Tips

When the Crocus Blooms, It's Time to

crocus-309-bakaitis-photo

Start on the endless spring to-do list. Lawn and garden cleanup, shrub pruning, seed-starting, seed planting…

and (among yet other things)

* Consider the freezer

* Start on the bulb maps

* Figure out where the garlic is going to go

* Cut back and repot tired houseplants

* Scout for morel spots Read More…

Summer Bulbs

Thought for the day, on  the arrival of the final shipment of vegetable seeds: What made me think I had room to plant 7 varieties of peas?

Thought for the week, on lusting after a truly gorgeous, frighteningly minimalist modern garden seen in a magazine: What makes me think I could ever give up summer bulbs?

Even a brief pass through the catalogs of Willow Creek Gardens and Corralitos Gardens is enough to produce a wish list of gladioli, eucomis, tuberoses and dahlias that would fill about a quarter acre I don’t happen to have.

But how to choose?  If your  dahlia collection included

Babylon Bronze

Babylon Bronze

 and you were not all that into dahlias, would you really need 

Blown Dry

Blown Dry

 

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Rugelach to the Rescue!

Politics got you down? Dispirited by a landscape of straw, grey brown, dull green and dirty snow? Feeling slightly guilty because you didn’t happen to make your sweetie a chocolate cream pie for Valentine’s  Day?

Time for a batch of rugelach, one of the world’s more wonderful cookies – being as they are right next door to pie while being a great deal easier to make ( and a great deal more durable since they never get soggy).

plum, chocolate and apricot rugelach

plum, chocolate and apricot rugelach

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Dandy Candy – White Chocolate Bark with Ginger and Pistachios

In most cases homemade chocolates lack the suave texture and slick appearance of deluxe commercial versions, even though they’re just as flavorful. But chocolate bark – which is nothing more than melted chocolate mixed with tasty lumps and spread thin – is an exception. It’s every bit as glossy as boughten (on one side, anyway), and it’s usually even better because you have no reason to be stingy with the lumps.

white chocolate bark, lumpy and smooth sides

white chocolate bark, lumpy and smooth sides

‘Nough said. Valentine’s day is roaring at us at an unseemly pace and if you have to order the chocolate, for instance from chocosphere, it would be best to get going.

stacked-white-bark

Singapore Bark – white chocolate with ginger and pistachios

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High Fashion Vegetables, our what's hot and what's not list

Are you seduced by curvy Golden Crescent beans? By blue purple Purple Dragon carrots, pear shaped orange Jilo Tingua Verde Claro eggplants or yard long Red Noodle beans?

Red Noodle beans on the vine

Red Noodle beans on the vine

Welcome to the club. I’ve never been able to resist oddball vegetables –  show me a shape or color that’s different and bam, it goes on the order list.

This has been happening for 30 years and although most of these bizarro thrills have been consigned to the dustbin of “interesting experiment,” quite a few have become staples in our gardens. 

STAPLES

* Ronde de Nice zucchini, not the best for slicing but ace for stuffing.

Ronde de Nice en route to stuffing

Ronde de Nice en route to stuffing

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Oven Hot Spots

Every cookie recipe in creation, right? “…reverse the pans halfway through baking for even browning.” One of those little niceties that does make a difference, and I don’t know about you, but I’m very faithful about this – with cookies.

Never noticed it mattering too much with bread, however, until the big pre-surgery flurry of stocking up. (Bill’s a good cook; but he doesn’t bake.) Lesson learned: if you’re trying to find your oven’s hot spot, just pave the whole rack with pans of sticky buns.

sticky buns as hotspot finder

sticky buns as hotspot finder

Solstice Cookies – Now and Forever (with recipes)

Clockwise from upper left: spritz, pfeffernüsse, sugar cookies, gingerbread springerle, more sugar cookies, fruit/nut/chocolate jumbles.

5 kinds of holiday cookies

This post is appearing because the cookie recipe roundup (12/12) made me fear you might be thinking I don’t bake cookies very often or very many or very anything.

Very shaming and not very accurate, especially at the turn of the year when there’s no WAY I’m not crankin’ ’em out, though I don’t pretend to be in the same league as those indefatigable ladies who make hundreds of dozens and pride themselves – secretly or not – on the length of the recipient list. Read More…

Eek of the Week, Romanesco division, and Leafy Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

For such terrific vegetable, Romanesco cauliflower is still far too rare, but it does seem to be headed in the right direction. After years of finding it only at farmstands, I saw it last month – more than once – at my favorite greengrocer. Gladdened my foodie little heart, even if it cost $3.50  a head and came so heavily swathed in plastic it looked a bit like King Tut.

Typical head of Romanesco, @ 9 inches tall and maybe 7 inches wide

Typical head of Romanesco, @ 9 inches tall and maybe 7 inches wide. approximate weight 1.5 pounds

So far, so good. But then just the other day I saw a basket of miniature Romanescos, heads about 3 inches tall, weighing perhaps 2 ounces, being sold for $4.00 each. This was in Manhattan, at Dean and DeLuca furthermore, but I think the sighting remains Eek worthy because those pricy little units were too big to be served beautifully whole and too wilted to be used in a massive flower arrangement which otherwise might have been way cool.

I will refrain from pious remarks about food stamps, but it does seem as though if you’re paying that much you ought to get value for money – even if it’s just snob value. Of course I didn’t buy any, so may be doing them an injustice. Maybe they have a different taste from full size Romanescos, the way Brussels Sprouts have virtues unknown to cabbages. And thus we pass to a happier topic,

New Wave Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

Leafy Brussels Sprouts with Chestnuts

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18 Savory Things to do with Winter Squash (leftover or otherwise)

Or to put it another way, 18 things to do with mashed winter squash that do not contain added sugar. ( I thought there were 25 for a while there, but there aren’t.)

Postwise, this is sort of backwards –  choosing and storing (and growing)  will be coming along shortly. But for the day after Thanksgiving, the thing to address is what to do when you are starting here:

Bowl of cooked squash = bowl of possibilities

Bowl of cooked squash = bowl of possibilities

(1)*Absolutely the easiest thing but really great: Butter a jellyroll pan. Spread on the room temperature squash in a layer not more than an inch thick. Put it about 4 inches under the broiler and cook until heated and well-flecked with brown and a burned spot or two is ok.

(2 – 6) SOUP: saute chopped onion in butter, season, add 1 part squash and 2 or 3 parts liquid, depending on original squash thickness.

*Southwestern – cumin, oregano, pinch of clove, powdered ancho chile (or some chopped chipotle in adobo), chicken broth, shredded cilantro on top at the end

*Indianish – garlic, garam masala, fenugreek, a little turmeric but not much, chicken broth, dollop of yogurt in the soup bowls

*Not Thai but nice – green curry paste, half chicken broth, half coconut milk, some thinly sliced scallions

*Cream of Coral – salt, white pepper, shredded orange zest, equal quantities squash and pureed canned tomatoes (not canned tomato puree, and if you have frozen tomatoes this is a good place to use them) milk

*Squash and Chestnut – thyme, nutmeg, 1 part crumbled roasted chestnuts to 2 parts of squash. Chicken broth. Chopped parsley on top at the end

(6 – 11) SAVORY SQUASH-CRUST PIES: Read More…

The annual Thanksgiving Apple Alert, with Always Right Apple Pie

Ok, team, time to get shopping. As mentioned last year on the way to the big chunky apple cake, even diehard farmstands will be shutting down soon, and it won’t be long before specialty groceries revert to the same yawnworthy array, much of it much travelled, offered by supermarkets.

Makes me sad just to think of it, or would if we hadn’t been apple hunting for months, munching, baking and – three cheers for an old fashioned farmhouse with side porches! – stocking up. Some of what’s currently stashed in a small space we try to keep right above freezing (heirlooms with approximate intro date):

Left to right: Wolf River (1875), Cameo, Winesap (1817), Northern Spy (1800), Pink Lady, Stayman (1895), Zabergau Reinette (1885), Tolman Sweet (pre-1822), Golden Russet (pre-1845)

Apple collecting tips and pie recipe after the jump

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