April – Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Salad (with chickpeas and couscous)

April – Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Salad (with chickpeas and couscous)

This whole meal vegetarian salad was perfect as part of a Moroccan inspired dinner party. The couscous in this salad soaks up the spicy, lemony dressing and marries it to the roasted vegetables and chickpeas. Serve the salad warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

Moroccan Salad

Moroccan Salad

The salad is vegan as well as vegetarian. I served it with sides of warm pita, sliced feta, more olives and an eggplant dip.

Moroccan-Spiced Roasted Cauliflower and Carrot Salad (with chickpeas and couscous)

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium head of cauliflower, trimmed to 1-inch florets
  • 1 small bunch of carrots, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch slices
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of whole-what couscous
  • 1 14.5 ounce can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • 3 green onions, thinly sliced
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/4 cup of chopped pitted brine-cured green olives
  • 1/4 cup currents
  • 1/4 cup toasted sliced almonds
  • Additional Italian parsley sprigs as garnish
  • Lemon Slices for serving

Moroccan-Spiced Dressing:

  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Method for the dressing:

  • Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a small heavy dry skillet until they are toasted and fragrant.
  • Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the turmeric and cinnamon. Let them cool and grind in a mortar and pestle or spice grinder and coarsely grind.
  • In a small bowl or jar, combine the spices with the olive oil, lemon juice, garlic and salt. Whisk or shake to blend.

Method for the salad:

  1. Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F
  2. Brush a heavy large rimmed baking sheet with olive oil. In a medium bowl, toss the cauliflower and carrots with 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Spread the vegetables in a single layer on the baking sheet and sprinkle with 1/4 teaspoon salt.
  3. Roast the vegetables until browned in places and tender, stirring once. It will be about 15-25 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, bring 1/2 cup water and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt to a simmer in a small saucepan. Remove from the heat and add the couscous, stirring. Cover and let sit for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork.
  5. Transfer the couscous to a large bowl; mix in the cauliflower, carrots, garbanzo beans, green onions, chopped parsley, cilantro, olives and currents.
  6. Add the dressing to the salad and mix. Season with salt and pepper.
  7. Garnish just before serving with the almonds and parsley sprigs.

The salad can be prepared one day ahead and refrigerated.

Moroccan Salad

Moroccan Salad

The recipe came for a cookbook written by Jeanne Kelley called ‘Salad for Dinner‘.

In My Garden – December 2021

In My Garden – December 2021

I know I know…where have I been? Everything is okay, I’ve just been busy everywhere but in the garden. Actually I haven’t spent much time in the kitchen either. Grilled cheese sandwiches have been on the menu many a night. I am making a New Year’s resolution to be on line more frequently (and to floss my teeth every day).

It’s the quiet season in the garden, except for the weeding. There is always weeding and now is the time to get on top of it before they get big. But weeding is my least favorite activity and wet weather has thankfully put a limit on it. I will be sorry come spring.

I purchased a dozen bags of steer manure to enhance the soil in the bed that runs beside the driveway. The Spanish lavender bushes have done well but I can’t say the same for the Dutch Iris bulbs which are between each of the lavender bushes. I think I planted the bulbs too deeply, they need to have the tops of the tubers exposed to the sun and warmth. Also, maybe our weather is just not warm enough for them. They did very well in the sunnier climate of the Bay Area. But, Fort Bragg is both foggier in the summer and quite a bit cooler. So, the plan is to dig them up, add the manure and some bone meal to the soil, and replace them with Dahlia tubers. The existing dahlia tubers I have in another bed need dividing, but I am also expecting an order of new tubers from Swan Island Dahlias in Oregon. Dahlias are very successful here and will (hopefully) make an amazing display along the driveway, stay tuned.

Another benefit will be a longer display of flowers. The Spanish lavender blooms earlier than the French, usually starting in May. The dahlias will bloom later in the summer and early fall.

Lavender

Lavender – May

You can see here that the Spanish lavender was in full bloom in May but the French lavender is just starting. It reaches its best in June and early July.

The good news is that we have had some rain, not nearly enough yet but much better than last year. The dogs are enjoying the puddles. And Shanna should be named ‘pig-pen’ as she loves the mud.

 

Shanna

Shanna @ 7 months

Adding an outdoor shower when we remodeled is one of the best ideas we had. The dogs have had the benefit of a warm water bath.

I have had a couple of shipments from Annie’s Annuals (although they are all perennials). Fall is the recommended time for planting her in California. The cooler weather and winter rains give them a chance to put down roots and become established. That is especially important for low water or drought resistant plants.

I came across an interesting article in DIY Home, a fall garden guide. It contained some helpful tips on getting your garden ready for spring.

So, here I am with a quick walk about before it’s January.

The vegetable garden has mostly finished except for lettuce and arugula.

I didn’t plant much chard or kale this year, I’m not sure why. I miss them.

The garden is mostly green this time of year although there are still some flowering plants.

Pineapple Sage

Pineapple Sage – a hummingbird favorite

Cuphea

Cuphea micropetala
“Candy Corn Plant”

The Cupheas bloom almost non stop in my garden, I have several varieties. They have proved to be prolific, low maintenance, and drought tolerant. Both the hummingbirds and the bees adore them. Over the past 3 years the Candy Corn variety has grown into small bushes, they are positioned just below our bedroom windows. We can hear the hummingbirds chittering in the mornings as they sip nectar from the flowers.

House and beds from the back

House and beds from the back

You can just glimpse the Cupheas on the left side of the house. Everything is mostly shades of green this time of year.

I am working on an inviting seating area overlooking the pollinator garden (which mostly looks like a bunch of weeds this time of year).

I have scattered some new wildflower seeds and look forward to seeing what turns up come the warmer days of spring. I will give you an update each month as the garden comes to life.

You can see the lavender plants along the driveway in the back of the picture.

The wreath came from the Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens. Volunteers gather in early December to make them. Isn’t it gorgeous? You need to get there early to choose the best. All the greens are gathered locally.

I wish you all a wonderful holiday with family and friends. Stay well and safe. I will see you in 2022.

Happy New Year!

In My Garden – April 2021

Spring is an especially beautiful season in Northern California. The winter rains encourage an explosion of flowers as soon as the weather warms a bit and the sun comes out. Just taking my camera for a walk is an adventure.

So, I’m not going to do a lot of writing this post. I hope you will join me for a leisurely saunter around the garden, maybe with a glass of rose or a cup of tea in hand.

Here are the photos.

In the vegetable garden I am worried about having space for the zucchini and tomatoes that will soon need their own bed. I hate to pull anything out as everything is doing so well. We are enjoying salads every night.

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In the pollinator garden native perennials predominate. It will be interesting to see what grows as the year progresses. It’s been 4 years since I first seeded it with a commercial mix of Northwest optimized meadow wildflowers. This area gets minimal to no summer water and very little attention except to whack it back in the late fall. It’s an interesting and ever changing experiment.

Some small plants were added, the ceanothus, mimulus, and pineapple sage. The lilies were shared garden gifts from friends. The small oak tree grew from an acorn that hitch hiked in a planter from our Oakland garden. The squirrels buried them in all my pots each fall. It’s only about a foot tall right now but seems to be thriving. Hard to believe it may eventually grow in a giant tree like the one that shaded our back deck each summer.

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Here is what it looked like in April of 2020.

Pollinator Garden April 2020

Wildflower and pollinator garden April 2020

And now, a walk around the rest of the garden beds starting with those closest to the vegetable garden and rounding towards the garage.

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The rhododendrons are just starting to bloom, the azaleas were first.

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I used to think succulents were boring, but there have been an explosion of varieties in the past few years. Many of them are absolutely gorgeous.

 

Chores for the month include weeding (my least favorite garden activity), but they are definitely getting out of hand.

We’ve had the second driest winter in 100 years…

As a result we are putting in a rain catchment tank the end of the month. It won’t help much this year but water has become a serious concern. I’m starting to shift the garden to more water wise plants and encouraging the existing ones to dig deeper with their roots.

Thank you for following me around the garden. I hope your own spring garden, large or small, is doing well.

October – Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

October – Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

I am very partial to roasted vegetables of any type. Vegetables in the family Brassicaceae or Crucifereae are particularly delicious cooked that way. Roasting enhances the sweetness of cauliflower, cabbage, kale, broccoli and Brussels sprouts. Did you know the family takes its alternative name from the shape of their flowers, whose four petals resemble a cross (Crusciferae is new latin for ‘cross-bearing’).

When roasted they only need a little olive oil and some salt for seasoning, that’s all I use most times. Last week I saw a recipe from Melissa Clark for Roasted Cauliflower With Pancetta, Olives and Crisp Parmesan in the NY Times cooking section. I happened to have a head of cauliflower in the crisper drawer that needed using, and most of the other ingredients were pantry staples.

This was a big hit, served with a swordfish steak cooked sous vide (I will be posting that recipe soon). This dish could easily be an entire meal with a salad on the side. The combination of bacon, cauliflower, olives and parmesan was a winner. You could adapt this recipe for Brussels sprouts or cabbage if that’s what you have on hand. The olives wouldn’t stand out color wise, but the flavor would still be there. Let me know if you try it.

Cauliflower is such an adaptable vegetable and it’s featured in so many recipes. Who would have ever thought of cauliflower rice or cauliflower pizza ten years ago? My grandmother’s favorite way of serving cauliflower was creamed cauliflower with a cheese sauce. That classic dish is still on many holiday menus as it can be made ahead and baked at the last minute. You could combine some of the same flavors of smoked pork (bacon, prosciutto or pancetta) and parmesan into a baked cauliflower dish with pasta I recently read on cookingwithauntjuju.com, Rigatoni with Cauliflower, Prosciutto and Parmesan Crust. As I said, cauliflower is a blank canvas for inventiveness.

Getting back to the recipe…

Melissa Clark’s recipe called for using a package of finely diced pancetta, not something I had on hand and I didn’t want to run to the store for a single ingredient. I did have a package of thick sliced smoked bacon which I diced and precooked to crispy deliciousness. If you have pancetta or even prosciutto available by all means use them.

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Ingredients:

  • 1 large head of cauliflower, trimmed and cut into bite-sized florets
  • 1/2 cup of extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of kosher salt
  • 1/3 cup of green olives, crushed, pitted and chopped
  • 1 large clove of garlic, finely grated or minced
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice, plus more to taste
  • 1/8 teaspoon red-pepper flakes, plus more as needed
  • 4 ounces bacon, cut into 1/8 inch cubes
  • 1/2 teaspoon whole cumin seeds
  • 1/2 cup of shredded (not ground) parmesan
  • Chopped parsley or other small greens for garnish (I had part of a package of micro greens)

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F. Place cauliflower on a rimmed backing sheet and toss with 1/4 cup of olive oil and the 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Roast for 15 minutes.
  2. While the cauliflower is roasting, pan fry the bacon until almost crisp and drain it on a paper towel.
  3. In a small bowl, whisk together the olives, garlic, red pepper flakes and a pinch of salt (I didn’t use too much salt because the bacon was salty). Drizzle in the remaining 1/4 cup of olive oil, whisking to combine.
  4. After the cauliflower had roasted for 15 minutes, remove it from the oven. Add the bacon and cumin seeds to the pan and gently mix to combine. Sprinkle the parmesan on top. Roast for another 15 to 20 minutes until the cauliflower is tender and browning on the edges, and the parmesan is crisp.
  5. Spoon the contents of the sheet pan into a warmed serving dish and spoon the olive dressing over the top, tossing gently to combine. Add more salt, red pepper flakes or lemon juice as needed.
  6. Scatter the parsley or herbs on top.

 

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

Roasted Cauliflower with Bacon, Olives and Crisp Parmesan

In My Garden – September 2020

I haven’t been spending any more than essential time in the garden so far this month. The smoke from the fires in the eastern part of the county have drifted over the coast. It looks like fog (but isn’t) and the skies are orange, more like Venus than here on earth. The air isn’t healthy to breathe.

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It was so dark yesterday that we had to put the lights on in the house, I thought it was still night at 7 am when I woke. Our dogs are going a little crazy (you know how active Aussies need to be) because we won’t let them out to play. White ash covers our cars and the decks.

Casey and Quinn

Won’t you let us out to play?

I’ve been keeping the bird feeders and bath full so that any fleeing birds can find shelter, food and water. Birds aren’t my only visitors. Our native grey squirrel, the reddish Douglas squirrel, and chipmunks all enjoy the sunflower seeds.

chipmunk

chipmunk

The hotels and inns on the coast are full of evacuees fleeing the flames. We desperately need early winter rains. Fire season has at least another six weeks to go.

So, what’s happening in the garden? Remember last month when I put in a very late row of bush beans and zucchini? Well, this morning I saw the first zucchini flowers.

August planted zucchini

August planted zucchini

The first picture was the bed in August, the second a few days ago in September (with Casey observing). So far they are doing well. We may actually have beans and zucchini in October.

I planted lettuce, spinach and cilantro in two of the raised beds covered in fabric to cool them and protect them from the sun. They are doing well and I should soon be able to harvest the greens.

I have planted sprouting broccoli in one raised bed.

Sprouting broccoli

Sprouting broccoli

The flower beds are reflecting the impending change of the seasons.

And the pollinator garden has…well, lots of pollinators.

Pollinator garden visitor

Pollinator garden visitor

And that’s certainly not all that’s going on in the garden. It’s a constantly changing environment. Sometimes I just sit and watch and listen. Hummingbirds arguing for territory, birds scratching and singing, bees buzzing, butterflies flitting…it’s a very busy place. But it calms me in these days of hectic news. The bees don’t bother the hummingbirds on the same flower even though they are different. My prayer is that we realize we are still part of the same world and honor each other.