Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Good Advice from Down Under

When I kvetched about my snail problems in a previous post, I got some great advice regarding organic solutions to my dilemma in the zingers that farflung bloggers left for me.

Diatomaceous earth, sawdust and beer were all suggested but the idea that seemed to me the most doable came from the Land Down Under.

Dancingmorganmouse from Oz (Aus) suggested that I try coffee grounds so on one of my morning walks, I stopped in at Starbucks to inquire about their used grounds. Turns out they give them away, neatly packaged in recycled coffee bags, free to people like me! I piled some around each plant on top of the bat poop. Miraculous to imagine that my little plants will take those lowly ingredients to make lovely veggies for us and that, via the almost equally amazing internet, I can get gardening solutions from halfway around the world. Shazam!

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Monday, May 26, 2008

OMG Wine

I'm not a wine connoisseur by any means, but I can tell a really, really good wine when I taste it. This is the best zin it has ever been my pleasure to tickle my taste buds with. Nearly a religious experience. Get some. Drink it. Send me a thank you note.

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Sunday, May 25, 2008

Visit This Place!

Is this lovely, or what?

While our friends Annette and Dave were visiting from Florida, we treated them and ourselves to a trip up to the Ferrari-Carano winery outside Healdsburg for a tasting. This has to be the prettiest winery in the Alexander Valley with beautifully tended gardens as well as gorgeous wines. Dave loves good wine and having worked in the restaurant trade for many years, he's very knowledgeable - he was in pig heaven!

Well worth the trip.

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Saturday, May 24, 2008

Veggie Stew

We have some old friends staying with us - that I had never met! These are friends of My Beloved's from his Air Force days, back when Vietnam was the conflict we Americans were botching rather than the current one in Iraq. Annette and Dave are in town for the wedding of their daughter so I got to meet them at last and after just a few days I already count them among my good friends.

This is what I made to share with them from the perfect pepper and a bunch of other fresh veggies like pattypan squash thinly sliced, zucchini chunked, a big onion cut in spears, minced garlic, some white wine, tomato paste, Italian-type herbs and olive oil. All I did was soften the onions and garlic in the olive oil, add the rest and simmer for about half an hour or so.

It made the base on which we laid some fresh halibut fillets to steam with the lid on, skin side up so we could easily peel off the skin once it loosened, then flipped the fillets over in the sauce to coat them and served them simply resting on a bed of the soft, sweet veggies.

The oohs and aaahs from our Florida friends rewarded the not-very-hard work and the Ferrari-Carano 2005 Mill Station chardonnay gave up its oaky essence to enhance the fish and the friendship.

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Friday, May 23, 2008

Perfect Pepper

I've never seen such a perfect pepper. There wasn't a blemish on it anywhere. I thought you'd like to marvel along with me at this beautiful thing.


Thursday, May 22, 2008

Good Cookies

You're gonna love these chocolate chip cookies! I adapted the recipe from Sunset Magazine many moons ago. They are big and rich with butter, bumpy with nuts and oatmeal, lightly enhanced with cinnamon and oh, so good!

I only made them every now and then as the recipe, even halved, makes a huge number that we two couldn't finish by ourselves. Sometimes, I took the rest into work but now that I'm retired I no longer have hungry colleagues.

Lately I read a kitchen tip in this book that suggested that one can freeze the extra cookie dough in little cookie-sized blobs on a flat pan lined with parchment and then transfer the frozen future cookies to an airtight container to keep until it's time to bake them up. Then, you just thaw as many as you want on a baking sheet and slide them in the oven! Is that a brilliant idea, or what? Fresh cookies in a flash! I know frozen dough has been available in stores for many years but I didn't particularly like the recipe they were made from. This one, however, is my gold standard. Hope you enjoy them, too!

Chocolate Chip Cookies at their Best, from Sunset Magazine

1-1/2 cups butter (the original recipe calls for one cup solid shortening and 1/2 cup butter)
1-1/3 cups granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
4 eggs
1 Tablespoon vanilla
1 teaspoon lemon juice
2 teaspoons soda
1-1/2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 cup rolled oats
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 large packages (12 oz. each) semi sweet chocolate baking pieces
2 cups chopped walnuts

In a large mixer bowl, beat together on high speed the butter, granulated and brown sugars until thoroughly combined, about 5 minutes. Then beat in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the vanilla and lemon juice.

In a bowl, stir together the soda, salt, cinnamon, oats and flour. Beat dry ingredients into the creamed mixture until well combined; mix in chocolate pieces and nuts.

For each cookie, drop a scant 1/4 cup of dough (I use a small ice cream scoop) on lightly greased baking sheets; make cookies about 3" apart. Bake in a 350 degree oven for 16-18 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer to wire racks to cool. Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Solar Power

Why is it that as fuel prices rise and rise, it never occurs to the power companies simply to give up on fossil fuels and start working harder to harvest the abundant solar energy that beams down upon us from a loving sky every blessed day?

They give us all kinds of "reasons" why but I'm not buying their logic - if we put men on the moon many moons ago, we can certainly design solar collectors that make the whole enterprise cost effective.

Sheesh, I can make a great pitcher of tea in less than three hours using nothing but water, tea bags and the sun's energy - it's there for the taking, people! Not one scintilla of fossil energy was used to convert my dried leaves into thirst-quenching, non-carbonated, anti-oxidant heaven. If I can perform this miracle any sunny day, why can't Exxon-Mobil or Chevron see the light, literally and figuratively?

P.S. I wrote this just to use the word "scintilla." Is that a wonderful word, or what?


Sunday, May 18, 2008

Slug Fest

Look at my poor mangled bean leaves! What were pretty, healthy, heart-shaped leaves are now half-chewed and distorted.

Almost every day, I throw another snail or two out of the garden but still I come out each morning to find that the slugs had the gastropod version of a Roman orgy while I was sleeping, oozing in to rasp away at my bean leaves and to engage in hermaphroditic sex.

So, today, I declared war.

I went back to Annie's Annuals, this time on a day when they were open, and asked for advice about slug bait. It's called Sluggo - the name cracks me up. Anyone out there remember Nancy and Sluggo from the funnies?

Luckily, there's an organic version of Sluggo so I bought a box and scattered some around my sad little seedlings. Tonight, the snails get their comeuppance! I'll lie in bed chuckling darkly and listening for their frustrated cries as they encounter my pelleted, blue-green vengeance.

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Saturday, May 17, 2008

Glass Half Full

This morning's Chronicle brought the news of the death of wine maker and mogul Robert Mondavi and a vivid memory of my mother.

My mother was the kind of hostess who really excelled when she had company to impress - my Dad in a speech once told his audience that his men earned him his second Admiral's star, luck earned him the third but his wife earned him the first one.

She didn't like to have people in the kitchen when she was cooking, however, preferring to present her masterpieces once they had achieved perfection. In addition, her starchy New England upbringing decreed that a guest must never inquire as to "What's for dinner?" So, when her dinner guest poked his head into the kitchen and, worse, over her shoulder to ask the forbidden question, she glowered at him and said something along the lines of "What's it to ya?"

"Take it easy, Floss," he replied, "I just want to know which wine to choose."

The guest was Bob Mondavi, out in Hawaii on one of his early sales trips in the 1970s, trying to drum up interest in his wines. Once he discerned the menu, he went out to the trunk of his rented car and selected a wine to enhance the dinner.

I have no idea how they met and became friends but each time he would come to the Islands he would have dinner on Kolohala Street and he always brought the wine, which we referred to as "Bob's Plonk" in those days. He always left a couple of extra bottles with us, too, as his way of saying thank you for a home-cooked meal when he was on the road. He was successful in introducing fine wines to our family - before Bob, our standard was Mateus rose' - and then went on to play a major role in doing the same for a huge number of Americans.

So, today I raise a glass to toast to Mom and to Robert Mondavi - he's probably up there in heaven with his head poked over her shoulder asking the forbidden question and she's still shooing him out of her kitchen.

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Truth in Advertising

Lucky us, we live in a little town that has two small "Mom and Pop" groceries, both reasonably good. This week, when I stopped in at the Santa Fe Market, they had two different kinds of bacon to add to the Molinari pancetta I already had at home so I bought a few rashers of each to have a taste-off.

The slightly triangular one on the left is the Santa Fe Market's cinnamon apple bacon, an intriguing idea, no? In the middle is the Molinari pancetta, unrolled from its former configuration. On the right is the Santa Fe Market's standard applewood smoked bacon.

Nice, crisp cinnamon apple bacon was tasty and smoky but with no hint of, well, apples or cinnamon. Hmmmm. The pancetta was earthy and meaty-tasting, lots of sultry flavor packed into a small slice and rather peppery - the bacon equivalent of Sophia Loren in a 1950s movie. The applewood smoked bacon was blandly bacon-y with not a whiff of smoky flavor. Flat.

All in all, I'd say Nueske's Applewood Smoked bacon still holds our hearts, not only because it is meaty, smoky and rich but also because tastes like what it professes to be - smoked! Unfortunately, it's made in Wisconsin rather than locally and neither of our little Mom and Pop's sells the Zoomie Station gold standard bacon.

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Friday, May 16, 2008

French Tea, English Idea

When Cousin J-Yah and I were window shopping a few months ago, we noticed a pretty but pricey tiered plate and remarked about how nice it would be to use it for a tea party like we did when we were children.

Then, not long after, I happened upon Tal-Y-Tara, a delightful little San Francisco shop that offers an unusual combination - horse tack and afternoon teas. Their tea included several different kinds of sandwiches on brown bread, quite delicious and served in a charming hodgepodge of jodhpurs, saddles, comfy chintz sofas and flowered teapots. I liked their selection of a variety of little bites so when J-Yah scored this colorful tiered plate at a yard sale for a tiny fraction of the cost of the one in the window, I stole their idea for our first tea party.

Using a combination of my homemade white and whole wheat breads and B&M Boston Brown Bread, all very thinly sliced, I stuffed them with fillings such as cucumbers and dill, cream cheese, chicken, cheddar and chutney, and ham and cheese with Dijon mustard. With a few ripe strawberries and some cookies to round out the meal, we brewed some of the The' de Paques and sat down to a tea party, happy as little girls.

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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Spring Soup

Yes, I've been at it again, making chicken stock for soup, even though the warm weather is here.

Cousin J-Yah was coming over to take her happy yellow lab for a walk in Point Isabel dog park, one of my favorite places to get some exercise and a dog fix. With acres and acres of unleashed canine heaven, I get to enjoy all kinds of dogs there from the tiniest of mincing Chihuahuas to the rangiest of Irish Wolfhounds. The dogs all seem to get along there and play nicely together like well-behaved but joyous kindergartners. There is a lot of good-natured butt-sniffing going on but rarely any show of aggression or competition. That's not always equally true of the owners.

Before braving the wilds of Point Isabel, however, I felt we needed sustenance so into my homemade chicken stock I popped some organic peas, carrots and spring onions just until the peas were wrinkly but still bright green. Even Mia got a small bowl, which she slurped down in avid fashion. Thus fortified, we took her off to the park on one of the loveliest spring days this year.

Later: Whew, can't believe this soup post fell on the hottest day of the year! Wish I had a salad post to substitute - just reading this makes me crabby today!


Wednesday, May 14, 2008

My Heroine

When I made my first white bread a few weeks ago, My Beloved remarked that when he was a boy Pepperidge Farm used to make his favorite whole wheat bread, too, so we got Mrs. Rudkin's book out again and scanned the pages for that recipe.

I received this cookbook as a first-wedding present, back when God was a child, and Margaret Rudkin has been one of my holy trinity of cooks ever since - Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Margaret Rudkin. The publication date is 1963. I've made many recipes from it, mostly traditional Irish recipes and of course the standard white bread, but had never attempted whole wheat bread before.

I have to admit, it wasn't an unqualified success, although the scent of this bread baking surpassed even the heavenly aroma of the white bread. It didn't rise as much as we'd have liked - I either need to give it more time or use more yeast - and the recipe said to bake it for 50 minutes, which is about 15 minutes too long; toasting, the crust burns before the middle is quite ready.

This is dense, serious bread, bread to sustain the family during hard times. It has the flavor My Beloved remembered but our taste is for lighter breads, even in a whole wheat loaf. So, next time I'll do some tweaking to the recipe with apologies to dear Mrs. Rudkin. She's still my heroine but she must have had a cooler oven and a warmer kitchen than I.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

She's a Dilly!

Our friend Sari is a dilly! That's an antiquated expression meaning that she's cool. Even though we are old enough to be her parents, she treats us like equals and even accompanied us to Paris with every indication that she actually enjoyed palling around with a couple of fogies.

She has all kinds of stellar qualities such as snapping intelligence,
humor, deep kindness and humanity - and she makes great scrambled eggs. On a recent Sunday, we invited her to brunch; we provided the bacon and toast but we asked her to cook the eggs.

She puts a dollop of milk or cream into the eggs, then beats them with a fork until they are homogeneous, adding just a touch of dill weed to the mixture. She has the patience to cook the eggs in a generously buttered pan on very, very low heat and keeps vigorously stirring them all the time they are cooking. The result is pillow-soft, dainty curds that melt richly on the tongue, leaving that hint of dill behind. Served with a piece of Acme Pain au Levain, they make a dilly brunch.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Swirling Incentive

Like many Americans, I am too sedentary for my own good. Mine was mainly an office job, I sat all the way to the city on the BART train and, although My Beloved and I have gone through periodic fits of getting up in the pre-dawn dark to punish ourselves before work by tramping up and down our hilly town streets, we quickly gave them up in favor of vigorous TV viewing.

One of my aims in retirement is to get daily exercise both to trim the caboose and to enjoy the fresh air and sunshine but it's a hard habit to start. Once I'm out there striding along, it feels good, and you'd think that alone was incentive enough but on some mornings, especially cold, foggy ones, the spirit is weak.

On those days, thankfully rare, I fall back on the incentive of morning buns. Morning buns, spirals of cinnamon in flaky pastry, are available at our local Starbucks, which is down a steep hill from our house. The coffee isn't great and the calories may negate most of the good the walking is doing, but the incentive of a latte and a morning bun is enough to get me out the door and tackling the hill to bring back a reward for having Just Done It.

There's a kind of rightness to the idea that the morning buns are helping to reduce my aging buns.

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Sunday, May 11, 2008

It Takes a Village to Raise a Garden

Since I began urban farming, I have become intimately acquainted with poops.

Cookiecrumb advised me that chicken poop would grow great veggies and Moonbear had some as a by-product of her egg-laying chickens, so I was in business, so to speak. However, I learned that the chicken poop I retrieved from Moonbear's idyllic back yard is too new, too "hot" to put straight onto the garden, being this year's "issue." So, I have started a compost pile with the contents of the big bag the hens contributed, some soil and vermiculite knocked out of pots of flowers I have saved, and the yard waste from my latest biomass reduction foray into the garden.

That's fun, but it didn't solve the need for some kind of fertilizer for the growing things so I took Dagny's advice to visit Annie's Annuals in search of plant food. They were closed on the Monday I chose to go so, undeterred, I went to my favorite haunt, Pastime Hardware in El Cerrito and, lo and behold, they had poop, but theirs was bat poop, nicely aged and attractively packaged with assurances as to its potency and organic nature.

It has taken, so far, four adult college graduates to get this tiny garden going and I'm pretty sure I'd save money by simply buying ripe tomatoes when they come in season but what a great bonding experience for four diverse bloggers and what an education I have received in the nutritive value of poops!

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Saturday, May 10, 2008

Vacation Memories

We discovered Mariage Freres tea in Paris because our rented apartment was just down the street from their flagship store and tearoom in the Marais. We were enchanted and one day had a lovely respite there from the rigors of sightseeing. The surroundings are very "old world" and our young waiter was dead serious about our selection from their 800+ kinds of teas - no kidding, the menu was a bound book! When My Beloved ordered orange tea, the waiter replied with a long face, "Ah, bon, monsieur but we 'ave a problem with ze orange tea. A very grave problem." We traded looks of dismay. "We have three kinds of orange tea - and you must choose." From his voice of doom, you'd have thought it was Sophie's choice. That weighty decision duly made, we enjoyed our tea very much and purchased this little canister of Easter tea (The' de Paques) as we left.

When I opened the canister, I realized just how serious they are about their teas' freshness - inside the lid, which fits very tightly indeed, there is another lid even more precisely sized with a little button handle to help you ease it out.

On our way home, we flew through Heathrow airport in London where My Beloved picked up this tin of cookies as a sort of consolation prize for having to leave Europe. Recently, it all came together to enliven my afternoon after a morning of re-caulking the shower stall. I lead a very glam life at home, as you can tell. I filled my mother's silver tea ball from the fragrant contents of the canister, nuked some water to a fierce boil in the microwave (what else are microwaves good for?) and brewed myself a lovely accompaniment to some of the Harrod's cookies.

They weren't the very best cookies I've ever eaten but the tea was excellent and they were a reminder of a lovely vacation and how lucky I am, caulking gun and all.

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Friday, May 9, 2008

Leafless Salad

I can really tell that spring has sprung now because I am enjoying salads again. I generally go into salad hibernation 'round about November and don't emerge until March or April. The leafy ones are still slightly suspect, to me, but this crunchy, munchy one was the order of the day, even though I had to chew only on the left side as I had a root canal yesterday on the right.

My Beloved was away on business so I was taking a cooking vacay. Broccoli and cauliflower chunks, whole cherry tomatoes, cubes of avocado, celery and a sprinkling of pickle relish all seemed appealing when I opened the fridge so I added them to a small can of tuna and dressed the whole thing with a little mayonnaise (no, not homemade - too fussy when it's just me) thinned with lemon juice and enlivened with a shaking of dill weed.

The exciting news of the day is that I'm pretty sure my lettuce has sprouted! The heads should be ready about the same time as my appetite for leafy salads kicks in!

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Thursday, May 8, 2008

Pork and Beans

If I ate leftovers like this every day, I might actually enjoy it when My Beloved is away on a business trip. A happy accident occurred when I decided to combine the last scoop of baked beans with the last few slices of a barbecued pork tenderloin that we enjoyed a few days before.

I don't think I have ever eaten Mrs. Ferguson's baked beans with anything besides hot dogs in all the years I've been eating them! Just goes to show you that you're never too old to learn. The smoky flavor of the pork that My Beloved had grilled outside on the slow side of the barbecue until it was only very slightly pink really, really enhanced the sweet-tart of the beans with onions and citrus peel - even without the salty layer that frankfurters add, this combination was much, much better. Pork and beans with a kick! Almost compensation for missing that man.

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Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Bachelorette Dinner

Whenever My Beloved is away on a business trip, I take a vacation from cooking and scrounge whatever I can find in the fridge. Here's what I found today, a favorite combo, fat-free cottage cheese and unsweetened apple butter.

hen I was a kid, my mother invented this as a healthy snack to wean me off my then-favorite, cottage cheese and Concord grape jelly. I know, I know! Revolting! Looking back, I can hardly believe I loved that! More recently, with the addition of Four K Farms apple butter to my life, this concoction has gotten even more nutritious than it was when I was buying a national brand.

I've posted about this before but it was a long time ago. Hope you won't mind the reminder. Easy dinner for the grass widow.

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Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Crunchy Cauliflower

Cauliflower is one of my favorite vegetables but it hasn't been high on My Beloved's list. Oh, he'll eat it and even admits it's pretty good but I don't usually get the kind of rave reviews that I crave from him when I serve cauliflower.

I'm always on the lookout for a new way to prepare cauliflower, hoping against hope that one day I will find the magic ingredient that will turn cauliflower into a Beloved-thriller. This time, I recalled that I had read about roasting cauliflower on Orangette.
I had even tried it once, but in florets that were less successful, so I consulted Molly's recipe again and this time got it right! It's dead simple and yet really tasty.

All you do is toss 1/4" thick slices of cauliflower in some olive oil and salt to completely coat with oil, then bake on a flat pan at 400 degrees F for about 20 minutes, turning the cauliflower pieces once in the middle of the baking time. It comes out caramelized, almost crispy in places and deeply colored, yet soft in the center. My Beloved remarked upon its goodness, a cauliflower home run - or at least third base.

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Monday, May 5, 2008

Doctored Beans

One of the pleasures of writing about whatever we're eating for dinner is that it often brings back memories from long ago to enjoy - or not, depending on the memory.

Because my birthday falls in February, I was not allowed to begin kindergarten even though my mother believed I was ready - or perhaps she was just eager to get that last kid out the door so she could have some peace and quiet! In any case, three of the mothers in our neighborhood felt the same way so they signed up for a Calvert School course and decided to home school their budding geniuses. They took turns preparing and presenting the lessons and some of my earliest memories are of my mother painstakingly printing out letters for me to copy.

By far, my favorite classmate was Sandy Ferguson; I can't even remember the name of the other kid in the class. Sandy was my best friend even before we started school together; we played well and never quarreled, something of a rarity with me and my friends. Very simply, I loved him.

Then, one day we were playing a very interesting game of doctor when Mrs. Ferguson discovered us. As I recall, I had Sandy stretched out on the ironing board and was about to take his temperature rectally when I looked up into Mrs. Ferguson's horrified face.

Although I was sent home immediately with a flea in my ear, Mrs. Ferguson did forgive me once she got over the shock and even gave us her recipe for baked beans, which I still make today. I don't always follow the recipe exactly; I leave out the brown sugar and go light on the maple syrup and, if I don't have apples in the house, I sometimes resort to unsweetened apple butter. The onions and oranges, however, are key ingredients, not to be messed with.

Mrs. Ferguson's Baked Beans

4 #2 jars of B & M Baked Beans (#2 jars ae 1 lb. 3oz. jars)
1 large Bermuda onion, sliced
1 large unpeeled orange, sliced (I used tangerines this time and they worked fine)
1 large unpeeled apple, sliced (or use unsweetened apple butter)
1 cup brown sugar (I omit this altogether)
20 whole cloves
1 cup (real) maple syrup

Grease the baking pot with the salt pork from the can of beans, line with a layer of onion rings, orange and apple slices, 1 jar of beans, 1/4 of the brown sugar, cloves, and syrup. Repeat until bean pot is almost full with alternating layers. Cover and bake 8-10 hours at 200 degrees.

Needless to say, I don't make this amount for just the two of us and I don't bake it for that long. Two or three hours at 300 degrees is fine. I serve this with tube steak and that wonderful Boston brown bread that comes in a can, thinly sliced and spread with cream cheese. I don't know if that's traditional, but it's how it was always done in my family.

I wonder where Sandy Ferguson is today and I wonder if Mrs. Ferguson chuckles over the memory as I do.

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Sunday, May 4, 2008

Beanie Babies

It has been more than twenty years since I studied botany as an eager adult student, staring in awe down a microscope at chloroplasts circulating mysteriously inside plant cells, but the word jumped immediately to mind as soon as I saw them.


Those first, two fleshy leaves that plants push above the soil when they germinate, cotyledons have extra energy stored in them to give the plants a boost until they can produce leaves and, then, miraculously, food for themselves and for virtually everything else on Earth.

My bean plants have sprouted.

There are six little clusters of plants in a row in my garden, all destined to become Blue Lake green beans, if I remember to water them between now and bean production. As Robert Fulghum famously reminded us years ago, it's a wonder every time it happens.

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Saturday, May 3, 2008

Early Brandy

I cheated. I wasn't going to plant tomatoes this year - I missed the critical date to plant seeds and, besides, aren't green beans, zucchini, Swiss chard and lettuce enough, for heaven's sake? As my Mom used to joke, "What do you want, egg in your beer?"

Well, apparently, I do want egg in my beer because when I found these two cheater plants at the grocery store, they fairly leapt into my cart.

The brawny, strapping lass on the left is "Early Girl" and is bred to fruit early in the much-anticipated tomato season. The smaller one, an heirloom variety called "Brandywine," supposedly will fruit later in the summer, even though she has a flower open and buds already set. D
on't you love plant names? I was tempted by Sun Gold and Beefsteak, also, but mostly for the names and I only have room for two.

I'm already imagining how good the fruit will taste in 50-100 days. Halfway through June with a little luck we should be snacking on our own tomatoes. I don't even feel guilty for cheating.

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Friday, May 2, 2008


No, I'm not trying to get your attention to sell you naughty postcards; I'm giving you the recipe for a super dish we tried a few days ago.

Pancetta. Peas. Pasta. Parmesan. Pepper. Shallot. Salt.

That's it.

Saute the pancetta lardons until crispy in a wide pan, add the chopped shallot and toss together. Meanwhile, boil the pasta according to package directions in salted water, adding the peas at the end. Scoop out about 1/4 cup of the pasta water before draining pasta and peas in a collander, and add the water to the pancetta/shallot pan. Toss the drained pasta and peas in the pancetta/shallot mixture until well coated. Top with pepper and Parmesan freshly ground and grated respectively. Great side dish that could easily serve as dinner with a salad on the side. Start to finish, it took about 15 minutes, not counting shelling the peas. Using frozen peas, you could shave that time by about 5 minutes.

Now, on to the naughty postcards!

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Thursday, May 1, 2008

Avocado Enhances Everything

Chicken salad is a favorite of ours whether topping salad greens or stuffed into a sandwich with the last of my homemade bread.

In addition to chicken chunks, there was chopped raw broccoli, celery, scallions and crisp, frilly lettuce leaves.

I thinned the mayo with a splash of white wine vinegar and added a little Dijon mustard and fresh thyme from the garden but it wasn't truly wondrous until we added the slices of avocado.

Avocado is our friend.

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