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Veggie Garden Update

I now realize a lot can happen in a garden in a short amount of time. When I arrived back in town last weekend I noticed that my zucchini plant had rotted from all the rain we had while I was gone. I’m not sure how to avoid this next year. Veteran gardeners, any suggestions?

Also, my tomato plants have become so loaded down w/ fruit that the stakes I’m using this year are having trouble supporting the plants. Solution – I used twine to tie the stakes to the fence for added support. Next year I think I will use tomato cages to contain the plants more effectively. I harvested my first ripe Lemon Boy tomato and it was delicious!! The heirloom tomato plants are loaded, but no ripe ones yet.

Much to my surprise, the broccoli plants (one of my favorite vegetables) are still producing so there’s no need to buy any at the grocery store this week! My first butternut squash has grown so tremendously that I may be making a home grown butternut squash dish next week!

My orange bell pepper plant died and my other bell pepper plant has yet to start producing. The hot banana pepper plant dropped the only fruit it had on it and no new fruit is appearing. Possibly this due to their location in the garden – the plants are being crowded out and overshadowed by the gargantuan tomato plants! Lesson learned for next year – better plant placement and spacing according to potential size and height (how was I supposed to know how big or little things would get… after all, I’m a novice). Veteran gardeners please don’t hesitate to share your knowledge… I would love to hear your pearls of wisdom!

July 17th photos:

First Lemon Boy; more broccoli; baby butternut

Heirlooms; lone banana pepper; more Lemon Boys

July 27th photos:

Rigged tomatoes; yet more broccoli; rotten zucchini

Adolescent butternut; newborn butternut; thriving zinnias

Happy gardening…

Bruno

My First Veggie Garden

Two years in the making, but well worth the effort…

In the summer of 2006 I put up a retaining wall to keep the ivy from taking over a corner of my yard. I then tried to kill it w/ regular Roundup but the ivy won that battle. The following spring I mixed a batch of extra strong Roundup. It took 3 or 4 applications but the ivy lost this time! Fast forward to 2008… It was an exceptionally rainy and cool spring in St. Louis so the planting of my garden was delayed by a few weeks. I had a brief window of opportunity in mid-May to get my plants in the ground, and I do mean brief! As I was getting the trenches finished for the asparagus it started raining again, but I pushed on and was able to finish. The weather remained cool and wet until early June. As a result, my plants didn’t prosper very well. The tomato plants were dropping their flowers, the squash plants remained small, the bell pepper plants were wimpy and the asparagus struggled to pop out of the dirt! I thought I was doing something wrong, but as the weather became drier and warmer things started happening – the broccoli ripened, the tomatoes started appearing, the asparagus ferned out, the squash has gone crazy (so much I’ve had to cut back the leaves so they wouldn’t block out the sun for the other plants!), and my wimpy bell pepper plants are starting to get bigger and flower. The zucchini is flowering like crazy but is not producing much fruit yet. As you can see in the photos, two of the zucchinis rotted before ripening. I don’t know why, so if any of you veteran gardeners have any answers please share them w/ me.

Below is a photographic chronology:

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June 2006

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June 8th, 2008

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June 22, 2008

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July 4, 2008

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Broccoli; Lemon Boy tomato; zucchini

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Hot banana peppers; butternut squash flower; herbs

Things are looking good, and the broccoli and first banana peppers were delicious!! I will keep you posted as the summer progresses.

Ciao for now…

Bruno

Daring Bakers Challenge for April

Unfortunately my blog has been malfunctioning for the past couple of weeks due to some malicious hackers corrupting my template. I had a friend help me reinstall everything but it’s still not working properly. So, as a result I cannot upload any photos and when you click on the photos from previous posts they no longer enlarge. This whole situation has me very frustrated!!

I have completed the challenge for April, took photographs and have feedback from my taste testers but all this will have to wait to be posted until I can get brunosdream operational again (hopefully within the next week). I figure what’s the point to post the text without photos since my fellow Daring Bakers want to actually see the end results, not just read about them!

Please check back within the next week. Hopefully I will have this mess resolved by then and have some visuals for your viewing pleasure.

 Until then, Happy Baking!

 Bruno

The West Coast Tour – Seattle and Napa Valley

It’s 2008, I’ve got the blues, and I’ve lost my cooking mojo! I’m going to a pie making workshop on Sunday so maybe that will help inspire me.  

Until then, here are some photos from my last work week. I got some great shots of the Seattle skyline but unfortunately we didn’t get to spend any time there. We did however get to spend a few hours in Napa Valley. It was torture going to wine country and not being able to taste any wine! (we were on duty) Thankfully we had the opportunity to eat a nice meal at Mustards Grill and stop by the French Laundry in Yountville to take a look around. I was able to go in the kitchen because the restaurant was closed for a few days for a tune-up. We also had time for a short visit to Copia (the center for wine, food and the arts) in the city of Napa.  

Enjoy the views! (click on photos to zoom in)

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Mount Rainier; Seattle skyline

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Mustards Grill

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 Mustards menu; Larry & Kim (the pilots); Kim & me

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hanger steak; seafood tostada; cherry & pear bread pudding

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Napa Valley scenery

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entering Yountville; The French Laundry

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more of The French Laundry

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inside the kitchen

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Copia

Until next time…

 Bruno

Bastille Day 2007

It was a great day to celebrate the storming of the Bastille. This is the second annual Bastille Day party chez Paula’s maison. She really outdid herself this year! The menu was magnifique and she even had a French music ensemble playing some Edith Piaf, among other tunes, to set the mood!  There were many more people attending, however my friend and former co-blogger, Duane, was not present this year to chronicle the event as he did last year. Unfortunately he recently found out his cancer has returned and he is once again battling this horrible disease. My thoughts and prayers are w/ him. I wish him the best and hope he will be present next year and able to announce his cancer is once again in remission. Duane, since you were unable to be there, here are some photos for your vicarious enjoyment. I tip my glass to you my friend, may you be back in action soon…

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Le menu; amuse bouche

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Le dinner

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Paula avec ami; Herve'; la music

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Mon tutti fruitti; autre dessert

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Les party people

Salut…

Bruno

A Week in the Life – The Culinary Tour (i.e., Pigging Out!)

We had a great week flying around the US and sampling the food of the region whenever we had the opportunity! We started our eating tour in Denver, where we had dinner at Las Brisas, a great little Mexican restaurant near our hotel. I don’t have any photos but you can click the link for their menu. Next stop Jackson Hole, where we had lunch at Sweetwater Restaurant. They serve great elk burgers and elk sausage sandwiches! The next evening we found ourselves in Des Moines, Iowa. We had dinner at Centro (sorry, no photos, but check out the link), then strolled around the Des Moines Art Festival which was in progress. As luck had it, later in the week we landed in New York City. We stopped in the Shark Bar at Spring and Mulberry Street for a couple of Belgian beers (Hoegaarden wheat), then headed over 1 block on Spring to Lombardi’s to sample some of their famous coal fired oven pizzas. The ovens heat up to 850 degrees F, creating a beautifully crispy, chewy and blistered crust. I tried to get the dough recipe, but apparently it’s top secret! After the pizza we headed over to Little Italy for dessert at Ferrara Cafe. They serve great gelato and cannoli among other things!

Hope you enjoy the photos….

 Ciao,

Bruno

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Jackson Hole, Wyoming

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Jim, Jeff and me in front of Sweetwater

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Up, up and away!!

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Me in the Shark Bar…  Little Italy and Grand Central Station 

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Lombardi’s, yum!

Ferry Plaza Farmers Market – San Francisco

I was in San Francisco recently and was fortunate enough to have time to stop by the farmers market. It was an incredibly beautiful day so I took many photos (I was thinking blog post, blog post!). Let me share a few of my favorites w/ you:

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ferry-plaza18.jpgferry-plaza19.jpg Lovely and fragrant, fresh cut lavender

ferry-plaza4.jpgferry-plaza5.jpg Tierra Vegetables – this is where I get my pepper jam (they specialize in chile peppers)

ferry-plaza7.jpgferry-plaza8.jpgWe bought some of the best fresh feta cheese I’ve ever tasted – I can’t remember the vendor’s name but he’s always in the booth that’s next to the guy who sells baba ghanoush

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ferry-plaza11.jpgferry-plaza12.jpgBeautiful mushrooms

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ferry-plaza15.jpgferry-plaza16.jpgCowgirl Creamery – they make awesome cheeses – one of my favorites is “Pierce Point” which has a rind coated in local dried herbs (unfortunately this cheese is only sold in the fall so I couldn’t buy any…bummer!)

The End…

Hope you enjoyed my quick tour of this fabulous market!

P.S. – Sam at Beck’s & Posh recently did a post which surprisingly discovered that some items are cheaper at the farmers market than at Safeway (the large grocery chain in California)… so support your local farmers, the planet and sustainable agriculture!

P.P.S. – I just found this great farmers market icon – “Blush the Sweet Tomato” at A Veggie Venture. a-veggie-ventures-farmers-market-icon-blush-the-tomato.gif Alanna invites bloggers to use the icon on posts to signify farmers market fresh veggies. Thanks Alanna!

Bruno

under construction

brunosdream is still being built…. please bear w/ me through these growing pains!

The Last Supper – Lamb Stew w/ Spinach Noodles

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My apologies for the scarcity of posts lately. I have been a bit preoccupied since January w/ a major and very important project… remodeling my kitchen!! I didn’t realize how involved this process can be. Meeting w/ the contractor, lining up the financing, picking out fixtures, emptying the cabinets, and dealing w/ the little surprises that inevitably pop up! Getting all these things accomplished during my time off left very little time for blogging.

To say goodbye to my old kitchen I decided to have some friends over for “the last supper”. Lamb stew served over spinach noodles sounded like a good choice for a cold winter evening, so that’s what I prepared.

Lamb Stew w/ Spinach Noodles

Ingredients:

10 cloves garlic  – peeled and crushed (for marinade)

1 ounce dried morel mushrooms

4 tomatoes – 1 inch dice

1 bunch Swiss chard (1/2 pound) – chopped crosswise into 1 inch pieces

10 crimini mushrooms – sliced

3 pounds lamb stew meat (1 inch cubes)

2 mulato chiles – crumbled (for marinade)

1 butternut squash (1 1/2 pounds) – 1/2 inch dice

4 celery stalks (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)

5 carrots (peeled, halved and cut into 1/2 inch pieces)

1 leek (white part only) – 1/2 inch slices

1 bag red pearl onions – peeled (10 ounces)

1 tablespoon cumin (for marinade)

1 bouquet garni (2 sprigs of thyme, 10 black peppercorns, 2 cloves, 2 bay leaves all wrapped in a leek leaf tied w/ twine)

1 cup red wine (I used a nice red from Portugal)

1 tablespoon flour

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons butter

2 pounds spinach noodles

salt and pepper to taste

Procedure:

1) Place lamb into 13 x 9 inch glass baking dish w/ garlic, chiles and 2 tablespoons olive oil; sprinkle w/ cumin, mix well then cover w/ plastic wrap and place in fridge for 1 to 2 hours

2) For veggie stock: In an 10 quart pot, pour in 1 tablespoon olive oil then over low heat sweat the carrots, celery, butternut squash, pearl onions, leek and crimini mushrooms for 5 to 7 minutes; add 6 quarts water and bouquet garni then simmer for 45 minutes; skim off foam periodically

3) Rehydrate morels in 1 1/2 cups warm water for half an hour

4) When veggie stock is ready, add tomatoes and morels w/ liquid; continue simmering

5) Remove lamb from fridge, heat a large pan, add the marinated lamb; when lamb is browned use a slotted spoon to place the lamb (w/ the garlic and chiles) into simmering stock

6) Deglaze the lamb pan w/ the red wine and cook until reduced to 1/3 cup; make “red roux” by adding flour to the pan, stirring frequently while roux is cooking (be careful not to burn the roux)

7) Add the roux to the stew pot and continue simmering the stew for 1 hour; add the chard during last 1/2 hour of cooking; salt and pepper to taste

8) Let stew cool, cover and place in fridge

9) The next day, remove stew from fridge 1 hour prior to service and reheat over gentle heat

10) For noodles: Fill a very large pot w/ enough water to cook pasta; bring water to a boil; salt the water well then add the noodles and cook until “al dente”

11) Strain noodles in colander, place in a large serving bowl and melt butter into noodles

12) Place a nice portion of noodles in each plate and ladle stew over the noodles

13) Savor your “last supper” w/ a delicious full bodied red wine (we popped open a bottle of 2003 K Vineyards Cabernet/Syrah blend, The Creator, Walla Walla Valley, Washington, as well as several other bottles of nice wines!!)

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Farewell old kitchen….

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To the future… and my new kitchen!!!

Until then,

Bruno

** dinner photos courtesy of Michelle

A Menu for Hope

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Menu for Hope is a holiday fundraising campaign involving food bloggers which is now in its third year.  The campaign was started by Pim of Chez Pim, who recently announced that this year’s campaign will be benefitting the U.N. World Food Program. See Kalyn’s Kitchen and Cream Puffs in Venice for more details.

Happy Holidays,

Bruno