Tuesday, April 28, 2009

What's Growing in the Garden

We're starting to get some serious heat and the garden is exploding...

The front garden

Pink Magnolia

A welcome weed--these violas grow wild in the paths and in the beds

First asparagus

Young rhubarb

Sugar Snap Peas planted April 2nd.

Garlic shares a bed with spring greens--radish, lettuce and arugula

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Instant Tamale

The task at hand is four cords of wood to be stacked. It seems like we just got over winter to be thinking about firewood but, in a way, the job is made easier by the recent memory of knitting by the fire when snow is falling outside.
Work in progress

"You get some kind of zen satisfaction from stacking firewood" my husband observes. I'll admit, I do. There's something good and honest about it, like growing your own food. On top of that you get as your reward, neatly stacked firewood all ready for when the north wind blows. How does that not make you feel cozy?

This Instant Tamale is what I make when I've been outdoors all day stacking wood or weeding the garden. It's based on a recipe from my dog eared copy of Moosewood Restaurant New Classics cookbook, not an authentic tamale but when you're too busy to cook, this one is fast and easy. The leftover is reason enough to make this dish, and the flavor is even better the next day.

Instant Tamale fresh from the oven

With pre-made polenta and store bought salsa, dinner takes no more than 15 minutes to put together and the rest is done by the oven.

26.5 oz can black beans with juice
1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
1 cup tomato salsa
1 1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp ground chipotle (or to taste)
1/2 tsp salt
18 oz roll prepared polenta
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 1/2 cup grated sharp cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 350 F. Lightly oil 8" x 11 1/2" baking pan. Empty the beans and their juice into a large bowl and mash with a potato masher. Add the corn, salsa, cumin, chipotle and salt and mix well. Set aside. Slice polenta into 1/4" thick rounds. Arrange the rounds in the prepared baking pan slightly overlapping. Pour the bean mixture evenly over the polenta. Sprinkle on the cilantro and top with the grated cheese. Cover and bake 15 minutes, uncover and bake for another 15 - 20 minutes until the beans are bubbly and the cheese is melted. Let sit 10 minutes before serving. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Is it Gin or is it Vodka?

We really are just a knitting group and don't drink anything besides wine--red or white is as hard core as we get, until Emily, one of the knitters, started making her own gin. Ian's Gin Recipe was the recipe she used and the recipe she left on my counter top complete with a bottle of vodka (from which will come the gin) along with all the herbs and spices needed to make homemade gin. Now who can resist that?

And so I set out to make my own version, changing it slightly by adding some dried hot peppers.

It starts with a 750 ml bottle of vodka infused with:

2 Tbsp juniper berries
3/4 tsp coriander seed
1/4 tsp allspice
1/4 tsp fennel seed
3 green cardamom pods
2 black peppercorns
1 bay leaf, torn into pieces
1 tsp dried lavender
1 (3-inch) sprig fresh rosemary
1 (2-inch-long) fresh lemon or lime peel
3 dried Thai hot chili peppers

Infuse juniper berries in the vodka overnight. Add remaining spices and herbs in the morning and let infuse all day.

When you get home from work, strain out the botanicals and you have gin.

Now, I'm not a gin connoisseur and the only gin I've ever had is in the form of a gin and tonic during the hot summer months. Putting Emily's gin to the test, the knitters put away the wine glasses and drank home made gin and tonic. It was surprisingly good and fresh, with a slight floral bouquet and our winter weary spirits were temporarily lifted.

Did it taste like gin? I think so, but fresher and lighter. It was good in gin and tonic, as well as in a pomegranate martini, but I like it best frozen and straight up in a shot glass, like vodka, for I can't help but think of it as infused vodka .

Gin and tonic with home made gin

Here are a few other aromatics I might add when I make it again:

More hot pepper
Kaffir lime leaves
Orange peel

Have fun, and if you get a chance to play with the recipe, leave a comment below and let me know whether you think its gin or vodka and how you like to drink it.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

Deviled Eggs with Chives

Chives are at their peak right now, about 10"-12" tall here in my zone 5 garden. They're best before they start to bloom for once they bloom they become stronger and not quiet as tender. So on the way home from my walk I picked up these beautiful free range eggs at a neighboring farm.

Besides the fact that I adore eggs in any shape or form, they also go really well with chives. I thought about making an omelet with Cheese and Chives or Scrambled Eggs with Cheese and Chives and before chive season is over I'll probably make both those things but today I'm in the mood for deviled eggs, my all time favorite forbidden food.

Start with perfectly cooked eggs. Hard boiled eggs are easily overcooked causing a dark green circle around the yolk with a tinny after taste. Here's my technique for perfect hard boiled eggs--put eggs in a pan, in a single layer, cover the eggs with cold water, plus an inch more. Bring to a gentle boil over medium high heat. When water starts to boil, remove from heat, cover, and let sit for 15 minutes. Drain the hot water and soak the eggs in cold water until completely cooled. Farm fresh eggs are harder to peel than older eggs so I usually put my boiled eggs, if they resist peeling, in the fridge until they're very cold. Or I use older eggs.

I don't actually have a recipe for deviled eggs but I did measure as I was making this batch. They came out creamy and decadent and the recipe can easily be doubled or tripled for a crowd.

Deviled Eggs with Chives
6 eggs
2 TBS chopped chives
3-4 TBS mayonnaise
1 TBS sweet pickle relish
1 tsp Dijon mustard
Few drops of Tabasco
Few drops of Maggi Sauce
1/4 tsp ground chipotle peppers
salt to taste

Carefully peel the eggs, cut in half lengthwise, remove the yolks and put in a mixing bowl.

Mash the yolks with a fork, add the rest of the ingredients and blend well. Taste and adjust the seasoning. Spoon egg yolk mixture into the egg white halves, arrange on a platter and sprinkle with more chives. Enjoy as hors d'oeuvres or part of a "this 'n that" meal.

A rainy day picnic