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Archive for July, 2010

As I said in my last post, I recently traveled to Chicago, but before I was there I spent some time camping on Long Island.  Due to those trips, I was away from my garden for a while.  Luckily, my garden partner Tiffany can usually pick up the slack when I’m away (and vice versa).  On Saturday I made my way over to our garden, knowing Tiffany had been there while I was away.  As it was about 95 degrees here in New York, I was hoping to make a quick trip and then head back home and sit in front of the fan.  No such luck!  But then again, can you ever make just a quick trip to the garden?  There is always something else you can do, if you make the time.

While I was in Chicago, I read an email in which Tiffany gave me a garden update–things looked good, however, she had had to leave before she could get to everything and, in her words, “the cucumbers need some love”.  Boy was that the truth!  I’ve never grown these plants until now and I’m learning that they are a little tricky.  The last time I had seen our cucs, they were litke little toddlers, slowly sprouting up and starting to climb the supports we had put in place for them.  When I saw them on Saturday, they were like full blown teenagers–tall, gangly, and unruly!  The plants are strong-willed and independent, branching out for whatever they can wind their tendrils around, however, they are also fragile and impressionable.  Cucumbers need your guidance, no matter how much they think they know the best way to grow, they need your help. 

Here is an example for you–the cucumber vine started growing up the nearby grapevine, the grapevine is in the middle, you can see the light green, tightly wound cucumber tendrils toward the bottom:

So Saturday, with my water bottle by my side and my big floppy sunhat on my head, I spent a good two hours tending to my teenaged cucumbers.  I made a lattice out of string, a stick, and the nearby swing set so our plants can grow a little bit wider instead of just growing up up up.  Here you see the fruits of my labor

Before:
After:

Since we started our plot on the late side, we don’t have any full grow cucs to enjoy quite yet.  My neighbors Nick and Michelle have a very large cucumber plant and told me to take any that were full size since they haven’t been around.  I took a couple beautiful fruits and I decided to make my very very favorite cucumber treat, tzatziki sauce!!  This is a pretty standard recipe that you’ll see everywhere, I just do it by sight and taste so if you need something more exact, you can easily find one in a cookbook or online.

3 medium cucumbers, peeled, sliced, cored and chopped
3 cups plain greek yogurt (or use whatever plain yogurt you have and strain it)
dill (fresh or dried, fresh is best)
big spoonful of chopped garlic
salt and pepper

 First, you need to prepare the cucumbers.  MAKE SURE TO SEED THEM!!! It’s really easy, just run a spoon and scoop out the seeds.  This is a must-do because they make the sauce watery and kinda gross.  I’ve been lazy before and left them in and it really does make a difference.

Next, you can either put them in a food processor or chop them up.  Some people prefer the sauce with superfine cucumbers, but I like the chucks so I just do it by hand.  Sprinkle with salt and pepper and leave the chopped veggies in a strainer for about a half hour and from time to time press them down to get more of the water out.

Finally, mix the cucumbers, yogurt, garlic, and dill.  Add in a little more salt and pepper.  As for amounts, I’d say maybe two pinches of dried dill and about 4 pinches fresh….but just taste it and see.  Once you put it in the fridge for at least an hour, the flavors will be stronger so you can always taste and add more later on.

I hope you can make it with fresh cucumbers, it is a simple pleasure of summer to make recipes from fresh food.  Enjoy on grilled meats, fish, or veggies.  If you are anything like me, you will eat it on it’s own with a spoon!!

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From Sharon’s Kitchen

Hello!!  Summer is in full swing here in the Bronx and boy is it hot hot hot!  I was lucky enough to be traveling for work during the heat wave last week.  I spent some time in Chicago and since I was staying at a hotel, I got to enjoy the luxury of air conditioning!  I’m back in New York and it is slightly cooler than last week, but not by much.  When I was in O’Hare airport catching up with my Mom, she was telling me about some pesto bread she had made that weekend.  We both decided it would be great to have the recipe on the blog, so here she is–my first guest blogger!  Straight from Sharon’s kitchen:
A Taste of Summer
 
Nothing speaks “Summer”to me like the scent of basil.  Whether it’s pinching a leaf as I weed my herb garden and enjoying its strong scent lingering on my hands, or chopping cups of basil leaves with garlic cloves and olive oil to make homemade pesto, basil “fumes” wafting through my kitchen means summer truly has arrived.
 
Each year  a few basil plants find a home in the garden, but last year I realized you can never have too much basil!  Pesto takes A LOT of basil; and if you want some leaves to dry as well at the end of the growing season, it’s a good idea to plant at least a row.   I planted two rows this spring, and voila! I am happily overrun with basil.
 
What to do with all of this abundance?  I made pesto and froze it (after enjoying it on whole-grain crackers with thin slices of sharp cheddar).  Then I happened to rediscover a book on herbs my husband gave me for my 39th birthday (eeek – that was 20 years ago!), and found a recipe for pesto bread.
 
From start to finish, this baking project was a joy.  I love baking bread anyway, and combining the pleasure of kneading the yeasty dough with spreading the heady scented pesto, then shaping the loaves knowing there was a hidden surprise inside and smelling them as they baked was a lot of fun – just what summer is supposed to be!  And of course, slicing that first warm piece fresh from the oven – well, if you’re a bread baker you know what I mean… Here’s the recipe I followed for both pesto and bread.  Enjoy!  And I wish all of you a wonderful summer!
 
Pesto 
 
2 cups fresh basil leaves
1/2 cup parsley leaves
1/2 cup olive oil
2 garlic cloves
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
 
Puree the basil, parsley, oil, garlic and salt in a blender or processor.  Stir in the cheese.
 
Pesto Bread (2 loaves)
 
1 and 1/2 packages active dry yeast
2 cups warm water (105 to 115 degrees)
1 and 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon sugar
6 to 7 cups all-purpose flour
cornmeal for the baking sheet
 
 
 
Dissolve yeast in the warm water in a large bowl and add the salt and sugar.  Stir (I use a whisk).  Set aside for a few minutes until foamy.  Using a wooden spoon, beat in the flour one cup at a time (I found 6 cups to be plenty), until a smooth dough forms.  Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured board or counter and let it rest for a few minutes.  Knead until the dough is elastic.  Place in a lightly oiled bowl (I just scrape out the large bowl I already used and oil it), cover it with a towel and set in a warm place until doubled (about 1 and 1/2 hours).
 
Now turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board, punch it down (that’s one of the fun parts!), and knead it again.  Divide the dough in half.  Pat out 2 rectangles, each about 10 by 12 inches, and spread a thin layer of PESTO over each, leaving about a 1-inch border all around.  Starting with the long side, slowly, roll each rectangle into a cylinder and shape into a loaf.  Let the loaves sit on the board to rise for another 5 minutes.
 
 
 
Sprinkle a baking sheet (I use a large pizza stone, which yields nice hollow loaves) with cornmeal and place the loaves on it.  Brush each loaf with cold water and place in a COLD oven.  Place a pan of boiling water (a cake pan will do) in the bottom of the oven and turn the oven to 400 degrees.  Bake the bread for 35 to 40 minutes, or until the loaves are browned and sound hollow when rapped on the bottom (my oven runs hot and the loaves were done in under 30 minutes, so be sure to check them before 35 minutes is up).  Place the bread on a rack to cool slightly, serve warm for the most intense flavor.  Try to have just one piece!
 
 
 
 
What do you think of my guest blogger?  I can’t wait to try this recipe…I guess I better get to my garden soon and pick some basil!
 

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