Thursday, December 2, 2010

Brussel sprouts

A wonderful vegetable anytime of the year. Brussel sprouts are just so tasty and healthy.  These mini cabbages can sometimes be bitter, but picked at just the right time from your garden, rinsed and steamed in lemon juice just before pan frying them, they are just irresistable. The addition of shallots, shaved garden carrots, garlic and a drizzle of white balsamic are just what this dish needs to complete any meal.  The last of my brussel sprouts were harvested just this week here.  From four plants my yields were just awesome.  So we'll be eating many of these over the winter months here. Once blanched, they freeze up beautifully.

Brussel Sprouts

1 dozen brussel sprouts, rinsed, trimmed
juice of 1 lemon
2 TBLS olive oil
2 large shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, shaved
1 small Japanese eggplant, cut into 1/2 " pieces *opt
1/4 cup vegetable broth
pinch of sugar
2 tsps white balsamic vinegar
sea salt & ground pepper

Peel the sprouts outer leaves off and trim a bit of the ends. If the sprouts are large, halve or quarter them.  Steam the sprouts in lemon juice for about 4 minutes in a covered pan. In a saute pan, heat the olive oil and add garlic, shallots, brussel sprouts, vegetable broth, seasoning and sugar.  Cover and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the balsamic--stir, uncover and cook 3 minutes more to combine all the flavors and serve.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

November garden-brussel sprouts

 I've been pretty busy in the garden this week.  Repairs needed to be done, replacing many weathered and bygone boards and making new raised beds for next season.  All the existing raised beds have been composted and the perennial beds mulched. The farmers' almanac is predicting  an accumulative snowy winter this year for us here in the east, and though we seldom see the inch amounts  as the inlanders do, it's just better practice to be safe than sorry--so I mulch heavily.

So the garden is nearly empty now :( The deer snacked on my brussel sprout foliage, but most of the sprouts are still intact.  Sprouts in our neck of the woods seems to be prolific growers--with little or no care at all.  Last year I was still harvesting on January 4th, but that was the last of them that day.

This year I will be trying something new.  I am harvesting the entire stalks and hanging them in cool storeage to see how much longer I can extend them, until I'm ready to use them.  Though I have to admit, it's kind of neat (though very chilly) harvesting the sprouts from under a blanket of snow too!

The parsnips I planted a few weeks back are doing so well. I'll be curious to see how they fare the winters up here as well as give me something to look forward to come March in the garden besides the cleanup :). The kales--hardy as ever. I just love that they last so long in the garden. They will go into my soups throughout most of the winter and so healthy for you too!

With mixed emotions { because I really hate saying goodbye to the garden each year} I sadly pulled the last of my carrots and purple top turnips this week to grace my Thanksgiving dinner table today.  I don't know how the voles missed these last three rows--but thrilled they missed them!

The forecasters are calling for our first ice storm of the season later today and into tomorrow, so I'm really happy to have finished my tasks up this week in the garden.  My pies are all baked, Tom is roasting in the oven, most of my side dishes readied to be cooked.  Now, I am heading out for my daily walk, before the children arrive.  I'm glad we won't be doing any traveling this holiday.  It's been a long and fruitful season all in all.  I'm so very grateful for our many abundances this year. Enjoy the simple pleasures this holiday will bring–sweet surprises, safe travel and joyful journeys along with together times… Thanksgiving.. a time to be thankful for all the abundances in our lives.  Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with all the blessings of the season. Til next thyme..

Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

Monday, November 8, 2010

Roasted Butternut & Fennel Risotto

Last  week I harvested the remaining fennel, shallots and butternut squash from the gardens to hopefully winter over, so for dinner tonite it was roasted butternut risotto for us. I just love risotto and what fabulous flavor the roasted veggies add  to this dish.

Roasted Butternut & Fennel Risotto 

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, seeded & cut into cubes
1/2 small fennel bulb,finely sliced
3 TBLS olive oil
2 TBLS unsalted butter
1/4 cup shallots, minced
2 garlic cloves, minced
sea salt, white pepper
fresh savory, parsley & sage, minced
2 cups arborio rice
6 cups chicken stock
2/3 cup Pinot Grigio
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Spread the squash and fennel on a baking sheet and toss with a tablespoon of olive oil. Season with sea salt, white pepper & herbs of choice. Roast uncovered for about 35 minutes. Remove from oven, cover with foil and set aside.

Bring the broth to a boil in a medium saucepan, then turn off and cover to keep it warm.

Melt butter, and gently saute the garlic and shallots until softened 5 or 6 minutes. Add the rice, coating it well and stir until it turns opaque about 2 minutes. You don't want the rice to brown. Now add the wine and cook gently until it has been absorbed. Add the warming broth, simmering the pot, ladle by ladle,until you've used all the stock and the rice is thick, creamy and tender, about 20 minutes or so. Now add the roasted butternut squash and fennel pieces to the cooked risotto. Remove from heat and stir in grated parmesan cheese and serve. Enjoy!

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Thyme for winter

With the herbs nearly all  harvested now its time to make sure our winter medicine cabinet has all it needs. Thyme honey is one of the important parts of our medicine cabinet. It is used for colds, influenza and sore throats. Thyme has strong antiseptic properties including activity against viruses, insects, bacteria and fungus. Traditionally, thyme was used to treat bronchitis but I I find it to be useful in our house for treating winter illnesses such as colds such as the one I am fighting  now. 

One nice way to use thyme is as honey and its very easy to make. You can still pick thyme now, it should withstand a mild frost just fine. Cut stems short and put them in a glass mason jar. Cover the thyme with wildflower honey. Put the jar in a pan of water to slightly heat the honey while pushing the thyme down and adding more thyme. Once the honey is fluid, put the lid on the jar and store the honey with the thyme still in it until needed. You can use this honey to add to tea or use it straight for a sore throat.  Til next thyme!


Saturday, October 23, 2010

Leeky Onion Soup


We're seeing some chillier nights here lately, so I decided to make a pot of my Leeky onion soup. It's a pretty simple concoction, but oh so yummy. Use whatever veggies you have on hand.. the more that's added, the better the pot.
What I like about leeks is that there is very little waste and they are just so tasty from tip to tail. For this soup I use almost the whole leek and save the darker tips to add to another dish.

   Leeky Onion Soup

 6-8 mid size leeks, cleaned thoroughly & chopped
2 large onions, sliced
2 shallots, diced fine
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1 zucchini, cubed
1/2 bunch Italian kale, chopped
3 carrots, cleand & cut
4 scallions, diced
1 summer squash, cubed
7-8 potatoes, peeled & cubed ( I used red & white New potatoes and Yukons)
1/4 stick unsalted butter
2 cans low salt chicken or vegetable stock
low fat milk or light cream
sea salt &  ground pepper to taste

Saute cut leeks, onions, shallots, & garlic in butter about 5-6 minutes. Rinse and cut up all your vegetables. Add to the pot with 2 cans chicken stock. Cover, and bring to a low boil and cook until vegetables are just tender. Remove cover and cool for 10 minutes. Pour vegetable mixture into Cuisinart or blender & give it a whirl until just smooth. Return it to your pot & add low fat milk (not much) or if you must.. light cream! Season to taste. Serve with Syrian bread triangles, or nice crusty bread, Serve warm or cold. Enjoy!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Garden tidbits

 Mid October and only a light frost here so far.  Everyone is saying it's been their best garden season in a long time.  Dry, hot summer days with lots of watering this year.  We were rewarded with a glorious harvest.  Today after I finished cleaning out the seasonal beds, I picked the last of my hot peppers for some hot pepper jelly, along with a basket of beets to be pickled, some leeks for a yummy leeky onion soup and planted my garlic for next season.  Mid-October is the best time to sow garlic cloves.  Plant one clove, point side up  two inches deep and six inches apart.  Mulch with salt marsh hay or straw or even leaves.  Roots will be established before hard freeze and the tops will be one of the first things that will push through the mulch in the Spring.

The brussell sprouts are filling out nicely--but they'll remain until Thanksgiving before I'll harvest them.  It's rather fun to pick these little gems even if they are covered in a light blanket of snow.. which we can easily see here in southern Maine by the time the holidays roll around.  We've been eating broccoli since mid-June and never before have we had eggplants, peppers and tomatoes by mid-July since we lived in New Hampshire.  What a year to remember after two very rainy summers here in Maine.

The herbs have all been harvested and dried for winter meals, and some blended for my morning tea and the rest infused or tinctured to be formulated into herbal soaps and healing balms.  It was a great growing season for herbs here.  Fall is also the time to harvest Echinacea - cone flower- roots.  Plants should be at least three years old.  Dig up the plant roots and scrub it off.  Slice the root thinly and tincture it in 100 proof alcohol.  I typically use vodka for it's milder taste.  Put the slices of root into a dark glass apothocary jar and cover completely with liquid.  Cover, label and date the jar and store in a dark cupboard.  Remember to give the jar a turn every week or so.  Be sure the liquid always covers the roots, adding more if neccessary.  After about six weeks, you can strain out the plant material and bottle up the liquid to use when you feel the verge of winter colds or flu.  Take about 10-20 drops in juice, water or hot tea, four to five times a day. Many folks swear by this infusion during the dreary winter months to assist in alleviating those awful winter bugs that are hard to escape. Til next thyme-happy gardening!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tomato Garden

 This has been a fabulous year for tomatoes here in the northeast, as opposed to last summers dismal season, where we all battled  the blight of 2009 here. Plenty of hot steamy days this year and little rain from the heavens really filled my baskets with a plethora of heirlooms, romas, San Marzano and beefsteak tomatoes. 

I have canned more jars of tomato sauce than I can remember in years past.  But it will be so great cooking this winter and remembering back on this hot summer and just how luscious these fruits were right off the vine.  In my tomato patch now there only remains the green unripened tomatoes, so next week I see a lot of Nana's piccalilli being made here.

But for those that still have a counter covered with red tomatoes here's a very simple and  quick recipe that's pretty delicious to prepare. Even better it only requires one pot!
Serve this with homemade bread and a big garden salad and you're good to go.

Tomato Garden Pasta

4 TBLS olive oil
2 TBLS tomato paste 
2 garlic cloves, minced
2 pounds fresh tomatoes about 8 medium tomatoes
1/2 pound angel hair pasta
2 1/2 cups hot water
3 TBLS fresh basil, minced
parmesan cheese, grated
sea salt and pepper to taste

In a large saucepan heat pan add olive oil then add paste and brown for about 3 minutes, stirring. Add garlic, saute for another minute then cut tomatoes in half and take core out, place cut side down on medium heat with lid on for about 5 minutes. Use tongs to remove skins (they should slip right off) and discard them, add salt and pepper. Add uncooked pasta and hot water put lid on and cook 10 minutes or until pasta is just al dente. A good sprinkling of cheese and serve!

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Summer Colors

Warm, dry & sunny days.. a must for lovely summer blooms. Fuschia, rusts, yellows, perriwinkle, scarlet, lavender and pinks.  These are the colors of  my garden.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Artichoke experiment

They grow up so quickly-- artichoke plants that is.   This year I wanted to try something new in the garden, so after reading that some northeast gardeners have been very successful growing these globes of goodness, I just had to try it.

An artichoke plant, can spread up to 5 feet across, making a strikingly handsome addition to any garden.

I remember having dinner at my grandmother's home as a child and seeing an artichoke on my plate for the first time. I remember wondering how I was going to eat this intriguing vegetable. My Nonna showed me just how to tackle the task. I plucked the leaves, dipped them in warmed herbal olive oil, and pull the stem end through my teeth to draw off the tender meat. It was a bit of a mess, but  child’s play. 

That was a very long time ago and I remember being very satisfied when all the leaves were gone.  But then she told me about the hidden treasure inside--the tender heart of the choke.  Such a rich, hearty flavor with a texture and taste like no other.  My sister loves  to stuff  artichokes--but I still enjoy them served the same way my Nonna first served them to me. 

As I left the garden tonite I took this shot.  So far, so good. Probably next week I'll begin harvesting.  Though they got off to a slow start in my garden this year and were then hit with three nights of  unexpected killing frost--they survived.  I will definitely plant more artichokes next year--just fewer of them. I mean, potentially I'm told each plant can yield anywhere from 15-30 chokes! I planted 15 plants!  I think I should consider bringing some of these to farmers market.

Sunday, August 1, 2010

Ratatouille Crepes

I just love making crepes and with the garden exploding with flavors this time of the year this is a favorite summer dish I make often. 

Ratatouille Crepes
adapted from a recipe in Cooking Light

1 large eggplant chopped
2 medium zucchini chopped
4 roma plum tomatoes chopped
1 red bell pepper chopped
3 shallots chopped
2 garlic cloves minced
1 tsp olive oil
3/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp ground pepper
2 TBS chopped fresh basil
2 TBS chopped fresh parsley

Preheat oven to 450

To prepare filling:

Combine first 6 ingredients in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil. Sprinkle with sea salt and ground pepper
Toss it around to coat

Spread vegetable mixture in an even layer on cookie pan lined with parchment paper. Sprinkle with sea salt, and just a drizzle of olive oil.

Bake at 450 for 35 minutes stirring half way through.

Transfer vegetable mixture to bowl to cool. Stir in basil & parsley.

Mix in 3 TBS Marinara Sauce


2 eggs
1 cup milk
1/3 cup water
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp sea salt
1 tsp fresh basil, minced
1 tsp fresh rosemary, minced

In a food processor, blend ingredients for 10 seconds. . Cover and refrigerate the batter in the refrigerator for one hour. This allows the bubbles to subside so the crepes will be less likely to tear during cooking. The batter will keep up to 48 hours refrigerated.

Heat a crepe pan or small non-stick pan, lightly coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat until hot. Gently whisk the batter. Lift the pan from the heat and pour in 1/8 cup of batter, tilting and rotating the pan to coat the bottom surface. Cook for 30-40 seconds and lightly browned on edges. Loosen the edges with a spatula and flip the crepe over, then cook the other side another 15 seconds. Turn the crepe onto a tea towel and cover with parchment paper, until cool and ready to fill. Repeat with remaining batter, laying them all out so they can cool. After they have cooled you can stack them and store in sealable plastic bags in the refrigerator or freeze them for up to two months. If freezing, I like to place a piece of parchment paper or waxed paper between each crepe until I'm ready to thaw them out. Once thawed, gently peel apart.

To Assemble:

Spoon 3 TBS of Ratatouille in center of each crepe. Fold sides over to overlap. Place seam side down in a baking dish. Top with marinara sauce and mozzarella cheese if desired. Bake at 450 degrees for 10-15 minutes.

Serve with farro and edamame, garden salad and some leftover meatballs. Enjoy!

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My garden plot

Welcome to Mama's Giardiniera! Thanks for stopping by. We hope you'll enjoy the new place and stop by often. I love exchanging and  sharing gardening tips from other gardeners, so I hope I'll be hearing from some of you.
I begin this blog as part of project #150 and though I really don’t have the time nor the inclination some days to take on more tasks than I already have on my plate, I’ll give it a go.  I can’t say if I’ll even be able to keep up with it, but  wanted a space to catalog the season of gardening here in New England. I already have a cooking blog along with a personal blog--but had no place to keep notes on solely the gardens, so this is how this new blog evolved.

  I've been an avid gardener for many years, owned an herb farm for the past twenty three years where we raised culinary and medicinal herbs along with an honor system vegetable stand. Our  barnyard was a plethora of goats, sheep, chickens and ducks.  The work was hard to say the least, but most fulfilling, probably the most joyous time of my life. Nothing gave me more pleasure than firing up the greenhouse in early February so that I could begin my planting.  Sadly, for medical reasons, we sold our farm early last year and transplanted further north.. along the coast.  At the time I wasn't even sure I'd ever garden again.

Once we were settled in to our new place, I fell into an old pattern of walking daily.  One day as I took a shortcut up from the beach and across the dunes, I found myself in the middle of a land trust and private member community gardens.  Wandering through the gardens, that old itch came back to me, so I made the ususal inquiries only to be told that there was a very long waiting list, but I could apply after they heard my experience as a grower, but they couldn't make any promises.  That was in late summer of 2008.  Somewhere around mid March my phone rang with an offer of my choice!  As luck would have it two plots had become available and was I still interested?  Well, if you are a gardener, you know after a long dreary winter I wasn't about to pass up on this opportunity.  Sight unseen, I made the comittment.  I now was the new tender of two garden plots that hadn't been worked for nearly two years.  When I first arrived at the gardens I was really taken aback at what I found in my plots-- megaweeds, choking vetch, milk weed.. oh the milkweed !  And it was only mid March!  Clearly I knew my work was cut out for me--so after nearly five weeks, my new garden began taking shape.  We decided to do only raided beds.  Some boxes were found under much debris and the rest we built or restored as best we could. New trellis's were built and put in place. A cold frame and small hoop house were added to the garden, but  I really wanted to begin sowing--so after much amendment to the sandy soil here, planting began.

  Last year, my first season, was a wet one--rain, rain, rain for weeks on end as most east coasters recall.  But this year, my second season has been quite the opposite--dry dry days, with little rain.  Spring was a joy this year and my early crop abundant. Spring peas, spinach, purple top turnips, lettuce and greens, greens, greens were plentiful.  Now we fast forward to mid summer-- you know the time-- it's presently squash season.  What do all you gardeners do with so much zucchini, summer squash, cousa squash, & pattypans?  I can't believe I planted this much, nor that my yields would be so great! I share much of what I grow with elder neighbors who are so appreciative of the fresh veggies delivered to their doors, almost daily.  And before we know it, I'll be harvesting tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes along with all kinds of peppers!
  They told me not to go by last years horrid season to judge how my garden will grow under more normal weather conditions in this neck of the woods and so I tried not to be disappointed with the headaches that came along with so much rain.  Slugs and bugs...  early, then followed by the darn late blight.  You name it, we experienced it.  I hate comparing the two very different areas, but on our farm, we found very rich, humusy land vs. coastal sandy plots along with salty, foggy, misty night air.  A very different growing environment completely.  But a challenge that I've taken on and love every minute of it.
In addition to the typical summer veggies, this year I've added a few new items to my plots--I'm trying to grow artichokes, cardoon and  two grape vines (that I have to admit are coming along splendidly. My grapes have already formed and I think I'll yield enough to make a few jars of jam.  All things that are new for me, so it's been great fun watching them come along this season.  A neighboring gardener was kind enough to share a dozen of his luscious raspberry plants with me, so this is also new to the garden this season. He tells me that late next month I'll have plenty of fruits to pick. I can't wait!
The overall farm is a lovely lovely piece of land, a protectory for all living creatures, overlooking the downeast coast. Right now as you look across the farm, you'll be amazed at all the yellows, rusts, golds and greens of hundreds of sunflowers that are presently in bloom.  I was able to capture many shots this sunny week here and put this collage together.   This is a wonderful representation of the farm, and what my garden plots overlook.  The center shot was taken from right in the middle of my garden. The sunflowers from all of our gardens. They are such a cheerful plant--some growing over 14 feet tall!  I just love my view.  It's truly a joy to arrive in the garden in the early morning after my walk and overlook this view.  A field of wildflowers overlooking the beach.

So if you want to brighten someone's day--pick some sunflowers! Til next thyme, happy gardening!