Sunday, May 31, 2009

Let the Grilling Begin!

So, the grill has been cleaned and prepped, and last week I grilled almost every night. We had steak, burgers, chicken, salmon, and, one of my favorites, grilled pork sate (recipe from Bon Appetit, early 1990s).

This dish is good with rice. I made asparagus to go with it (it being asparagus season), but peas go well with it, too.

Yes, it's asparagus season. I bought a lot of it this weekend; I need to get it into the freezer, but haven't gotten around to it yet. I did spend Friday night processing strawberries for the freezer. I took the kids strawberry picking and we managed to pick 9 quarts of berries. Really ripe, flavorful, wonderful strawberries. Took us maybe 20 minutes or so. I froze 6 quarts of berries (washed, hulled, sliced and packed in bags in one cup portions). Most of them will probably end up in oatmeal during the winter. The fresh berries we've been eating as is and also with shortcake.

Last weekend I made a batch of Strawberry Shortcake Cookies (from this month's issue of Martha Stewart's Living magazine). They were very good (really did taste like strawberry shortcake), but very rich (made with heavy cream and butter). They don't keep very well, either, but to be honest, there weren't that many left after dinner.

The garden is doing great. Tomato plants are growing by leaps and bounds. I've got some actual pea pods on the pea plants and the herbs are looking great. Corn is up, but it seems a little small; I guess I should give it some time. The pepper plants don't seem to be growing as fast as I thought they would, but it's still early so I'm not fretting. Yet.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Garden Update

The garden is really taking off now. The roses and iris are beautiful:

I have two pink rose bushes (they live in the herb garden). They are very fragrant and a lovely pale pink. The iris are actually dark purple, not the blue that came out in the picture. Beautiful. I wish iris bloomed all summer.

The sage is blooming, too (this is new, as it was planted last year and only blooms in spring).

I also have a red Portugal pepper growing on one of the plants,

and the corn is sprouting.

I decided not to plant carrots this year (ended with up orange stubs last year), so I bought two Purple Prudens plants for that space. They are an heirloom tomato, similar to a Brandywine. (Easier to grow, I hope. I grew Brandywines a couple of years ago and lost a lot to blossom end rot. Very frustrating, as it hit just when a tomato was ready to harvest.) These will have to be the last tomato plants I put in this year (I have 11 total). I've used my last tomato cage.

I also put in four jalapeno pepper plants. Can't have too many hot peppers, you know. They're great in collards.

So, it looks like we'll get some rain tonight, which is very much needed. Hasn't rained in about a week; we could use a good soaking. (The rain barrel is almost empty, too. Needs a refill.)

Saturday, May 16, 2009


The first local strawberries were at the farmer's market yesterday. So of course I bought some.

And they are so good. So much better than the ones shipped in from the West Coast.

Strawberries need angle food cake. I made one (from a mix. I've never made angel food cake from scratch for the simple reason that I wouldn't know what to do with the dozen left over egg yolks). Angel food cakes need to be cooled off upside down. Beer bottles are very good for that.

And the finished product was a lovely, airy, angel food cake.

Topped with strawberries and, for some of us, whipped cream (I skip that part), it made a very tasty dessert.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Spring at the Farmer's Market

On Friday I visited the farmer's market (was not able to go last weekend) and sort of went a little nuts at all the good stuff there:

This all came from the same stand. Leeks, lettuce, arugala, asparagus, green onions, beets, yellow and red onions. We've been having salad for dinner every night. I made half a bunch of asparagus with dinner on Friday (pork chops and corn bread). The leeks were cooked in a little broth with chicken and cayenne pepper for dinner last night. We'll have the beets with hamburgers and the rest of the asparagus in an asparagus tart. Salads all week long. I didn't buy spinach or radishes. I'm told that the strawberries are a few weeks away, and all the rain we had last week didn't help matters much; veggies need sun (of which there is a whole lot today).

So now I'm faced with clearing out my freezer before stocking up with this year's goodies. I still have one container of Hungarian gravy base (which I'll make up this week for the peppers); some green peppers (they'll be used up before new peppers appear in August); blueberries (I'm using them up in my oatmeal in the morning); one pack of green beans (which I can cook up for lunch if there's too much fresh stuff for dinner); and some tomato sauces and salsas. The sauces will be used up before tomatoes are available, but I'm not sure what to do with the salsa. Not too thrilled with it; maybe I can use it in frijoles some time. I'm going to ditch the freezer blueberry jam (don't like the texture and it doesn't taste a whole lot like blueberries) and there's a batch of beans I'm getting rid of as I did not like how they turned out. The only true failure is the bag of sliced, cooked beets in the freezer -- fresh is now available; need to think about how to deal with the frozen.

I planted my basil, parsley, tomatoes and peppers on Friday; put geraniums along the front walk yesterday morning. I want to get four more parsley plants in hopes of having a better harvest than last year. Put in two varieties of peppers (sweet green and hot red Portugals) and three tomatoes (red cherry, Rutgers, and one Ramapo, which will go in the upside down planter). Today I'll plant the corn and fill the window boxes.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Spring Flowers

I took these pictures last week but did not have time to post them:

Bleeding heart.


We planted the bleeding heart a couple of years ago. I was afraid it had been removed at the end of summer by some overzealous flowerbed neatening, but it came back in its full glory. The lilac was one of the first things we planted when we bought the house. It blooms gloriously every spring, and is now spreading along the patio. In a few years it will be a perfect privacy screen.