Saturday, January 17, 2009


It's demoralizing, y'all.

I was making a ham sandwich to take for lunch the other day and had layered on my meat and cheese and went to the crisper for something green only to find it empty. Any other year since we've lived in this house, I would just march out to the garden and trim some lettuce or spinach and be done, but not this year.

I've come close to declaring a total loss on the winter garden this year thanks to those fluffy-tailed rat bastards. Spinach -- gone. Lettuce -- gone. Chard -- gone. Beets -- a handful of survivors. And all this is despite my heroic security efforts.

On the bright side, the carrots have remained relatively untouched (except by drought, which is another story). But the primary saving grace has been the greens -- specifically the side bed patch of Chinese kale (aka Chinese broccoli, kai-lan, or gai-lan) and broccoli rabe.

We actually had enough that we didn't quite keep up and some went to seed.

Most of the time, it got a quick trip through a skillet with some hot bacon drippings.

That's the Chinese kale. It has a good broccoli flavor and even the stems are pretty sweet, they just need a little longer on the heat.

The rabe is a little tougher, but it found its way into several pasta dishes.

The ultimate winner, however, had to be kale with bacon and oven-dried tomatoes. It was a fine partner to the mac and cheese on the other side of the plate, although next time, we may just put them all together into one dish.

Sadly though even the greens have now come to an end, but I'm not mourning them too much -- I've got seed packets strewn around the kitchen and will be off to Callahan's shortly for supplies to get the spring crops started. That big wheel keeps on turning.

Labels: ,

Saturday, July 26, 2008

More pie

Sorry, I still haven't found my garden blogging muse. Please accept more pie blogging.

You may recall my peach and blueberry pie, but there was also a cherry pie, which was OK, given that it was made with sweet cherries instead of the coveted sour Montmorency cherries -- we just can't seem to find them around here. 

But being as it is the height of Texas freestone peach season, I'm trying to take full advantage of the ready availability of plump ripe local peaches. Peaches are, after all, the most delicious fruit. This is a fact that cannot be disputed*.

I went with straight peaches this time, mainly because blackberries are so damned expensive. However, I mixed it up a bit with a technique I've had good luck with in the past -- a grated top crust.

When you're done mixing up your crust, treat the bottom crust as normal, but take the dough for the top crust and pack it into a ball or hunk. Leave it in the refrigerator as long as you can so it sets up nice and firm. Then, when you've filled the bottom shell with filling, grate the cold dough just like cheese over the top of the pie.

Then bake it like normal. No worries about vent holes -- the juices will bubble up through it and around the edges. This time, about halfway through I sprinkled it liberally with vanilla sugar.

It came out like this:

I'm a little perturbed that it doesn't brown up better than that -- the lower-lying bits of crust are done, but look awfully pale. Maybe spraying it with butter would help or perhaps I need to fiddle with the temperature a bit more. Anyone have suggestions?

Oh, and in case you were skeptical of claims elsewhere -- lard really is the way to go. I've been doing a 3/4 lard to 1/4 butter lately and it comes out perfect.

* I will accept arguments on behalf of the pineapple and mango, but these will ultimately fail.

Labels: ,

Sunday, July 6, 2008


I'm afraid I'm a little dry on gardening news. I actually did some work on my neglected St. Augustine crop yesterday, but that wasn't as exciting as what I did afterward.


Tuesday, June 24, 2008


While I'm not really known for my flow, I feel comfortable saying that I kick Coolio's ass when it comes to Caprese.

Labels: ,

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Drying tomatoes

Pick a bunch of tomatoes. Generally, varieties designated as paste, roma, or plum are best since they're drier to begin with and are kind of mealy when eaten fresh. These are also the ones you'd want to use for making sauce. Certainly you can dry any kind, but you'd hate to wake up one morning in September and realize you could have had one more tomato sandwich or Caprese salad, but squandered it on tomato jerky instead.

Slice them up. Smaller tomatoes like these, you can just cut in half. I found that these Principe Borgheses had a flattened shape, and that if you cut them parallel to the flattened sides, the seeds where much easier to remove -- other tomatoes may vary.

Poke your fingers into the halves and squish out most of the seeds and gel, then lay them out on a rack on a baking sheet.

You can sprinkle them with a little bit of kosher salt to help get the juices out and add a little flavor. Actually, you could add all sorts of fanciness at this point, like fresh herbs, or balsamic, but keeping it simple will give you more options when you're ready to use them.

Put them in the oven somewhere between 150 and 225 and let them go for a few hours. The time will depend on your temperature and how dry you want them to be, but you can probably count on 3-4 hours. If you start too late at night and want to go to bed, just turn off the oven and turn it on again in the morning. This is some definite low-impact cooking.

When they're done, you can eat them like candy, add them to sauces for extra sweetness, use them whole or chopped in pasta or pizzas, or grind them up in pesto. We put them in plastic and freeze them, which is an especially awesome idea when you remember them in December. You can also cover them in olive oil and store them in the refrigerator for a while, which preserves them and gives you tomato-infused oil.

And that is all I know about oven-dried tomatoes.

Labels: , , ,

Friday, May 23, 2008


This is totally garden-related. The whole point of growing tomatoes is so you can eat BLTs.

That particular hunk of pork is half of a piece (that cut is known as pork belly) that also yielded the aforementioned pancetta. it was similarly cured for a week, but then smoked in a friend's homemade smoker. No rolling up.

It's delicious -- a little more like country ham than the bacon you buy in the supermarket. Most of it is now in the freezer, awaiting the confluence of ripe tomatoes and a beach vacation.

Labels: ,

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Closet meat=good

Yes, the patio got installed, and it's awesome. Pictures later. But while we're totally off the subject of gardening, check out what's been in our linen closet for the past two weeks:

It's homemade pancetta!

It started as a raw pork belly, which my mother-in-law gave me for my birthday. It then (why the passive voice? no idea.) got rubbed down with salt, sugar, pepper, and various herbs, and sat in the refrigerator for a week. Then after getting rolled into a tight log, it spent the past two weeks hanging in our linen closet, which brings you up to date. And then:

There is much Carbonara and Amatriciana, among other things, in our future.


Saturday, May 3, 2008

It starts ...

We got our first summer harvest last night -- these three Sunburst squash. They got sliced, soaked in orange juice and soy sauce, and seared on the grill. Tasty.

Labels: ,

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Well aren't we just King and Queen Locavore of Hippie Hollow!

I just got back from a walk across the neighborhood where I met a very nice family with a flock of 6 chickens in their backyard.

My wife -- who likes to be called "Fayrene" when she's on the Internet -- had emailed Linda after seeing her mention on our neighborhood email list that she has chickens and gives away eggs on a regular rotation. Fayrene said "yes please, and can we give you some produce?" and since Fayrene is in class tonight, it was left to me to do the walking.

Long story short, I came home with these ...

... and left them a bundle of green onions. I think we definitely got the better end of the deal, but it's kind of an in-between time of the season. By next round, we'll have squash and maybe tomatoes to make it up to them.

(By the way, only language nerds should click here)

update, 5/5/2008

The eggs got eaten yesterday morning. We poached them and served them on English muffins with bacon and avocado, with cheddar cheese sauce on top. As is true of many of my attempts at writing about food, we forgot to take a picture as we were too busy stuffing our faces.