Monday, June 20, 2011

Peas, Please!

Arrived home from work and promptly picked 3.3 pounds of shelling peas, 2.5 pounds of sugar snap peas, and 4 heads of broccoli. Had to stop because my basket was full.

Time to get creative! And also, to start giving produce away. Any takers?

Wednesday, June 15, 2011


Behold the rare and wondrous micro-beet, prized by chefs and artisanal farmers around the world!

Just kidding. We didn't get around to weeding the beet patch, and this is the pathetic result. NOTE: Root vegetables, especially carrots and beets, are really freakin' hard to weed. It's almost impossible to distinguish beet greens from the dozens of really enthusiastic, invasive weeds in our garden. And we have a particularly crafty weed from the carrot family that's taken over our carrots. The leaves look identical! How the heck are we supposed to tell the difference?

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Campanelle with Garlic Scape Pesto and Smoked Scallops

One hour and fifteen minutes. That's the elapsed time between the eating and the blogging of this dish. It's really so good, and made even more so by its fortuitousness. This started out as a kitchen-sink dinner, although that term is a little disrespectful because I had so many gorgeous ingredients just hanging around the house today. First, we had the garlic scapes, which are the unopened flower and stem of an immature hardneck garlic plant. I've tried putting them in salads and sauteeing them with other veggies, and they're okay, but my favorite thing to do with them is make pesto. So I did just that.

There were some house-smoked scallops I got from Metro Seafood in Clinton on Sunday, as well as the glorious bounty of today's CSA share, not to mention the goodies we have in our own garden. My pasta dish came together in one of those beautiful hallelujah sequences in which the one inspirational shaft of sunlight shone through the kitchen window onto my hand as I chose each ingredient.

On the side I served some warm chickpeas with lemon juice, good green olive oil, summer savory, and crumbled pepper-crusted chevre from Cranberry Creek, a newly discovered farmstead creamery in the Poconos that has been knocking our socks off. (We're so lucky they make deliveries to Genesis!)

To be honest, it was probably a little uncomfortable to witness my smugness as we tucked into this meal. Local scapes and basil in the pesto, sugar snap peas and herbs from our own garden, really good cheese. Is the artisanal seafood over the top? I don't care. Even our beverage was soda water with my favorite homemade lime-mint syrup. This recipe is so of-the-moment that by the time you read this the scapes and sugar snap peas may be gone until next year, but please bookmark this. It is so, so good.

Campanelle with Garlic Scape Pesto and Smoked Scallops

2/3 pound short pasta, like campanelle
1/3 pound sugar snap peas, cut into 1-inch lengths
½ cup garlic scape pesto (recipe follows)
¼ pound smoked scallops, thinly sliced

Prepare pesto, then put the pasta water on to boil. Add a couple tablespoons of salt before putting the pasta in the pot. Cook according to package instructions, then drain, reserving about ½ cup of the cooking water. Return pasta to pot and add pesto, mixing until blended. Add pasta water a tablespoon at a time until the sauce is smooth but not watery. Toss in snap peas and spoon into bowls. Add salt and pepper to taste. Top each serving with slices of scallop—the equivalent of about 2 scallops per person.

Serves 4

Garlic Scape and Walnut Pesto
10 garlic scapes, finely chopped
10 basil leaves, or however much you'd like
1/3 to 1/2 cup finely grated parmesan (to taste and texture)
1/3 cup walnuts, toasted
About 1/2 cup olive oil

Put the scapes, basil, 1/3 cup of the cheese, walnuts, and half the olive oil in the bowl of a food processor (or use a blender or a mortar and pestle). Whir to chop and blend all the ingredients and then add the remainder of the oil and, if you want, more cheese. If you like the texture, stop; if you'd like it a little thinner, add some more oil. Season with salt.

If you’re not going to use the pesto immediately, press a piece of plastic against the surface to keep it from oxidizing.The pesto can be stored in the refrigerator for a couple of days or packed airtight and frozen for a couple of months.

Makes about 1 cup
Gotta give credit to Dorie Greenspan. This pesto is a variation on hers.

Saturday, June 4, 2011


This work can be overwhelming. I know it is for Mark because for every task that gets accomplished he can tick off half a dozen things we've fallen behind on or are going wrong. But he's getting better all the time. Part of this grand-scale gardening project is to train ourselves to enjoy the process and wean ourselves off the fleeting high of accomplishing goals that's inevitably followed by the huge letdown of having no occasion to rise to.

So let's talk about something we did right this year: Staggering the broccoli harvest. Last season we had 12 beautiful broccoli heads all ready at the same time, and we couldn't eat them fast enough. This year we went with Fedco's Broccoli Blend seed mix that contains some early, mid, and late varieties. We ate the first wave this week, and the second wave will be ready next week, and some plants have yet to form heads. It's perfect.

Another thing we did right: Leaving the peonies to reign over the vegetable garden in their glory, even if they can be annoying obstacles. It helps that they're in full bloom right now. They were really bothering me when we were laying out the rows in March; I wanted to lay flagstone for the paths, and the space will never look tidy with those huge, blowsy bushes scattered all over. But they're beautiful, smell good, attract beneficial insects, and keeping them is much more true to the permaculture vibe we're trying to cultivate. I need to keep telling myself that there's no such thing as a perfect garden. It will always be a work in progress, never predictable, never finished. And that's a good thing.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Easy Being Green

The tentative yellow-green of the first grass blades and baby leaves of spring have exploded into the lushness of early summer, hanging in the heavy tree canopies overhead and busting out of the garden as the first crops of lettuce and broccoli. But for every crunchy little butterhead there are a dozen thistles and dandelions and other weeds. Mint enjoys something of a double-agent status in our garden, since it can definitely be a pest because it grows so quickly and spreads everywhere, its tough carpet of roots almost impossible to eradicate. The only thing is that I love mint so much that I can't bear to fight it with any real conviction. So instead I harvest it like crazy, making mint-apple jelly, gallons of iced tea, and especially this simple syrup that originally caught my eye because it uses surplus basil, but mint works just as well. We mix it with seltzer when we're feeling virtuous and add some rum when we're feeling less so.

But the real star of today's show is this delightful vegetable side dish that I made for dinner tonight. It's not my own; I got it from Andrea Reusing's Cooking in the Moment via this month's Saveur magazine. With only four ingredients it manages to be sweet, crisp, buttery, creamy, and salty. Best of all, it uses a lot of lettuce, which is coming out our ears right now, and also uses green garlic, which is just immature garlic bulbs and stalks that have a great garlic flavor without being overpowering. Kind of like a scallion, but garlic flavored. It's also sadly underused, in my opinion.

I had a mental block against cooking lettuce, even though there are plenty of respectable recipes out there for grilled and wilted lettuce. Now I am a convert. We ate this for dinner with fried eggs and raisin toast, and it was magical.

Fresh Peas with Lettuce and Green Garlic

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 small stalks green garlic, or 3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Kosher salt, to taste
1 1/2 cups fresh or frozen green peas (I used frozen and they were terrific)
2 small heads butter lettuce (about 6 oz.), washed, cored, and torn into large pieces
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a skillet over medium heat; add garlic, season with salt, and cook, stirring often, until soft but not browned, about 3 minutes. Add peas and cook until bright green and tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in remaining butter, along with lettuce and 1 tablespoon water, season with salt and pepper, and remove from heat. Stir until lettuce is just wilted, about 1 minute.