need to reserve it for special occasions. Easy to prepare, this warm and fragrant dish makes a wonderful accompaniment to other autumn favorites (including roast chicken, turkey and pork, for meat-eaters). The squash and yams can be roasted and mashed ahead of time, and the sweet flavor also makes delicious filling for ravioli (great use for leftovers!).  I have tried many variations on this simple recipe, but the basic directions below (from Lynne Rossetto Kasper’s The Splendid Table) are a good place to start if you have never tried this dish before.

Zucca Disfatta

Ingredients (Serves 8 as a side dish):

2.5-3         Pounds butternut squash

1                 Pound yams

3                 Tablespoons shredded lemon and orange zest

1                 Large onion, minced (I use Spanish onion)

3                 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4                 Cups water

1/4             Teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees fahrenheit. Line a roasting pan with aluminum foil and drizzle with olive oil. Slice the squash in half vertically, remove the seeds and lay the pieces face down in the roasting pan. Prick the yams with a fork and settle in the pan beside the squash. Send them into the oven for about an hour, or until soft when pricked with a fork. Remove to cool. Peel vegetables and mash by hand in a large bowl. Set aside (may be done ahead of time).

In a small saucepan, heat the water to a boil and blanch the citrus zest for approximately 3 minutes. Drain in mesh colander and set aside.

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the minced onion and cook for approximately 15 minutes, until golden. Remove from heat and add to the squash/yam mash. Mix in the cinnamon and citrus zest. Turn the mixture into the skillet and cook slowly, stirring constantly, on medium-low for approximately 15 minutes or until water is evaporated. Add salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste and serve hot.

This dish is excellent as a side with roast chicken or turkey, and many other meats. It can also be used as a delicious filling for homemade ravioli.

Warm, fragrant and delicious – Sweet Squash

Backlit Beech Leaves Against the October Sky

***

You may also enjoy this post and recipe for Butternut Squash Soup – Click Here

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Welcome October! Capture the Beautiful Flavors & Colors of Harvest Season with Autumn Vegetable Stew…

October 1st, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

The Colors of the Season – Autumn Harvest Stew

I am a true New Englander. And while I do treasure all of the year’s beautiful seasons, I have to admit that October is my favorite month. I love autumn’s unique combination of fleeting, sensory pleasures; the subtle, changing light, intensely colored foliage, rich textures, savory flavors, warm days and contrasting, chilly nights. My weekdays are filled with end-of-growing-season chores; fall planting and garden designs to finish up, and new, long-term plans and projects to begin. And the busy fall weekends —jam-packed with fairs and friends and parties— are only just beginning. There’s so much to do, and I am loving every minute of it…

Of course, one of my favorite things about fall is the return of the oven. Oh yes -you do remember the oven, don’t you? You know, that heat-creating device you avoided all summer ? Well, on a rainy autumn day like today, the warmth of a fragrant, homey kitchen is exactly what I am seeking. So, I have parked myself here at the kitchen island —laptop and paperwork close by— with a steamy bowl of Autumn-Harvest Stew. Using what I have on hand —an excess of fresh tomatoes, colorful peppers and chubby eggplant— I decided to make one of my favorite fall recipes. And since the weekend is coming up, I figure some of you are bound to have company coming. This is a great party dish to serve a hungry crowd. And what’s really nice about this recipe is that the first step —prepping and pan-frying the vegetables— can be done well in advance. Just mix everything together in a table-pretty French Oven (or any heavy casserole dish), and pop it into the oven a half an hour before you are ready to serve. Voila… Autumn perfection when served with a loaf of crusty, French bread —or with a main course of fish or meat— and a big, bold red wine.

Fresh from the Garden Bold Colored Cubanelle (Cubano) Peppers, Bell Peppers and Tomatoes…

And Deep Violet-Skinned Eggplant…

Autumn Harvest Stew

Ingredients (makes one 2.75 quart French Oven, serves 4-6)

1  large eggplant sliced cross-ways 1/4″ thick

1  pound new potatoes sliced cross 1/8″ thick

1  red bell pepper

1  yellow or orange bell pepper

3  cubanelle (aka cubano) peppers

1  pound fresh tomatoes (peeled and cored)

2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

Kosher salt

Fresh Ground Pepper

Olive oil for frying**

* You may use your own, or purchased canned tomatoes later in the season. Use the same amount.

** It’s important to use olive oil intended for frying: it allows you to cook at higher temps without smoke or burning

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.

Wash the eggplant and remove ends. Slice crosswise into 1/4″ rounds. Set eggplant slices on paper towels to drain any excess water. Wash new potatoes (peeling is optional, on new potatoes, I leave the skin on) and slice into 1/8″ thick rounds. Wash, core and seed the peppers. Slice lengthwise into 1/8″ strips. Set vegetables aside. Peel and core tomatoes (I peel my tomatoes by scorching them briefly over the blue flame on my burner. Some prefer to scald them quickly in hot water. Either method works.) Place the tomatoes in a bowl and mash gently with your hands. Set aside.

Pour 1/8″ of frying olive oil into a very large pan. Turn on the burner to high. Once the oil is very, very hot, add the eggplant and brown on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon to a bed of paper towels. Next, brown the potatoes (add more oil if necessary) on both sides and drain on paper towels. Add the peppers to the pan and cook until just tender, and remove to towels to drain oil for a moment (patting gently). Add the vegetables to the casserole dish/ French/Dutch oven and stir. Add the crushed Pour the tomatoes and crushed garlic on top of the fried vegetables and stir. Add salt and pepper to taste (about 1/2 tsp of each is good) and stir once again.

Cover the casserole dish with a lid and place in oven. Cook at 375 degrees fahrenheit for 30 minutes.

Serve hot with fresh baked bread.

Autumn Harvest Stew

Viburnum trilobum (Cranberrybush viburnum leaf)

Tufted Hair Grass (Deschampsia flexuosa), Goldenrod (Solidago), Rudbeckia hirta seed pods, and red Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia)

Backlit Maple Leaf

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Toward a Bigger Brussels Sprout: Special Guest Post by John Miller…

September 21st, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Hands up to all whose first reaction was: “Why brussels sprouts at all?”. And now a tip as to how to make them bigger? I can not think of another vegetable so reviled. They also seem to be the poster child for unimaginative marketing; having been promoted as an unappetizing vegetable, forced upon us by mothers and nutritionists. Of course, I may be genetically pre-programmed to like them. Growing up in the U.K., where 1% of the world’s population consumes over half of the world’s brussels sprout production, the enjoyment of this vegetable may simply be in my blood. I am, however, completely unapologetic in my taste for them!

Recently, research has shown that brussels sprouts have even higher amounts of the same beneficial compounds found in kale, which have made that leafy-green (as well as the other brassicas) so popular of late. And even if you don’t care for the flavor of brussels sprouts as a side dish, they can be easily combined with other ingredients or cooked in ways which make them more palatable. If you haven’t experimented with the wide variety of dishes that include this vegetable, perhaps now is the time to give it a go (see hearty soup recipe posted below)!

Top growth of plant, before removal

The tip itself? Botanically, brussels sprouts are buds found in the leaf axils of the upright stalk. The lower ones come to size first. This is due to the physiology of the plant —indeed of many plants— where the top growing point suppresses growth of the lower buds. This influence declines as the distance between buds increases. By nipping out the growing point (top of the plant) the remaining high buds will come to size more quickly. This technique is very helpful in areas with shorter growing seasons. I remove the growing point on my brussels sprout plants about three weeks before the anticipated date of the first autumn frost (check with the Farmer’s Almanac for this date in your area). By controlling the plant’s production in this way, I am able to clean-pick each four-foot-tall plant by early November, just before the nights dip below twenty degrees in Vermont…

After topping the plant (note the tiny buds, now visible)

Cut brussels sprout tops on the way to the steamer (Yes, they are edible too!)

My favourite Brussels sprout recipe, taken from the Sunday Express sometime in the mid 1970’s. Regrettably I did not cut out the by-line so cannot acknowledge the author of this wonderful dish. I have carried the recipe around with me since then, even crossing an ocean with it.

Leek and Brussels Sprout Soup

Ingredients:

1/2lb of Brussels sprouts,  trimmed* (see note below) and cooked al dente (very important)

2 small leeks (or one larger one)

2 pints of stock (homemade vegetable or other choice)

1 Tbs of butter

1 Tbs of flour

Pinches of nutmeg and curry powder ( I add a big pinch of both!)

Salt and pepper to taste

A few drops of lemon juice

Directions:

Cook leeks in butter until soft but not brown. Stir in the curry powder, sprouts and flour. Add stock and bring to boil. Simmer two minutes. Add salt, pepper and nutmeg. Blend everything together, then add lemon juice and adjust the seasonings. Enjoy.

*Note: it is a matter of heated debate in the U.K. whether a cross should be made in the bottom of each sprout prior to cooking.

***

Article and noted photos ⓒ 2010, John Miller of The Old Schoolhouse Plantery

Thank you John, for your contributions to The Gardener’s Eden! In addition to operating The Old Schoolhouse Plantery, the Millers also grow and sell gourmet produce, including many heirloom vegetables. The Miller’s produce may be found in Vermont at The Brattleboro Farmers Market.

***

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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A Prelude to Autumn in Red & Gold: Roasted Beet and Fresh Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Glaze…

September 19th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Roasted Red and Gold Beets with Fresh Arugula, Goat Cheese and Balsamic Vinegar Glaze…

As I look out past the terrace this evening — down into the Green River Valley— bright orange, gold, rust and red flashes pepper the the nearby hillside and mountains beyond. There’s no denying it now… All of nature’s signs point toward autumn. But for tonight at least, fair weather reigns supreme. The air is still warm, and the French doors stand wide open; welcoming a gentle southern breeze. It’s September 19th, and though it seems hard to believe — watching the sun as it sets, flickering across the white birch trees, luminous against low, grey clouds — I know that another summer is drawing to a close.

All along the meadow, the flame grass (Miscanthus purpurascens) has begun to glow; striking a fashionable pose beside the fiery-red viburnum (V. plicatum var. tomentosum ‘Shasta’) and the blue shadow of distant mountains to the north. Even the potager has become a virtual kaleidoscope of color these days; rich with purple and gold tinted beets, brilliant red peppers, bright-orange pumpkins and wildly-striped winter squash. Harvest season is upon us. It’s time for apple cider, oven-roasted vegetables, and smores by the fire…

The Northwestern Meadow Begins a Seasonal Shift

Dan Snow’s Fire Sculpture in the Central Garden at Ferncliff

Sunflowers Along the Potager Fence

On tonight’s menu: oven-roasted red and gold beets. Delightfully sweet and pretty as gemstones, I like them served warm; artfully arranged atop a salad of arugula, with a sprinkling of goat cheese and a bit of reduced, balsamic vinegar drizzled on top. This beautiful and delicious salad is based on a recipe from a favorite local restaurant —sadly closed since this post was first published— where I once enjoyed meeting up with friends for a glass of wine and tapas. And speaking of libations, I think my friend Jonathan —cocktail-wizard supreme— would agree that a nice, dry prosecco is the perfect compliment to this warm and wonderful, harvest-season salad. Enjoy!

A Prelude to Autumn…

Roast Beet and Fresh Arugula Salad with Goat Cheese and Balsamic Glaze

Ingredients (serves 6 as a side dish):

3      Large red beets

3      Large golden beets

8     Ounces crumbled goat cheese +/- (or if using sliced goat cheese, as served at Alici’s, use 12 oz round)

3      Cups washed, small, tender leaves of arugula (you may substitute mesclun or any baby greens)

3      Teaspoons champagne vinegar

3      Teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3      Teaspoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2     Tablespoons balsamic vinegar glaze (reduced balsamic vinegar)*

Directions:

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Wash and wrap each beet in aluminum foil. Set in a roasting pan lined with aluminum foil. Roast for one hour.

In meantime, whisk together the champagne vinegar, lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper in a small bowl. Toss together with the arugula and arrange on a serving platter. Set aside.

After one hour, remove the beets from oven and check with a fork for doneness. If tender when prodded with a fork, allow beets to cool in the pan atop the stove, still covered with the foil, for 15-20 minutes. Open the the foil and cool for a five more minutes, then peel and slice the beets into 1/4 inch rounds. Arrange beets on the platter, atop the arugula. Crumble goat cheese on top of the beets and drizzle with balsamic glaze. Serve warm with a chilled, dry prosecco.

*Balsamic glaze can be purchased in finer grocery stores, or make your own by reducing balsamic vinegar yourself. Pour 2 cups of balsamic vinegar into a sauce pan and bring to a boil over medium heat. When the liquid thickens to the consistency of molasses ( 1/5 the original volume), remove from the heat to cool. This glaze is delicious over roasted beets, salads, breads and many other foods.

The Twilight of Late Summer

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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A Garden of Bold Tastes and Colors: Oven-Roasted Tomatoes Stuffed with Ruby Red Chard, Fresh Herbs and Vermont Cheddar…

September 12th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Golden Tomatoes, Stuffed with Chard and Cheddar, Oven-Roasted to Perfection

Every garden year is different, and in the northeast, 2010 couldn’t be more opposite from 2009. A summer ago, the weather was cold and wet, and I was rained out of more projects than I care to remember. By the end of last year’s growing season, I expected my toes to have webs. Cool, wet weather is perfect for growing crops like leeks and leafy greens, but 2009 wasn’t a great year for tomatoes – not at all. And what of 2010? Well, my goodness! Suddenly, the kitchen island is overflowing with a crop I usually consider quite precious. I honestly don’t know what to do with all of my tomatoes. I’m canning them —of course— and preserving them in other ways, and enjoying them daily at meals. I’ve been giving away baskets of the golden and ruby fruits to friends, and heck, I’m even handing out heirlooms to total strangers. The hot, dry conditions this year have been absolutely perfect for heat-loving plants —including the herbs, peppers, cucumbers, and squash of various kinds— and they are all doing remarkably well. But for me, late summer is all about the Queen of the Nightshades. Finally, I am enjoying a great tomato year!  And in order to continue enjoying my crop straight through early October (and beyond with hoop-houses) I water my tomatoes daily (at the root zone to avoid wetting the leaves and fruits), and pinch off late blossoms, which haven’t the time to mature before frost and only drain energy from the plant…

2010 Crop – One Day’s Harvest of Orange Blossom, Lemon Boy, Early Girl, Jet Star Tomatoes

Of course, some vegetable crops wilt in the heat, and other plants stop producing fruit altogether. Spinach —one of my favorite vegetables— is a cool-season crop, which bolts quickly and tastes bitter in high summer. I have begun —and will continue—  to sow spinach and other leafy greens for autumn harvests. But when conditions are hot and dry, many gardeners —myself included— consider chard to be the perfect spinach-substitute. I love chard, and I grow several varieties; including bright-lights, rainbow, old-fashioned red and the standard Swiss. Brilliant as stained-glass in the afternoon sunlight, chard is beautiful both in the garden and on the plate…

Rainbow Chard – The ‘Spinach’ of Summertime

Ruby Red Chard with Orange Blossom and Early Girl Tomatoes

When fresh tomatoes are plentiful —literally falling from their vines as they are this year— I enjoy them stuffed with herbs and vegetables; oven-roasted  and topped with melted cheese. Tomatoes can be filled with a wide variety of savory stuffings. But when the garden is producing such an amazing range of red, purple and chartreuse-veined, leafy vegetables, I am most inspired to fill them with color! Yesterday afternoon I took a break from my weekend chores and loaded my harvest basket with ruby red chard and golden tomatoes from the potager, and headed into the kitchen for an artistic lunchtime experiment. The recipe below can be made with or without the bread-stuffing base. If you opt to go with a lighter version, simply double the amount of steamed chard in place of the bread/egg/milk base. If you eat meat, you can add cooked chicken, beef or shellfish to the stuffing in addition to the vegetables and herbs. I think it’s fun to experiment by using different ingredients in each tomato. Kids love to carve out vegetables, and because the scooping is done with a spoon, this is a really fun and safe harvest-cooking project to share with them…

Stuffing the Tomatoes

Oven-Roasted Golden Tomatoes Stuffed with Ruby Red Chard and Cheddar Cheese

Ingredients: Serves 6 as a side-dish

6      Large Orange Blossom or other orange or yellow tomato

2      Cups of chopped, steamed Ruby or Rainbow Chard (leaves only), drained on paper towels

3      Cups day-old bread, crumbled into pieces and lightly toasted

3/4  Cup of milk

2      Eggs lightly beaten

5      Tablespoons Freshly Grated Reggiano Parmesan Cheese

1      Clove garlic chopped

2      Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped fine

1      Tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped fine

1      Cup Grafton Sharp Cheddar Cheese

2      Tablespoons artisan quality extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit. Select a shallow baking dish, large enough to hold 6 tomatoes. Wash the tomatoes and remove lower stems. Cut just the top off each tomato, as if you were carving a jack-o-lantern. Chop up the leftover top pieces and set the aside. With a spoon, carve out the inside of the tomato very gently, removing all of the seeds and pulp. Sprinkle the inside of each tomato with salt and pepper and arrange in baking dish. In a small bowl, combine the lightly beaten eggs, milk and bread crumbs. Add the garlic, basil, parsley, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and parmesan cheese. Mix well. Finally, add the chopped tomato tops and the drained chard, lightly tossing together. (For lighter stuffed-tomatoes, or for vegans, simply skip the bread/egg/milk base, and combine the other ingredients to make your stuffing. If you are vegan, use an appropriate cheese-substitute). Divide the mixture evenly between the tomatoes and top each stuffed-shell with the grated cheddar. Lightly drizzle with olive oil to prevent burning. Place the stuffed tomatoes inside the oven and roast for approximately 25-30 minutes, or until the cheese topping is brown and bubbly. Be sure to watch the tomatoes carefully, it’s easy to burn them. Serve hot, garnished with fresh basil leaves.

The Colors of Summer – Beautiful and Delicious…

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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Sweet September Sangria…

September 4th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

Sweet September Sangria

The Colors of Early September – Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ Along the Terrace

The Colors of Late Summer

Celebrating the end of summer?…What? The autumnal equinox is September 23rd (3:09 UTC)… That’s still more than a fortnight away! Call me a pagan if you will, but as far as I’m concerned, September is a summer month. And this year September has twenty two days of summer -only eight days of fall. So hey now… You needn’t be a cock-eyed optimist to see that the glass is still way-more than half full. And yet for many, once Labor Day has come and gone —children packed up and loaded into bright yellow buses— summer is suddenly forgotten. People can be funny like that. Some seem to need rules and order. They waltz. They square dance. They polka through life. But, have you noticed? Nature has her own rhythm. And myself… I prefer it. At this time of year she always puts on a sultry bit of jazz… A spicy mambo… A lively cha-cha-chá. September is dancing to Cachao. Can you feel it? Now floating like the monarch, then buzzing like the bee; late summer swirls with color. These days are golden-orange, fire-red and rich wine. And the nights? September evenings are velvet maroon and deep violet, inky blue and blackberry brandy. Late summer is more a musical range of feelings than words. Listen to it. Pick up your feet. Toss off your shoes. Wiggle your toes in the grass. Don’t leave the party too early my friends… Let’s close the place down. Pour a dark-red glass of sangria; spin the ice with your finger and savor the sweet citrus as you sway to the music. Make the moment last…

Daylily ⓒ Tim Geiss

Hawkweed (Hieracium gracile) in the High Meadow

Dewy Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)

Sweet September Sangria

I’ve been serving this classic sangria at summer soirées for as long as I can remember. Everyone wants the recipe… So, here it is. Remember, the secret is in the simplest of ingredients, and the long, slow chill…

Ingredients (makes one large pitcher to serve 8):

5 large, washed valencia oranges. Three sliced and two juiced

3 large, washed lemons. Sliced.

1/2 cup sugar

1/2 cup Triple Sec (you can use more expensive orange liquor, but I think Triple Sec is just right)

2 bottles of chilled, inexpensive, fruity, Spanish table wine *

*Sangria is a traditional drink made with inexpensive Spanish table wine. Using more expensive wine defeats the purpose. Aim for a price tag under $5. You can substitute Merlot for Spanish table wine if necessary.

Directions:

In a large pitcher, add most of the sliced fruit (reserve a few slices for serving; garnishing glasses and/or pitcher) and sugar. Mash with a wooden spoon (gently) for a minute, or until some juice is released. Try to retain the fruit shape (do not totally mash). Stir in the Triple Sec and the juice of the other oranges. Pour in the red wine and stir well.

For best flavor, refrigerate for 8 – 12 hours. Never, never serve sangria unless it has had time to mellow – it must sit and chill for at least 4 hours before serving… and longer is better.

When you are ready to serve, add a dozen or so ice cubes to the pitcher and stir well to mix pulp, juice and wine. Serve cold, pouring each drink into a glass garnished with fresh slices of citrus (either floating in the glass or on the rim).

Enjoy! xo Michaela

Savor the time-mellowed flavors…

Here’s to Sweet September – A (Mostly) Summer Month

Sunflower and Bumble Bee (Helianthus annus ‘Autumn Beauty’)

Rudbeckia hirta ‘Becky Mixed’ and a Hoverfly

Golden Spider on Rudbeckia ⓒ Tim Geiss

A Little Bit of Sweetness…

And a Lotta Cha-cha-chá…

Cachao Master Sessions Volume One from Barnes and Noble

Cachao Master Sessions Volume One from Amazon.com

Cachao Master Sessions Volume Two from Amazon.com

Cachao Master Sessions Volume Two from Barnes and Noble

Candlelight, Cachao and Sangria… And a Beautiful, Late-Summer Evening in the Garden…

***

Photographs of the Daylily and Golden Spider on Rudbeckia appear courtesy of  Tim Geiss at Poltergeiss

Article and all other photographs are ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

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Dinner in the Sun-Drenched Garden… New Potatoes in a Bistro-Style Salad: Pommes À L’Huile from Patricia Wells

August 29th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Pommes À L’Huile – Warm Potato Salad with Fresh Herb Vinaigrette

Late Summer Dinner on the Terrace

There’s something absolutely delicious about the last weekend in August. What brings on this delightfully hypnotic, wonderfully relaxing mood? Perhaps it’s the warmth of the sun radiating from the stone-slab terrace, or maybe it’s the color of the sky; deepest topaz blue? There are so many subtle ingredients to this hopelessly intoxicating, late-summer cocktail, I could never unravel the recipe. Let’s just say it’s pure bliss.

Knowing that we are nearing the end of this sweet season, I spend every moment possible outdoors. Lunch and dinner on the sun-drenched terrace, surrounded by the smells of warm earth and pots of aromatic herbs, is one of the simplest —yet most treasured— of my summertime rituals. And there’s so much produce to enjoy —pulled straight from the garden— at this time of year. Over the past couple of weeks, I’ve begun harvesting new gourmet potatoes from the potager; gold, pink, red and amethyst jewels. These beautiful gems, grown from Ronniger’s seed potatoes, make the most wonderful salads I’ve ever tasted. Message to self —in bold letters, underlined and circled at the top of my gardening journal— “Grow Twice As Many Potatoes Next Year”…

Harvesting New Potatoes from the Potager

Potatoes Scrubbed Clean and Glowing, Bright as Easter Eggs

Potato salad, particularly with herbs and vinegar, is such a wonderfully uncomplicated, perfect summer dish. My favorite recipe comes from Patricia Wells’ classic, and brilliant book, Bistro Cooking. Do you know it? True, it’s not as flashy or glamorous-looking as some —but it’s a true treasure-trove of culinary delight. And just between us? While I grant the award for world’s best gurkensalat to my Tante Maria, this potato salad from Patricia Wells gives my Tante’s kartoffelsalat a serious run for her money (shhh. I’m pretty sure she doesn’t use the internet). The key to this salad’s rich flavor is in the warm-marination process. Allowing the potatoes time to absorb flavors of the highest quality white wine vinegar and olive oil, makes all the difference in the world. If you grow your own potatoes, this is a great way to really show those spuds off. There’s nothing like the taste and texture of fresh potatoes pulled straight from the earth; washed and steamed to perfection. Don’t grow your own potatoes yet? Well, grab some new reds from the farmers market or your CSA, and make yourself a BIG gardening note for next year: Grow Potatoes. They are a super-easy, undemanding crop (they can even be grown in bags on decks and terraces). Enjoy. And remember, there are still three and a half weeks of summer left!

Pommes À L’ Huile

Based on the recipe from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking

Ingredients (Serves 6-8 as a side dish- divide or multiple to suit your needs)

3           Pounds new potatoes, washed and scrubbed clean with skin on

1           Cup plus 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

6           Tablespoons very high quality white wine vinegar

4           Tablespoons dry white wine

2           Teaspoons Kosher salt

4           Small shallots, minced fine

Fresh parsley  (3 – 4 tablespoons) chopped fine

Fresh chives (about 3 tablespoon) chopped fine

Fresh thyme chopped very fine (perhaps a tablespoon, to taste)

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

**Other herbs may be added as substitutes or, as strike your fancy**

Directions:

Steam the potatoes with skin on for 20 minutes, or until tender when pricked with a fork. Drain and let cool. Meanwhile whisk together 1 cup olive oil, 4 tablespoons vinegar, 4 tablespoons of white wine and 2 tsp. Kosher salt. Peel potatoes and slice 1/2 inch thick. Toss with the vinaigrette and set aside for about 1/2 hour, allowing potatoes to absorb the liquid.

In a small bowl, combine remaining vinegar, olive oil parsley, shallots and chives. Add fresh pepper to taste.

Before serving the potatoes, quickly toss with the fresh herbed vinaigrette. Wonderful served warm in the sun.

Pommes À L’Huile

‘Autumn Beauty’ Sunflower (Helianthus annus) The Brilliant Color of Happiness in the Potager

Doctor Woo, Enjoying Her 11th Summer, Stretched Out on the Terrace

‘Heavenly Blue’ Morning Glory along the Garden Gate

Burgundy Hued Sunflowers in the Potager (Helianthus annus ‘Autumn Beauty’ Mix)

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!


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Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho… Celebrate the Queen of August Gardens: Glorious, Sweet, Juicy Tomatoes…

August 20th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho

Oh, sweet, sweet tomato. All winter long, how I long for you; how I pine for your sun-ripened sweetness and juicy flesh. Oh how I worship your delicious flavor. And now, in the mid-August heat, I kneel at your humble earthen alter. With toes stretched out in warm, golden straw and red stains streaming down my arms, I welcome you, Queen of the Vegetable Garden. Late summer afternoons—August and September— these are the halcyon days of the tomato; the cherry, the beefsteak, the roma and the heirloom. So now, at long last, let the feasting begin.

Can you imagine life without the tomato? It seems impossible that this spectacular fruit —now regarded as one of the healthiest, natural foods— was once thought to be poisonous. Rich in vitamins and minerals —as well as antioxidants, including of course, lycopene— tomatoes are one of the sweetest health foods around. This year has been a great growing year for tomatoes in the northeast. And although some areas have reported a repeat of last year’s late blight problems, most farms and home gardens in this area seem to have been spared.

Cherry Tomato ⓒ Tim Geiss @ poltergeiss.com

Cherry Tomatoes ⓒ Tim Geiss @ poltergeiss.com

Sliced Tomato ⓒ Tim Geiss at poltergeiss.com

There are many ways to enjoy fresh, juicy, ripe tomatoes. But when the heat is on and the sun is high, there’s no better way to cool off than with a bowl of chilled gazpacho. Variations on this summertime classic abound, and everyone seems to have a favorite twist to the basic tomato-onion-vinegar base.

My version? Well, I happen to be in love with yellow and orange tomatoes right now. And, I like a sweet, pureed base of sungold cherry tomatoes for my gazpacho. Of course, you can use any tomatoes you like, and tweak the ingredients as you see fit – it’s part of the fun, really. And when you’ve had your fill of this zesty summer-soup, be sure to freeze some for later. You’ll be glad you did…

Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho

Ingredients: Serves Six

2          Cups very ripe Sungold cherry tomatoes (this recipe works with red tomatoes too – use what you have)

3          Large tomatoes (I used orange and golden-yellow, heirloom type)

1          Bell pepper (red, green or somewhere between) minced

1          Average cucumber, peeled, seeded and chopped fine

1          Spanish onion, peeled and very finely minced

2          Cloves garlic, peeled and chopped (but not too fine or it will overpower the other flavors)

2          Tbs. fresh, finely chopped Italian parsley

2          Tbs. fresh, finely chopped cilantro

2          Tbs. excellent-quality, artisan, white wine vinegar

1          Lemon, juiced

1          Lime, juiced

1/4      Cup extra virgin olive oil

1          Tsp. honey (or more, to taste)

Dash   Sriracha or Tobasco sauce

Kosher salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Sungold and Sweet Cherry 100 Tomatoes, Cucumber and Bell Pepper

Directions:

Combine 2 large tomatoes and 2 cups of cherry tomatoes in a blender and blend. Remove and strain the tomato juice through a chinois or fine mesh sieve. Set aside. Seed and coarsely chop the remaining tomato,; peel, seed and chop the cucumber and pepper. Peel and finely chop the onion. Peel and chop the garlic, taking care not to chop too fine (or it will overpower the flavor of the gazpacho). Chop the parsley and the cilantro. Toss all of the vegetables into the tomato puree. At this point, if you prefer a smooth gazpacho, you may puree all the ingredients in a blender. Everyone has their own texture preferences. I like to see and taste whole bits of cucumber and tomato in my gazpacho.

Squeeze one lemon and one lime and strain the juice through a sieve into the vegetable mixture. Stir and slowly add  2 tablespoons of white wine vinegar and 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil. Add a dash of Sriracha chili sauce or Tobasco, and sprinkle in Kosher salt & freshly ground pepper. Taste as you go, adding more seasonings to balance flavors. Tomato acidity and sweetness varies tremendously. If the soup seems a bit sharp, try adding another tsp of honey to sweeten the flavor. If too sweet, skip the honey and add a bit more vinegar.

Chill, covered, for 2 hours. Taste again and adjust seasonings as necessary.

Serve well chilled with a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt, a garnish of fresh cilantro leaves and a piece of crusty bread.

Straining the fresh tomato puree through a sieve…

Add vegetables: chop and mince to the texture you prefer – or puree the entire soup, if you like. I prefer some texture…

Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho… Ready for Chillin’

The summer meadow border, en route to the vegetable garden, bathed in morning light…

Sungold Cherry Tomatoes – The Sweetest Jewels of Summer…

Savoring the Halcyon Days with Golden Days of Summer Gazpacho…

***

Special thanks to Tim Geiss for his beautiful tomato photos – See more of Tim’s work at poltergeiss.com

Article and all other photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? Great! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Do you enjoy visiting The Gardener’s Eden? You can help support this site by shopping through our affiliate links. A small percentage of any sale originating from The Gardener’s Eden site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!


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