6.30.14 Garlic Scapes

6.30.14 Garlic Scapes

“My beloved is gone down into his garden, to the beds of spices, to feed in the gardens, and to gather lilies.”
— Song of Solomon

While some no longer classify alliums in the Liliaceae family, we still consider garlic part of our garden lilies. They’re flowering now, sending out long slender stalks, or scapes, that remind us of swans, with their elegantly shaped heads dipping and swaying through the tangle of slowly dying leaves. Once the scapes have looped around a full arcing turn, they’re harvested to encourage the plants to concentrate their energy into forming bulbs. It’s an edible portion of the plant that helps to bridge between last season’s harvest and this year’s, and can be used raw or cooked. We’ll be assembling batches of garlic scape pesto, enough for a freezer stash, the rest will be kept fresh in the fridge for as long into the summer as they’ll last.

Planting: After the new moon — Shishito peppers, companion basil and French marigolds.

Harvesting: Music garlic scapes, shell peas, salad greens, arugula, kale.

Preserving: Quick Sugar Snap Pickles, freezing peas.

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6.23.14 Soaking up Solstice

6.23.14 Soaking up Solstice

With Solstice’s long, sunny days as encouragement, newly planted seeds worked overtime to emerge. We’re always glad to see signs in the garden that seeds have germinated, and on this particular day it seemed they got bigger every time we looked. To prove that we weren’t merely imagining things, we captured their first appearance, and six hours later that same day. Above: A double planting of Masai filet beans, looking a little scarred and battle weary at having pushed their way through.

6.23.14 Soaking up Solstice

Ta-dah! Six hours later, the beans (above) have straightened out and unfurled their first set of leaves, with a second one ready to go.

6.23.14 Soaking up Solstice

The Boothby Blonde cucumbers (above) have been reluctant to germinate this year, and this was just one of two that made it, looking a little tentative.

6.23.14 Soaking up Solstice

It’s like watching chicks peck out of their shells, the relief at accomplishing this seemingly small task is palpable.

6.23.14 Soaking up Solstice

In comparison, the Costata Romanesco zucchini (above) just shoulders through.

6.23.14 Soaking up Solstice

Seedling sun salutation — looking hopeful and robust, and portending zucchinis in our future.

6.23.14 Soaking up Solstice

Solstice also marks the last harvest of asparagus and, this year, the first harvest of peas. Our planting of Coral is an early variety, but is dying off quickly after bearing.

Planting: Tomatoes, leeks, celeriac, and a reseeding of Delicata winter squash.

Harvesting: First of the peas; last of asparagus; also rhubarb, salad greens, arugula, kale, agretti thinnings, and chive blossoms.

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Salad Days: Chive Blossom Fritters + Buttermilk-Chive Dressing

Chive Blossom Fritters

There’s always a place for chives in our herb garden — they’re among the first to poke up in spring, and their leaves are best used snipped fresh and full of their delicate allium punch. To keep them going throughout the season, we cut the straggly plants down to the ground once or twice during the summer to revive them, but not before we have a chance to harvest their edible flowers. We’re accustomed to pinching the blossoms to separate them into tiny florets, and use them much as we would the leaves. However, it was with a fistful of them in hand that we began to consider the possibility of using the blossoms intact. Since biting into a entire blossom can be a ticklish affair, frying them up as fritters tames their slightly prickly nature, and transforms them into airy clouds with a hint of oniony crunch.

Chive Blossom Fritters

The batter we based ours on has a thin consistency, more like one for crepes than pancakes, and is let to sit to give the gluten time to relax. We left the stems on, more for ease of dipping into the batter than for appearance, then clip them off at the base of the blossom, and let them drop into a shallow pool of hot oil. They quickly puff up, and are given a turn to brown evenly.

Chive Blossom Fritter

Once the whole batch was done frying, a simple garnish of sea salt and extra florets was all that was needed. To make it into a more substantial meal, we put together a salad of greens tangled with thinly sliced radishes, tossed it with a creamy buttermilk-chive dressing, and piled the chive blossom fritters on top. Later in the season when the garlic chives flower, it’s easy to imagine repeating this all over again.

Chive Flower Fritters

½ cup flour
2 eggs
⅓ cup milk
1 to 2 drops vinegar
36 chive blossoms, with stems attached
Vegetable oil for frying

– In a small bowl, mix the flour and the eggs with a fork. While pouring the milk in a thin stream into the bowl, continue whisking with the fork until well mixed. Add a drop or two of vinegar, and whisk well until the batter is slightly frothy with trapped air bubbles. Don’t worry if the batter is lumpy, the flour will sort itself out as it sits. Cover and let the batter sit 30 minutes, or preferably overnight, refrigerated. When ready to use, whisk the batter again to reincorporate.
– To fry fritters, heat about ½ inch of oil in a small frying pan. Withe two or three blossoms at a time, hold them by the stems and dip into the batter. Let the excess batter drip off, then cut with a pair of kitchen shears and let the blossoms drop into the hot oil;  avoid cutting too closely to the blossom end or it will fall apart in the oil. Flip the blossoms to brown evenly, then remove and let drain on paper towels. Garnish with a sprinkling of sea salt and fresh chive florets.

Buttermilk-Chive Dressing

½ cup buttermilk
¼ cup sour cream, creme fraiche, or yogurt
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
¼ cup chopped chives
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 clove garlic, finely minced (optional)
1 anchovy, or dash of fish sauce (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

– Whisk ingredients together to form dressing. Alternative, toss everything in a blender or food processor, and pulse until well blended. Adjust seasonings to taste.

Local ingredients: Whole wheat pastry flour from Brookford Farm; eggs from Stout Oak Farm; homemade buttermilk and yogurt, with milk from Harris Farm; green garlic from Meadow’s Mirth; cider vinegar from Sewall Orchard; sea salt from Maine Sea Salt; chives and their blossoms from the garden.

Submitted to Weekend Herb Blogging, edition #439 hosted by Torta di Rose.

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Salad Days: Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Rhubarb Vinaigrette

This refreshingly tart rhubarb vinaigrette was inspired by having a couple of stalks leftover after making a rhubarb galette. Beyond dressing salad greens, it’s slightly fruity flavor pairs well with grilled meats, such as pork, chicken or fish; with sautéed duck breast or a confit; or in a chunky chicken or summery bean salad.

Rhubarb Vinaigrette

Simply simmer the rhubarb until falling apart, then blend with the remaining ingredients until emulsified. We choose a local cider vinegar, though red wine, rice or even raspberry vinegar would also do. For this batch, we used a grainy mustard; creme fraiche makes for creamier version, or omit them altogether for a lighter one. And if you have a couple of strawberries on hand, throw them in for an extra fruity punch.

Rhubarb Vinaigrette

½ cup chopped rhubarb (1 to 2 stalks)
¼ cup water
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
2 teaspoons grainy mustard or creme fraiche (optional)
¼ cup vegetable or mild olive oil

– In a small saucepan, bring the rhubarb and water to a simmer, and cook until very soft, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool; should make about ¼ cup cooked rhubarb.
– Place the cooked rhubarb, honey, cider vinegar, and mustard or creme fraiche (if using) into a blender or small food processor. With the motor running, slowly pouring in the oil to form an emulsified vinaigrette. Makes about 1 cup.

Adapted from Dinner with Julie.

Local ingredients: Honey from Victory Bees; cider vinegar from Sewall Orchard; mustard from Cheshire Garden; sunflower oil from Coppal House Farm; rhubarb from the garden.

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6.16.14 Auspicious days

6.16.14 Auspicious days

“And what is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days.”
— James Russell Lowell

Above: Sea kale in full flower, more than enough to produce seedpods.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

According to the lunar calendar, the week’s full moon gave us an favorable planting period leading up to it and following. Above: Lichen.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

Before the full moon, we planted seeds for those bearing above-ground: Masai filet beans (from saved seed); boothby blonde cucumbers; costata romanesco and zephyr summer squash; delicata, tromboncino, and spaghetti winter squash. Above: Lupines.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

After the full moon, we planted for underground vegetables: Potatoes, Tokyo turnips, and more radishes. Above: Favas in flower.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

Above: Coral shell peas, a member special from Fedco, is proving to be an early one, and started forming pods long before the Green Arrow peas began flowering.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

Harvesting: Asparagus, rhubarb, salad greens, arugula, kales.

6.16.14 Auspicious days

It was also an auspicious time to hang a new prayer flag overlooking the garden.

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Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

“Each Pie Maker is called to a particular type of pie. It is a deeper, more profound relationship than a favorite pie or one’s specialty. It is closer to destiny or fate.”
— Anne Dimock, “Humble Pie”

We heard the calling, and Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie was the answer. Though we may waver between apple and rhubarb, with rhubarb now coming into peak season, it’s rosy hue and tangy taste is what we crave this moment. We based our latest version on an Amish classic that falls in a category of pie that relies on a rich mix of cream and eggs to bind the fruit. In this case, tart chunks of softened rhubarb are enveloped in a smooth custard, melding with a toasty pre-baked pie crust. It’s like having pie and ice cream wrapped into one, especially when served cold.

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

We paired this with an Amish No-Roll Pie Crust, one that’s mixed directly in the pie pan, then pressed out by hand, no rolling pin necessary. Cold vegetable oil and milk take the place of butter, and ease the process of mixing. Much like making pasta dough, the wet ingredients are worked into the dry until the soft dough comes together.

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

The pie dough is then smoothed out and pressed into place. Blind-baking the crust before filling sets it, and gives the crust a chance to caramelize and develop a hint of butteriness. Here, we used a freshly pressed local sunflower oil, which added it’s own rich, nutty notes. We replaced a portion of the flour with local whole wheat to give it character, and imagine a finely ground cornmeal would also do nicely.

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

Though it’ll be tempting to add more, 3 cups of diced rhubarb fills the shell to capacity, especially once the rest of the filling is poured in. A smudge of piquant ginger, entirely optional, adds some warming spice in counterpoint to the tartness of the rhubarb. It’s suggested that this pie is best served cold, especially in the heat of summer, but don’t refrain from sampling it warm and deciding for yourself.

Rhubarb Buttermilk Pie

2½ to 3 cups diced rhubarb, about 1 pound, or 4 to 6 large stalks
1 cup sugar
4 tablespoons flour
¼ teaspoon ground ginger (optional)
3 eggs, beaten
½ cup buttermilk
2½ to 3 cups diced rhubarb, about 1 pound or 6 stalks
1 single pie crust, pre-baked

– In a small bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar and ground ginger. Whisk in the eggs, mixing thoroughly, before whisking in the buttermilk. Scatter the diced rhubarb evenly across the bottom of the pre-baked pie crust. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the top.
– Place the pie in a 375°F oven, and bake until filling is set, about 30 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool. Serve warm  or cold.

Amish No-Roll Pie Crust

 cups flour
1½ teaspoons sugar
½ teaspoon salt
½ cup vegetable oil
3 tablespoons cold milk

– In a 9-inch pie pan, mix together the flour, sugar and salt. In a measuring cup, beat the vegetable oil and 3 tablespoons milk together until it looks creamy. Pour the oil mixture into the flour, and stir with a fork until the flour is completely moistened. If dough feels dry, sprinkle and mix in extra milk, a teaspoon at a time. Pat the dough out until it covers the bottom and sides of the pan. Crimp or flute the edges. Refrigerate the pie crust for at least 20 minutes.
– To pre-bake, heat oven to 425°F and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool before filling.

Local ingredients: Pastry flour from Nitty Gritty Grain Co.; whole wheat pastry flour from Brookford Farm; sunflower oil from Coppal House Farm; homemade buttermilk with milk from Harris Farm; sea salt from Maine Sea Salt; eggs from Mona Farm; rhubarb from the garden.

Submitted to Novel Food, hosted by Simona at Briciole — Anne Dimock’s memoir, “Humble Pie: What Lies Beneath the Crust”, is generously sprinkled with wry observations, pie-making tips, and personal recipes that have become part of our own repertoire. A perfect summer read now that pie season is upon us.

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Kale Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette

Kale Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette

Inspiration for this boldly spiced Kale Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette comes from Joinery in Newmarket, New Hampshire, which recently opened with Chef Brendan Vesey heading the kitchen, and Black Trumpet’s Evan and Denise Mallett at the helm. We were there for Slow Food Seacoast’s launch of Slow Sips — a new series of events with establishments that support good, clean, fair, and local food — and discovered it on the menu when we stayed for dinner. The restaurant serves their kale salad warm with almonds and chickpeas, and we’ve been riffing on this invigorating fusion of zesty flavors ever since.

Start by grabbing a fresh bunch of kale, then zip off the stems, and chop the leaves well. We added thin slivers of red onion — the last one from winter storage — and toasted pine nuts in the latest version, other improvisational options include:

– toasted pine nuts, walnuts, pepitas, or sunflower seeds
– thinly sliced red onion or scallions
– julienned or grated carrot or kohlrabi
– thinly slice red radishes or salad turnips
– oil-cured or brined black olives
– cannellini beans, lentils, or roasted chick peas
– cooked grains such as wheat berries, bulgur, or barley
– crumbled feta or ricotta salata

As for the stems, we recommend chopping them up, and sautéing with some cooked dried beans until the beans become soft and crusty, to accompany the kale salad.

Kale Salad with Harissa Vinaigrette

We like this as a cold salad, and dress the kale about a half-hour before serving to allow the leaves to relax and better absorb the vinaigrette. For the warm version, gently heat up the vinaigrette before tossing with the salad.

Harissa Vinaigrette

¼ cup harissa
2 to 3 cloves garlic, finely minced
¼ cup lemon juice or red wine vinegar, or half and half
½ cup olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper

– Whisk together harissa, garlic, lemon juice or red wine vinegar, and olive oil. Season with salt and black pepper. Makes about 1 cup, about half is enough to dress the salad, with enough leftover for the next salad opportunity.

Local ingredients: Red Russian kale from Osprey Cove Organic Farm/Stonewall Farm; red onion from Black Kettle Farm; and garlic from the garden.

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