Really ridiculously easy pasta.

3 09 2008

This is my new favorite easy-as-pie pasta recipe…at least as long as the cherry tomatoes keep coming.  When the cherry tomatoes started turning red, I turned to The Herbfarm Cookbook for ideas.  This recipe is so simple, it’s hardly a recipe.  This is cooking at its easiest.

This feeds two:

Heat oven to 450.  Start a large pot of water to boil.  Add salt to the water when boils.

Halve about a cup of cherry tomatoes.  Toss with a little olive oil, a pinch of salt, and about a tablespoon of fresh thyme.  Spread evenly on a rimmed baking sheet or enameled cast iron skillet.

Add 8 oz of dried spaghetti to the water.  While spaghetti cooks, place tomatoes in oven and cook for 6-8 minutes, depending on the size of the cherry tomatoes.  The tomatoes will shrivel up a bit.  Remove from oven.

When spaghetti is cooked, drain and toss with tomatoes.  Divide onto two warmed bowls.  Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and a bit of parsley, if available.

It doesn’t get any easier.





What does one do with cabbage?

3 09 2008

I pulled this nearly 2  1/2-pounder out of the garden this week.   To cabbage growers, my ability to produce a cabbage will not seem a very grandiose achievement, but I’m still dazzled at how the head went from some slightly crumpled leaves to a dense ball in just a matter of weeks.  I wish I hadn’t unnecessarily pulled the other cabbage plants out.  I do have a 1-pounder that I started eating this evening, but I think I really ended up wasting those plants.  Alas.

What I do appreciate about cabbage is how much food you get for the space.  Three and a half pounds of cabbage will go a long way as side dishes.   The question is, what to do with this much maligned vegetable?  I am neither a fan of any sort of recipes that makes cabbage limp, nor am I a big fan of coleslaw.  As I’ve been looking around, I’ve realized, as should have been obvious, that cabbage has really fallen out of favor with both cooks and cookbook authors.  Given what a sturdy food cabbage is, this really is a shame.  At the same time, I have zero interest in eating something that doesn’t taste good.

My favorite recipe for green cabbage is a stir fry with bean sprouts and peanuts.  You can find it at http://www.cooksillustrated.com.  I’d love to post the recipe, but it’s detailed enough that I don’t think I can fairly post it without violating their intellectual property rights.   I tried a more simple saute this evening that I enjoyed far more than I thought I would.  This was an experiment, so I cut off 1/4 pound of the smallest cabbage.  I sliced it very thin.  I melted a half tablespoon of butter, then added about a tablespoon of water. I added the cabbage and a pinch of fresh thyme.  I let it braise, covered, for about seven minutes, until the pan was fairly dry and the cabbage was crispy.  I sprinkled on a little salt and pepper and gave it a try.  It was good!  I think the key here is to not add too much liquid and to minimize the cooking time so the cabbage still has some crunch to it.

I’ve put in five cabbage plants into my fall garden, but more on that later.





This was unfortunate

22 08 2008

Just as my tomatoes were really starting to turn red,  we had a major downpour.  Despite watering the tomatoes regularly, the difference in the water levels in the soil was so drastic that these guys just couldn’t handle it and split apart.   That was really too bad.





DNA is amazing.

22 08 2008

I am becoming more and more enthralled by the supernatural abilities of plants. This was the bean trellis on August 1st:

This is it today, a mere three weeks later: (you have to forgive my photo shooting skills.  The screen on my camera has gone blank, giving “point and shoot” a whole new meaning.

I am dumbfounded at how fast they have grown and how many beans I have pulled off of them.   Considering I was wondering whether they were going to make it AT ALL, they have proved me wrong ten times over.  These produce a thin haricot vert, which are thinner than many green beans.  I’d pay about $8/lb at the farmers market for these.  Instead, for the price of the trellis, which is reusable, I pull the off by the handful for free.

Meanwhile, someone has to explain the magic of cabbage to me.   They start out like this

and SOMEHOW end up looking like this!

Now, there really weren’t that many leaves that folded under, so I have to wonder HOW the cabbage actually grows?  Do the leaves that fold under keep expanding despite the fact they are curled up under other leaves?  I ask because, a week ago, the cabbage felt like it wasn’t going to be firm at all, and I was really wondering if I had wasted a lot of space.  Now, they are firm to the touch, and I sort of regret pulling out two that didn’t seem to be doing so well.  My guess is that they would have grown much more than I thought they would have.  I’m just amazed they have turned into actual heads of cabbage!

Meanwhile the various sets of chives that I was pretty sure I was going to kill while propagating them have all put on inches of new growth during the last couple of rainy days.   Despite the fact the soil does not yet have any redeeming value, I’ve decided that chives are pretty much indestructible.

The yard IS starting to get healthier, though.   My lavender is starting to bloom, and it is is attracting insects I have never seen before in the yard.  There was a very pretty butterfly or moth on them earlier, which was a welcome sight.





Celebration

19 08 2008

As I plucked these from the vine, I couldn’t help but think that, in a world in which there weren’t cardboard-tasting tomatoes available in the grocery store, this would be widespread cause for celebration.  Provided the weather keeps it up and The Evil Blight doesn’t show itself, there are literally hundreds more to come.   The darker ones are particularly tasty.  The plant is a  Chocolate  Cherry tomato from Territorial Seed Co.  I could have probably let them ripen a bit more, but the temptation was just beyond me.





In the land of Cthulhu, I win!

13 08 2008

In the overhaul of the garden mentioned below, I pulled out my four foot row of carrots. This was an experimental row. I wanted to at least try my hand at it to see if I wanted to give it a bigger go next year. I was pleased that I got a few carrots that looked like carrots. I win!

I also got a bunch of carrots that looked like this:

If I was a character in an H.P. Lovecraft novel, these would be the type of carrots I would grow.

I am sure there is a lesson to be learned here, but I don’t know what it is. I sifted my soil very carefully to try and make it so the carrots could grow straight. Obviously some of them DID. Why the rest turned into Root Vegetables From Beyond Time and Space is beyond me. Perhaps my soil is too heavy or got too compacted as I watered, such that the carrots couldn’t continue to grow downward?

I can turn this into some nice carrot sticks, but this isn’t exactly what I had in mind. It was fun, but I’m not sure I’ll do it again next year. My goal is consistency, something I failed to achieve here. This was the bunch from the four feet. Not bad considering i had already pulled several out. At a minimum, I created food. Weird food, but food nonetheless.





Haircut

13 08 2008

Today, when I started weeding the garden, my compulsion to make everything orderly overcame my compassion for both the plants that were struggling and for those trying to take over everything. I’m not usually a compulsively tidy person, so this is a new experience. Part of me felt terrible for the overhaul, but it is such a small space that I can’t let it get out of control and expect anything to really thrive.

Note to self for next year: Calendula, while it is pretty and attracts beneficial bugs, takes up too much room for a small garden plot. I will definitely plant flowers again, but I will be looking for something much smaller. It was nice while it lasted. In short, I ripped it all out. I also ripped out two cabbages that had been too damaged by bugs to be of any decent culinary quality. There are still two left that are looking promising.

Then the herbs got a major haircut. The marjoram is slowly but steadily trying to turn into a bush. I cut all the stems back to about a foot. Hopefully it will get bushier rather than taller. Then, I trimmed the top inch or so off of the entire thyme plant to remove the dead blossoms and spur some new growth before fall arrives.

Then, I attempted to propagate the chives: another Total Novice Activity. The chives have been out of control. I don’t know how long they have been part of my plot; they were there when I arrived. As the year has progressed, the chives have looked more and more overcrowded, to the point that they seemed to be dying. I think this was confirmed when I dug them out and found a massive ball of nothing but roots. I cut off everything but four inches, dug them up, divided them, and threw them in a bucket of water. I ended up with six bunches that looked like this:

This is when my Grow or Die philosophy kicks in. I wasn’t sure whether I should make these into even smaller bunches, but I replanted the six bunches. I planted one back in the garden. I planted four around my little front yard in hopes of filling out the herb garden and one in a pot on my porch. The spearmint was dying for no apparent reason, so the chives get a chance. It’s August. It’s about to get hot. The soil in the front yard isn’t exactly teeming with organic material yet. I gave them some organic fertilizer and I will water them, but they are on their own. I really don’t need even MORE chives. I can’t eat them fast enough as is. But, if they make it, they’ll deserve their spots in the yard.