August – Greek Green Bean Salad

This easy salad would also be excellent with other cooked vegetables, zucchini comes to mind. I came back from a week away with a plethora of both green beans and snap peas harvested by my assistant gardener husband, I used a mixture of both.

Greek Green Bean Salad

Greek Bean Salad

Add cooked white beans or garbanzos or even canned tuna for a complete meal. Since I have a family member that doesn’t enjoy feta, I added a slice when serving rather than mixing it into the salad. This salad is certainly vegetarian but could be vegan if you leave out the feta and anchovy.

Ingredients:

Green Bean Salad

  • 1 ½ pounds fresh green beans, or mix of green beans and snap peas
  • ½ of a medium red onion, minced
  • ½ cup feta cheese (optional)
  • 1 tablespoon fresh minced mint leaves (or oregano)
  • 1 cup cherry tomatoes sliced in half
  • ½ cup pitted kalamata olives, well drained
  • Additional mint leaves for garnish

Vinaigrette

  1. ¼ cup olive oil
  2. 2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  3. 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  4. 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  5. 1 teaspoon dijon mustard
  6. 1 garlic clove finely minced
  7. 1 finely minced anchovy (optional)
  8. Salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Bring a pot of well salted water to boiling. Add the trimmed green beans and cook until crisp tender. The time will depend on the size and freshness of your beans, mine were cooked for 6 minutes.
  2. Drain in a colander and run cold water over them to stop the cooking. Spread on a layer of kitchen towels or paper towels until completely cool.
  3. Combine the vinaigrette ingredients in a small jar and shake until well mixed.
  4. Place the cooled green beans, cherry tomatoes, chopped red onion, chopped fresh mint or oregano leaves, and olives in a large bowl. Toss with the dressing and place the feta, either crumbled or sliced, on top.
  5. Garnish with additional fresh mint or oregano.

This salad can be made hours or even a day ahead. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Greek Bean Salad

Greek Bean Salad

It makes wonderful leftovers…if you have any left.

Greek Bean Salad

Greek Bean Salad

This would be a wonderful side for any kind of BBQ. We served it with a simple grilled chicken marinated in olive oil and lemon juice.

I am taking this to Fiesta Friday #342 hosted by Angie. Please add your own post to the link party and don’t forget to link your post to FiestaFriday.net and the cohost, so you can be featured. Your cohost this week is Jhuls @ The Not So Creative Cook

Have a wonderful weekend everyone.

In My Garden – August 2020

In My Garden – August 2020

Doesn’t it always seem to be true that the heaviest harvest comes in while the gardener is somewhere else? At least it seemed that way to me earlier this month. I was away for a week and asked the assistant gardener to pick the green beans and zucchini when they were ready. He is very reliable and harvested about 10 pounds of fresh beans, 2 pounds of snap peas, and way too many zucchini to count.

Fresh beans

Fresh beans

Snap and Snow Peas

Snap and Snow Peas

Zucchini

Zucchini

There is always one zucchini that’s forgotten.

This one was missed

Forgotten Zucchini – now a baseball bat

Growing under plastic and cloth row covers has turned out to be particularly successful.

Vegetable Garden

Vegetable Garden

I even have tomatoes this year! It took covering the bed in plastic and putting out traps for the voles who were eating them before they had a chance to ripen.

Home Grown Tomatoes

Home Grown Tomatoes

We pulled out the peas and beans from their raised beds and prepared them for fall planting. I have read (not confirmed) that it is not too late to plant another round of zucchini and beans up here on the coast, so one new bed was planted with 3 squash plants, a row of beans, and seeded with arugula on the far side. I hope the squash plants will shade them once they come up.

I will let you know if this experiment is successful. We still have a lot of warm weather going all the way into late October. Fingers crossed.

Vegetable bed with baby squash, beans and arugula

Vegetable bed with baby squash, beans and arugula

The bed that held the peas was unsurprisingly full of redwood tree roots which had to be dug out. We have a new method of preparing the beds once they are finished. We dig out all the redwood roots (saving as much soil as possible), then put two layers of industrial weed cloth on the bottom of the bed and cover it with cardboard before adding back the soil with amendments of compost and nutrients. It seems to delay the redwood roots, it also means the bed retains more water and doesn’t dry out as quickly.

Newly prepared planting bed

Newly prepared planting bed

The new one is for fall planting, lettuces and chard.

The flower garden is beginning to show signs of fall. The spring and early summer annuals have been allowed to go to seed and then pulled out. Grasses are beginning to dominate the beds.

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The pollinator garden is dominated by Black Eyed Susans, Shasta Daisys and Yarrow.

Pollinator Garden - August 2020

Pollinator Garden – August 2020

That’s a quick walk around my garden. What’s your own garden doing?

Be well and safe!

July – Zucchini, Tomato and Rice Gratin

July – Zucchini, Tomato and Rice Gratin

This is the perfect side dish to serve when you are trying to decide what to do with yet another harvest of zucchini and summer tomatoes.

zucchini, tomato and rice gratin

zucchini, tomato and rice gratin

It is also a vegetarian main dish (that’s how we had it) with a big green salad. But you could also serve it as a side dish at a summer BBQ or as a seasonal breakfast dish with a poached or fried egg on top.

If you have the zucchini and tomatoes available, the rest of ingredients are standard pantry staples. I used brown rice but white rice would work perfectly as well. If you have some leftover rice from dinner earlier the week, this comes together quite easily.

I want to make a note about salt. Not all salts are the same. I use almost exclusively Diamond kosher salt in cooking. It doesn’t have any additives or anti caking agents. The grains are slightly larger so I would use more of it in a recipe calling for fine sea salt or regular table salt or even another brand of kosher salt. The amounts in the recipe are designed for Diamond kosher salt (yes, as one commenter reminded me, there is a difference in the grain sizes of kosher salts. Morton brand kosher salt grains are smaller). If you are using another type, please use less and taste, taste, taste. You can always add more later but an over-salted dish is difficult to reclaim.

Zucchini, tomato and rice gratin   

serves 4-6 as a side dish

Ingredients:

  • 1/3 cup of uncooked rice, cooked and cooled
  • 5 Tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 1/2 lbs zucchini, 3-4 medium, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • 4-5 medium tomatoes, sliced 1/4 inch thick
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 medium onion, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced
  • 3 medium garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • 1/2 cup of grated parmesan, divided in half

Method:

  1. Heat your oven to 450 degrees F. Cook your rice by you favorite method.
  2. Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly coat them with olive oil. Spread the zucchini slices on one sheet and the tomato slices on the other, trying to not overlap the slices. Sprinkle each with salt and a few grinds of pepper.
  3. Roast the tomatoes and zucchini for 10 minutes and remove the tomatoes from the oven. Flip the zucchini slices and return the pan to the oven for another 10 minutes. Leave the oven on.
  4. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, garlic and 1/4 teaspoon of salt to the pan. Cover and reduce the heat to low. Cook until the onions are limp and tender, 15-20 minutes.
  5. Grease a shallow medium casserole dish (about 2 quart size) with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  6. In a bowl combine the onion mixture, rice, eggs, spices, 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil, and half the parmesan.
  7. Spread half the rice mixture in the bottom of the casserole, cover with half the zucchini, spread the remaining rice on top, then the rest of the zucchini, finish with the tomato slices. Sprinkle with the remaining parmesan. I was a little generous with the parmesan on top.
  8. Bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. I found the best browning is on the shelf near the top of my oven.
zucchini, tomato and rice

zucchini, tomato and rice

This recipe was inspired from one in the the blog Smitten Kitchen, I have made my own modifications. It was originally published by SK in 2012; she adapted it from a recipe published in Gourmet in 2008. But it really feels like came from a small provincial kitchen in Italy or France. Don’t make it too fancy, it should be rustic.

In My Garden – July 2020

In My Garden – July 2020

Here we are already past the middle part of the month and I am only just getting around to chronicling events in the garden. Time is somewhat unreal right now. It’s because I am spending so much more time in the garden than writing about it. It seems like there is always so much to do…weeding, harvesting, replanting lettuce and fall greens, pruning, pulling out spent spring annuals, cutting plants back in hopes they will re-bloom, and watering. We don’t get any summer rain and I don’t have an automatic watering system. I know I should put one in but I get enjoyment out of the constant checking. Do they need more water? What about mulch and compost? Are there any bugs damaging them? What about snails and slugs? It’s a full time job and time is something I have in abundance at the present.

So, how is my garden growing? The lush spring bloom is over and fall plants are starting to take over. Here is a glimpse.

The vegetable garden is still producing zucchini, snap and snow peas, cucumbers and the first green beans.

Covering the raised beds with shade cloth or plastic has created different climate zones. Cucumbers have not been successful in past years.

July 2020 Fort Bragg Vegetable garden raised beds

July 2020 Fort Bragg Vegetable garden raised beds

And for the first time I have tomatoes!!!! Although bets are still out if they will actually ripen.

Green tomatoes

Green tomatoes

The pollinator garden is still going strong although I have had to water it this year. There are lots of native bumblebees all through the garden, they especially seem to like the lavender plants.

Lavender

Lavender

That’s all for now…back to watering. I will see you next month. How is your garden doing?

Stay well and happy gardening.

If you have any gardening questions or want to know details about a particular plant, please leave a comment or email me. I’d love to hear from you.

 

 

July – Raw Beet Dip or ‘Making Do’

July – Raw Beet Dip or ‘Making Do’

I think we are all ‘making do’ right now. It might not be as bad as rationing during the last great wars, but it feels like we are under attack just the same. I feel fortunate to have a large garden and belong to a local CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) farm where I get a box of fresh produce each week. But, unlike my own garden, I don’t get to choose the contents of the box. Turnips…sorry I just can’t get behind them, even pickled. And, although I love beets and chard, enough is enough. Thankfully they don’t include zucchini, of which I have a plethora. But, I have become creative with other items of abundance in the box.

Kale and chard are easily quickly blanched and frozen in one cup portions for soups this winter. Once cooked a huge bunch of either becomes manageable. Kale also makes an amazing raw kale pesto (see a future post for the recipe). And, I have heard it is excellent in green smoothies. Just a rumor.

Beets are delicious roasted and marinated in a simple oil and vinegar dressing. A jar of them in the fridge will make a fantastic addition to a salad with blue cheese and toasted walnuts. They are also excellent pickled, I understand they are a classic on a hamburger in Australia.

And, they are also beautiful and flavorful in this raw beet dip. Okay, I get it, you have your doubts. But believe me this dip was received with raves at a recent outdoor appropriately socially distanced cocktail hour.

How are you making do?

Butchered and shaggy hair has become a symbol of the age of Covid (our salons are closed yet again) in the same way that many of us are sporting the Covid-10 on our waist and hips. My grey roots betray my age as well as how long it has been since I have seen my favorite professional stylist. I can count the months since a professional pedicure in the polish slowly moving down the length of my big toe’s nail. I choose to wear these signs proudly as a sign of adherence to the rules.

Gone are skinny jeans, instead I wear loose fitting boyfriend jeans and an oversized T-shirt. In addition I sport a boyfriend (or husband) haircut, both of us having had a turn with the scissors. He hasn’t done such a bad job actually although I am glad I can’t see the back except with some effort. Could raggedy and un-dyed hair be a new sign of nobility and and frugality? Will the age of Covid result in a whole new standard and definition of beauty? Will I no longer want or need my quarterly routine of three hours of cut and color at a cost of $250?

Will we all wear our manes with an ownership of our own natural beauty…curly or straight, unencumbered by an outgrown standard of comeliness defined by the commercial artistry of an industry?

Anyway, food for thought.

And meanwhile we have this lovely ruby red raw beet dip to keep us happy.

Raw Beet Dip

Raw Beet Dip

You don’t need to cook the beets for this dip. Nor, if you have young and tender ones, do you need to peel them. My own was on the large side, so I did peel it. I used walnuts, but almonds are fine. In the original recipe there was a smear of labneh or Greek yogurt on the base of the dish, I didn’t have either available and we didn’t miss them. Serve this with sliced pita or pita chips or cucumber spears or even potato chips. If you only have one lemon on hand, zest it before juicing, and set the zest aside for garnishing later.

To start, get out your food processor or blender.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 lb. of beets (2-3 small or 1-2 larger ones) ends trimmed and roughly chopped
    • I peeled my large beet but it probably wouldn’t be necessary with smaller ones
  • 1 1/4 cup of walnuts, toasted in a dry skillet on low heat or a 350 degree oven for about 10 minutes. Watch carefully so they don’t burn. 1 cup can be whole, chop the additional 1/4 cup for garnish.
  • 3 – 4 tablespoons of fresh squeezed lemon or lime juice, plus the zest for garnish
  • 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses, plus more to taste
  • 1 clove of garlic, peeled
  • 1 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil plus more to garnish
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Optional – 1 cup of labneh or Greek yogurt for serving

Method:

  1. Put the beets, 1 cup of walnuts, 3 tablespoons of lemon or lime juice, pomegranate molasses, red pepper flakes, garlic, and salt into a food processor or blender.
  2. Puree on high until the beets and nuts are finely chopped. Scrape down the sides and blend again until the mixture is as smooth as possible.
  3. Add the olive oil in a steady stream and blend again. You want a mostly smooth puree.
  4. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. You may need more molasses, or lemon juice, or salt.
  5. If desired and available, spoon the labneh or Greek yogurt into a small bowl, smoothing it with the back of a spoon. Spread the beet dip over the top, smoothing again. Top with the 1/4 cup of chopped walnuts, the lemon zest, and a generous drizzle of olive oil

Serve with cucumber spears and chips for dipping.

Dip will keep for a week in the fridge, covered.

Raw Beet Dip

Raw Beet Dip

What are you doing to ‘make do’?

This recipe came to me via Alexandra Stafford who writes the blog Alexandra’s Kitchen, she in turn found it in the New York Times by Tejal Rao. We have both made some modifications and adaptations.

I wonder how the folks at Fiesta Friday are making do??? It’s a virtual blogging party hosted by Angie, this week it’s #338 on the Fiesta week list cohosted by Mollie @ Frugal Hausfrau

Please come by to sample all the yummy recipes, and get craft and decorating ideas. And please consider adding your own post to the party if you are a blogger. We would love to read what’s going on in your life and kitchen, how you are making do in this crazy time.