Tag Archives: garden

at summer’s end

Hello. My name is Andrea. I write this food blog, Bella Eats. You may remember me, or due to my long absence you may not. I’m sorry about that, truly I am. I miss this space! Life has been busy. So so so busy. I started teaching architectural design at the University of Virginia. Teaching. At a University. !!! And before that teaching officially began there was training for teaching. And in the middle of all of that I photographed the wedding of a dear friend I’ve known since the fifth grade. Fifth grade! She was such a beautiful bride, and if you’re interested in seeing some of those images please check out the AHPhoto blog.

Oh, and I started a photography business. Because I love taking pictures of people. And buildings. And food. So if you know anybody who needs somebody to take pictures of people, or buildings, or food…feel free to send them my way. I’d appreciate it so so much. And thank you, all of you, who have commented and tweeted and emailed your support. You’re the best, truly.

And yes, I am still working for an architecture firm here in Charlottesville. So…yeah. Busy.

It feels as though summer has completely passed by Bella Eats. Since June I’ve posted about cherries, blackberries, and blueberries. There have been no luscious heirloom tomatoes, no juice-laden peaches, no golden ears of corn. I even have a new trick for releasing kernels from their cob without making a complete mess of the kitchen counter and floor, and I haven’t had the opportunity to share it with you. That is sad my friends, because this trick is a good one. It will change the way you view corn entirely. Soon, I hope.

Way back in the middle of July our dear friend Kristin celebrated her birthday. She celebrated with us, and with this lime tart topped with blackberries from our garden. Blackberry season is just about over, a sign that summer is drawing to a quick close. Our bush has shed it’s bounty completely, leaving only the tiny shriveled berries that didn’t ever come to full ripeness. Our freezer is packed full of quart-size bags of the frozen fruit, our pantry shelf stocked with various forms of blackberry jam. This tart was one of the last recipes made this summer using berries fresh from the garden, and looking at these pictures already has me feeling nostalgic.

What is it about food that stirs memories stronger than those evoked by any other sense? While blackberries don’t take me back to any point of my childhood, they do plop me down solidly in our backyard here in Charlottesville. For the past 4 years we’ve spent countless July and August evenings standing in our garden, bowls in hand, fingers stained purple, arms eaten by mosquitos, quietly and contently plucking berries one-by-one from a bush WE planted. I know that forever, no matter where we are, when I pop a freshly picked blackberry into my mouth I will be transported back to this place. I love that.

If you’re lucky you can still find pints of deep purple blackberries at your local farmers’ market, and if you do, I recommend you make this dessert before summer’s end. The crust is quite perfect, nearly the consistency and flavor of a shortbread cookie. It doesn’t flake and melt in your mouth like many pastry shells, but instead offers a firm vessel on which to carry a scoop of zippy lime curd. And scoop you will, because this tart never really sets up to a solid, sliceable state. Which is fine by me. The delightful combination of sweet shortbread, tart curd, and fresh blackberries had us all going back for seconds, despite our use of a spoon rather than a fork.

For the record, I am so unhappy with the spacing that this new WordPress theme defaults too, but I just haven’t had the time/energy to dig into the CSS code to fix it. And, we’re working on a redesign of Bella Eats to be launched right around the two year (two years!) anniversary of this site at the end of October.  So, please bear with me and the awkward/awful spacing of the text in my recipes… Thank you.

Lime Tart with Blackberries

from bon appetit, June 2010

Ingredients

for the lime curd:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 3 large egg yolks
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 3/4 cup fresh lime juice
  • 6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter, cut into 6 pieces

for the topping:

  • (3) 6-ounce containers fresh blackberries
  • 1 tbsp blackberry jam

for the crust:

  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 large pinch of salt

Method

for the lime curd:

  1. Set a fine metal strainer over a medium bowl and set aside. Whisk the eggs, egg yolks, and sugar in another medium metal bowl to blend.  Whisk in lime juice.
  2. Set bowl over large saucepan of gently simmering water (do not allow bottom of bowl to touch water). Whisk constantly until curd thickens and an instant-read thermometer inserted into curd registers 178ºF to 180ºF, about 6 minutes.  Immediately pour curd through prepared strainer set over bowl.
  3. Add butter to warm strained curd; let stand 1 minute, then whisk until blended and smooth.  Press plastic wrap directly onto surface of curd, covering completely.  Refrigerate until cold, about 4 hours.*

*Lime curd can be made up to 2 days ahead.  Keep chilled.

for the crust:

  1. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar in a medium bowl until well blended, 1 to 2 minutes. Add egg yolk; beat to blend. Add flour and salt and mix on low speed until mixture resembles large peas. Using hands, knead in bowl just until dough comes together.
  2. Transfer dough to a 9-inch diameter tart pan with removable bottom. Break dough into pieces, then press dough evenly up sides and onto bottom of pan. Cover and chill 1 hour.**
  3. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Uncover crust and bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Cool completely in pan on rack.

**Dough can be made 1 day ahead. Keep chilled.

assembly:

  1. Remove sides from tart pan and place crust on plate. Spread lime curd evenly in baked crust. Arrange blackberries in concentric circles on top of tart.
  2. Place am in small microwave-safe bowl. Heat in microwave until jam is melted, about 15 seconds. Whisk to loosen and blend, adding water by teaspoonfuls if thick. Brush jam over berries.*** (I only brushed jam over the outer ring, because I liked how they looked without the glaze.)

***Tart can be made up to 8 hours ahead. Chill uncovered.

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happy, happy day

Last year at this time I was posting regularly about our backyard vegetable patch. I’d shared potato salad with our sugar snap peas, an earthy, herby frittata, and a rosy beet risotto. The garden was, while a bit overgrown, orderly and walkable. I visited it every day, scurrying through the gate in the morning after my runs to pick raspberries for breakfast, losing myself to daydreams as I stood with a hose each afternoon and soaked the soil under the tomatoes and peppers. I was oh-so-proud of our little plot, and oh-so-excited to share its progress with you all.

In December, after harvesting the last of the carrots for our Christmas dinner, Brian and I mourned the fact that those were probably the last vegetables we’d see come from our current backyard. We were planning to move this Summer, and didn’t think it would be very smart to put a lot of time, money, or energy into a piece of land that would no longer be ours in just six months’ time. It made me sad. Very, very, sad.

March came and went without us ordering organic compost to till into soil already rich from three years of amendment and gardening. There was no sprinkling of lettuce, kale, carrot, or beet seeds; no elaborate map drawn to show the exact location of each plant to come. May 15th, the last frost date for our part of Virginia, rolled by without us spending a Saturday planting tiny tomato, cucumber and pepper plants. The weeds grew, and grew, and grew…and I just let them.

Multiple friends who don’t know our plans to move, but do know the joy we get from growing our own food, have asked “how’s that garden of yours?”. This single question, innocent as it is, elicits a panicked look from Brian, who tries to change the subject before I can launch into our sorrowful (to me) tale. About how, no, we didn’t plant any vegetables in our backyard this year. And no, we don’t think we’ll be moving into a new house in time to establish a new garden. And yes, I am devastated that we’re not spending a portion of our weekends weeding and watering and planting and harvesting. Harumph.

In hindsight, we should have planted summer veggies. Things never move as quickly as anticipated, and our putting the house on the market was no exception. By now we could have been eating our own lettuce, cucumbers, sugar snap peas, and beets. Instead we’re buying them at the farmer’s market, which is the next best thing, but still not quite as satisfying. I’m getting over it. Really.

However…our berries have been AMAZING this year. Strawberries, red and golden raspberries, gooseberries, blackberries. Thank goodness for hardy perennial fruit that grows no matter the neglect it’s received! Those shots at the top of the page are from my visit to the garden last Friday morning, when I first noticed that the blackberries are starting to ripen. I did a little dance, hurried back inside for my camera and a bowl, and proceeded to pick every single fully-black berry on the vine. Happy, happy day.

This cake was actually made with blackberries that we grew last summer and froze. We had 8 quarts in our own freezer, and many more were given to friends. I’m betting that our harvest will be doubled this year, and we’re not moving until I am proven right.  Stubborn?  Not me.

Even if you have fresh blackberries on hand, you should still freeze them for at least 4 hours before adding them to the batter. The frozen berries, with the help of the syrup, will stay firmly rooted to the bottom of the pan without rising to the top (which will become the bottom) of the cake.

The whole wheat flour provides the cake with a dense crumb, perfect for picking up between two fingers.  I made it for dessert, but I think it is even better for breakfast.  Not too sweet, hearty with whole grains, a nice compliment to a cup of coffee.

Blackberry Upside-Down Cake

from Sweet and Natural Baking, by Mani Niall

serves 10

Ingredients

fruit

  • 1/3 cup liquid fruit juice concentrate (or, agave nectar)
  • 2 tbsp canola oil
  • 3 cups frozen blackberries

cake

  • 3 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup liquid fruit juice concentrate (or, agave nectar)
  • 2/3 cup skim milk
  • 1/3 cup plus 1 tbsp canola oil
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 cups whole wheat pastry flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp fine sea salt

Method

  1. Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Spray a 10-inch ovenproof skillet or springform pan with vegetable oil spray.
  2. For the fruit:  In a small saucepan, bring the fruit juice concentrate and oil to a simmer. Reduce the heat to low and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour into the prepared pan. Immediately arrange the blackberries in the pan in a single layer. Work quickly, as the syrup will harden rapidly. Place in the freezer while preparing the batter. (This will keep the fruit from floating to the top of the batter while baking.)
  3. For the cake:  In a medium bowl, using a handheld electric mixer at high speed, beat the egg whites until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the fruit juice concentrate, beating until stiff peaks form. Reduce the speed to low and add the milk, oil and vanilla, mixing until well combined.
  4. In another medium bowl, whisk the flour, baking powder, and salt until combined. Add to the liquid ingredients and whisk until smooth. Remove the pan from the freezer and pour the batter over the fruit.
  5. Bake until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean, 35 to 40 minutes. Cool on a cake rack for 10 minutes. Run a knife around the inside of the skillet or springform to loosen the cake. Invert onto a serving plate. Let stand for 5 minutes so that the cake can absorb the juices. Remove the skillet of release the sides of the spring form and carefully lift off the bottom. Serve the cake warm or at room temperature.

bella terra: bridging the gap

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Would you look at that? The garden has gone wild! To enter one must blindly reach through the blackberries to the latch on the gate and, once the latch is found and opened, duck underneath the new growth that won’t bear fruit until next summer. Tomatoes have broken free of their cages, the strawberries are taking over our pathway, herbs are spilling out of their raised bed and the blackberry bush has exploded with just-ripe fruit.

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Once inside you embark on what feels like a treasure hunt, pecking through the ever-bearing strawberry patch for the tiny, sweet fruit and pulling blackberry branches aside to reveal purple berries as big as my thumb. The tomatoes are plump and just starting to ripen, moving from a deep apple green through shades of yellow, peach and pink before finally settling into deep rosy reds (romas and brandywine), golden yellows (hawaiian pineapple) or dusty purples (cherokee princess).

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The cucumber vines have been prolific, providing us with more bounty than we’ve been able to handle, and the okra is just starting to bear its strangely-shaped pods. We’ve definitely moved from spring crops into summer,  having already said our goodbyes to the sugar snap peas and lettuces and stored away the last of the spring onions.  The crop we’ve been enjoying most recently, the one that bridged the gap between spring and summer and would have provided a harvest for even longer if we’d just planted another succession, are the red beets.

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Beets are a newly acquired vegetable on my list of top ten favorites.  I was introduced to them just a year or two ago, in the roasted form and mixed with a medley of potatoes, carrots, pearl onions and brussels sprouts.  Having only had experience with the canned and pickled varieties in the past, I was pleasantly surprised when I took my first bite of fresh roasted beet and discovered its delightfully sweet flavor and firm texture.  Ever since, beets have made it into most of our roasted veggie dishes and made select appearances in salads containing goat cheese and toasted nuts.

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Most recently I tried beets in a creamy risotto, and was extremely pleased with the final result.  I based the recipe on a butternut squash risotto that I’ve been making for many years, thinking that the beets would make an easy substitute in level of sweetness and overall texture.  The beets do take longer to tenderize than butternut squash, so my method resulted in a creamy risotto with bits of slightly firm beets.  If you’d prefer your beets to be very soft, I suggest roasting them with a splash of olive oil for 10-20 minutes before adding them to the skillet.

Oh!  And if you’re lucky enough to purchase (or grow!) beets that still have their greens attached, and those greens are still crisp and brightly colored, cook them up like you would kale, swiss chard, or collard greens.  They are delicious.

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I think that barley would be a fantastic whole-grain substitute for the arborio rice in this recipe, we were just all out.  Make sure to use pearl barley if you try it – quick-cooking barley doesn’t allow for the slow release of the starches that provide the creaminess risotto is known for.

Red Beet Risotto

serves 4 as a main course

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, cut into 1/4 inch dice (or enough tiny onions to equal about 1 cup diced)
  • 3 medium-sized beets, peeled and cut into 1/4 inch dice (about 2 cups)
  • 2 cups arborio rice (or 1 cup pearl barley)
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 6 cups chicken stock, heated over medium heat
  • 4 tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1/2 cup walnut halves, toasted, for sprinkling on top

Method:

  1. In a large skillet with tall sides, heat the olive oil over medium heat.  Add the onion and beets and cook until the onions ahve softened and translucent, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the rice and stir with a wooden spoon until toasted and opaque, 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the wine to the toasting rice and then add a 1/2 cup of stock.  Cook, stirring constantly, until the liquid is absorbed.  Continue adding stock by 1/2 a cup at at time, waiting until the liquid is absorbed before adding more.  Cook until the rice is tender and creamy, yet still a little al dente, about 20 minutes.
  4. Stir in the butter and cheese until well mixed.
  5. Serve immediately with toasted walnuts crumbled on top.

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Interested in reading other posts about our garden?

Bella Terra: Preparation

Bella Terra: Chives

Bella Terra: Herbs

Bella Terra: Sugar Snaps

a definite crowd-pleaser

Have you ever tried pickling?

I hadn’t either, until a couple of weeks ago. Hadn’t even really thought about it until finishing Molly Wizenburg’s A Homemade Life a couple of weeks before that. The timing was perfect. I’d been thinking about our upcoming barbeque, flipping through magazines and cookbooks trying to decide what to make. Our overall plan was simple – we would provide all of the makings for pulled pork sandwiches, some snackie appetizers and, of course, dessert. Our guests would each bring a side dish to share and beverages of choice.  Easy, cost-effective, everybody gets to contribute AND you learn about some great new salads for future summer parties.

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However, when you’re throwing a party and only contributing a few key dishes to the event, the pressure is on to make those dishes shine. Especially if your name is Andrea and you write a food blog. It isn’t outside pressure; its completely internal.  I do it to myself, and not because I feel the need to impress my guests (which is a nice bonus, if it happens), but simply because I don’t get many opportunities to cook for that many people. Smoking a 10-pound pork shoulder for 10-12 hours isn’t something that Brian and I do every weekend, as nice as that sounds. And I certainly wouldn’t make 24 cupcakes on a whim without a special occasion or at least an office full of male co-workers to take them to.   So, when given an excuse to prepare something indulgent or time-consuming, I jump.  And start planning weeks in advance.

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The pulled pork was an easy decision, we’d been wanting to try something similar for quite some time.  I left Brian in charge of consulting with the local farmer that supplied the shoulder (Double H Farm – fabulous people and Big Green Egg owners as well!) and finding the right vinegar-based barbeque sauce recipe to go along with it.  The cupcakes were much more difficult – I was emailing back and forth with my cupcake consultant the day before the party, still trying to determine the perfect frosting for those decadent cakes mere hours before I was planning to make it.  Luckily, I had decided on the “snackie appetizer” portion of our food contribution weeks prior, and the sugar snap peas and carrots had been nestled in their brine, resting in our fridge for a full five days.

When I chose to make pickles, the idea seemed to jive well with my overly-indulgent, time-consuming criteria for recipe selection.   They were certainly delicious enough, and were crowd-pleasers that elicited impressed reactions from our guests (“you made pickles?!?”).  But here’s the thing…they were so incredibly easy to make.  So easy that I’m already brainstorming about all of the other vegetables I can pickle this summer, especially those that we are growing in our garden.  Cucumbers?  Check.  …Beets?  Check…  Okra?  Check…

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Many thanks to Whitney for introducing me to the pickled sugar snaps recipe, and Molly for the carrots.

Pickled Sugar Snap Peas

recipe from smitten kitchen, who adapted from the joy of pickling via epicurious

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/4 cups white distilled vinegar
  • 1-1/4 cups cold water
  • 1 tbsp kosher salt
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1 pound sugar snap peas, ends trimmed and strings removed
  • 4 garlic cloves, sliced thinly
  • a few pinches of red pepper flakes

Method:

  1. In a non-reactive saucepan, heat the vinegar, salt and sugar until both are dissolved.  Remove from heat and stir in the cold water.
  2. When the vinegar mixture is cool, pack the sugar snaps, red pepper flakes and garlic into jars or a large bowl (I used three 1-pint jars) and pour the brine over them.  If you run out of brine (I was just short) mix together equal parts water and vinegar to add to the jars.  Cover with a non-reactive lid if using jars, or plastic wrap if using a bowl.
  3. Store in the refrigerator.  They will be lightly pickled after 24 hours.  We ate ours at the 5-day mark, and they were absolutely perfect.  The original recipe says to wait 2 weeks for them to reach optimum flavor, but they can (and probably will be) consumed long before that.

Spicy Pickled Carrots

recipe from a homemade life, by molly wizenburg

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups apple cider vinegar
  • 2 cups water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 6 sprigs fresh thyme
  • 5 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1-1/2 tsp black peppercorns, cracked
  • 1-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
  • 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1-1/2 tsp yellow mustard seeds (original recipe calls for brown, I only had yellow)
  • 1-1/2 pounds small carrots, or large carrots cut into matchsticks 1/2″ thick by 3″ long

Method:

  1. In a medium, non-reactive saucepan, bring 1-1/2 cups of vinegar, water, sugar, thyme, garlic, peppercorns, red pepper flakes, salt and mustard seeds to a boil over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat and simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes.  Remove from heat and cool for 5 minutes.  Stir in remaining vinegar.
  2. Place the carrots in a large, heat-proof bowl.  Pour the warm brine over them and let sit until the brine cools to room temperature.
  3. While the carrots cool, clean your canning jars and lids in warm, soapy water (I used three 1-pint jars).
  4. Once the carrots are cool, arrange them in the jars so that they are nice and snug.  Feel free to use your fingers.  Using a ladle, distribute the brine evenly amongst the jars.  The carrots should be completely covered by brine.  If they are not then add a mixture of 2 parts vinegar, 1 part water.
  5. Seal firmly and refrigerate for at least 3 days.  We consumed most of them at the 5-day mark, and they were delicious, but I think they were even better after a full week.

pickles 6

bella terra: long overdue

My goodness.  I have really been slacking on the bella terra posts.  And its a shame, really, because things are progressing beautifully in our little garden.  And now, looking at all of the pictures I’ve uploaded I feel a bit overwhelmed because there are so many things to tell you all about.

snaps 1

Such as how strawberries make a lovely addition to a simple salad, especially when you drizzle poppyseed dressing over the top. And how sugar snap peas are a fine enhancement for that same salad with their delightful crunch and sweet flavor.  Oh, and that lettuce and spinach?  Fresh from our garden as well.  All the rain we’ve had this year has kept our lettuces very happy, we didn’t have nearly the bounty in 2008 as we’ve had this summer.

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And I can’t forget to mention that a strawberry rhubarb syrup is delicious spooned over a lemon bundt cake, a recipe I’ll share with you as soon as I can weed through the gazillion other drafts waiting (im)patiently in my drafts folder.

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And what about the blackberries?  They’ve multiplied exponentially this year, completely taking over the southern edge of the garden and providing respite from the afternoon sun for the tender herbs, onions and lettuces in their shadow.

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Even as I write this post, these pictures I am about to share with you are already inaccurate.  For now, the blackberries have started to turn a rosy red.  In just a few weeks they will morph into plump purple berries the size of my thumb and provide endless possibilities for jams, pies and ice creams.  I can’t wait.  I really can’t.

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But the sugar snaps, they are our greatest accomplishment yet this season.  In years past we’ve started the seeds to0 late, so that just as the plants are starting to produce the heat zaps them and they crumple to the ground, leaving us with just enough peas to munch on in the garden but never enough to make it back to the kitchen.  This year though, we’ve got more peas than we know what to do with.  Each day I am bringing a bowl-full inside after popping half a dozen into my mouth while picking.  They are delicious in salads and added last-minute to a stir-fry.  The less you cook them the better – you don’t want them to lose their wonderful crunch.

snaps merge 1

My latest use for sugar snaps comes from the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit.  The peas added a nice sweetness to a salad that threatened to be overwhelming with its spicy radishes, red onions and caesar dressing.  I loved the textures as well – the crunchy sugar snaps and radishes were a nice compliment for the softer potatoes.  Its a nice addition to any picnic or cook-out, and if you make it just for you there will be plenty for lunch all week long.

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I decided to make this salad the day before we were to join some friends for dinner, thinking that potato salad is always more delicious after having sat overnight in the fridge.  And it was delicious the second day, although no more so than the first, and certainly less beautiful.  The vibrant colors you see below were captured just after the salad was assembled, with the potatoes still slightly warm.  The next day all of the colors mellowed and meshed together, leaving a not-nearly-as-nice presentation.  I won’t make the mistake again.

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Caesar Potato Salad with Sugar Snap Peas

from Bon Appetit, June 2009

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 lbs unpeeled assorted baby potatoes, cut cross-wise into 1/2 inch slices
  • 8oz trimmed sugar snap peas
  • 1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard
  • 1 garlic clove, pressed
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan

Method:

  1. Steam potatoes on steamer rack set in large pot until almost tender, about 10 minutes.  Add sugar snap peas and steam until crisp-tender, about 1 minute.  Transfer veggies to a large bowl, cool slightly, then add radishes and onion.
  2. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic clove and dijon mustard together in a small bowl until well blended.  Whisk in parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Add dressing to potato mixture and toss to coat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

bella terra : preparation

We had perfect weather in Virginia this weekend.  75*, sunny, a light breeze.  The kind of weather that makes you believe that Spring may finally be here, that leads to lovely outdoor runs and white wine on the deck.  The same weather that in years past has caused you to put your cold-sensitive plants outside because “they’d like a little sunshine” only to have them frozen by a freak late-March storm (not this year my friends…I won’t be fooled again.)  It was the kind of weather that got me thinking about our vegetable garden, and how the time for sowing seeds is just around the corner and I still hadn’t amended the beds with fresh compost.  

garden-2

It was perfect weather for wandering around the local garden center, picking up spring-harvest seeds and dreaming about how, if only I had my own cold-frame set up in the backyard, I could already have baby lettuce peeking out of the soil.  Hmm…maybe next year.

This will be our third year with the garden, and over the last two we’ve started to sort out which veggies work and which don’t.  There were disappointments last year…the Virginia heat was too much for the brussels sprouts to handle and the squirrels got 75% of the corn.  We unearthed the secret to keeping flea bugs off of the eggplant and had an abundant harvest, only to discover that there are really only two eggplant recipes that we like and the farmer’s market can more than provide the fruit needed for those.  No need to take up valuable garden space. 

garden-3

On Saturday I bought lettuce and spinach, beets, peas and broccoli, all seeds that can go in the ground in the next couple of weeks and provide a harvest in as few as 45 days.  In May, after danger of Virginia frost, I’ll be sowing green beans and okra seeds to be harvested in July.  Baby tomato, cucumber, bell pepper and squash plants will go into their assigned beds and parsley, basil and dill will join the perennial chives, thyme and oregano already starting to show some green.

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I think I am most looking forward to growing our own broccoli, although each veggie has a special place in my heart and becomes my instant favorite the minute it is ripe.  But broccoli…it gave us trouble last year, or at least the squash bugs that enjoyed most of the harvest gave us trouble.  And I enjoy a challenge.  We will persevere with broccoli this spring and when we do we will make it this way, at least once.

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There are a few things about this recipe that I need to share, things I will do differently when I make it again.  First, I used whole coriander but will definitely use ground next time.  Biting into the occasional coriander seed was an intense, unpleasant experience for me.  If you love coriander feel free to use whole seeds, but I think spreading the flavor more evenly by using ground would be more enjoyable.

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Second, the tofu needs to go in the oven first.  I put the tofu and broccoli in at 425* together, and the broccoli was done well before the tofu.  To speed things up I wound up removing the tofu from the oven and quickly pan-frying it, but I think it  would be really good roasted.  I’ve specified in the recipe below to put the tofu in first and roast it until golden brown on one side before flipping it and adding the broccoli for the last 20 minutes.

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Roasted Broccoli with Glazed Tofu

inspired by the wednesday chef, via orangette

serves 2, with a portion leftover for lunch the next day

Ingredients:

  • 2 pounds broccoli, cut into bite-size florets
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 teaspoon whole coriander seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground…i’ll use ground next time)
  • 1 teaspoon whole cumin seeds (or 1/2 teaspoon ground…i used ground)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt, divided
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
  • 1/8 teaspoon hot chili powder
  • 12 oz firm tofu
  • 1 1/4 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 large lemon)
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • lemon wedges, for serving

Method:

  1. Preheat oven to 425 degrees.
  2. Slice tofu into eight 1/2″ slices, then slice again on the diagonal to make 16 pieces total.  Place on paper towels and press for 10 minutes.
  3. In a large bowl, toss broccoli with 2 tablespoons oil, coriander, cumin, 1 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon pepper and chili powder. In a separate bowl combine remaining 2 tablespoons oil, lemon zest, honey, remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and remaining 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and whisk together.
  4. Individually rub each piece of tofu with the oil/lemon/honey mixture.  Place on a baking sheet and bake until top is golden brown.  Pull baking sheet from oven and flip tofu.  Add broccoli to baking sheet, spreading in a single layer.  Put pan back in oven and roast for 10 additional minutes.  Stir broccoli and roast for another 10 minutes.
  5. Serve over rice, with fresh-squeezed lemon juice.

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A few notes:

First, my cousin Kelly (Meghann’s sister) was in a scary accident this evening while riding her bike.  Thankfully she was wearing a helmet and is going to be ok.  I’ll let Meghann give us details if she wishes, but I do want to stress how important it is to wear a helmet.  Kelly’s may very well have saved her life.

Second, I’m going to make bella terra posts a regular occurrence, to share with you all the happenings in the garden and recipes to go along with harvests. I don’t yet know the frequency, but I hope that by this summer they will be weekly.  I’d love any feedback you have or suggestions for content.  What would you like to see?

Third, thank you all for your continued support!  I’m so pleased with the feedback I’ve received regarding the new format and am so happy that you all seem to be open to whatever direction I go.  I will say that I’ve enjoyed my week of recipe-based posts and would like to continue with them, although I wouldn’t be surprised if a food diary post pops up every once in awhile.  I just can’t help but to take pictures of my daily food, and I still have overwhelming urges to share them with you.  So I think that I’m not going to set any rules, not limit the blog in any way.  I’m going to let the day and life and food inspire me and see where it goes, and I hope you’ll all continue to follow.

I welcome all constructive feedback and would love to hear more from you.  Have a great Monday!  🙂