The Early Bird Catches the Arugula… And the Chard, Spinach & Lettuce too!

February 19th, 2011 § 10 comments § permalink

Arugula in the Hoophouse, January

Let’s start out with a bit of honesty, shall we? The four season harvest isn’t for wimps. Winter gardening  —growing plants in temperatures below freezing to sub-zero, beneath plastic sheeting— isn’t a natural act. And although I enjoy a good game of woman vs. wild, sometimes winter gets to be a bit much around here. Shoveling decks, terraces, walkways and woodpiles is a lot of work. And now that I’ve added potager path-clearing and hoophouse roof-raking to the list, I’ve created quite a snow-removal burden. So why do it? Because the taste of fresh arugula and the smell of damp earth on a cold February day is —as the people at Mastercard say— priceless. And I think a jump-start to the short, northern growing season is worth a little extra work (OK, so it’s a lot of extra work).

Look at that delicious earth! Would you believe this photo was taken just yesterday…

Inside this unheated hoophouse the smell of sweet, springtime soil fills the moist air!

Raking out hoophouse soil to prepare for late winter crop sowing

Over the past three years —cooking more at home and experimenting in my kitchen— I’ve become more and more interested in four-season vegetable gardening. And although I haven’t made the leap to a heated greenhouse yet, I’ve found that with proper timing, I can keep some crops going in my hoophouses year round. Greens sown in late fall will germinate and then continue to grow (albeit much more slowly) throughout the short, cold days of winter. Tender crops are out of the question of course, but tasty root vegetables sown in early autumn can be harvested from cold houses straight into the new year. Seedlings require light to grow —10-12 hours of daylight is a good rule of thumb— so the sowing of seed is suspended during the weeks leading up to —and about a month and a half after– the winter solstice. But come late January, February and March —when the days are getting longer, and sunlight is getting stronger — I can begin sowing cold-hardy, late winter crops in my unheated hoophouses, for early spring harvest. Yesterday I planted a variety of greens in house #3 (arugula, chard, spinach, lettuce and mesclun mix), and I pulled spent crops and turned soil in house #1 to prepare for more planting (carrots, radishes and other crops) on my next free afternoon. If you are interested in learning more about the four-season harvest and winter vegetable gardening, I highly recommend Eliot Coleman’s books. And if you’d like to build a hoophouse of your own this spring (I now have four, with three currently in use) click here for basic plans. I’m hoping to upgrade to a larger, walk-in cold house this year.

Hoophouses protecting early fall-sown crops in late December, just before the snow (automatic back vents help moderate temperatures)

Sowing crops in hoophouse #3: Mid-February

Gardening in winter is all about science, but it sure feels like magic when you can reach your hand into sweet, sun-warmed earth on a cold and windy day. And it’s even more spectacular when you’re enjoying your own salad greens and root vegetables —harvested from an icy, snow-covered garden— at dinner in January and February. Winter pasta with fresh arugula, root-cellared onions and olive-oil preserved, sun-dried tomatoes —all from the garden— now that is priceless…

Arugula harvested from the hoophouse

Pasta with freshly harvested arugula — plus caramelized onions, braided & stored in the root cellar and sun-dried tomatoes, preserved in olive oil— all from the garden…

Here’s the potager, with house #1 and #2 buried by nearly 3′ of snow and ice. I still can’t believe they didn’t collapse. And yes, I shoveled them out all by myself. Sadly, Alfred hasn’t left Batman for me yet. I can’t figure out why…

Mountains of shoveling…

Followed by more shoveling…

And bringing in wood…

But who wouldn’t appreciate the beauty that makes it all worthwhile…

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Article and photos ⓒ Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

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Dreaming of Springtime’s Sweet Veggies: Planning a Lush, Welcoming Potager…

February 16th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

A tumbling jumble of nasturtiums creates a warm welcome for people and pollinators alike

Sweet seats! In June, the potager becomes my outdoor living/dining room

Wide pathways and mounded-earth beds give me plenty of room to work and maneuver about with carts and wheelbarrows

Winter is a wonderful season —I’m still having fun snowshoeing and enjoying quiet time indoors— but I have to admit that there’s one thing I’m really starting to miss about summer: leisure time in the vegetable garden. I love hanging out in my pretty little potager, and every morning —spring through fall— I head outside with a big cup of coffee to do a bit of weeding, watering and harvesting before work. My pets usually join me —rolling around in the warm, golden straw pathways— while I garden. Later on in the day, I often return to the potager and settle into my comfy wicker chair with a glass of wine to enjoy the sunset hour. On warm evenings, I sometimes eat my dinner in the garden; surrounded by the fragrance of sun-warmed herbs and the sound of summertime birds. Vegetable plots always grow best when they are frequently visited by the gardener’s shadow, and to me, this is no trouble at all —it’s pure bliss…

I like to try different varieties of vegetables and fruits every year. But some old-favorites make it into the potager every year. My favorite tomatoes include Early Girl, Orange Blossom, Lemon Boy, Brandywine, San Marzanos. I also love cherry tomatoes; particularly Sungold and Sweet 100s

Home grown hot peppers are both beautiful and tasty. I like to experiment with this crop too, but I always grow plenty of jalapeño, ancho and serrano chile peppers.

My diet is mainly vegetarian, and one of my favorite things about summer, is that I can completely avoid the grocery store for months (I buy my eggs and dairy products from a nearby farm stand). Growing basics, like potatoes, makes it easy to create impromptu, garden-fresh meals every day.

Now that I’ve begun sowing some early crops —herbs and onions indoors & arugula, spinach and lettuce in the unheated hoophouses— I’m really starting to get excited about the growing season ahead. I’ve ordered most of my vegetable seed —packages have already begun to arrive— and I just sent in my seed potato orders to Ronnigers and The Maine Potato Lady yesterday afternoon. Mid-late winter is a good time to begin planning and plotting out your vegetable garden on paper (1/4″ square grid paper works great for this purpose, with each standard box equalling one square foot of garden space), and to finish purchasing seed if you haven’t done so yet. Back in December, I mentioned that I enjoy the process of keeping an annual gardening journal and calendar. Not only is it fun to look back on my successes —and important to analyze failures— but my garden calendar & notes also remind me of things I want to plant (more potatoes and berries!), improvements I want to make (more vertical supports for peas, beans, melons and cucumbers, a new set of compost bins, and a garden shed!), and things I need to re-stock (like fish emulsion, twine and other supplies). Keeping a copy of what I planted —and where I planted it last year— is key to crop rotation (and avoiding pests and diseases). Drawing up a plan and listing everything out also prevents over-ordering or forgotten crops!

Building a pretty potager need not be expensive! My garden fence —pictured above— was built from saplings harvested on-site. And the wicker furniture in my garden was found —wearing a “free” sign— on the side of the road.

When laying out your garden, remember to include space for companion flowers and herbs. Although companion planting has become one of the more hotly debated horticultural topics —with some gardeners believing in its value, and others questioning the scientific proof of success— there is no doubt that flowering plants attract and support pollinating insects —like bees and butterflies— to your vegetable garden. And no matter where you stand on the companion planting issue, it’s pretty hard to argue with the horticultural value of pollinating insects and the beauty of flowers in the vegetable garden. Zinnias, sunflowers, cosmos, shasta daisies, calendula (particularly the French marigold) and nasturtiums are easy-to-grow, and all make gorgeous vegetable garden additions. In addition to planting flowers in and around my vegetables, I grow extra blooms in my potager —just for cutting. Climbers are also pretty in the vegetable garden, especially if you have a rustic fence or trellis (vertical supports are particularly useful if you have limited space). Old-time, deliciously fragrant sweet peas are best sown directly outdoors as soon as the ground can be worked, but many flowers —including climbers like morning glories— can be started indoors for earlier bloom. And if you like to decorate with dried flowers in late summer and fall —or want to make wreaths— consider growing globe amaranth (Gomphrena), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), Bells of Ireland (Moluccella laevis), statice (Limonium sinuatum), and other everlasting blooms in your cutting garden.

I love flowers in the vegetable garden, and fresh-cut bouquets in my house. So I grow plenty of beautiful bloomers in my potager.

I can’t imagine life without a vegetable garden. I grew up with horticulture —my family raised and sold organically grown strawberries and other produce— and teaching me how to grow my own food —and more importantly, the joy and value of gardening— is one of the greatest gifts my parents gave me. If you have children of your own, I encourage you to involve them in as much of the gardening process as possible. When planning your spring garden, order a few extra seed packets —both flowers and vegetables if you can make the room— just for your kids. Children will always remember early gardening experiences like sowing seed, and harvesting their first crop of peas. Even the smallest task —like carrying the harvest basket or looking for bugs— teaches children that their contributions matter to the family. With kids, it’s important to focus on the process of gardening —not so much the product— so that the entire experience is rewarding.

Sunflowers are a fun, easy-to-grow crop for children

Here, my friends Myriah and her daughter, Dharma, moisten seed their starting mix together

Make Gardening Come to Life: Sow Seeds, and Watch them Germinate

I plant my vegetable garden in 3′ x 8′, raised, earth-mounded beds. I try to keep enough space between the beds to comfortably maneuver around with a weeding basket and to pass through with a wheelbarrow or garden cart. This system works well for me, but I have seen many other successful vegetable growing methods. Urban gardeners may grow in pots or planters, and some suburban gardeners like to build wooden boxes to contain vegetables in the square-foot garden style, and many country gardeners simply till soil and hoe rows. There is no right or wrong way to set up your vegetable garden: experiment, do what works best for you, and enjoy the process. If you are new to gardening, it is a good idea to start small and grow your space as your confidence increases. Over the years, as I’ve become more interested in cooking and baking, my vegetable garden has doubled in size. It’s such a pleasure to create meals with beautiful, ripe, organic vegetables, grown and harvested fresh in my own backyard. This year, I plan on adding more hard-to-get, gourmet produce in my potager. I’ll be planting crops that store well in winter (like gourmet potatoes and onions, garlic, squash, carrots and beets), as well as seasonal, enjoy-at-the-moment produce like heirloom tomatoes, lemon cucumbers, and other unusual fruits and vegetables from around the world. I love eating fresh food all summer long, and by adding row-covers and unheated hoophouses to the garden, I’ve been able to extend my growing season; harvesting some produce —like root vegetables and leafy greens— year-round. I can’t wait to dig back in! This week, I’ll be posting more details about my spring garden plans, and I look forward to hearing about yours both here, and on Facebook and Twitter!

Remember fresh-from-the-garden tomatoes?

Helianthus annus ‘Autumn Beauty’ – Sunflower in my Potager

Remember the smell of the earth? It’s coming… Soon!

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Special thanks to Tim Geiss for his fantastic seed starting photos. Visit Tim’s site here.

Article and potager photos ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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Vanilla Sky & Blueberry Breakfast…

February 6th, 2011 § 4 comments § permalink

Hot Popover Pancake with Summertime Blueberries Pulled from the Freezer

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

Vanilla Sky at Sunrise

Winter Windowpane

Sunrise Through Frozen Water Droplets

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

Blueberry Popover Pancake

Blueberry Popover Pancake

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

Ingredients: (serves two)

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

3              eggs

1              cup all-purpose flour

1              tablespoon farm-fresh, melted, unsalted butter

pinch of fine salt

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

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Silvery Hilltop Glinting in Morning Sunlight

 

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

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Joyful New Beginnings: Bright-Green Herb Seedlings Emerging from the Soil…

February 3rd, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Seedlings in the Morning Sun:  Johnny’s Herb Disks in the Windowsill Garden (Coriandrum sativum)

Lately, the weather in here in Vermont has been a bit challenging (to say the least). Even we native New Englanders start to groan when back-to-back blizzards deliver multiple feet of snow and there’s nowhere left to pile it! Three feet, four feet? With all of the blowing and drifting and snowbanks everywhere, I’ve lost track of the total accumulation here on my hilltop. Let’s just say that you now enter the house through white tunnels. Enough said…

Coriander (Cilantro) Seedlings Emerge from Johnny’s Herb Disks in the Windowsill Garden (Coriandrum sativum)

If you live in a northern climate like I do, then you are probably beginning to tire of the big storms and the endless shoveling, and you may be wondering if spring will ever come again. Yes, yes she will. I promise. And while we gardeners are waiting, there are a few things we can start to do. If you live in zone 4 or 5, you will want to start gathering your seeds and checking on start dates. Over the next couple of weeks, you can begin setting up grow lights (full spectrum), and sow onions, leeks, celery and hardy herbs indoors (for tips on starting onions & leeks visit this post here)…

Pots brushed with Primary Colors Add Life to the Kitchen Countertop

Of course, round ’bout February, most kids will be starting to get stir crazy indoors. Plus, those mid-winter vacations are coming up soon… Aren’t they? This simple project is the perfect way to introduce seed-starting to little gardeners and to help keep those tiny hands occupied. Even if you don’t have children, these seed disks make starting herbs indoors simple and quick. I love fresh cilantro (coriander) leaves in my guacamole and I use lots of fresh basil, and other herbs in my kitchen. So last year, I decided to give Johnny’s Seeds pre-prepared herb disks a try, to see how they would work in clay pots. And the results: totally fun and easy project!

Seed starting disks from Johnny’s Seeds fit perfectly inside these brightly painted, 6″ tall clay pots

All you need to do is purchase seed-starting soil (a well-drained medium with super-fine soil particles) and fill appropriately sized pots near-full with the mix. Moisten the soil thoroughly and lay a seed disk atop the soil (pots with a 4.5″ diameter at the top work perfectly for Johnny’s Seed disks). Cover the disk with soil to the recommended depth (varies depending upon the plant – check instructions of the back of each packet) and moisten again. Line your herbs up in a brightly lit window, water regularly with a fine mister and wait.

Depending upon the kind of herbs you grow, within a few day to a couple of weeks, you should begin to see bright green seedlings emerge. Be patient, though! Some herbs take quite a bit of time to germinate. Parsley seedlings, for example, can take a month to emerge. Once the seedlings have popped through the soil, keep the herbs moist, but not soggy. Be sure the pots are located in a warm spot with good light and air circulation. One the first set of true leaves appear (as opposed to the tiny seed leaves) you will want to mix up a weak solution of organic fertilizer (I use fish emulsion), and feed your herbs every-other-week. Rotate the pots once a week to keep seedlings growing straight, as opposed to leaning toward the light. For best results, you want to start your seeds beneath full-spectrum grow lights (keep the light source very close to the plants and raise it as the seedlings grow). The nice part of using prepared disks is that the seeds come pre-spaced. Of course you can always start seed without disks; planting them in trays filled with starter soil mixture. If you do this, you can thin the seedlings of herbs and vegetables later on (see photo below).

I will be writing much more about starting seeds indoors and out over the coming months, so stay tuned and think spring!

Is there anything more hopeful or uplifting than fresh green seedlings emerging from damp soil?

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Article and Photographs are copyright 2010, Michaela at The Gardener’s Eden

All content on this site, with noted exceptions, is the property of The Gardener’s Eden Online Journal, and my not be used or reproduced without express written permission.

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

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

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

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

Mallard Ducks Swim Along the Pink River at Sunset

Birch Against a Winter Sky

Mallards Gathered Along the Snowy Shoreline at Sunset

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

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

Favorite Potato- Cheddar Soup

Ingredients (makes 6-8 servings):

5          Cups homemade chicken or vegetable broth

1          Cup high-quality amber ale or porter beer

3          Tablespoons butter

1          Cup chopped onion

3          Cloves garlic, chopped

1          Tablespoon freshly chopped sage

1          Tablespoon freshly chopped thyme

2          Bay leaves

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

Kosher salt to taste (about a teaspoon)

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

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

Sour cream for serving

Freshly chopped chives for garnish (or sub other herb)

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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Mallards on the River at Twilight

The Shoreline’s Pink Afterglow

Time to Head Home…

And Cozy-Up Beside the Fire

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

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I’ve Got Sunshine On A Cloudy Day… My First In-Print Gardening Article for Martha Stewart Living Magazine!

January 20th, 2011 § 9 comments § permalink

Enjoying the Fruits of my Labor in Martha Stewart Living Magazine

Some moments are worth celebrating with friends! My first gardening article for Martha Stewart Living —“Sunshine in a Pot”— has just been published in both print and electronic format. Savor the sweet moment with me and pick up a copy of February’s Martha Stewart Living Magazine or download the iPad App— it’s a beautiful issue…

Martha Stewart Living Magazine – Subscription via Amazon

Johnny Miller’s gorgeous photographs set the sunny mood for my citrus-growing article; filled with all of the horticultural information, online resources and cultural tips you’ll need to get started with these rewarding plants. Martha Stewart Living iPad edition also contains wonderful citrus recipes; including Meyer lemon butter, lemon pine-nut tart and Meyer lemon coffee cake.

A Splash of Sunny Color and Lively, Citrus Flavor Brightens Grey Mid-Winter Days and Helps Chase Away the Blues…

Imagine waking up to the scent of citrus blossoms; their sweet, delicate fragrance perfuming the air. Picture yourself stepping through the door and into the next room; plucking a plump, juicy lemon, glowing orange or shimmering lime from the branches of your own tiny citrus tree…

Slice a bit of fresh lemon for your morning tea. Close your eyes and breathe deep. Instantly, the fragrance transports you: grey clouds and dingy snowbanks disappear as you are whisked away to a sunny Mediterranean terrace; sampling a zesty lemon granita as the vespas fly by…

Have an Apple iPad ?
If you do, click to download Martha Stewart Living Digital Magazine and Mobile Apps

The pulp: “Sunshine in a Pot” contains all of the sweet, cultural details you need to succeed with homegrown citrus. Also inside this issue of MSLiving: discover the southern charm of Camellias in a feature gardening article by Stacey Hirvella —with dreamy photographs by Ngoc Minh Ngo— along with the always delicious recipes, fantastic decor and fabulous crafting ideas you know and love.

The beautiful sea-green glazed mug in this post is by Virginia Wyoming

Special thank you to Stacey Hirvella and Miranda Van Gelder

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Article and Photos (excepting links from Martha Stewart Living) ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

January 15th, 2011 § 8 comments § permalink

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

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

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

Impossible Geometry: Crystalline Lace on Barn Boards

Morning Light Silhouettes a Mountain Silverbell on the Studio Wall

The Tree Line Glimmers and Shimmers with Silvery Hoar Frost

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

Morning Star Dust: Rustic Charm meets Sugar-Coated Glamour

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

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

Cranberry-Apple Buckle with Sweet Vanilla Crumb

From combined treasures found between the pages of Rustic Fruit Desserts

Ingredients:Cranberry-Apple Buckle:

1               Tablespoon unsalted butter at room temp

1 3/4        Cups all-purpose flour

2               Teaspoons baking powder

1/2            Teaspoon fine sea salt

1/2            Cup unsalted butter

3/4            Cup granulated sugar

Zest          Of one orange

2               Eggs at room temperature

1               Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1/2            Cup sour cream

2               Cups cranberries (fresh or frozen)

1               Cup apples (cored, peeled and diced)

Vanilla Crumb Topping

1/2            Cup all-purpose flour

1/4            Cup brown sugar

1/4            Cup granulated sugar

1/8            Teaspoon fine salt

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

1 1/2         Teaspoons of pure vanilla extract

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

Cool for a few minutes and serve.

***

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

***

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

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

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

January 11th, 2011 § 1 comment § permalink

Freshly Baked Slices of Focaccia with Rosemary and Onion

Rosemary Blossoming in my Kitchen

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

Sunlight, Shining Like Crazy in My Kitchen

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

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

Meet Rosie: My Christmas Present & New Kitchen Playmate

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

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

Rosemary Blooming by the Door

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

Cippolini Onion Braid

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

Rosemary & Onion Focaccia

Rosemary & Onion Focaccia

Ingredients:

1 1/2          Teaspoons dry yeast

1 1/2          Cups warm water

1                 Teaspoon fine salt

6                 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

3 1/2           Cups all-purpose flour

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

3                  Tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh rosemary

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

3/4              Teaspoon kosher salt

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

***

Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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

December 17th, 2010 § 5 comments § permalink

Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast

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

Mid-Day Snow-Squall

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

Love in the Afternoon: Delightfully Decadent, Lemony French Toast

Love in the Afternoon French Toast

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

6             Slices of day-old, thick, French bread

3             Extra large eggs

1/2        Cup of cream

1/4        Cup of Vermont maple syrup

1             Teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon (plus extra for sprinkling)

1             Teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1             Teaspoon vanilla

1            Teaspoon freshly squeezed Meyer lemon juice

A pinch of  Salt

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

For Pan:

1/2           Stick of sweet butter

For Serving:

Real Vermont Maple Syrup to Taste (warmed)

Confectioners sugar for sprinkling on top

Sweet, Organic Meyer Lemon from VivaTerra’s Lemon Topiary

Directions:

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

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

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

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

Can you feel the love?

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

***

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

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

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

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Holiday Gifts for the Gardening Cook…

December 14th, 2010 § 2 comments § permalink

Gifts for the Gardening Cook

I was out holiday shopping yesterday afternoon in downtown Northampton, Massachusetts, and I found myself drifting like a snowflake —in and out of book shops and kitchen stores—dreaming of springtime gardens and fresh, leisurely meals on the sun-drenched terrace. Of course —as usual— while checking off my gift-list, I had to resist the urge to indulge myself as well! Oh the flame-orange Le Creuset French Oven, how it does call my name on a grey and chilly day. “Fill me, fill me!”, it says, “Load me up with root vegetables and red wine, and I promise to warm your weary spirit come February”. Hmmm. Doesn’t that sound delicious?

So in the spirit of cooking, gardening and gift-giving, I decided to share my list of things I’ve bought and things I am hoping to get myself. Could you use some last-minute ideas? Here are some good ones from the budget-concsious to the blow-out. All are available online as well as in shops, and most have free shipping (for more ideas check links on pages at left). Ho, ho, ho… Have fun out there!

The Herbal Kitchen: Cooking with Fragrance and Flavor

Japanese Ikebana Garden Scissors (pictured in use on my kitchen countertop, top photo)

Has the cook/gardener been very good? This one dreams of a Flame-Colored,  Le Creuset 5-Qt Oval French Oven

For the Harvest – Wire Baskets Make Hose-Rinsing a Breeze (here pictured in my garden)

Set of 2, Red Wire Harvest Baskets (click on image for link)


AeroGarden

Full-Spectrum Growing System for Countertop Herb Gardens (click image link)

Even if she weren’t my friend, Amy McCoy’s fantastic new book, Poor Girl Gourmet, would be right at the top of my list. This lovely lady is both a cook and an avid kitchen gardener. The stories and photographs are fantastic, and her recipes are so delicious, you would never know they are created on a shoe string (except for how much thicker your wallet will feel!)

Heart of the Artichoke and Other Kitchen Journeys is absolutely stunning and a culinary delight.

Recipes from an Italian Summer is both beautiful and fun.

Dorie Greenspan’s fantastic cookbook, Around My French Table, contains more than 300 simple and delicious French recipes.

Because when your market is your back yard, you need some way to measure at home! The BEST Kitchen Scale EatSmart Precision Pro Digital Kitchen Scale

The classic, and still the best guide to preserving the harvest: Putting Food By: Fifth Edition

FoodSaver Advanced Design Vacuum Sealer

For Enjoying the Garden…

Much easier to walk around the garden with your sangria this way: Riedel Stemless Wine Tumblers, Set of 2

A Classic Glass Pitcher for Sun Tea or Sangria

For Taking Care of the Gardener…

My favorite for many years: Crabtree & Evelyn Gardener’s 60-Second Fix

philosophy SPF 30 sunscreen & skincare


Fun Stocking Stuffers…

Tell it like it is! “My Garden Kicks Ass” Key Ring by Anne Taintor

Natural Bath Brush from Terrain

Wild Rose Lip Balm available from Terrain

Lavender Sea Salt Soak from Terrain

***

Article and Photographs are ⓒ Michaela at TGE

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

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

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Red Riding Hood’s Delightfully Tart Cranberry Christmas Cake…

December 9th, 2010 § 6 comments § permalink

Red Riding Hood’s Cranberry Christmas Cake

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

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

Amanda Seyfried as Red Riding Hood

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


Red Riding Hood’s Delightfully Tart, Cranberry Christmas Cake

For the Cake:

2          Eggs

1          Cup Greek yogurt (I use full-fat)

1          Cup sugar

1/3      Butter, melted and then cooled slightly

1          Tsp vanilla extract

1          Tablespoon golden rum

2          Cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2   Teaspoons baking powder

1/2      Teaspoon baking soda

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

1/2       Teaspoon nutmeg

1/2       Teaspoon of cinnamon

Butter for greasing the pan

For the Cranberry Sauce Glaze:

1/2       Pound freshly washed cranberries

1           Cup sugar

1/4       Cup water

1/2       Cinnamon stick

1/4        Teaspoon ground nutmeg

Zest and juice of 1 orange

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

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

Meanwhile start preparing the cranberry sauce…

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

Round about now…

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

***

‘Tis the Season for Ruby Fruit and Candlelight

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

Rudbeckia hirta with ice crystals

Hydrangea paniculata with frost and snow

Queen Anne’s Lace (Daucus carota) in Snow

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

***

Article & Photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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

November 14th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Spicy Cream of Carrot & Ginger Soup

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

Stacking Wood on the Terrace

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

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

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

Spicy Cream of Carrot and Ginger Soup

Ingredients (serves 4-6):

1         Medium onion, peeled and diced

2         Cups fresh young carrots, peeled and sliced

1         Tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

1         Two inch piece of fresh ginger, grated

2         Cloves of peeled and crushed garlic

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

2          Cups homemade vegetable or chicken broth

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

1/8      Teaspoon fresh grated nutmeg

1/8      Teaspoon fresh grated cinnamon

1          Tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped for garnish

Fresh Ground black pepper and salt to taste

Directions:

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

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

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

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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

November 7th, 2010 § 1 comment § permalink

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

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

Mulching beds in the potager with compost and straw

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

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

Arugula in the Hoop House

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

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

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

Penne with Roasted Potatoes, Arugula and Rosemary

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

Ingredients:

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

1           Small red onion

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

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

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

3/4       Pound of penne

1          Tablespoon balsamic vinegar glaze (optional)

1/2       Lemon

1/2       Cup extra virgin olive oil

Salt and Pepper

Directions:

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

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

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

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

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

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

Serve warm in shallow pasta bowls.

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

The Muted Beauty of November Skies

White ‘Spooktacular’ Pumpkins from the Garden

Wild Milkweed (Asclepias) Blowing in the Meadow Wind

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

Recipe source: Alice Waters – Chez Panisse Vegetables

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

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

October 17th, 2010 § 8 comments § permalink

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

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

Autumn foliage reflected in a pool of rain water

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

Zucca Disfatta

Ingredients (Serves 8 as a side dish):

2.5-3         Pounds butternut squash

1                 Pound yams

3                 Tablespoons shredded lemon and orange zest

1                 Large onion, minced (I use Spanish onion)

3                 Tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

4                 Cups water

1/4             Teaspoon freshly ground cinnamon

Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Directions:

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

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

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

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

Warm, fragrant and delicious – Sweet Squash

Backlit Beech Leaves Against the October Sky

***

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

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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The Sweetness of Summer, Saved in a Jar: Sun Dried Tomatoes in Olive Oil…

October 5th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

Sun Dried Tomatoes on the Terrace

Homemade Sun Dried Tomatoes and Herbs in Olive Oil in My Pantry

Hillside in Autumn Rain…

Beautiful, misty mountain tops and grey, moody skies greeted me when I awoke this morning. It seems that the wet, unsettled weather has returned to New England this week, and I —for one— welcome it wholeheartedly. With such a dry summer and early autumn, the fields and forests need all of the rain we can get. But it’s more than that, really. I actually have a thing for fog and mist. Maybe that’s why I like New England. A bit of gloom can be rather appealing, I think. I lived in the San Francisco area for awhile, and I loved watching the damp fog move like a thick blanket across the landscape.

But what about the sunshine? Well, I suppose I must be one of those ‘absence make the heart grow fonder’ types. I find that when the sun goes into hiding —and then finally makes an appearance after three or four days of rain— I tend to appreciate it more. Ever notice how wonderful home feels, after you’ve been traveling for awhile? That is how I feel when the sun comes out after a stretch of overcast days. Of course this doesn’t mean that I don’t miss the glowing, golden orb. Oh, quite the contrary. I do miss the warm sunlight on cold, cloudy afternoons. In fact, that’s when I usually end up cooking something with orange colored winter squash, bold, yellow bell peppers or better yet – red tomatoes! Oh my, sun dried tomatoes… Of course! Sun dried tomatoes are the perfect way to bring a bit of warmth and color to the table on a cloudy day!

Fresh Tomatoes From My Garden

Tomatoes Drying on a Screen in the Sun

During the long stretch of hot, sunny weather in August and September, I decided to make sun dried tomatoes the old-fashioned way: in the sun! If you live in a hot, dry climate, sun drying fruits and vegetables is easy. But if you live in the northern reaches of the world, regular periods of sunny weather are very unusual, and can be a bit hard to predict. I took full advantage of our unusual hot-spell to dry as many tomatoes as possible in the sun. But tomatoes can also be dried in other ways —in an oven, a dehydrator or even on shelves above a hot, wood stove— with excellent results.

The process is really quite simple. I made both my seeded and seedless sun dried tomatoes the Mediterranean way. Leaving the skins on, I cored and sliced the tomatoes in half lengthwise (I cut in quarters for thinner strips, and remove seeds from those strips, as shown above), sprinkled them with sea salt, sandwiched them between two screens and placed them out on my sunny terrace to dry (I brought the trays in each night to thwart critters). One week later: presto, sun dried, leathery goodness! I put all of the dried tomatoes up in ziplock storage bags and set them in the pantry to enjoy in pasta, on pizza and in appetizers. I also enjoy sun dried tomatoes in olive oil. To make them, I just put a handful in a canning jar, add herbs like dried basil and oregano, and fill the jar to the top with good quality, extra virgin olive oil. Then, I place them in the refrigerator to use as needed. You can add garlic too, but it’s important to always store these mixes in the refrigerator for safety, and use them within a week or so.

Sun Dried Tomatoes are Great Eaten As-Is, and They Add Intense Tomato-Flavor to Appetizers, Pasta, Pizza and Many Other Dishes…

If you would like to make sun dried tomatoes, but can’t get a break in the weather, try drying them in your oven instead. They taste just as good and the process is much faster (you can also buy or borrow a dehydrator). Preheat an oven to 200 degrees fahrenheit (approximately 93.33 celsius) and prepare the tomatoes as described above. Roma tomatoes do work well, but you can use any kind, including heirloom and cherry tomatoes. If you like, you can remove the seeds, or leave them in (I prepare them both ways, depending on how I am going to use the dried tomatoes). Spread the salted tomatoes out on wire-mesh racks if you have them (or on cookie sheets if you don’t). Be sure they aren’t touching. Roast them in the oven at 200 degrees fahrenheit (or around 93.33 celsius) for about 6 hours, maybe longer if the tomatoes are extra juicy (if the tomatoes are super wet, I usually remove most of the seeds and pulp and/or cut them into wedges). Check the tomatoes frequently toward the end of roasting time. The strips should be completely dry and leathery, but not crisp. Remove the tomatoes to cool, and then seal them in ziplock bags, or store them as described above in olive oil (be sure to refrigerate to prevent botulism).

This Small Plate of Sun Dried Tomatoes Represents Approximately 6 Large Roma Tomatoes After Drying for One Week in The Sun. The Pretty Plate is by California Artist, Aletha Soule.

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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

October 1st, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

The Colors of the Season – Autumn Harvest Stew

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

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

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

And Deep Violet-Skinned Eggplant…

Autumn Harvest Stew

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

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

1  pound new potatoes sliced cross 1/8″ thick

1  red bell pepper

1  yellow or orange bell pepper

3  cubanelle (aka cubano) peppers

1  pound fresh tomatoes (peeled and cored)

2 cloves fresh garlic, crushed

Kosher salt

Fresh Ground Pepper

Olive oil for frying**

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

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

Directions:

Preheat an oven to 375 degrees fahrenheit.

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

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

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

Serve hot with fresh baked bread.

Autumn Harvest Stew

Viburnum trilobum (Cranberrybush viburnum leaf)

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

Backlit Maple Leaf

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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***

A Toast to the Last Day of Summer: Greeting the Autumnal Equinox with Spiced, Heirloom Apple Cider Martinis…

September 22nd, 2010 § Comments Off on A Toast to the Last Day of Summer: Greeting the Autumnal Equinox with Spiced, Heirloom Apple Cider Martinis… § permalink

Spiced Apple Cider Martini with Dolgo Crab Apple and Cinnamon Stick Garnish

Farewell to summer! The autumnal equinox will occur at 3:09 am UTC (GMT) on September 23rd this year. So —depending upon where you live—autumn will officially begin sometime this evening, September 22nd, or in the wee hours of September 23rd. Here in New England, fall will begin at 11:09 PM EDT. Coincidentally, the Harvest Moon will be full tomorrow, on the first day of autumn. Yesterday evening, I caught the beautiful, glowing orb, just as it rose –nearly full— above the treetops at twilight. Oh, what a beauty…

The Nearly-Full, Harvest Moon…

As if in anticipation of a grand, autumn party, the northeastern fields and forests have already begun to change into traditional fall costume, greeting the equinox with the all the rich hues and glorious textures of the season. Fall truly is my favorite time of the year, but it always seems to pass too quickly. So, I try to soak up as much natural beauty as I can, taking daily walks through local fields and forests, and my own woodland trails here at Ferncliff. Below are some highlights from sunset strolls this week…

Colorful Maple Leaf on the Forest Floor

A Bleached Hayscented Fern in Late Afternoon Light

A Colorful Ash Seedling

Maple Leaves in a Natural Pool

A Meadow of Native Bluestem

I began my week with a visit to Scott Farm in Dummerston, Vermont (see my post about this beautiful Vermont orchard by clicking here). In anticipation of the autumnal equinox, I decided to pick up some heirloom apple cider, and create spiced-apple martinis; the perfect cocktail to celebrate autumn’s arrival. Heirloom apples have such delightful colors, textures and flavors; ranging in hue from light gold to deepest violet and varying in taste from tartest-of-tart to honey-sweet. A walk through an old orchard is one of the greatest early autumn pleasures I know…

Apple Orchard – Scott Farm, Dummerston, Vermont

The Orchard at Scott Farm

Zeke Goodband’s Heirloom Apple Cider, Lemon and Warm Spices

Zeke Goodband’s apple cider is the best I have ever tasted, and it makes the most delicious base for an autumnal twist on the traditional apple-martini. The golden color of this cocktail is beautifully enhanced by the addition of a pretty, ruby-red, heirloom Dolgo crabapple garnish. Of course, if Dolgo crabapples are nowhere to be found, any tiny red apple —or slice dipped in lemon juice— will do. But, if you prefer a non-alcholic drink, travel back to my post on hot mulled apple cider, another delicious way to enjoy this fruit of the season!

Enjoy the last, golden hours of summer, and the beautiful season of autumn yet to come…

Cheers!

Spiced Heirloom Apple Cider Martini

Ingredients for 2 Cocktails (multiply or divide to suit):

4 ounces heirloom apple cider

4 ounces excellent quality, ice-cold vodka

2 ounces excellent quality brandy (apple brandy if you like)

2 ounces orange liquor

1 ounce fresh squeezed Meyer lemon juice

2 cinnamon sticks and/or 1 tsp freshly ground cinnamon (optional)

2 tsp artisan honey

Directions:

Place all ingredients in a jar and cover.* Shake well to mix before serving. When ready to serve, pour the mixture into a cocktail shaker with crushed ice. Shake and pour into 2 chilled martini glasses. Garnish with a crab apple (or slice of apple) and a cinnamon stick. Serve.

*The basic cocktail may be mixed a few hours ahead (in a large jar) if serving cocktails at a party. Keep well chilled and shake cocktails in ice individually before serving.

Spiced Heirloom Apple Martini

The last, golden days of summer – A meadow of native bluestem

Sunset in a Meadow of Wild Bluestem

September’s Harvest Moon…

You may also enjoy last year’s Autumnal Equinox post and the Vintage Rose Cocktail. Click here…

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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

September 21st, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

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

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

Top growth of plant, before removal

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

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

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

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

Leek and Brussels Sprout Soup

Ingredients:

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

2 small leeks (or one larger one)

2 pints of stock (homemade vegetable or other choice)

1 Tbs of butter

1 Tbs of flour

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

Salt and pepper to taste

A few drops of lemon juice

Directions:

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

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

***

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

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

***

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

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

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***

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

September 19th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

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

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

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

The Northwestern Meadow Begins a Seasonal Shift

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

Sunflowers Along the Potager Fence

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

A Prelude to Autumn…

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

Ingredients (serves 6 as a side dish):

3      Large red beets

3      Large golden beets

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

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

3      Teaspoons champagne vinegar

3      Teaspoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

3      Teaspoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

2     Tablespoons balsamic vinegar glaze (reduced balsamic vinegar)*

Directions:

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

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

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

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

The Twilight of Late Summer

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

September 12th, 2010 § 3 comments § permalink

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

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

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

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

Rainbow Chard – The ‘Spinach’ of Summertime

Ruby Red Chard with Orange Blossom and Early Girl Tomatoes

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

Stuffing the Tomatoes

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

Ingredients: Serves 6 as a side-dish

6      Large Orange Blossom or other orange or yellow tomato

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

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

3/4  Cup of milk

2      Eggs lightly beaten

5      Tablespoons Freshly Grated Reggiano Parmesan Cheese

1      Clove garlic chopped

2      Tablespoons fresh basil, chopped fine

1      Tablespoon of fresh parsley, chopped fine

1      Cup Grafton Sharp Cheddar Cheese

2      Tablespoons artisan quality extra virgin olive oil

Kosher salt

Fresh Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

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

The Colors of Summer – Beautiful and Delicious…

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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

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

August 29th, 2010 § 4 comments § permalink

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

Late Summer Dinner on the Terrace

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

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

Harvesting New Potatoes from the Potager

Potatoes Scrubbed Clean and Glowing, Bright as Easter Eggs

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

Pommes À L’ Huile

Based on the recipe from Patricia Wells’ Bistro Cooking

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

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

1           Cup plus 4 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

6           Tablespoons very high quality white wine vinegar

4           Tablespoons dry white wine

2           Teaspoons Kosher salt

4           Small shallots, minced fine

Fresh parsley  (3 – 4 tablespoons) chopped fine

Fresh chives (about 3 tablespoon) chopped fine

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

Fresh ground black pepper to taste

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

Directions:

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

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

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

Pommes À L’Huile

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

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

‘Heavenly Blue’ Morning Glory along the Garden Gate

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

***

Article and photographs ⓒ 2010 Michaela at TGE

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

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


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