Saturday, November 20, 2010

The House Of Orange And Other Tales...

Our yard is lousy with carrots. There are carrots poking up everywhere, all up in our business. There have been carrots in the potted Maple tree. There are carrots growing on the side yard underneath our neighbor's window, where no carrots should be. There are carrots in all of our garden beds. I can tell you that carrots seeds will survive in hot compost, and that unless you want a farm of them, do not put flowering carrot plants in with your food scraps...

Unfortunately, they taste really bland. I keep waiting to pull them all up and take them over to my friend Leslie, feed them to Pie and Jake, her two horses, and be done with it. The rogue carrots are white...

Fred read that all carrots were originally white, yellow, and purple, and that the orange varieties were developed by the Dutch, as a tribute to King William I of Orange, aka, "William The Silent", who led the revolt to gain independence from Spain in the 16th century. The orange carrot had a better taste, and it was adopted it as the Royal vegetable in honor of the House of Orange.

Believe it or not, Britain's Carrot Museum (I know, that is really weird), disputes this and calls it a myth. I, for one, love that story and I'm sticking to it.

I planted all sorts of carrots about a month ago - Cosmic Purple (really cool with orange insides and very yummy), Red Dragon (also delicious), and the classic Orange Danvers. I just mix up a bunch of seeds in one envelope and plant away. I love that you don't know what you're going to get until they come up out of the ground! You wouldn't believe the looks on my tiny pals Jasmine, aka, "Sprinkles", and her brother Malik's faces last spring when they pulled up carrots that were NOT ORANGE. They couldn't believe it...if you have kids, this is a sure way to get them into carrots. The weirder the better, but the white ones, I'll tell you, are best left for the 15th century and soup stock.


Saturday, November 13, 2010

Holiday Gift Ideas For Gardeners Part Two: Beatrice Holiday Handlebar Bags

Okay, these have nothing to do with gardening, but I think that it's safe to say that MOST gardeners love bikes, and these bags are so adorable that I couldn't resist sharing them. I saw one on a bike the other day while hanging out in Venice with my friends Colette and Kaitlin, and I literally squealed...

Here is some info about the company, and the owner, Alisun Franson, who always cruises in style:

"The birth of Beatrice Holiday - Wheel Cute Couture came to be after countless mishaps on my cruiser bike. Fallen lipstick into a gutter, lost credit card that slipped out of my pocket while in transit, keys that slipped thru the crack of my basket into another gutter. Lots of cruiser roadkill left in my path! I can't be the only one right? So, I created a line of Cruiser Handlebar Bags, Cruiser Basket Liners and matching Cruiser Seat Covers crafted out of vintage upholstery fabrics that really make your cruiser stand out from the pack!!

Cruising around the neighborhood is something that is second nature to me living in sunny Denver, Colorado. I love to cruise to the farmer's market, the park with my dog, meet up with friends that are also on their cruisers. It's just part of my everyday routine... so naturally I wanted to pimp out my ride a bit - and doing so with vintage fabrics and naming the line after my NANA makes it all that much better.

Beatrice Holiday products are designed and constructed out of vintage upholstery fabrics and made in Denver, COLORADO."

BUY THEM HERE (or, better yet, buy two and send me one!)


PS. All product photos were gratefully borrowed from the Beatrice Holiday website!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Holiday Gift Ideas For Gardeners Part One: Blackboard Garden Labels

These are the BEST. Please buy them for me!

This set of ten eco-friendly labels are the perfect gardening companion. Made from sustainably harvested birch wood, these blackboard labels help you easily keep track of the plants in your garden. The white chinagraph pencil is perfect for the blackboard as it won’t wash off in the rain-but can be reused to last you many seasons in the garden. 10"H, 1"W

Order HERE From Terrain...


Thursday, October 28, 2010

The Cost Of A Global Food Chain

I mentioned in my last post that we planted garlic...did I mention that I-LOVE-GARLIC??

Here is what we did this year when we put the bulbs in the ground:

Our soil was not draining very well, so along with lots of compost, we (ok, FRED) dug in some cactus mix to loosen it up. Also, plenty of worm castings and a little handful of bone meal for each bulb. We'll see what happens. Last year we got a nice crop, but the bulbs were pretty small. Hopefully this year will be better!

On another note, this is an incredible article from the Los Angeles Times about the true cost of food...garlic is one of the subjects of the article. Please take the time to read it HERE. This is required reading. There will be a test at the end of the semester, which will count for 1/3 of your grade!


Sunday, October 24, 2010

Fall Harvest...

Incredible as it may seem, we're still harvesting a ton of tomatoes. The photo above was taken a couple of days ago! Fred has canned about 20 jars of San Marzanos, and we're eating Chocolate Stripes and Black Krims like crazy. We spent the better part of the weekend dumping new compost into the beds, and planting California Early, Nootka Rose, and Elephant Garlic (purchased from The Garlic Store); Super Sugar Snap Peas; Cosmic Purple and Danvers Carrots; and French Radishes. The carrots and radishes are going to be planted successively, every couple of weeks, so we always have a new batch coming the next couple of days, onions, sweet peas, beets, and lettuce seeds will go down under...

We are trying a couple of cold season tomato varieties too this year. We tried last year, and it was a flop, but our new plants are already doing far better than the ones from last year. Fred even found a cold season San Marzano!

Since we're still in tomato season in So Cal (sorry, rest of the country, but we do have to get SOMETHING back for having to live in LA and sit in hours of traffic all the time - everything's a trade off), I've attached some notes for you from my pal Bill Noland, who is an incredibly gifted sustainable landscape designer in Seattle. When I killed Michael Pollan last summer, he sent me this email with some great tomato tips:

"Did you strip most of the lower leaves off and plant it deep (leaving only the top four or five inches of leaves) when originally planting it? Tomatoes are one of the few plants that like to be buried deeper than their original height in a container, as the stalk will send out roots if underground, giving your plant a much larger rootball. They also like a handful of bonemeal at planting, along with a good all purpose organic fertilizer. My dad used to sprinkle a tablespoon of Epsom salts in the hole as well. He claimed it made the tomatoes sweeter. I've planted tomatoes that way and they seem to like it. Consistent moisture at the roots, not too wet or dry and keep the water off the leaves if possible."

So there you go. He also read that M.P. tomatoes are bit susceptible to blossom end rot which seems to be fairly common with tomatoes that are elongated in shape, apparently. I didn't tell him that the poor little guy only got to be about 8 inches tall and gave up without ever even making a flower. :(

And on another note...
Tonight I'm making focaccia, which we're eating with roasted tomatoes for's the recipe. I've been making it for years. Every time I make it I mix up different things in the dough (Yum). Some of my favorite things to mix in are: a couple Tbs of rosemary or oregano; a handful of yummy chopped olives (LOVE the Adam's Ranch Greek Style for this b/c they're marinated in some amazing brine that has herbs in it holy moly); a handful of grated parmesan cheese; anything else you can think of. Also, when you roll out the dough, it's nice to make a little tree design or something like that with the tip of your knife. Pretty. Also, try sprinkling some nice finishing salt, like Kilauea Black or Sel Gris (I know it's expensive but once you taste it you'll see why it rules!) on top before it goes into the oven. I also always cook this on a pizza stone, but you can always cook it on a heavy cookie sheet too. MMMMMM.

Focaccia, Adapted From The Greens Cookbook By Deborah Madison

1 Package Active Dry Yeast
1 Cup Warm Water
1 Teaspoon Salt (I use Kosher Salt)
3 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Pinch Sugar
2.5 cups or so of flour (I split the flour up: 1/2 bread flour and 1/2 unbleached white flour)

Dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the salt, olive oil, and sugar. Stir in the flour in two or three additions. Once the dough has formed, turn it out onto a board dusted with flour, and knead it for several minutes, adding only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. When the dough is smooth and shiny, set it in a lightly oiled bowl (use olive oil for this), turn it over once, cover, and put in a warm place to rise, until is is doubled in bulk (about 45 minutes).

After the dough has risen, turn it onto the counter and shape it with a rolling pin (or just your hands!), into one large or two small ovals, about 1/2" thick. Make several cuts in the dough in the center of the oval - parallel or fan-shaped (or the tree mentioned above), then pull the edges of the dough apart, opening the cuts to give the loaf a latticed appearance. If you are going to bake the bread on a pizza stone, transfer the loaf to a well-floured peel (we use cornmeal for this). Otherwise, put it on a well oiled baking sheet. Brush the bread with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt (black salt yum), and set it aside to rise for about 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees, and, if using a pizza stone, warm it for 20 minutes.

After the dough has risen the second time, slide it onto the pizza stone, or put the baking sheet into the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until the bread is nicely browned. Serve hot from the oven, with or without butter or olive oil dip (to make this, finely chop a clove of garlic, add a little salt, fresh ground pepper, and paprika, and infuse it in a 1/2 cup of garlic while you're prepping the bread...delish!).



Saturday, September 25, 2010

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Blog Post In Which I Reveal My Amazing Tomato Tart Recipe, And How I Killed Michael Pollan

Tomatoes are in full swing at our house. This has been a far better year than last. Even though it's been foggy most days, we've had just enough sun to have an amazing crop of tomatoes. I think this is largely due to Fred's Worm Tea, which I suspect has been one of the main reasons that we've been relatively pest free this summer (a far cry from last year when I was so disappointed that I almost threw in the towel on the whole garden).

And yes, albeit successful, we have still had our tragedies. Dork that I am, when I found a little bunch of seedlings at Tomatomania called Michael Pollan, there was NO WAY that I was leaving without one. I have collected some data on his untimely death that revealed traits which may or may not be attributable to Michael Pollan (human)...

1. Michael Pollan (tomato) does not like to be squashed among other tomatoes and ESPECIALLY not near a big giant mass of snap peas.

2. Michael Pollan (tomato) does not like to be neglected because someone planted him in a spot where they couldn't see him very well each day, and therefore kind of forgot all about him.

3. Michael Pollan (tomato) was not impressed when I all of a sudden remembered him and tried to make up to him with lots of worm tea and extra pining and begging. He, in fact, decided to give me the ultimate finger and commit suicide.

Nevertheless, here are the tomatoes we're eating right now...there are more coming from plants as un-yet tasted. Details to follow!

1. Black Krim - yum yum so good
2. Black Etheopian - really good unless compared to the Black Krim (no contest)
3. Some kind of cherry tomato that is missing it's tag - really good!
4. San Marzano - these were grown for canning - details to follow!

What to do with all your tomatoes? Well, if you're me, you would do this:

Yvette's Tomato Tart!
(this is a combo of a couple recipes, so bear with me! BTW I cook in handfuls and pinches, etc., so I'd suggest winging it with the proportions of the tomato filling to taste!)

For The Crust:

1 stick (4oz) cold unsalted better, cut into 1/2" pieces
3-4 T cold water (I use a cup of water with ice in it!)
1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 – 3/4 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves

Place cut pieces of butter in a bowl or plate and freeze for 20 minutes. Refrigerate water in a small measuring cup until needed.

Mix the Dough: Place the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process about 10 seconds to blend the ingredients. Add the frozen butter pieces and pulse 6-10 times (in 1 second bursts) until the butter and flour mixture looks like oatmeal flakes.

Immediately transfer the butter-flour mixture into a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle a tablespoon of the cold water over the mixture and “fluff” it in with a fork, then add another, and another, until 3 Tablespoons have been added. Continue to fluff and stir 10 – 12 times. It will not be a cohesive dough at this point, but a bowl of shaggy crumbs and clumps of dough. Before bringing the dough together, you need to test it for the correct moisture content. Take a handful of the mixture and squeeze firmly. Open your hand. If the clump falls apart and looks dry, remove any large, moist clumps from the bowl and add more water, one teaspoon at a time, sprinkling it over the top of the mixture and immediately fluffing it in. Test again before adding anymore water. Repeat, if needed. The dough is done when it holds together (even if a few small pieces fall off). If the butter feels soft and squishy, refrigerate before continuing. If the butter is still cold and firm, continue to the next step.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and kneed gently 3-6 times. If it won’t come together and looks very dry, return it to the bowl and add antoher teaspoon or two of ice water (one at a time), mixing it in as above and try again. Flatten the dough into a 6-7” disk, wrap in plastic or parchment paper, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

When dough is cold again, roll it out into a thin circle, using a floured rolling pin on a floured board (enough to fully cover an 9.5” tart pan - I use the fluted ones with removable bottoms). Carefully lift crust and press into the tart pan.

Line the tart shell with parchment or foil, and fill with pie weights (I use dried beans for this!). Make sure the weights reach up the sides to the rim of the pan!

Bake the shell for about 20-30 minutes, until it starts to look golden. Take shell out of the oven (be sure to hold the pan by the sides and not the bottom!!), and lift out the parchment / foil and weights. Line the bottom of the tart shell with the parmesan shavings, sprinkle with thyme leaves, and return it to the oven for about 10 minutes until cheese is melted and a little browned. Be sure to cover the entire bottom of the tart shell with parmesan, as it creates a barrier between itself and the yummy tomato gooeyness so that the crust doesn't get gummy (yuck).

For The Filling:

About 2 lbs mixed heirloom tomatoes, halved lengthwise
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
2 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/2 cup Parmigiano-Reggiano shavings plus additional for garnish


Toss tomatoes with 2 tablespoons oil, 2 teaspoons thyme, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1 teaspoon pepper in a bowl until well coated. Roast tomatoes, cut sides up and in 1 layer, in foil-lined baking pan in middle of oven, about an 1 hour, or until tomatoes start to brown.

After roasting tomatoes for about 20 minutes, move tomatoes in pan to lower third of oven and put pastry on baking sheet on middle rack. Bake pastry and tomatoes separately (see instructions) until pastry is finished, and edges of tomatoes are slightly browned but still appear juicy.

Arrange warm tomatoes in cooked pie crust, then sprinkle evenly with remaining 1/2 teaspoon thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, pepper to taste, and additional cheese shavings if desired. (Also the olive oil and tomato drippings (yum) that is left in the roasting pan is great to drizzle on top!) I usually put the whole thing back in the hot oven for a few minutes so it melts all together…

Let me know how it goes…nom nom!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

...with fava beans and a fine chianti

I just harvested our first fava beans today. We planted a long, 20 ft row of them as a cover crop, and left about 5 feet of plants to eat once the beans did their magic to the tired soil.

I hope this is good (I just made this recipe up, and have the audacity to put it on the blog without trying it first), but how can you go wrong with these delicious, precious beans that only grow for a few moments each year?

I just shelled one so I could photograph the beautiful little soft beds that the favas sleep in while they're growing, and my fingers smell like green, and like everything good and simple.

Fava Beans With Onion and Mint
Serves 2 as a side dish

I always shell fava beans, unless they're really young and tiny as their white skins can be bitter. It takes some time, but it is so worth it...

First shuck the beans from the pods, then parboil them for a few minutes until the white skins puff up. Remove the beans and submerge in ice water until they cool off a bit, then slip each bean out of its skin and you're ready to go!

* A few handfuls of peeled shelled Fresh Fava Beans (about 2 pounds in pod)
* About 1 tablespoon Olive Oil
* A nob of Butter
* A handful of white onion, chopped
* A good squeeze of Lemon
* Kosher Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
* Small handful of Mint, roughly chopped (about 1/4 cup)

Melt butter and oil in a medium skillet, over medium heat. Add onions and saute until translucent. Add beans and cook until just heated through, then season with sea salt, lemon and pepper. Toss in mint (I am in love with a new mint plant I bought a couple weeks ago at Marina Garden Center called Mojito Mint - big leaves and amazing flavor!). Serve immediately.


Saturday, April 24, 2010

Let The Fun Begin!

Don't forget to come to the Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase tomorrow between 2-6pm! There are 79 water-wise gardens on the tour...and it's FREE!
Be sure and stop by to see our garden (we are 1F on the tour)!!

Your Daily Thread did a wonderful article about the tour last week.
Read it here.

And do not forget, the DWP is offering cash incentives to remove your lawn!


Thursday, April 22, 2010

Pea Brush

I WALKED down alone Sunday after church
To the place where John has been cutting trees
To see for myself about the birch
He said I could have to bush my peas.

The sun in the new-cut narrow gap
Was hot enough for the first of May,
And stifling hot with the odor of sap
From stumps still bleeding their life away.

The frogs that were peeping a thousand shrill
Wherever the ground was low and wet,
The minute they heard my step went still
To watch me and see what I came to get.

Birch boughs enough piled everywhere!—
All fresh and sound from the recent axe.
Time someone came with cart and pair
And got them off the wild flower’s backs.

They might be good for garden things
To curl a little finger round,
The same as you seize cat’s-cradle strings,
And lift themselves up off the ground.

Small good to anything growing wild,
They were crooking many a trillium
That had budded before the boughs were piled
And since it was coming up had to come.

- Robert Frost

There is probably just enough time to plant one more crop of snap peas. This spring has been pretty cold for So Cal...perfect! We're on our second planting for the year, but the little guys never even make it into the house...someone (ahem) is always eating them right off the vine.

We have 5' bamboo teepees for our pole pea vines to grow up, but bush peas don't really need to be trellised as they cling to each other by twining their little shoots together and only grow to be about 18 - 24" high. However, you can make a pea brush for them with beautiful black birch branches, which will provide additional structure for the plants:

It's so pretty, and it's free! Go make one and tell me all about it...


PS. Pea Brush photo courtesy of Margaret Roach's amazing blog: A Way To Garden. The Black birch pea brush revelation was from my Mom, who saw it on Martha Stewart, and is saving her birch twigs for me! Thanks Mom!


Thursday, April 1, 2010

Wai Day

My dear friend, chef Wai Hon Chu, co-author of this amazing new cookbook, was recently in town for a series of book signings, and my friend Amanda and I decided to host a dumpling / blog luncheon at my house!

Our guests were the amazing photographer and blogger, both of Apartment Therapy, and her own At Home, At Home blog, Laure Joliet; Chef Celeste of Meals At Home; and of course, Fred...

Wai, who was born in Hong Kong, but has lived in New York long enough to call himself a native, and his co-author, Connie Lovatt, who is a private chef, have created a fully realized culinary travelog, resulting in a virtual world tour of dumplings, which, like so many traditions that seem to transcend culture, time, distance, and geography, show up in practically every society around the globe. Dumplings, by definition, are "a portion of dough, batter or starchy plant fare, solid or filled, that's cooked through wet heat, and is not a strand or a ribbon". The book follows the seasons, and, to add to the learning experience, each season starts with the simplest recipe, and ends with the most difficult.

For our beautiful lunch, Wai taught us how to make Hungarian Root Vegetable Bread Dumplings…the recipe is included below! Be assured that many spring veggies from your gardens can be substituted for this wintery dumpling – your imagination is the only limitation (and these dumplings have melted butter poured onto them, and sour cream. All that is missing is the molten chocolate, and we’d be at Foodgasm Defcon 5).

Everyone loves dumplings. Filled with meat, with red bean paste, with pretty much anything you’d ever want to eat, they’re the ultimate classic. What’s not to like? Tiny bites of doughy goodness…I could eat 100 of them. OK 1 million.

And the book – over 400 pages of them, and pages and pages of beautifully illustrated instructions, folding techniques – everything to make your dumplings pretty and ensure that they won’t fall apart at their elegant little seams. Fun Fun Fun Fun. Buy this book and if you see Wai, tell him that Y100 says howdy.

Root Vegetable Bread Dumplings

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 small yellow onion, chopped fine
1 medium carrot, cut into 1/4 cubes
1 large parsnip, peeled and cubed
1 small turnip or kohirabi peeled and cubed
4 large cremini mushrooms, chopped fine
1 tsp salt
2 Tablespoons chopped flat leaf parsley

For the dough:
4 cups 1/2 inch crustless white bread cubes
2/3 cup of milk
1 large egg, beaten
1/3 cup unbleached flour plus some for dusting
1/2 tsp of salt
1/2 cup coarse dry crustless bread crumbs

For Serving:
6 Tablespoons melted butter
salt and pepper (and paprika!)
Sour Cream

1. Do all the chopping of bread and veggies so you're ready.
2. Heat up a small pot over medium heat and melt the butter, add the onion and stir until soft, add in the remaining vegetables and salt and cook for 3 minutes. Stir in 1/2 cup of water, cover and simmer for 15 minutes. Stir occasionally and make sure it doesn't dry out.
3. Once the mixture has browned, remove vegetables from heat and add in parsley and allow to cool slightly.
4. Mix breadcrumbs and milk in a bowl and mix until doughy. Do this with your hands, let it get squishy and gluteny and like paste.
5. Mix in the egg, flour and salt and finally add the slightly cooled vegetables. Refridgerate for about 20 minutes.
6. The fun part: using wet hands start molding the dough into little balls (th size of ping pongs), dust with flour and place on a tray.
7. In a large pot, boil salted water, when all the dough has been molded into balls, drop a few at a time into boiling water, reduce heat to a simmer. Cook about 8 minutes or until most are floating. Remove to platter with a slotted spoon.
8. Top serve, drizzle with melted butter, sprinkle with salt and pepper and a little paprika if you want to spice it up and a generous portion of sour cream!.


PS. Check out this incredible review of Wai's book in the current issue of Edible Manhattan!

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Back From The Hiatus!

Well, yes, it's been a while. Here it is, the first week of spring...the garden is a riot of new life, and I have to start posting again. I am inspired by so many things outside my door and in the world right now!

First thing's first...the Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase Tour (FREE!!!), which we are honored to be featured on again, is on April 25, and we got the most wonderful, generous mention on Sunset Magazine's wonderful blog, Fresh Dirt, today! Please come to the tour - there are 79 gardens, and it will be amazing and special. I will certainly post more information about it in the coming weeks!

Next, here is a little project for you...about a month ago, I put a little wire mesh basket with dryer lint in one of our trees that is by a window (for best viewing!), hoping that I could attract some of the bush tits that hang out in our yard and build the most wild, beautiful nests you ever saw:

So this morning, I looked outside, and lo and behold, I caught sight of a lovely little hummingbird couple making off with some of the lint. I am soo excited! I will try really hard to catch them in the act and post their photo on the blog.

Until then...
Glad to be back in action!


PS. Bush Tit Nest By Chester A. Reed, from the fantastic website, 50 Birds!