Savoring Summer: Harvesting and Drying The Garden’s Finest Herbal Treasures…

August 19th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Drying Herbs in the Stairwell

One of the great pleasures of living in New England is, of course, the seasons. The natural world operates on a distinct schedule here, and all life flows along with it at a steady pace. On these late August days, the song of the hermit thrush —an ever-present twilight melody enjoyed throughout summer— begins to fade as flocks of songbirds gather for migration before the full moon. And the sun, shifting position and setting earlier each day on the horizon, glimmers low and gold in the trees now. Although the noontime hours of late summer can be quite hot, and evenings are still spent bare-shouldered, it won’t be long before downy quilts and lavender-scented sweaters are pulled from closet shelves.

August is a month of preserving; of putting up and setting things by. Jars of jam and pickled produce form neat rows in the cupboards, and my freezer is packed wall-to-wall with summertime’s bounty. This is the time of year when my voluptuous herb garden literally spills from its neatly-edged confines. Borders? Fiddle-dee-dee, the mint seems to say, as it runs wildly wherever it may. But I never mind a bit of excess in the garden -it’s so nice to have plenty to spare. Mint, rosemary, basil, thyme, lavender and lemon verbena; their scents perfume my fingers and fill the cellar stairwell with beautiful fragrance. …

Freshly-harvested basil – Tied with twine for drying…

Basil and Mint Bundles

With dry air and scant rain, August is a great month to begin harvesting and drying herbs for winter. In the coming months, I will be grateful for a hint of summertime’s pleasures in warm cups of tea and fragrant breakfast scones. Drying herbs is simple and economical; an easy way to trim your monthly grocery budget and add flavor to daily meals. Have a look at the price of dried, organic basil next time you visit a grocery store. If you need a bit of convincing before bundling up the harvest and making room in your rafters, that little bit of sticker-shock should do the trick.

I grow herbs in my potager amongst the vegetables, on my terrace in containers, and throughout the ornamental gardens as well. Once the morning dew has dried —usually by 10am— I head outside with harvest baskets to gather whatever tempts my eye. Some days, I focus on aromatic herbs for cooking; including basil, rosemary, thyme and mint. But I also keep other uses in mind; gathering lavender, bergamot and hyssop for scenting oils, soaps, and sachets. Dried bundles of artemisia, tansy, Queen Anne’s lace, goldenrod and other herbs are also useful for wreaths, swags and dried flower arrangements. Once the cellar stairwell and loft are filled —mostly with herbs for teas and cooking— I string clothesline in my dry cellar to hang bunches of herbs, protecting them from dust with loose paper bag ‘hoods’…

Herbs in the Potager

Keep potted herbs attractive by frequently pruning. More than you need? Try drying bundles to use in recipes —including soup and salad dressing— throughout the winter…

Once I’ve collected herbs, I spread them out on the terrace and pick them over; stripping lower leaves and forming small bundles. I like to use natural twine to tie the herbs together, but I will use recycled rubber-bands as well; particularly for large bouquets of flowering herbs. Once bundled up, I hang the herbs in a dry, dark place. When they have completely dry-cured, I will strip the leaves from the stems and store the herbs in tightly sealed jars (clear is fine for closed cupboards – use dark glass if storing herbs in brightly-lit spaces). Although I try to harvest most culinary herbs before flowering —for best flavor— I do allow some herbs to blossom, in order to provide pollen for bees and other beneficial insects in my garden. Flowering herbs make great companion plants in the potager…

Bundles of herbs are picked over and thinned, then bound together with twine…

Harvesting Herbs in Late Morning, After the Dew Has Throughly Dried

Sorting and Bundling Herbs in My Kitchen

Some sage is left to flower in the potager. Other plants are kept tightly pruned through regular harvests…

Rosemary is a beautiful, as well as a useful herb. I like keeping aromatic herbs near my door, where I brush against them as I come and go. Here, I can quickly snip bits to flavor teas, salad dressings or garnish cocktails…

And as wonderful as dried herbs are in winter, there’s nothing quite like the flavor of fresh rosemary and basil —is there? I keep pots of herbs just outside my kitchen door all summer long, where I can easily access them if I need to add a sprig to a special sauce or evening cocktail. Come late autumn, I will bring the potted rosemary inside to my windowsill, and in late September, I will begin sowing flats of basil to grow indoors beneath lights.

Yes, I enjoy thinking ahead to the coming seasons, but I’ve never been much of a pleasure-delayer at heart. I believe that being prepared for the future should never detract from the importance of the present moment. From lemon-mint sun tea and caprese salad with fresh basil at lunchtime to ice-cold mojitos and herb-infused ice cream enjoyed by the light of the moon; savor the rich tastes and sweet smells of the season while you can…

Lemon-Mint Sun Tea (Click Here for Post and Recipe)

Mentha piperita (Peppermint flowering in the garden)

Cuban Mint Julep (aka the mojito) – Click here for recipe and story

Some great herb gardening resources to give as gifts, add to a wish-list or purchase for your own horticultural and culinary bookshelves…

Gardening with Herbs by Emelie Tolley and Chris Mead

The Herbal Kitchen by Jerry Traunfeld

Rodale’s Illustrated Encyclopedia of Herbs

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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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Spiced Zucchini Bread: Late Summer’s Sweet Garden Delight…

August 8th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

A Sweetly Scented Summer Kitchen – Zucchini Bread – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

This past week has been a really busy one for me. I’ve been working on a rush project: a garden design for a private residence with an upcoming wedding. The plant lists and orders were all due and placed on Friday, and I completed the finished drawings and site plans yesterday. I was called in to design this garden for a colleague’s landscaping company, and installation of this very large garden will take place next week, while she is away. So, for the next few days, I will be busy working with my friend’s crew, overseeing the layout. With the wedding right around the corner, everyone wants the garden to look lovely — especially the garden designer!

When my weekly schedule is this busy, I have little free time in the evening, so I try to cook and bake on the weekend to prepare meals for the days ahead. Last Saturday and Sunday I made my first loaf of simple sourdough bread (from my own starter), prepared several cold pasta dishes, and gathered armloads and baskets full of produce from the garden to freeze, dry and enjoy fresh. I also baked two loaves of delicious zucchini bread, and I ate very well last week. This week, I am running a bit behind and I need to get cooking today!

Detail from the Wedding Garden Design Drawings (At Meadow’s Edge) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

But before I head out to collect ripe orange-blossom tomatoes, fresh basil, beans and summer squash from the potager — and homegrown shiitake mushrooms from my logs in the forest— I have to share this wonderful zucchini bread recipe with you. I posted the photo below last weekend on my summer garden-party feature, and more than a few emails came in, asking for the recipe.  This is actually a very, very simple bread to bake. And although this recipe comes from a tattered old card in my box —many of the contents originating from my paternal great-grandmother— I have seen several similar versions online. The bread batter can be easily doubled to make two loaves (which I did, making one to keep and one to share). Be sure to freeze plenty of raw, grated zucchini to use for making bread in winter (if you’ve never tried freezing zucchini give it a shot – it’s very easy: simply grate raw zucchini and store by the cup or two cups in ziplock bags. Press out the air, zip it closed, date the bag, and store flat in your freezer)! In summertime, this bread is delicious on it’s own, or —as my mother used to serve it— warm with a bit of ever-so-slightly sweetened cream cheese. Delightful….

Zucchini Blossom – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Zucchini Bread and Freshly Picked, Wild Blackberries – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Small, Freshly Harvested Zucchini – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Spiced Zucchini Bread

Ingredients for one loaf  ( easily doubled to make two – one to keep and one to share ! ):

1             Egg, lightly beaten

2/3         Cup sugar

1             Tsp. Vanilla (I always dribble in extra vanilla)

1 1/2      Cups freshly grated zucchini

1/3         Cup Melted butter (plus extra unmelted butter for bread pan)

1             Tsp Baking soda

Scant      Salt (a very small pinch)

1 1/2      Cups all purpose flour

1/4        Tsp nutmeg

1            Tsp cinnamon (plus a tiny extra shake)

1/2        Cup plump, juicy raisins

1/2        Cup chopped walnuts (up to you, but really yummy)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees fahrenheit, and butter one 5 x 9″ bread pan (or two if you double the recipe). Mix sugar, vanilla and eggs together in a large bowl. Add in the zucchini and the melted (but not hot) butter and blend well. In a smaller bowl, mix together the baking soda. salt and flour. Slowly add the flour mixture to the moist batter, stirring to blend it in as you go. Sprinkle in the spices while stirring and blend well. Finally add raisins and nuts and mix together lightly. Pour batter into the buttered pan and bake at 350 for 50-60 minutes. Near the end of the baking time, insert a wooden stick at the center of the loaf. If the stick pull out clean, remove the bread from the oven and cool (in pan) for 15 minutes and then turn out onto a rack to finish cooling…

This bread is wonderfully moist, and delightful served with lightly sweetened cream cheese. Mmmmm….

Late Summer Delights – Zucchini Bread and Wild Blackberries – Image ⓒ Michaela at TGE

These strange old Bavarian plates were a gift to my family  from my Tante Maria

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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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Cool as a Cucumber: Tante Maria’s Gurkensalat & Summer Memories…

July 30th, 2010 § 9 comments § permalink

Tante Maria’s Gurkensalat – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Tante Maria (my aunt Maria) lives in the southernmost tip of Bavaria, in a small town near München (Munich) Germany. My mother comes from a very, very large family —all still living in Europe— and although I have many aunts, uncles and cousins, I will always feel closest to my Tante Maria. When I think of her and our long summertime visits, I am flooded with warm memories of her cooking, canning, baking and storytelling (as well as various odd adventures). My unmarried, travel-loving Tante would arrive at Boston’s Logan airport on a Lufthansa jet  —arms laden with heavy packages and carts of enormous luggage— in a soft, lemony cloud of Tosca perfume. It was almost impossible to sleep the night before my family made the two hour drive to pick her up, but when I finally did drift off, I’m sure I was dreaming of the contents of her perennially over-gross, goodie-stuffed bags. The edible treats hidden in Tante’s luggage usually included Alpine chocolate, German cookies, Haribo Goldbären, chamomile tea, spices for cooking and baking, and of course, smuggled meats and cheeses for dad. Tante rolled all of these things —as well as dishes and perfume for my mother, biersteins for my father and toys and books for us kids— in delicately fragrant bed linens, hand towels, and wonderfully strange articles of clothing.

München Skyline- Photo by Stefan Kühn via Wikimedia Commons

It seems to me that from the moment she arrived, until the moment she left —usually quite tearfully, six weeks later— Tante Maria ruled our family kitchen and dining room table. No sooner did she step inside the door, than she donned her apron. Spätzle (egg noodles), kartoffelknöedeln (potato dumplings), apfelstrudel (apple strudel), sweet kuchen (coffee cake), and delightfully vinegary kartoffelsalat (potato salad) and gurkensalat (cucumber salad) are but a few of my Tante’s many specialties. And although I tend to cook in a more Mediterranean than Bavarian style, I have added a few of her dishes to my repertoire. My favorite? It’s hard to choose, but I do love gurkensalat —a vinegar-based cucumber salad— especially when it’s hot. In July, when my father picked the first, deliciously fragrant cucumbers fresh from his garden, Tante Maria liked to make a very simple version of this classic German salad; cutting the fruits tissue-paper thin with an old-fashioned, über-sharp slicer (mandolin). On a humid summer day —made with a hefty dose of good, white wine vinegar, a bit of red onion and lots of pepper— this cool salad is truly heaven-on-earth.

Bavarian Checked Bierstein – From King Werks via Amazon

I love cucumbers served most any way —fresh in soups and salads and of course pickled— so I grow lots of them in my garden. Overall, Raider and Holland cucumbers are still my favorite green varieties for flavor, but I have also come to love the taste and pretty chartreuse color of lemon cucumbers. Recently my friend John introduced me to some more exotic cucumbers, including a delicious red variety I hope to grow in my own garden next year. Wonderfully easy to grow on fencing and trellises, cucumbers produce more fruit, grow straighter and are less vulnerable to slugs and other pests when grown on vertical supports. Good cucumber companions include dill, nasturtiums, sunflowers, broccoli, bush beans, radishes, and peas. Avoid planting cucumbers near other cucurbits (squash, melons, etc) as they share similar pests. If you spot cucumber beetles on vines or foliage, they may be controlled with neem oil soap (use only as needed), and squash beetles (which also affect other cucurbits) may be controlled with insecticidal soap and/or garlic spray. Cucumbers prefer a neutral to slightly acidic, rich soil (with plenty of nutrient-dense compost worked in) even moisture and regular applications of fish emulsion to help develop productive vines and tasty fruit. Cukes should be picked frequently —check vines daily when it’s hot— and at a small size for best flavor…

Raider cucumber and Lemon cucumber side by side on a wire fence trellis – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Cucumber and cleome – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Lemon cucumbers – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Tante Maria’s Gurkensalat – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Tante Maria’s Gurkensalat

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side salad, easily doubles for increased portions):

2-3   Very fresh cucumbers (more if very, very small), washed, partially peeled and sliced paper thin with a mandolin

1/2  Small red onion, peeled and sliced very thin with mandolin

1      Teaspoon kosher salt

1/3  Cup white wine, rice wine or apple cider vinegar

1      Tablespoon fresh, finely chopped dill (traditional)

Freshly ground pepper

*For a creamy version of this salad, add 1/4 cup sour cream or yogurt

Cool, green stripes – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Directions:

Partially peel the cucumbers with a vegetable peeler (stripes look kind of cool)

Set a your mandolin, or other slicer blade to a very narrowly angled opening. Run the cucumber through to test, and if the resulting slice is thicker than tissue paper, narrow the slit between blades. If you are slicing by hand, you will need to be quite patient and steady. It’s very, very important to get ultra-thin slices as this enhances the cucumber flavor and the delicate texture of the salad. Slice all of the cucumbers and place them in a medium sized bowl. Mix in the salt and cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Remove the cucumbers from the refrigerator and drain. Pat gently with paper towels.

Slice the red onion, again very thin, and toss the separated rings into the bowl with the cucumbers.

Add the vinegar, cracked black pepper and optional dill to taste. Chill for one hour before serving.

If you would like a creamy gurkensalat, drain the chilled mixture and stir in the sour cream or yogurt. Serve garnished with a bit of fresh dill.

Fresh from the garden, red onion – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

I like to use a tasty white wine or champagne vinegar in my gurkensalat – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Ready to Chill – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

The Joy of Thin Slices… My classic Bron Mandolin !

Trellised Cucumbers and Nasturtiums Along the Fence – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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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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Sweet Summertime Risotto with Zucchini, Basil & Golden Peppers & Cultural Notes and Tips from the Kitchen Garden…

July 22nd, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Summertime Risotto ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Endless summer. Between the deep green leaves in my kitchen garden, zucchini plants offer up their tender, young fruit and bell peppers glisten in the morning sun. Green and purple basil plants —pinched to form bushy mounds— brush my ankles, scenting the air as I walk along the pathways. Sungold tomatoes drip sweet from their vines and haricots verts fill my harvest baskets.

This certainly is the season of abundance, and one of my favorite ways to enjoy it is a simple summertime meal of risotto and garden-fresh vegetables. There are many, many wonderful possibilities when it comes to cooking risotto, and I like to use whatever is plentiful and freshest at any given moment. This week, another half dozen zucchini seem to present themselves every day, and the first ripe peppers have just begun to appear – what a delightful combination with a handful of basil leaves and freshly grated parmesan…

Summertime Risotto – Photograph ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Summertime Risotto

Ingredients: serves 4 moderate dinner servings or 6-8 as a starter. Double recipe to increase portion size or quantity

2          Tbs olive oil, plus extra for drizzling

3          Small zucchini, washed and  diced (4-5 inch freshly picked zucchini for best flavor)

1          Orange or yellow bell pepper, washed, seeded and diced

1          Clove fresh garlic, chopped fine

1          Small to medium sweet onion, chopped fine

1 3/4   Cup Arborio Rice

3          Tbs dry vermouth or dry white wine

3 1/2    Cups homemade or high quality vegetable broth, on simmer

1           Tbs unsalted butter

1/2       Cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese – plus extra for serving

1/2       Cup of fresh basil leaves, washed and torn into small bits. Plus a few whole basil tips for garnish

Directions:

In a large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil on high heat. Add zucchini and orange pepper, quickly sautéing (about 2-3 minutes) until gold. Lower heat and stir in garlic. Cook for another half a minute or so, stirring constantly. Remove and set aside to a plate.

In a Dutch oven or heavy pot, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil on medium. Add the onion and cook until soft and translucent (about 2-3 minutes). Toss in the rice and cook another 2 minutes, coating the grains in oil. Add the vermouth while stirring. Immediately follow with a ladle (about 1/2 cup) of stock, stirring constantly. When the stock is absorbed, add another ladle, stirring steadily. Continue to ladle in stock as the rice absorbs the fluid. After about 20 minutes, taste the risotto. It should have a very creamy, but firm to the bite, consistency. At this point, stir in the butter, reserved zucchini and peppers and their juice. Add the torn basil and grated parmesan and stir gently. Remove from heat. Drizzle with oil and serve hot with a sprinkle of parmesan and a garnish of fresh basil.

Summertime Risotto with Zucchini, Basil and Orange Bell Peppers – Photograph ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Cultural Notes and Tips for Growing Great Zucchini – From the Kitchen Garden

My vegetable garden is growing and producing well this year, but I still keep a watchful eye for signs of trouble. In high-summer, when the weather in New England tends to be quite humid, I apply a homemade, organic fungicide to prevent powdery mildew on cucurbits (this plant family includes zucchini and other squash, cucumbers, melons, pumpkins and more). This simple remedy (see recipe below) is mixed fresh in a pail and applied when the air is still, with a hand spray-bottle. Try to water the garden in the morning, focusing the shower at the root zone. I also patrol the garden for squash bugs (they attack all cucurbits, including cucumbers) removing them by hand when I spot them and applying insecticidal soap to plant leaves. Mint, oregano and nasturtiums are good companion plants for deterring squash bugs, though you may wish to contain aggressive mint —and rambunctious cousin oregano— in planters. Keep in mind that zucchini and other squash should be picked daily to promote fruiting and avoid the dread “door-stop zucchini”. Try to harvest small fruits (4-5 inch long zucchini have the best flavor and texture) in the morning.  Squash are heavy feeders, preferring compost-rich soil with a high nitrogen content. I plan ahead by amending the soil in next year’s squash bed (rotate to prevent disease) with ample compost and dried blood. If the soil in your garden needs work, then squash will benefit from supplemental feeding with fish emulsion during the growing season.

Homemade Anti-fungal Baking Soda Solution

3 Tbs baking soda

2 Tbs vegetable oil

3 gallons (plus) warm water

In a medium sized kitchen bowl, combine 3 tablespoons of baking soda with 2 cups of warm water. Add the oil and whisk together. Pour the mixture into 3 gallons of warm water. Transfer to spray bottles and use immediately, spraying the undersides as well as the tops of leaves. If any is left over, store in the fridge and warm in sun before using.

Use on cucurbits during warm, humid spells and at first sign of powdery mildew. This remedy is also useful for black spot.

***

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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Some Like it Hot! Keep Things Cool & Enjoy Long, Slender Haricots Verts: Chilled Green Bean Salad with Feta…

July 16th, 2010 § 9 comments § permalink

Chilled Salad of Haricots Verts with Feta – Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela Medina

The Long, Hot Summer. Cat on a Hot Tin Roof. Some Like It Hot. I don’t know about you but I just love a sultry summer, and we are sure getting one this year in the Northeast. Summertime humidity… It makes your hair curl and your skin glow, and dapples your water glass with beads of condensation. I think it’s kinda sexy. Of course, not everyone agrees with me, and plenty of my friends are getting fed up with the heat.

So what do you do when you’re feeling wilted by the mid-day sun, dabbing away at your dewy brow and glistening collar bones? Well lately, my answer is to get daily chores out of the way early and to avoid a hot kitchen like the plague. When I have a little extra time, I like to prepare cool salads and sun tea (lemon-mint is my favorite) in the morning, so that I can enjoy a languid lunch in the hammock or a slow dinner on the terrace later. Chilled summer salads are particularly wonderful when it gets this hot. Cucumber, tomato, arugula, pea and pasta; why the combinations are almost limitless in high summer. But at the moment, my favorite just happens to be a cool salad of haricots verts and feta…

Haricots Verts – French Style, Slender Green Beans- Photo ⓒ  2010 Michaela at TGE

Haricots verts —or French-style filet beans— are slender, beautifully green and very flavorful. All beans should be picked frequently in mid-summer —daily when hot— to insure a steady crop. Unpicked beans will stop producing if allowed to go to seed. When the mercury rises, I think it’s best to pick beans very early in the morning, to enjoy later in the day. Summer savory, which is believed to improve the growth of bush beans and deter beetles, is a fantastic companion plant for haricots verts. Soil enriched with well rotted compost and regular foliar feeding (applying liquid fertilizer to leaves in a spray or shower) with Neptune’s Harvest or fish emulsion will help to provide a beautiful, tasty crop. Always wash beans thoroughly when harvesting, especially after applying fish emulsion or any fertilizer. I like to freeze bags of haricots verts to enjoy in wintertime, but I also love them steamed, sauteed, served in soup —and of course— in chilled salads…

Freshly Harvested Basket of Haricots Verts in my Garden – Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Chilled Salad of Haricots Verts with Feta – Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Chilled Salad of Haricots Verts with Feta


Ingredients – Serves 6:

1           Pound of freshly haricots verts (filet beans) end stems trimmed

1           Large red onion chopped coarsely

1           Clove garlic minced

5           Tbs fresh chopped cilantro (more or less to taste)

2           Tsp fresh chopped oregano

4           Red or pink radishes sliced thin (other colors may be used, the red is a nice contrast)

1           Pint sungold or other cherry tomatoes cut into quarters or 2 heirloom yellow and/or red tomatoes cut into small wedges

6          Ounces freshly crumbled feta

4          Tbs fruity red wine vinegar or raspberry/red wine vinegar

6          Tbs extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

Pour an inch or two of water into a pot with steamer. Bring the water to a boil. Place beans in a steamer (or colander) above the boiling water. Cover and steam for approximately 7 minutes. Check frequently and remove from the heat when just tender (the texture of fresh beans is ruined when overcooked). Rinse the beans in cool water and set aside.

In a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil and vinegar.

Transfer the beans into a large bowl.  Add the onion, garlic, cilantro, oregano, radishes and crumbled feta. Add in fresh ground pepper and sea salt to taste.  Add the vinegar and oil and toss.  Chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

For a a pretty, colorful presentation, arrange the salad on a large platter and top with red and orange tomatoes and a bit of cilantro. You can also simply toss everything together and serve on individual plates or bowls.

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French-style filet beans, or haricots verts, as they are commonly known – Photo ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Of course, when it comes to loving summer, a little, steamy, celluloid-inspiration can’t hurt…

The Long, Hot Summer

Cat on a Hot Tin Roof

Some Like It Hot

Article and photographs © 2010 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. 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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Celebrating Fourth of July Weekend: Garden-Fresh Strawberry-Mint Mojitos & Flowers Exploding in the Night Sky…

July 2nd, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Strawberry-Mint Mojitos – One of the Summer Garden’s Greatest Pleasures !   Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

An explosive ‘bouquet’ in the night sky ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Look at those great big sparklers! Oh yes, I do love a little pyrotechnic excitement now and again – don’t you? In honor of America’s birthday, I’m going out to see fireworks tonight, and –goofy gal that I am– I’m pretty excited about it. To me, fireworks look like gigantic, technicolor flowers, exploding in the night sky. Wouldn’t you agree? Well, I know not everyone will get what I’m driving at here, so I put together a few daytime vs nighttime kabooms and kablams (photos below) for a bit of comparison. Even hand-held sparklers look like flowers to me; so much so, in fact, they seem like the perfect fizzy bridal bouquet (well, I do suppose you would have to wear a flame-retardent gown, and say your vows pretty fast – now wouldn’t you?).

Fourth of July is one of my two favorite holidays, (think you can guess the other?), and I’m about to pack up my bag and head on down the dusty road with some treats for my evening companions. Since Mentha villosa (Cuban mint) and fresh strawberries are plentiful in the garden, I figured I might as well whip up a few fresh strawberry-mint mojitos later on tonight. But of course, I can’t leave without sharing the recipe with you.  So scroll down past the floral and pyrotechnic explosions below… ‘Till you reach the cocktail recipe. Enjoy! And do have yourself a safe and fantabulous Fourth of July…

Happy Birthday America !!  xo Michaela

Red-Orange Explosion by Day ⓒ Tim Geiss

Red-Orange Explosion by Night ⓒ Michaela at TGE…

Exploding Queen Anne’s Lace in the Garden ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Exploding Queen Anne’s Lace in the Night Sky ⓒ 2009 Michaela at TGE

Exploding Echinacea by Day ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Exploding Echinacea by Night ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Wishing All of You a Happy and Safe Independence Day!

Cheers!

Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Strawberry-Mint Mojito

Ingredients (makes one cocktail):

6-8     strawberries washed and quartered, plus extra for garnish

1-2     tsp white sugar

1/2     lime cut into quarters

4         sprigs of mint – (pinch first 3-4 sets of tender leaves and tip)                             {ideally Mentha villosa & p.s don’t stint on the mint!}

2         ounces of fine Puerto Rican white rum*

1/2     cup of cracked, not crushed, ice cubes

Club soda to top glass

Fresh picked strawberries from the garden. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Directions:

Drop the mint into bottom of a cocktail shaker cup and crush the herbs with a muddler or the back of a wooden spoon to release the oil. Add the sugar, and squeeze in the juice of the lime wedges, next, add the strawberries and mash together well. Stir in the rum*. You can toss in the lime rinds if you like. Add the cracked ice cubes to the cup – cover and shake well. Pour the contents into a frosted glass and top with club soda. Before serving, garnish the glass with a fresh strawberry wedge and a sprig of mint. Serve.

*This drink is also fantastic without rum. You may wish to add more strawberries and a tiny bit more sugar if you are excluding the rum. Or add a touch of good quality, artificial rum flavoring instead.

Add Champagne, Prosecco or a Non-alcoholic Sparkler for a Strawberry Flirt. Click here for recipe. Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

***

Day Bloom ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Night Boom ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Bright Blasts of Dill ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Pyrotechnic Petals ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Bright Blue Bachelor Button Explosion by Day ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Electric-Blue Bachelor Button Explosion by Night ⓒ Michaela at TGE

***

Article and photographs,(with noted exception) ⓒ 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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It’s Time for the Great Scape: Harvesting And Enjoying Flavorful Garlic Greens…

June 24th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Scapes forming on hard neck garlic in my potager…

Curious looking things aren’t they, the garlic scapes? In fact, whenever I look at them, I can’t help but think of ET. You do remember ET, don’t you? The friendly little alien flying around on a bicycle, trying to phone home? Of course you do. I loved that movie when I was a kid. And, who could forget such a beautiful-homely little creature? Well I think garlic scapes are a bit like ET. They are freakish, but you can’t help loving them. Look closely. Do you see a scrawny, curled little finger in there? OK, so maybe my way of looking at things is a bit odd, but I figure if you are reading this blog on a regular basis, you are getting used to it. You don’t really mind, do you?

Garlic Scape Harvest in June…

ET Phone Home...

Elliot… ?

Alright, back to the scapes. Last fall, I wrote a fairly lengthy article on how to grow garlic. And shortly after I published it, my friend John emailed, curious about why I didn’t mention garlic scapes. Well, there were two good reasons actually. Garlic scapes are a gourmet delight; found at Farmer’s Markets and specialty grocers, usually during the month of June. First of all, I wanted to wait until scapes were actually in season, so I could include a recipe for garlic scape pesto, (which I tried last summer and loved). And the second reason had to do with a matter of horticultural opinion.  As hard neck garlic, (Allium sativum) matures, it produces a straight green stalk which then forms a loop or two at the top. This loopity loop -which reminds me of ET’s finger- is the budding garlic flower; more commonly called a ‘scape’. That knobby spot is where a bulbis will form if left on the plant. Some growers remove the bulbis and sell the scapes at market. In theory, the plant’s energy is redirected toward underground bulb production. Other growers prefer to leave the bulbis intact until autumn harvest, later drying and propagating garlic from the bulbis’ themselves. I decided an experiment was called for on this one…

I enjoy eating garlic scapes. So, I usually harvest them in June. But last year I left a group standing, as a little horti-science project. I know – geek. And interestingly, I noted no difference in bulb size between the plants with bulbis left standing, and the garlic with scapes cut in June. So, there you have it, my little scientific report on garlic scapes. Others may have differing results, and I am interested to hear about their experiments. But for now, I will feel completely guiltless eating all the scapes my heart desires. And now that we are finally on the subject of eating them, I must say that one of my favorite ways to enjoy garlic scapes is in a pesto sauce. I tried several recipes last summer, and my favorite is actually a hybrid between one I found on Adam Roberts’ Amateur Gourmet and another referenced on Adam’s blog from Dorie Greenspan. I actually like the pesto with almonds, as Dorie prepares it, but I rarely have them in my house. Pine nuts are always in my cupboard, and I use them frequently in all kinds of pesto.

Garlic scapes are cut off just below the first or second set of leaves, and once harvested, can be prepared many ways. In addition to serving them in pesto, as pictured here, I also enjoy them blanched, roasted or sauteed with a bit of olive oil. If you’ve never had them… do seek these curious curlicues out at the farmer’s market. The scape season passes quickly, and it’s important to harvest them just as they form their loop-di-loops, or they become tough and bitter. Of course, if you grow your own garlic, (see super easy instructions here), then you will have a ready supply every June to enjoy in season, or freeze for later…

Garlic Scape Pesto Rotini – With a Garnish of Calendula Blossoms ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Garlic Scape Pesto

(From the collective wisdom of Dorie Greenspan and Adam of Amateur Gourmet)

Ingredients (makes 2 cups +/- of pesto):

12 Garlic Scapes, chopped fine in food processor

1/2 cup grated parmesean

1/3 cup toasted pine nuts or almonds

1/2 cup olive oil

Sea salt to taste

Rotini or spaghetti or other pasta, cooked al dente and rinsed

Directions:

Put washed scapes, cheese, pine nuts, salt and 1/4 cup of olive oil into a food processor  with a metal blade. Blend the ingredients and slowly add the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil. Taste and adjust cheese and salt to suit your preferences. If you want a very smooth pesto, blend until creamy. If you are looking for a more rustic paste, then remove from the processor when just blended.

Use immediately as an appetizer, such as a spread on warm bread, a topping or layer on pizza or lasagna, or my favorite way: mixed with rotini pasta and chilled for lunch. If you aren’t using the pesto right away, place it in an airtight container, covering the top with a sheet of plastic wrap to protect the beautiful color from oxidization. Garlic scape pesto can be refrigerated for a few days, or you can freeze it for 2 – 3 months and use it later in the summer…

Garlic Scape Pesto – The Color of Summer!

Mmm…

Curly, twirly garlic scape – a beautiful freak of nature…

ET The Extra Terrestrial on DVD


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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Welcome Summer! Greeting the Solstice: Sweet Memories, Beautiful Dreams, Stylish Cocktails and Festive Sparkles…

June 21st, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Sunset Mangotini – The Perfect Drink for the Longest Day of the Year…  Photograph ⓒ Michaela at TGE

Solstice memories. It was the longest day of the year -and I was eight years old- when I snuck out on a stylin’ new, metallic-orange bicycle for my first unauthorized ride. Off, down the long bumpy driveway I went; coasting out onto the main road with the wind in my hair. The freshly coated pavement, patched with tar and gravel, made my eyes water… The smell of freedom. A little plastic flower basket, carrying who-knows-what, bobbed up and down on the front of my bike as I cruised past cornfields and cows, crackling power-lines and abandoned pickup trucks, and the newly-arrived summer residents, their windows trimmed with flower boxes and their yards filled with the scent of smoking bar-b-ques. School was out and time stretched before me like a warm, open ocean…

Summer. Seduced by the length of the day, I veered off the pavement onto a dirt road and ditched my bike along a familiar path where shadowy, fern-covered banks wound down to an inky brook. Running breathless, I kicked my hot sneakers to the rocks and waded knee-deep into chilly bliss. Before long I heard familiar sounds; the squeak of bicycle breaks and the laughter of friends through the pines. As I squinted in the blinding light, I made out the blurry, flickering silhouettes of my partners in crime as they sprinted down the hill. Oh the sweet taste of  forbidden-rendezvous success! We giggled and gossiped and splashed for hours, ’till the light began to fade, and then we peddled back out to the main road together. Drunk on the sweet elixir of liberation, we dawdled; gathering daisies and tiger lilies, and tasting tiny, wild strawberries along the side of the road. By the time we parted, the sky had faded from deep blue to violet, and fireflies lit the road. For a moment the world stood still, and the summer night swirled around us like a luminous, green blizzard… Frozen in time.

Oh yes, I caught hell for that naughty joy-ride -and understandably so- but it was soooo worth it. Sometimes a little bad tastes awfully good, wouldn’t you agree?

Welcome warm temptress Summer – the season of sweet memories and beautiful dreams. Here’s to wildflowers, bright red strawberries, glowing sunsets, and sparkling summer nights….

Pure White Daisies…

Beautiful Thunderstorms…

Sweet Red Strawberries…

Warm, Sunset Kisses…

And glowing mangotinis…

The Sunset Mangotini


Ingredients for one cocktail, (adjust quantities 1:1) *

2 ounces of fresh, ripe mango puree (peeled and processed in cuisinart)

1 ounce of ice cold vodka

1/2 oz of Cointreau (orange flavored liqueur)

Freshly picked, deep violet-colored pansy blossoms

*a non-alcoholic version of this drink may be enjoyed by combining the mango puree with 1/2 ounce of orange flavoring as a liqueur substitute, (available in fine grocery stores). Skip the vodka and prepare according to directions*

Directions:

Chill martini glasses in the freezer well ahead of time. Prepare ripe mangoes by peeling, pitting and placing wedges of the fruit in a food processor with a metal blade. Puree until smooth. Set aside.

In a cocktail shaker filled half full with cracked ice, pour the vodka, orange liqueur and mango juice. Replace the top and shake well. Strain the contents into a frosty, chilled martini glass and serve garnished with at least one -or better yet two- violet colored pansies.

Enjoy the glow of the summer sun as it sets in your glass…

Cheers! Wishing You a Glorious, Sparkling Summer!

xo Michaela

Strawberry Flirt (click here for post)

Search for other summer cocktails with garden-fresh ingredients by clicking 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…

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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Quickie Dinner? Fresh from the Garden? Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli…

June 19th, 2010 § Comments Off on Quickie Dinner? Fresh from the Garden? Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli… § permalink

Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli – Photo ⓒ Michaela at TGE

I don’t think I’m exaggerating when I say that I have been stalking the broccoli in my garden for more than two weeks. The weather in New England at this time of year is prone to wild mood swings -one minute it’s hot and humid and the next it’s cold and rainy again- and late spring temperature fluctuations can force crops like broccoli into maturity faster than anticipated. The minute yellow color begins to show up in the florets, the heads are over-ripe and losing flavor. When eaten straight from the garden, at its peak of freshness, the taste of home grown broccoli is one of the best arguments for retiring yet another stretch of lawn. So, early every morning I’ve been obsessively checking to see if my first broccoli crop is ready. And guess what? Here it is!!! Those dingy, yellowy heads of broccoli at the grocery store can never compare to this!

For a great initial harvest, and continued production of smaller side-shoots for weeks, be sure to fertilize your broccoli plants with fish emulsion or another organic product once a month. Broccoli performs, and tastes best when grown in compost rich soil with even and ample nitrogen content. Warm temperatures, full sun and steady moisture will give the fastest and highest yield . Spring planted crops usually mature right about now and summer-yielding crops will continue to produce florets even in the hottest months. A fall crop may be direct sown in the garden anytime in late spring or early summer. Although broccoli starts transplant well, this must be done with care as the seedlings do not like root disturbance. I plant my broccoli a little more than a foot apart in a compost and leaf mold enriched bed with companions such as radish, carrot, lettuce, and nasturtium. Mulching roots will help keep them cool, and prevent accidents with a hand weeder or hoe…

Oh so fresh…

Freshly harvested blue-green florets…

Steamed, blanched, sauteed or baked; I love broccoli just about any way, including raw, straight from the garden. I have tried many broccoli recipes , but one of the tastiest I have found is Ina Garten’s Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli from her Back to Basics cookbook. Since trying this garlicky-parmesan seasoning blend, I have taken to adding the cooked vegetables to pasta for a quick and satisfying early evening meal, or as a cold pasta salad dish at lunch. As is usually the case with Ina’s recipes, there’s nothing time consuming or complicated about this method of preparation. This dish is fast and easy to make, and the simple flavors of lemon, basil, pine nuts and parmesan perfectly enhance fresh broccoli, but never overpower it’s wonderful fresh flavor…

Penne with Oven-Roasted Broccoli and Parmesan

Based on Ina Garten’s Back to Basics Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli Recipe


Ingredients: Serves 4-6

8                  cups fresh broccoli florets, washed and prepared

4                  cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thin

1 1/2           teaspoons kosher salt

1/2              teaspoon fresh ground black pepper

2                  teaspoons lemon zest

2                  tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1/4              cup pine nuts, roasted to golden brown

1/3              cup fresh grated parmesan cheese, plus extra for serving

2                  tablespoons chopped basil leaves

1 lb              dry, packaged penne

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425 degrees while preparing broccoli. Arrange the broccoli florets in a single layer on a baking sheet or in a pan. Sprinkle garlic on top of the broccoli, then coat with olive oil, (about 5 tablespoons) salt and pepper. Roast in oven 25 minutes or until cooked and a bit brown on the tips of the florets.

While broccoli is roasting, bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook the penne according to package directions. Drain and reserve about 1/4 cup of the pasta water.

Remove broccoli from oven into a skillet or pan and toss with about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, pine nuts, parmesan and fresh basil. Add a bit of pasta cooking water to the pan and slowly add the penne, stirring as you go, tossing well on low heat to combine flavors. Remove and serve in shallow bowls with extra parmesan.

Roasted broccoli may also be served as presented by Ina Garten in her Back to Basics cookbook -without pasta- as a simple and delicious side dish.

Almost High 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 site will go toward web hosting and maintenance costs. Thank you for your support!

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The Strawberry Shortcake Facial – A (Mostly-True) Country Girl Story, Where Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest Meet Fruit Mush. Plus, a Really Great Recipe for Strawberry Shortcake. I Swear…

June 12th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Strawberry Shortcake with Homemade Butter Biscuits…

I grew up in a strawberry patch. Yes, I mean that literally. My family grew and sold organic berries, and when I was a kid, my sister and I spent many hours in the strawberry fields picking and tending the crops. Once you’re a grownup, this sounds pretty idyllic. However for a couple of kids, it’s kind of boring to pick berries for hours and hours on a beautiful summer day. You have to use your imagination to break up the monotony. And since my sister and I were always pretty inventive, we found plenty of creative ways to entertain ourselves…

If you’ve ever grown strawberries -or spent time picking them on hazy summer days- you know that there is a point in late June when the berries ripen so quickly, that you can’t keep up with the harvest. Add humid weather -which we often get in New England- and a few days of steady rain, and soon all of the over-ripe berries start rotting right on the plants. My dad instructed us to pick off these mushy, often slimy berries, to protect the rest of the crops from mold. And sometimes, after a particularly wet week, we would have as many throw-away berries as market-worthy fruits. Usually we would fling these slimy rejects as far away as we could; aiming for distant trees, clanging tin pie plates, wooden stakes or the odd scarecrow. Sometimes, we would collect the mushy berries and pile them on rocks for hungry chipmunks, or toss them into the meadow for birds. But then we got another idea…

This was the 1980’s and, as country kids, we were pretty fascinated with the glam city-culture beyond our reach.  T.V. Shows like Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest, mostly airing past our bedtime -though our mom was pretty lenient about those kinds of things- were populated with sexy characters who sauntered around in puffy-shoulder pads, silky robes and high heeled mules. Talk about another world. Things like sports cars, cocktail parties, private jets, exotic spas, pedicures and facials were a big part of those fictitious women’s lives. In fact, much of their scheming seemed to take place during conversations on their boudoir telephones, while (unbeknownst to their male love-interests) goopy masks of one sort or another were smeared upon their pouty pusses. At the time, our mom was also into beauty treatments, though her’s didn’t come in Borghese or Chanel jars like those we saw on Alexis Carrington’s dresser. My mother of course made her own facial concoctions from what we thought to be truly gross ingredients; mostly things you would eat -but usually not in combination- like yogurt, eggs, cucumbers and lemon juice. Definitely NOT glam. But somehow, we must have been influenced…

I’m not really sure of how it all started. Maybe it was our mom’s idea, or maybe it was something we came up with. Maybe it was an accident, and maybe it was on purpose. Anyway, one hot afternoon, certainly following some drama, a handful of smashed berries ended up on someone’s face. And then another handful… And another… And another… Until our faces were completely covered in mushy strawberry goo. Of course this reduced us to gut-splitting giggles, and we thought it was all pretty hysterical -and outrageous – but somehow we decided it was also very, very glam. This ‘spa treatment’ came to be known as the ‘strawberry shortcake facial’, and it was all the rage that summer in the field. Yes, I know we weren’t the first -and definitely won’t be the last- kids to smear strawberry mush on our faces… But it sure is a sweet summer memory…

Strawberries are still my favorite fruit, and although my berry patch is quite small when compared to the one I grew up with, I do grow several different varieties in my garden. This year the early-bearing crops are fruiting a bit ahead of schedule, and even the alpine strawberries are beginning to turn red. Strawberries are easy to grow, and I will be posting more on the subject soon. But if you are just starting a patch for yourself, you may want to skip ahead and check out the post “Strawberry (and Blueberry and Raspberry and Kiwi) Fields Forever” I wrote for B&N’s Garden Variety earlier this week, featuring a review of Barbara Bowling’s great guide to raising small fruit, The Berry Growers Companion.

As soon as they are ripe, the first thing I always make with my fresh strawberries is shortcake. To me, this treat signals the unofficial start of summer. And to this day, whenever I pluck ruby ripe berries in the field, and slice them to make strawberry shortcake -my favorite summertime dessert- I think of my sister and our glamorous fresh-fruit facials. And you want to know a secret? Sometimes, when I am by myself, I still sneak a bit of the strawberry shortcake mash on my face as a special ‘treatment’. Truth be told, on rainy days, I might even do it while scheming on the phone. Hey, it’s like I always say: who says a gardener can’t be glamorous… ?

Freshly Washed Strawberries from the Garden…

Strawberry Shortcake

Ingredients (Serves 6)

4           Cups washed and sliced strawberries – plus extra for garnish

1           Tbs sugar, (adjust to tartness of berries)

1           Pint whipping cream

1/2       Tsp vanilla

Fresh mint leaves for garnish (optional)

Biscuits

2            Cups flour

2 1/2     Tsp baking powder

1            Tsp salt

6            Tbs unsalted, chilled butter, plus extra for serving

3/4         Cup whole milk (plus extra for brushing biscuits)

Directions:

In order to get a juicy bowl of shortcake, you need to start at least an hour ahead. I don’t hull freshly picked berries, but if you prefer to do this, hull right before you slice them, or they will dry out. Wash and pick over the berries, and slice them, (not too thin… gross), into a bowl. Mash about 1/3-1/2 of them, but don’t turn the whole bowl into mush, (again, gross). Add sugar, tasting as you go, then cover the bowl and refrigerate for an hour or so. You can whip the cream and vanilla ahead of time too, if you like, and refrigerate. Some people prefer sugar in their whipped cream. I like mine unsweetened in this instance, to create a contrast between the tart/sweet berries and the vanilla-tinted cream.

Preheat your oven to 450 degrees.

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients together well. Cut the butter into thin slices, (about 10), and mix into the dry ingredients with a pastry blender. Work the dough until it’s crumbly and resembles cornmeal. Add the milk and quickly mix it together, blending well. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead it just a bit.

Roll the dough out 1/2 inch thick and cut into 3 inch round discs with a cookie cutter or pastry form. You should end up with about 8 biscuits. Place the biscuits on an unbuttered cookie sheet and brush with milk.

Bake 15 minutes, or until golden brown on top. Remove promptly. Split hot biscuits in half and place them in bowls. Spread with fresh butter. Once the butter has melted, add a generous amount of berries and whipped cream to one biscuit, then top with the other biscuit, and repeat. Garnish with fresh mint and a whole berry, and serve warm.

Dallas on DVD !!!

Dynasty on DVD !!!

Article and almost all photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Photos of Messy Michaela by an Anonymous Accomplice

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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Hello Heavenly Spring Harvest! Pizza with Arugula and Fresh Asparagus…

May 23rd, 2010 § 7 comments § permalink

Pizza from scratch with fresh asparagus, tomatoes and goat cheese…

Although it’s been nearly a decade since my last visit to Italy, I used to travel to Tuscany and the Amalfi Coast every summer. During that time, I fell in love with the simple peasant-style pizza, (no red sauce or gooey cheese), I found along the coast. Fresh local cheese sprinkled with olive oil and balsamic vinegar, topped with barely wilted arugula or other greens, was all the deliciously chewy, crispy, hot crust needed to make pure magic for the taste buds.

These days, it seems like everyone I know has their own preferred method for baking pizza, and some even have a secret recipe for dough. One of my longtime friends regularly makes pizza on the grill for summer gatherings, and another adventurous pair I know went so far as to actually build a wood fired pizza/bread oven, (yes, their pizza and bread are both killer). But as far as I am concerned, homemade pizza with garden fresh toppings is delicious no matter how you bake it – and I never seem to get tired eating it.

In springtime, arugula, spinach and asparagus are plentiful in my backyard potager, as they are in most parts of the country, and right now, the leafy greens are particularly tasty and productive. Given the abundance, I have been enjoying fresh pasta or risotto with wilted greens on a near-nightly basis. Still, with my hectic gardening schedule -and all of the intense physical work that goes with it- I have been craving something a bit more substantial for weeks. Finally, I found a couple of free hours to make two of my favorite springtime treats – arugula topped pizza, and an asparagus topped twin- a little bit of Italy, just in time for the weekend…

Pizza with fresh arugula, tomatoes and goat cheese. Pizza this light pairs nicely with a chilled sauvignon blanc, pale ale or, alternately a lively, classic chianti…

Homemade Pizza with Fresh Greens

Basic Pizza Dough (Makes two 14″ pizza crusts)

2 1/4           teaspoon active dry yeast, (one envelope packet)

1                  teaspoon sugar

1 1/3           cups warm water

3 1/3           cups all-purpose flour

1 1/4           teaspoons kosher salt

3                  tablespoons olive oil

3                  tablespoons corn meal for stone/pan

Directions:

Add warm water to a liquid measuring cup and combine with sugar and yeast. Allow mixture to stand approximately 10 minutes, until the yeast is foamy. In a food processor fitted with a dough blade, add flour and salt and combine. Pour yeast mixture through the liquid feed tube and combine for approximately three minutes. Pour olive oil through feed tube and process for five more minutes. When dough forms a ball, without sticking to sides of the bowl, remove to floured surface. If dough continues to stick to the sides of the bowl, add small amounts of flour, (no more than a tablespoon at a time), until the dough forms a moist ball.

Preheat oven, with a pizza stone if you have one, to 450 degrees fahrenheit, (with pizza stone in place if you have one)

Roll dough on the floured surface, kneading and turning until smooth and elastic. Coat with oil and set in a covered bowl to rise 30 minutes.

Press and roll out and rotate each dough lump until 15″ circles are formed. I like to form a ridge with my thumbs to define the edge of the pizza crust. Sprinkle the pizza pan, sheet or peel with cornmeal. Drizzle the surface each crust with olive oil and a bit of parmesan. Place in the hot oven.

Bake pizza crusts for 8-10 minutes, and remove from oven to cool while you cover with toppings, (crusts may also be refrigerated for later use).

Topings

1/2 cup fresh washed baby arugula

1     dozen or so lightly steamed asparagus spears

1-2 thinly sliced tomatoes

1/4 cup caramelized onions

1/2 cup crumbled goat cheese, (or sub feta cheese)

1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

good quality olive oil

balsamic vinegar glaze

(this pizza is also great with any other fresh from the garden topping, be sure to lightly steam or blanch tougher veggies before baking, since the oven time is short).

Directions:

While pizza crusts are baking, gather toppings for one or both pizzas. I like to steam asparagus lightly and cut into thirds for topping pizza. With arugula, the heat of the pizza is usually all you need to release the intense flavor of the greens. Allow crusts to cool 5 minutes. Sprinkle with olive oil and about a table spoon of fresh grated parmesan cheese per crust.

For asparagus pizza, arrange tomato slices across the crust. Sprinkle with 1/8 cup goat cheese, caramelized onions, balsamic vinegar or vinegar glaze, and olive oil. Arrange asparagus evenly across the crust and sprinkle with remaining goat cheese and a bit of parmesan.

For arugula pizza, follow directions above, (or optionally remove tomatoes and onions, it’s all flexible with pizza). Evenly spread the arugula atop the crust. Reserve a bit of arugula for final topping. Lightly drizzle and toss these remaining greens in a bowl with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Return pizza to hot oven for approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Upon removing, add remaining tossed greens to the arugula pizza and serve with fresh parmesan.

Mid-May Daffodils

***

Words and Pictures 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 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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Mother’s Day Brunch? Garden Fresh Ingredients & Ina Garten’s Chive Rissoto Cakes Help to Make it Special…

May 8th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Do you love breakfast in bed? I sure do, and when I was growing up, sometimes my sister and I would serve it to our mom as an unexpected treat – especially on Mother’s Day. Part of what made it so special was the ritual of harvesting fresh flowers and herbs from the garden, and arranging them in petite bouquets on a tray filled with fresh squeezed orange juice and homemade treats like eggs over-easy, French toast or homemade muffins. There’s something about enjoying a decadent meal, without leaving the comfort of warm covers, that can make a girl feel really special. And every mom deserves to feel like a queen on Mother’s Day…

The herbs in my potager are overflowing their boundaries this year; mainly due to the unseasonably warm temperatures we are having in the Northeast. With all of the extra chives on hand, I decided to give Ina Garten’s Chive Rissoto Cakes a try; substituting them for the usual potatoes with my eggs for brunch. Not surprisingly, I was once again blown away by Ina’s ability to turn a few simple ingredients into a knock-out dish. This rice cake recipe will definitely be added to my regular brunch -and dinner- rotation. I think the flavor and texture of these cakes make them the perfect accompaniment to almost any main course -especially fish or shrimp-  or simple light meal, such as a garden salad.

I wish I could cook something special for my sister tomorrow, since this is her first Mother’s Day with baby Morgan, but we are many hours apart, and I will be working the holiday this year. Hopefully, I will be able to make it up to them on a more leisurely weekend. Someday, I will show my nephew how to arrange a special tray, like the one pictured above, for his mom. I know she would love it.

Happy Mother’s Day to all of the Mothers out there. Enjoy your day. Thank you for the love and care you give to your children all over the world…

A fragrant bouquet of Viburnum ‘Anne Russell’ makes a lovely centerpiece if you decide to dine at the table… (raku vase by Richard Foye)

Chive Risotto Cakes

From: Ina Garten’s Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Ingredients:

1             cup Arborio rice

4             quarts fresh, cold water

1/2         cup plain, Greek-style yogurt (or sub. sour cream)

2             extra large eggs at room temp

3             tbs freshly minced chives

1 1/2      cups grated Fontina cheese, (or sub. 5 oz Gruyere)

1/2          tsp fresh ground black pepper

1 3/4       tsp Kosher salt

3/4          cup Japanese panko/ dried bread flakes, (or sub dried bread crumbs)

Good quality olive oil

Directions:

In a large pot, bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, add 1/2 tsp salt and Arborio rice. Cook for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally until the grains of rice are soft. Drain and run rice under gold water in a sieve until cooled. Drain and set aside.

While the rice is cooking, mix yogurt, cheese, eggs, chives, pepper and 1 1/4 tsp salt in a medium sized bowl.

Add the cooled rice to the yogurt mixture and and thoroughly combine ingredients.  Wrap the bowl in plastic and refrigerate for a minimum of 2 hours until the mixture is firm.

When you are ready to begin preparing for your meal, preheat an oven to 250 degrees. Spread the dried bread flakes, (or crumbs), in a working dish or bowl with low sides. Form rice balls from the mixture using a large spoon or ice cream scoop.

Using a patting motion, flatten the balls into round patties approximately 3/4″ thick, (about 3″ diameter). Place a half dozen or so patties into the bread flakes and turn to coat both sides. Heat 3 tbs of oil in a skillet set to medium-low heat.  Add the patties to the hot oil and cook 3 minutes or so on each side until golden brown. Cook in batches and add to a heat-safe dish in a warm oven.

Patties may be kept warm in an oven for a half an hour or so, and should be served hot. Try them with eggs and a special mimosa for Mother’s Day Brunch, or with dinner anytime. The patties may be made and refrigerated in advance.

Travel back to this post to find my favorite Mimosa recipe...

Time to Relax Mom …

From Ina Garten’s Endlessly Inspirational: Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics

Fresh flowers from the garden…

And chives from the spring potager…

***

Words and Pictures 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 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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Well Fiddle-Dee-Dee: Unfurling Spring Pleasures in the Forest at Ferncliff…

April 30th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Fiddlehead ferns unfurling in the Secret Garden – Ostrich Fern (Matteuccia pensylvanica)

Lady fern ‘Lady in Red’ (Athyrium filix feminina), in my garden

Oh yes, we are smack-dab-in-the-middle of fiddlehead season here in the Northeast; one of spring’s most delightful and ephemeral pleasures at my forest home in Vermont. Here on my ledgy site, Ostrich ferns, (a member of the cliff fern family), are abundant; producing large, tightly curled heads as they emerge from the ground in April and early May. Of course fiddleheads are beautiful to behold, and in my garden I enjoy their delicate springtime beauty paired with spring bulbs and emerging perennials such as Lenten rose, (Helleborus x hyrbidus), and native ephemerals including foam flower, (Tiarella), dogtooth violet, (Erythronium), woodland phlox, (Phlox divaricata), bloodroot, (Sanguinaria), and spurge, (Euphorbia). All ferns produce fiddleheads, from which their feathery fronds unfurl, (I dare you to say that 10 times, fast). And some, such as the red-tips of the Lady Fern, (Athyrium filix feminina) ‘Lady in Red’, and the silvery fiddles of Cinnamon fern, (Osmunda cinnamomea), are quite stunning. But there is another reason for my fern-euphoria: this is tasty, tender fiddlehead harvest time!

Collecting Ostrich Fern Fiddleheads at Ferncliff

The Ostrich fern, (Matteuccia pensylvanica), and the Cinnamon fern, (Osmunda cinnamomea), are the most commonly harvested fiddleheads in the Northeast, and for good reason. These two large-sized native ferns produce the most delicious fiddleheads in the forest. If you’ve never gathered a fresh meal of fiddleheads from the woods, let me just give you a hint of what you are missing. To me, fiddleheads taste a bit like asparagus, only sweeter and more earthy. Although you can buy this gourmet treat in markets at this time of year, there is really no substitute for the taste of a hand-harvest. Fiddleheads can be eaten raw, (not advisable in great quantity due to possible health risks), but usually they are cooked. One of the easiest ways to prepare them is by cooking in a pot of boiling, salted water until tender, (7 -10 minutes for super fresh fiddleheads and slightly longer if the harvest has been refrigerated for a few days), and then serve them warm with a bit of butter. Although fiddleheads can be added to a variety of dishes, and also be preserved by pickling or freezing, one of my favorite ways to eat them is simply prepared in a Fiddlehead and Feta omelette…

Ferncliff Fiddlehead and Feta Omelette

Ferncliff Fiddlehead and Feta Omelette

Ingredients (makes one omelette)

3    medium sized fresh eggs

2    teaspoons of butter

1    handful of freshly harvested and lightly cooked fiddleheads

1/4 cup of fresh feta cheese

salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Whisk three eggs together in a small bowl with a fork, (just enough to combine the yolk and white), add salt and pepper to taste. Melt butter in an 8 inch skillet on low, (do not brown). When the foam subsides, add eggs to the pan, wait a few seconds and slowly pull the egg toward the center of the pan, (this creates a fluffy, evenly cooked omelette). Cook on medium/low, and after about a half a minute, scoot the omelette over to one side and add the feta and fiddleheads. Fold the omelette in half. Cook for another half a minute or so, (pat if you like). Turn off the heat and then place a plate over the pan and flip the omelette over. Serve with a helping of fresh blanched or steamed fiddleheads and a bit of feta crumbled on top. Delicious!

Fiddleheads and Feta: Ingredients for the Perfect Morning Omelette

Mmmmm…

Ostrich fern unfurling at Ferncliff © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Shadow of a Lady Fern © Michaela at TGE

***

Words and Pictures 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 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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A Coffee Break with Kick! Lee Bailey’s Sour Cream Corn Bread with Onions, Cheddar and Optional Hot Peppers…

April 12th, 2010 § 9 comments § permalink

Lee Bailey’s Sour Cream and Cheddar Corn Bread with Onions – Photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Oochie, Owie, Yowie. Those are my  biceps, triceps and trapezoids speaking. They have been getting quite the workout. Gardening can be physically intense, and I work up a serious appetite raking, dragging debris and edging my client’s gardens. I also have very little free time to cook these days, (this post should have gone up yesterday, but I ran into a bit of a sanfu entering information into TurboTax on Sunday, and well, Uncle Sam must come first). On the weekends, when I’m not working, I try to make a few hearty things in the kitchen to carry me through the week.

I am a big fan of all Southern cooking -OK, who isn’t?- and I am especially fond of Lee Bailey’s country-style recipes. Cornbread has always been one of my favorite comfort foods, but although I think it’s fabulous drizzled with honey, I don’t like for the bread itself to be sweet! I prefer to to taste the flavor of real corn -very forward in this recipe- and I am picky about a moist, springy texture. One of the things that makes cornbread special is its versatility. Sure, you can make it plain and simple -without the onions or peppers I mention here- but you can also really jazz it up with fresh things from the garden. Depending upon my main course, I might add chives, sweet onions, garlic, sweet or hot peppers, and just about anything else that strikes my fancy. Sweet onions -such a rewarding crop to grow- are one of my favorite additions. It will be sometime before I have ripe, hot peppers in my garden, but they also add a special kick to this recipe – especially if you are cooking Cajun or Tex-Mex. I will be talking more about gourmet peppers, and other potager-delights in the coming weeks.

The recipe below is taken from Lee Bailey’s Country Weekends. If the gorgeous photographs of al-fresco meals in various outdoor settings don’t inspire you, the recipes and menus surely will. Although Lee’s beautiful book has gone out of print, I believe it can still be found online, both new and used. I received my copy as graduation/first-housewarming gift in the 90’s, (from a fabulous foodie-friend), and I still think it’s a wonderful book worth seeking out.

***

Lee Bailey’s Sour Cream Corn Bread with Onions and Cheddar Cheese

Ingredients:

2/3 c       Safflower oil

2             Eggs, gently beaten

8oz         Greek style Sour Cream (low fat is OK, full fat is heaven)

16oz       Creamed corn, (homemade is best, but canned will work)

1 1/2 c    Yellow cornmeal

2tsp        Baking powder

1tsp         Salt

1c            Extra sharp cheddar cheese, grated

1              Medium size sweet onion, grated

2              Finely chopped hot peppers, such as jalapeños, (optional, and awesome)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350°. Butter an 8 or 9″ pan. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and set aside. In another bowl, mix together the oil, eggs, sour cream and creamed corn. Mix the grated onion, (and optional jalapeno), into the wet ingredients. Quickly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients. The batter will be a little lumpy and clumpy – that is good. Pour half the batter into the pan and sprinkle 3/4 cup of cheddar cheese on top. Then pour in the remaining batter. Top with the leftover 1/4 cup of cheddar cheese. Bake 45 minutes and cool for 10 minutes before cutting into wedges. This is best served hot, and don’t refrigerate it or it will ruin the texture…

And Hooo Wee. Try it with hot peppers, such as Jalapeños or Heirloom Hungarians, for an incredible kick !

Last year’s hot peppers, (including heirloom Hungarians), on my terrace in August

2009 Onion Harvest

***

Words and Pictures 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 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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Mimosa Pour Moi? Oui, Oui, Oui. Sunday Afternoon Delights in the Early Spring Garden…

April 4th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

La Mimosa de Minneola de Michaela

Could there possibly be a more lovely weekend for Easter Egg hunts, Sunday brunches, garden strolls and chilled mimosas? I think not. Here in New England the weather is simply spectacular, and swollen flower buds are bursting open to greet the glorious day. The pink bodnant viburnum ‘Dawn’ at my Secret Garden door perfumes the air, and a carpet of starry blue Chionodoxa sparkles upon the path. Finally, the sleepy Narcissus are awakening and the early Crocus and Galanthus are blooming their pretty little heads off.

It’s a perfect day for a leisurely mid-day meal on a sunny stone terrace. And for a refreshing accompaniment, what could be more appropriate for Sunday brunch than a classic Mimosa? By now it’s no secret that I love sparkling wine and champagne. However, I dislike sticky-sweet cocktails -and until recently the perfect Mimosa has always eluded me. Named for the famously fragrant blossoms of the tropical Acacia, this popular champagne cocktail is rumored to have been invented at the Ritz Hotel in Paris circa 1925. The original concoction contained Grand Marnier, (orange flavored cognac), French champagne and fresh squeezed orange juice. The key to getting a good balance of floral aroma, pleasing effervescence and a clean finish is using the freshest juice, dry sparkling wine, and tasting your ingredients in advance.

After experimenting with a few different Mimosa recipes, I have decided that although it isn’t an orange at all, the Minneola tangelo, (a Dancy tangerine x Duncan grapefruit hybrid dating back to the 1930s), makes the perfect juice for this cocktail. Minneola are plentiful in markets at this time of the year, so although I can not grow a tree of my own here in Vermont, I have easy access to the fruit for this special treat. In addition to substituting fresh squeezed Minneola juice for the traditional orange, I’ve made a few more modifications to the classic recipe, (which follows below). If you too have been searching for a more satisfying Mimosa, give this version a try. I think it is a garden-strolling, flower-lover’s fantasy…

Crocus Petals Unfolding © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

Narcissus ‘Rijnveld’s Early Sensation’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Striped Crocus © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ in Early April © Michaela at TGE

The Fragrant Viburnum bodnantense ‘Dawn’ © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Chionodoxa luciliae (gigantea) – Glory of the Snow © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Crocus in the Dried Grass © 2010 Michaela at TGE

***

The Making of a Fresh Squeezed Minneola Mimosa

La Mimosa de Minneola de Michaela


Ingredients for one cocktail, (multiply for many):

Fresh Squeezed Juice of one Minneola Tangelo

2 dashes of Cointreau

Chilled Maschio Prosecco Brut (Italian sparkling white wine)

Directions:

In a full sized champagne flute, add the fresh squeezed Minneola juice, (this should be about 1/3 of a glass). Add a couple of dashes of Cointreau, (some prefer Grand Marnier, a cognac, which is sweeter. I prefer the slightly bitter taste of Cointreau). Fill the glass with Maschio Prosecco. This sparkling wine has an aroma of orange blossoms and tastes lightly of fruit, without adding extra sweetness. However you can of course substitute any brut champagne or sparkling wine.

Garnish with a wedge of Minneola and serve chilled with brunch or as a lovely afternoon surprise in the garden…

***

Fresh Minneola tangelo

Mimosa Pour Moi? Oui, Oui, Oui !

Crocus © 2010 Michaela at TGE

***

Words and Pictures 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 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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A Rhapsody in Blue: Selecting and Planting Vaccinium corymbosum, (Highbush Blueberry), Plus a Favorite Recipe for Blueberry-Lemon Bread…

March 31st, 2010 § 11 comments § permalink

A Rhapsody in Blue 

What would you say if I told you that I know of an amazing cold-hardy shrub, with creamy, bell-like spring flowers, glossy green leaves, brilliant fall foliage, colorful winter stems and an attractive, well-rounded form? Interested yet? It may come as a surprise that the shrub I am describing is none other than the common highbush blueberry, (Vaccinium corymbosum). Of course, the highbush blueberry is widely cultivated for its delicious fruit, but it’s often overlooked as a useful addition to ornamental gardens. Native to eastern North America, this gorgeous shrub can be found growing wild in acidic soil from central Canada all the way down to Florida, with a western range from Minnesota, south to Louisiana. Typically reaching a mature size of 8-12 feet high and wide, highbush blueberries are most commonly found in USDA zones 3-7. Although lowbush blueberries,(Vaccinium angustifolium), are also a fine and quite hardy shrub -famously grown for fruit in the state of Maine- they too are are rarely grown in ornamental gardens. This is a shame, as lowbush blueberries make a fine ground cover, producing pollinator-friendly blossoms and very sweet fruit. They also display beautiful autumn color.

If you live in a climate with lengthy cool seasons, highbush blueberries are easy to cultivate either in the vegetable garden, berry patch or mixed border. This is a relatively long-lived shrub, with few pests and diseases. When provided with the proper conditions, blueberry bushes make fantastic garden plants. Although Vaccinium corymbosum are generally trouble-free, a few growing tips will help increase berry yield and plant health…

Vaccinium corymbosum autumn color

In life, I often find that a group of diverse, mixed company creates great culture. With blueberry varieties this is especially true. When buying plants, keep in mind that for best pollination and fruit set, you should choose two different varieties of blueberry bushes that bloom at the same time. If you would like fruit throughout the season, try growing several different varieties in the same patch. When choosing plants, ask a local grower which varieties grow and produce best in your area. Some excellent early to midseason varieties include ‘Blueray’,’Duke’ and ‘Berkeley’. For later fruit try ‘Jersey Blue’ and ‘Elliot’ varieties. Again, ask your local grower for some recommendations. Remember that every variety will have a slightly different flavor.

When growing blueberries, one of the most important aspects of cultivation to consider is soil acidity. All blueberry bushes prefer a pH below 5, with an ideal range between 4.5 and 4.8. Be sure to test your soil pH with a kit. If your soil is more alkaline (even neutral is too alkaline for blueberries) you may lower the pH by adding sulfur, pine needles and/or other naturally acidic materials both to the soil and as a regular top-dressing in mulch. Blueberries are shallow-rooted plants and they require moist, but well-drained soil. Unless your garden receives at least an inch or two of rain per week, you will want to water your shrubs. The best way to keep soil moist and plants weed-free is to apply a wood chip/pine needle mulch. When planting new blueberry bushes, be sure not to plant too deeply. Keep the top of the pot level even with your existing soil, and add 1/3 peat moss to the planting mix when you backfill the dirt. Be sure to saturate the soil and peat, as well as the planting hole, with water. Do not fertilize your blueberry bushes for 2-3 months after planting. Once the plants are established, use an organic fertilizer in spring at bloom time, and again 3 weeks later while fruit is setting. Plants should not be fertilized later than this, and never in summer  or fall as the shrubs may suffer winter damage on soft wood ….

Fresh washed blueberries from the garden

In general, when grown for fruit, highbush blueberries should have 5-10′ of spacing, (depending upon variety). But if you are planting in rows, space plants 4-5′ apart in rows with 8-10′ separation. Some growers recommend removal of flowers in the first season for a better crop the second year. This is optional. No pruning is needed in the first three years, but in the fourth season, thinning may begin during dormancy, (late winter/very early spring). Remove weak branches, and any branches restricting sunlight and airflow at the center of the shrub. If fruit is your primary goal, aim for 12 healthy, strong canes per plant. The younger wood will produce the best fruit, so choose a good mix of branches, removing older sections each year.

By following these simple tips, delicious and health fruit will soon be on the way! But beware: birds love to eat blueberries too. If you grow Vaccinium corymbosum solely for ornamental value, then maybe you will leave the fruit on these shrubs for our birds to enjoy. However, if you are growing blueberries as a crop -perhaps as a hedging plant in your potager- you must cover the shrubs from the time of fruit set ’til the point of harvest. My father always used tobacco netting on his highbush blueberries, and I tend to recommend it or the modern-day equivalent, Remay. Plastic netting is hazardous to birds and other creatures, and I find Remay or tobacco netting work as well, or better.

And now, what do you say? Shall we use up some of those plump and delicious blue fruits? Oh, of course! Why not? A couple of weeks back, I featured a favorite recipe for Blueberry Hill Hotcakes and Syrup. They are scrumptious. Over the weekend, I was feeling the blues again, (maybe it was all the rain?). So I took to the kitchen. But this time around, I whipped up my favorite blueberry-lemon bread. This versatile recipe can also be used as a muffin mix, if you’re in the mood for a tasty-treat to-go. The lemony-sugar-syrup is optional, but I find it provides an extra bit of moisture and an added kiss of sweetness – plus I love the shimmery-effect on top. And although frozen blueberries work well here… there’s nothing quite like the fresh berries we will be enjoying later in the year. On a quiet weekend morning, I’m always in the mood for a rhapsody in blue…

Blueberry-Lemon-Bread-Muffins-thegardenersedenBlueberry Lemon Bread / Muffins, photo © 2010 Michaela at TGE

Blueberry-Lemon Bread with Lemon Syrup (or muffins)


Ingredients for one loaf of bread or one dozen average sized muffins:

2          cups all-purpose flour

1          teaspoon baking powder

1          teaspoon baking soda

1/4       teaspoon salt

1/4       cup sugar

2          eggs

1 1/4   cup sour cream

1/4      cup melted butter

1          tablespoon fresh lemon zest

2          cups of fresh or frozen blueberries

Lemon Syrup:

1/2      cup fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2      cup of sugar

4          tablespoons water

Directions:

Preheat oven to 375°. Butter one 9″ x 5″ x 3″ bread pan or two muffin tins.

To make batter: Toss flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. In a larger bowl, combine eggs, sugar, sour cream, melted butter and lemon zest and beat until well mixed. Add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just blended. Add blueberries and stir lightly to combine.

Pour the batter into the bread pan or muffin tins, (each muffin tin should be filled to 2/3 full). Bake bread for 50 minutes to 1 hour or until top is golden brown and a wooden stick comes out clean after inserted at center. If baking muffins, 15-20 minutes in the hot oven should do the trick.

To make the optional lemon syrup: combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and boil for 1 minute. Remove from heat and set aside.

After removing bread or muffins from the oven, prick the top with wooden stick, (all over for bread, or in 3 or 4 places per muffin). Drizzle the lemon-syrup slowly over the surface. Allow the lemon-bread or muffins to cool for 10 or 15 minutes before slicing or removing from the tins.

Serve warm with Earl Grey tea and fresh blueberries if they are in season. If you skip the syrup, the muffins also taste great with a bit of butter and honey.

Mixy, mixy…

 For further inspiration, there’s always…

Gershwin: Rhapsody In Blue/An American In Paris

Photography & Text ⓒ Michaela Medina Harlow/The Gardener’s Eden. All images, articles and content on this site (with noted exceptions), are the original, copyrighted property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be reposted, reproduced or used in any way without prior written consent. Contact information is in the left side bar. Please do not take my photographs without asking first. Thank you! 

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Is There a Cure for Spring Fever? How About a Flirty Little Cocktail to Celebrate the Vernal Equinox…

March 20th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

The Strawberry Flirt – A Spring-Fling Cocktail to Celebrate the Vernal Equinox

Spring is a flirtatious season. A coquettish, unpredictable lover. We long for her, but she makes us wait. She takes her time, dropping hints; kissing flower buds with her pouty lips and sending promises on winged messengers. When she finally arrives she often comes on strong, and then she suddenly disappears, giving us the cold shoulder for weeks. In spite of her youth, she is practiced in the art of seduction. But we love her anyway. In fact, we love her all the more I think, because of her indecisive ways.

Flirtation can be fun -in fact I rather like it- especially in the garden. So to celebrate the arrival of Spring today, I have chosen a decidedly insouciant cocktail; using fresh herbs from my windowsill garden. A hint of sophisticated mint, a kiss of strawberry sweetness clipped by lime, a rumor of racy hearted rum, and a bit of champagne-bubble charm: This Strawberry Flirt is all about anticipating the delightful season to come.

Oh Spring, how you give me FEVER. So, go ahead – put your Peggy Lee on the play list and kick back in the warm sunshine. Welcome the first day of Spring with a tasty Strawberry Flirt. But for heaven’s sake, do try to be casual about it -don’t be too eager to please- or she will up and change her mind again!

The Strawberry Flirt – A Spring-Fling Cocktail

( Inspiration: Salvatore Calabrese and Maria Hunt )

Ingredients (makes one cocktail):

5    Organic Strawberries (fresh, small berries tend to have best flavor)

10  Organic Peppermint Leaves

1    Ounce lime syrup*

1    Ounce white Puerto Rican rum**

Dry Prosecco, sparkling wine or champagne**

Directions:

Wash strawberries, remove stems and slice. Place in a chilled, round wine glass or goblet or with 10 mint leaves and muddle. Add 1 ounce of homemade lime syrup, (see recipe below), and 1 ounce of white rum. Mix. Fill the glass to near full with cracked, (but not crushed), ice. Add Prosecco to top-off the glass and gently stir. Garnish with a wedge of strawberry and/or a sprig of fresh mint.

*Lime syrup (will keep in a refrigerator for several weeks in a sealed bottle)

Ingredients:

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice

1/2 cup granulated sugar

Directions:

Combine both ingredients in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.

** A non-alcoholic version of this drink can be easily made by substituting sparkling water in place of the wine. Artificial rum flavoring made also be added if you so desire.

The Strawberry Flirt

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For more delightful springtime libations, check out these lovely books:

Denise Gee’s Southern Cocktails

Maria Hunt’s – The Bubbly Bar

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Article and photographs copyright Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved. All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’s Eden and may not be used or reproduced without written consent. Inspired by something you see here? 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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I Found My Thrill…

March 6th, 2010 § 15 comments § permalink

Blueberry Hill Hot Cakes with Syrup

Some people never make a mess. Seriously. Have you noticed? Well, I don’t know about you, but those folks worry me. I mean, some of the best fun I’ve had in my life has involved mess. And I don’t mean a little mess. I mean a great, big, rip-roaring, sticky, gooey, staining, slobbering mess. Come on… you know what I mean. You love a real knock-down drag-out mess too, don’t you?  Is it not the very definition of a good time?

Almost every single food I love is messy: ripe, juicy peaches; molten chocolate; frosted sticky buns; cheesy chile. But my all time favorites are the stainers – especially the blueberries. On a hot summer afternoon, as you head out swinging your little bucket, you know that you’re gonna eat those berries as fast as you pick ’em. You know it. And you are going to stain your fingers and your t-shirt too. Plus, your teeth are gonna turn blue; dark blue if you are doing it right. And who cares?  It’s so worth it. Then later, when you cook those delicious blueberries, they get all sticky and oozy, and they turn that electric fuchsia color. And the smell – oh my lordy. Is that not heaven? My I do love the blueberries. And woo-hoo, do I have the blotchy blue-stained t-shirts to prove it. Blueberry pie. Blueberry buckle. Blueberry crisp. Half of it usually ends up on my shirt. Who invented the white t-shirt anyway? Mr. Hanes? What a bad idea. I have never been able to keep one clean. Well, I’ve learned to outsmart that bleached kill-joy Hanes. Now I wear BLUE when I am eating blueberries – blue jeans and fuchsia t-shirts. Take that Mr. Tidy-Whitey…

Blue on Blue

Weekends are meant for fun and relaxation. I don’t think they should be uptight. And I’ll tell you another thing: leisurely mornings and Blueberry Hill hot cakes, with their sticky blue-fuchsia syrup, are a match made in heaven. Yes, my blueberries may come from the freezer at this time of year, but the syrup they make is no less delicious. Fresh summertime blueberries are, of course, nirvana. And blueberry bushes, (of the genus Vaccinium), are beautiful, low-maintenance shrubs. Many of you probably grow them already. But for you new gardeners, I plan to write more about selecting, planting and growing blueberries in a few weeks. For now though, I think we should set aside time to practice cooking and baking with frozen blueberries. Wouldn’t you agree?

Yes, I found my thrill. A messy thrill. On Blueberry Hill…

Blueberry Hill Hot Cakes with Syrup

(Inspired by Nigella Lawson and Marion Cunningham )

.

Ingredients for Hot Cakes (makes about 4 dozen mini pancakes):

4       large eggs

1/2    teaspoon salt

1/2    teaspoon baking soda

1/3    cup cake flour, (this makes light and fluffy hot cakes. use slightly less if your eggs are smaller)

2       cups sour cream, (light or fat-free is OK)

2       tablespoons grade A Vermont maple syrup

1       tablespoon lemon zest

powdered sugar for serving

butter or grease for griddle or skillet

Ingredients for Blueberry Hill Syrup:

1 1/2 cups blueberries (fresh or frozen berries thawed overnight)

1/2    cup grade A Vermont maple syrup

Directions:

Crack the eggs Into a medium sized mixing bowl and stir them together. When blended well, add the cake flour, salt, baking soda, sour cream, maple syrup and lemon zest. Continue blending until you have a smooth, well-mixed batter. Set aside.

On burner one: Pour the blueberries and 1/2 cup of maple syrup into a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Cook on high heat for a few minutes until the berries start to bubble, then reduce heat, mash the berries just a bit, and simmer for about 5 minutes. Smells good, doesn’t it?

Meanwhile on burner two: Heat a cast iron skillet, griddle or pan. Add a pat or so of butter or your choice of grease. Fill 1/4 cup with batter and slowly pour small, (just a wee bit bigger than the circumference of that quarter cup you are holding), amounts into the pan. When the hot cakes form bubbles, it’s time to flip them over with a spatula and cook them for a couple more minutes. Don’t flatten with your spatula. You want the air!

Portion the hot cakes out on, (white!), plates and ladle on hot blueberry syrup. Look at that gorgeous fuchsia syrup run! Sprinkle with confectioners sugar and serve hot with extra blueberry syrup on the side.

Tiny bubbles in the cast iron skillet say ‘Flip me’…

Heavenly-scented stickiness …

Blueberry Hill Hot Cakes – Go Ahead  – Make a Mess

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Want more inspiration? Try this: Louis Armstrong – Blueberry Hill

Article and Photographs copyright 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All content on this site is the property of The Gardener’ Eden and may not be used or reproduced without prior written consent. Inspired by something you see here? 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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Apple Pancake Tart for Breakfast: The Simple Pleasures of Country Living…

February 19th, 2010 § Comments Off on Apple Pancake Tart for Breakfast: The Simple Pleasures of Country Living… § permalink

Apple Pancake Tart for Breakfast, Brunch or Dessert. Platter by Aletha Soule

I adore cities: San Francisco; New Orleans; New York; Florence; Munich – in that order. I love urban energy, art, culture, food and people. But as much as I enjoy traveling, I am a homebody at heart. After a day spent struggling through city traffic yesterday, I was more than ready to head home. So this weekend I am planning to enjoy the leisurely pace of my country life, complete with a slow, decadent brunch.

I have mentioned Marion Cunningham‘s delightful Breakfast Book here before, and I am sure I will mention it again. When it comes to creating comfort food, it’s really hard to beat the wisdom of Marion Cunningham. I found Marion’s recipe for apple pancakes one morning a few years back when I had a bag of apples and little else in my kitchen. Although it is categorized under pancakes, I file this delicious cast iron skillet creation somewhere between tart and souffle. But no matter what you call it, it is simply scrumptious, and easy-peasy to make.

Yes, the Big Apple is fun for a day or two, but after getting my fill, I am more than content with a few little apples served warm in an Apple Pancake Tart here on my country hilltop. There’s no place like home…

Marion Cunningham’s Apple Pancake Tart

From the Breakfast Book , (with tasty little adaptations)

Ingredients:

6     Tablespoons Butter

2     Large, tart apples, (peeled, cored and sliced)

3     Tablespoons Lemon Juice

1/4  teaspoon cinnamon

1/4  teaspoon vanilla

1/8  teaspoon nutmeg

5     Tablespoons confectioners sugar (plus or minus, to taste)

3     Eggs at room temperature

1/4  teaspoon salt

1/2  cup all-purpose flour

1/2  cup milk

Directions:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

In a large bowl, mix apples with lemon juice. Sprinkle with sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg and vanilla and toss to mix well.

In a 10 inch skillet, melt butter until just liquified. Remove from heat and reserve 2 Tbs of butter in a separate bowl. Return skillet to stove and bring the heat to medium. Add the apple mixture and cook, (stirring), about 5 minutes. Apples should  retain shape but be cooked through and tender. Test with a fork. Remove from heat and spread them into a uniform layer at the bottom of the pan. Set pan aside.

Place milk, eggs, four salt and 2 tablespoons of reserved butter in a food processor or blender. Combine until smooth. Pour the mixture atop the layer of apples in the skillet.

Carefully place the skillet in the stove and bake for 20 minutes, until puffed up and golden brown.

Wait a few minutes for pan to cool, then flip upside down on a large platter to expose the apple top. Dust with confectioners sugar and serve warm…

Mmmmm…

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Article and photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden. All rights reserved.

All content on this site 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? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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Valentine’s Day Fun with Flowers: Introducing The Wild Hibiscus Royale…

February 3rd, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

I’m a big fan of Valentine’s Day. This probably comes as no surprise. Of course I love any celebration that involves flowers, food and drink. But there is something special about a holiday that exists just to say ‘I love you’. And although we tend to think of romance and candlelit dinners on Valentine’s Day, it’s also a nice time to tell your friends that you love them too. Remember way back when you made valentines for all your classmates? Or maybe you even baked special cookies and gave them away for a smile? Well you can still do that now if you want to, you know. Valentines Day is just plain fun.

And speaking of fun, awhile back my friend Mel gave me a jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers as a gift. She’s so thoughtful, isn’t she?  Deep red, gorgeous, edible, floating flowers… now doesn’t that sound exactly like something I would like? Of course. And although these lovely little hibiscus flowers and their syrup can be used in myriad ways, (as a garnish, in dessert dishes or drinks), Mel knew that I would have to pop one in a glass of champagne, creating what is known as a Wild Hibiscus Royale. But the blossoms and their sweet nectar also play a starring role in several other cocktails, including the Hibiscus Mojito, Sugar Daddy, Hi-Bellini, Hibiscus Daiquiri, and the soon-to-be tried Adam & Eve Martini.

I’d been saving my jar of hibiscus for a special occasion, but over the weekend I realized that if these floating flowers are as good as they look, then I must let you know about them in time for Valentine’s Day. I mean, what kind of person would I be if I kept this all to myself ? So here you have the visual evidence – gorgeous. And when the sweet hibiscus flowers and syrup are combined with a hint of mint and a whiff of rosewater, they blend perfectly with fizzy, dry brut champagne. But I must warn you, whatever you do, don’t put this syrup in a sweet bubbly, because that would ruin it – stick to a dry sparkling wine or prosecco.

Sure, you could buy regular old flowers. But why not float an exotic blossom in a sparkling glass of bubbles? I think ruby red Hibiscus Flowers make the perfect Valentine’s drink. Have a little fun. You know that I want you to…

Wild Hibiscus Royale


One Wild Hibiscus Flower* per glass

1/4 oz natural rose water, (available in most grocery spice aisles)

2/3 oz Wild Hibiscus Flower* syrup

2     sprigs fresh mint per glass, (one to muddle, one for garnish)

Brut champagne, dry sparkling wine or prosecco

In a champagne flute, muddle one sprig of mint to release oils. Remove crushed leaves from the glass. Add rosewater and place one Wild Hibiscus flower at the bottom of glass, carefully standing upright. Slowly pour champagne into the glass, filling 2/3 of the glass. Top with Wild Hibiscus syrup and a sprig of fresh mint.

*Wild Hibiscus Flowers ($10 for an 8.8 0z jar at Amazon.com), are available online, or through specialty retailers. Wild Hibiscus company is based in Australia and the hibiscus are hand picked on sustainable farms. Each 8.8 oz jar contains approximately 11 hibiscus flowers, and they may be used in a wide variety of cocktails, non-alcholic drinks and desserts. You can also float the flowers in glasses of sparkling water, ginger ale or whatever fizzy beverage strikes your fancy, for a non-alcoholic version of the Wild Hibiscus Royale.

Muddle mint leaves in a champagne flute to release oils, then remove the crushed leaves…

Add 1/4 ounce of rose flower water…

Add one flower from a jar of Wild Hibiscus Flowers in Syrup. Stand the flower upright at the bottom of the flute, and fill the glass 2/3 full with dry champagne, sparkling wine or prosecco. Top with 2/3 ounce of flower syrup and a sprig of fresh mint.

Happy Valentine’s Day – Cheers XOXO – Michaela

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Looking for something a little less sweet? Floral tea also makes a lovely Valentine surprise. It’s pretty to watch the dried flowers unfold in the glass teapot and it’s a really easy way to brighten a friend’s day…

Primula Flowering Tea Set with Glass Pot

And then there is the White Flower Farm gift certificate. I always prefer the gift of flowers with roots attached…

20% off White Flower Farm Gift Certificates Over $50 for Valentine’s Day! Use Code AS309. Offer valid 1/30/10 to 2/14/10
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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 copyright The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not republish or post photographs or text excerpts without permission. Inspired by something you see here? Well that’s nice! Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world, and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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Greeting the Wolf Moon on a Chilly January Night with Warm, Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup…

January 31st, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

Watching the full moon rise is something of a ritual for me. I note the waxing and waning lunar cycle on my calendar and I pay close attention to the forecast as the moon grows full. Lunar myths and legends have always fascinated me, and I usually to refer to the monthly moon by its name. Although April’s Pink Moon and Autumn’s Harvest Moon tend to be my favorites, I am also quite fond of January’s full, Wolf Moon. When the weather is clear in mid-winter, as it has been for the past few days, evenings in Vermont can be spectacularly beautiful. Sub zero temperatures may be difficult to bear, but they also create some amazing atmospheric conditions. With a warm bowl of soup and a dramatic celestial show on the horizon, I’ve come to embrace and even enjoy my cold nights on the mountain…

January’s Full Wolf Moon

Dried Grass and Staghorn Sumac on a late afternoon in January

Cinnamon colored remnants in sparkling snow at sunset

Creamy Garlic and Potato Soup with Fresh Herbs

(makes approximately 4 quarts of soup)

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup garlic cloves, (about 12 cloves), peeled and chopped to a paste in a food processor
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5 cups vegetable stock or chicken broth
  • 2 cups milk (2% or whole, as you prefer)
  • 1 cup of heavy cream (optional – you may sub all 2% milk for low fat diets)
  • 6 cups peeled and cubed yukon gold potatoes
  • 4 whole, fresh sage leaves, (plus extra for garnish)
  • 2 whole bay leaves
  • 2 tsp fresh chopped thyme, (plus extra for garnish)
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • 1 tsp fresh ground pepper

Directions:

  1. Heat oil in a large stock/soup pot over low heat. Add the garlic paste and carefully cook until the paste begins to turn gold, stirring constantly. Add in the vegetable/chicken broth and bring the mixture to a boil.
  2. Reduce heat, add herbs and simmer for 30 minutes. Add the potatoes and simmer for 20-30 more minutes.
  3. Scoop out the bay and sage leaves, and carefully pour batches of the hot soup into a blender, (do not overfill the blender!). Puree each batch until smooth and return to the saucepan. Simmer the soup for 15 minutes. Add milk and cream and simmer for another 20 – 30 minutes.
  4. Pour the soup into bowls, and garnish with fresh thyme and sage leaves. Serve with a side of fresh, crusty bread.

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Article and Photographs © 2010 Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, (with noted exceptions), is copyright The Gardener’s Eden, and may not be used or reproduced without express written consent. Please do not repost or republish photographs or text excerpts without permission. Inspired by something you see here? Please give credit where credit is due. It’s a small world and link-love makes for fond friendships. Stealing makes for bad dreams…

Thank you !

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