Field Notes. Until last night it has been dry. Ken has begun irrigating in the garden. Last year's drought forced hard choices - certain crops were really small in size. This year Ken planted celeriac in the garden. It is one of our full season, late harvested vegetables that needs consistent water or it does not size up. And speaking of sizing up, all the rutabagas grew dramatically with the last rain and cool nights. All the members of the brassica family like rutabagas, Chinese cabbage and bok choy look great this season.
It has been unseasonably cool the last couple weeks. This slows down the crops that thrive in heat: tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, melons, and eggplant. They do best between 60 and 90 degrees. We have been vigilant about opening and closing greenhouses, and that has helped.
Ken is planting fall crops. We are hoping for some rain to help with seed germination. Hard to believe it is already August. Soon we will be thinking about frost!
From the Kitchen. This week we are starting to harvest chard. Most years it is so hot in July and August that growing lettuce is a bit dicey. The nice thing is when the lettuce may not be in its prime, there are both salad options like cabbage and Chinese cabbage slaw, tomato salad, cucumber salad, beans. And there are also greens options like chard, kale, Chinese cabbage and bok choy greens. Last week I made a stir fry with carrots cut in matchsticks, green onions, and bok choy. As it was cold I used ginger - a warming spice, and added a bit of sweet wine, tamari and organic corn starch mixed with water for the sauce. Ken and the work crew cleaned it up. Ken also used a bok choy in a tomato soup he made for Saturday.
Chard is a cousin to beets and spinach; since it has less oxalic acid than spinach, so many people who avoid spinach can eat chard. It thrives in hot weather. I like adding it to egg dishes like quiche. It makes a great final addition to stir fry and soup. The flavor is mild and green, so it is versatile.
Today's apples are an early applesauce variety. I rinse, cut the fuzzy blossom end out and pull the stem, quarter and set in a pan with a bit of water. In very little time the apples soften and I run them through a food mill for smooth and delicious applesauce.
I made a basil and parsley pesto with green onions and toasted pecans one evening to go on pasta with sliced tomatoes on the side. I rinsed, chopped and then used a mortar and pestle for the basil and parsley and salt. Then I added olive oil and finally the nuts and pepper. What a fresh, summery flavor.
The Asian eggplant are one of our favorites - unlike its larger European counterpart, Asian eggplant is mild and does not need peeling soaking or salting to lessen bitterness and toughness. I just rinse, chop and add to any of my favorite recipes - ratatouille, eggplant and peppers kinpira, etc. From May 2011: Enjoy!
Start with a cast iron or heavy skillet. Toast some sesame seeds and set aside. Use a cooking fat or oil that can take heat, and add some dried hot red pepper flakes if desired. Add the vegetable that takes the longer cooking time (gobo in spring and green peppers in summer). Cook over high heat, and keep stirring. Add the second vegetable. Cook to al dente. Add a teaspoon to tablespoon of sugar, Stir to caramelize, but don't burn. Add a splash at a time of a sweet cooking wine like Japanese mirin or sherry. I use homemade parsnip wine. Finally add some good quality tamari or soy sauce. Top with the toasted sesame seeds and serve.
The sequence is important as the sugar and sweet wine seal in the flavors. Experiment as everyone seems to like a different ratio - some like it hotter, others like it sweeter or saltier. The end result is a toasted sweet, salty glazed vegetable with a bit of crunch. Delicious!
'Til Next Week,