Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Stewed Okra and Tomatoes

Two of summer's favorites come together in this easy southern dish. I enjoyed it over rice. Here's hoping that my tomatoes and okra produce so I can make this again with my own veggies (or are they fruits?)!

Stewed Okra & Tomatoes (adapted from Eating Well)

What You Need
-1 tablespoon olive oil
-1 medium onion, chopped (I used a red onion)
-2 cloves garlic, minced (I used a bit more because I love garlic)
-1 pound okra, (about 5 cups), sliced
-3 cups chopped tomatoes, (3-4 medium)
-2/3 cup reduced-sodium tomato juice or water
-1/4 teaspoon salt
-1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper or 1/2 minced jalapeno
-For you meat eaters out there: add 4 ounces breakfast sausage, preferably spicy or 4 slices bacon (optional)

What You Do
1. If you are going to use meat, cook it in a large saucepan first.
2. If no meat (like me), heat one tablespoon of olive oil and add onion and garlic and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and translucent, about 5 minutes.
3. Increase heat to high; add okra, tomatoes, tomato juice (or water), salt and crushed red pepper (or jalapeno) and cook, stirring often, until bubbling.
4. Reduce heat to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until the mixture is thick and the vegetables are very tender, 35 to 45 minutes.
5. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

My manager had a great idea about serving this over mac and cheese! I think that is something worth trying sometime soon. If you try it, let me know.

Monday, July 26, 2010

Storm Clean Up

So, my garden is looking like a huge mess... as is the rest of my yard and neighborhood. I spent over an hour cleaning out the garden and cutting back some of the trees over it. I'm afraid, however, that if and when my landlord gets someone to come take out the trees and the shed that they are going to totally decimate what remains of my garden.

On the up side, the silver lining is that now with basically three trees cleared from my backyard (or at least grounded, not quite cleared yet), my garden and future gardens can be bigger and get WAY more sun.

Trying to look on the bright side.


Sunday, July 25, 2010

Major Summer Storm

We had a monster storm and a couple trees fell down in the backyard. Very scary. No more shed. Half my fence for my garden is gone. I'm very worried about my squash, peas, and green beans. But, for now, I'm just worried about getting some electricity back so that I can get some fans and AC going in the 90 degree weather. Take a look at the damage.

Another interesting thing making my yard look like a crazy mess is that my landlord is working on building a wall. The guys were mid-building the wall when the storm came through... so it was left "as-is" and now looks a bit like a war zone.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Summer Savory Veggie Crepe

I apologize that there haven't been any pictures posted to the blog recently. My phone is acting up and I still have yet to get a working camera. Hopefully soon I will be able to remedy the situation and get some nice pictures up here (even better than those that I've posted before just using my phone's camera). But, I don't want the lack of pictures to stop me from sharing the great recipe I tried out yesterday. It was very unique for me, as crepes have always been a Lilly family breakfast tradition. However, I was in the mood for something new and happened upon this recipe while googling summer menus.

Try it out for yourself. It is easiest if you prep and freeze crepes in advance (then this is a VERY quick meal) but it is also possible to prepare crepes and the filling after work in time for dinner.

Summer Vegetable Crêpes (adapted from Eating Well)

What You Need
- 1/3 cup reduced-fat sour cream
- 1/2 cup chopped fresh chives, divided, plus more for garnish
- 3 tablespoons low-fat milk
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
- 3/4 teaspoon salt, divided
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 2 cups chopped zucchini
- 1 1/4 cups chopped broccoli
- 1 cup fresh corn kernels, (from 1 large ear)
- 1 cup ricotta cheese
- 1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
- 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
- 4 9-inch “ready-to-use” crêpes (I made my own from The Joy of Cooking, see below)

What You Do:
1. Stir sour cream, 1/4 cup chives, milk, lemon juice and 1/4 teaspoon salt in a small bowl until combined. Set aside.
2. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add zucchini, green beans and corn and cook, stirring, until beginning to brown, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Reduce heat to low; stir in ricotta, Monterey Jack, the remaining 1/4 cup chives, the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and pepper.
4. Cook, stirring gently, until the cheese is melted, 1 to 2 minutes.
5. Remove from the heat.
6. To roll crêpes, place one on a piece of parchment or wax paper (or leave it on the piece of plastic separating the crêpes in the package). Spoon one-fourth of the vegetable-cheese mixture (about 3/4 cup) down the center of the crêpe. Use the paper (or plastic) to help you gently roll the crêpe around the filling. Place the crêpe seam-side down on a dinner plate. Repeat with the remaining crêpes and filling. Serve each crêpe topped with 2 tablespoons of the reserved sauce and more chives, if desired.

NOTE: Prepare the batter for the crepes below before starting with the filling, then cook the filling and finally cook up the crepes.

Savory Crepe (from the Joy of Cooking)

What You Need:
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 1 cup milk
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water
- 4 large eggs
- 1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, melted
- 1/2 teaspoon salt

What You Do:
1. Combine all ingredients in a bowl and mix until smooth.
2. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand for 30 minutes, or refrigerate for up to 2 days.
3. Place a nonstick or seasoned crepe pan over medium heat.
4. Coat the pan with a little unsalted butter.
5. Stir the batter and pour about 2 tablespoons into the pan (you can use a ladle, a measuring cup, or anything else). I also used way more than 2 tablespoons per crepe. While you pour, lift the pan off the heat and tilt and rotate it so that the batter forms an even, very thin layer.
6. Cook until the top is set and the underside is golden.
7. Turn the crepe over, using a spatula or your fingers (fingers work best here, but careful--it's hot) and cook until the second side is lightly browned.
8. Remove the crepe to a plate.
9. Repeat the process with the remainder of the batter.

Use immediately or let cool, wrap airtight and freeze for up to 1 month.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Mushroom Risotto Cakes

So, after you enjoy the mushroom risotto I posted in my last post, you may be bored with eating it a couple days in a row (well, not really but we can pretend). I have a different issue. I moved into a new house and no longer have a microwave, so reheating the risotto became an issue. Instead, I found a recipe for risotto cakes in my Gourmet Today Cookbook . It was delicious and I will definitely be using this recipe again for left over risotto.

Mushroom Risotto Cakes (adapted from Gourmet Today)

What You Need:

- 3 cups chilled mushroom risotto
- 1 cup all-purpose flour
- 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
- 2 cups coarse fresh bread crumbs (the recipe calls to do this from about 4 slices firm white sandwich bread, but I just used breadcrumbs from a box)
- 6 tablespoons olive oil

What You Do:

1. Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Form chilled risotto into 8 (3/4-inch-thick) patties using wet hands.
3. Put flour, eggs, and bread crumbs in 3 separate shallow bowls.
4. Coat 1 cake with flour, tapping off excess, then egg (letting excess drip off), and then bread crumbs. Transfer to wax paper.
5. Repeat with remaining cakes.
6. Heat 3 tablespoons oil in a 12-inch heavy nonstick skillet over moderately high heat until hot but not smoking, then sauté 4 cakes, turning over once, until browned, 5 to 6 minutes total.
7. Transfer with a slotted spatula to a paper-towel-lined baking pan and keep warm in oven.
8. Heat remaining 3 tablespoons oil and sauté remaining 4 cakes in same manner.

ENJOY and share with loved ones and friends, they won't know that they are eating leftovers!

Mushroom Risotto

This is one of my favorite recipes and there is an exciting twist on what to do with the leftovers:

Mushroom Risotto (adapted from Bittman's How to Cook Everything)

What You Need:

- 3-5 cups chicken or vegetable stock, or water
- 2 T butter
- 1 medium onion, minced
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 2-3 cups fresh mushrooms (any variety), chopped
- 1 ½ cups Arborio rice
- Salt & pepper to taste
- ½ cup dry white wine
- Some freshly grated parmesan cheese

What You Do:

1. Place the butter in a large saucepan and turn the heat to medium.
2. When it’s hot, add the onion and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, for 1 minute.
3. Add the fresh mushrooms and cook, stirring frequently, for another 5-7 minutes.
4. Continue to cook, stirring occasionally, for about 3 minutes; do not let the mushrooms brown.
5. Add the rice and stir until it is coated with butter.
6. Add a little salt & pepper, then the wine.
7. Stir and let the liquid bubble away.
8. Begin to add the stock, ½ cup at a time, stirring after each addition and every minute or so.
9. When the stock is just about evaporated, add more. The mixture should be neither soupy nor dry. Keep the heat medium to medium-high, and stir frequently (constant stirring is not necessary-- even though I tend to do this).
10. Begin tasting the rice 20 minutes after you add it to the pan; you want it to be tender but with still a tiny bit of crunch. NOTE: It could take as long as 30 minutes to reach this stage (mine usually does).
11. When it's done, add the parmesan and remove from the heat. Check the seasoning, adjust if necessary, and serve immediately.

See next post for what to do with leftovers....

Tomato Blossom Drop

My garden looks wonderful and everything is still growing (broccoli and carrots being the exception- but I knew they were an experiment). I am having some success with my herbs and my tomato plants are getting bigger and bigger each week. But, unfortunately, my tomato plants have not turned out any tomatoes. Instead, they get little flowers that just fall off.

It is very sad.

I googled the issue and learned about Blossom Drop. According to About.com:

Blossom drop is a common tomato growing problem that can be extremely frustrating to the home gardener. Otherwise healthy looking tomato plants set flower blossoms, only to have them dry up and fall off the plant before a fruit is formed.
Frustrating is right! It looks so promising but then the little blossoms just fall right off. I saw on the GardenWeb that this troublesome issue can be caused by weather.... HOT weather. We certainly have had a lot of hot weather and there seems to be no end in sight. I will just keep looking longingly and lovingly at my tomato blossoms and hope at least one stays on long enough to make me a tomato.

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Red Wiggler Community Farm

After much debate about what to do during my week vacation, I decided to spend time here in MD, cookout with friends, and volunteer at a community farm in Montgomery County named Red Wiggler. It takes a bit under an hour to drive out there during the morning traffic on 495. I've been spending the mornings from 8:30-1 pm out there helping out, learning, and enjoying the 100 degree weather.

I feel so lucky to have found this wonderful place. There mission (as you can see on their website) is to "create fertile ground to nourish a healthy and inclusive community". They do this in the four following ways:

1. Meaningful employment for adults with developmental disabilities
2. Educational opportunities through "service learning" for area youth
3. Environmental stewardship
4. Community Supported Agriculture (CSA)

The mission is impressive, but there are really no words that can capture the amazing feeling of community and sense of mission felt on the farm. Here is what I have been doing:

Tuesday: Harvested garlic and sorted garlic. Turns out they had some trouble with garlic due to the crazy snow and weather this year. Some of the garlic went bad, so we had to sort through to get the good garlic out to the food banks and CSA.

Wednesday: Harvested chard, cukes, squash, and beets. Helped organize food for the CSA.

Thursday: Harvested the last row of garlic. Weeded the baby tomatoes. Removed peppers that had gone bad (but not too bad! see below). More garlic sorting and cleaning.

Friday: TBD, but it will involve more harvesting!

I was able to take home some of the seconds of the peppers that we sorted through and pulled off the plants. I was surprised, even though the peppers have black spots on some parts, you can cut off the bad parts and slice up the good ones. Apparently, these can be frozen and used later in the season. I'm trying it out!

Also, I was able to take home some other goodies from the farm including plenty of garlic. :) I am so excited to cook up the veggies and enjoy them this weekend. I cooked the chard with some onions and garlic (with a little bit of butter) and had it for dinner. YUM!

Despite the hot weather, this has been a fantastic experience for me and I plan to continue to volunteer throughout the summer and stay involved with Red Wiggler. In just a couple days, I've learned so much!

Monday, July 5, 2010

In case you didn't notice...

It's hot. Here's hoping the gardens make it through the multiple, consecutive days of over 100 degree weather we have coming up this week... especially since there are restrictions on outdoor water use.