Saturday, June 28, 2008

Garden Update

I learned something this year:

When you are trying to get a good garden going, it may not be a good idea to go on an 11 day vacation at the end of May.

By the end of May, the garden was planted. Most of the plants had settled in and were starting to get growing with their bad selves.

Then I left for 11 days - 11 days when the deities of weather decided not to grace my backyard with any rain. Not one drop.

The good news: When I got home, nothing was dead. But nothing had grown. And in that time period, at that time of year, I expect plants to double in size.

My little town is also still under water restrictions - I'm allowed 3 days a week, with each day having only a 2 hour window opportunity to water my garden. If I watered that much, it would be too much. But my problem is simply forgetting to water during the appropriate time.

Nevertheless, I got my first two tomatoes in the past week. The Bestest Friend and I enjoyed the first one sliced with kosher salt and ground pepper. I like to call it Heaven In Red. I have many green tomatoes out there, that make me hopeful for some homemade salsa in my near future.

The squash plants have been producing flowers like crazy - but they were all male. Squash, like humans, need two sexes to procreate. This past weekend I found 3 female flowers - and it looks like two of them have been polinated. But the zucchini hasn't grown as much, or produced quite as many flowers.

Then, I spied what I think may be my first female zucchini flower. Grow, ye little green things, Grow!

The pepper plants have about 10 flowers and one actual 2 inch pepper - although the plants are no where big enough to sustain that many actual fruit. Still, one pepper per plant (they're red bell peppers) is enough to offset the cost of planting it. So one more pepper and I'll break even.

The cucumbers have been the real heartbreaker. They took the two weeks of no water harder than anything. They never actually died - they're still green - but they haven't grown AT ALL.

That is, until the past three days. In that time, one (and only one) of my cucumber plants has more than doubled in size.

So I'm more than happy with my gardening efforts. I don't consider myself a gardener - I really just kind of play with dirt and green things for many days. Even if I get the bare minimum from my efforts, I like gardening. For one thing, it's relaxing to dig in the dirt. For another, it gets The Bestest Friend over here, and she hauls bags of dirt for me while I sip Pina Coladas.

And that's just clean fun, that is.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Heavn In Red

In the past week, I've gotten two tomatoes off my plants. It's obviously just the beginning of the season, but I decided to enjoy the first fruit of my labor very simply.

I sliced the tomato, sprinkled some kosher salt over it and then ground some peppercorns over it. The Bestest Friend enjoyed hers with a wee bit of Extra Virgin Olive Oil.

Heaven In Red

Saturday, June 21, 2008

That Cookbook Thing II: Julia's Sauce au Cari

Update Dec 2011: Cans of coconut milk are now 13.66 (random) ounces instead of 15, and I've started leaving out the flour without noticing a difference in taste.

This month, the humble members of That Cookbook Thing II are bringing you Julia Child's Light Curry Sauce. There seems to be a wide variety of opinions on this recipe in this little group. I'm at one extreme - I absolutely loved it. I seared some chunks of boneless pork ribs in a pan and then let them finish cooking in the sauce, and then served the whole she-bang over basmati rice. Here, take a look:

I made one major change to the recipe that maybe, just possibly, ok REALLY made a difference? I substituted a can of coconut milk for the regular milk the recipe called for. It made a very creamy sauce - although calling this a "Light" sauce must refer to the flavor and not the overall texture.

I also made my own curry powder (which isn't as hard as it sounds, since I have a bunch of whole spices from that first cookbook thing we did) and I think that made a big difference in the taste of the final sauce. Curry powder from fresh ground spices has a completely different taste than my jar of pre-mixed curry powder.

The Professor and I both loved the meal. But the taste on the first night was nothing compared to the left-overs. The sauce and pork was incredibly better the next day when I reheated it to stuff in some whole wheat pitas. So if you're family won't eat leftovers, make this a day ahead.

  • Mike's going to post the original recipe over at his place. I'll link to the recipe when it's up. Done!
  • Ruth wasn't as impressed with the recipe as I was.
  • Kittie went all out and put the rest of us to shame with her rendition. Seriously, I'm going to move to the UK just to eat her food.
  • Sara gave us a great photo essay that I should probably have looked at before I made the recipe.
  • And Some of us haven't posted yet. {Runs to check} Nope. Still not there. {Foot Tapping}. I'll wait here. So when they do get their posts up (I'm looking at you, our fearless leader!), run and look, because they'll all be great. And then come back here, because I know you love me best.
Julia's Sauce au Cari (Light Curry Sauce) with pork and rice

1/2 cup minced white onion
4 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp curry powder
1 15 z can coconut milk
1/2 cup water
1/4 cup flour
half and half, as needed
salt and pepper to taste
1 pound boneless pork ribs, cut in 1 inch chunks
2 cups prepared basmati rice

Put the coconut milk and the water in a small saucepan over medium-low heat - you want it to be at a good simmer by the time you need it a couple of steps later.

Put the pork in skillet to sear, and while they cook prepare the sauce:

Cook the onions and butter in a skillet over low heat for 10 minutes - don't let them turn color.

Stir in the curry powder and cook slowly for two minutes.

Add the simmering coconut milk/water mixture to the onions in two additions, stirring completely in between.

Add the flour, and stir to completely incorporate it into the sauce.

Add the pork to the sauce. Simmer gently for about 15 minutes, stirring often.

If the sauce looks too thick for you - mine wasn't too bad - add a little half and half. I used about 2 tablespoons. Correct the taste with salt and pepper as needed.

Serve over basmati rice.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Crenshaw Melon - And what does this have to do with babies?

At the grocery store this past weekend, I spotted something new (to me): Crenshaw Melons.

Side story: one day when I was about 13, I was at the store with my mom. We were picking up some apples or bananas or something, and I set my eyes on star fruit for the first time. I asked her what they were, and - being the wise woman she is - she looked at the sign and said "Star Fruit". I asked her what they tasted like, and she told me she didn't know - but when I asked if we could try it, she didn't hesitate to put a couple in the cart.

That - combined with my dad's love of trying any and everything that's edible and new - is why I'm always willing to buy things I've never eaten. Because I fell in love with those Star Fruit. Keep in mind, that was before she could say "We'll go home and Google it". We didn't even know how to cut the things. Is the rind edible? Do you slice it horizontally or vertically? Is it bitter? Sweet? Sour?

Ok, back to the point: I bought a Crenshaw Melon. And - in a moment of true adventuresome spirit - I cut it open and ate without Googling it.

And it was just ok. It was no Star Fruit. It was slightly sweet, but really didn't have a whole lot of flavor. But it wasn't hard like unripe melon, so I don't think I cut into it too soon. So, as all wise librarians would do, I googled it on Google's Blogsearch page to see what the cooks of the blogosphere could tell me.

And that's when my eyes were opened. Because 7 of the first 10 results were comparing the size and/or weight of unborn and/or newly-born babies to Crenshaw Melons.

I'm going to think of that with every bite I take.