Sunday, May 29, 2011

Cooking Spring

Cooking, as gardening, as life, can be like magic.  In the blink of an eye my gnarly, sodden radishes, just plucked from the earth become gleaming, hot pink and green  bits of edible beauty.  Okay, maybe that's a bit much for a radish slice, on the other hand that's pretty much how I felt when first cutting into our 'Watermelon Radishes.'  Look at that little green "rind"! 

This night I came home from a hard day at work, with piles of greens and veggies sitting stubbornly in my fridge like some kind of challenge.  I was tired, and at first I opted for avoidance. I opened a can of tuna and planed  to just make some of my spicy tuna melts.  Then, I remembered that recipe for kohlrabi chips, and decided that they would be great with the melts.   I poured myself a glass of wine, an important first step, and voila just like magic was inspired to start cooking.  With about five 8 foot long rows of salad greens growing in my back yard, having salad was a no brainer. 

Matt helped wash the greens, and make the salads.  Butterhead lettuce, red romaine, radishes, sheep's milk cheese, and Norwood Cottage baguette was a meal in itself.  We were rockin' out to some David Bowie,  and having a nice time.  In the oven with the kohlrabi chips I put some beets to have later in the week.     
 David Bowie Beets ready for take off

We sauteed some fresh baby squash from the market with onions to have on the side, put together our melts, and took our plates to the t.v. rewarding ourselves with a classic flick (okay, it was Superman II a la Christoper Reeves), and some very full bellies. 

Friday, May 27, 2011

Strawberry Vinaigrette

I cannot pass those beautiful red strawberries at the market without taking some home! I have made all the smoothies and cobblers humanly possible, and have eaten my weight in raw berries by this point in the season. I wanted to try something with strawberries that added sweetness to a savory dish, and I needed some variety in my salad combinations, et voila! Strawberry vinaigrette came into my life. Yum.

3 oz strawberry juice (puree 1 C strawberries, then press the pulp through a sieve with a spatula so the just the juice is pressed through)

1/4 C white balsamic vinegar (I love the fig infused one I found at Kroger)

1/2 C olive oil

1TBS Dijon mustard

salt and pepper

Shake or stir until all the ingredients are emulsified. Perfect with simple salads.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Vegetable Garden Update

White Icicle Radishes

Today the temperature here was in the nineties. Surely this signifies the end of my fresh spring greens. I have been so grateful to have them these last couple months, not just for the joy of harvesting, and eating them, but because their growth makes me feel like we are doing something right. When I'm feeling overwhelmed with all I haven't done, seeing those beds with everything doing so well all on it's own is like a whisper of encouragement... "Look what can be achieved Shannon if you just jump in. A little work upfront can have a tremendous payout....breathe deep, and cut your self a fresh salad!" Spring crops are good like that. Plunk some seeds down in the ground, and in no time you've got big leafy plants. Sure you may have to feed them once or twice, (we didn't), or water them a bit, but if you start early enough spring crops can offer great reward for far less effort than you'd think. Matt and I (heavy on the Matt, light on the Shannon) started our vegetable garden the first of March this year. Honestly, we were still a bit behind, February is good for lots of things when you have cold frames. This past fall we hadn't planted anything, but cover crops in most beds so Matt tilled those in, set up the cold frames he had made to fit over our raised beds and direct seeded a variety of cool season crops.
Of the two covered beds we sowed three rows of swiss chard divided by rows of arugula, and Mesclun salad mix. In another we have rows of radishes that we succession sow as we harvest. Rows of butterhead lettuce, red romaine, and spinach grow together in this same 4x 8' bed. The right back bed has mustard greens, onions, horseradish, dill, and parsley, origionally started under frost fabric.
Gradually the days and nights got warmer, and longer and we were able to remove the bed covers, and then the plastic from the sides of our screened beds. Trying to get as much out of the space as we can I often plant things very close together, knowing that one will be harvested just as the other is getting started. Radishes like a lot of room to form, but shown below is a container with a red bell pepper plant, and radishes growing all around it. This is pushing things, but I'm trying it for fun. This works great with lettuces and such which have less roots. The radishes, which need a little thinning, will hopefully grow before the pepper's roots move in.

The peppers, are growing, and the Blue Lake bush beans I sowed between the heads of red romaine have grown to a respectable 6-8" height. The high heat of this week has meant that the last couple of mornings have been spent hurriedly harvesting, and cleaning greens before work. I will be sad to see these tender greens go, although I do look forward to those beans. The red romaine is gone, as of yesterday, giving those beans all the room they need. One butternut squash is already starting to take over the arugula patch which is just fine as the arugula, along with most everything else in these beds, is already trying to bolt, or is has long gone to flower. I am eagerly waiting for that first tomato to be ripe., but I'll miss the pleasure of wandering through my spring garden, and feeling the sense of possibilities it gives. .

Monday, May 23, 2011

I heart Sourdough.

I just found out that my mom once had a sourdough starter for so long, she named it Herman. Now I have my own white-ish blob of sourdough starter living in my refrigerator, which, while not name worthy yet, does seem like a cross between a science experiment and one of those Tamagotchi pets. It has to be fed every once in a while, and you probably should warn anyone that comes across the starter in my refrigerator that I actually mean to have it there. It looks pretty gnarly.

Meanwhile, as weird as it seems, I have started to feel affection for the stranger in my refrigerator because the house smells so good when the bread is baking. And the recipe couldn't be easier- just time intensive. All I have to add to the starter is flour, water, salt and a bit of sugar. And time... My favorite recipe takes over 24 hours from start to finish. That is some serious rising! But I love the sour sourdough, so it seems worth that much time. I have also noticed that the bread lasts longer once made than any other- certainly more than any homemade loaf.

There are lots of recipes online to make a starter, however, the flavor does improve with age, so if you can get starter from a friend, do. (I'll share!)

Not convinced to keep a starter yet? Check out this video, Science on the SPOT: Secrets of Sourdough, about the art of baking and the science behind the fermentation going on in sourdough.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Cooking with Kohlrabi

Last Saturday I stoped by the market stand of one of my favorite vendors, Fertile Crescent. Amid the beautiful piles of crisp, dewy lettuce, collards, kale, radish, and beets lay a cluster of that strange alien like produce called Kohlrabi. I confess that I have bought Kohlrabi twice before over the last 18 months, and in both instances I ended up tossing the veg. onto the compost heap after housing it in my fridge for multiple months. Absolute laziness had won out over "culinary exploration", and as it turns out, for no good reason at all.
This time the vendor, (also looking for cooking suggestions) convinced me to buy the stuff one more time and give it a go. As fate would have it, Kohlrabi seems to be "The hot new vegetable," and miss Martha herself did a full page spread on it in the June issue of Martha Stewart Living magazine. Three ways to prepare Kohlrabi are provided, all very different, and all easy. I decided I would try all three.
Kohlrabi is a brassica, long ago modified from wild mustard greens. The hard ball at the base has a texture somewhat like the base of a large head of cabbage, but somehow more starchy. The flavor can vary somewhat depending on the variety ranging from ever so slightly spicy, to a fresh slight cucumber flavor. Both the base and the greens are edible. The three Martha recipes utilize all the elements of kohlrabi, which is great fresh, baked, or sauteed with the greens.

The first one I tried was kohlrabi chips. Perfect with my tuna melt, the kohlrabi chips have all the goodness of homemade potato chips, but with a really nice flavor. Left unpeeled, sliced very thin, tossed with olive oil and course salt the kohlrabi is cooked slowly in a 250 degree oven for anywhere from 35min to 1 hour. Rotate the cooking sheet a few time throughout the cooking time. The chips take rather a long time. Mine took 45 minutes to finish. I flipped mine on the sheet as well as turning the sheet around a couple times. The trick without a mandolin is getting those round spheres with all their funny little nubs to slice in very thin rounds. I ended up with lots of little half rounds, and bits. Still they tasted great, and I would happily have them in substitute for fries, or potato chips.

I still have to try the yummy sounding slaw made from kohlrabi and apple matchsticks (perfect for fall), as well as the cubed kohlrabi simmered with its own greens, and other produce in a cream sauce. What a fantastically versatile, cool season vegetable! Hopefully I'll find time to post on the other recipes as well, but regardless don't you be shy about trying this lesser known, but noteworthy vegetable.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Update on Tuckahoe Farm Market!!!

Tuckahoe Plantation will no longer be holding the Sunday Farm Market they started just about a month ago.  They are still selling at multiple farmer's markets.  Here is an excerpt from their e-mail.  Check out their website for information on ordering beef before the end of this month or in early June.


We hope that everyone is enjoying this perfect spring weather. We certainly are.

We enjoyed seeing some of y'all out at market this past weekend. We are at the Byrd house Market on Tuesdays from 3-7 and the South of the James and St Stephen's markets on Saturday from 8-12.

On the topic of markets, we have decided to discontinue the set Sunday hours for our farm market at Tuckahoe. Working all day seven days a week 26 weeks a year is too much. We need a day where all we do is make sure the animals are fed, watered and happy and then take it easy. For now, the market will be open by appointment or by chance.  If you stop by Tuckahoe and happen to see someone working in the gardens, ask them about purchasing our meat and eggs.

Right now we have plenty of eggs, lambs and flowers available. If you want eggs, lamb or flowers, but can't make it to market, you are welcome to come pick them up at the farm. Give Daniel 370 9686 or Emily 506-4015 a call."

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Great Fava Bean

Check out this photos of Casey's beautiful fava bean harvest! Fava beans are one of the loveliest cover crops for the veggie garden, and a great early season harvest. Cover crops fix nitrogen in the soil, increasing fertility for the upcoming season. Fava beans are by far my favorites because they have lovely flowers, upright posture and delicious beans!

You can substitute fava beans for garbanzos in hummus or falafel, or simply saute them and add to your favorite dish. I love this blog post from Local Lemons with a simple recipe for cooking the lovely favas.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Chocolate Tasting Tomorrow Night!!

Slow Food RVa is pleased to host
       an evening of Chocolate Tasting and Education
presented by
the KALLARI ASSOCIATION of Ecuador, producers of
organic, sustainably-produced cocoa and fair-trade chocolate
made from Slow Food Presidium-recognized heirloom cacao beans.
Wednesday May 11th – 6:30 pm
Bon Air United Methodist Church – In The Commons
1645 Buford Road, Richmond 23235

Experience the world through gourmet dark chocolate
in this blind tasting/education session
Hear about the stages in cocoa production and
bean preparation from an Amazon cocoa grower
Learn to discern chocolate notes & textures,
roasting techniques and regional flavors
Hear about the economic impact of the
world's 3rd most important commodity

Slow Food Members  $15   Non-members  $20   Proceeds to Kallari Association

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Weekly menu from first market haul

Kale and garden oyster mushroom bread pudding

Simple spring salad

Radish and butter on bread

Pesto and greens lasagna

Spicy peanut stir fry with broccoli and tofu

Strawberry and Rhubarb Cobbler

Friday, May 6, 2011

Farmers Market Season in full swing

Here we go! Most summer markets open tomorrow- support your favorite food producers, and have a fantastic morning!

See you there!

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Celebrate with Tricycle Gardens this Thursday

From Tricycle Gardens own Stacy Moulds:

Please join Tricycle Garden to help celebrate the Grand Opening of our Farm Stand this Thursday, May 5th from 4-7pm. We will extend the farm stand an extra hour that night and will be serving up cold beer and wine, music and more.
Location: Tricycle Gardens HQ: 2107 Jefferson Ave, Richmond VA 23223
Activities will include:

* Pet some baby goats from Huguenot Hundred Acres
* Cinco De Mayo Drinks & Nibbles - We’ll have ice-cold coronas with limes & an assortment of Virginia wines. Snack on some zesty Texas Caviar from the Alamo BBQ & some Latin-infused tasty treats from Hispania Bakery (Old World with a New World Twist, opening soon!). Both businesses are located right here in Union Hill.
* Lamplighter Roasting Co. will have freshly made coffee & tea drinks and coffee beans for sale.
* Mexican hand-made embroidered shirts for sale, brought back from Mexico by Amy Hicks of Amy's Garden.
* Music from Evrim Dogu of Sub Rosa Bread will be singing and playing some music. Chris Hale with Scattered, Smothered & Covered (and owner of BioForm Landscape Architecture hopes to join him towards the end of the evening.
The Farm Stand is open Every Tuesday & Thursday from 4-6 pm - Fresh Veggies to Eat & Plant, Rain Barrels, Worm Bins & Worm Castings & More!
For More information about the Tricycle Gardens Farm Stand:

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Fresh Film Screening and Local Food Meet and Greet- Tonight!

Join St. Thomas' Church and Fall Line Farms for a special event -- a screening of the 2009 documentary FRESH.

"FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers, and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet."

The movie starts at 7pm. Come early to meet and chat with some of the local food producers who work with Fall Line Farms. All are welcome -- bring friends!

Tuesday, May 3 · 6:00pm - 9:00pm

St. Thomas Episcopal Church

3602 Hawthorne Ave

Richmond, VA