The Fall Garden: The Greens

22 09 2008

I have much-neglected about writing about the fall garden, which is really too bad.  It’s doing shockingly well, too well, perhaps.

Back in August, I put in some baby pak choi, cabbage, and kale starts.

The pak choi grew at ridiculous rates.

I hadn’t planned on eating any of it by now, but two of the five plants were about to bolt, so I ended up having to pull them out!   I used 1 1/2 heads for a stir-fry.  Tonight, I’m going to try using the leaves from one or two in a vegetable soup in place of spinach.  The leaves are surprisingly spicy compared to the baby pak choi I’ve bought at the market.  I think it must be a different, stronger-flavored variety.

I put in six Red Express cabbages.  I think they may be growing too fast:

The goal was to get them big enough to surive being frozen out, then have them head up in the spring.  This is one of the smaller ones.  I’ve read that if they’re too big going into spring, they’ll bolt rather than head up.  I really didn’t expect them to grow this quickly.

Meanwhile, there is kale to be eaten, and I haven’t even begun to think about what to do with that yet:

Here is the chard AFTER the two major haircuts over the last few weeks.  It looks like there will still be plenty of meals coming our way.





If I accomplished one thing this year, this was it.

22 09 2008

As I look back over the gardening season, I think the best thing I’ve done this year is provide some habitiat for bees in my previously-blighted front yard.  I’ve seen bees on the lavendar nearly every day this fall, whereas before there wasn’t a bee to be seen.   In the spring, depending on how much the strawberries end up doing, I’m going to try and plant more flowers to continue to attract beneficial insects.





Chard Ravioli

19 09 2008

This is my fall back recipe for using up extra spinach or chard.  It is a combination of recipes from Cook’s Illustrated, The Herbfarm Cookbook, and my own experiences.

Chard filling: (Thanks to having 2 1/2 lbs of chard, I basically tripled this)

  • 3/4 lbs chard (or spinach)
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 cup ricotta
  • 3/4 c. grated parmesan
  • 1/4 cup chopped onion
  • 1 egg yolk
  • salt

Wash and stem the chard.  Leaving water on leaves, put in a pot over medium heat.  Heat, stirring occasionally, until leaves are just wilted.  For best flavor, the chard should stay a nice bright green.  Remove from heat.  Run leaves under cold water to stop the cooking process.  Squeeze all water of leaves.  Chop fairly finely.

Heat butter in large skillet.  Add onion and saute for 2-3 minutes.  Add chard and stir until evenly mixed.  Remove from heat.  Salt to taste.  I add a bit more salt to chard than I do to spinach in order to bring out the best flavor of the chard.  Sometimes chard can taste too much like “greens” without enough salt.  Let cool.

Mix ricotta, parmesan, and egg yolk.  Add cooled chard / onion mixture.  Stir until cheese and greens are evenly mixed.   Store in refrigerator until pasta is made.

Handmade pasta can be a real pain in the arse, but I’ve found that it is really worth taking the time to figure it out.  The hard part is getting a sense of how much flour the dough needs on that particular day.   Believe it or not, weather conditions really do seem to make a difference.

Basic pasta recipe:

  • 2 cups bread flour  (I’ve made pasta with both all purpose and bread flour, and I’ve found that the bread flour results in a softer dough, which I like)
  • 2 eggs
  • pinch salt
  • 2 tsps olive oil
  • water (2-4+ tbsp)

Through everything but the water in a standing mixer and mix with a dough hook or a paddle.  Add a little water until the dough comes together enough that when you grab a handful, it sticks together when you release it.  It is ok if it is somewhat of a shaggy mess.  If the dough is a little dry now, it’ll save you work later.  Put it in a ziplock bag or wrap it in plastic and let it sit for 30 minutes to 2 hours.  I find the longer it sits, the easier it is to roll.

Then, roll it out using whatever pasta machine you have.  I have an attachment for my KitchenAid mixer.  It’s noisy, but it gets the job done.  I roll it until is at the 5th setting on mine.  If it’s thinner, I find the pasta tears too easily.

Here’s what I’ve taken to lately.  Many cookbooks talk about dusting your cooking area with flour.  Some recommend dusting with rice flour.  I have invariably torn the ravioli at some point using these methods.  I’ve taken to putting the pasta directly on parchment paper.  It is very easy to drag the parchment paper onto a baking sheet to slip it into the freezer.  Once frozen, the ravioli slide right off the parchment paper and into a ziplock bag.

And thus, endless leaves of chard are turned into ravioli for fall dinners.  These twelve, of course, are just the beginning of a long but rewarding process.





Too much food.

17 09 2008

Due to two trips and a recent family crisis, I have been largely away from the garden and away from the blog.  Now, once again, I find myself with TOO much fresh food.    I had given the chard a serious trim two weeks ago, pulling out what amounted to 1 1/2 lbs of JUST leaves…no stems, but due to various life events, it ended up going to waste.  Today, I gave it another “trim”, and this is what I pulled out:

That ended up being two pounds of leaves after all the stems were removed.  That will make A LOT of ravioli.  I have started the process, and I will write about it tomorrow.

Meanwhile, I have had more tomatoes than I could have imagined, even from the now-recalled Dirt Sack.  The fall garden, which I haven’t really written about, also is growing MUCH faster than anticipated, so I have an unexpected bounty of pak choi that must be eaten soon.

All this from such a small space.  It kinda blows my mind.





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.