Thursday, April 12, 2012

Grow Grow Grow!

The garlic seems to have done very well with our mild Boston winter. I am keeping my fingers crossed for a great garlic harvest later this summer!!
The garden is off and running, nearly 3 weeks ahead of  when I have been able to get things going the last few years. Gail and I have made a few trips down there and have been hard at work weeding, digging and tidying up. We've also managed to plant a few seeds here and there - Leeks, Kale, Peas, Arugula, Radish, Spinach, and a Thyme plant with much more to come in the coming weeks and months.
Hopefully the on again-off again threat of rain will actually come to fruition- while Gail and I were weeding and digging we noticed the soil was incredibly dry. The water should be turned on at the Garden by now, I just haven't had the chance to make it down there to check.
Stay tuned for more growing updates!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Красный Хрен - Red Horseradish

Though the first few nights of passover have passed, I wanted to share my recipe for Красный Хрен (red horseradish), a traditional condiment for gefilte fish and a staple for many passover meals.
I opened up the garden last weekend and my one harvest so far has been an over wintered horseradish root that was dug up for the express purpose of making a few jars of this tasty condiment.
Красный Хрен - Red Horseradish
1 horseradish root, washed, peeled and diced (or grated)
2 medium beets, peeled and boiled or roasted and diced (or grated)
4-6 oz white vinegar (enough to be absorbed in the mixture but not so much that it is swimming in it)
2-3 tsp sugar
salt & pepper to taste (if desired)
Using a food processor or hand grater finely grate or dice the horseradish. Add the grated beets to the horseradish (to ensure there is a good amount of heat let the horseradish sit in a covered container for a few minutes before the beets are added). Mix thoroughly and add a few teaspoons of sugar. Taste and adjust to desired heat or sweetness.  Add enough vinegar to absorb into the mixture, and mix very well. Transfer to jars, cover tightly, and store in the refrigerator until needed.
That is it. I wouldn't make this too far in advance as the horseradish will lose it's heat and intensity over time. For a more intense flavor use more horseradish and less of everything else! The lack of exact measurements in this recipe should serve as a general guide. The key to a good horseradish (red or white)  is to bring out the intensity of the horseradish without drowning it in vinegar. The recipe here yielded about 2 1/2 cups of red horseradish goodness.

Be sure to also check out my directions for making a traditional (white) horseradish.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Somerville Winter Market 4/7

Though winter is over, some of the winter farmers markets are still in full swing which helps bridge the gap until the spring/summer markets start back up. Gail and I took a trip to the Somerville Winter Market on Saturday to see what was available and pick up some goodies!
There was a really great variety of produce, meats, prepared goods, and specialty items available at the Market. We took home onions, dry beans, and dry cranberries from NorthStar Farm. A bag of cut swiss chard from Heron Pond Farm. Absolutely delicious falafel and tahini sauce from Seta's Mediterranean Foods. A pork butt from Austin Brothers Valley Farm. A thyme, and a pair of oregano plants (one italian and one 'hot and spicy') from Stillman's Farm. A bag of spice mix and some sort of sticky rice cake (the green and white thing behind the thyme plant in the above photo) from Kueh and a cup of Concord Grape Kombucha from the Culinary Cruiser a pedal powered kombucha on-tap cart offering a few different flavors.
A nice variety and a great trip to Somerville!

Sunday, April 8, 2012

2012 In Progress (April)



listening to:

coffee: As our coffee consumption has gone down a little we are still working on the Bard Coffee - El Salvador Cup of Excellence Lot # 13. We should be finished with it by the end of next week and on to something new!

Friday, April 6, 2012

No. 9 Park - Tasting Menu

Gail and I, along with my family recently had the pleasure of enjoying the Chef's tasting menu at No. 9 Park.  I will not give a breakdown of every dish on the menu, but at our table we had a vegetarian tasting, a seafood free tasting, and their usual tasting menu for the week. Everything was cooked well and the presentation was absolutely beautiful. By look and taste there were a few dishes that definitely stood out in our party:
Peekytoe Crab Salad - asparagus, tangerine, Marcona almonds. I am allergic to seafood and did not eat this dish, but it looked stunning and everyone at the table who did eat it was very pleased.
Moral Mushroom Tartlet - petite salade, herbed chevre, truffle vinaigrette vegetarian menu. Very creative dish and it tasted fantastic. A nice blend of flavors that was presented beautifully.
Saffron Couscous - merguez, fava beans, Greek yogurt. The merguez was very flavorful, but the saffron couscous was the star of this dish, and was also featured in a later dish on the vegetarian menu.
Potato & Ramp Tortellini -  fava beans, sauce Americaine vegetarian menu These tortellini tasted as if they were born of fall and spring. Great combination.
Prune Stuffed Gnocchi- foie gras, almonds, Vin Santo. A No. 9 Park signature dish. The vegetarian option was served without foie gras. Either way it is many complex flavors delicately balanced in one bight.
Chocolate Cookie & Homemade Marshmellow. Not really a dessert course, but when the check was put on the table it came on a plate arranged with small homemade marshmellows and delicate chocolate cookies. A nice conclusion to a memorable meal that left everyone thoroughly impressed with the structure of the dishes, presentation of the food, and overall attention to detail.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Dark Days Challenge - A look back and my favorite meals

Last week I wrote about our 17th and final meal for this years Dark Days Challenge. From November 30 - March 30 I shared one meal per week that Gail and I were enjoying using SOLE (sustainable, organic, local, and ethical) ingredients that we purchased and prepared throughout the winter.
Looking back at all of the Dark Days posts I am not surprised that pasta dishes were featured in 7 of  the 17 meals! Gail and I both love pasta and ravioli and we manged to can 18 1/2 quarts of sauce using a combination of farmers market seconds and our tomatoes. Looking now we are down to about 5 quarts - pasta and sauce with maybe a sausage or additional vegetables is a staple of our weekly food routine!
My favorite dishes for the challenge were Week 11: Red Pepper/Goat Cheese Ravioli, Sauce, & Spicy Beef Sausage and Week 16: Braised Pork Rib, Roasted Potato, and Relishes. Both are very simple and incredibly satisfying dishes. We are lucky to have a few great pasta and ravioli vendors as well as an abundance of great locally made sausages to compliment our homemade sauces. The pork rib was the first 'country style' rib I had ever prepared and both Gail and I were so satisfied with the end result! Again it was a case of great farmers market items (meat, potato, pickled carrots) to pair with our own homemade relishes.
I found that sourcing items for this years challenge was incredibly easy. Evey weekend from before Thanksgiving through late April there is at least 1 winter market open within a drive able distance. Gail and I visited the markets in Wayland, Somerville, and the South End regularly as well as a one-off Brookline market this winter and continue to do so now. These markets had an amazing variety of produce, meats, eggs, milk, cheeses, honey, apples, coffee, prepared and specialty goods! Some weeks we would go with a long list of ingredients for a few specific meals and other weeks we would pick and choose on a whim and figure out what we wanted to eat for a local meal that way. There was no shortage of local goods throughout this overly warm winter. It is amazing to see the explosive growth of winter markets just in the last few years.
I love participating in this challenge as it gets me thinking about my food even when I am not in the garden or enjoying  fresh fruit and vegetables at the height of summer. I also was able to continue to make great connection to the people who raise, grow, produce, and make much of what Gail and I eat, giving us a genuine appreciation for our food and the hard work that goes into producing it.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Opening Day & First Harvest

I couldn't take it any longer! After an unreasonably warm winter I was finally ready to get back to the Garden. This past Sunday morning I brought most of my tools to the plot and opened up for the season! I saw at least 8 or 10 other gardeners, most of them knew members of the Fenway Victor Gardens, hard at work!
I cleared up some straw I insulated some of the garden with. The garlic looks fantastic I counted 48 garlic plants about 3-4 inches tall each! I can't wait to harvest all that garlic later this summer. We planted a few walking onions and it looks as if 1 of about a dozen managed to grow. I am hoping some of the rest will emerge soon. Much to my delight I found a volunteer leek growing under a pile of straw in the back corner of the garden. I managed to put some additional Leek as well as some Kale seeds in the ground before the afternoon was up!
I even managed a small harvest, with a big effort! I left one horseradish plant to overwinter, and it was time to dig it up as Passover is this coming weekendand homemade horseradish is in great demand!! After some serious grunting and digging I managed to uproot 7.35 oz of Horseradish! Not bad at all.

Still a lot of tidying and additional work to do, but it felt great to be outside and see some real signs of spring! Next trip down to the plot I will bring a camera to show off some of the great looking garlic!

Much more to come...we're just getting started!