Janurary in the Garden – Garden Share Collective

Janurary in the Garden – Garden Share Collective

Happy New Year! This post is part of the Garden Share Collective. Each month a group of dedicated bloggers and gardeners share the stories of the vegetable gardens. I’m adding mine to the group although I am definitely off-season to the gardeners in Australia and New Zealand! My mouth waters at their tomatoes. I try to avoid them until our season opens in July. My garden doesn’t usually produce the first tomato until August or September. But, I can look and enjoy and enjoy the pictures. Click on the link to take a look at gardens around the world.

TheGardenShareCollective300pix1I haven’t done much gardening in the past few weeks; some harvesting but we’ve had rain, cold weather (for Northern California), and frost. All growth in the vegetable garden has slowed. I’ll be seeding lettuce and arugula later this month.

Frost bitten Nasturtiums

Frost bitten Nasturtiums

And, the seed catalogs are coming! I received the first ones in the mail last week. Time to dream of spring and summer.

I had some carrots seeded in containers on my deck which were going well until I noticed that something (squirrels?) had eaten the greens entirely off! Frustration!!! It’s too late to try seeding again for a month. Do squirrels like carrot greens? Hopefully it’s not mice.

Carrots eaten by????

Carrots eaten by????

What is on the garden schedule for January?

HARVESTING: salad greens, chard, beets, kale, fava leaves, herbs, and sprouting broccoli.

Lettuce

Lettuce

Chard

Chard

Beets

Beets

Baby Cauliflower

Baby Cauliflower

Thyme

Thyme

Parsley

Parsley

PLANTING: more salad greens

TO DO: Continue clean up, watch for snails and slugs, add compost to beds. I’m considering the purchase of an indoor grow light to start seeds. I’ll have to figure out a way to keep the cat from eating the greens.

November in the kitchen – Not Just Any Pickled Beets

November in the kitchen – Not Just Any Pickled Beets

You’ve had pickled beets before, right? What did you think? I haven’t found them that tasty, not up till now anyway. The pickling brine in commercial pickled beets overpowers the taste of the beets. All I taste is vinegar (and usually not very good vinegar either). The following beets are a horse of an entirely different color!

Sandra from the blog “Please Save the Recipe” mentioned pickled beets in her November posting of “In the kitchen“. It got me thinking and when I saw the stalls full of root vegetables at our local farmer’s market, I couldn’t resist buying several large bunches of deep ruby red beets and a couple of smaller ones of golden beets to pickle.

The following recipe for Red Wine Pickled Beets came from “The Preservation Kitchen” by Paul Virant. I didn’t want to pickle the golden beets in red wine, so adapted the recipe for them with white wine and white wine vinegar.

I’m not going to give detailed instructions here about hot water baths and preparing your jars. If you are not familiar with the steps, please read this article on the Food Network “How to sterilize jars for canning jam” for more details. The instructions are the same whether you are pickling, canning, or making jam.

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Red Wine Pickled Beets (makes 4 pints)

  • 3 lbs. of beets (about 6 ¼ cups roasted, peeled and sliced)
  • Olive oil
  • 2 cups of red wine vinegar (at least 5% acidity)
  • 1 cup of red wine (I used the remains of a Syrah we’d had with dinner the night before)
  • ½ cup of water
  • ¼ cup of honey
  • 1/3 cup of packed brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon Kosher salt
  • 2 teaspoons of black peppercorns
  • 8 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary
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Beets in foil, ready for roasting

  1. Preheat your oven to 400 degrees F. Trim the beet greens from the beets and reserve for later if they look fresh.
  2. Place the beets in a baking pan and coat with a spoonful of olive oil. Cover tightly with aluminum foil (or make a package of foil to contain them). Roast until the beets were tender, for larger ones it could be more than an hour. You should be able to pierce them easily with the tip of a knife.
  3. Cool, and then skin them (it should slip off easily). Slice the beets or cut them into wedges.
  4. Bring the water in a canning or large pot to a boil and scald 4 pint canning jars with new lids.

Prepare the pickling brine:

  1. In another pot, bring the vinegar, wine, water, honey, sugar, and salt to a boil. Keep hot.
  2. Right before filling, put the jars on the counter. Add ½ teaspoon of peppercorns, 2 thyme sprigs, and 1 rosemary sprig to each jar, then pack in the beets.
  3. Transfer the brine into a heatproof pitcher or measuring cup and pour over the beets to about ½ inch from the top. Check for air pockets with a skewer or knife and add more pickling brine if necessary.
  4. Wipe the tops of the jars with a clean cloth or paper towel, place a warm lid on top, screw on the band until snug but not tight.
  5. Carefully place jars in your canning pot, the boiling water should come and inch over the lids. Bring the water back to a boil and process for 10 minutes. Once the timing is done, turn off the heat and let the jars sit in the pot for a couple of minutes.
  6. Remove the jars onto a dishtowel and let cool. Once completely cool, tighten the lids if necessary.

At the end, I did something stupid! I had leftover red wine brine. I stuck my finger in the pot to taste it at the same time I was pouring it down the sink. STOP my brain said (it was delicious!), but too late. Have you ever done that? Brain and body did not connect in time. Don’t make my mistake. Save any leftover brine for marinating or using in your salad dressings.

I processed the golden beets the exact same way, substituting white wine for red and white wine vinegar for the red wine vinegar. They were small so I cut them into wedges instead of slices. And, since I didn’t have as many golden beets, I cut the brine recipe in half…resulting in 2 pints.

Beets have an affinity for goat cheese and eggs. You frequently see them paired with goat cheese in a salad, blue cheese seems to go quite well as well. In Australia I’ve heard that pickled beets often turn up on a hamburger, I’ll have to try that one.

Pickled beets on toast with a fried egg and chives

Pickled beets on toast with a fried egg and chives

One of my personal favorites is a mixture of freshly roasted asparagus and pickled asparagus with softly poached eggs. The creaminess of the soft yolk, richness of the roast asparagus, and tartness of the pickled asparagus are fantastic together.

Or what about pickled beets in a goat cheese sandwich? This was a delicious, pre-Thanksgiving lunch.

Pickled beets and goat cheese

Pickled beets and goat cheese

Pickled beet and goat cheese sandwich with arugula

Pickled beet and goat cheese sandwich with arugula

Don’t forget the beet greens, reserve them if they are fresh. I sliced the stems, washed them, then sautéed them in olive oil with a couple of minced garlic cloves, a little salt, and a pinch of chili flakes. Once the stems softened, I added the washed and sliced stems. A couple of tablespoons of water steamed them all to finish. It only took a few minutes. They are a wonderful side for grilled meat, and full of vitamins.

Beet Greens

Beet Greens

Let the beets cure in their brine for a week to get optimal flavor, if you can wait that long!

November in the kitchen – Lentils with Roast Vegetable Stacks

November in the kitchen – Lentils with Roast Vegetable Stacks

It’s time to add a bit of healthy eating after gorging on Halloween goodies! These fall vegetable stacks fill the bill in a delicious and beautiful way. The farmer’s market last Saturday was overflowing with gorgeous produce. I was thinking of making these vegetable stacks for some vegetarian friends coming to dinner Saturday night. The celeriac I wanted was not to be found (seems it’s not in season) but I found kohlrabi and some giant thick carrots. They are a French variety and reported to be very sweet, even though they were huge. If you are not familiar with kohlrabi, it is a member of the cabbage family and means “cabbage-turnip”. Roasted they taste a bit like a cross between an artichoke and a potato, very mild.

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Layers of roast vegetables (I used cauliflower, beets, carrots, kohlrabi, and sweet potatoes) are stacked on top of a bed of lentils cooked with red wine. A horseradish vinaigrette is added to finish with some chopped parsley. You could add a bit of goat cheese or feta to top things off. In my book there isn’t much that can’t be improved with goat cheese! This main dish is vegetarian, gluten free, and vegan without the cheese.

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All of the vegetables can be roasted  ahead and reheated in a 300 degree F oven before serving.

Make a double batch of the lentils and freeze them for future pilafs or soups.

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Start the lentils first.

Lentils with Wine-Glazed Vegetables (serves 4 as a main dish)

Lentils

  • 1 1/2 cups Umbrian lentils or lentils du Puy
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil, plus more
  • 2 large shallots, diced
  • 1 large carrot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, mashed
  • 1 small dried chili
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 2/3 cup of dry red wine
  • 2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 chopped scallions
  • 2 tablespoons of butter (optional)

Put the lentils in a saucepan with 3 cups of water, 1 teaspoon salt, the bay leaf, and dried pepper. Bring to a boil, then lower the heat to a lively simmer and cook until the lentils are tender but hold some texture, about 25 minutes.

While they are cooking, heat the 2 teaspoons of oil in a large skillet. Add the shallots and carrot, season with 1/2 teaspoon salt, and cook over medium-high heat until the vegetables are browned, about 10 minutes. Stir frequently. Add the garlic and tomato paste, cook for 1 minute then add the wine. Bring to a boil, lower the heat, cover, and simmer until the liquid is syrupy and the vegetables tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in the mustard and add the cooked lentils with their broth. If made ahead, stop at this point.

When you are ready to reheat, bring the contents of your pot to a boil, reduce the heat to simmer and cook until the sauce is reduced. Stir in the scallions, and optional butter, taste for salt, add freshly ground pepper.

(Recipe adapted from Debra Madison’s The New Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone and 101 Cookbooks.)

Roast Vegetables

Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F

  • 4 sprigs of rosemary
  • grated rind of 1 lemon
  • 6 tablespoons of olive oil

Chop the rosemary and combine with the lemon rind and olive oil. You will brush this over your vegetables

  • 2 small fat sweet potatoes, peeled, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 very fat carrots, peeled, sliced 1/2 inch thick
  • 2 kohlrabi, peelied, sliced 1/4-1/2 inch thick
  • 2 beets, peeled, sliced 1/4-1/2 inch thick
  • 1 head of cauliflower, sliced through the core into 1 inch slices

Cut a piece of parchment paper to fit a large baking pan, lay out the slices of beet, brush with the rosemary oil and salt on both sides. Cover tightly with a piece of aluminum foil and roast for 20 minutes. Remove the cover and roast an additional 10-15 minutes.

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Roast beets

Lay the slices of kohlrabi on another sheet of parchment paper on a second baking sheet, add the carrots to the other side. Brush with rosemary oil and sprinkle with salt. Roast for 35-40 minutes. Check the kohlrabi at 30 minutes, it might be done. It should be soft and starting to brown in spots.

Roast carrots and kohlrabi

Roast carrots and kohlrabi

Roast the slices of sweet potato in the same way, brushing with oil on each side and roasting for 35-40 minutes until they are soft and brown.

Roast sweet potatoes

Roast sweet potatoes

Brush the cauliflower slices with the oil on each side and salt well. Roast for about 20-25 minutes until cooked.

Roast cauliflower

Roast cauliflower

If made a few hours ahead, set aside at room temperature until it is time to reheat them. To reheat, place the baking trays in a 300 degree F oven for about 15 minutes.

Horseradish Vinaigrette

  • 1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
  • 1 1/2 tablespoon of pure maple syrup
  • 2 teaspoons of prepared horseradish
  • 1/2 cup of olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste

Combine all the ingredients in a small jar and shake to combine well. Check the seasoning and set aside.

When you are ready for dinner, prepare each plate as below. I usually warm the plates in my microwave for 1 -2 minutes first. There is nothing worse than a cold plate with warm food!

Put a large scoop of lentils on each plate, cover with a slice of cauliflower, then the other slices, alternating colors. Top with a drizzle of vinaigrette and some roughly chopped parsley.

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Lentils with roast vegetable stacks and horseradish vinaigrette

Just what the Dr. ordered to cure a Halloween sugar overdose!

Submitted to Mouthwatering Mondays, week 72.

Take a look to see what other wonderful dishes are on the menu.

October in the garden – chard, kale, and beets

October in the garden – chard, kale, and beets

This weekend I transplanted my seedlings of kale. The chard and beets were planted last week, they were doing famously until Sunday morning when my neighbor’s dog had a romp across the garden. He’s still a puppy and thought it was great fun to leap over and into the rows of new veggies. Unfortunately he is a BIG puppy with BIG feet. I righted the chard and hope it will re-root itself. Think I will run out and check on them…whew! Looking ok so far, maybe the damage won’t be permanent. I had removed the wire baskets because the plants were getting bigger but have now covered them back up.

Did you know you could successfully plant beets from transplants? I’m trying it this year for the first time and will let you know how it turns out. The baby seedlings are so vulnerable to pests of all kinds. Starting them on my deck allows me keep an eye on them.

Chard, some leaves trampled by the romping dog

Chard, some leaves trampled by the romping dog

Young kale plants

Young kale plants

Chard and beets are members of the Goosefoot family. Open up a leaf and it does resemble the tracks left in the dirt by a goose’s foot. Another interesting fact about chard and beets is their lumpy seeds are several seeds stuck together; as many as three plants may grow from each one. Once the seedlings are transplanted and established in the garden, I thin them to the strongest plant. The trimmings are wonderful added to a salad.

To get back to the kale…it’s a member of the cabbage family along with broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, arugula, radishes and watercress (plus many more). I was surprised to see arugula and watercress in there! I planted a couple of kinds of kale, Delaway and Lacinato. Delaway is an Irish heirloom, it’s has long flat leaves resembling collards. It’s a first for me, planted in honor of one of my first blog readers in Ireland. Isn’t it wonderful how our words can be shared all over the world? Lucinato is also call Tuscan Black or cavolo nero. It’s an Italian heirloom, which has heavily crimped leaves. It’s a favorite of one of my gardening buddies, the young man who lives across the street. He likes it baked as kale chips.

Laurie O'Neill

Old wire shelves from an Ikea dresser initially cover the transplants. It’s not fancy but effectively keeps the birds, deer, and monster cat from pulling out the plants before they have a chance to root deeply. They also deter romping dogs.

All those trimmings of chard, beet, and kale leaves are wonderful tossed into a fall salad. I’ve also been enjoying the first lettuce from the garden. In the summer I don’t bother with lettuce as they bolt too quickly in the heat. It’s a treasure hunt to discover what can be added to the salad bowl to create a tasty mix.

Cook's Garden Alfresco Mix

Cook’s Garden Alfresco Mix

Perennial arugula, nasturtiums, fava beans

Perennial arugula, nasturtiums, fava bean

Salad pickings from the garden

You need a great basic vinaigrette with this salad. Don’t overwhelm the leaves. Sometimes I just use a squeeze of lemon, splash of olive oil, salt and freshly ground pepper. Toss with your clean hands.

October gardening chores

Garden Journal – end of September and October 2014 

Fall is my favorite season. I love the shift to stronger flavored heartier foods, braises, and roasted vegetables. The bright colors of autumn, the crisp days, and colder nights that call for thick quilts and duvets make me happy. This year I will love the rain, every drop of it. In Northern California we have Indian summer and the first week of October often has the warmest weather of the year. This year was no exception with temperatures into the high 80’s. Nevertheless, I feel and smell fall in the air.

It is time to plant my fall garden, but some of my summer veggies are still hanging in there and taking up garden space.

This past week I pulled out the cucumbers, pole beans and half the tomato plants to make way for my cauliflower, broccoli, chard and beet transplants (seeded on August 7). The raised bed intended for peas is still producing tomatoes; they have been so delicious this year that I can’t bear to tear out the plants. I’ll need to figure out what to do with the remaining green ones but maybe some of the Sungold cherries will ripen in time. I think I can wait another week or two and besides, my green bins for the city street side composting are full. The cucumbers and summer squash had powdery mildew and couldn’t go into my own household compost bins. The tomatoes went into the green bin as well. Composting tomatoes is not recommended. Both the plants and fruit are prone to carry disease, which can get into your soil and infect next year’s plants. (This is also why it is not recommended to plant tomatoes in the same place consecutive years.) Lastly the seeds are quite resistant to even a hot compost bin and can remain viable for years. I’ve spent a lot of time picking tomato seedlings out of the garden.

General garden chores in October:

  • Pull out any diseased or finished plants and vegetables
  • Refresh garden beds with aged compost and manure
  • Mulch paths in the garden in preparation for winter wet weather and mud
  • Seed winter and spring vegetables:
    • Peas, all kinds including those intended for ornamental flowers
    • Carrots
    • Radishes
    • Lettuce
    • Arugula
    • Cilantro
  • Put out transplants of:
    • Cauliflower
    • Broccoli
    • Chard
    •  Kale
    •  Beets
    •  Parsley