Tuesday, July 26, 2011

OH, MY STARS!


I remember the gooey, slimy goodness these peculiar pods released when my mom added them to her homemade chicken soup (I'll share the recipe come Fall). Everybody's mom makes the best chicken soup ever, but my mom's was really over the top! "Quimbobo", she called them... aka, okra. Just the sight of them brings back memories, and I can almost see her stirring up a batch.


Sadly, with their lack of availability and high price tag, okra pods vanished from my life for some time making my variation of her soup incomplete. 

As I saw it, the only solution was to grow my own okra. A fairly no-fuss plant, it is as pretty as it is unusual, wearing its hibiscus-shaped flowers like accessories and its odd pods like ornaments. My mom would have loved the flowers, and at every chance, I rush to the garden where the okra grows to enjoy the sweet memory of her stirring the soup and feel the warm comfort of her spirit.





















Too hot to make soup and too anxious to taste my hand-grown pods, I decided to create my own recipe. Thus, the first few pods of the season were the "stars" of last night's Christmas in July dinner... literally!
   
RECIPE 5:

STARS OF WONDER
Ingredients:
The Holidays
Fond Memories
Millionaire & Red Burgundy Okra Pods
Golden Zucchini
Tigerella Tomatoes
Garlic Clove
Small To Medium Onion

Salt, Pepper & Olive Oil

Directions:
If this recipe was any easier, it would make itself. First, go to the garden and gather your gifts. Slice the pods... they're naturally star-shaped. Dice the golden zucchini and onions. Quarter the Tigerellas, crush the clove and set everything aside. Season with a dash of pepper and a sprinkle of salt, but no more. Let the flavors of fresh-from-the-garden veggies speak for themselves. Heat a drizzle of olive oil and sauté the garlic first, then the onions until transparent. Toss in the zucchini, Tigerellas and add the "stars". Cook until softened. Serve on a bed of pasta or as a side dish to your main course.

Monday, July 25, 2011

SANTA, YOU'RE THE BEST...

These are just some of the gifts we opened... a blushing red Brandywine tomato, golden and classic zucchini, Tigerella tomatoes, white and green string beans (from a friend and coming to Cardinal Gardens, next Christmas in July), Red Burgundy and Millionaire Okra, jalapeños, baby eggplants... Calliope and white.
 
RECIPE 4:

CHRISTMAS BELLS 
Peppers never cease to amaze me.
 And now that I know that these 
chameleons of the vegetable world 
go from green to blackish to red, they can be served in any hue we want.
 One more thing... 
the redder the Bell, the sweeter.For the merriest of servings and a Cuban twist, 
stuff one with Picadillo, another 
with Arroz con Pollo or Ropa Vieja, 
another with whatever, etc... really, anything goes!

Ingredients:
Just like in the Stars of Wonder recipe:

Christmas In July

Special Memories
Also:
Green Bells

Red Bells
For My Fellow Cubanos & Cuban Food Lovers:
Picadillo, Arroz Con Pollo or Ropa Vieja

For Everyone Else:
Your Choice Of Stuffing

Directions:

Really, you can stuff a pepper with 
anything you want, but to keep it Cuban, 
substitute Picadillo with classics like 
Arroz con Pollo or even Ropa Vieja.
 Make your choice of stuffing 
and let simmer. Cut the excess stem off 
of the top of the pepper. Turn the pepper 
upside down and cut the bottom off 
to make the stuffing hole. 
Place on an oven-safe sheet or pan. 
Roast the peppers in a pre-heated 400-425o oven 
for 30-40 minutes. While the peppers 
are roasting, hard boil the eggs 
and keep them warm. Remove the peppers 
from the oven and stuff. Crumble the eggs 
then sprinkle on top. Serve.

 

Sunday, July 24, 2011

YES, VIRGINIA, THERE IS A SANTA CLAUS...

and a Christmas in July, but instead of under the tree, you'll find your gifts under the canopy.
Merry Christmas, July 2011... Happy wishes, wholesome harvests, healthy eating!


Saturday, July 23, 2011

PODCAST...

Millionaire Okra Flower & Pods
















This pretty flower will turn into these, and when it does, I'll make some of this:

OKRA & TOMATOES
See recipe on Elise Bauer's blog, www.simplyrecipes.com.

Property of Elise Bauer, Simply Recipes


Friday, July 22, 2011

MIRROR IMAGES...

She looks nothing like me (whomever this caricature may be), but we were both so captivated by the butterfly's attraction to the butterfly bush, that for a surreal moment, I thought she was me.

AND THE TRUMPETS PLAY ON...


Another discovery this summer... Nasturtium! The little trumpet flower and its lily pad leaves adorn the garden with dashes of beauty and... aphid magnets that both are... diligently take care of the tomatoes. Some trail, carpeting the ground while others reach for the skies. Every variety will spice up salads and dishes with smooth texture, prettiness and a sweet, subtly hot pepper taste. 

RECIPE 3:

TRUMPETS A LA MANGO SALAD

Thank you, Nasturtiums! Your trumpets are instruments of unique beauty, and without a doubt, you are a dish! A snip, a bath, and in you go... adding a musical note to salads.

Ingredients:
Music, Imaginary Or Real

Nasturtium Trumpets & Leaves
Spinach, A Bunch
Garden Tomatoes, Red For Color
Champagne Mangos
Boiled or Roasted Chicken Breast
1/2 Garden Jalapeño Or Serrano
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Directions:
Let the trumpets inspire the music you hear... whether it's in your head or through your headphones. Rinse the spinach leaves and pat dry with a paper towel. Pinch off the pistils from the trumpets and the stems from the leaves. Wash and pat dry. Slice the tomatoes (I used Camparis, but any red garden tomato will give it the color and taste you want... Granaderos, coming soon). Pull the meat off the chicken breast and dice the Jalapeño or pepper of your choice. Stand the mango vertically and slice each side parallel to the pit. Scoop or, with a knife separate the fruit from the peel and cube. If you're alone and no one is watching... eat the excess fruit right off the peel and pit. Toss all the ingredients into a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Drench with olive oil. Serve.

CARDINAL RULE!
DO NOT... I REPEAT... DO NOT THROW AWAY YOUR VEGGIE SCRAPS. INSTEAD, FEED YOUR COMPOST BIN. IT'S HUNGRY FOR THE NUTRIENTS THAT WILL ULTIMATELY NOURISH YOUR GARDEN (AND YOU).




 

Thursday, July 21, 2011

THE MAN ON THE MOON...

July's first quarter moon alerts me to his arrival, and the signs are everywhere. The mid-month full moon warns of his rapid growth. The dreaded tomato hornworm, a master of camouflage.

This otherwise cute caterpillar is hellbent on defoliating and destroying my plants. Disguised in green, he blends in with the leaves and is visible only when he moves and to a trained eye. In a few weeks time he grows from a tiny inch to ginormous 4 inches and more. In numbers, the damage is devastating and the only defense against the offense? My garden whites to help me keep my cool as I enter the tomato gauntlet... my fingers to
pick off as many as I can possibly see... a wish that his worst enemy, the braconid wasp, is active... and cheesecloth as bug netting for me and a protective wrap for the young tomatoes. On one hand, the only way to save the plants is to remove the offender. On the other, this caterpillar morphs into one of the greatest pollinators on earth... the elusive, impressive hawk moth.
 


Tuesday, July 19, 2011

MIDNIGHT IN THE GARDEN OF SURPRISE & DELIGHT...

On a restless night, on a cyber stroll... I wandered into the Springmaid Garden of Surprise & Delight, and like magic, I found what I've been looking for... how to turn my blah space into an Ahhh! space. Just goes to show how flowers and gardens influence our lives. If anyone is looking to brighten up rooms with a garden-fresh theme, these flower beds are for you. www.springmaidgarden.com.

Hmmm! I think I'll have a Lemonade Tea Party!
Lemonade Tea Party
Love Me, Leave Me

Indigo Bouquet



Rose's Garden

Saturday, July 16, 2011

WOULD YOU MARRY ME AGAIN...

 
Without you, would there have been a ground to till or a seed to sow... would I have seen sunflowers dance in the breeze or unlocked the secrets of an heirloom tomato... would the miracle of a green pepper turning red have enriched me or would a striped eggplant have amused me... would I have witnessed a sunrise light the mountains on fire or a sunset give way to a million-watt moon... without you, would thirst have taken the garden or would have the fullest moon been celebrated... would I have even set eyes on the dark horse running across its burning brilliance... My chosen one, you are a code undecodable... unbearable at times... impossible at best... yes, I would marry you again and again and again and again, but with a few adjustments and separate vacations every now and then.








Thursday, July 14, 2011

SIGNS OF THINGS TO COME...

Brought north from a more southern field, these beauties give a sneak peak at what's growing on in Cardinal Gardens... Aunt Rubies, Mortgage Lifters, and Brandywines (just to name a few).

BLOSSOMS OF GOLD...

Summer 2011, in some ways, feels like a continuation of Summer 2010... new foods, new inspirations, new traditions. Our first harvest... golden zucchini blossoms... were the centerpiece of this past Friday's feast reminding me, once again, of a wisdom my Mom passed on to me, one passed on to her by my Grandfather: Whoever has gold, has food on the table. 

RECIPE 2:

FLORBELLA
 
Almost too forbidden to pick, the blossom's beauty on the plant is short-lived. Opening day and closing night happens in what seems like a blink, so channel your inner Eve and pluck away. Their rushed and momentary beauty, however, can be frozen in time for a day or two at the most. Both male and female flowers are edible, but even the weakest Eves should resist the temptation to remove them all from the plants. No worries if you missed your opportunity one morning; the zucchini plant is so giving, that there's always the next when the new day brings new flowers (see THE LESSON re: perfect timing). Here's just one of the many recipes readily available on the internet (and I intend to try them all). This variation takes on a twist with last year's discovery and this year's new staple... my beloved Jalapeños.

Ingredients:
Failure To Resist Temptation

5 Zucchini Blossoms
1 Jalapeño Pepper (julienned & optional)
1 Egg
3 Tbs Flour
Milk
Salt
Pepper
Olive Oil

Directions:
Inspect the flowers on the plant. The ones that are open are the ones that you want. Wear gloves! The plants will pinch you if you don't. Find your flower anatomy book... the male has the stamen (single), the female, the pistil (multiple). Pick a female only if it has a baby zuke growing where the flower meets the fruit. "Prune" the male leaving a little bit of the stem. Store in the fridge to keep them fresh (but no more than a day or two). 
Beat the egg and add the milk (for 5 blossoms, about 3/4th of a cup). Stir in 3 heaping tablespoons of flour and the juliennes. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Dip the blossoms into the batter and drench till they drip. Set aside on wax paper and heat the olive oil. Place the blossoms on the oiled pan and remove when golden brown. Serve (in this case) with a side of sautéd zucchini and indulge!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

FOR A SONG...

A gem by Neil Diamond is strummed and sung by a local musician at the Farmers Market. With no more than 10 tables set on the town's mini municipal lot, it's fast-food shopping gone fresh and healthy. Great produce and great gab, guaranteed. This one Saturday, the last notes of a favorite song are captured at the Corn Fest, a celebration that welcomes the arrival of the upstate corn season, and for some reason, moves me.
video

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

GREEN IS THE NEW BLACK...

Deb McLean from Busy Being Fabulous posted this "Image of the Day" on her blog. Not sure if it's art or attire, but it is fabulous. And proof that a garden is for sowing the seeds of wonder. I tip my hat to its creator!

Deb McLean's Blog:
www.busybeingfabulous.com

THE LIGHT...

Beckoning as it is, you shouldn't always go into it. Just enjoy it from this side.


SURFACE BEAUTY...

Texture isn't always about what you feel when you touch something. It's sometimes about what you feel when something touches you. Some things, however, are better left untouched.








Sunday, July 3, 2011

THE LESSON...

Nature leads the way in a garden, and one would be well advised to follow. With that in mind, here’s a theory: perfecting timing and alignment are predictable and both can be used to one’s advantage by either seizing a moment or waiting for the next opportunity.

As an example:
Imagine... horses out in the distant pasture... grazing in the cool earliest hours before the heat of the day and what it brings consumes them... the sun on the ascend turning the trees and mountains into silhouettes... rising higher and higher due south blasting its blazing rays on southern-exposed gardens... heading upward, horses heading inward... closing in on the run-in shed... rising even higher, getting even hotter... driving the horses to shelter. Inside. Out of the heat. The horses aligned with the sun. The missed moment. Too late... too hot. Wait for the afternoon's shade to water... to transplant... to spritz any homemade formulas.

Nature. Respect and embrace it. Observe and absorb. Understand your role in it and work in rhythm with it. There is no better fertilizer.
Zucchini
Nasturtium
Tigerella
Lime Salad Green
























Cherokee Purple
Red Burgundy Okra
Basil