Archive | August, 2009

Squashed

29 Aug

Dear friends, please try this soup.

Take some onions, or maybe a few leeks (three would be ideal) and soften them in a little canola oil and butter.  Add two cloves of garlic, chopped and one sweet-hot pepper sliced (I used one from the garden that was either a Bull Nose or a Leutschauer paprika pepper, but you could probably use one small sweet red pepper and a bit of a hot pepper and get the same results).

When the aromatics are soft and sweet add a lot of peeled and cored squash, and I do mean a lot, like five pounds worth.  Then add about two cups of water and a mushroom-flavored stock cube, bring to a boil, bring down to a simmer, cover and cook until the squash is tender. Season with a healthy dose of lemon juice, salt and if you have it, some ground Grains of Paradise.  Then puree with an immersion blender, or very carefully in a blender-blender.  Serve it with a minted yogurt sauce (yogurt, finely chopped mint, one finely minced small shallot or Egyptian onion and a little lemon juice and salt).

This soup is the most surprising thing I’ve made with all the ridiculous vegetables coming out of our garden this summer.  It’s creamy,without having almost any dairy in it (and honestly, I think you could make this vegan without sacrificing an inch of flavor) and it has the most profound, sophisticated, honest summery flavor I’ve ever run across in a soup.

I based my recipe on this recipe from the September 2006 Gourmet that I ran across while making blackberry jam (there’s a lot of sitting around and waiting for things to boil) on Tuesday (18 half-pints!), but bent it to the vegetables I had at hand, so no potato and no carrots (there’s some out in the garden, but I was feeling lazy).

Need convincing that squash soup is delicious? You’re in very good company! Head below the jump for the hard sell.

Bounty

20 Aug

So, it turns out that I can grow tomatoes after all.

Just very, very slowly and one at a time. I’m a deliberate ‘mater farmer, obviously!  Little Roaslita has some amigas, but the plant has a touch of something. I’m just hoping that now that the weather is so hot and dry that she can hold the nasties (and the crows) at bay.

And while I’m excited at the promise of some real homegrown tomatoes to snack on, if you can believe it I’m actually sad that I don’t have any more green tomatoes.  Just as I was finishing up a batch of green-tomato ketchup¹ (the final four plants I had in the garden succumbed to the blight), flipping through a cookbook while the cans boiled, I came across a recipe for green tomato pie².

Oddly enough, the recipe sounds a bit like the Shaker Lemon Pie that you were all exclaiming about on my last post.  I’m hoping that I’ll be able to make it at the end of the summer when those farmers that have actually been able to grow tomatoes this year will be off-loading their greenies.

But while this year I’m a minimalist tomato grower, I’m a maximalist with everything else.  We have squash the size of your arm, and some the size of your head.  The eggplants and peppers are so leaden with fruit I’ve had to stake nearly every one of them.  And then there’s the beans.

Drowning in veggies? Head below the break for a few good recipes.

Shaker Your Plate

7 Aug

It’s been a long time since I’ve mentioned the Shakers, but they’ve been on my mind lately.

Especially on Saturday as I pulled out tomato plants, which had all (but four) succumbed to the blight.  I pulled up Cream Sausage, and Persimmon, and the beautiful fluted Ceylon, Big White Pink Stripe, Black Prince, Palla de Fuoco and perfect little Ropreco.  I lined them up on the lawn, pulled off all the green tomatoes that were worth saving and packed the vines into garbage bags, and then bagged them again.

It was really sad. But it was Large Red that really hurt.

Large Red is the one tomato I decided to plant not based on its name, or because of a promise to keep me in sun-dried tomatoes through the winter, or because it would taste good in sauce.  I chose Large Red because it was a favorite of the Shakers and they grew it exclusively just a few miles from our house.  I reasoned that if it was bred for this area, it would be a survivor.  I was wrong, this summer was just too much for Large Red.

I first came across Large Red in the Shaker Gardener’s Manual.  Before the Shakers, there were no little packets of seeds available for the home gardener to buy at the local shop.  Seeds were sold in bulk for the large-scale farmer, or seeds were saved from the previous year’s garden.  But the Shakers saw an opportunity and sold their famous seeds in little packets in little boxes all over the country. And to help people succeed in their kitchen gardens, they offered a little manual.

The manual is chock full of tips, tricks and hints, many of which are still applicable today.  The Shakers were organic gardeners before the term was coined.  They believed the best way to grow a healthy plant was to make it strong by planting it in good soil, protecting it from weeds and watering it with moderation. The manual also offers a list of the vegetables and fruit grown just a few miles from where my garden is.  The only tomato they grew was Large Red.

It’s not all doom and gloom around these parts, I swear! Because who can be sad when there’s pie around? Head below the jump for the recipe for Shaker Blackberry Pie.