This year’s zinnia patch…
Be the first to spot the Monarch butterfly and hummingbird (hint- they’re in the same photo right next to each other). Click on photos for a better view!
“Make sure to save room for dessert.”
This post is bittersweet… a few short weeks ago I was thrilled w/ how well my garden was thriving, however now it’s doing so-so. Two of my tomato plants have died (Moneymaker and Gold Medal) and two more (Cherokee Purple) are on the verge of kicking the bucket. On the bright side, the remainder of the plants are producing. Soon I’ll have my first ripe tomatoes and peppers of the season. The basil is coming in nicely and my chard and kale will be ready for a second harvest in the near future if I can continue to keep the leaf munching caterpillars away. Not sure if the 5 days of heavy rain last week was too much for some of the tomato plants. I’ll have to do some research to figure out the cause of the damage. So far the good outweighs the bad and I hope it stays that way!
Photos snapped at 8 o’clock this morning:
Hoping for greener thumbs…
Wow, it’s only been a couple of weeks since my last post, but I’m very impressed by the progress of the garden and had to share how well it growing! The plants have doubled in size, the tomatoes are flowering and this morning I spotted the first baby tomato of the season. This week I harvested 2 big bags of lettuce, 1 big bag of kale/chard and a large quantity of oregano which is now drying in my kitchen. Lots of fresh greens for lunches and dinners!
The following photos were shot on June 7th:
Doin’ the happy gardener dance…
Well, it’s that time of year again to dust off the gardening tools and get growing! So far this season is starting off w/ plenty of rain. Fortunately there was a 2 day window of opportunity on May 14th and 15th to get everything in the ground. All the seedlings were started on April 3rd and were ready to go into their permanent new home. The basil (Italian Large Leaf and Italian Genovese), zinnias and marigolds were direct seeded on April 16th. The butternut squash had to be reseeded yesterday because the seeds I planted on May 14th were old and didn’t sprout. So far, all the seedlings have survived the transplant and are doing well in the ground. This year I put in 4 Swiss chard (two Bright Lights and two 5 Color Silverbeet), 4 kale (two Nero Toscana and two Red Winter), 2 Early Jalapeno, 5 Serrano Tampiqueno, and 12 tomato plants (one Gold Medal, one Crimson Carmello, one Speckled Roman, one Moneymaker, one San Marzano, three Cherokee Purple and four Black Krim). The Serrano peppers, Moneymaker and San Marzano tomatoes are new to the mix to see how well they’ll grow in my yard.
The following photos were taken on May 23rd:
So far it’s green thumbs up!
This year’s lettuce crop is coming in nicely (along w/ some weeds!). I’m trying out some new varieties: micro greens (spicy mix), mesclun (chef’s gourmet spicy mix) and two types of arugula (regular and wild). The wild arugula is called Dragon’s Tongue and it grows very slowly… probably won’t put this in again next year for this reason.
Happiness is a green garden!
I made this bread using Pastaria’s pizza dough recipe. The oven spring was amazing! It went from 2 1/2 inches in height to almost 4 1/2 inches while baking. The crust is crisp and chewy, with a crumb that is tender and airy. And yes, it makes delicious pizza too!
Thanks Gerard and Ashley for sharing the recipe!
The second and final week of my tour lands me in Switzerland to sample some of its delicacies (food and drink), and more importantly, visit w/ my cousins, some of whom I haven’t seen since 2004. My home base was Delemont, the town where my mom grew up and where most of my cousins still live. It’s close to the Alsace region of France so we visited a couple of beautiful towns just across the border – Kaysersberg and Colmar. Other stops were Lucerne (famous for its covered bridge), Vercorin and Grimentz (two alpine villages in the Valais region). Grimentz is one of the best preserved Swiss alpine villages in that region.
One of my cousins introduced me to Damassine, a delicious eau de vie made from damson plums. It quickly became one of my favorite after dinner drinks, having a great aroma and flavor in addition to aiding in the digestion of wonderful meals. One evening we sautéed 2 types of local fresh trout purchased at the Delemont farmers market and of course we finished the meal w/ a bit of cheese and Damassine!
While in Vercorin, my cousin prepared a tradition meal called Assiette Valaisanne, which typically is a platter loaded w/ local cured meats, local cheeses, butter, thin slices of a dense rye bread called seigle, sliced fruit, nuts, cornichons and tomato wedges. This is served w/ wines produced regionally. It makes a delicious meal. Click here for an example.
It was hunting season while I was in Switzerland, so most restaurants offered seasonal dishes made w/ fresh game meat. I was fortunate to sample some venison and chamois prepare a couple of different ways during some of our meals out. One chef slowly braised chamois for 18 hours and served it w/ local mushrooms, spaetzle, seasonal vegetables and fruit. Another preparation was a roulade of venison breast stuffed w/ ground venison and served w/ red cabbage and spaetzle. Both were delicious!
When in Switzerland, I always hope to eat Raclette (a Swiss specialty). It’s one of my favorite ways to eat cheese. A picture is worth a thousand words as you will see in the photos of the Raclette lunch we ate at a cousin’s home one day.
I hope you enjoy these choice photos as much as I enjoyed my short time in Switzerland!
Au revior et a bientot j’espere!
The second installment of my European adventure takes place in the town of Eauze, France, where we were fortunate enough to visit the Armagnac producer, Marquis de Montesquiou. They normally don’t give tours but my brother told them I was coming all the way from St. Louis and was a fan of their Armagnac, so they made an exception. Our guide was the maître de chais (cellar master), Eric Durand. He was kind enough to take 1 1/2 hours out of his busy day to show us around and explain the Armagnac production process.
Armagnac is an eau de vie, like Cognac, but different in that it is distilled only once using a continuous distillation process. This process captures more of the esters from the fermented grapes and results in a more flavorful end product. Eric also noted that the oak barrels in which Armagnac is aged has a looser grain than the barrels used for aging Cognac, allowing the Armagnac to absorb more flavors from the barrels than Cognac.
Our tour culminated w/ a tasting of the house reserve Armagnac that dates back to 1900. If I remember correctly, Eric explained that with every vintage there is some excess Armagnac that won’t fit into the barrels used for that year’s production. This excess was placed in select barrels and is a blend of all vintages dating back to when Marquis de Montesquiou was founded. How fortunate we were to taste something that rare! My friend said he had never seen as big a smile on my face as when that golden nectar touched my taste buds! My brother commented to Eric that I’m now spoiled for life because no other Armagnac will taste as good as this house reserve. So true… so true!!
Here are a few photos from our visit:
Thank you Eric for such a memorable experience!
A votre sante’…
Here’s a good recipe if you still have basil growing in your yard and don’t know what to do w/ it. You could surprise your friends at whatever Thanksgiving gathering you attend this year by bringing something unusual! In this recipe I used Asian basil to add a more pungent flavor, but any basil will work. I also tried a new technique of letting the basil steep in the gelato base in the fridge for 2 days before churning. This punched up the flavor and color.
Basil Gelato w/ Roasted Hazelnuts
1 cup Asian basil leaves (packed)
6 egg yolks
1 cup sugar
1 quart half & half
1/2 cup roasted hazelnuts (coarsely chopped)
1) In a metal bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until mixture becomes smooth and pale yellow.
2) Place half & half in a heavy pot and heat until scalded.
3) Very slowly whisk warm half & half into egg/sugar mixture so as not to curdle the mixture.
4) Place bowl w/ mixture over a pot of simmering water, stirring continuously w/ a heat resistant spatula until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon (do not let mixture exceed 170 degrees F to prevent curdling), then quickly place bowl in an ice bath to stop the cooking process and promote rapid cooling.
5) Once cool, pour into a food processor, add basil and pulse until basil is finely chopped.
6) Pour back into bowl, cover (I use a shower cap that fits snuggly over the top) and place in fridge for 2 days.
7) Churn mixture in ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s instructions, adding the hazelnuts when mixture begins to thicken.
8) Pour gelato into a 2 quart plastic container and quickly stir to evenly distribute the hazelnuts and basil.
9) Place a piece of parchment paper cut to size on the surface of gelato (this will reduce air exposure and prevent ice crystals from forming on the surface of the gelato), seal container and freeze until firm.
Yield: Approx. 1 1/2 quarts
I hope you enjoy this recipe!