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Corn Muffins 5 Ways (from Backyard Corn)

23 Jun

(from last winter) What do you do when you grow five different varieties of colorful heirloom corn in the back yard?

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Grind them into cornmeal and make individual corn muffins, of course:

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Some day I’ll type up some notes on the corn growing itself– it was very fulfilling and an interesting challenge (especially the hand-pollinating due to the small area under cultivation and desire to keep separate varieties from cross-pollinating).

We couldn’t really taste a difference between muffins made with different corn (as expected, I suppose), though in a blind taste test H and I did both pick out the muffin made with Oaxacan Green corn as our favorite and a bit “nuttier” than the others… and we tasted a big difference between our freshly-ground dried corn (any variety) and cornmeal-from-a-box.

Vin d’Orange

15 Jun

I’ve had Vin d’Orange in restaurants as an apertif a handful of times, and only really knew that it was a tart, slightly bitter, orange-flavored wine (citrus + bitter: right up my alley).

Then earlier this year I read Samin’s description of making it and was inspired, during the brief window with sour Seville oranges were available at Monterey Market:

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After 40 days soaking a mix of rose wine, a little vodka, sugar, a whole vanilla bean, and sour oranges (tasting every few days), it was nicely bitter, and I strained and bottled almost 12 bottles of it.

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This gave me an excuse to buy a wine bottle corker, heat-shrinkable capsules to cover the corks, and with H design a label:

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I even made a small pint-size batch with the three Chinotto sour oranges we harvested from a container-bound backyard tree:

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After another 4 months aging in bottles it’s starting to develop– the initial bitterness has mellowed and it’s nice to sip / feels like it wakes up the taste buds. There is still a bit of bitter aftertaste a minute after you stop drinking it– but I’ve read I may want to let it age a full year or more to really come in to its own. I can be patient… I’m drinking some two-year-aged pluot cordial now…

 

Garden Frittata

10 Jun

Frittatas are my current go-to for an easy, satisfying dinner incorporating a lot of greens and whatever else is in the garden (it also makes great next-day leftovers, cold):

This particular evening I caramelized onions and fresh garlic (low heat, 15+ minutes?), sauteed morels in butter, and wilted chard and kale (cutting out the stems first and cooking them for a bit longer so they would soften). If I’m not in a hurry (e.g. already very hungry) I usually cook the components separately even though it dirties another pan or takes some extra time–  everything takes a different amount of time to cook well.

I pre-heated the oven to 375, and layered the (aliums, morels, greens) in the same cast iron skillet I used for the onions.

I whisked 8 eggs with salt and pepper and a little milk for several minutes / until very frothy and poured them into the skillet, then cooked this stovetop for 5 minutes or so to help brown and set the bottom (it’s not clear this is even needed– it’s just a force of habit).

Finally, I laid some big chunks of a soft cheese like goat chevre across the top and popped the whole thing in the oven for another 15-20 minutes, until the eggs puffed up and set.

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Artichokes (Grown, Blanched, Grilled)

4 Apr

Last spring I started some Colorado Star purple artichokes from seed and transplanted them into a strip of soil along a driveway. They started slow and didn’t produce any fruit last year, but here I am a year later:

While I’ve simply-boiled some later harvests (three rounds so far this spring) I cooked a first harvest of baby-size artichokes with an “oil and water” hybrid blanching method inspired by This Is Camino— simmering them in batches in a single-layer half-covered in water (with garlic, bay leaves, herbs, and olive oil) until mostly done, then finishing them on the grill while straining the liquid and reducing it to a sauce that reinforced the artichoke flavor:

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…