Sunday, December 4, 2011

Puntarelle= Poon-ta-rell-leh

Puntarelle when turned into a salad is heaven sent. I first ate puntarelle when I as living in Italy with my husband. It is a famous Roman vegetable available for only 1-2 months a year, usually November and December, many northern Italians have never even heard of it.   This beautiful green is as elusive as the famous white truffle from Alba but won't cost you $2000/kilo. 

I guess I can attune it to a very region specific food like the lobster roll, beignet or (scratching my head to think of another regional American food) etouffee.  Since I am not from Northeastern US or the South, I won't even try to pinpoint what cities/towns/states these foods hail from, I just know they are delicious.
I craved this salad so much after I left Italy, I searched online for the seeds and set out to grow it myself. This is the second year I have had success and here are the results.

This is the plant picked straight out of the ground,  it grows in a cluster with larger leaves around it.  It is in the chicory family but looks like a celery plant, kind of.

The little spear are plucked one by one from the main stem.

The spears which look like fat, leafy asparagus need to be sliced length wise and soaked in cold water (so they can get their signature curl) with a lemon in it so it does not oxidize and turn brown. 

Here the spears have been sliced and they are not as curly as they should be as we were starved.  They can actually be soaked for 4-6 hours or even overnight in the refrigerator.

The dressing is classic and Roman and called salsa di accuighe. (anchovy sauce)  Blend good olive oil with anchovies, garlic, salt and pepper to taste and a spritz of lemon on top.


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Kale Chips-A Fall Treat

Before I discovered kale chips, I struggled to come up with ingenious ways to use lacinato kale that mostly consisted of kale soups. Since discovering kale chips, we have depleted our entire supply in about 2 weeks. Luckily, I ran into Sam tonight and he gave me some generous bunches of black kale and curly kale. When I got home, kale chip production began.

First you strip the kale leaves off the main stem and wash thoroughly.  It does not matter if the leaves have slug holes in them or are frost bitten, they will still make perfect chips.

We then strip the kale leaves off the main rib. Tear the pieces into bite large bite-sized pieces since they will shrink up a bit when baked.

Season the kale pieces by tossing them in a large bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. I drizzle the olive on like I am dressing a salad.  If you don't like a lot of oil, use less.

Bake the kale chips in the oven in a single layer for 10-15 minutes.  Do not let them get burnt, they will be very bitter.  I play with various shades of green, dark green, light brown and dark brown for a variety of flavors and textures.  A special treat is to grate some fresh parmigiano on top of the warm kale chips and toss.  Super yummy and healthy.  The kids can finish a large portion like the one pictured in one sitting.


Friday, October 14, 2011

Garden Critters

Sometimes I wonder if other gardeners think I am looney when I tell them about the 'resident' critters that live out in the garden.  No doubt we have all encountered the slugs and rabbits that munch away at our greens, the moles that make hills everywhere (but aerate the soil), the voles that eat up our root crops and those deer that have been really enjoying all the green tops of my pole beans. 

I am not speaking so much about those critters but the ones we want to see in the garden.  Hummingbirds and other avian friends; we have a resident heron, who last year ate up a 3-4 foot garden snake in front of my very eyes, a gorgeous pheasant that looks like he belongs in a National Geographic documentary, and the super elusive, sable colored weasel that I have seen only once.

Now that the season is almost over, I really have relished in the fact that my children got a real chance to experience what its like to share a space with real wild critters, I have to remind them that wild bunnies do not want to be petted.  The wonder and bewilderment that comes to their little faces when they realize something wild is near them is truly a sight to behold.  Even though we aren't growing much this fall or winter, the garden is still a source of great amazement.


Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Reaching Out

Today was a really wonderful day at the garden. We hosted a group of students with learning disabilities, who attend Bellevue College. Their teacher, a friend of mine named Jaya, wanted them to supplement their reading of Seed Folks, with a trip to a community garden.

Everyone showed up with smiles and rampant enthusiasm. The weather gods blessed us with perfect fall weather. We introduced Jack and Michelle who both spoke about how MCGA came to be, as well as our goals in the food bank garden. I think the highlight of the field trip was when the students got to get their hands dirty by pulling carrots and digging potatoes.

As we walked the grounds, we played a game of "guess what plant". We spoke about all the different types of produce our gardeners, all the different nationalities represented at the garden along with some tasty produce sampling of carrots, strawberries, grapes, raspberries and beans. One student clung onto a sprig of chocolate mint and exclaimed it reminded her of Girl Scout mint chocolate chip ice cream.

I know an educational time was had by the students; they thanked us profusely and even hinted at desires to rent a plot communally. For me, it was a real revelation. What I took away from today's experience was that no matter what age, creed or level of ability, the 'community' in community garden is precious and priceless. We loved sharing the garden with the students and hope they come to see us again very soon.


Monday, September 5, 2011

Do-it-yourself Designer Salads

Designer salads are all the rage and they cost a pretty penny as well.  Having an Italian husband and having lived it Italy, I have grown the really love their bitter greens.  They are an acquired taste but if you are ready to move past arugula, I think you will really enjoy them.

Most of the greens I grow are in the chicory family, the dandelion family, basically.  They all have fancy Italian names and can be found at Grow Italian.  They are wonderful when combined with sweet lettuces and other greens like spinach. 

I broadcast spread the seeds in a small bed and watch them grow.  They are easy to cultivate with the only problem being that slugs love them too but deer don't.  Thinning the plants at regular intervals will keep them from crowding and leave few places for slugs to hide.

Try them, I am sure you will be pleasantly surprised.


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Is Bigger Better?

In the current society we live in I think we can say a definitive "YES", to the question asked above. Bigger is Better! We have bigger cars, bigger homes and bigger boats; even though Smart cars and the new Fiat Cinquecento are really adorable.

All kidding aside, there is a special pride that warms gardeners' souls when they harvest large and beautiful produce. These blueberries and beets were from our garden. Luckily, both tasted as delicious as they looked.

The secret to our blueberries, good amended soil, a thick mulch of pine needles and a cup of acid fertilizer in the spring.

The secret to large and nicely formed beets, consistent watering, and that's about all we did to make them grow. The center of the beets were solid flesh, not woody and oh so yummy.


Friday, August 5, 2011


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