In My Kitchen – November 2018

In My Kitchen – November 2018

November In My Kitchen is really about the October events. And truthfully, there isn’t much to tell. The next post in November (which will be posted in early December) will be an entirely different story. October was very quiet in the kitchen because most of the work and fun has been going on in the garden. To get an update you can click on this link, In My Garden – November 2018.

In My Kitchen is a collected series of posts (sometimes called IMK for short) hosted by Sherry of Sherry’s Pickings. Click on this link and you will be able to read other posts about fascinating things and wonderful ingredients in kitchens all around the world. It is especially fun to read about kitchens in your opposite hemisphere. For me in Northern California that would be the Southern Hemisphere, where spring is just starting.

But there are a few new things in my kitchen.

I purchased a large bag of porcini mushrooms while we were in Italy in September.

Dried Porcini Mushrooms

I was looking forward to making something with them, they are terribly expensive here in the states. November is the beginning of the fresh mushroom season (it’s a big deal up here on the coast). Fresh mushrooms of infinite varieties are stocked in the local grocery stores and even at roadside stands.

Deborah Madison in her new book, In My Kitchen, had a recipe for dried porcini, fresh mushrooms, and tomatoes that looked delicious. It was a perfect opportunity to sample the dried mushrooms.

In My Kitchen by Deborah Madison

It would be a wonderful vegetarian main dish served over polenta. We served it as a low carb (we did just get back from Italy after all) side with a few slices of steak. I will post the recipe in few days.

Porcini and Stewed Tomatoes

New In my kitchen is this antique Bakelite tomato knife. It was a gift from my friend Dianne, who is an avid thrift store and antique store shopper. Bakelite was the first plastic made from synthetic components by an American chemist in Yonkers NY in 1907. This one has a wonderful retro look.

The first cranberries are appearing in the markets and I made this apple-cranberry sauce to take to dinner at a friend’s house. He was making pork roast and asked us to bring the apple sauce. I couldn’t resist making something more seasonal.

Apple Cranberry Sauce

Lastly, new in my kitchen is the makings of Michael Chiarello’s fennel spice rub. It’s a favorite in our household; a mixture of toasted fennel, cardamon, white peppercorns and salt. I usually add some cumin seeds because I love them so much. I often give it in small jars as a present during the holidays.

Fennel Spice Rub

Happy Holidays everyone!

In My Kitchen
Sherry’s Pickings

In My Garden – November 2018

In My Garden – November 2018

We have been very busy in the garden in October, not so much in the kitchen. My kitchen has been abandoned as a consequence of me being tired and filthy at the end of the day. All I want is a hot shower, a glass of wine, and a “dump dinner” out of the freezer or fridge or pantry. My husband loves  these inventive “kitchen sink” (everything but the kitchen sink) dinners but laments they can never be exactly repeated. And, sorry kind readers, I am usually too exhausted to take pictures or write it down. I promise to do a post soon on the recommendations for a great dump salad or soup. There are definite categories of flavors and texture that need to be included. Besides that, it is up to the ingredients on hand and your imagination.

So what’s going on in the garden?

I have been moving big piles of dirt around and digging new garden beds; while my dear husband builds beautiful borders and gravel paths between them. I have been planting dozens of new plants with plans for many more. Look out spring! Thank goodness that Annie’s Annuals and Perennials were having a big sale. They deliver and the plants have really been in excellent shape, not a single one was root bound and they all look like they survived the shipping and transplanting.

Here is a quick review of our labors.

We expanded the herb and flower beds at the back of the house, added edging and gravel paths:

Eventually the path will lead to a square where the fire pit will have its permanent home. It be much safer to sit out at night with a fire and star gaze, which is amazing up here without any light contamination. Hopefully we will be finished by spring.

In addition to the back meadow, I have also been prepping the large open space to the right of our driveway for planting.  This is what it looked like prior to the start of the project.

Original space, a field of weeds and grass of dubious origin.

The soil has been improved by the addition of new soil and compost

Another view

There will be a 4 foot strip of grass around the edge and the rest will be planted with a mix of native flower seeds and perennials. It’s intended to be a sustainable pollinator garden for insects and birds. The plantings will be primarily various grasses, annuals and perennials that self sow. I have been inspired by two books as well as a class I took at a Master Gardener conference a couple of years ago. The landscaping idea is call “intermingling”, you can read more about it on this post from 2017.

We also purchased 2 raised beds, 2 more are on order. The first two have been planted with several seed mixes of lettuce, arugula, chard, kale, radishes, parsley, cilantro, and escarole.

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First two raised beds

And the sweet peas have been planted in a half-wine barrel.

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Sweet peas

The weather has been cool but clear so they are getting a good head start.

If any of my readers have planted a wildflower meadow, I would love to hear from you.

 

 

 

 

September – Musings

September – Musings

I found this in my draft folder, meant to send it out last month. So, here it is a little late.

Food posts are coming, not to worry, I haven’t changed the format of this blog. Rather I thought you might enjoy a change. We’ve had a few days of warm weather, in the 80’s F, unusual for this late in September. But this heat does not feel like summer heat. Cool is there as an undertone, very subtle, almost at the edge of consciousness.

I wrote this several years ago after walking my dog through a long alleyway between the houses in our Oakland neighborhood. Plot B is an unofficial off-leash dog path, a bower of trees about 4 blocks long. Dogs love it because there are squirrels to chase, fallen trees to jump over, and usually another dog to greet at some point along the trail. Unless you live in the neighborhood, plot B is a secret. To find it you must walk a narrow path between houses. Originally called plot B, for the past few years it has been called Oak Park. I still call it plot B, and that is how my dog knows it.

Plot B

Summer

Late afternoon

Sunlight slanting through dusty air

 

Tall trees on either side

Oak, bay, redwood, plum and fig

Climbing roses

Their branches meet above the trail

A green tunnel

And secret path

 

Birds call

Announcing riches

Of ripe blackberries in sunlit patches

Fallen plums

Wealth of weeds

Forgotten place

 

I miss your hand in mine

Together quiet observers

In this hidden wild place

Watching summer end

And fall begin

 

When I wrote it I was thinking about walking our old dog with my child, now grown. It was one of our favorite places to go in the late afternoon.

Please be kind, a poet I am not.

Happy change of seasons, no matter what your hemisphere.

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Through the gate at the back of the property

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My current equivalent to Plot B

 

 

October – Black Bean Chili in the Electric Pressure Cooker

October – Black Bean Chili in the Electric Pressure Cooker

I could have called this Instant Pot Black Bean Chili, that brand of electric pressure cooker has taken the internet and Pinterest by storm. But my electric pressure cooker is not an Instant Pot, although it works exactly like one. I got it before the craze hit, and it sat in the garage for several years, sadly unused. I was still terrified by the memories of my mothers old pressure cooker sizzling on top of the stove. I was afraid it was going to blow up at any moment, as children she gave us so many warnings to stay away from it. That fear has dissipated, modern electric pots are much safer. But I pull it out mainly for soups and stews, cold weather foods. During the summer it goes back into storage. I just can’t get behind all the Instant Pot recipes on Pinterest that don’t actually save you any time. I’d rather cook things on the stove, grill, or in the oven. There are additional flavors added with those methods. Why go through the trouble of pulling it out of the cupboard and having it take up space on your countertop? Just my rant.

But, beans are a different story and this recipe is a definite time saver. Why? Because you cook the dried black beans from scratch along with the chili. That’s right, no soaking. The whole thing, start to finish, takes an hour. You end up with both perfectly cooked black beans and a delicious chili. Now that is time saving! Even better, it is vegetarian, vegan, gluten free and delicious. All good, eh?

Personally I think this is a perfect meal for Halloween night.

I combined and modified two recipes into one for this dish. The first comes from A Pinch of Yum for instant pot pumpkin walnut chili and the second from Well Plated for Instant Pot Black Beans.

This recipe makes a lot, well over two quarts, so you will have plenty to share or stick in your freezer for nights you don’t want to cook. I love having that kind of meal insurance.

The Pinch of Yum recipe calls for adding 2 or 3 14-ounce cans of black beans at the end. 1 can of black beans is about 2 1/2 cups; 1 pound of dried black beans makes about 5 – 6 1/2 cups of cooked black beans. So I used 1 pound of black beans from the start, adjusting the liquid measurements. Well Plated called for 3 cups of water or broth to a pound of black beans. Using that recipe I found the beans were cooked perfectly, but a little dry to my taste. I wanted something more soupy. Adding a little extra liquid to the Pinch of Yum chili recipe adjusted for that.

There were some other modifications, I left out the bulgur wheat and the pumpkin in the Pinch of Yum recipe; mainly because I wanted something gluten free and didn’t have a can of pumpkin in the pantry (I may try that next time). Feel free to add a 14-ounce can of pumpkin puree at the end, please let me know how and if you like it. Everything is coming up pumpkin in October and November.

I did add the chopped walnuts for texture, they add a meatiness as well as extra protein to the chili. You only need to a salad for this to be a complete meal. Do use some of the recommended finishing options though.

So here goes!

Black Bean Chili

Ingredients:

  • 1 28-ounce can of chopped fire-roasted tomatoes
  • 1 onion, minced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 2 poblamo peppers chopped
  • 1 red pepper chopped
  • 2 chipotle peppers in adobo, chopped
  • 2 cups of walnuts, chopped
  • 1 cup of red lentils
  • 1 tablespoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon of chili powder, mild (or hot if that’s how you like it)
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1 pound of dried black beans
  • 8 cups of water

Method: 

  1. Rinse and pick over the black beans to make sure there are no small stones, drain.
  2. Dump everything in your pressure cooker and give it a stir.
  3. Set it to cook for 35 minutes once you get to high pressure.
  4. Let it release naturally for 25 minutes.
  5. Then release the rest of the steam.

Thin it out with extra water if it seems too thick. Check for salt.

Be sure to dress up the chili and finish it with shredded cheese, avocado, lime wedges, sour cream or plain yogurt, chopped cilantro, crumbled tortilla chips. Let your imagination go wild.

That’s all!

 

Black Bean Chili

Black Bean Chili

Black Bean Chili

This week I am co-hosting Fiesta Friday on Angie’s website. My partner co-host is Deb at Pantry Portfolio. 

Come join in the fun by checking out the posts by a group of talented cooks, gardeners and crafters. And please add your own, read the instructions for posting in order to be considered for the picks of the week.

Have a wonderful weekend everyone and thank you for reading.

In My Garden – October 2018

In My Garden – October 2018

Oh dear, I think I have missed a couple of months. The garden has managed to limp along without me for September while we were traveling, a very competent gardener house-sat for us. But, since she gardens for a living, I didn’t want her to do much more than water my plants. She had quite enough to do taking care of the two dogs. So here we are, in fall. Time clean up, prune, cut things back and put the garden to bed for next spring. It’s a bit of a sad chore because many things are still blooming. But they will be all the happier for it next year. I expect the delivery of half a truckload of compost tomorrow afternoon and 10 yards of organic soil the next, everything will get a few inches of nutrition to carry them through the winter months. The organic soil is for filling my new raised beds and to amend the newly dug beds.

October is all about putting things down for the winter, getting prepared for spring, and weeding. There is always endless weeding, although I don’t mind it too much.

I am starting to dig an expansion of the garden bed in the back of the house. That bed is all about flowers and herbs. My intention is to have flowers blooming 12 months of the year. Cut flowers to make me happy in the house, and to keep the pollinators happy outside (including the hummingbirds).

Beginnings of new expanded island bed

By the end of this week I hope to have dug over to the bed on the right, with a 4 foot path between them. Since we had a little rain this past week, the ground isn’t as difficult to dig.

Updated and now finished, it took a few days. Originally I had planned a more off-center path, but the dogs like to run straight out the sliding glass door and across the meadow. So, in respect to dog paths, we have placed it more to the center. I am afraid that otherwise they will run over the middle of the plants. I once read that, if you have dogs and are planning a garden, you should first see where the ‘dog paths’ are, then plant accordingly. They were wise words if all creatures are to live happily in a garden.

Garden Islands with the Path laid out

I’ve had my exercise digging and Casey has been a help as well. She is sure there must be reason I am doing all that digging…something down there…maybe a gopher if she digs deep enough!

Both Anna’s

Annas Hummingbird Photo from UC Davis

and Allen’s

Allen’s Hummingbird female, at UC Santa Cruz Arboretum. May 2008. Photo from UC Davis

hummingbirds are commonly found in this area. But only the Anna hummingbirds are known to stick around during the winter. Unfortunately all of the hummers I’ve seen in my garden are the Allen’s, which migrate. The Allen’s start to disappear about this time of year (it is a sad day when I notice they are gone) and come back in late February or early March. At least that is when I first noticed them earlier this year. Last winter there were no hummers in my garden for months, I was worried they would never come back. I would like to attract more of the Annas so we have those delightful little birds all year round. We were so busy with getting prepared for the sale of the Oakland house at end of last year that I wasn’t paying much attention to winter food sources. This year is different. I am hopeful with a year-round food source there will be more birds.

Salvia Amistad

Among the plants that they like, the salvias and sages are still blooming; also nicotiana, abutilon, and cuphea (although the hummingbirds don’t seem to have discovered the cuphea yet). The salvias should bloom through the winter. I planted 6 large ones and they bloom almost all year, 3 more plants are ordered for the expanded bed. I won’t cut any of them back until spring. The new plantings this month include 2 pineapple sages in large containers. The hummingbirds have already discovered the red tubular flowers, although the plants are still small.

I had swarms of native bumblebees in the garden this spring and summer but their numbers have now dramatically decreased, the weather has been cooler and they may have retreated to their dens. I am seeing a predominance of European bees.

The idea is that by keeping a wide variety of plants I will attract more pollinators to the garden, that’s my goal. So much of our agriculture is based on a mono-culture, not good overall for nature. In my own garden I am less concerned about a color or “pulled together” scheme, and more focused on a large variety of plants.

The dahlias are beautiful although they seem to acquired a dusting of powdery mildew in my absence. It has been a very foggy summer (thankfully because of all the fires) but that has taken a toll on the plants and I wasn’t here to spray with anything to help them. I think it is too late now, I will be cutting them back as soon as the foliage dies. I was able to cut a large bouquet for the kitchen counter from the ones that are still blooming.

Dahlias

The yarrow is prolific, the white one was part of a package mixed wildflower seeds and seems to really like it in the garden.

Yarrow

That is Lucy, our cat, enjoying the sun in the middle of the bed.

There is still quite a bit of color…dahlias, yarrow, black-eyed Susan’s (from that same wildflower mix), white and purple toadflax, snapdragons are on their second flowering (with our mild winters they are considered short-lived perennials), and rudbeckia.

Mixed Island Plantings

I am in love with the Verbena bonariensis, it floats above the other plantings. The sparrows love its seeds and perch on the long stalks as they wave in any breeze. It is so open and airy that it doesn’t block other plants.

Verbena bonariensis

The tomatoes are mostly finished, they haven’t done very well with our foggy summer. Maybe next year I will have a small greenhouse.

Tomato plants in a half wine barrel

Sad looking aren’t they?

Anyway, that’s my quick catch up. The compost and soil have been delivered so next month I will include an update on plantings and the raised beds. Seeds have been ordered for a winter vegetable garden.

Mom, I’ll just keep the dirt from blowing away. Casey on the job.