Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Tips for Tuesday
In the Garden: June


June, creekside

There through the long, long summer hours, the golden light should lie, and thick young herbs and groups of flowers, stand in their beauty by. 

--William Cullen Bryant, June
All of the promise of May is answered by June's days.  The blooms are a-flower, the sun, a-shining, the birds, a-singing, the bees, a-buzzing.  It's getting hot out there, so gardeners don hats, get to work in the cool sunrise hours, and gather their best reward right before supper. Fresh flowers adorn the kitchen countertop, and fresh vegetables, the plate. It may still say Spring on the calendar but the tale is told at the table. Summer has arrived.  

What is one to say about June, the time of perfect young summer, the fulfillment of the promise of the earlier months, and with as yet no sign to remind one that its fresh young beauty will ever fade.

-  Gertrude Jekyll, On Gardening

Be certain to stay safe--sunscreen, plenty of water, gloves, sleeves, and pant legs to protect against all manner of creatures that might show more than a comfortable interest in you.  Enjoy the warmth of the sun on your slightly achy back, the hum and whir of cicadas, and, if you're lucky, a few fireflies at dusk.  Summer has arrived.

Fertilize:
Fertilize annuals with 1 cup of balanced fertilizer per 100 sq.ft. Rich compost, manure tea and fish emulsion are some organic options. Yellowing leaves near the tip of plant shoots indicate a lack of iron. Check soil pH and treat with an iron supplement, if needed. Feed roses and young fruit trees with a nitrogen fertilizer. Feed established annuals and perennials with a high nitrogen/low phosphorus fertilizer such as 15-5-10.

Water: 
Water all planted areas deeply but infrequently during dry periods. Water outdoor potted plants daily.

In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds on a single day.  No man can heed all of these anniversaries; no man can ignore all of them. 

-  Aldo Leopold

Lawn Care: 
Mow every 5-7 days, leaving the clippings on the lawn. Raise mower setting to reduce stress to turf in summer. Water during the cool of early morning. Avoid weed killers now that temperatures are above 85°.

Diseases/Pests To Look For:
Watch for chinch bugs in the sunny areas of your lawn, especially near streets and driveways. Call the Extension Service for recommended treatment. Webworms and other caterpillars can be treated with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). For scale insects, mealy bugs and spidermites use summer oil or horticultural oil.

In these divine pleasures permitted to me of walks in the June night under moon and stars, I can put my life as a fact before me and stand aloof from its honor and shame.

-  Ralph Waldo Emerson, Journals  
Prune: 
Remove spent flowers from daisies, daylilies, cannas and other summer flowers. Remove fruiting canes from blackberries after harvest. Tip prune new canes at 4’ to promote branching. Prune dead and damaged wood from trees and shrubs as needed. Cut geraniums back and place in light shade. Do not prune oak trees at this time since the beetle that carries oak wilt is active now and may be attracted to any cuts you make.

June, on the balconies of New Orleans
Things To Plant In June:

Flower Plants:
ajuga, balsam, wax begonia, blue daze, boltonia, chocolate plant, chrysanthemum, cockscomb, copper plant, cosmos sulphureus, gomphrena, hibiscus, periwinkle, portulaca, purslane, gloriosa daisy, salvia, sedum, stokes' aster, wishbone flower, zinnia.

No price is set on the lavish summer; June may be had by the poorest comer.

-  James Russell Lowell, The Vision of Sir Launfal

Flower Seeds:
balsam, blue lace flower, castor bean, celosia, cleome, cockscomb, coleus, cosmos, cypress vine, dahlia, feverfew, four o'clock, gaillardia, impatiens, marigold, moonflower, morning glory, periwinkle, portulaca, sunflower, tithonia, torenia, vinca, zinnia.

Bulbs:
amaryllis, canna, crinum, ginger, daylily, liriope, monkey grass, rain lily.

June lends its bounty to adorn the chicken yard.
Vegetables:
Malabar Spinach, Okra, Southern Pea, Sweet Potato, Peanut, Pumpkin.
Start transplants indoors for fall tomatoes, peppers and eggplants.

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over  my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.

-  Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse

Other Things To Do:
Prepare fall garden beds. Remove old winter vegetables and strawberry plants from beds. Replenish mulch.

June, on the doorsteps of Breaux Bridge, Louisiana
Also read:
Dealing with Mosquitoes-- how-tos for keeping mosquitoes at bay in the landscape with water features.
Organic Pest Control: What Works and What Doesn't from Mother Earth News.
from maggie's farm Pinterest board: Garden Decor: Upcycled


From Central Texas Gardener, courtesy of the Garden Guide for Austin & Vicinity, published by the Travis County Master Gardener Association, copyright 2000-2002.

Monday, June 16, 2014

Meatless Monday
Farmers Market Favorites: Panzanella




I begin the week with the best of intentions.

But, as is often the case, the best laid plans of mice and men........

Well, what I mean is, I begin the week with a meal plan, and midweek, the meal plan is a relic of the past. And the purchases I made on the weekend, await their turn to appear on my plate, yet go neglected.  

Such is often the case with the beautiful baguette. Whether it's home-baked or bought, I can never finish it when it's at it's peak of freshness. 

And it goes stale. Which seems a tragedy. Unless you're Italian.

Now, full disclosure here-- I'm not Italian. But I can darn sure eat like one.

What does being Italian have to do with stale bread, you ask?  Well, those Italian cooks are a thrifty lot. Nothing goes to waste. Which brings us to the stale bread, and today's meatless feast--

Y'all.  This is just easy. There's no real recipe for this just-off-traditional take on the Tuscan classic, but I'll come as close as possible to some semblance of one for the sake of those who'd like some direction.


I prepared this salad recently at the local farmers' market as a bit of a challenge. With no plans at all, I arrived at the market and shopped the vendors, finding the freshest, peak-of-the-season produce, and adding in ingredients which could all be found at the market. At the Cedar Park and Mueller Farmers' Markets in Austin, this included the bread, herbs, cheese, olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. A bit of a 'market bounty challenge', if you will.

Ingredients

Bread: It can be fresh, but day old is better. Baguette, ciabatta, boule-- anything with a little body to it. Brioche? No. Sliced white bread? No. Not even whole wheat. No sandwich bread. None.
--Tear into small bites (they will absorb the juices and 'bloom', so keep them even smaller than you'd think-- about 1 inch cubes or smaller). Our small baguette begat (see what I did there?) about 4 cups of cubes, which should feed a small army, about 4 people, for an entree.

A little olive oil, a little garlic, a little herbes de provence (or whatever favorite dried, or even fresh herbs you have around).

Seasonal Vegetables: We used what is seasonal in Central Texas right now-- tomato, cucumber, bell peppers, 1015's (the Texas version of a sweet onion that also come in varieties such as Noonday, or Vidalia) and for a refreshing, tangy green kick, we tossed in some sorrel, thinly shredded. You'll want at least equal the amount vegetable to bread. I like a 2:1 ratio of vegetables to bread, ultimately. And though you can make this salad in any season, I don't even bother if fresh tomatoes aren't available. Tomatoes are key, in my mind.

We used about 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, the juice of half a lemon, and the zest of a whole lemon to dress the cut vegetables.

Note: This may seem like it's heavily seasoned. I mean a tablespoon of dried herbs is a LOT. But remember, this is BREAD. And it's soaking up the flavor. Don't skimp!


1. Chop vegetables into bite-sized pieces, and shred the sorrel, finely. Reserve the sorrel.
2. Toss vegetables with 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, lemon juice, lemon zest, and kosher salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste.
3. Cover the bottom of a heavy skillet with a thin layer of olive oil. Brown a crushed clove of garlic or two, add the tablespoon or so of dried herbs, add torn bread cubes, toss, and toast.
4. When lightly toasted, add sorrel to the bread cubes and toss, and allow to wilt in the pan, still on the heat.
5. Add vegetables in vinegar/lemon juice mixture to the pan, tossing well. Remove from heat and allow bread to marry with the dressed vegetables at least 10 minutes prior to serving.
6. Optional: Top with crumbled soft cheese (we used Pure Luck Dairy's goat feta).

And enjoy!



Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Notes from Maggie's Bookshelf
Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love from our Tuscan Kitchen


Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love from our Tuscan Kitchen
By Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar
Clarkson Potter/Publishers, 272 pp., $32.50

Those of us who call ourselves “foodies” are fond of a well-photographed cookbook. The gloriously lit, artfully arranged photos sing to us-- the perfect selection of ingredients invite us to stay. Our favorites among these become our ‘friends’ in that delightfully odd way our favorite novels draw us in; we are invited to the dance, through stories and in this case, recipes, in a way so intimate and intoxicating that we feel under the author’s spell. We take any opportunity to pepper our conversations with mentions of our new friends—we regale anyone who listens with third-person tales of their countryside picnics and al fresco dining among the magic of fireflies. We fall in love again. With food.

Extra Virgin: Recipes and Love from our Tuscan Kitchen, is the lovechild of charming husband and wife team, Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar, who can be seen currently on the Cooking Channel’s popular Extra Virgin, and the blog Under the Tuscan Gun. Born of a desire to share the culture of food in which Gabriele was raised with their, then, unborn child, the project was ten years in the making, and rhapsodically documents a labor of love, from cover to cover, through food, family, friends, and geography of place. A tapestry of simple, perfect ingredients combined with a little kitchen alchemy-- it weaves that spell, my friends.



For the uninitiated, or beginning cook, the book begins with a chapter on The Tuscan Kitchen Essentials, with recommendations of pantry and freezer staples, as well as kitchen equipment, and even the most seasoned cooks are likely to discover something new—the difference between pancetta and guanciale, perhaps, or the superiority of Italian doppio zero flour for baking. The book is then divided into courses: appetizers, pastas and sauces, risotto, soup, salads, meat, fish, vegetables, pizza, panini, desserts, and drinks. Basic recipes for Tuscan bread, pizza dough, homemade pasta, red sauce, vegetable stock and more, mingle among the more ambitious dishes such as the Livorno-style Mixed Fish Stew with its 1 pound octopus, cleaned and beak removed.



Though there are the occasional projects, most of the recipes are simple, with manageable ingredient lists that serve to showcase the main characters, rather than overwhelm. Inspired by the book to share the bounty with friends, I prepared the unanimously well-received Peach and Fennel Salad, p 125, alongside Grilled Endive with Gorgonzola and Sage Oil, p. 186. The recipes delivered, and then some. Basking in the glory of a meal well-enjoyed, they made this cook look like she really knew what she was doing. The instructions were easy to follow, and each dish lived up to its promise—universal praise around the table. As we gathered, the early summer evening filled with mmm’s, aaah’s, and ohhh’s, the clink of glasses, forks spearing bites straight from the serving dishes. There was laughter and culinary delight among notoriously discerning palates, a scene not unlike those imagined while leafing through the book’s 120 recipes, many destined to take up residence as cooks’ favorites, illustrated by evidence of a chef’s passion, amid scenes of enviable domestic bliss.


That evening, there may have been fireflies.

Portions of this review can be found in the online edition of the Austin Chronicle.


Thursday, June 5, 2014

Thirsty Thursday
The Big Chill!

Hey friends!  Just in time to celebrate my new home in Austin, the Austin Food Blogger Alliance is throwing a fabulous shindig, featuring the best sips and snacks in the city, and YOU'RE INVITED!

Enter to win two tickets to The Big Chill!
It’s the coolest event in the hot Texas summer: the Big Chill! Join the Austin Food Blogger Alliance for a night to remember.
Dress up and cool down with chilly bites from some of Austin’s top restaurants in the beautiful Bullock Texas State History Museum. Chefs from top Austin restaurants—including The Carillon, No Va, St. Philip, Dolce Neve, Celtic Seafare, Nada Moo, Soup Peddler, Pleasant Storage Room, Swift’s Attic, Thai Fresh, Trace at the W, and Noble Sandwich Co.—will be creating special menu items for the event, with drink stations sponsored by Good Pop and Chameleon Coffee.
Proceeds from the event will benefit Meals on Wheels and More, a 501(c)3 nonprofit. Meals on Wheels and More has served the Austin area for 42 years, nourishing and enriching the lives of people in need through meal delivery and other programs that promote independent living.
Event information:
Thursday, June 26 from 6:00 PM to 9:00 PM
Bullock Texas State History Museum
800 N. Congress Ave. 
Austin, TX 78701
Total prize value: $130
Must be over 21 to attend the event.
Enter below to win now through June 15th, and don’t forget to follow along on Twitter and Instagram: #AFBABigChill

Wednesday, June 4, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday
Austin: The Big City Beckoned







"Like the others, they were country people, but how soon country people forget. When they fall in love with a city it is forever, and it is like forever. As though there never was a time when they didn't love it. The minute they arrive at the train station or get off the ferry and glimpse the wide streets and the wasteful lamps lighting them, they know they are born for it. There, in a city, they are not so much new as themselves: their stronger, riskier selves."

Toni Morrison
Jazz

Next week on Notes From Maggie's Farm, join me as I celebrate the city to which I've returned, Austin, in all it's food-loving, weird and wonderful glory.
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