Naked Gardening

October is here and we’re turning our attention to scary orange things! Actually, this story goes all the way back to last year. At Halloween I like to save some seeds from the pumpkins I carve for the occasion. Like so many other people, I wash and roast them and then sit around peeling and eating them. As I did so one chilly autumn evening, I contemplated the pepitas one buys for Mexican cooking. They don’t have that hard, flavorless shell my pumpkin seeds have that need to be cracked and peeled before consuming. I occurred to me there must be some trick to doing them in volume economically. A machine maybe? I did a little searching on the Internet and discovered something even better: naked pumpkin seeds! Well, more properly, hulless pumpkin seeds. These are varieties that have bred away the hard seed coat to where it’s just a thin, soft membrane. I don’t know that these are what are grown make the pepitas at the store, but they sounded like such a good idea. Unfortunately, pumpkins are space-consuming crop to grow so I filed away this tidbit for when we have a bigger garden.

Then, as luck would have it, one of the bloggers I follow did a post about a hulless pumpkin aptly named ‘Lady Godiva.’ The author of My Food and Flowers is a Taiwanese gardener living in Canada who, apparently, grows absolutely everything in the world. When wrote about ‘Lady Godiva’ and I mentioned I wanted to grow this kind of pumpkin some day she kindly sent me some seeds.

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I started them indoors in April and then set one out when the ground was nice and warm in the beds I had designated for squash and cucumbers. The vine grew pretty long, but I was able to weave it in and around other plants to accommodate it. By early September I had one nice pumpkin that was ready to pick.

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The dark seeds were easy to see through their thin, transparent shells.

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It was practically no work at all to rake the seeds out of the stringy flesh with my fingers. They came out nice and clean and only needed a rinse before roasting. There was about half a cup of seeds in this one pumpkin. I didn’t want to spend this precious bounty in a sauce where the flavor might not be as well appreciated so I opted for roasting them as a snack. I spread them out on a cookie sheet, sprinkled on some salt and left them in the oven until they started making popping noises. They’re delicious! Given how easy they are to grow and harvest, I would definitely plant these again in sufficient numbers for real cooking once we have the space.

Oi Sobagi – Stuffed Cucumber Kimchi

Earlier this year I got Lauryn Chun’s “The Kimchi Cookbook: 60 Traditional and Modern Ways to Make and Eat Kimchi” from the library. I have made simple kimchi in the past with Chinese cabbage and bok choi from our garden and I was interested in expanding my repertoire focusing on the things I grow.

Ingredients

One of the ingredients the recipe called for and that was mentioned in several other recipes in the book is Korean chives or or buchu. When I was reading the description I started to wonder if that was one of the plants I was growing, having scavenged it from the weed pile. There are advantages to being in a community garden with a large international population! The description of my odd little clump of chives matched—flat leaves and with a slightly garlicky flavor. I would also add that there is a definite grassiness but I don’t know if that’s normal or because it is in the process of flowering. In any case, I used it.

Stuffin

Stuffing

The stuffing consists of the chives, grated carrot, sugar and Korean hot pepper flakes. I didn’t have any of the pepper flakes so I substituted Penzey’s Medium Hot California style. The proportions I used for everything were a little off from the original recipe because I made a reduced size batch. Next time I will grate the carrot finer and use more of it.

Jarred

After they are salted, drained and stuffed, the cucumbers get packed in a jar and sit at room temperature to ferment for a couple of days. Since it was so warm here I stuck them in the fridge after just a little less than a day to chill them and slow the fermentation.

Tasting

The verdict is in and this recipe is a keeper! I’ve saved a few more from the book to try including another cucumber kimchi and a contemporary stuffed tomato kimchi. I’m looking forward to trying them out.

Have you wandered from the mainstream kimchi path? Where did it take you?

Waffling Leekily

I haven’t done a cooking post in I don’t know how long. Seriously, I don’t even care to look back to see when that was. If you’re up to it, knock yourself out and report back here. There are three very good reasons it’s been this long. First, I can’t take a decent food photo to save my life. Second, I was coming to hate our kitchen countertop where food tended to be viewed. Third, we have a tendency to want to eat what we’ve made fairly soon after it’s cooked so taking time to get an image is not always an option. It’s only reasonable.

Then an idea entered my foodosphere. I’ve encountered menus with waffles that aren’t your  usual syrup-soaked breakfast affair before, but they never really clicked. In a period of less than a week I encountered enough references to savory waffles that the concept finally sparked in my brain and I decided it was A Thing I wanted to try.

Leek Waffles

The opportunity came one evening when I was making a Greek beet salad that was heavy on the allspice. It needed something to go with it. A little whole wheat waffle/pancake mix, some sliced leeks, a healthy dose of grated parmesan and there we were. They were a little more flat than I’d hoped and the flavors were a bit “International”, but it’s a start.

The food was delicious, the new countertop made a decent background, and I got to take off in a new direction in the kitchen. I’ve collected a decent handful of recipes to refer to in my future waffling experiments and hope to be incorporating even more of the produce that’s coming from the garden.

Have you messed around with savory waffles? Share your experiences, ideas and suggestions in the comments!

What? Salmon Chili?!?

Yes. Salmon chili. I only kind of like salmon. I know it’s good for me and  it’s usually one of the fish I choose when selecting off a sushi menu. But when confronted with a slab of salmon I either just manage to eat the whole thing without a thought or have to gag it down, if at all. Last night we tried a recipe from our salmon supplier, Sitka Salmon Shares, and it was delicious! The tomatoes, peppers, onions, garlic and black beans were all from the garden. I’d eat this again in a heartbeat.

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Queer Cheese

Recently we made an Alsatian tart with quark. No, it was’t filled with the subatomic constituents of protons and neutrons. But, then again, I suppose it was. This version of quark is a fresh cheese from central Europe.

Then, as luck would have it, a magazine arrived a few days ago with instructions for making quark from scratch. We felt we had to try it.

The recipe is pretty straightforward. Heat up some whole milk and add some buttermilk when it cools a bit. Let it stands a while, you’ve got quark!

Unfortunately it didn’t work that way for us. Once the required waiting was through we just had a pot of slightly stinky dairy liquid. We didn’t know what went wrong, but suspect the buttermilk culture wasn’t alive. Figuring we had nothing to lose at this point we started again with the heating step and the same liquid, this time putting in some kefir which was practically indistinguishable from the buttermilk. Again, no thickening or curdling.

At this point I took a wild guess that there just wasn’t enough acid and proposed we run our much-abused dairy mess through the foolproof method of making paneer. We warmed the stuff again, stirred in a bit of lemon juice, and in seconds had curds. We poured them into a strainer lined with my super secret substitute for cheesecloth (thoroughly washed sheer curtain panels from a thrift store) gave them a quick rinse with cold water, and wrapped and weighted them to drain.

This morning I unwrapped the creamy, mild cheese and declared it adequate. Not quite quark, not quite paneer, ladies and gentlemen, I give you queer.

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The co-conspirator thinks it would be fine spread on a bagel or crackers. It needs salt. I may try mixing some herbs into it.

Have you had a kitchen failure you kept hammering at until you got something decent? Please share it with a story or link in the comments.

Banana Appétit!

Today I whipped up a batch of something I wouldn’t have even considered until recently. You see, all my life I’ve believed I have an allergy to bananas. It’s never been a problem since they’re pretty easy to avoid and I don’t even care too much for the smell of them. That all changed on our trip last February to Costa Rica. At the last place we stayed, we were served a sweet, red spread with breakfast that I thought was delicious. It turned out to be Banana Marmalade!

 

 

I’ve never had a problem with the flavor of baked foods like banana bread or cookies so maybe it’s just raw bananas that turn me off. And I’m pretty sure if I ever was allergic I’m not now.  In any case, I asked the lodge owner how it was made and she gave me a quick description but no set measurements. Today I just googled for a recipe and used one that appeared several times in the first page of results.

 

I started with a pound and a half of bananas and a lemon. The recipe also called for the zest of half an orange but since I didn’t have any I used the dried stuff from Penzey’s. And, of course, there’s lots of sugar. Everything just gets dumped in a pot and cooked. I was skeptical at first that there was enough liquid. Having never eaten a raw banana, I always just assumed they were as dry and spongy as they looked.

 

 

Once they got cooking I was surprised at the amount of juice that came out. I kept stirring and cooking them on medium-low heat and watched as the fruit broke down and the mixture got thicker.

 

 

Eventually the marmalade took on a translucent sheen and a spoonful on a chilled plate had the right consistency after a quick visit to the fridge. You’ll notice, if you’re as attentive as I think you are, that it doesn’t have the pretty red color that the Costa Rican marmalade had. The lodge hostess told me there were no red ingredients and that the color was just from the caramelization of the sugars. Since my batch was getting thick I was hesitant to push it any farther and end  up with a scorched flavor. Maybe next time I’ll be more daring.

 

 

I jarred it up and left it to cool before the final tasting. Since it was going in the refrigerator to be eaten right away I didn’t bother with a full-on processing, although the second jar did go in the freezer. Hopefully it’s sugary enough to not expand and break the jar.

 

 

Once it had cooled some, I tried it on a piece of toast. Pretty yummy but doesn’t hold a candle to local strawberry jam. Since my strawberry plants are only blooming right now, I don’t think I’ll be jamming any too soon. But this tropical treat might hold us over until the local fruit comes in. My only concern is about the kinds of wildlife it attracts.

 

French Sorrel

One of the interesting phenomena of being able to tend the same kitchen garden year to year is the way the so-called garden seasons can overlap. Garlic planted in the fall emerges in the spring. Biennial crops can be overwintered in the ground, root cellar or crisper drawer to be replanted for seed production. Perennial herbs and fruits return–hopefully–like reliable friends every year.

 

It’s that last category I used in my first fresh-harvested dish of the season. When I inspected the garden recently one of the emerging signs of life was the French sorrel plant. It’s an herb I tried last year for the first time, not really knowing it was perennial. Since I was anxious to say "I cooked something from this year’s garden!" I grabbed a couple leaves a week later and sliced them up.

 

 

Tasting them it was evident the fully flavor hadn’t developed yet. There was a faint hint of lemon and sourness but mostly it just tasted green. I went ahead and scrambled the leaves into some eggs with a little butter. In the end, it wasn’t offensive by any means, but I don’t think it added a whole lot either. In any case, I got my first meal featuring this year’s produce.

 

 

Now I’m curious about other uses of French sorrel. It’s a productive plant so when I read the traditional recipes for soup or salmon with sorrel sauce I don’t balk at the amount they call for. I wonder if two of my favorite g0-t0 dishes for green leaves could be adapted to accommodate it, saag and pesto. Do you cook with French sorrel? What are your favorite dishes? Please share in the comments if you have a delicious, brilliant idea.

 

Today’s leafy, spring-green post is part of Post Produce hosted by Daniel Gasteiger over at Your Small Kitchen Garden. Check it out!