Wednesday, October 1, 2014

(Almost) Wordless Wednesday
Fresh from the Market



What makes the farmers market such a special place is that you’re actually creating community around food. -Bryant Terry










Thank you to the vendors of the Mueller Farmers Market for providing their ridiculously photogenic farm fare for photographing. The Mueller Farmers Market is open from 10am to 2pm, Sundays, under the Browning Hangar, in Austin, Texas


Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Tips for Tuesday
In the Garden: October


“There is something in October sets the gypsy blood astir: We must rise and follow her, When from every hill of flame She calls, and calls each vagabond by name.” ― William Bliss

October's Garden To-do's


Fertilize
Fertilize existing beds of iris with well-rotted manure or balanced fertilizer. Reduce houseplant fertilizer by 1/2 for winter.

Water
Water areas as needed.

Transplant
Divide and transplant crowded perennials. Dig and store caladium bulbs. Dust with fungicide.

Prepare Soil
Mulch gingers and other tropicals that overwinter outdoors to retain warmth and moisture and to control weeds. Falling leaves make autumn a good time to start a compost pile. Shred (or mow) leaves to speed decomposition. Turn compost pile periodically and keep it moist.


Lawn Care
Fertilize with 3-1-2 ratio fertilizer. In newly-plugged lawns, sow 8 lbs. of ryegrass per 1000 sq. ft. to help hold soil. The seed grass will make a bright green carpet until spring, when hot weather will kill rye. Not recommended for established lawns. Mow every 5-7 days and leave the clippings on the lawn.

Diseases/Pests to look out for
Check for cabbage loopers in the garden; spray with Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt). Make second treatment for brown patch on lawns with a history of the disease.

Prune
Prune shrubs as needed, but save major pruning for the winter. Remove dead and damaged wood from shrubs and trees. Make cuttings of tender plants before frost.


To Plant In October

Flower Plants: ajuga, alyssum, bluebonnet, butterfly weed, calendula, candytuft, carnation, chinese forget-me-not, clarkia, coneflower, dianthus, daisy (english and painted), euryops, forget-me-not, gazania, indian blanket, liatris, nasturtium, pansy, penstemon, petunia, phlox, viola, obedient plant, german primrose, salvia farnacea, sedum, snapdragon, stock

Flower Seeds:  alyssum, african daisy, bluebonnet, calendula, columbine, coreopsis, cornflower, daisy, delphinium, hollyhock, larkspur, nasturtium, pansy, petunia, phlox, pinks, california poppy, scabiosa, snapdragon, stock, sweet pea, viola      

Bulbs:  allium, amarcrinum, calla, autumn crocus, cooperia, daylily, dietes, hardy cyclamen, spider lily, liriope, louisiana iris, ipheion, lily, lycoris, oxalis, monkey grass, rain lily, scilla, watsonia

Purchase: tulip, crocus, daffodil, and hyacinth for chilling  


Vegetables:

Early—Mid Month: Arugula, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Chinese Cabbage, Collard Greens, Kohlrabi

Mid—Late Month: Carrot, Endive, Lettuce, Spinach, Turnip

All Month: Beets, Chard, Garlic, Mustard, Multiplier Onion, Radish

Dig sweet potatoes before first frost.  

Herbs: borage, burnet, caraway, catnip, celeriac, chamomile, chervil, chives, comfrey, coriander, cumin, dill, fennel, fenugreek, lemon balm, mexican mint marigold, mint, oregano, parsley, rosemary, sage, santolina, winter savory, sorrel, thyme, yarrow

Fruit: Strawberries


Courtesy of the Garden Guide for Austin & Vicinity, published by the Travis County Master Gardener Association, copyright 2000-2002

Monday, September 29, 2014

Farmers' Market Favorite: Quinoa Tabbouleh (Gluten-Free)



Tabbouleh, tabouleh, tabouli, tabbouli, well there are as many versions of this bright Mediterranean salad as there are variations in its spelling, and this gluten-free version is yet another. Quinoa, a gluten-free ‘grain’, actually a seed, is substituted for the traditional bulgur wheat, so that those who are watching their gluten intake aren't left out in the cold. You'll never miss the wheat.

I’m a tad obsessed with this salad, and order it at every Middle Eastern restaurant at which it’s offered. The ratio of parsley to grain to dressing is different everywhere I go, and while all are usually anywhere from decent to great, my favorite version will be bright and lemony, with the delicious benign sting of garlic, more parsley than grain, and a little bit of salt-- enough to complement the olive oil.

This recipe makes two large servings as an entrée, and when served with, perhaps, some good pita bread and a quick hummus, is a perfect choice for a Meatless Monday meal. It yields about 4 servings for a smaller side salad.

The longer this salad sits, the more intense the flavors, so for that Meatless Monday supper, I like to prepare it on Sunday evening, and let it do its thing in the fridge, covered, for 12 hours or longer.

Quinoa Tabbouleh (Gluten-Free)



Ingredients
1 cup prepared quinoa, cooked according to package directions
½ c chopped cucumber
½ c chopped tomato
3 cups parsley, chopped
1 bunch of fresh mint, de-stemmed and chopped
1 bunch scallions, green tops, only, sliced finely
1/3 c lemon juice
1 cup olive oil
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt, to taste

A few notes about preparing ingredients:

  • If package directions do not indicate rinsing quinoa, be sure to take this step first to remove any bitterness. In a fine strainer, run water over quinoa, ‘stirring’ with clean fingers to rinse fully. Drain well.

  • Cucumbers and tomatoes can be seeded before chopping.  Seeds can cause indigestion, and for those who do not tolerate these vegetables well, seeding can be a great solution.  Me?  I all in. I kind of like the seeds, in fact. 
  • And that cucumber can be peeled if you prefer.  Again, I’m a big fan of cucumbers, peeled or unpeeled. I used an Armenian cucumber for this version. Both Armenian and Persian cucumbers have delicate seeds and skin, so I didn’t bother. 
  • Chopping parsley?  Well if I had the spare time, I might spend it de-stemming parsley. It’s tedious work. And because I rarely do have that much spare time, I rarely do so. Instead, I chop down from the top of the bunch through the bottom of the leaves, and discard the toughest stems. 

  • Mint?  DO de-stem mint. It’s easy, and the stems are almost indigestible. I reserve them for steeping and infusing teas and liquids.
  • Ratios:  If you prefer to cook in rough ratios, think 3:1—3 parts parsley to 1 part quinoa for the salad, 3 parts oil to 1 part lemon juice for the dressing. 
  • If you like the lemony notes of tabbouleh as much as I do, you may want to zest the lemons that you juice, but this is not necessary.  It’s delicious, but not necessary.
  • Garlic—for the love of all that’s holy, please use real garlic. Don’t use that jarred stuff. DON’T.  Separate one or two cloves from the bulb, smash them with a good thwonk to the side of a chef’s knife, peel away the skin, and mince. Maybe a minute’s work, tops. And smashing is good for the spirit. Smash away.
Are you ever surprised to find your mother's hands at the end of your arms?
Preparation

In a large salad bowl, whisk together lemon juice (and zest, if using), olive oil, garlic, and salt. Add remaining ingredients and toss well to combine.  Refrigerate for 1 hour or more, serving chilled.


This recipe was prepared as an in-season monthly guest chef demonstration at the Cedar Park and Mueller Farmers' Markets, in Austin, Texas.



Monday, August 25, 2014

Meatless Monday
Savoring Summer: Grilled Summer Vegetable Pizza



As summer winds down, we're all looking for any opportunity to steal away to the porch, or the patio, or the poolside (if you're lucky) for an early supper al fresco.  

A great way to keep ourselves, and the heat, out of the kitchen, firing up the grill is this girl's late summer modus operandi. This Meatless Monday, celebrate late summer by piling on the garden or market bounty atop a toasted crust, top it with a summery-seasoned chevre, and enjoy this easy Grilled Summer Vegetable Pizza. 


Want to know my favorite thing about this pizza? Vegan, Vegetarian, Meatless, Low Fat, Gluten-Free...it doesn't matter. I don't give those details one thought when I'm digging in. It's not almost as good as its less-healthy cousins.  It's just gooood.




Ingredients
prepared pizza crust
roasted red pepper sauce (recipe below)
prepared vegetables (This summer harvest includes red and yellow onions, red, green and golden sweet peppers, crimini mushrooms, yellow, orange, and red pear tomatoes, and fresh sage leaves.)
herbed chevre (see note, below)


Scrape grill to clean and brush with oil.  Preheat to around 500 degrees.

This particular pizza was built upon a  Udi's brand gluten-free pizza crust. You can use your own homemade crust, or any other pre-made crust you prefer. Brush one side with olive oil. Place it, oil side up, on the grill and close the top. Cook for 5 minutes, turn, brush opposite with light film of oil, close the grill and cook for 5 minutes longer. Why are we cooking it before topping it? It seals the crust and keeps it from getting all soggy and yuck when the toppings begin cooking and releasing their juices.



Remove crust from grill and spread roasted pepper sauce, below, around top of crust. Top with fresh, seasonal vegetables of your choice. We've used red and yellow onions, red, green and golden sweet peppers, crimini mushrooms, yellow, orange, and red pear tomatoes, and fresh sage leaves. This pizza was topped with housemade from maggie's farm Lemon Herbed Chevre. You may use any soft, creamy goat cheese you prefer 



Note: You say you don't have time to make your own chevre? On a Monday? The day school starts? Okay. I get that. Tell you what-- let's pull together an easy substitute. Using a store-bought plain soft and creamy chevre, combine about 2-4 ounces cheese in a mixing bowl with the zest of one lemon, and minced fresh herbs of your choice: parsley, chives, basil, oregano, rosemary, sage, or any combination thereof. Stir to combine, allow to come to room temperature, and then dot the top of the pizza with delectable dollops. I'm not encouraging dishonesty or anything, but, hey, you combined all of this in a bowl didn't you? Why not call it your own housemade chevre? None will be the wiser. (wink, wink.)




Note: For a vegan version, leave the chevre in the case, prepare roasted red pepper sauce employing vegan substitutions, or use a vegan pesto (most pestos are, indeed, vegan, but read your labels for certainty), then proceed with grilling as below. 

Transfer pizza to grill. Notice all that stuff on the pizza peel? It's cornmeal, and it will make that pizza glide off with ease. Some of it will stick to the bottom of the pizza...and that's good. It adds a tiny bit of crunch to the bottom crust.  

Close the grill top and let pizza roast until the cheese is lusciously melted, and vegetables are browned to your likeness. The more they cook, the softer they'll become. I like mine a little crispy, with the edges browned, cooked a total of about 15 minutes.  




Grill peppers like the Hatch chiles we roasted in this recent post. Peel, (perhaps leaving some skin on for a smokier flavor) to yield approximately two cups of cored, seeded pepper halves. Transfer to a food processor bowl, add 2 tablespoons best-quality olive oil, 1T herbed chevre (or substitute silken tofu for vegan version), season with kosher salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste. Process in quick pulses until thick consistency is achieved. 


Note: After processing, you may find that peppers have released more juice than you expected-- Mother Nature is not exact-- and it may be too thin to spread consistentlyTo remedy this, I often add a little parsley, Parmesan cheese, or even nutritional yeast if I'm teasing myself that I'm vegan that day, week, occasion, to acquire the thicker paste we're going for here. You can even use walnuts or almonds, too. Kind of like a pesto with no oil, and no basil. Okay, not much like a pesto, but the consistency of pesto.
A unique base for pizza, this roasted pepper sauce is quite versatile, too. Toss with warm pasta, dress up a simple chicken breast, dip toasted baguette slices in a bowlful. Use to perk a plain-jane dish, and keep a jar refrigerated (for up to a week), to dress up dinner when you are all out of creative food thoughts.  

Yeah, it happens sometimes, doesn't it?  Even to me.


---------------------------------------------

Join Notes From Maggie's Farm tomorrow, on Tips for Tuesday, when we'll extend the grilling season using the freshest of flavors to complement both meats and vegetables-- the Argentine specialty, Chimichurri

Friday, August 22, 2014

Savoring Summer
Indian-spiced Grilled Okra



I am not going to lie.  I hate okra.

Or I used to hate it.

Okra will break an adolescent heart.

When I was young, my mother regularly made a big pot of stewed okra and tomatoes for.....herself.  I mean she certainly didn't cook it for me. OR my brother. WE HATED IT.

But those early stages of stewed okra preparation were the cruelest. When Mom sauteed the chopped onions and celery, it smelled DIVINE. I'd get quite excited. That aroma rarely meant anything but delectable. You know what I'm talking about, don't you? It's simply one of the finest fragrances to emanate from the kitchen.

And then....THEN SHE'D GO AND RUIN IT!  She'd add canned tomatoes and frozen okra to it. Two of the most detested foods of my youth. I daresay everyone's youth! (Okay, not everyone, but c'mon. Did you really crave stewed okra and canned tomatoes in your younger days?)

So back to the beginning-- I hate okra.

Unless it's roasted or grilled.  Then, oddly enough, I LOVE okra.

What's that about??

Well, it's about that slime. Properly roasted or grilled okra is not slimy, especially if tackled whole. Okra becomes slimy when those funky little seed balls within the pod are crushed. That's the primary source of the mucilaginous goooooo. Using a very sharp knife to slice okra (avoiding pressing heavily on the pod) can eliminate some of the issue. Leaving the pods whole can eliminate almost all of the issue. And a third tip towards desliming came from a friend from India-- he always soaks his okra in vinegar before cooking.

No slimy okra?  Sign me up!

So, I made an Indian-spiced marinade, let the pod-babies soak in it for a few hours, drained, patted (mostly) dry, and grilled it directly on a clean grate. I like mine almost blackened-crisp, but you may adjust the grilling time to your own preferred doneness. Over a medium-hot flame, I cooked these pods on an open grill for about 4 minutes, flipped them with the aid of a large, heatproof spatula, then about 4 minutes on the remaining side. Naturally, grill times will vary with the temperature and location of the heat source. Keep an eye on them.



Marinade:
1/8 cup grapeseed oil
1 cup red wine vinegar
2T garam masala spice blend
1t kosher salt

Prepare about a pint of okra by wiping pods with a dampened towel.

Toss okra pods into a large plastic storage bag with marinade. Allow to marinate 2 hours or more, frequently turning the bag to cover okra. Remove from marinade, drain, and pat lightly to remove excess marinade.

Over a medium hot fire, grill okra directly on a clean grate, turning once, for about 4 minutes on each side, until moderately crisp. (see note above for adjusting cooking time, temperature, and placement on grill to reach your desired degree of doneness.)



Remove from heat. Season to taste with kosher salt. Serve.

Now I love this whole pod grilled okra, and I think you will, too, so much that it rarely reaches my plate. I manage to polish off whole batches while the rest of the meal finishes its grill time. But should patience be your virtue, you might like to try it with this Smoky Roasted Garlic & Red Pepper Sauce, on another post about my previous hatred distaste horror mild disfavor of okra.


Read More:
Ode to Okra Virginia Willis, Southern Foodways Alliance
Growing Okra The Old Farmers Almanac
Okra: A Savor the South® Cookbook Virginia Willis
Grilling Veggies and Fruits Whole Foods Market

And more from this Savoring Summer series:
Grilled Peaches with Pesto & Chevre


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