Thursday, October 28, 2010
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
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 up...in 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 dinner...here'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
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!).