Friday, October 5, 2012

Catch Me If You Can

Catch of the Day

Some Autumnal Haiku
 Change brings new planting
Gleaning, cleaning, putting by
Winter pro visions

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Still Being Here Now

Catch of the Day
No apologies for no posting.
Been busy with gardening and throwing a hooplah to celebrate our wedding.
Let the revelry continue....

Friday, August 17, 2012

What I Know and Don't Know About Beans

Its string bean cray in the garden right now. Urban dictionary defines "cray" as well no one knows what it means, provocative, short for crazy. The 9 foot cages that support the vines look like monstrous bean towers with tendrils reaching for the stars. There are days I must harvest every few hours. Cool beans one might say. But do they really grow that fast or are they really that illusive?
You think you've gleaned every last pod only to come back and discover a cluster of the ones that got away. Shaking the cage reveals more first picking escapees and you sharpen your eyes to detect their subtle verticle movements hidden within the wild tangle of leaves. You walk off, only to glance over your shoulder and spy another handful. There's always a few you miss. The biggest pod can be dangling right in front of your face but you're so busy looking at the big picture you don't see it. Your harvest basket is brimming with bean bounty and as you step away out pop a few more from the corner of your eye. And if you miss them, tough beans kid, they'll be too big to eat tomorrow. Things slow down eventually, the vines dry up and the leaves turn yellow. Assuming they're finished you pull the plants and toss them on the compost pile. Yet they keep producing, small pods emerge from the heap, pumping out their final hurrahs for the season.

There I was, balancing on a small ladder, feeling a little like Jack climbing the beanstalk, a Jolly Green Giant chanting "Fee fi fo fum" in my head and pulling out every yoga trick I could muster to stretch and snatch that one last hanging haricot vert- that's the fancy variety. While trying my best not to inhale a white fly or two I began to question, am I completely full of beans?

In such moments my monkey mind grasps for meaning, searches for priceless pearls of wisdom to bring a little meat into the mundane, something I can sink my teeth into besides vegetables. I chewed on this conundrum and out spilled a few beans of armchair psychology.

Over the years I've learned that there are times in life when you need to step away from certain situations to gain perspective. Some are choices or crossroads, others are part of the creative process. To see more clearly, change the point of view, reframe, look outside the box or inside if need be. Sleep on it. When making a decision, looking at it from different angles may unveil the perfect direction to take.(Even writing a blog requires a process of getting it down, letting it digest, and revisiting it with a fresh state of mind.) The answer to a problem may be obvious but you are too thick in the weeds to see it. Take a time out. Breath. Timing is everything and in time, things become clear. The right thing to do may be dangling in front of you, like that bean that got overlooked the first time around. Go for a walk about, come back and have another look. Practice this mental process and the road of life will be a little less bumpy.
And of course, like beans, you learn to pick your battles.

So my tidbits of experience may not be worth a hill of beans but I do know how to cook them.
Fresh: Minimize. Lightly steam, salt, pepper, and a little dab of butter will do ya.
Pickled: Lots of recipes on the web. After working several summers in an organic cannery and loving it, for me its either go big or go home. These days I prefer to make refrigerator pickles in my own kitchen. It doesn't take a lot of special equipment, lids or jars. The key to the crunch of a refrigerator pickle is pouring piping hot brine over your packed jars, then flash cooling them immediately, in ice water if possible. Blanch and cool the beans first, pack with fresh herbs. Dill is the all time favorite but play. I use a little calcium citrate to insure crispness. Hell, I'm taking calcium anyway. You can find it in the pickling section of most grocery stores. Pickled beans will stay snappy in your fridge until the next season, if they last that long.
Frozen: Blanch and freeze for bean time flavor all winter. Bring them out at Thanksgiving for your classic green bean casserole. I like mine with creme fresh, caramelized onions and BACON! Never better...

Thursday, August 9, 2012

The New York Granny Diaries

My son and daughter-in-law flew me to NYC to babysit my grandson while mama goes to Japan on business. I'm here for 10 days. My son, raised in the garden, is an inspired and talented chef in Manhattan, currently a stay at home dad healing from back surgery. With too much time on his hands he has taken it upon himself to feed me to show his appreciation for my grand mothering. Guess I'll just have to go along with it. Thought I might journal along the way.

Day 1: Meatballs Et Al

Slightly jet lagged and running on 3 hours of sleep, we arise and start planning a special dinner to mark the opening ceremony of the Olympics. We leave the apartment early to beat the crowds and sweltering heat and with baby in tow mosey on down to the infamous Green Market in Union Square. There we load up on summer bounty. The stroller doubles as a shopping cart overflowing with heirloom tomatoes, corn, beans, onions, herbs and honey. Dinner evolves into savory meatballs swimming in fresh tomato basil sauce and a kale Caesar salad. The Russian and Curly Red kale traveled in my suitcase from my garden in California. Frozen yogurt from the corner Belgian deli and fresh strawberries sopped in vodka, honey and lemon zest closed the dinner ceremony. All washed down well with lots of chilled Rose, the wine of the moment. No complaints, no leftovers. Let the games begin.

Day 2: Suffrin' Succotash

Mama left for Japan and Sweet Grandma Honey (my stage name) is in the house. Since his birth 9 months ago, I've been YouTubing music videos to my grandson featuring my ukulele sing along shtick. The intention is to stay connected through the magic of music and cyber space while living on opposite coasts. So far he's been raised with a collection of Grandma playing children's tunes, and now the cartoon character on mama's phone has come to real life. He's rapidly taken on the sidekick role to my cache of diddies and is a devoted fan, a much needed diversion for an active baby boy away from his mother for the first time. While we sing and play, my son cooks.

Tonight he prepared a perfectly seared pork loin with a succotash of fresh corn off the cob, caramelized Hudson Valley sweet red onions, yellow wax, green haricot vert, and Romano runner beans, a bite of red pepper flakes and parsley-basil oil. Rustic, honest, homey. He says its so simple he would never serve in a restaurant. I say I'll suffer through it, go ahead, spoil me.

Baby eats heirloom tomatoes with tofu, sweet potatoes, yogurt and bananas.

Day 3: Brie LT Sandwichcrafting

Its Sunday Funday and we invite family and friends over to play Bocce Ball. The court is right outside the front door of our building. Outdoor games call for outdoor snacks and a picnic is in order. Whatever we do it must have tomatoes, the food star of the season. In our quest for a simple menu we probably constructed and deconstructed the sandwich concept way too many times, but so apropos considering its origins in the current hub of the Olympic Games.

The word sandwich that we use today was born in London during the very late hours one night in 1762 when an English nobleman, John Montagu, the Fourth Earl of Sandwich, was too busy gambling to stop for a meal even though he was hungry. The legend goes that he ordered a waiter to bring him roast-beef between two slices of bread. The Earl was able to continue his gambling while eating his snack; and from that incident, we have inherited that quick-food product that we now know as the sandwich. He apparently had the meat put on slices of bread so he wouldn’t get his fingers greasy while he was playing cards.

Well bocce balls are messier than cards, but sandwiches would carry on well to the court so we run with it. First step, shopping. There's a Farmer's Market every Sunday right in this housing development. The availability of fresh food and support for the organic movement here in NYC makes the city feel sane.

We start with bread - 2 ciabattas, 1 mushroom, 1 onion-rosemary.

Everything looks so good, a feast for the eyes.

Picking up a little this and that, we go big on tomatoes and go home.

Brie LTs
 Slightly toasted bread, layered with bacon, brie, tomatoes, red onions,
pepperoncinis and basil, drizzled with Japanese Mayo.
The lettuce deconstructed on the side, tossed with kale from Voss Gardens.

We packed our picnic down the elevator with glee and made our way to the bocce court. Our balls barely busted out when the clouds burst and poured. Undaunted, we went back up the elevator, ate well, made merry, and took a rain check on the game.

Day 4: Dashi and Delivery

Breakfast is served.
 Oh the joys of living with a chef with too much time on his hands and an adorable grandson. My son dreams recipes in his sleep or in this case dreams them up when he can't sleep due to incessant back pain. Today he awakes with Japan flavor notes on his mind, missing his wife. He dutifully mops the floor, keeping the world safe for a crawler, makes me a quick bite, and we're off to the Japanese grocery store.
Today's cravings involve Dashi and Asian Greens. Most of the things at the Sunrise Market are a mystery to me but I'm always enthused about the marvelous packaging and curious about produce I've never seen before. We pick up kombu (dried kelp), fresh kimchee, dried shiitake mushrooms, soft tofu for the baby, and some Hi-Chew Japanese candy.  Ambling our way through the East Village, we stop at the Union Square Green Market to buy mustard greens, baby bok choy and fruit.

Heading home, the last stop was to get some fish.
 But the shop had closed, so plans changed once again.
Who said the secret to life is Plan B?

 Just Lunch
 Back in the apartment, a quick snack of homemade Kimchee, Japanese cucumbers and scallions - dressed with sesame oil, rice wine vinegar and red pepper flakes, is just the thing to recover from our 3 mile trek sweating in the July humidity. New York is a walking city and you can easily regulate all the fabulous eating and drinking it offers with exercise. Just wear good shoes. And the people watching on the street is top notch, my favorite spectator sport.

Meanwhile the stock pot goes on to make dashi. Dashi is a Japanese stock made from boiling Kombu (dried kelp) and Bonito (smoked dried fish shaved into flakes) in water to extract the umami flavor. The rich liquid is used as a soup base for noodle and miso soups as well as a classic flavoring of Japanese cuisine. Some dried shiitakes are added to this one and it brews for hours filling the apartment with heady aromas that promise great things to come. I rob the pot and spoon some broth over the baby's Japanese noodles and carrots his mama made ahead and left in the freezer. He tastes and becomes wildly ecstatic, bouncing in his high chair. Top that with his first blueberries and he's channeling his happy baby pose.

Later on, due to lack of sleep, enthusiasm for dinner prep wanes. Its Plan B time again-DELIVERY!!!
New York City Baby, you can order whatever you want, whenever you want it. A simple phone call and 10 minutes later authentic Greek gyros arrive at our door; one lamb, one chicken, piping hot off the grill, dressed with garlic yogurt and some decent romaine lettuce. Just 5 bucks a pop (+tip) and no dishes! Meanwhile, Japan upsets Spain in Men's Soccer Olympics and the dashi pot goes in the fridge to await further adventures.

Days 5 and 6: Dog Day Afternoons With Leftovers

Day 5:

We took a down day and a long walk down by the East Riverside. That old man river cools and calms the sultry city and a refreshing breeze stirred the thick air. The baby sat upright in the stroller, gazing at the water, taking it all in.
The rest of the day we baby proof the apartment. My grandson, with his new found mobility, seems to be everywhere we don't want him to be - time to batton down the hatches. Its amazing the peace of mind a play pen can bring, complemented by the serenity of a home cooked meal. Yesterday's dashi pot came out of the fridge and delivered harmony. Not only does it taste good, the depth of its goodness goes down deep into the soul, like your Jewish mother's chicken soup.

Cold ramen noodles cooked in dashi with kimchee, tofu and summer vegetables.
I learned slurping your noodles is proper Japanese etiquette.

Heirloom Tomato, Spanish Sardines, Basil Garlic Oil, Shaved Pecorino

Dashi simmering with greens, ground pork, chicken, and God knows what else.

I ask my son, "What do you call this?"
He says, "Delicious."

Day 6:
Granny takes some down time to go shopping. Its utterly fun hunting for that elusive New York bargain in this city of fashion. Back home in the garden I dress way down most of the time, digging around in my grubbies. Here in the Big Apple I seize the opportunity to dress up and unearth a few items to put some razzle dazzle in the wardrobe.
The best purchase of the day however, was a ball for the baby. I came home and we play ball. Squealing with delight, he caught on to catch real quick. What a timeless marvelous toy - now he's looking at the Olympic games on TV with new interest.
Leftovers were the daily special, and true to form, they taste better the next day. Dinner was downplayed and casual: Savory pan fried chicken, a summer vegetable medley, heirloom tomatoes with feta and basil garlic oil. Plattered in the kitchen with style, its "Make your own plate night" while we watch womens' beach volleyball.

Days 7 and 8: Canoodled, Bamboozled and Sizzled

Day 7:
Sleepless in New York, a full moon hovers over Manhattan, the city that never sleeps. Words like canoodled and bamboozled pop into my head for no reason at all aside from they way they slide off the tongue. My grandson is wakeful as well and we fix our eyes on each other in the blue moonlight through the slats of his crib.
An old friend comes to visit over lunch. Everything is served cold: rice noodle salad with seasonal vegetables brined in kimchee, soy ginger chicken tenders, tomato cucumber salad and iced matcha,
Japanese green tea.

Though our guest is from Italy the flavors are predominantly Asian. Hmmm... to slurp or not to slurp the noodles, Italians consider it rude, Japanese consider it rude not to.

Forks over Chopsticks?
Etiquette is cast aside.

  No matter how you munch your way through it,
good food in good company transcends cultural differences.
another New York moment....

Day 8:
Its sizzling in the city, ozone warnings are in the air. The atmosphere is so bad the baby did not go outside today. Keeping him inside all day was a challenge. Our rambunctious little munchkin gives new meaning to "climbing the walls" because he really does try. I went out early for my daily walk and to run errands.The streets were so stifling it was difficult to breath. Fire trucks with loudspeakers were cruising the streets warning, "Drink lots of water and stay inside!" I dropped the idea to take pictures of the community gardens thriving in the neighborhood. Missing my home in the mountains, I journeyed back to my home in the city.

Summer in the city

Lemonade and popcorn were the snacks of the day, good old summertime comfort food. With not much appetite or ambition to cook we pulled some of mama's curry beef and rice out of the freezer. A hot pastrami sandwich showed up from somewhere. Chef exercised his culinary skills with an uplifting strawberry peach sorbet.

Mmmmm, I could eat this all day...
and at night I could drink it with vodka...

Day 9: Chillin'
Live from New York it Saturday Night, Granny's night out!
What better way to chill than some cold dry as a bone sparkling rose
and small plates at large with my niece (she works here) and my sis.

Day 10: The Last Supper

Last day in New York for Granny, that would be me. Mama came home from Japan and my son cooked Mexican. Go figure. Something about those Latino flavors that say,
"Welcome home!" "Okaeri!" "Bienvenido a casa!"
Made With Loving Hands

Taco filling-beef, black beans, garlic, heirloom tomatoes, poblano and aneheim peppers
Salsa verde-cucumbers, tomatillos, cilantro, lime, salt
chipotle salsa, corn with lime, sour cream, lettuces
watermelon/strawberry cocktails

So my little sojourn in a New York state of mind comes to a close.
Back to the garden for this Left Coaster.
 Looking forward to seeing my hubby, the fresh air, the quietness and further adventures.
Go Granny Go!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Cool As A Cucumber Trellis

There's a bit of a lull in the garden right now. Summer crops are taking the heat and promising their bounty, greens continue rotating, and some fall seeds have been sown. Days are devoted to watering and pest control, don't get me going on the latter. Suffice to say that I must make a daily meditation of affirming Beauty in a world where I must hunt down and take out critters of all types. Ah, you carve out a slice of heaven pie and everyone wants a little piece. Pests, like crazy people who shoot off guns in movie theatres, cannot be eradicated, only managed wisely.

So I will keep it cool and share my cucumber trellising strategy. My favorites are Persian, their seeds may be hard to come by and they take some babying initially, but well worth it. They like to climb slightly so I designed and constructed some props to help them along. Having been a weaver, I approached the trellises like a warp and woof, laying out 6' poles of bamboo found at the local garden store, then spread nylon netting (with large holes for harvesting hands - also from garden store) over the top. I pulled it all together at the intersections with rot resistant zip ties. The result is aesthetically pleasing, lightweight yet structurally strong, stores easily during the off season, and versatile for other creepers like beans and peas. 

Depending on the angle you balance the frame, you can create growing space underneath for shade loving crops like lettuce. Bean cages can be planted in back of them, creating valuable vertical garden real estate and maximising sunshine for all. I balanced this trellis over the walls of the bed and an empty bean cage. The vines grow up and over the trellis and cage, then down the heat holding stone retaining wall. The cucumbers drop underneath for easy pickins.
Pretty cool, huh?

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Still Life With Kolrabi


Shortest Recipe For Kolrabi Ever

Monday, July 16, 2012


Monday, July 2
harvest for chef
cut back rustic arugula, Long Bed
cut back sorrel, Magnolia Bed,Top Beds
Tuesday, July 3
clean up morning, Top Beds, cut back bulbs, ivy, oleander, bay
turn and amend Top Bed for lettuce planting
harvest first kolrabi,snip off flowers of cilantro
take down peas, Bed 2, turn and amend for planting
start Romanesco zukes in 6 packs
Darryl here fixing irrigation, clean up, take home volunteer lambs quarters
Wednesday, July 4
got gopher in kolrabi
Thursday, July 5
planting salad for wedding reception, Sept. 1
seed plant lettuce, sassy mix, shaker method, on top, cover
seed plant lettuce, last of Valentine mix in Bed 2, cover
seed plant tuscan kale, home seed, 1 row/Bed 2, cover
seed plant arugula, Bed 1-between artichokes, Edge2-between onions and cukes, cover
scatter arugula seed under sunflowers, Kitchen Bed, no cover
thin arugula in lower Cherry Bed, plant out in upper Cherry Bed
plant bamboo grass under new stairs where it leaks
Saturday, July7
houseguests, harvest first beans, yellow and green haricot vert
Monday, July 9
harvest for chef, first kolrabi, celery
first tomato! Stupice
Tuesday, July 10
plant out parsley starts in Long Bed
seed start in 6 packs, 4 kinds of Kale, all season broccoli and year round cauliflower
Wednesday, July 11
very hot, Randall here, cut back wisteria, plant kiwis
shuffle around water systems off kitchen
Thursday, July 12
still hot, tinkering with sprinklers
clean up flower beds, thin out arugula in Kitchen Bed and replant
Friday, July 13
thin arugula in Edge 2 and Cherry Beds, plant thinnings into Experimental Bed
Sunday, July 14
take down last of English peas, saving seed
gopher got pumpkin in Sam Bed, grrrrrr
keeping up with watering new starts
Monday, July 15
harvest for chef
landscape area between Scott and Sam Beds
plant out Opal basil in pots, in Kitchen Bed and cloche
plant our Thai basil in pots, cloche on deck
plant out 2nd rotation of Romanesco Zucchinis, Gabe Bed right
fertilized 1st rotation of zukes with fish a few days ago, resulted in lots of male flowers and no fruit, thinking I should have used a blooming fertilizer...
Tuesday, July 16
still coldish and foggy mornings
seed start 2 lettuce mixes in shady and wet areas, Edge 2, Wall 2, Long Bed, Top, no cover
2nd planting of beans (Blue Lake, Green and Yellow Harc, Purple bush) 4" pots on deck, no cover
start dog intervention
go over boardwalk way with Jimmy
seed plant cilantro inbetween parsley in Long Bed
replant Russian kale, direct seed into barren six packs
Wednesday, July 17
all about pest control, flies in the house, trapped 2 gophers
Friday, July 20
thin Tuscan Kale seedlings (home seed) in Bed 2, transplant into 1/2 gallon pots, leave in potting shed
clean Rustic Arugula (home seed), broadcast between flowers in big pots on bedroom deck
Monday, July 23
Harvest for chef
thin arugula in Edge 2 and Bed 2
Am in NYC For Granny Duty until August 6

Saturday, July 14, 2012

The Zucchini Chronicles, The Final Chapter: National Zucchini Day - Let Them Eat Chocolate Zucchini Cake

About time to wrap this zucchini business and move on. But an epilogue, like a good meal, would not be complete without dessert, and a story to go with it. Long story short; There were summers I spent in Eastern Washington, working on an organic farm on the banks of the upper Columbia River. The owners, dear friends and fellow back to the landers, acquired the property in 1973. Years of hard work later, they have an organic cannery, make award winning sulfite-free organic wine, and run a Bed and Breakfast. Visit them @
China Bend

My job involved a right hand in everything from soup to nuts. The best moments were out standing in the field yukking it up with my co-workers. Farming is hard work, but a good sense of humor always kept the crew in check. With so much to do in a day, comic relief often came to the rescue. In a moment of frivolous inspiration we declared National Zucchini Day. A potluck dinner was proposed to celebrate, BYOZ, you got it - bring your own zucchini. A contest for the best dish ensued, with prizes for the winner. We were a noncompetitive bunch at heart, but ready to roll with a good natured challenge to surprise and outwit your friends. It could have been just another 100 degree day on the funny farm, but an extra buzz twinkled in the air. Someone coined "Zukes not Nukes" and we ran with it.

The dinner was spectacular with enough cold estate chardonnay to keep us from getting too parched. Some dishes hit the mark, other didn't. In the end you can't make an old zuke do new tricks. The winner of the zucchini-palooza called in last, Chocolate Zucchini Cake. Just the thought of it will make the closed minded moan and groan, but trust me, this is an exceptionally rich and moist cake.  Guaranteed, your guests will rave, and if they don't ask, you don't tell.

Marge's Chocolate Zucchini Cake
a recipe from the wine makers mother

1 cup butter, creamed
1 3/4 cups sugar
2 eggs, beaten
2 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sour milk (sour it with a squirt of lemon)
1 teaspoon vanilla
4 tablespoons cocoa (or 1/2 cup melted chocolate chips)
2 cups zucchini, grated
1/2 cup walnuts
1/2 cup chocolate chips

Cream the sugar and butter in a large bowl. Stir in the eggs and vanilla. (If substituting melted chocolate chips for cocoa add them now.) Sift the flour, soda, baking powder, cinnamon and cocoa. Stir into the butter mixture along with the milk. Beat until smooth. Drop in the nuts and fold in the zucchini. Pour into a buttered 9x13" pan and sprinkle the top with 1/2 cup chocolate chips. Bake in preheated (325 degrees) oven for 40-45 minutes.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

The Zucchini Chronicles, Part 4: Hot Zucchini Nights With Zucchini Patties

The garden plot thickens. What's not to love about the deluge of summer squash overflowing from their beds. Technically a fruit, zucchini is served like a vegetable. The succulent babies need minimal cooking to enhance their taste. Understate: light steaming, little salt, little olive oil or butter, good to go.

There are days however, when those petite zucchinis elude the daily pickings. One morning you discover the one that got away. Innocence is lost. That cute tender baby morphed into an awkward adolescent. You get distracted. Other life matters vie for the top of the "to do" list. Somewhere in the back of your mind you suspect the zucchini situation may be getting out of hand. Next thing you know those juniors have burst into bulbous big boys in poor taste. Even your best neighbors smile blankly and with glazed looks just say no to your free zukes.
Is that a zucchini in your pocket
or are you just happy to see me?
Summer nights get steamy. You can't sleep, tossing and turning with visions of those giant stalks yearning for attention. No rest for the weary gardener or the lusty quick witted cook. Appetites are whetted, earthy smells arouse the erotic imagination, fingers long to stroke the firm fruits, sliding their length into open lips hungry for stimulation...
Oh my, even if size doesn't matter, releasing all those creative juices can ignite a smokin' fantasy.

Hold your horses! I meant a food fantasy, those love pats turned to patties. Zucchini Patties, a basic recipe coming from a day dream in the middle of the night. A zesty dish intended to heighten gastronomic pleasure with plenty of room for improvisation. Bites whose size you can play to your own satisfaction, smaller for nibbles, larger for entrees. Toss in the odd lots of veggies and proteins occupying the erogenous zones in your fridge. Spice it up with a few tablespoons of finely chopped jalapenos. Douse with chipotles or hot salsa and bring on the sizzle.

Zucchini Patties
Jewish friends call them zucchini latkes
Serves 6

3 cups grated zucchini (or other summer squash)
1 midsized onion, minced
1 Tablespoon butter
2 eggs
1/4 cup flour
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Mix squash and onion in a medium bowl. In a smaller bowl, beat the eggs, add flour and butter. Combine with the squash. Heat oil in a medium skillet, spoon the mixture in heaping teaspoons or quarter cups.  Cook until golden and flip. Drain on paper towels. Salt and pepper when hot.

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Zucchini Chronicles, Part 3: Beer Battered Squash Blossoms with Honey Mustard

While foraging around in the zucchini zone, some zuke moments from the past came to mind. Back in the commune days, Beer Battered Squash Blossoms were my specialty dish for our annual parents party. Every August us counter-culture white kids of mostly Catholic and Jewish backgrounds would host our collective folks on our 350 acre Ranch in Washington State. Aside from some confusing paternal issues they were pretty good sports about our lifestyle or they just didn't show up. This was our best foot forward event, and what better way than with fresh organic food from our communal garden. Later, we upped this enthusiasm for growing and cooking to another level and hosted a Garlic Festival for 13 years, but that's another story...
I prepared this dish for 60-100 and it was never enough. Cooking outdoors behind our Sanctuary Tent, I got fried using an electric skillet with a built in thermometer. Blooms in batter went like hot cakes.

Beer Battered Squash Blossoms
Enough to coat about 2 cups of frying objects

Put in bowl and mix well:
1 1/3 cups all purpose or rice flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 T melted butter or vegetable oil
2 beaten egg yokes
Add gradually:
3/4 cup  flat beer
Allow batter to rest covered and refrigerated 3-12 hours Just before using, you may add
(2 stiffly beaten egg whites)

-Use vegetable oil only,1 inch deep in skillet,
Keep at 350 degrees
Dip dry flowers in batter and fry 2-3 minutes until golden, drain on paper towels, finish while hot with course salt
Dip in Honey Mustard Sauce* and let the blossom banquet begin!

Tip: In all recipes involving flour, measurements can only be approximate.The batter will adhere if it follows this test which my son, a brilliant chef and reflection of his food forward upbringing, explained to me.
Take a generous spoonful of batter and hold it above the mixing bowl. Instead of running from the spoon in a broad shining band, (a consistency the the French call au ruban,) the batter should run for about a 1/2 inch length, then drop in successive long triangular "splats." When the batter is this consistency, beat it until very smooth. Cover and let it sit refrigerated for at least two hours, even overnight. This resting period allows a fermentation which breaks down the rubberiness of the batter- further activated by the beer.

*The Honey Mustard Dipping Sauce is a no brainer.
 - choose your favorite mustard from the fridge ( I prefer spicy brown for my blossoms)
-mix it with equal parts honey and a squeeze of fresh lemon.

Coming Soon! Hot Zucchini Nights and National Zucchini Day!

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

The Zucchini Chronicles, Part 2: Gluten Free Stuffed Squash Blossoms

These photos suck, not worth a thousand words. No apologies. Sometimes in the moment you are in San Fransisco cooking up a storm with family and forget your digital camera. Phone pics look so fuzzy. Oh well, we do what we can, on the fly is how we roll.

My pardner in food fun, Jon, has been gluten free for about 2 months and feeling remarkably better in his body. His sister, also a chef and gluten free convert, has taken everyday recipes to new gluten less heights, for more recipes and inspiration visit her at

We were so enamoured with the first squash blossoms, but too tired to go for the deep fat fritter fry/tempura production, so we baked.

The Stuffing:
Figure about 2 Tablespoons of stuffing per flower

-mix 1/2 parts ricotta and 1/2 parts goat cheese- the goat cheese gives it a nice bite, we used some that had herbs added, source your fridge for those goat cheesy leftovers scrunched up and almost forgotten. We've all been there...

-add chopped chives, fennel seeds, (the Shining Star of this recipe) lemon zest, salt and pepper to taste.

-spoon the cheese into the blossom,
 then twist the tips to close it.
-arrange the stuffed blossoms in an oiled pan

The Stuff:

-scramble enough eggs to cover the flowers, stir in some Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste.

-pour it on

-sprinkle the top with  !Ta-dah!  gluten free panko breadcrumbs,

-available at your gluten free friendly store, could also substitute ground nuts or seeds.

-bake at 350 for 15-20 minutes, douse with olive oil for the last 5 if you likah more crunch

Next time I would use a bigger pan and arrange the flowers to present with more definition.
We just didn't have one, a serendipitous first attempt.
Stay tuned for Zucchini Chronicles, Part 3:
 Beer Battered Squash Blossoms With Honey Mustard

Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Zucchini Chronicles, Part 1: Sex and the Single Zucchini

Catch of the Day

Here at Voss Gardens we grow only one type of summer squash, the best - Zucchini Romanesco. It thrives in our soil and growing conditions. I get my Zucchino Romanesco seed from an Italian company, Franchi Sementi, a seed sourcer since 1783. ( This variety, recognized by its grey green color and heavy ribs with light green specks, is far superior for its distinctive nutty taste and yeild. For best flavor we pick them smallish, 4-6 inches.

The first year I gardened here my zucchinis were not bearing fruit, I had a glut of male flowers. "Mmmmm, these plants need more sex!" my gut level said. Being the new kid on the block, the bees hadn't put my turf on their radar yet. Just starting out, I had nothing to attract them. Duh, zucchinis need bees for pollination. Duh, no flowers no bees, duh, plant more flowers.

Now, to stay in the bee loop, I make sure something is always flowering in the garden. Letting some vegetable plants go to flower and seed is an easy way to attract the bees and save seed too!  And they're so purdy.

Over the years I've watched the Romanesco plants produce a flood of male flowers before the females kick in and bring on the avalanche of zucchini daze. Its early in the season, and given the abundance of male flowers out there right now a little zucchini sex education is in order. The blossoms are so lovely to look at and eat, and recipes will follow. But now is the time for  the bees to get it on, while we watch and wait.

The male flowers have a phallic looking inside.
 Males can be identified
by the straight erect stem.

The insides of the female
flowers look like eggs.
Females can be identified by their fruits.

The bees are busy getting down to business.
Soon the floodgates will open and zucchinis will rain down.

Ladies and Gentlemen - Be Advised: Lock your car doors during zucchini season.

 Stay tuned for more Zucchini Chronicles!
Part 2: Gluten Free Stuffed Squash Blossoms.
Part 3: My famous Beer Battered Squash Blossoms Recipe
Part 4: Hot Zucchini Nights and National Zucchini Day. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Pavlova, Schaum Torte, or a Walk on the Moon?

I've been cleaning out the freezer, making way for the harvest of the new growing season. There were egg whites left over from my spring yen for yolks.  I read somewhere you could freeze them for later. Well later came and its true, they whipped into a hella divine meringue. 

I'm not one for sweets, but a recent trip to Wisconsin after the recall, triggered a recall of a sugary part of my childhood called Schaum Torte, a traditional German dessert - named "Schaum" meaning "foam" in German. Later in life my girlfriend Patience, a fabulous cook, introduced me to a similar dessert called Pavlova, a traditional recipe of New Zealand - named for the Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova who took a fancy to the light dessert on one of her tours. Both are meringues, basically sugar and egg whites whipped to a stiff peaked frenzy and slowly baked. The result is a chewy sweet marshmallowy mess, crisp on the outside, soft on the inside, typically slathered with whipped cream, heaped with fresh berries, kiwis, ice cream, or whatever happens to be in your larder worth desserting.

I'm not one to preach the benefits of egg whipping or reiterate confections of international origin. Recipes, how-tos, and theories about both dishes abound on the web. There are foodies and bloggers and recipe hounds out there with much more finesse than myself.  My fascination lies simply in the process of transformation and the symbolism therein, a way of Being in the kitchen, the heart of the home.  It's a wonder of alchemy that a slimy colorless egg white could morph into heavenly fluff and so much fun can be had just beating it. Who dreamed this up? Cooking is not always about eating or the feeding and pleasing of others. There are days it turns to artistic expression, if only to please the imagination of the artist who happens to be cooking.

The aha moment for this post unfolded during a frustrating photo shoot; me fumbling with the light, not getting it right, same old boring pie in your face picture to accompany a floppy story called, "The Blob That Came From The Oven." After several unsuccessful takes I stepped back, took a breath, and returned to my mantra, "Try New Things." Squinting, I looked at the hot mess from another angle, then a little closer, going in a little closer, going in...when out of the blue the light bulb turned on in my head and angels started singing "In Egg Shells is Deo!"
Suddenly my meringue came to life,
spouting new twists,
erotic fantasies with soft body contours in secret places,
walks on lunar landscapes,
spirits of the ancestors.

Images enlarged to wall size, were framed and hung in galleries to amuse artsy types sipping white wine, and graced the walls of swanky Manhattan offices . . .
 just messing around.

"Try New Things" is a mantra I live by, and one I like to share. It keeps the mind fresh, inventive, youthful and open to starting over. Thinking new unsticks the stuck in your ways.

 Get outside the box by creating a new one.