Thursday, July 28, 2011

The Problem With Cukes

Seriously, it's not a problem. It's just that--they are all I want to eat right now. My kitchen sink always has peels in it and there is always a wee bowl of slices near my right hand. I've been careful to water the plants during this fantastical hot spell and they have rewarded me with sweet and succulent cucumbers.

The problem--and it isn't a problem--is that I'm always hungry.

Take this scenario: I come in from wherever and I am hungry. I slice up a big bowl of cucumbers and--because it is very hot--I add a big glass of water.


That fills up my tummy pretty quickly, though, and I am satisfied and full.

For about an hour...and then I think: I'm hungry.

And the cycle repeats.

Yes, I could add something else into the mix, like crackers or some cheese (see previous post). But I don't. I am in thrall to these green beauties. Peel, slice, salt, eat.



In fact, right now? I'm a little hungry.

Monday, July 25, 2011

There is Little in Life as Wondrous as Cheese

there, I've said it. These hot days often require your humble food writer to nosh on something cold and fast. Yes, there is always Greek yoghurt but what shall I nibble while I'm finding a bowl and spoon and all that jazz?

A hunk of cheese, that's what.

I've been known to bite hunks out of a block of cheese while on my way to the cutting board to make a dainty slice.

I have been known to eat a pinch of cream cheese while waiting on the bagel to toast.

I have never--to this day--met a cheese I didn't like. O, I love some more than others--double Gloucester, for instance--but I like cheese stinky and mild, crumbly and runny, baked in filo or microwaved on a triscuit.

Years ago, my cholesterol was a little high and the doctor noted it. I asked, somewhat innocently--would brie do that? She looked appalled. Do you eat brie? Why, yes, I said. Rather a lot. Yes, she allowed, looking at me over the top of her spectacles, brie would do that.

The glory, the wonder of cheese.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

My Funny...and Terribly Prolific...Valentine

For the first time, I'm growing an heirloom haricot called Black Valentine. It grows to a good height--about 3 1/2 feet--and is easily trained to a simple stakes-and-twine support fence. It's a delicious bean! I pick them slim for steaming but also leave some of them to pod up for blanching and freezing.

The original two rows are starting to show their age and some insect damage, but I planted more of them in the kitchen garden with the squash and those are just starting to produce.

The cucumbers have blessed me with with the first time in my life that I can eat as many cucumbers as I want. I eat them every day and I ponder the notion of making pickles of some sort. But we've had some terribly hot weather and I can't bring myself to sterilize the jars and do the pickling.

So I'm eating them instead. I grew Straight 8s and they've been good keepers. They stay crisp no matter how large they grow and the flesh is firm and slightly sweet.

And soon...soon...

fresh tomatoes and okra and...squash.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

It's Too Hot to Eat, Much Less Cook

So I am living on salads (no, the lettuce from the garden is long gone), iced seltzer water and cucumbers.

That is not a problem. because I love cucumbers. For several years, we didn't have good luck with them--in fact, I started beekeeping in a futile attempt to have better cukes.

I went out today and picked another colander full of them. In spite of all the ones we're eating, there are still plenty more. So many that I'm considering making bread-and-butter pickles.

But for now, it's simple. Pick out a fat cuke. Peel it. Slice it in either direction. Salt it lightly.

Eat it up. Yum.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Sardines! Pesto! Guinness!

This time of year, it's so nice to go out to the garden and pick a bunch of fresh veg and either eat it simply or make it into something more Cooks Digest-y.

Tonight we had a huge salad with carrots and cukes from the garden (the lettuce is purchase--we're between lettuces in our garden right now). Then I made some butterflied pork chops in the following manner:

In a big cast iron pan, I put a good drizzle of EVOO, some minced garlic and a splash of homemade wine. In went the chops, sliced long ways down the middle. Sizzle, turn, grind some pepper. A big splash of water and keep turning til they're almost cooked. Then add in some ready-made tomato sauce and 1/4 cup of capers. Simmer simmer simmer. When tender, eat them with some freshly steamed asparagus and the afore-mentioned huge salad.

A crusty loaf of bread would also have been most welcome, but, alas! Ive been too busy lately to make any.

Maybe next week.

Next up tomorrow is a big batch of pesto. I've already picked the basil.

And my huge salad? It also had sardines in it. Sardines in mustard, which were very very good.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Fixing Beans

This is the new kitchen garden. It's planted now and has the cucuzzi and other squash.

Honeybees pollinating the cukes.

It is one of those ancient rituals of a mountain summer--preparing green beans, fresh from the garden. Even little children can do that and Southern children learn early about breaking both ends off a tiny bit and them snapping the long bean into small pieces. By the time you're my age, you will have done a lot of beans.

I grew a beautiful heirloom bean this year called Black Valentine. It is a prolific producer, strong and healthy plant with long beans. I've picked about half a bushel so far in the first row I planted, and the ones along the fence in the new kitchen garden are just starting to produce beans.

I detested green beans when I was younger, mostly because of the way they're cooked here. Boiled until there is no flavor left, with a big lump of fat back on the top. Nasty. When I got old enough to cook my own food, I found that they could be cooked with a lighter and gentler hand, seasoned with a little EVOO and salt and they were delicious.

This first harvest has been coked and eaten and the majority of it blanched, cooled and frozen. They were be wonderful in the winter, either alone or in soup or stew. Green beans are versatile and nutritious and freeze very easily.

My plan is also to do more canning and less freezing this year but the beans were always destined for freezing. They preserve better that way, I think.

Squash will start coming in soon. I'm also growing an edible Sicilian gourd called cucuzzi. It's beginning to flower now, so I'll report back on that a little later. It seems to be zucchini-ish.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Fleur de Sel Marocaine...also, Junior's Cheesecake

I am in the Big Apple for a few days and am enjoying the foodie possibilities in such a diverse place. I hunted through all sorts of salts a couple of days ago and settled on Fleru de Sel Marocaine. I have a brownie recipe that calls for it and can't wait to get home to try it out.

Today, we had a theatre date and the City was humid and damp. So we not only had lunch but we waddled our way back towards the theatre and went by Junior's before curtain time. We had coffee and Junior's Classic cheesecake.

I'll post pictures after I've uploaded them but you'll have to take my word for it that it was just the thing, pre-Jerusalem.

Lunch was at a sweet little place called Bella Napoli. I had an excellent caesar salad with edible croutons. The bread basket was especially good.