First the good. Lots of zucchini, tomatoes, spinach, and beet greens. This year I will plant much more garlic.
Here, a very strange collection of random things growing, but I love the mix of flowers and edibles.
I started the bed above much later than the others. It has bush beans, broccoli, beets, spinach, carrots, watermelon, tomato and amaranth growing in it, and so far all are doing very well.
I don't know what that gourd-like thing is. An alien egg? This plant was from after the chickens had tossed everything around, and I really thought it was a cucumber. I thought wrong.
Another late planting. I overdid it and threw everything in there, but I started too many seedlings and didn't know where to put them. I already know I've created another mess. If any of it survives I will have a black cherry tomato, a calabacita squash, basil, an heirloom Italian sweet pepper, lots of a small variety of butternut squash, and loofahs. Also a watermelon. Almost all of those plants either sprawl or vine and I have to figure out a way to make space for it all to spread or a way to trellis it, and soon.
This must be a musk melon, but I thought it was a cucumber. Another surprise.
The picture above is of what was supposed to be a three sisters' garden. I decided to "squeeze" one last San Marzano tomato in, and then another sprouted next to the box, and now I think I will be lucky if any of the corn survives. There is a squash plant hidden in there somewhere, and the green beans are coming up. It will be great if I can just get enough water there. This picture gives you a feel for just how much I might have overdone the tomatoes.
Any day now we will be drowning in San Marzano tomatoes.
The cutest cabbage ever and my first bell pepper.
I've never seen how okra grew before now, and I can't get enough sunflowers.
The bad: there are these tiny little bugs, possible spiders, that are killing my eggplant. There are also these black aphid-like creatures eating my leafy greens. Not the end of the world, but I'm not sure yet how to fix it.
That is not a healthy eggplant. :(
Disgusting squishy little black bugs attacking purslane.
But, oh, the ugly...
I made a few horrible planning and watering mistakes. I didn't leave myself enough space to actually get to my plants. It's such a drag. 18" between raised beds is not enough when you have prickly zucchini leaves from one side and a tomato thicket on the other intertwined in unholy matrimony. Plants that were easy to reach when they were less than a foot tall are now impossible to get to since I planted the tall things where they wouldn't shade the other plants. Unfortunately it's pretty hard to reach anything, and it turns out my garden gets so much sun in the summer that it might not have mattered anyway.
But the absolute worst of it is that apparently, wherever a squash or cucumber leaf sees water, it wilts, molds and dies. Since I don't have a drip system installed yet, this means that when I have to put my hose on jet to get to some plants, I am killing others. It's so frustrating, and I only have my own bad planning to thank.
Thirteen tomato plants? Excessive. Four would probably have been enough, but I just couldn't help myself.
Next year I will have a drip system. I will have a drip system. I must have a drip system. No more hot sweaty panicked afternoons watering everything by hand because it's all wilting.
I will also plant much, much less. There's no point if you're going to kill it anyway!
Last, all the high maintenance plants whose princess leaves can't handle water (even though they grow in the great outdoors) will be planted in one spot and trellised.
Poor moldy vining thing. It's a goner.
There must be hundreds of variations on wonton, but the first version I tried was a winner and I have stayed faithful to it, more or less. You can't go wrong- it smells good even before you cook it, something rarely said about raw pork. Some people make flawlessly beautiful wonton, some people just squish them together, but they all taste good. My children LOVE making these and would be insulted if they weren't allowed to participate in this.
When we made this last night it made about 60 and served 7, but they were so good I think everyone at the table would have eaten more. My five year old ate like a trucker, and my seven year old skipped the rice to make sure he could fit in all the wonton he wanted. I made a huge stir-fry of cabbage, fresh corn, and green onion seasoned with soy sauce, mirin, and pepper to go with it.
1 pound ground pork
1-1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoons sesame oil
3 tablespoons cornstarch or arrowroot powder
2 cloves garlic
2 tablespoons of minced or grated garlic
1 package of round wonton wrappers (about 60)
oil for frying (I used lard I had rendered and it was mouthwatering)
more soy sauce for dipping
white vinegar or rice vinegar for dipping
Mix the pork, soy sauce, sesame oil, ginger, cornstarch, scallion and garlic in a bowl. This is your filling. Take one wrapper, place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center, and wet half the edge of the wrapper with a drop of water. Using either a plastic wonton mold or your fingers, fold and press the edges together. There are many ways to do this. Too much filling and it will explode, too little and it's a disappointment when you go to eat it. You'll get the hang of it. Take a look at the picture above.
Heat a non-stick skillet and generously coat the bottom of the pan with oil (or tallow or lard). Place a layer of wonton in the pan and fry them until they are well browned on the bottom. Pour in about 1/4-1/3 cup of water in the pan and cover it quickly with a lid because it will hiss and spit like crazy. Set a timer for three minutes and allow the dumplings to steam. After three minutes, scoop them out with a slotted spatula and transfer them to a plate. You will have to do multiple batches if you are cooking all the wonton. Try to get the frying pan decently clean between batches or you may run into problems like soggy wonton or burnt nasty bits.
Next make the dipping sauce. Again, there are many variations on the same theme out there, but here is an easy one I use. Pour some soy sauce into a jar, and add white vinegar, then add a little water to thin it out. The amounts vary tremendously depending on what brands you use. If you use rice vinegar and a soy sauce that isn't brutally salty you might not need to add any water. You can also add chopped scallion, a drop of sesame oil, chili oil, or whatever else you like.
I haven't been very enthused about salads in general for a few years, and even juicy tomatoes at the height of summer perfection can bore me. Maybe absence could make this heart grow fonder, but I'm drowning in tomatoes right now.
When I am sick of salads, I go back and watch an old episode of Julia and Jacques and feel inspired again. My favorite part is when Julia ventures to claim that only the French truly know how to make a salad. Jacques pauses modestly before conceding that yes, the French do it best.
The other day I didn't have 30 minutes for inspiration, so I looked at Mastering the Art of French Cooking. A vinaigrette is so simple, but sometimes following a recipe gives me the confidence that what I'm making will taste good. So here are the proportions Julia Child recommends for a simple vinaigrette.
Ingredients and Directions:
1/2 to 2 Tablespoons wine vinegar or a mixture of vinegar and lemon juice
1/8 teaspoon salt
Optional: 1/4 teaspoon dry mustard
6 Tablespoons olive oil
Big pinch of pepper
Throw it all in a jar with a lid and shake it to combine. Just before serving, you can add a few tablespoons of minced herbs such as parsley, chives, tarragon, or basil. I used basil.
There is nothing earth-shattering or original about tomatoes drenched in a vinaigrette, but once in a while a return to simple things helps you fall in love with them again. The tomato salad was exceptionally delicious. Bon appetit!
As you may have guessed from my last post, life is killing me. All the wonderful rewarding people and activities that fill my time are sucking the life out of me. I am always doing dishes; they are never done. There is always a load of laundry running and a pile in my bedroom that I lovingly refer to as the laundry monster. Sometimes I can't remember the last time I vacuumed. I make it to the gym once out of every three times I plan to go. You get the picture. Whatever.
And then it got worse. I kept burning things on the stove because there was so much going on around me and I am the world's worst multi-tasker. Most recently I burned beans, but not long before that I actually burned beef stock. Stop and think about that! The liquid that results from slowly simmering water with bones! Yes, I burnt it. I forgot the flame on high overnight and woke up to a crematorium. There is something about the smell of burnt bones that is so visceral, like smelling your own death...
While I am also making efforts to streamline other areas of my life, this ultimately brought me to a summer menu plan. A few dishes that I can make without following a recipe on weeknights, dishes that I will faithfully rotate until I can't stand it anymore. A certain someone in my life has been suggesting it for years, but I am finally desperate enough to give in and try something sensible. All the random vegetables I accumulate in the garden go on the side or are able to be incorporated into the dish itself. So far this has worked so well that all my laundry is done, but don't worry. If I get bored I can always return to the chaos.
I confess that I have only just completed one full rotation of this menu, but it has worked really well for us. I was afraid that eating things like grilled cheese for dinner would be the death of us, but it's been fun.
To keep breakfasts simple, we came up with another list. Obviously my list will not look like your list, but here's what we eat on weekdays. I write it all down in advance and the kids really like knowing what they're getting in advance. Raw eggs and rice is something I will post about another time, but it is a staple breakfast in our family due to some bizarre cultural influences.
For lunch we usually eat leftovers, but my life is much easier if I make sure I have the following things prepared at the beginning of the week:
I hope this helps someone or gives them some ideas. It's been a good tool for me and I will stick with it until I can't stand the boredom anymore. I find this much structure a little suffocating, but then trying complicated dishes every evening can become pretty suffocating too. It's ok, eventually the weekend will come.
I love trying new foods, cooking, and gardening. I hope to share these experiences on this site. Thanks for taking a look!