Wednesday, September 22, 2010

House Breakfast!

Hi, it's Gillian again. It's always a minor celebration when several of us are home in the morning to have breakfast together. Although I had already gotten up early and eaten this salad (yes, those are my very own tomatoes, although I had to pick them half ripe and let them ripen in the kitchen), I was still tempted when Alyssa offered me a freshly made decaf latte...

So for second breakfast I made waffles, at Alyssa's request. Our waffle iron makes heart-shaped waffles, so they're really cute. And I used freshly ground white wheat (from last year's Staple Crops CSA) so they had a great flavor and texture. And it didn't hurt that we had butter, apple butter, maple syrup, blackcurrant jam, and crabapple jelly to put on top! Those last two are specialties of Alyssa's dad, who is also famous for his pies. I hope we will have an opportunity to post pictures of one of his pies at Christmastime (also known as Alyssmas since Alyssa and the baby Jesus share a birthday).

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

All in a Day's Work

I, Gillian, am spending a big portion of my school vacation filling our pantry with homemade canned goods. 23 jars of Green Tomato Chutney + 5 jars of Poached Quince Slices in Vanilla Syrup + 5 jars of Blackberry-Oregon Grape-Blue Elderberry Cordial = 1 whole day spent in the kitchen + 33 jars of success. I also made a byproduct that is more exciting than the products--a quart jar of gorgeous pink quince juice, sweetened with the leftover vanilla syrup, which I hope can keep me from getting sick this winter.

When I lived in Japan, one of my friends was Araki-sensei, a retired Home Ec teacher and a wonderful person who was involved in everything in our little town. She took me to restaurants, helped me buy brown rice directly from a friend of hers, taught me how to behave at the onsen, and took me with her to cooking lessons at the town community center. She also gave me some of her homemade preserves, which were usually medicinal. Preserved kinkan (kumquats) were for a sore throat (they made your mouth numb, so they worked!); karin hachimitsu (quince honey) was to prevent colds. As far as I could tell, it was sliced raw quince in honey, which then diluted the honey with quince juice, and then the resulting mixture fermented a bit. You were supposed to take an ounce or so in a glass of hot water every day. I got colds anyway, but it tasted good.

Friday, September 17, 2010

There's No Place Like Home

This is how State Fair, the massive Brandywine tomato, ended up--on toast with butter with coarse salt. I was too hungry to take many pictures before eating it so I apologize for the blurry photo...

After a week in Arizona, which to me seems as inhospitable as the moon, only much hotter and without that fun-looking low gravity, it is a relief to be back in cool, rainy Portland. The first thing I did upon getting back was to eat some good food at Pho Van. Then I ran around the garden seeing how things had developed while I was gone. Jenn and I picked four big Gold Rush squash and a bowlful of ripe tomatoes...and then picked twice as many tomatoes at Neighbor Dan's house. Of course, we had Alyssa's famous Zucchini-Tomato Gratin for dinner! The squash plants finally have powdery mildew so their season is just about over, but this summer I achieved my lifetime goal of growing more squash than I wanted...almost.

While I was away, the lettuces I planted a few weeks ago with typical despair ("it's already too late", "they'll never get big enough to eat before winter", "it's just a waste of seed because they're going to bolt right away if they don't just die in the heat") grew nice and big! Red mustard, mizuna, kale, carrots, radishes, and broccoli raab are also growing in a way that gives me hope. I was tempted to make a tiny salad last night, but I think they should grow just a little more before I start harvesting. Also typical--now I'm kicking myself for not succession planting lettuces every two weeks. I am transplanting some of these salad greens into the greenhouse where I hope they will grow all winter. Something to look forward to--homegrown salad in January!

A final story from the garden...Long Keeper tomatoes. I have just one plant of these and started harvesting them today. They never ripen on the vine, but when they reach full size you pick them and wrap them in paper and store them...and they ripen slowly over a period of many weeks. We grew these once before and had the last tomato ripen in January. That time we picked them too late though, after they had been out in the cold and lost some of their texture, and although they turned red, they were mealy. I'll let you know if we have better luck this year. Regardless of taste and texture, it's exciting to have a red, homegrown tomato in the middle of winter...but it would be even better if the tomato tasted good.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pears with a View

I love going to Hood River for a lot of reasons, but a big one is how enormous Mount Hood looks from there. I think of it as the way the moon looks from orbit around Earth, that's how spectacular Mount Hood looks from Hood River. So I enjoyed myself very much picking 5,000 pounds of pears (with a group of about 40 volunteers) at a small pear orchard on Monday. It was a Portland Fruit Tree Project harvest party, so the pickers each got a portion of the fruit, and the rest is going to the Oregon Food Bank to be distributed all around the state.

So now, after giving some away and eating a few with this delicious blue cheese, I have around 30 pounds of pears left that I'm planning to can today. It may sound boring, but I truly love canned pear halves in light syrup, especially with cottage cheese. I might make some dried pears too...also boooo-ring! But I am open to other pear recipes. If you have a good one, please share it with me.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Thai Curry with Summer Vegetables

1 yellow summer squash, sliced into rounds
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 to 1 1/2 tablespoons Thai green curry paste
2 medium potatoes halved lengthwise and cut crosswise into 1/4-inch-thick half-moons
3 carrots, sliced into rounds
1 small Japanese eggplant, sliced into rounds
1-2 cans unsweetened coconut milk (Gillian decided there wasn't enough and made some more with shredded coconut -- so you might want 2 cans)
1/2 cup water
Large handful green beans
Chopped fresh basil 

Sauté squash and onion in oil with salt and pepper to taste in a over medium high heat until edges of squash are golden, about 5 minutes. Stir in garlic and curry paste and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add carrots, potatoes, eggplant, coconut milk, and water and simmer, covered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes are almost tender, about 3 minutes. Add green beans and simmer, uncovered, until sauce is slightly thickened. Stir in basil.

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Saturday, September 4, 2010

State Fair!!!

Theresa and I literally went to the State Fair today (says Gillian) and we also picked State Fair, our massive Brandywine tomato! Here it is:
I don't know exactly how much it weighed because that scale is kind of funny. It went up to 16 ounces and around again to the 3, which you would think would be 19 ounces, but there is a big space after the 16 and before the 0, so I think it's really at least 20. I'm going to buy a loaf of really good white bread and have a tomato and mayonnaise sandwich for lunch tomorrow! Theresa asked for a BEAT--veggie bacon, egg, arugula, and tomato sandwich. We don't have any harvestable lettuce at this time of year, although the lettuce seeds I planted a few weeks ago are now one-inch-tall plants with tiny true leaves. But the rustic arugula we planted in February, although it has already gone to seed and we've even already collected dry seed for next year, is still healthy, alive, green, growing, and edible! Rustic arugula has a different leaf shape from the usual kind, more deeply lobed and lacy-looking, and it has a spicier flavor. I've heard that it naturalizes easily and I'm hoping it will become a weed in my garden.

Here is some real state fair food:

No, really--curly fries. It's not the State Fair without curly fries. And I should have taken a picture of the Oregon Dairy Women's red barn full of ice cream. Did you know that milk is Oregon's official state beverage?

And here is something else fun to do! See the Chapman Swifts. The real ones, not the band. They're performing live every night in September and it's an amazing show. Show up at Chapman Elementary School about half an hour before sunset. Take a picnic or get some food at Saint Honore or Food Front, bring something to sit on and a blanket to keep yourself warm, and watch a tornado of tiny birds swirl down a huge boiler chimney. If you're lucky, you will even see nature drama with a hawk swooping in to catch one of the little birds and all the swifts forming hundred-bird attack shapes and chasing the hawk away. We went tonight and yes, they are here! I plan to see the swifts at least a couple more times before they head south for the winter.

P.S. Pear Picking with Portland Fruit Tree Project on Monday in Hood River! Be there!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Breakfast In the Greenhouse

Ah, vacation at last! I, Gillian, have been in an accelerated nursing program all summer and it's only now, in September, that I have a couple of weeks off. Perfect timing for food preservation! If only the tomatoes would ripen...

None of MY tomatoes are ripe yet, but the two CSAs and our next-door neighbors are providing some...for example, the ones in my breakfast salad along with Sunroot Gardens radicchio, Neighbor Dan's famous cucumbers that are trying to take over his whole yard, and fresh basil.

I've been thinking about our list of useful homesteading skills. Alyssa and Dan can build and repair anything; I can make all the jam and pickles anyone could want and preserve them safely; Alyssa and I can make quilts (like the one you can see here that will be finished on Monday!); Theresa and I can knit and crochet; Jenn can identify lots of edible and medicinal plants and can also shovel with amazing skill and speed. Dan can do all sorts of things with a chainsaw, Alyssa can sew her own clothes, all of us are good bread-bakers, Jenn knows a million games that don't require any equipment, Theresa and Jenn can sing and play instruments, and I can make paper for all the letters we'll write on long autumn nights. What are we missing?