Blog Archives

Garden Recipe Roundup

When we have some less common veggies in the garden, I always try to cook something with a few of them to show how they might be used and to give them a fair taste test. Many of you know that I’m not a huge fan of eggplant, but I decided that I should give an eggplant dish a try anyway. I also made stewed okra and tomatoes, because I’ve never really cooked with okra before and wanted to try it in a form other than breaded and fried.

First up: Thai Fried Eggplant with Basil

I like Thai food, and we had all the recipe and sauce ingredients on hand, so it worked out well. I used the green Oriental eggplant, the yellow ‘Escamillo’ sweet peppers and one of the purple sweet peppers, one of the Round Purple Asian eggplants, a red onion from my home garden, and a couple ‘Gong Bao’ peppers from my home garden in place of the serranos. I also used Thai basil rather than regular sweet basil.

I found the sauce to be a little heavy, flavor-wise. It probably needed a bit more acid, maybe some lime juice. Overall, it wasn’t bad (for eggplant). The texture still isn’t my favorite, but it wasn’t completely distasteful.

Next up: Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

I used the okra and tomatoes from the garden, including some of the big okra that is larger than would typically be ideal. The ‘Ladyfinger’ okra that we are growing is supposed to be tender and usable even at larger sizes, so I wanted to test that out. I would say that it was nice and tender after the stewing, up to about 10″ long. After that, the pieces were still a bit fibrous and woody. I doubt a longer cook time would have solved the problem.

Both recipes were fairly easy, did a nice job featuring the vegetables, and were tasty. If you are looking for a recipe to use for eggplant or okra, give these a try!

Friday PhotoEssay – September 25, 2015

It is the last Friday in September, and while the sad appearance of the tomatoes and squash certainly bear this out, it has been warm enough that it doesn’t really seem like fall yet.
We took out a couple more tomato plants this week, and in doing so made an unhappy discovery:

Roots infected with nematodes! UGH! This is actually a pretty bad infestation because the roots are very swollen and knobby. Well, the nematode-free soil was nice while it lasted. As we continue to remove tomato plants, we will keep a close eye on the roots to see how much of a problem it is. It may be confined to just a section of the bed, and we will try to manage it using rotations, non-susceptible plants, and nematode-suppressing plants.

For comparison, the roots on the left/on top of the others are healthy tomato roots. Nice and smooth, slender, and white.

Our Saturday Sampler this past weekend featured a wide variety of recipes made from the Cushaw squash, including this scrumptious pie. Here are the recipes in case you missed them: Winter Squash

These are from the ‘Chef’s Choice Orange’ plants. (Except the one Italian Gold.) The plants look like they are winding down, although I found several hidden tomatoes this morning. Several of the fruit also look like they have some Bacterial Spot, which is a little abnormal for this time of year, but not too surprising given the colder, rainer spells we’ve had. There’s nothing to do about it now, other than use the tomatoes quickly.

If you would have asked me a couple of weeks ago if the Blue Lake Pole bean was going to grow up the trellis, let alone flower and produce beans before it got too cold, I would have called you crazy! But look at this…flowers, and tiny green beans!

Have a great weekend!

Friday PhotoEssay – September 18, 2015

The garden continues its downhill trend for the fall. The tomatoes may still have some green fruit on them, but I’ll be honest that they have reached the stage of ugly where I just want to yank them out. We harvested quite a bit of squash this week and planted some late spinach seed for the fall. 

Our last Saturday Sampler of the year is tomorrow, and we’ve been busy in the kitchen chopping and prepping some of the squash from the garden. We estimated that we have at least 15-20 cups of cooked squash right now. Yikes! Come out to the Demo Garden at 9 a.m. on Saturday, Sept. 19th to learn more about growing and cooking winter squashes.

This is just a portion of the Green Striped Cushaw. It is really tasty! It is always a good start when the vegetable that is insect and disease resistant is also flavorful. The cushaw has a nice yellow flesh.

This is one of the ‘Fairy’ squash that has a much more orange colored flesh. We haven’t cooked it yet to compare flavors. SPOILER ALERT! We’re making this one into chili for Saturday.

I guess we’re going backwards in time here. This is our “haul” from the garden this week. We harvested a bunch of butternut squashes, some tromboncino, and a couple more cushaws.

Some of the lettuce survived the caterpillar onslaught and some didn’t. This plant survived, only to have a grasshopper hanging out in the center on Monday morning. If it isn’t one thing, it’s another!

Sorry…I just had to break out a Swiss Chard photo to end the week. We’ve let it go for a couple weeks and it has gotten bigger quickly. It is one of the few things in the garden that is still looking spectacular!

Have a great weekend!

Cooking Our Garden-Grown Beans

I know it has been awhile, but waaaay back in the summer we were growing some different beans in the garden. In the Italian garden we had some borlotto beans growing and in the Indian garden we had both chickpeas (garbanzo beans) and cowpeas (black-eyed peas) growing. We harvested them and shelled them when they were dry, and they have since been sitting on bags on my desk, waiting for me to do something with them. This week was the week! I made a different dish with each type of bean so that everyone could sample them.

Step 1: Sorting

I’ve always sorted the beans when I buy bags of dry beans, but usually you are looking for small rocks and things like that. In this instance, I wasn’t concerned about rocks. I was concerned about looking for moldy beans (stored before fully dry) or damaged beans (primarily munched on by bugs).

Here are the culls. There were quite a number, particularly cowpeas, that had been munched on. Different challenges with homegrown beans!

We ended up with about 3/4 cup of the ‘Black Kabouli’ Chickpeas, 1.25 cups of the cowpeas, and 1.5 cups of the Italian borlotto beans.

To put that in context a bit more:

18 sq. ft of Italian borlotto beans yielded 1.5 cups.

17.5 sq. ft. of chickpeas yielded 3/4 cup.

17.5 sq. ft. of cowpeas (that sprawled everywhere) yielded 1.25 cups.

So…certainly not a spectacular yield. It’s not to say they weren’t fun to grow, but they are more of a novelty item that a really productive use of space.

Step 2: Soaking

If you’ve never cooked dried beans before, after the sorting step you need to soak them overnight.

These are the Italian beans. I put them in a large bowl and covered them with plenty of water.

By the next morning they had absorbed quite a bit of water and were nicely puffed up.

Step 3: Cooking/Par-Cooking

Because the recipes I wanted to use called for canned beans, which are essentially pre-cooked, I decided to cook the beans plain first, and then save them for the recipes I wanted to try.

I put each type of bean in a pot, covered them with water, added a little salt, and turned on the heat. They took about an hour of simmering to get to the cooked-but-not-mushy stage. Sorry, I didn’t take any pictures. Pictures of beans boiling is only slightly more exciting than pictures of beans soaking, and I already subjected you to those!

After they were cooked, I drained and rinsed them, then refrigerated them to use later.

Step 4: Cooking into Something Tasty

I wanted to use each type of bean in a semi-authentic recipe, so the next step was finding the right one.

Chickpeas

I was planning to make hummus with the chickpeas, but the skins didn’t crack when I cooked them. I didn’t want to take the trouble to remove the skins and making hummus with the skins on would have resulted in a gritty, grey-colored hummus (the chickpeas had black skins). I ended up making Crispy Roasted Chickpeas. There are about a thousand recipes on the web for different spice variations if you care to try several flavors. I used cumin, coriander, salt, and cayenne pepper. You toss the chickpeas in olive oil and the spices and then roast them in the oven at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes or until crispy. Ironically, the skins and whole peas split while roasting, after refusing to split while boiling. Oh well.

Italian Borlotto Beans

For the Italian beans, I found a recipe for Fresh Stewed Borlotti Beans that called for fresh rather than dry beans. We were past the “fresh” stage, obviously, so that’s why I par-cooked the beans first. Beyond that, it was pretty straightforward. Cook the aromatics (celery, onion, garlic) in oil, add the beans, tomatoes, and parsley. Cook until the beans are the texture you prefer.

The beans had an interesting nutty and sweet flavor, so I didn’t cook them down too much. They were softer than they started, but still pretty much whole, not to the mushy stage.

Cowpeas

The cowpeas had ind of an interesting grassy/earthy taste after the initial cooking. Not bad, but very different from the other two. I decided to make a Cowpea and Potato Curry using them.

If you don’t routinely cook this type of dish, it is the one that you will probably have to make a special trip to the grocery store or a specialty store to find all the ingredients. We cook a fair amount of Indian-inspired food at home, so I have all of the spices on hand. Things you may not have include: cumin, turmeric, garam masala (you can find it at Spice Merchant if you are in Wichita), fresh mint and cilantro, garlic-ginger paste (or fresh ginger to make your own).

This recipe starts by sauteing the onions, garlic, ginger, and spices, then adding the potatoes. After a few minutes you add the chickpeas, tomato puree, water, and simmer until everything is cooked. Last you add the mint and cilantro paste and cook a few more minutes. Served over rice, it will make a great vegetarian meal.

So, that is that! I have to say that cooking dry beans that you grew yourself do taste even better than cooking dry beans from the store and MUCH better than using canned beans. Each type of bean also has its own flavor profile. Still…growing dry beans is more of a fun project than anything else if you don’t have much space.

Two Fennel Recipes

One of the things we had in the Fall Italian Garden was bulbing fennel, which you may sometimes see in the grocery store labeled “Anise.”

This is the fennel that was harvested before the cold weather set in a couple weeks ago. Most of it was pretty good sized. As a recap, we started the seeds indoors and then transplanted in early August. It is edible at any size of bulb development, and I know that sometimes people like the smaller ones to roast whole. The bulbs were good sized a few weeks before we harvested, but I always like to see how big we can grow things in the fall and how long they will last in the garden.

So…what do you do with bulb fennel? I had tried a fennel gratin recipe several years ago that was pretty disgusting, so I went looking for some better options. I ended up with a recipe for Roasted Fennel, Carrots, & Shallots and another recipe for a Radicchio, Fennel, and Olive Panzanella (bread salad). It was a bonus, since we had radicchio in the garden too!

I cut the tops off the fennel, quartered it, rinsed it well (there was some dirt between the layers, but not too much), and tossed the pieces with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

I sliced the carrots, and topped the red bunching onions. The original recipe called for shallots, but I had a whole bunch of these red bunching onions from the garden as well that were pretty sweet, so I opted to use them instead. These were also tossed with oil, salt, and pepper, then spread on a baking sheet.

Everything was roasted at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

The finished product! (Technically the recipe called for garnishing with parsley and a few fronds from the fennel tops. Oh well.) This dish was a huge hit, even though it was so simple. Sometimes the simple dishes are the best. Almost everyone really enjoyed the flavor of the roasted fennel.

The second recipe was actually a bit more complex, even though it was a salad. I also didn’t manage to get pictures of every step, so bear with me. Here’s a link to the original recipe: Radicchio, Fennel, and Olive Panzanella.

The first step was to toast the bread. The cubes of bread were tossed with lemon zest, oil, salt, and pepper. Then they were toasted in the oven until just crisp. (Not all the way to crouton stage.)

The dressing was pretty simple: minced shallot (I subbed the red onion again), chopped parsley, lemon juice, vinegar, salt and pepper, all whisked together.

The fennel was easy to deal with. I just took a couple of the smaller bulbs and thinly sliced them. Done!

Then the radicchio…

Eew! When I harvested it, the outer leaves looked good, but as I peeled it down to the inner head, I got to this slimy layer. I don’t know if this is normal, if the plants were too crowded, if it was too warm and wet for most of the fall, or what the story was. I’m sure that many of you, getting to this point, would have just chucked the whole thing in the trash and moved on. Luckily you have me to delve through the slime to find out if there was anything good underneath!

What do you know! There was something worth having! One of the heads that I stripped down still had some good green leaves before getting to the red interior leaves. The others needed to be cleaned further, down to the red leaves. But the radicchio “hearts” were just fine to use. No sliminess in evidence at all.

Here’s the bigger “green exterior” head sliced. The center is nice and red. (Recap again: the radicchio was also started inside and transplanted in early August.”)

The final salad: the bread, radicchio, and fennel were tossed, as well as some halved green olives, chopped parsley, a little cheese, some salami and the dressing. It was a colorful and interesting salad. Because the greens were all radicchio, it had a stronger, more bitter flavor than our American palates are used to. Some people really liked it and others didn’t care for it. To make it appeal to a broader audience, I added some sweet lettuces (like bibb lettuce) to cut the bitter greens a bit. The fennel really wasn’t very prominent in this dish by the time everything else was added, but it was a great use for radicchio!