Carrot Top / Pistachio Pesto

26 Feb

I thinned some carrot seedlings out of the backyard garden to give other carrots room to grow… and remembered I’d heard of carrot top pesto. Indeed, the leaves plus green garlic tops from the garden, olive oil, pistachios, salt, and a little bit of parmesan cheese made a nice nutty pesto.

We ate it tossed with pasta, some 2-minute-blanched peas (some from the garden, some from the store), and spigarello sauteed with the baby carrots and garlic from last summer’s harvest.

Stir Fry w/ Rattail Radish + Snow Peas

12 Feb

A simple stir-fry– cooking a series of ingredients individually in a hot pan with peanut oil (some very briefly– just a minute or two), in this case:

  • onions + sliced garlic + minced ginger
  • rattail radish pods from the garden (incredibly prolific plants crank out the long slender pods– no much flavor but a nice juicy/crunchy component when harvested before the individual seeds start to bulge in the pods)
  • snow peas also from the yard (planted in the late fall, harvesting in February)
  • a bell pepper
  • pre-made mapo tofu (includes miso and chili flake)

I just mix them at the end with a little soy sauce and serve over rice (I sometimes add black vinegar, miso, and/or chili flake, but not this time as the tofu was already seasoned).

They teed up good fried rice the next day, too (with some scrambled egg and kimchi).

Growing Radishes

4 Feb

Last winter, spring, and again this winter I’ve grown a variety of radishes (almost all from Kitazawa Seed‘s excellent selection) in a raised bed in the back yard– a very easy crop (and one that can grow off-season in the Bay Area).

Just jotting down a few notes here from across the garden journal:

  • Japanese Scarlet Radish: Crisp, attractive, mild heat, grew fast, the healthiest of the plants, would grow again as a good salad radish or to eat fresh with butter and salt.
  • White Icicle Radish: Watery taste, fairly bland
  • Korean Good Luck Radish: Large– 2″ diameter and 5″ long. Stayed crisp, with some lingering heat (seemed to be from the skin). Had a lot issues with germination and seedling survival, though.
  • Chinese Mantanghong (Watermelon) Radish: Beautiful concentric circles of white and pink, quite spicy– but they all ended up a bit pithy and with a tough skin I had to peel off (I assume this means I left them in the ground too long or should have grown them earlier in the winter when it was even cooler, but it’s unclear).
  • Minowase Daikon: A lot of my seedlings died originally, but the ones that survived produced an excellent radish– long and firm– and in particular, with especially tasty greens (not raw, as they were a little prickly/spiny, but just a few minutes sauteed with garlic or added to a soup for its last few minutes on the stove and they were delicious). This year I’m growing more daikon to leave in the ground for a while, primarily for the greens– every few days we harvest another set of outer greens as a side dish for some meal.
  • Japanese Purple Radish (can’t remember where I got these seeds or what the exact variety is): Another nice firm, crisp, mild heat radish, made great quick pickles (I expect the Scarlet Radish also would have).
  • Rattail Radish: Growing them this winter, they’re prolific and fast growing but haven’t put up the seed pods (which is what you eat rather than the root), so no “tasting notes” yet.

Every variety grew fast– looking back at my notes, last spring I started seeds indoors on 2/16,  they’d sprouted by 2/20, I transplanted some to 3″ pots on 3/5 (likely an unnecessary interim step for a radish), planted them outdoors on 3/12 (after a few days of ‘hardening off’– setting them outdoors but under an awning so they didn’t get direct sun), and was eating my first large radishes on 4/15.

Other things I learned / to remember:

  • Directly seeding them outdoors was hit or miss even though that should work in theory– the ones that sprouted grew just fine, but most never sprouted (eaten by birds? not staying moist enough? temperature?)
  • Light from an open window / windowsill was enough to sprout the seeds but not enough for the seedlings to grow more than about a centimeter (they ended up too tall and spindly as they reached for more light)– a grow light (with a fan to keep them cool) helped.
  • Because they grow so fast, I should remember to arrange them to the North of other seedlings in the raised bed so they don’t quickly shade and then crowd out the shorter seedlings.
  • Having too densely-packed earth or even small bits of gravel / rock in the raised bed some distance below the surface causes the radishes to turn, split, and contort in visually interesting but hard-to-peel ways… (see the fist-sized ‘Cthulhu radish’ picture above of this)




Caramelized Garlic, Kale, and Cheese Tart

28 Jan

The caramelized garlic tart in Ottolenghi’s Plenty is very good. I recently made a greener tart inspired by it that combined:

  • A basic butter pie crust, pre-baked until golden
  • Three heads of heirloom garlic cloves, caramelized with a little red wine vinegar (following the general process in the recipe above)
  • Gruyere and goat chevre
  • A whole bowlful of kale from the winter garden, chiffonaded and wilted / cooked down for a few minutes in a skillet
  • 4 eggs and a little milk and yogurt to fill the tart

It worked well for breakfast the next morning, too…

Fermenting Fridge

21 Jan

This barely counts as a project because of how simple it was.

I wanted a fridge I could use for homebrewing in hotter months (keep beer at 60-70F, or cider at 50-60F), that I could use to homebrew lagers for the first time (control temperatures in the 35-55F range at different stages of fermentation), to slowly lacto-ferment vegetables (not really necessary, but to do longer, slower multi-week ferments around 60F even when it’s warmer), or even to retard bagels (rest in a cool place overnight to slow yeast growth while allowing lactobacilli a head start).

I’d read a bit about DIY ways to replace the thermostat on a conventional fridge… and then dug up a much easier way.

img_7744I bought a Danby DAR044 Compact Refrigerator (price varies, about $180 when I bought it) and an Inkbird Temperature Controller ($35).

The Inkbird temperature controller is a simple pre-wired alternative to custom temperature control relay boxes many people build– it has a temperature probe and two outlets, and turns on whatever’s plugged into the “heating” outlet whenever the temperature is below a certain setpoint, and turns on whatever’s plugged into the “cooling” outlet whenever the temperatures above a different setpoint.

I just plugged the mini-fridge into the “cooling” outlet, with the temperature probe threaded up through an existing hole in the back rear of the minifridge that leads into a drip tray. You remove these two screws to remove the drip tray:


And use a drill to slightly enlarge the drip hole from the outside and fish the temperature probe up into the fridge:img_7742

That’s it. It just worked.

It worked so well I set up a second fridge, so I could be fermenting beer or pickles in one (at 60-65F) while lagering or long-term storing fermented vegetables (or keeping beer cool) in the other at 35F.


As one example, here’s the temperature of the fridge over the course of brewing a lager– at 55F for the first few weeks, raised to 65 for a few days, then lowered to lagering temp at 35…


And typical contents: fermenting chiles, preserved lemons, and sauerkraut:


Nanakusa No Sekku (Festival of Seven Herbs) (draft)

13 Jan

I traveled with friends to Japan over the holidays and had a range of interesting meals, from many-small-dishes breakfasts to a few kaiseki-style set menus working through a formal progression of dishes, to excellent ramen in a museum, to dinners we cooked in a rental house in the mountains from the wide variety of product available in one of the markets.

We came home inspired to learn and try to periodically cook in this style, and with some special rice from the rural Noto peninsula where we’d taken a side trip.


H read somewhere about Nanakusa No Sekku (the Festival of Seven Herbs), a meal traditionally prepared and eaten on January 7th involving seven herbs and rice porridge, and last weekend we took that as inspiration to do our own hybrid Bay Area version of that on the 7th.

We spent the afternoon before foraging for some of the meal’s traditional herbs in a park in the East Bay hills, finding chickweed and what we think was shepherd’s purse or at least a dandelion variant (top middle), as well as sorrel and miner’s lettuce (not pictured), but held off on foraging any water dropwort as there are many highly poisonous variants. And from our back yard / garden we collected young greens from daikon, mustard, shiso, and mizuna (all grown last summer from seeds or seedlings from Kitazawa Seed or Namu Farm):


We cooked most of these (except the shiso, saved for a garnish) briefly and combined them with rice porridge (rinsed rice + water in a 1:8 ratio, brought to a boil and then turned down to a low simmer and steamed, covered, for about 45 minutes), grilled salmon (marinated in yuzu kosho (a fermented mix of chili peppers, yuzu peel, and salt– not homemade, yet) and then grilled on high heat skin-down for about 8 minutes, then briefly seared on the other side), a vinegar and Meyer lemon pickled purple radish, and some umeshu:


It was a comforting meal, with a bit of challenging bitterness from some of the herbs but a reassuring buttery heat from the salmon.

Braised Radishes in Miso Butter… and Soba in Broth

9 Jan

Another day, another need to use radishes from the backyard ‘winter garden’. I’ve pickled so often I was looking for something new (and not everyone wants a acidic, fiery pickle as often as I do…), and browsed a few articles about braised daikon like this one on Serious Eats.

My very similar adaptation was pleasantly successful– a tender texture with some radish flavor but without the normal bite, and a ready vehicle for a rich miso+butter sauce:

  • Peel and roughly slice some thick winter radishes (I used a mix of daikon and a purple Japanese radish whose name I don’t know)
  • Simmer in water for about 30 minutes
    • I included a tablespoon of rice in a tea strainer in the same pot– copied from an article above though without really thinking what it would be doing– making the water starchier because ______?
  • Drain and discard the water and rice, then cover the daikon with broth** and simmer another 15 minutes or so until at the desired tenderness
  • In parallel, mix 1 Tbsp of miso paste, 1 Tbsp of butter, 1 tsp vinegar (I used a white wine vinegar I’d made), and a few tsp water and briefly heat on low to make a glaze, adding a little water to get the consistently, then cover the drained radishes and serve.
  • Delicious!

**And in this case, this was part of a dinner where we also made soba in broth:

Broth: a savory chicken stock from the last time we roasted a chicken + kombu + dried porcini mushrooms + celery + carrots + onions + the radish greens, simmered on low for about 3 hours, then strained and seasoned with salt, soy sauce, miso.

Into the Broth: Soft-boiled eggs, flower-cut carrots, roasted baby carrots, sautéed broccoli, and soba noodles (boiled in water and drained in cold water).