Monday, December 22, 2008

Tomatoes in December and Tomatillo follow-up

Back in August Yvette was lamenting the passing of summer and I commented here that at the time I wasn't quite ready to cede the season. To that end I set about planting another crop of tomatoes with some seeds I had left over from the spring. Aside from these, Yvette had purchased some Brandywine plants and I had a few volunteers from last years yellow cherries pop up at about the same time.

Well, here it is the day after the winter solstice and we still have fresh tomatoes almost daily. Not a bumper crop mind you but fresh nonetheless. Of the three varieties I planted late in the season: Brandywine, Green Zebra, and Purple Cherokee, only the Brandywines failed. They grew to about 3 feet in height and just sort of stopped. I took them out to make room for more seasonal crops of garlic and (ack!) Brussels sprouts. The Green Zebra and Purple Cherokee plants meanwhile are huge with lots of flowers with the occasional fruit or two. At the very least they add some green to our view out the kitchen window. The real heroes have been the red cherry and the roma that have been producing non-stop since early summer. It's interesting to note that the roma was planted primarily for canning because, you know, there are no fresh tomatoes in the fall and winter. So it's odd to eat the ones we canned and still have fresh ones around. I plan on removing the roma in the next week since it has really tapered off, and the red cherry will probably follow shortly after. Still - tomatoes in December?

On the the tomatillo front, I stated that I thought they would grow year-round and attempted to prove it. I was able to get a second successful planting but when I started a third the seeds germinated, grew to be about two inches and then stopped growing altogether. If you tried the recipe from the first tomatillo post you can probably imagine my disappointment.


Sunday, November 23, 2008


For the last fourteen years, we have spent Thanksgiving with a group of friends. There have been times when the group has been larger - some friends have moved on and some have fallen away completely - but the core, the five of us, have been religious about this retreat. It started with a road trip to Death Valley with Peter and Harriet, where we celebrated Thanksgiving in a restaurant, which proved too depressing to ever do again. The following year, we rented a place in Big Bear with more people, including our dearest Ron, who has never missed a trip since, and cooked our own Thanksgiving, and cooked and cooked and cooked all weekend. We have since Thanksgivinged up and down California, from Palm Springs to Cambria and everywhere in between. We even went to Hawaii a couple years ago, which was amazing. We have rented beach houses and desert houses and mountain houses - in snow and rain and heat. We have played countless games of Battleship. We have schelped turkeys and trimmings and snacks and sweet hot beaver mustard all over the place, cooking in all sorts of kitchens and all sorts of ovens, for better or worse. These trips have marked time for me in a profound way. This year, we celebrate our first Thanksgiving at home. We are having a weekend sleep over at our house, and I am already so excited. I am making cranberry sauce right now, and hopefully it'll be as amazing as Harriet's always is! Here's to Thanksgiving, and to Fred and Ron and Peter and Harriet: Forever May We Eat.

Spiced Cranberry Sauce
Adapted From Gourmet Magazine

Yield: Makes about 2 1/4 cups

1 (12-ounce) bag fresh or frozen cranberries
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
2 1/4 teaspoons finely grated orange peel
1/2 teaspoon coarse kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 1/2 teaspoons grated peeled fresh ginger
2 cinnamon sticks


Bring all ingredients to boil in heavy medium saucepan, stirring often. Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until most of cranberries burst, stirring occasionally, about 10 minutes, or till tiny pink bubbles appear. I reduce the sauce a bit, so it thickens up nicely later. Transfer sauce to medium bowl and add the cinnamon sticks. Cool, cover, and refrigerate (sauce will thicken more as it gets colder). Recipe can be prepared 1 week ahead!!! Keep refrigerated.

PS. I got my cranberries from Stahlbush Island Farms, which is a remarkable family farm in Oregon's Willamette Valley...they have a fantastic website and blog!


Sunday, November 9, 2008





Now that the sowbugs are under control (thanks wholly to Diatomaceous Earth, which works GREAT!), our latest moocher is the cabbage worm...
I pick them off of our cabbages, broccoli, swiss chard, kale, brussels sprouts, and collard greens every day and they're just voracious, leaving holes and poor, exhausted plants.

It's war now, and hand picking just isn't cutting it. Here's what I have learned:

Bacillus Thuringiensis

The great thing about Bt is that it only affects insects that are in the caterpillar stage. It consists of a naturally occurring bacteria that is deadly to cabbage worms. Once they consume a part of a plant treated with Bt, the worm will stop feeding and shortly thereafter it will die.
Bt is usually sold in a liquid form which is mixed with water and sprayed onto the foliage of the plants that are under attack. This organic product is safe and can be applied right up until the time of harvest. Bt works and offers complete control over many types of caterpillars.

I also read the following, which, once the worms are under control from the Bt application, I will try:

A really good natural repellent is hot pepper spray. You can make the spray by chopping or grinding hot peppers into fine particles. You then mix 1/2 cup of the grounded peppers with 1 pint of water and then strain out the particles to form a clear solution. You should spray the plants twice, 2 or 3 days apart. Just make sure the spray makes contact with the cabbageworm.

Another good natural method for controlling all sorts of pests, including the cabbage worm, is insecticidal soap. The soap is a mixture of salts and fatty acids derived from plants. It is harmless to plants and works by drying up the pest causing it to die. You can apply the spray in the early morning or late afternoon, or on a cloudy day, while it's still cool, to reduce the risk of any possible damage to the plants and to minimize evaporation.


To prevent infestation in the first place, protect your plants with floating row covers, especially in spring and early summer, when egg-laying activity is at its highest.

To prevent the worms from burrowing into cabbage heads, insert each head into a nylon stocking, and leave it on until you harvest the head.

Oh boy.


Monday, November 3, 2008

Pappa Al Pomodoro

We had our first rain of the season this weekend (of course, it rained on our garage sale day!). It's colder now, yet we still have tomatoes is a nice fall recipe from Jamie's Italy that I love making. It's so easy and takes no time at all and is delicious! Hopefully the canned tomatoes you use are from your HUGE HARVEST that you CANNED YOURSELF, but if not, my favorite brand in the world is San Marzano! Also, this soup is great with the bread on the side as well!

about 1 lb ripe cherry tomatoes (I use a variety of tomatoes here, whatever is growing in the garden that is ripe)
3 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
a large bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stems finely chopped
the best extra virgin olive oil you can find
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
two 14 oz cans of good quality plum tomatoes
about 1 lb. or 2 large handfuls of stale, good quality bread

Prick the cherry tomatoes and toss them with one sliced clove of garlic and a quarter of the basil leaves. Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, put them in a roasting pan, and cook in the oven at 350F for about 20 minutes.

Heat a glug of olive oil in a large pot and add the remaining garlic and the basil stems. Stir around and gently fry for a minute, until softened. Add your canned tomatoes, then fill the can 1/2 way with water, and add that. Break the tomatoes up with a spoon, bring to a boil, and simmer for 15 minutes.

Tear the bread up into thumb-sized pieces and add them to the pan. Mi well and season to taste. Tear in the basil leaves and let the soup sit on low heat for 10 minutes. By this time your roasted tomatoes will be done, with juice bursting out of their skins, so remove them from the pan, remembering to scrape the lovely sticky bits from the bottom. Pour them into the soup with all the juices, basil, an oil from the pan.

Give the soup a good stir - you're looking to achieve a thick, silky, porridgy texture, so feel free to adjust it with a little water. Them remove it from the heat and add 6-7 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil. Divide between your bowls and serve with a little extra basil torn over the top if you like. The most important thing with this soup is that you have a wonderfully intense sweet tomato basil flavor!



Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!!!

Our neighbor Ian carved this pumpkin...can you guess what it is??


Friday, October 24, 2008

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Fall Planting...

I'm contenting myself by looking at photos of the changing leaves that my dear Celeste has been sending me from her cell phone while vacationing in Vermont...nonetheless, our rather unpronounced version of fall has definitely arrived, and suddenly, the light has changed from summer softness to a sharper orange. Warm days with a cold wind, a sweater at night, and the down comforter back on the bed.

Here are some fall planting ideas if you're in So Cal - I've included links to some of my favorite varieties!!! Many can be started at home. We start most of our seeds using EB Stone Seed Starting Mix, plant them in plastic 6-pack trays recycled from seedlings we have bought, and grow them in our kitchen window, which gets direct morning sun, and filtered light for the rest of the day. Or, you can just buy seedlings at the local nursery. The nurseries are just filled with veggie starts right now. My all time favorite LA nurseries are Marina Garden Center, and Burkard's ....

Snap Peas
Snow Peas
Sweet Peas (flowers)
Edible Pansies And Violas
Swiss Chard

Be sure to add lots of organic material to your soil!!!


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Recipe For Madi

Cucumber Snack

One Cucumber, Cut Into Wedges
Juice Of 1/2 Lime
A Pinch Of Kosher Salt
Tapatillo Or Valentina Hot Sauce, To Taste

Mix All Ingredients In A Bowl And Serve!


PS. We have been growing cucumbers this summer, and they are just beautiful. They are a variety called "Armenian Burpless" and are ridged down the sides so that when you cut them, they look like flowers. Put them on your spring planting list!

Monday, September 22, 2008

Fall Equinox

Happy First Day Of Fall!
We just planted a bunch of garlic (ordered from The Garlic Store), onions, more beets, new rows of carrots, and new lettuces (the lettuces we planted a month ago are now about 2" tall, so it's time to do the next successive planting). The sowbug invasion seems to be minimized a bit...nonetheless I made cardboard "fences" around the little seedlings (baby potato plants, winter squash) using the collars from to-go coffee cups, and a long fence made from recycled envelope inserts down the rows of seeds. And then, for good measure, I sprinkled the old diatomaceous earth around the bottoms of the plants. Lets hope they make it. It's been a frustrating couple of months!


Sunday, September 7, 2008


Someone has been killing the sprouts from seeds that were sown directly into the garden. Rows of carrots, beets, onions - it was maddening. Not one tiny bit of green would even surface. This went on for a good 4-6 weeks. Anxiety ensued. Did I lose my green thumb? Is our garden soil poisonous? Is an old enemy from Junior High School trying to sabbotage my efforts? After much observation and detective work, the culprit was identified: the seemingly innocuous sow bug.

It seems that we were not letting our compost break down enough before adding it to the garden. Normally, sow bugs eat the rotting, dying vegetation in the compost bin. Once the compost is truly finished, they move on. Apparently, we were adding the compost to our raised beds a little too early, with an inordinate population of the little guys. For lack of enough dying matter to feed them, they turned to our seeds. I start a lot of our seeds in the kitchen window, but certain plants, like carrots, like to be sown directly into the garden, leaving them especially vulnerable. Since our garden is organic, I expect to lose a certain percentage of yield to pests, but this was too much.

I did some research, and came up with a plan that has, thus far, been extremely effective. I added Diatomaceous earth to the top of the soil, and even mixed some in, just under the surface. This chalk-like powder consists of the fossilized remains of diatoms, a type of hard-shelled algae. It works by absorbing lipids from the waxy outer layer or insects' exoskeletons, causing them to dehydrate. I am also putting rolled up newspaper along the edges of the raised beds. When the newspaper becomes damp, the sow bugs use it as a shelter. It can simply be picked up and thrown away.

The Diatomaceous earth will also destroy beneficial insects, so it should be used with that in mind. In humans, it can cause irritation if breathed in, so it must be added to the soil with care.

DRAMA!!!! With any luck, this will balance the scales, and this next round of seeds will not be murdered in their sleep!


Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Learning Curve

We have been digging up potatoes lately, and they're as delicious as can be. There are few things as fun as foraging for them. It is so gratifying to spend time rummaging around in the dirt, and out pops a beautiful yellow or purple one, and then another and another! There were not nearly as many potatoes as I'd thought there would be. I figured that out of eight plants we'd have multitudes. Some of the plants didn't really even produce any (mystery). But, we did get some, and those some wanted to make me plant more.

The biggest problem I've faced in this garden is timing...when to start new plants to supplement the ones that are going out, to leave room for them, to not have everything ready at once, and to truly figure out what it is that we eat and how much of it to grow.

I found out that we eat a lot of lettuces. We eat a lot of tomatoes. Not so much with the green beans, even though green beans are something we used to buy in the grocery store all the time. Many millions of peas (so vast was the number of peas that we consumed that the plant got completely harvested every day and none even made it into the pot!). I love to have beets on hand, and roast a bunch of them at a time and keep them in the fridge for snacks and impromptu salads with goat cheese. The onions get used and appreciated, but we're running low and don't have anything but tiny seedlings to replace them with. The garlic will run out eventually, and probably before the next garlic is ready.

Here is my new experiment. I have planted a row of lettuce, and a row of arugula. As soon as those rows get to be 2" tall, it'll time to plant another row. We'll see how that goes...

The garden is only a year old. I'm wondering how long it will really take for us to manage it to the point that we have the rhythm.



Monday, August 25, 2008

Plant Markers

Next time you hear "I'm bored, there's nothing to do!", here's some fun:

Madi and Ryan made these plant markers using crayons, white paper, wooden BBQ skewers and, I'm so sorry, but...some plastic. I figure (excuses, excuses), that since we bring our own bags to the market, and even clothes shopping, since we use about 1 bag of Ziplocks every 2-3 YEARS, since Fred rides his bike nearly everywhere instead of using the car, we could slide on this use of petroleum in hopes of the markers lasting more than a week of sun and watering and dare I say rain?

The Recipe:

Cut Pieces Of Paper To Size
Make A List Of Plants
Create Drawings
Break BBQ Skewers In Half (large popsicle sticks could be substituted for this)
Press Sticky Plastic Sheet Onto The Front Of Each Drawing
Hold Skewers Tight Onto The Back Of The Drawing, Leaving about 4" At The Bottom Sticking Out
Press Sticky Plastic Onto The Back Of The Drawing, Including The Skewer
Make Sure That Plastic Is As Tight As Possible, Especially Around The Skewer

Put Into Garden!

We bought the sheets of plastic at Staples. They're sticky on one side, and worked great. I found them in the same section that laminating supplies are sold. All's good so far, and they sure are cute.


Thursday, August 21, 2008

Tangled Up In Blue

It's time to start ordering fall and winter seeds! Last year, we planted a bunch of sweet peas on a bamboo trellis. We ordered the seeds from The Fragrant Garden, which has the most incredible colors of sweet peas to choose from. They are easy to grow - the seeds should be soaked for 24 hours by floating them in a little dish of water or wrapping in a wet paper towel before planting as they have a tough skin that must be broken through to germinate. Follow the planting instructions on the packets, and you'll be in bouquets all winter. Sweet peas thrive in colder weather, so for us in So Cal, it's a winter flower. For really cold places, it's a fall - spring plant. The flowers should be cut daily, as the plants are quick to start producing seeds and die if they're not picked often. Cutting will inspire tons and tons of flowers to be produced!

Another great favorite to order now are onions and garlic. We get our garlic from The Garlic Store. They have really interesting varieties, as well as "packages" that contain 4-5 different kinds, all with great growing instructions, and excellent customer service for weird questions (I've asked!)!!! Garlic and onions are easy but glacial to grow, so be PATIENT. The garlic and onions we grew last year took about nine months from planting to harvest...

One more blue thing, just cause it's so pretty and getting lots of attention from the bees and hummingbirds as well, our beloved butterfly bush (Buddleia davidii 'Black Knight').


Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Endings and Beginnings

So begins the mid summer challenge. As much produce as we are gaining (tons of tomatoes, cucumbers, basil, beans, and peppers mostly), we are losing plants every day. Lettuce is bolting, as is the last of the broccoli. The onions are finished growing and need to be picked and cured. Everything that was vibrant in the spring and early summer is making its seeds for the coming year. There are bald spots in what used to be, just a few weeks ago, filled with life.

Over the weekend we sowed the beginnings of our fall garden: Gourmet Blend Beets, Watermelon Radishes, and Purple Haze and King Midas Carrots. We planted some extra winter squash seeds (Delicata Honey Boat), and some more Sakata's Sweet Melon, which so far has been a failure, but try and try again! This week we will plant some new onions, snap peas, more pole beans, and a round of lettuce, which will get covered from the August heat with a burlap tent. I am going to plant successive rows of lettuce this time around. The method I am going to use is to plant two rows of lettuce at a time (the rows will be about 3' long, and when the seedlings are about 1.5"s tall, it's time to plant two more rows).

Albeit so exciting to plant anything, it is bittersweet. I am already feeling the end of summer. We even have a beautiful orange baby pumpkin already. I am anticipating that chill in the air, leaves falling, saying goodbye to another year...


PS. Thank you to my dear dear friend Suzi Varin for the beautiful photo!!!!!!

Monday, July 21, 2008

Fly Control

We have always had fly problems, especially in the heat of summer. We keep our doors and windows open almost all day instead of using our air conditioner, and the little buggers just love to swarm the house. As a joke last year, I bought this Pitcher Plant (see above), for Fred, and to our surprise, it not only works, but it works GREAT. It is in the kitchen window, and almost all of the flies that enter the house seem to find it and crawl down into its depths, never to return again. I love it, and it's a beautiful plant to boot.

I have no expertise with carniverous plants, but ours seems to love lots of morning sun, and shade the rest of the day. Pitcher Plants grow wild in bogs and swamps, so they need to stay nice and moist.

Happy Fly Eating!


Monday, July 14, 2008


If you've never grown tomatillos (this is our first time) you really should consider it. They're very simple to maintain, seem to grow year-round in our climate, and are way more flavorful than any store-bought varieties. If you do decide to plant them make sure you plant more than one since, unlike their tomato cousins, they don't self pollenate.

If you happen to have a pound of fresh tomatillos laying around, as we do about every other week, I highly recommend the following (my modification of this recipe).

Pollo en Chile Verde

Servings: 4
Preparation Time: 1.5 hours

1 pound tomatillos
2 T Olive Oil
2 serrano chiles
1 poblano chile
3 garlic cloves
1/2 medium onion
1 small bunch cilantro
1 pound chicken breast
1/4 teaspoon chipotle powder or crushed red pepper
1/2 cup hot water
salt and pepper to taste

Cooking Instructions
- Peel the papery skin off of all the tomatillos, wash tomatillos in warm water
- Chop tomatillos in quarters
- Heat olive oil in large saute pan
- Cook them over medium low heat, stirring occasionally for about 10 minutes
- Chop the chiles, garlic, onion and cilantro, then puree them together in a blender
- Add the puree to the tomatillos. Cut the chicken into bite sized pieces and add to the mix with 1/2 cup hot water
- Cook over medium heat for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Add the salt, pepper and chipotle to taste about half way through the cooking time.

This can be served with/over rice.

I prefer to serve it on fresh warm tortillas with a bit of sour cream and avocado. It really doesn't get much better than that.


This is so cool...our garden is being featured in the current issue of Newsweek Magazine in an article about growing your own!
I am completely thrilled. Veggie seed sales have been up by about 30% this year, so they decided to do a feature. Here's to food independence, lots of dirty fun, and tomatoes that taste like tomatoes.


PS. A GIANT thank you to Celeste for her fabulous photo of us. I'm so grateful that she can shoot on a deadline, and I can't wait to go to Luques!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008


People come by and smile (or frown or look at it quizzingly) and say words like "revolutionary" "subversive" "weird" "fabulous" "horrible"...

I love how people respond to our garden, and our project, but really, what is so subversive about growing our food? What is so "revolutionary" about feeding ourselves when we need to eat to stay alive? What is so "weird" about not relying on corporations to do the job of sustaining our family in it's most basic function: eating! What is so "fabulous" about simply being independent? Have we really sunk that low? Can I tell you that every time I give one of our neighbors a little something - be it a handful of basil, a squash, or even a little radish or a strawberry, that they suddenly smile.

Yes, I am proud of every bit of everything that we grow. It makes me feel SAFE that we grow about 80% of our veggies. It makes me feel like part of the world that we picked about 8 million apricots off our across the street neighbor's fabulous tree and canned them. It makes me feel saddened and depressed that this is such a big strange deal. Did Laura Ingalls' neighbors think they were "subversive"? What a world.

Especially today...just take a look at this:
New Salmonella Outbreak

Now who's weird?


Thursday, July 3, 2008

Canning Day

Our friend Cheryl, who lives across the street, has the most prolific apricot tree I have ever seen. This tree had literally hundreds of fruits on it...we decided to take an afternoon (and evening, AND the next morning) and can the fruit! It was good fun, easier than we thought, and we got many cans of jams, and preserved fruits. Now if we don't kill anyone with botulism, we'll be up to our elbows in apricots for quite some time! Here is the diary of our day, as well as the recipes we made:

First, we went to the Jardan Corporation Website, which has a really easy guide to safe canning (they make the Ball / Kerr canning jars that we used for our project). We used an enormous enameled pot with a wire rack on the bottom, to boil the jars in. Since we were canning fruit, which has a high acid content, we could use the standard boiling method as opposed to buying a pressure canner. Basically, we ran the jars and bands through the dishwasher to sterilize them, then kept them in very hot, simmering water (enough to cover the jars by at least 1") until we were ready to use them. We put the jar lids in another, smaller pot of water (kept to a simmer, not a full boil, to protect the rubber). We made the recipes, pulled the jars out of the hot water, using a special "jar lifter" that we bought as part of a canning kit from the hardware store, used the special canning funnel (also part of the kit), and a regular soup ladle to fill the jars, leaving no less than 1/4" head space (do not touch the insides of the jars with your fingers to avoid bacteria!), then, carefully, without touching the bottoms or sides with our hands (we used tongs to do this), put the tops on the jars, screwed the bands on (you can touch the bands), then boiled the jars for 5 minutes (this is based upon our altitude, which is practically sea level). The jars were then left to cool on a towel, overnight. You can test the seal of the jars by poking the tops of the lids. If the lids pop up and down, the seal is not perfect, and the fruit should be refridgerated instead of shelved (it will last up to one month). ALWAYS follow the manufacturers instructions for sterilizing and sealing jars, and do it carefully.

Ian, Cheryl, And Celeste, Working On The Jam...

Hot Boiling Jars (Thanks To Nanny For The Gyenormous Pot!)

Me Pulling Jars Out Of The Pot!!


Simple Apricot Jam:
(Makes About 4 Cups)

2.5 pounds (approximately 12-15) apricots
3-4 apricot pits
3 cups of sugar
juice of one lemon

Pit apricots, and cut them into 1/2" pieces. Crack open apricot pits with a hammer, and remove the whitish kernels from the inside (this gives a bit of an almond flavor to the jam), and set aside. Put the apricot chunks and kernels in a heavy bottomed pot, and stir in sugar. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to medium, and boil steadily, stirring often, for 20-30 minutes, skimming off any foam that rises to the top. As the liquid thickens, and the fruit becomes soft and translucent, start testing for consistency by putting a spoonful of jam on a chilled plate to cool down quickly. When the jam is the thickness you want, stir in the lemon. Follow manufacturer's guide to safe canning.

Martha Stewart's Peach / Rosemary Jam (We Subbed Apricots for Peaches):
(Makes About 1 Quart)

3 pounds yellow peaches, peeled
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
4 3/4 cups sugar
4 large sprigs fresh rosemary

Halve and pit peaches, then cut into 1/2-inch-thick wedges. Transfer to a large bowl. Add lemon juice; toss. Add sugar and rosemary; toss. Cover; let stand, tossing every hour, for 4 hours (sugar should be completely dissolved).
Put peach mixture into a large, wide pot. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Cook until liquid is syrupy, 12 to 13 minutes. Crush lightly with a potato masher, leaving one-quarter of the wedges intact. Skim foam from surface. Discard rosemary sprigs. Follow manufacturer's guide to safe canning.

Preserved Apricots In Simple Syrup:

Make a simple syrup of 4 cups water to 2 cups sugar in a saucepan. You can add a few leaves of mint, lemon balm, bay leaves, rosemary, lemon verbena, etc.) and a squeeze of lemon juice. Simmer syrup for a few minutes, then turn off heat.

Prepare fruit. In this case, we washed and halved the apricots, removing the pits.

Pack fruit into jars - and do pack well. If you don't pack them tight, the fruit will float a little in the jars. You can put a sprig of rosemary, lemon zest, lavender, mint - even a couple of cloves, into the jars - pretty and flavorful!

Fill jars with hot simple syrup, leaving about a half inch of headroom. Screw on the lids and rings. Lower jars into the kettle of hot water. Follow manufacturer's guide to safe canning.

Happy Canning!


Thursday, June 19, 2008


Tomorrow is the Summer Solstice! We've been having a heat wave in LA, and tender things like lettuce, as well as the end of the winter veggies, radishes, beets, and even parsley, have been bolting even here, as we hug the coast. When our arugula bolted, we ate lots of its wonderful white flowers in salads and pastas. We waited until the the plant made its seeds, and then saved them in the same envelope that the original, purchased seeds came in. They will sit in the dark garage, awaiting fall's cool down so they can be planted. I also saved seeds from our peas, and doubtless we will be saving more and more favorites as time goes by. The tomatoes that Fred grew from last year's fruit (the first time we tried seed saving) are thriving. It puts a whole other kind of fun into the process of growing things!

It was my birthday last week, and Fred bought me a worm farm! It hasn't come in the mail yet, but I will post about it as soon as I get it. I can't think of a better birthday present than fresh, homemade worm poop for our garden!


Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

Zucchini Summer

Zucchini's are coming in, and there are too many already! We've decided to do a zucchini recipe marathon, to see how many things we can do with them before we can't eat them or even look at them anymore.

First Installment: Zucchini Carpaccio, from Gourmet Magazine, March 2003

This recipe was inspired by the version at Tramonti e Muffati restaurant, where the dish gets its distinctly Roman flavor from local mint, Sicilian lemons, and two-year-old Grana Padano cheese. The pine nuts are raw here, as Italians rarely toast them.
Active time: 10 min Start to finish: 20 min

Servings: Makes 4 first-course servings.
4 small zucchini (1 lb total)
1/3 cup loosely packed fresh mint leaves
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1/4 cup pine nuts (1 oz) 1 (6-oz) piece Grana Padano or Parmigiano-Reggiano
Garnish: thinly sliced tips of 2 zucchini blossoms; 4 fresh mint sprigs
Special equipment: a French Mandolin or other adjustable-blade slicer

Cut zucchini diagonally into paper-thin slices with slicer. Arrange slices, overlapping slightly, in 1 layer on 4 plates.
Make stacks of mint leaves and cut crosswise into very thin slivers, then sprinkle over zucchini.

Whisk together oil and lemon juice in a small bowl, then drizzle over zucchini. Sprinkle with sea salt, pepper to taste, and pine nuts. Let stand 10 minutes to soften zucchini and allow flavors to develop.

Just before serving, use a vegetable peeler to shave cheese to taste over zucchini, then sprinkle with zucchini blossoms and mint.

I also put some sliced French Radishes and carrots from the garden on top. Pretty. I also toasted the pine nuts. YUM.

Serve Along With Pan Fried Rainbow Trout With Orange, Mint And Fried Capers, From Domino Magazine, May 2008

The Ingredients:
Serves 4
3 oranges
1 cup flour
2 tsp. kosher salt
1 tsp. black pepper
4 rainbow trout (¾ lb. each), cleaned
1 bunch mint, 18 whole leaves set aside, remaining leaves chopped
4 sprigs rosemary
olive oil for frying
3 tbsp. capers, rinsed and thoroughly dried
1 ½ cups dry white wine
3 tbsp. cold unsalted butter, cut into chunks

Prepping the fish: Preheat oven to 200°. Slice 2 of the oranges (with rind on) into ¼" rounds. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine all but 2 tablespoons of the flour with the salt and pepper. Add 2 fish at a time into the bag and shake until well coated; transfer to a large, rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with remaining fish. Stuff the cavity of each fish with 2 or 3 orange slices, one sprig of rosemary, and 3 whole mint leaves.
Cooking the fish: Juice remaining orange; reserve juice. Heat 3 tablespoons olive oil in a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add fish and cook until golden brown, about 3 or 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to another large rimmed baking sheet, and place on the center rack of the oven to keep warm. Repeat with remaining fish, adding more oil as needed. Toss the capers with the reserved 2 tablespoons flour, shaking off excess flour. Add 1 tablespoon oil to the frying pan, add capers, and cook until slightly crisp, 2 to 3 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Add wine to the pan, scraping up brown bits with a wooden spoon. Reduce the wine to about ¾ cup. Add the reserved orange juice and the chopped mint. Continue to cook for about 3 to 5 more minutes, until somewhat thick. Turn off heat and add the butter, swirling the pan to melt it. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer fish to a large serving platter, and top with sauce. Garnish with fried capers.

*We skipped the flour coating on the trout and grilled it on the 'que instead. Delicious. We did pan fry the capers good.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Double Feature!!!

What an amazing morning!

Our home is being featured on Design Sponge*, and a wedding I photographed (one of my favorites ever!) is being featured on Style Me Pretty!

Here are the links to the dual-features!

The Home Feature, Which Talks A Little About Our Garden And This Blog:

Design Sponge*

The Wedding Feature:

Ashley And Matt

I am so grateful to Abby Larson for posting these articles. I am blessed!


Tuesday, May 27, 2008

French Radish Harvest

No doubt that radishes are one of the easiest and most gratifying thing to grow. They're fast and furious and beautiful!
Radishes are a cool season crop, but this variety will withstand some summer heat! Plant successively over 10 day periods, and you'll be in salads for months. We planted these at a 1/2" depth, 1/2" apart, and then thinned to 1" apart when the foliage appeared. Radishes like organic material, so adding compost from your bins is great for them! Keep 'em moist! Love 'em much.

When I was a student at US Grant High School in Van Nuys, CA, we actually had an agriculture program, which was long since scrapped for the typical reasons: Budget, Prop 13, etc. (There was also a 4H Club, and unless I'm completely crazy and making this memory up, we had goats, though I might be dreaming.). The first thing we did was plant rows of radishes. Great for kids (impossible to screw up + nearly instant gratification)!

I take my hat off to Alice Waters, who is single handedly trying to get urban schools back on the grow your own track, as well as chef Jamie Oliver, who is attempting to revamp England's school lunch program, as well as pushing the idea of students growing their own veggies to encourage excitement about eating healthy. Our own Learning Garden at Venice High School is an amazing and beautiful project that the students are incredibly proud of. What was once an empty, overgrown, unused piece of land has become, virtually by neighborhood volunteerism and student enthusiasm, an absolutely gorgeous garden, run by Gardenmaster David King. I'd love to see every public school dig a little plot of earth up and show the kids how food grows. No doubt this could be done through the PTA at each school. Get that ball rolling.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Mind The Scape!

Yummy things to do with garlic while you're waiting for the harvest!

THING ONE: The Scape
(That's a fancy botanical word for a flowering stem, usually leafless, rising from the crown or roots of a plant. Scapes can have a single flower or many flowers, depending on the species.)
Anyway, for our purposes (to EAT and COOK), I just found out that the garlic scape is one delectable thing! If you're growing garlic and a scape comes up, by all means cut the bugger off and eat it! If left, the scape hardens and curtails further growth of the bulb (that's the garlic part you'll be wanting in the fall). Kim O'Donnel, the author of the recipe below, claims that the scape's a garlic lover's nirvana. She also suggests: dicing it into scrambled eggs, adding to a veggie sauté or using as garnish for rice. We only have one small scape today, so it's going into a stir fry tonight, but I plan to make this pesto asap!

Garlic Scape Pesto

1 cup garlic scapes (about 8 or 9 scapes), top flowery part removed, cut into ¼-inch slices
1/3 cup walnuts
¾ cup olive oil
¼-1/2 cup grated parmigiano
½ teaspoon salt
black pepper to taste

Place scapes and walnuts in the bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of bowl and into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper. Makes about 6 ounces of pesto. Keeps for up to one week in an air-tight container in the refrigerator.

For ½ pound short pasta such as penne, add about 2 tablespoons of pesto to cooked pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.

THING TWO: Green Garlic Leaves!
Now, the point is not to denude the entire plant, which, once you taste it you may end up doing out of sheer exuberance. If you carefully cut off some of the long, green leaves of the garlic plant, and chop them up and eat them, you'll be really happy you did, and your plant won't feel the least bit stressed out. Last night I took some tomatoes, tossed them in olive oil, kosher salt, fresh ground pepper, and about 1/4 cup of roughly chopped green garlic leaves, and roasted them in the oven at 425 degrees for about 30- 40 minutes. The garlic melts and it's just incredible.

(a special thank you chef guru Celeste, who sat in the garden with me and showed me the green garlic leaf light...)


Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Happy Earth Day!!!

If you want to be happy for an hour,
get drunk.
If you want to be happy for three days,
take a wife.
If you want to be happy for a week,
kill your pig and eat it.
But if you want to be happy for a lifetime,
become a gardener!


XXO Yvette