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Cooking North of Seattle

My Vegetable Garden

My Vegetable Garden

I have always kept a small vegetable garden, using it to provide the vegetables I can't buy locally-grown. Much of my garden space has always been given to tomatoes. Store-bought tomatoes are never as good as the ones you can grow at home. Something to do with the variety I think. I have so many great recipes for perfectly ripe home-grown tomatoes. One of my favorites is Tomato, Goat Cheese and Onion Tart. Tomato and goat cheese is an amazing combination of flavors, often I will throw goat cheese into a tomato, olive oil and basil salad. It makes a nice change from the ubiquitous mozzarella.

There is nothing better than heading out to the garden in early spring to pick a big bunch of bitter greens for a bracing spring salad. I grow arugula, spicy red mustard greens and broccoli rabe. The small new leaves go straight into my salads. When the leaves get too big for salad I cook them up with a bit of garlic and crushed red pepper in extra virgin olive oil. I grow broccoli rabe just so I can make Broccoli Rabe and Beans. An old family recipe that I just love. I use the mustard greens for Chicken, Greens and Sweet Potato Stew. Mustard greens and sweet potatoes are great together, a very southern-style combination.

Garlic Scapes

In the past few years I have started growing my own garlic. It is so hard to find good fresh garlic now that I no longer live near Gilroy, CA - the purported garlic capitol of the world. There is nothing as wonderfully pungent and flavorful as homegrown garlic. I am amazed at the number of varieties available to the home gardener. I purchase my seed garlic from The Garlic Store. I love their descriptions of the various garlic which read like the reviews of fine wine. One happy consequence of growing hard-neck varieties of garlic is having garlic scapes. In late June the garlic sends out a single curling stalk with a flower bud on it's end. This is the scape. There is some question as to whether cutting this stalk off helps the garlic bulb to grow bigger by deflecting energy that might be used to flower. There is no question that the scape is a great resource to have in the kitchen. They can be steamed and eaten as a vegetable or chopped into soups and vegetable stir-fries. They have a pleasantly mild garlic flavor.

Another of the vegetables I like to grow is Italian (Romano) green beans. They are impossible to find in the markets and absolutely essential for a dish I learned from my Grandmother. Italian beans and potatoes, another comfort food that brings me right back to my roots.

I love growing zucchini. Not because they are hard to find in the grocery stores but because I love having way too many. I grow a golden variety because they add such a sunny color to every dish they are in. Zucchini are the most versatile of vegetables. They are great stuffed, shredded and made into patties, pickled, or popped into stews and stir fries. I have a cookbook that is comprised of only zucchini recipes!

Cucumbers are always in my garden. I have lots of recipes for quick cucumber pickles. My favorite is a Danish recipe I got from my mother-in-law called Pressgurka. I also love kim chee cucumbers. I use a mix for the kim chee flavoring. Salt the cucumbers for about an hour, rinse and dry them then stir in the mix and let them sit for a few hours in the fridge. So spicy and crunchy!

This year I seemed to have more cucumbers than ever. Maybe it was the mid-summer heat? At any rate I had cucumbers coming out my ears. So I decided to try out a few pickle recipes that require hot-water baths and sitting in canning jars for weeks before you can eat them. I tried another Danish pickle that my Mother-in-law used to make, Asier Pickles. With still more cucumbers coming out of the garden I thought I would try a short-brine dill pickle. This sort of canning is really pretty easy. The cans stay in the hot water bath for only 15 minutes. I rarely can but for some reason I had all the equipment I needed! The Asier pickles are ready to eat now and came out pretty good. The dill pickles have another few weeks before they are ready to try. Would I do it again? You bet I would! I do love pickles.


What's in Season? Early Spring 2009
What's in Season? Winter 2009

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