Showing posts from July, 2013

Harvesting and Preserving Swiss Chard

Two weeks ago, during our heat wave and kitchen demolition, I managed to get outside and harvest big bunches of Swiss chard:

This is the earliest we've ever had chard, so finding a way to preserve it (other than keeping it out under a greenhouse tunnel until needed) was a new requirement for us. No matter what you're doing with Swiss chard, the first step is always to separate the leaves from the stems:

The knife isn't actually all that handy for this stage. It’s much easier just to rip the eaves off by hand. Then I cut the stems to equal lengths.
I decided just to blanch and freeze the leaves. We ended up with six cups to use later (and you can use this exactly as you would use frozen spinach). Chard and spinach last pretty long into the winter for us, but this box in the freezer will be a little insurance:

Once the leaves were dispatched into the freezer, I could deal with the stems:

These I decided to pickle. Back in the spring I read Michael Pollan's new book Cook…

The Broody Hen

Abigail has gone broody. 

She has spent the last few days camped out in a nesting box (this habit has been building in duration over the last week or so). This wouldn't be all that big of a deal, but she's wicked cranky. You can see in the picture how she's all puffed up, showing off how big and mad she is that I dared to open the door. She's also pushing all the other hens out of the nesting boxes, forcing them to lay their eggs on the floor.
Sally is the only one who minds — she is a very reliable nesting-box-layer. This morning I heard them squabbling, and Sally must have gotten the upper hand, because Abigail was shrieking her fool head off outside of the henhouse, and Sally was grumbling inside. 

Yesterday we had blocked up the nesting boxes with bricks to try to keep Abigail out, but she just pushed her way back in as best she could, standing guard on the roosting bar in front of the nesting boxes. I took out the bricks to make room for Sally and shut the henhou…

Of Summer Slaw and Catnaps

Despite the havoc wreaked by our neighborhood skunk, we still have managed to bring some heads of cabbage to a harvestable size. (A few nights ago we could smell M. LePew, and the next morning all the broccoli was once again chewed on. He also nibbled on some of the Brussels sprouts, but left all the cabbages untouched. I don't understand this creature, but I am grateful that he's so finicky.)

Anyway, today I brought in one of our "Red Express" cabbages. It was just starting to split, and we wanted some cole slaw to top our pork barbecue: a win-win. The meat is Carolina-style, by the way, which is the only way to go. It's vinegary and delicious, and needs some creamy slaw on top. 
Last summer we made a pretty traditional cole slaw. This is basically the same, but it practically glows from the all the red cabbage:

Kirk shredded the whole head of cabbage in our nice, newCuisinart. Even though it was small, that turned out to be a lot. Ditto on shredding the carrot…

Flower Friday: July 26, 2013

The zinnias I started from seed last winter/spring has finally bloomed! So lots of that in this week's flower arrangements. Most of them turned out to be hot pink, which is probably my least favorite flower color (expect for that purple-pink of the most common New England rhododendrons — my all-time most despised color in the garden). I'm doing my best with what has turned out to be more pink than I expected, and am mostly pleased so far.

Zinnia, echinacea, lilies, and yarrow.

Snapdragons and zinnias.

Phlox "David" (which smells even nicer than it looks!).



Berry Ironic

Summer raspberries are on their way out (although as half of ours are fall-bearing, we should have another round in September). But look what else we have: 

Yup, it's a blueberry. It's one of only a handful we'll get this year. And here's where they came from:

That tangled mess is on the side of our driveway that we ignore. Mixed up in a lot of weeds and property-line plantings are a scraggly blueberry and black raspberry. And it's bearing fruit, despite abject neglect:

The cruel irony is that the blueberries that we spent money on and actually take care of in hopes of producing fruit look like this:

What's that you say? You can't see any blueberry bushes? Well the two to the left of this bed are pretty much leafless, dead sticks. The one to the right has like ten leaves on two spindly branches.
The other three are in slightly better shape. Here's the sturdiest of the bunch:

It measures about 18 whole inches high. We planted them last spring, and they …

Easier Processing and Pickling

Last summer I wrote a pair of posts in which I dubbed myself the human food processor (see Part 1 and Part 2). It's the picklingtime again, and today I picked what we need for bread and butter pickles (which I talked about before here):

I love bread and butter pickles, but man oh man are they a pain to make. Thinly slice four pounds of cucumbers and two pounds of onions. It takes for-freaking-ever. And makes you cry a lot. To give you an idea, the picture above is only about 1/3 of the amount of vegetable matter required.
That is why I am so excited about our anniversary gift from my in-laws:

Woohoo! It's a great, big Cuisinart! This made all the slicing and dicing go by at lightning speed (well, give or take 20 minutes to figure out how to use it without cutting myself). 

So fast! So beautiful! So uniform!
I was so impressed that I also used it to shred another giant zucchini for more zucchini bread:

Maybe I got a little too excited, because I forgot to add the grape leaves …

Pickled Beets

A portion of yesterday's harvest:

In this basket are (what must be) the very last of the snap peas, tiny "Paris market" carrots, a pair of red onions, and beets. The onions aren't quite ready to be picked, but I needed some to fulfill a promise to Tiegan.
This summer she is planning to make dinner for us once a week (supposedly with help from her brother, but his enthusiasm for this project remains to be seen). She has gone through Kirk's old "Meals of Many Lands" children's cookbook and decided on Scandinavia. Thus the request for pickled beets.
So that these would definitely be ready for next week's dinner (I convinced her to do France first), I am going with a quick refrigerator pickle rather than a ferment. I used Alton Brown's recipe with a few modifications:

After washing and trimming a dozen small-to-medium beets, I drizzled them with olive oil and added a couple cloves of peeled garlic (instead of shallots) and a couple sprigs of ro…

Grilled Zucchini Pizza

We're still working our way through zucchini this week, so we built dinner around it. Big zukes are perfect for this recipe, so we chose our two biggest, cut them in half lengthwise, and scooped out the seedy centers:

Kirk rubbed olive oil on both sides of the zucchini and lightly salted the cut side. Then he put them out on the grill face down for 3-5 minutes (this part is directly over the coals). 
When he flipped them back over, he moved them off to the side so they would be getting indirect (and less) heat. You could stuff these with anything at all, but we thought we'd make them like pizzas. We made one plain (just sauce and mozzarella) for Jonas, and the rest we also covered with roasted red peppers, olives, pepperoni, basil, and parmesan. Kirk put the lid of the grill to let the cheese melt for a couple minutes, and then they were done:

Super easy, and they taste just as good as they look. (The charring around the edges is a good thing!) And I guess it's gluten-fre…

Zucchini Bread

All the heat of the past week brought us great, big okra, cukes, and zukes. I'm staying on top of the harvesting pretty well:

These are only slightly oversized — the one on the bottom is about a normal-sized zucchini. (Not sure why the one on top looks like Bam-Bam's bat.) Considering how fast these guys grow when it's warm and sunny, this represents total success at keeping the zucchini from getting out of control.
Except that we haven't been able to keep up with the actual eating of zucchini, since this is the current state of the kitchen:

We still have all the appliances and most of the cabinets on the wall behind me, so it's not impossible to cook. It's just incredibly unpleasant, especially in the heat and dust. So instead of coming up with creative zucchini dishes, we've been ordering pizza.
Despite the heat and the mess, I did manage to use up one of those lovely summer squashes yesterday to make zucchini bread. Why not bake when the heat index is 1…

Flower Friday: July 19, 2013

I'll admit to being a smidge lazy with the flower arranging this week. Not only is it crazy hot here, but we are also tearing up the house to move our downstairs bathroom and laundry area around. It's not like a few vases of flowers are going to mask the dust and dirt that is settling everywhere.
But I did go for some easy pickin's with the lilies that are in bloom this week. I love how one stem makes a whole bouquet, so their bloom was well-timed with our latest house project. 

Roses (David Austin "Heritage") and lilies.




The Maple Tree

His wonted sleep under a fresh tree's shade, All which secure and sweetly he enjoys, Is far beyond a prince's delicates...
~Henry VI, Part III, Act 4, scene 5
So today we had a consult with some company that wants to sign up everyone in Newburyport for solar. This is something we've always been interested in but haven't managed to get around to, so when a couple of college kids came knocking on our door because our house was on the list of good, sunny prospects, I signed up for a consult.
Our southwest-facing roof was deemed ideal by the consultant, who was planning to check out the roof and electric panel to make sure our house could support the system. 
"Just one question before we start. How do you feel about that tree?"

Um, we love this tree. Non-negotiable.
And that was the end of that. No solar for us. 
Unless, as the consultant helpfully suggested, a storm ever knocks out that tree — then we should give him a call back.
He didn't try too hard to conv…

Ninety Days Until Frost

I know, I know. How can I be thinking about frost on a day, during a week like this? It's so hot that the ice rink down the street can barely keep it together for skating classes. Still, our average first frost date is October 15, and that's just 90 days from today.
That all seems very far away until you start reading the backs of seed packets. When some of your cabbages take 90 days to mature, and your broccoli is looking at 75 days, it's time to get fall planting plans underway.
If you care about eating once it gets cold and dark, that is.
Our peas have just finished for the season, and over the weekend we pulled out the trellises to make room for some fall crops. Ditto on the garlic, which is harvested and curing in the workshop. That leaves us space to get cracking on our fall plantings, most of which I sowed over the past couple of days:

I realize that empty dirt isn't all that exciting to look at, but that's where the action is. In the long bed in the center…