In My Garden – June 2019

In My Garden – June 2019

The watering season has begun. I spend most of my garden time from now until November watering and weeding. November is when the rain usually returns (sometimes in October), but until then the only natural moisture will be from our coastal fog. The redwood tress love it because they can absorb water through their needles as well as their roots. It’s why you usually don’t see redwoods in the inland areas of the West, no fog. They don’t do well with sustained hot dry weather, although that doesn’t stop gardeners from planting them. Oh oh…I feel a rant coming on and will stop there.

So, on to my own garden. Someone recently commented it looks like an English cottage garden but with native and drought resistant plants. I think that’s a pretty good description of the effect I am going after. There have been a few plantings this month, probably the last until autumn. I’m in love with Geums and they do well here, I put in three more Totally Tangerine plants to balance out the opposite side of the bed. Also planted was a native yellow lupine, so far it is struggling and I hope it survives.

These are views of the two planting beds at the back of the house.

In the vegetable garden I am still harvesting lots of lettuce. The summer squash and bush beans are growing well but no flowers yet.

Fort Bragg CA raised bed garden

Artichokes, raised bed garden (and Casey)

We harvested our first artichoke.

The runner beans are starting to take off, since these can be perennials in our climate, I put them in a half wine barrel. The flowers are supposed to be a big draw for the hummingbirds.

Red Runner Beans

Red Runner Beans

The 4 wine barrels on the left have new rose bushes, which are now in bud. I purchased them bare root a couple of months ago.

The meadow has really taken off. I did plant a large salvia and 2 plants of Monardas didyma ‘Jacob Cline’ (bee balm) last month. It’s always an experiment to see what will grow, they certainly didn’t thrive in my Oakland garden.

Wild Flower Meadow, Fort Bragg CA

Wild Flower and Pollinator Garden June 2019

I don’t intend to water it, at least at this point.

May brought unusually heavy rain followed by a heat spell in early June. My rhododendrons were just starting to bloom and unfortunately the temperature was too warm for them to reach their full potential. Many of the flowers dried even though I watered. They were toasted.

Wilted Rhododendrons

Wilted Rhododendron Flowers

The sun and warm weather have given a growth spurt to the dahlias. There were 5 new varieties planted this spring. No flower buds yet but I don’t think it will be long.

Dahlias June 2019

Dahlia Bed

I am traveling most of the last two weeks of this month and am dependent on the skill of my house/dog sitter and my part time gardener. Leaving this time of year (even with good instructions and skilled hands) is rough. I’m sure all you gardeners out there know what I am talking about.

Here’s a glimpse into last year at this time, June 2018…no raised beds. I was trying out tomatoes and cucumbers, which did nothing at all. The ravens pecked what few tomatoes developed before they could ripen and the cucumbers immediately came down with powdery mildew. I’ll be doing garden exchanges with folks in warmer microclimates. My lettuce for their tomatoes and cucumbers.

What’s on the program this month? Water, weed and harvest. Thankfully we don’t have any more big trips planned until September.

Have you heard about Wild Garden Seed? They are a certified organic seed farm in the Northwest. Their seeds are from plants meant to be used in organic settings, so their seeds have outstanding disease and pest resistance as well as flavor. I just heard about them and will be ordering some for my fall garden. Up to now I have primarily ordered from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company, another organic company with a wide range of unusual and  heirloom varieties, also excellent. It’s really fun as a gardener to peruse seed catalogs in print or on line.

I highly recommend both these companies (I do not get anything from my endorsement).

June – Perfect Roast Chicken

June – Perfect Roast Chicken

In her classic book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking (vol. 1), Julia Child states “You can always judge the quality of a cook or restaurant by roast chicken.” Roasting a chicken is certainly an important skill to master. Your own home cooked roast chicken will be miles better than any supermarket or deli chicken.

Julia’s method results in an excellent roast chicken. However it requires turning the chicken 4 times and basting every 10 minutes. Just reading the directions can be off putting. My own method doesn’t require any basting at all and only 1 turn. It results in crisp skin and juicy meat. I don’t truss because tying the legs close to the breast results in undercooked thigh or overcooked breast meat.

Here is the trick. I take advantage of the newest information on brining, and borrow a technique often used when roasting duck. I pre-salt the chicken and let it sit in the fridge (uncovered and breast up) for several hours or overnight. That’s the only preplanning that is required.

The perfect roast chicken starts with the quality of the chicken. Buy the best you can afford, preferably free range organic and air chilled. Water bath chilling results in the bird absorbing a lot of that soaking water. I also prefer the air chilled for food safety reasons, dozens of birds are not sitting in a vat of water. If one of the birds is contaminated it increases the chances that all will be contaminated as well.

The Perfect Roast Chicken

These are general directions.

Adjust the cooking time according to the weight of your chicken. I find it is done when the leg moves easily in the socket when jiggled. For a 4-5 pound chicken that will be somewhere between 50 and 70 minutes. There will be some personal preference determining the time. I don’t mind if the white meat has a very slight pink tinge, you may want to cook your own longer. Your oven temperature will also play a part. My oven runs hot, your own may run cool. It’s best to know those things, check your own with an oven thermometer. They are cheap and it will save you a lot of grief in the long run.

You can use an instant read thermometer for more precise measurements of doneness. Insert it into the thickest part of the thigh without hitting the bone. The FDA recommends cooking chicken to an internal temperature of 165 degrees F. I take mine out just before it reaches that temperature. The bird will continue to cook with the residual heat after it comes out of the oven. Allow it to sit on your carving board or platter for 15 minutes, that allows the juices to settle back into the meat.

Salted Chicken on a Rack Ready for the Fridge

Salted Chicken Ready for the Fridge

So here we go…

There are two methods for brining a bird. The first, and older method, is to submerge it in a salt water solution. The second is a dry brine, simply rub the chicken inside and out with a generous amount of kosher salt. I don’t use method the first method anymore, I am not partial to a vat of salty water taking up space in my fridge (a spill will create a big mess…I’ve been there). In addition, a water chilled bird is what I am trying to get away from. I want to intensify flavors, not dilute them.

Dry brining intensifies flavors and will give you crisp skin. I use kosher salt because it doesn’t contain any additives and has a clean flavor.

Remove the chicken from its wrapping and dry it with paper towels. The latest food safety recommendations are to not rinse it. Rub it generously with kosher salt, both inside and out. Put it on a rack in baking dish, breast side up, and place it in the fridge for at least an hour. If you have 24 hours you will be amazed at the result. Don’t go longer than 24 unless you are brining a turkey.

Take the chicken out of the fridge while you preheat your oven to 425 degrees F (218 degrees C). I don’t use the convection fan. Rub your chicken with olive oil and any flavorings you may want (I don’t worry about the salt). I have used my confit lemon oil and lemon slices with herbs to Provence (the aroma as it roasts is incredible), paprika, chili powder, roasted fennel spice, zatar, fresh herbs, etc. You can let your imagination run wild. But you will find this chicken is delicious with only a simple coating of olive oil.

Poke a few holes in a whole lemon and place that inside the chicken. You could also add a few sprigs of whatever fresh herb you have handy. The lemon adds additional flavor. You could even use an orange or a couple of limes (especially nice if you are giving the chicken a Mexican vibe).

Line your roasting pan with foil to make clean up easier. Rub a rack (V shaped if you have one) with oil and place the chicken breast down on the rack. Once your oven has reached 425 degrees F, place the chicken in the middle of the oven and roast for 25 minutes. After 25 minutes, remove it from the oven and turn it breast side up, roast for an additional 25 minutes or until done.

Let the chicken rest for 15 minutes before carving.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Perfect Roast Chicken

Look at how moist and juicy! And the skin is super crisp.

I often serve the chicken with a simple salad, I pour some of those chicken juices over the salad as a dressing with an additional squeeze of lemon juice. The fresh salad below had sliced peaches and red onion as well as some avocado. The combination was delightful.

Perfect Roast Chicken

Perfect Roast Chicken Thigh

Perfect Roast Chicken

I’m taking this to Fiesta Friday to share with Angie and the gang. It’s Fiesta #279 and I am a co-host along with Jenny from Apply to Face Blog.

Click on the links to join the party or check out all the blogs about food, the garden, and crafts. You can also add your own link.

Thank you so much for visiting and I would love to hear your comments.

 

In My Kitchen – June 2019

In My Kitchen – June 2019

I can’t believe that over two months have passed since my last contribution. It isn’t that there hasn’t been a lot going on in the kitchen, there has. But there has been a lot going on everywhere,..

2 Aussies, 3 Corgis – Are you going to give us a treat or just point that box at us?

These five spent a lot of time in the kitchen with me last month. We were dog sitting my friends corgis, including the little Milo who was 12 weeks old. It was a busy time. Isn’t he a darling? He has a lot of growing to do before he fits into his ears.

There was a lot of cuddling going on outside the kitchen.

I could have used some extra laps

In my kitchen I now have spring flowers, including my favorite sweet peas.

Sweet Peas

And a generous variety of other spring blooms.

Spring bouquet from the garden

It’s a treat to have kitchen bouquets.

In my kitchen I have been experimenting with a variety of chopped salads using riced cauliflower and broccoli.

Riced cauliflower, charred corn, avocado, cherry tomatoes, pumpkin seeds, red onion, and cilantro with lime and chili

I couldn’t find yellow corn at the store, so had to use white. I think a better dish, at least as far as presentation, would have contained yellow corn.

I have found these salads are delicious but also keep well.

In my kitchen I have lettuce from the garden, we have been enjoying lots of fresh salads with a variety of greens.

Lettuce from the garden

In my garden I have a new onion keeper. We like thinly sliced red onions in our salads but rarely use a whole one. I hate using a plastic bag to store leftovers as I am trying to eliminate disposable plastic as much as possible. This one works well, goes in the dishwasher, and saves the remainder of an onion until I am ready to use it.

Onion Keeper

In my kitchen i have perfectly roasted chicken, so much better than those grocery store rotisserie chickens (although they are convenient). I’ve been playing around to get the perfect recipe.

Perfect Roast Chicken

I want one with crisp skin and moist, flavorful meat…one where the dark meat is cooked but the white meat is still juicy. I think I have come up with the perfect recipe and will be posting it.

This post is part of a monthly series, In My Kitchen, hosted bySherry of Sherry’s Pickings. It’s a fascinating glimpse into all kinds of kitchens around the world.

 

 

 

 

 

In My Garden – May 2019

In My Garden – May 2019

Tony Avent, the owner of Plant Delights Nursery, once said “you don’t know a plant until you have killed it three times”. Gardeners require patience and perseverance, we learn equally by our mistakes and our successes. The best gardens are deeply personal, bringing to life a unique vision and aesthetic which will be specific to the climate and soil.

The last 12 months have been an education for me in the Fort Bragg garden. The gardening environment is completely different than my previous garden in Oakland. How you ask? Well let me count the ways…

1 The soil is acidic due to the numerous conifers (pines and redwoods) surrounding the property (Oakland soil was alkaline to neutral),

2) The soil is sandier due to the coastal dunes not far away (the Oakland garden used to be a creek bed and was heavy clay…I once threatened to make a pot from it). The upside is that it drains well if the rain is not too heavy.

3) The soil is much leaner and needs tons of compost to enrich it (clay soil is full of nutrients but needs lots of lightening…both need compost),

4) The climate here is wetter in the winter; many of my fall planted ‘drought resistant plants’ succumbed to drowning.

5) The climate is much cooler in the summer, fog and cool evenings are common in mid-summer.

And lastly…

6) the planting beds have root competition due to the many Redwood trees surrounding my sunny meadow.

Redwoods have an extensive root system, the tiny roots can stretch as much as 100 feet from each tree but are only about 2 feet deep. Redwoods don’t have a tap root. That extensive root system, which connects with other trees surrounding them, is what holds them upright. And, those roots are invasive, searching out water and nutrients. I love the redwoods but have found I occasionally need to dig out their roots from my planting beds.

The plants and shrubs are starting to take off and the planting beds are a riot of color. I am particularly found of a Geum called totally tangerine. It grows into a green mound about 3 feet by 3 feet with branching flower stems of tangerine colored flowers on stalks that wave in any breeze. They seem to love the growing conditions here and are thriving. The orange color is particularly attractive combined with red and orange poppies and the wildflower baby blue eyes.

Geum Totally Tangerine

The pollinator wildflower garden is finally taking off. I hear lots of buzzing when I walk near it and the butterflies seem to have discovered it.

Pollinator Meadow May 2019

American Lady Butterfly

We finished adding the final two raised beds to the vegetable garden. This month I harvested the last of the kale (now blanched and in the freezer) and planted my first warm season veggies. They include bush beans, red runner pole beans, summer squash, basil, and summer lettuce. I warned my favorite builder that we may need to add a hoop house to one of the beds to give the zucchini more warmth.

Last year I planted tomatoes and cucumbers but our summer was too cool and foggy for them. The few that did grow were pecked by the ravens before they ripened. I’m not even going to try this year. I have more hope for the summer squash…fingers crossed, hence the hoop house.

My mini-farm of 5 raised beds

The runner beans are planted in a half wine barrel. In our temperate climate they sometimes act as perennials and will come back from the roots. They were a favorite of my grandfather and did come back for him each year in the U.K. They also tolerate cooler weather, which is a blessing.

Both the sweet pea flowers and the edible peas are doing well. I harvested the first peas this past weekend to make a pea and asparagus salad.

Pea, Asparagus and Cauliflower Salad with Mint and Almonds

The sweet pea flowers are very aromatic, so far only the pink ones are blooming. They are one of my favorite flowers and always remind me of my grandmother in England. She had a long row of them at the side of her garden.

Pink Sweet Peas

Now to end with a quick look at the two main garden beds off the back of the house.

The rhododendrons are starting to bloom, a little later this year than last.

And here is a look at the garden last year in May, 2018.

Garden chores for this month include side dressing with compost and weeding.

I’ve planted lettuce, arugula, cilantro, basil, summer squash, runner beans and bush beans from seed.

May – Broccoli Salad to Bridge the Seasons

May – Broccoli Salad to Bridge the Seasons

It’s spring, but the weather here does not exactly match the season. It’s cool and overcast most days. But it’s impossible to resist the call of the BBQ and eating outside. The question is what to serve, do you have some favorite BBQ sides? Fresh summer tomatoes are still months away. A salad that bridges the seasons is needed. This broccoli salad is perfect. Roasted riced broccoli, crisped on the edges, is the main component. Add in pine nuts, garlic, lemon, dates, red onion, and sheep’s milk feta for additional flavor and deliciousness. It’s briny, crunchy, sweet, and tart. All in a single bite! I find raw broccoli a chore to chew, roasting softens it a little. I found that roasting also adds an additional toasty element. The broccoli chars slightly and crisps at the edges of the sheet pan.

Broccoli Salad

Many groceries carry riced broccoli but I don’t recommend it for this recipe. The commercially available riced mixes contain a large percentage of stem. You want the florets only for this recipe. It only takes a minute to rice the heads in a food processor. Purchase a large head and save the stems for another recipe. Try this garbanzo bean free recipe for broccoli stem hummus. Doesn’t that sound interesting? And a wonderful alternative for anyone watching their carbs.

Riced Broccoli Salad

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of broccoli, florets only, very finely chopped in the food processor
  • 1 cup raw pine nuts
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive or avocado oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Zest of 1 lemon, organic if possible
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or shredded on microplane
  • 4 dates – pitted and chopped into raisin sized pieces
  • 1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
  • 6 ox of feta cheese, crumbled or cut into small cubes
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 2 additional tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F, 220 degrees C
  2. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper
  3. In a large bowl combine the broccoli, pine nuts, olive or avocado oil, zest of 1 lemon, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well with your hands and spread on the parchment lined sheet pan.
  4. Bake for about 15 minutes until the broccoli and pine nuts are starting to brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool for at least 10 minutes.
  5. Add the broccoli to a large salad bowl. Toss with the lemon juice, wine vinegar and olive oil. Taste for salt and add as needed.
  6. Add the red onion, dates and feta. Mix again.

You can either serve this salad immediately or chill for up to 2 days. It’s a great do-ahead salad that won’t wilt once the weather warms. Also, without mayonnaise, it’s good for picnics.

Riced Broccoli Salad