Greener Thumbs Prevail

Zinnias in NYC

As we blithely told some apartment-hunting friends recently, “You’re not the first people in New York City to want outdoor space.”

New Yorkers do what they can with the minuscule amount of space the landlord gods grace them with, generally something resembling a shoebox with a toilet. As you might remember from last year, Pygmy Goats - http://blog.sfgate.com/pets/2010/01/26/pygmy-goats-the-new-it-pet/for Evan and me doing what we can means utilizing the two windows in our studio apartment with happy, fanciful window gardens, bringing the farmin’ to city as per usual.

In our dream world, we would have a rooftop garden, or even a rooftop farm. We’d have a city-cow for dairy and some city-chickens for eggs and maybe a city-pygmy goat. Because – I mean, look at them – who can resist a pygmy goat?

We have yet to build our city farm, but we are still desperately trying to keep our teenie-weenie garden alive and well. This year we still have our happy little lemon tree, as well as sage, mint, chives, basil, zinnias, johnny-jump-ups (which bring me unreasonable joy), and tomatoes again, both cherry and beefsteak.

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IMG_6127There’s nothing better than waking up in the morning, rolling over in bed, and seeing our city street framed by our garden.

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(Our friends, by the way, landed a lovely one-bedroom, with in-building laundry and gym, rooftop access, and outdoor space on their first day hunting… So who am I to talk, really.)

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Portland Foodies

This year we took a late-summer trip to Portland to visit the magnificent duo, Kaila and Ethan, and to eat heinous amounts of Maine grub. And in looking back on the thousands of pictures we took, it is nearly impossible to find a single photograph in which we aren’t dutifully stuffing our faces. Portland is Foodie Heaven.

Our favorite times were nuzzling up together in Kaila and Ethan’s home, cooking and exploring their tremendous garden and whimsically eclectic barn. But when they actually managed to get us out of their cozy home (which bring us exclusively warm and fuzzy feelings), we went to more restaurants in a week than we had in the past year. On the restaurant list was: The Farmers Table, Vignola, Eventide Oyster Co., Figa, and more.

At Eventidethe seafood-lovers amongst us got stacks of oysters and we drank beer and ate zucchini fritters and swooned over the dreamy man behind the counter (if said man should potentially see this post, he should know I have several friends who’ve requested we find you).

Some of us unabashedly ate salt.

Whilst some of us drank Dogfish Head 90 Min.

All of us giggled and had food comas.

More to come on the Portland trip, including pie-in-the-sky pictures of cooking in K and E’s kitchen.

Union Square Saturdays

The best place in the city to witness farm-to-table foodies is of course the Union Square Farmers Market. And on Saturdays it’s our favorite place to visit and find scrumptious supplements to our share, like farmers cheese and fresh pasta and jams, and all the things to make a CSA-based lifestyle complete.

Summer BerriesYou can waste fantastic hours schmoozing with farmers about their produce and how their season has been, talking about what tastes good with what and swapping recipes. We tasted veggies and got the last of some summer berries, nibbled on cider donuts, and the yarn lady showed me pictures of her sheep!

Hot PeppersTurning PurpleWhile I unceremoniously rubbed my face into newly sheared wool and Evan sneaked away to buy maple candy and ricotta ravioli and apple butter – as if we couldn’t have made apple butter with our obscene quantities of apples from our clearly October share — our brave (possibly insane?) friend Robin tasted hot peppers until she turned purple.

She has since recovered, but only after being warmly reminded by the pepper-seller that beer does not help, but a glass of milk or a spoonful of yogurt might.

But the real joy at Union Square on Saturdays is seeing a whole mess of people who avidly care where their food comes from, varying from shapes and sizes and backgrounds, chatting away about local, organic and sustainable produce. And the background to the bountiful hills of food stands… is New York City skyline.

ESB at the Farmers Market

(I mean is that the ESB steeple I’m glimpsing?) Can’t beat that.

Paige and Robin Say Yum.

Copious Cukes

Cucumbers (and a Zuke for good measure) My darling hubs was kind enough to pick up the slack in our Emergency Rations post, but clearly things have not slowed down over here. We are still busy rationing little bees. It does however at the very least seem time to share the Cucumber-Melon Soup recipe, which is rapidly becoming too cold a dish to enjoy. I don’t know if this is common knowledge, but apparently if you plant cucumber seeds, you will grow a cucumber orchard. I was unaware of this. So was my extended family. And thus, everyone I know intimately ate nearly exclusively cucumbers for breakfast, lunch, and dinner this summer and we now all hate them. But one saving grace recipe was JB’s Cucumber-Melon Soup:

  • Peel and scoop seeds out of all the excess cucumbers you have (or three, if you’re buying, not picking).
  • Chop the cukes into cubes.
  • If you used three cukes, use half a honeydew melon. If more, do the whole melon. We used funny-shaped melons of rather ambiguous nature that came in our share in lieu of honeydew, and they worked splendidly as well. (Ha, lieu of honeydew.) Chop the melon into equally sized cubes.
  • Add a cup of plain Greek yogurt.
  • One chopped clove of garlic.
  • Half a lime’s juice.
  • Several sprigs of fresh mint.
  • If you find your honeydew isn’t the ripest, add a touch of honey.
  • And definitely some sea salt.
  • Dump ’em all in a blender. Blend.

It’s miraculous, but just like that you’ve got soup.  Serve with a dollop of yogurt and a mint sprig and enjoy preferably on a porch on a sweltering night (not in October huddled in your apartment wearing slippers). We have bountiful amounts of this soup frozen in our freezer and we need to eat it quickly while the weather still hovers around 60. Please, join us for a bowlful and take some cuke off our hands.

Emergency Rations

As you may (or may not) have guessed from the complete lack of posts recently, things have been hectic.  The consequences of this stretch of mayhem are as follows: our regular writer’s fingers are officially tapped, so this post will be brought to you by the “ever supportive husband”; some posts in the next series may look like they happened weeks ago, and they did; cooking has been hard, and the time spent in the kitchen has been total utility; and we have accumulated a giant pile of food that needs to get used, stat.

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Since we both got a glorious work free night, which happened to coincide with our share pickup, we decided to take care of this food pile all at once by making a couple of soups and sauces and freezing everything.  The one night cooking marathon included:

  • Cucumber-melon soup
  • Summer squash soup
  • Tomato sauce
  • Zucchini and cherry tomato frittata with mashed potatoes (dinner)

We’ll post updates on the rest of the things soon, but here is the recipe for the squash soup:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 1/2 Pounds Pattypan Squash (commonly known as Flying Saucer Squash)
  • 1 Medium Onion
  • Cumin
  • Curry
  • Ginger (powdered)
  • 4 Garlic Cloves
  • 4 Cups Vegetable Broth
  • Salt and Pepper

Start by toasting the cumin a little, then add the olive oil, garlic and onion.  Sauté until the onions are translucent and then add the curry and ginger.  Add the squash and cook until softened.  Add the vegetable broth and bring to a boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and puree (an immersion blender really comes in handy here).  Adjust seasonings and add salt and pepper to taste.

This was really pretty simple to do, and since we had an ingredient surplus we were able to freeze enough for a few meals.  The next time the blog goes silent, you can bet we’ve hunkered down and are breaking into our new emergency stockpile.

His Royal Poofiness

In a recent CSA batch we got a scrumptious pile of veggies that seemed of the perfect variety for a frittata. An onion, a beautiful head of broccoli, some zucchini, and eggs all came in our share and all we needed to supplement our meal was some garlic, a splash of milk, and some farmer’s cheese. Hands of Broccoli And so we made our classic and simple frittata. We sautéed some onions and garlic and threw our vegetables in.

Then, as per usual, we covered our veggies in a cheesy egg mixture and watched as it turned into what we call a poor man’s quiche.  But this time, for reasons I can’t possibly tell you, our frittata poofed up like the Stay Puft Marshmallow Man and glistened on the stove in all its chubby glory. At which point I started jumping down and shrieking, “I made a soufflé!!!!!”

Whereupon – obviously – the soufflé-like frittata deflated like a Ghostbuster hit it and totally devolved. My ever-supportive husband then turned to me and unapologetically stated, “You don’t know much about soufflés, do you?”
(Picture above not taken in time.)

Our meal was delicious, poofed or not, but I have to complain for the record that soufflés are so sensitive.  I mean, come on.

Windowsill Growings-Ons

We’ve made some mentions lately of goodies from our garden being thrown in our meals, like scallions in our peanut noodles and chives in our eggs, et cetera, but it’s been a while since we’ve given a progress report on our window garden’s goings-ons.

Our cherry tomato plants we were so dubious about are actual tomatoes… or tomatoes of the not-red-yet variety.  They’re cramped and could definitely be happier – drought not helping – but they’re fruiting, so I, for one, have big plans for their future.

Cherry Tomato Plant

Cherry Tomato Plant

We have added zucchini to our plot, knowing that it tends to grow copiously. And copious it has been! The zucchini greenery has spread like mad, and we now have little zuchi flowers a-bloomin’!

Zucchini Flowers

I’ve heard rumors you can cook with the flowers, but haven’t heard of any appealing recipes. Would be delighted by contributions.

And a certain someone demanded we have a lemon tree. I have no clue on earth how a lemon tree will survive in our apartment come winter, but I assume we’ll find out. And it must be going well enough as little buzzy bees have been visiting our windowsill!

Lemon Tree BeesAnd as our last addition, we grew some berries! They’ve quickly gotten squiggly with the heatwave we’ve been suffering, but when we get to them in time they’ve been a stupendous treat.

Strawberry Plant

In less good news, our spinach totally kicked the bucket. It was a comic failure. As were our mustard greens. And our mint has on days and off days. But I’m taking the optimistic view that for our first window garden ever, things are going in our favor.

Farm Friends

Sometimes new friends come in your CSA!

Don’t be startled, they come with the territory.  And if you let them, they’ll tickle your thumb.

Above is Albert. As we have a window garden there’s a convenient place for Albert to live when he accidentally arrives in our tote bag. Albert’s made several friends since: Mr. and Mrs. Frankenstein, Buttersworth, and Swarthy. They all live happily in the soil and throw bug parties and watch passers-by.

I suggest you burrow through your goodies from your share and make sure you don’t have any new pals nibbling on your vegetables. We had the alarming experience of almost cooking Buttersworth on Tuesday, and have since been more thorough in our searches.

Anyone have a suggestion on where to put farm friends when you don’t have a window garden? (Flushing not an option.)

Patriotic Muffins

Patriotic Muffins

We’ve gotten blueberries three weeks in a row from our share, which can only mean a clear blinking roadside sign that says “MAKE MUFFINS”. Which we did.  And are glad about it.

Blueberry muffins are the happiest way to celebrate the summer, and an even happier way to celebrate our independence. And brilliantly, our farm had a muffin recipe up on their website. We skipped their lemon-sugar topping, but used their ingredients as inspiration and were granted a spirited flag to top ’em off.

Our Share’s Muffins:
•    2 cups fresh blueberries (from the farm!)Patriotic Muffin Insides
•    1 1/8 cups sugar plus 1 teaspoon
•    2 1/2 cups of flour
•    2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
•    1 teaspoon table salt
•    2 large eggs
•    4 tablespoons of unsalted butter , melted and cooled
•    1/4 cup vegetable oil
•    1 cup buttermilk (or 3/4 cup of yogurt)
•    1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Num num num…

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes until golden. Serve with sparklers and a side of fireworks.

Fireworks on the Lake

Grill Master Evan

My better half is a grilling maniac.  And he always does a beautiful job.  Evan will throw anything on a flame, and I’ll eat anything that comes off it. (Except for the slab of meat that he’s cooking above, a photo taken when he was still a carnivore.)
But truly, you can put anything on a grill that comes out of your CSA, and I encourage you to try everything!  Little salt, some olive oil, maybe a marinade.
This summer, try grilling:
Grilled Broccoli
  • eggplant
  • tomatoes
  • watermelon
  • zucchini
  • broccoli
  • asparagus
  • anything
  • or anything that’s not leafy rather
  • and TOFU.

I’ve found that many people who violently dislike tofu, of which there are many, actually enjoy it when it’s been thrown on a grill because it’s crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. Marinate slabs of tofu for a few hours in a ziplock bag with whatever flavors you like — soy-sesame concoctions are usually a favorite — and then put it on the grill and let it get a little on the blacker side. Meanwhile, cook down the leftover marinade. When the tofu starts to blacken a bit pull it off and eat it with the leftover sauce. It might (just maybe) surprise you.

Grilled Tofu

And ask Ev to come over and fix you a meal.  There’s a good chance he’ll do it, and there’s an even better chance you’ll like it.

Ev at the Grill

For a few more coal-tinted ideas, check out Olaf and His Meals from last year’s harvest.