Thursday, July 19, 2012

week 9

corn and squash sisters

Lettuce Onions Garlic
Carrots Summer Squash Tomatoes
Green and Wax Beans Cucumber Eggplant
Parsley Sorrel Dill Basil
You cannot lose your land and remain free; if you keep your land, you cannot be enslaved.”
~Wendell Berry's “A Few Words in Favor of Edward Abbey”

And after the rain, came the MONSOON! Low growing herbs are muddy – our apologies. It was a great rain, and we thoroughly enjoyed it. The garden didn't puddle at all, but the playground and drive way did, and Lulah took her bicycle “mudding” through every bit of standing water she could find, sporting spattered soil with absolute glee. Now as we watch the corn tassle, and the vegetables and weeds sprout and grow, we are coming to accept that there are certain portions of the garden that will need a weed-eater, not a hoe, to tame.

Last week's light thinning of the eggplant, plus rain, paid dividends in their size and quality this week. Enjoy. The tomatoes even held up well. We were anticipating a field full of exploding red water balloons, and have been pleasantly surprised to find well mannered and beautiful ripe tomatoes instead. (“It’s difficult to think anything but pleasant thoughts while eating a homegrown tomato.” ~Lewis Grizzard ) Cantaloupes are coming along beautifully too – not quite ready, but it won't be long now. We're still hotter than seems reasonable during our time spent up on the hill garden. I don't understand exactly how it works, but 95 degrees with 75% humidity feels about the same at 110 degrees at 15% humidity. The main difference is that the plants are no long suffering in the soil, and THAT makes a big difference in farmer morale.

Did anyone try the drop biscuit recipe last week? We did and it was GOOD. We grew a lot of onions this year. The wet weather is proving a challenge to our ability to harvest, cure and store them all, so we're going to hand them out heavily for awhile here.

We love interesting cucumbers. This year we trialed a new one, Shintokiwa, which sounded so promising. It's a lovely cuke, but doesn't hold a candle to our favorite Suhyo long, which will hopefully be along after awhile. The white orb-shaped ones are called Dragon's Egg. They are an heirloom. We've saved the seed for a couple years now and enjoy their crisp white flesh and tender skin. Marketmores are the market standard cucumber – but we think of phasing them out of our production plan, given that there are so many better tasting cukes available.

The rain seems to have knocked back the Japanese beetle population, which means that our basil is finally over its bad hair phase – the leaves are looking lush and not so raggedy now. If it's difficult to think anything unpleasant while eating tomatoes, it's nearly impossible to think anything but good while PICKING basil – oh divine scent!

Food blogs are one of my favorite uses of the internet. I've leaned on them for this week's recipe selection. It's amazing what's out there. Enjoy...

Fresh and Savory Tomato Pie
9 inch pastry crust                                                   teaspoon kosher or sea salt
teaspoon freshly ground black pepper               2 cloves garlic, minced or pressed
2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil leaves
4 ripe tomatoes, cut in half and sliced                2 cups yellow tomatoes, cut and sliced
2 Tbsp Balsamic Vinegar                                     1 cup fine bread crumbs
1 cup coarsely grated fresh mozzarella or white cheddar
1 cup coarsely grated Parmesan

1) Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place all of the tomatoes in a medium sized bowl.
2) Add the salt, pepper, garlic, balsamic and basil. Lightly toss and let sit for 10 minutes.
3) Line 9 inch pie pan with pie crust.
4) Prick the crust all over with a fork and bake until lightly browned (8-10 minutes; check frequently after 8 minutes so it does not brown too much). Remove the crust from the oven.
5) Mix the bread crumbs with the cheeses. Layer half of the combination on top of the pre-cooked crust. Gently layer the tomato mixture into the pastry shell. Finish with the remainder of the bread crumbs and cheeses.
6) Bake until warmed through, about 20 to 30 minutes.
Let cool slightly; serve warm.

And: Easy Stir Fried Eggplant Recipe
1/2 cooking onion                                         6 cloves garlic, minced
1-3 red chillies (including seeds), depending on how spicy you like it
1 Chinese (large, with dark purple skin) eggplant, or 2 Japanese(thinner, with light purple skin)
1/4 cup water for stir-frying                      2-3 Tbsp. oil for stir-frying
roughly 1/2 cup (or more) fresh basil      2 Tbsp. soy sauce
1 Tbsp. fish sauce OR 1+1/2 Tbsp. soy sauce (these are salty sauces – use less and adjust to taste)
2 Tbsp. oyster sauce OR vegetarian oyster sauce                           1 tsp. brown sugar
1 tsp. cornstarch mixed with 2 Tbsp. water (mix until cornstarch is dissolved) (or arrowroot)

1 - First, prepare sauce by mixing together all sauce ingredients except cornstarch. Prepare the cornstarch and water mixture in a separate cup or bowl. Set both aside.
2 - Chop the eggplant up into bite-size pieces (leave the peel on if using long skinny eggplant)
3 - Place 2-3 Tbsp. oil to a wok or large frying pan over medium-high heat. Add the onion, half of the garlic, chilli, and eggplant.
4 - Stir-fry for 5 minutes. When the wok or frying pan becomes dry, add a little of the water (a few Tbsp. at a time) - enough to keep the ingredients frying nicely.
5 - Add 2 Tbsp. soy sauce and continue cooking for 5 more minutes, or until the eggplant is soft and the white flesh is almost translucent. Add a little more water when the pan becomes too dry (up to 1/4 cup).
6 - When the eggplant is soft, add the rest of the garlic plus the sauce. Stir fry to incorporate.
7 - Lastly, add the cornstarch/water mixture. Stir well so that the sauce thickens uniformly (this will only take a minute or less). Remove from heat.
Taste test the eggplant for salt. If not salty enough, add a little more fish sauce. If too salty, add 1 Tbsp. lime juice (or substitute 1 Tbsp. lemon juice). Now add 3/4 of the fresh basil, stirring briefly to incorporate. Slide onto a serving platter and sprinkle the rest of the basil over top. Serve with jasmine rice. Enjoy!

Yours truly, The Entwistles

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