In My Garden – April 2022

In My Garden – April 2022

Spring is definitely here although we still have an occasional evening near freezing. Looking back over my post from April 2021, plants are slower to show themselves this year. This winter has been colder than the last. I posted that one on April 18, 2021, so the dates are comparable, just one year apart. It’s interesting to look back over previous years and notice the changes in the garden.

I dug up 3 of my dahlias to divide and fertilize them (just bone meal and some steer manure) yesterday. None of them were showing any signs of growth yet, I think I will wait a few more weeks to dig the rest. They didn’t do very well last year (lack of water? Crowding? Gophers? Nutritional needs? Too much fog?). Hopefully I can remedy the problems this year.

Signs of impending spring include tulips,

and buds on the rose bushes, they are happy this year. I planted them in half barrels three years ago and they did poorly last year. Doing some detective work I found that the surrounding redwood trees had grown into the bottom of the barrels and were choking the poor things. I had to dig out the roots, put in some new soil, compost and epsom salts. They are looking much better. In future I will periodically have to lift the half barrels from the soil to break any wandering redwood roots.

The ceanothus is gorgeous! This one was planted about 3 years ago and is flourishing.

Ceanothus

Ceanothus

And to my delight it is doing so with no attention or very little summer water (although I will need to weed out that dandelion I notice in the corner of the picture…sorry about that). It so inspired me that I have planted an additional 3 bushes at the front of the house. They are still small and I will have to nurture them this year but hopefully not after that. The front of the house looks a bit like the prow of a boat and the ceanothus, when in bloom, should look like the ocean. I understand the original owner of the house (and builder) was a navy man.

Ceanothus

Ceanothus

I moved the half wine barrels of bearded iris’s to the front where there is more sun. It’s doubtful they will bloom this year (fingers crossed) as they were replanted so late. But I hope they will be happier in their current spot without any competition from redwood roots. There were quite a number of iris bulbs so I planted some of them in smaller containers and gave some away. To my surprise there are California poppies coming up in the pots as well.

There are some signs of snail and fungal damage, sigh. I have not used any pesticides in the past although I do bait for our native banana slugs.

April Bearded Iris 2022

April Bearded Iris 2022

You can see the small ceanothus bushes between the barrels. They should reach a  height and size of 15′ by 15′ once fully grown.

At the first in-person meeting of the local (Noyo Chapter) Rhododendron club I won 3 new ones, a Rhododendron Pontiyak (5’x3′ light lavender color), Checkmate (2’x2.5′ lavender pink), and Emasculum (5′ pink).

Rhododendron Pontiyak

Rhododendron Pontiyak

The Mendocino Coast Botanical Gardens (of which I am a board member) has a number of wonderfully scented ones in their collection and I picked up a bush of Coastal Spice (white and pink) in the plant nursery when I was there last. If you get a chance to visit the Northern California coast, don’t miss the Gardens.

Rhododendron Coastal Spice

Rhododendron Coastal Spice

All of the new Rhododendrons have been planted in an island bed near our pump house and garden shed.

There are several new ones in this bed and I keep it irrigated. The older established ones on the property are watered infrequently due to drought conditions.

You will notice the bird house in the center of the bed. We’ve placed four of them around the property but none have any resident families yet. There must not be a housing shortage for the birds here.

bird houses in the pollinator garden

bird houses in the pollinator garden – rent free but no takers yet

Vegetables are a dilemma this year. Should I plant them or not? I worry about the water they will need. I brought up the subject with the gardener in the vegetable garden at the Botanical Gardens last week. He feels that home gardeners use a lot less water than the huge commercial farms. So, comforted, I planted two of our raised beds. Here you will see lettuce, chard, cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. I was excited to find a mixed starter pack of the cruciferous vegetables. The two of us cannot usually eat 6 heads of cauliflower before they start to go to seed and I don’t really have the storage space. Two heads are more manageable.

I also direct seeded some radishes, arugula and a mesclun mix.

I am going to skip the tomatoes and cucumbers this year. We get good local ones from the farm down the road. Zucchini will definitely go into at least one, maybe two, beds. We adore them freshly picked and simply grilled.

Lastly, and new, are three small fig trees on the front deck. They were started a couple of years ago by a garden friend from scions. It turns out that her husband doesn’t really like figs so she gifted them to me. It’s easier to keep an eye on them on the deck and it’s a sunny place. I had a couple of trees in containers on my deck in Oakland but the squirrels usually got to them before they were ripe. The squirrels are more cautious here and the dogs very diligent.

My constant garden companions watch me as I putter about in the garden, it’s their happy place as well as mine.

Shanna and Quinn

Shanna and Quinn

Casey is happiest snoozing at my feet as I write this.

Casey

Casey

I hope you are in your happy place as well.

 

March – Fennel and Celery Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

March – Fennel and Celery Salad with Lemon and Parmesan

I’ve seen several versions of this recipe. David Tanis from the NY Times published one and it also appeared in a 2014 issue of bon appetit. This recipe is a combination of both those recipes. The salad can be made ahead. Prepare the vegetables and toast the pine nuts, then dress it just before serving to take advantage of the crispness of the celery. It will begin to soften after an hour. It will still be delicious and makes great leftovers for lunch the next day, but it won’t have quite the same freshness.

Fennel and Celery Salad

Fennel and Celery Salad

I have finally overcome my own aversion to celery, this salad definitely helps. It wasn’t that I ever actively disliked celery (although I do dislike celery salt) and more that our CSA box of the time had a huge head of celery week, after week, after week. It became tiresome to find ways to use it up.

I used a mandolin for slicing the celery and fennel, a sharp knife works as well. They were cut about 1/4 inch thick.

This would be the perfect salad for a spring BBQ. Spread it out on a platter rather than in a bowl to take advantage of all those wonderful textures.

Fennel and Celery Salad

Fennel and Celery Salad

Dressing Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus the zest from 1 large lemon
  • 1 or 2 crushed garlic cloves
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

Dressing Preparation:

  1. Put the lemon juice, zest and garlic cloves in a small jar or bowl. Add a pinch of salt and pepper. Add the olive oil and shake or stir to mix. Set aside for at least 10 minutes.
  2. Remove the garlic cloves before dressing the salad.

Salad Ingredients:

  • 1 cup of pine nuts, toasted
  • 2 medium fennel bulbs, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 6 celery stalks, thinly sliced
  • About 4 ounces of parmesan, thinly shaved or thickly shredded
  • 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  • 1/2 cup of mint leaves, roughly torn
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Salad Preparation:

  1. Toast the pine nuts in a dry skillet (tossing frequently) or 350 degree F oven for 8-10 minutes. Watch them carefully as they will go from toasty brown to burnt quickly.
  2. Place the fennel and celery in a bowl, season with salt and pepper.
  3. Remove the garlic from the dressing, give it a shake or a whisk. Pour over the vegetables, and toss well. Adjust the seasoning as needed.
  4. Transfer to a platter, add the parmesan and sprinkle over the parsley and mint.

Enjoy!

Fennel and Celery Salad

Fennel and Celery Salad

In My Garden – February 2022

In My Garden – February 2022

February has seen the coldest days of the winter season with several days of hard frosts.

Frost on the deck

Frost on the deck – Feb 2022

Consequently signs of spring have been slow to emerge. There are a lot of bare spots in the perennial borders and I fear I lost some plants to the cold weather. It’s still a little too early to tell.

Perennial Island

Perennial Island

A few bulbs are beginning to show themselves…hyacinths, fuchsias, daffodils and species tulips.

The driveway is covered in pollen from the pine trees which turns everything yellow, including the cars.

 

Shanna likes to help with the washing.

Shanna and the hose

Shanna and the hose

She doesn’t like to waste a drop.

Casey wandered over to see what was up.

The hellebores are in full flower, a delight in this mostly drab time of year.

Remember my post about dreams of a row of bright bearded iris’ along the driveway? That was about three years ago. Well, I have given up the dream. They simply didn’t do well. It was probably a combination of damp and foggy summers, lack of water and redwood root competition. I couldn’t bear to simply chuck them so dug up as many as I could and have replanted them in half wine barrels where I have more control. It isn’t the right time of year so I doubt they will bloom this spring but maybe by next year.

Replanted Iris Bulbs - Feb 2022

Replanted Iris Bulbs – Feb 2022 and Casey

Here’s hoping that dahlia bulbs will do better in that same spot. It’s too early to plant but I have some coming next month.

Shanna likes to dig and hunt. So far she has caught two moles, a squirrel and a bird. The digging part makes her unpopular with this gardener. I am trying a new method of scattering red pepper flakes on her favorite spots. Maybe it will discourage the critters as well as her excavations.

The major acquisition in the garden is a chipper for the brush and tree trimmings. We have a lot to clear out before fire season starts this summer and fall.

Chipper

Chipper

My husband is having a wonderful time with the new toy.

I am unsure if I will plant much of a vegetable garden this year because of worries about lack of water. We had no rain in January and only a drop at the end of February.

 

 

 

 

 

In My Kitchen – February 2022

In My Kitchen – February 2022

If I had to choose my least favorite months of the year they would be February and August. February because it can be a very grey, cold and damp month…winter has dragged on too long for me at this point. August because I am tired of watering, weeding, deadheading and worrying about fire. On the coast August is often grey and foggy and crowded with visitors escaping the inland heat. Those crowds are a mixed blessing. At least most things are empty in February and you can get a seat outside at a restaurant, silver lining.

This post is part of a collection detailing events from kitchens around the world. You can find the others by using this link to Sherry’s Pickings.

So, what’s been happening in my kitchen. I have been going through a cooking slump. After two years of pandemic stay-at-home meals I am bored. What’s the solution? New cookbooks! I started with the title recipe from Midnight Chicken, by Ella Risbridger. Roast chicken has been my own signature dish for years and I always enjoy a new twist. I would say it was a big success judging by the moist flavorful meat and crisp skin. Before roasting the chicken was rubbed with chopped garlic, fresh chilis, rosemary, thyme, grainy mustard, lemon juice and olive oil.

Midnight Chicken

Midnight Chicken

 

Midnight Chicken

Midnight Chicken

The following week I tried the same spiced rub on boneless chicken thighs before quickly grilling them.

Midnight Chicken

Midnight Chicken

I will post the recipe for you, the book is a fun read with some great recipes.

From Eating Out Loud by Eden Grinshpan, I made Fennel, Celery and Mint Salad.

Eating Out Loud

Eating Out Loud

 

Thinly shaved fennel and celery are combined with toasted pine nuts, grated pecorino, fresh mint leaves, and lemon. This is a wonderful salad because it can be made several hours ahead.

Shaved Fennel, Celery and Mint Salad

Shaved Fennel, Celery and Mint Salad

Shaved Fennel, Celery and Mint Salad

Shaved Fennel, Celery and Mint Salad

My other new cookbooks include Grains for Every Season by Joshua McFadden (I love his other cookbook Six Seasons), big little recipes by Emma Laperruque from the group at Food52, and No-Recipe Recipes by Sam Sifton at New York Times Cooking.

I’m still exploring the new books and marking pages with dishes I want to try.

While looking through a tall stack of recipe clippings for inspiration, I rediscovered a handwritten recipe called simply MARINADE in my mother’s handwriting. It was almost like she had given me an unexpected hug. It was on her refrigerator for years and I had forgotten about it. I used it as a marinade for a flank steak, which can sometime be a tough cut of meat. You will find the recipe here.

Marinade

Marinade

Marinated and grilled Flank Steak

My Electric Pressure Cooker got a workout for chicken with white beans.

And a dreary cold day called for a simple chicken soup with the surprising addition of hot pickled cherry peppers.

And that’s it for my kitchen. Let me know if you have tried any of the recipes from these cookbooks and have recommendations.

I hope you are all staying well and safe.

January – Marinade

January – Marinade

MARINADE, that’s the only title on a slip of paper that was clipped to my mother’s refrigerator for many years. The words are now smeared by water droplets but the writing is still legible.

Marinade

Marinade

My mother has been gone for some years but I treasure these glimpses of her thoughts and life. And this is a very useful, simple recipe to keep around.

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup of soy sauce
  • 1/4 cup of bourbon
  • 2 cloves of crushed garlic
  • 1 tablespoon of grated ginger
  • 2 tablespoons of brown sugar
  • dash of dry mustard

Can be used on all meats…chicken, pork, London broil, fish. Marinate for 2 hours but not longer than 24.

This is quite a strong marinade. I wouldn’t marinate fish for longer than 30 minutes, chicken for 2 hours, thick cuts of beef and pork can take the 24 hours. But I recommend 6 hours for a thinner cut. Longer than that and the meat will turn mushy. This marinade has done wonders for steaks of questionable tenderness. Flank steak is infinitely improved by a 6-8 hour bath. The marinade has a definite Asian slant, you could use sake or brandy instead of the bourbon. My mother usually had bourbon around as my father had a large bourbon and water every night before dinner.

 

 

I marinated this flank steak for about 6 hours, then grilled it on high heat for about 4-5 minutes a side. It was delicious, juicy and tender.