April Garden Pics

We call this rosebush the “Popcorn Rose” since it’s got tiny yellow flowers that look a lot like popcorn from a distance……

I have no idea what the variety is really called. It’s extremely well established here, and one of the most vigorous climbing roses that I’ve ever encountered. It was probably planted by the original owners of this house.

The apple tree in bloom.

In the past few weeks, the Japanese Maple has gotten its leaves back. The new leaves are an amazing bright green color.

The raccoons finally managed to tear our compost bin apart, so Johnny took some duck tape to it. It’s pretty sturdy now, which is good – the raccoons are tenacious!

It makes great compost! We don’t compost meat or dairy, (so we don’t attract too many critters) but all the rest of our organic vegetable scraps go in here.

The thyme is growing faster than ever right now!

Red Russian Kale. I planted this in October or November….It’s finally ready to eat!

We have two kinds of magnolias in the front yard. I think this one is a Star Magnolia, and I’m not sure about the other one. They’re just gorgeous right now!

Asparagus and Strawberries

It’s definitely spring! Asparagus and strawberries are the stars of the season, and I’ve been trying to use them as much as possible. Here’s a few of the more exciting dishes I’ve made:

Asparagus, Salami, Mushroom and Roquefort Pizza

I can’t take any credit for this – it was all Johnny. In the interest of time, he used a store bought sprouted wheat crust. For the sauce he mixed some pre-made pesto with tomato paste – then he piled on Mozzarella, Salami, Asparagus, Mushrooms, and Roquefort Cheese.

Mmmmmmm……Here it is before cooking…..

And here it is right out of the oven. The large pieces of Asparagus made it a bit of a challenge to eat, but we managed! It was delicious!

Polenta Casserole & Strawberry Shortcake

It had been a while since we’d had Polenta, so I decided to make a spring themed Polenta dish. Above is the Green Garlic in the setting sun. Green Garlic is basically a baby garlic clove, harvested before it’s had a chance to develop. I sauteed chopped Green Garlic with Spring Onions……

Plus some spicy Italian Sausage, Asparagus……

Local Red Russian Kale, and a little Sage from the front porch…..

I layered the vegetable/sausage mixture with sliced Polenta (I bought the Polenta pre-made, although if I had more time I could easily have made it from scratch.) I topped the casserole with canned Tomato sauce, Fontina and Parmesan Cheese (I chose these cheeses only because we had some in the fridge that needed to be used.) I baked the whole thing until it was bubbly.

We ate it with a salad of local Spring Mix, Walnuts, and Blue Cheese.

And Strawberry Shortcake for dessert. We sell these little $.99 shortcakes at the Co-op. They’re really good! I didn’t even bother to whip the cream, I just poured it over the top. Delicious! The Strawberries aren’t quite at their prime yet, but they finally taste like real strawberries!

Rosemary Roquefort Buffalo Steaks and Chocolate Chip Bread Pudding

I’ve been meaning to make Bread Pudding for a while. Johnny eats a Cashew Butter/Apple Butter sandwich with sliced Hazelnut sandwich bread every morning, but he never eats the heels. They’ve been piling up in the freezer waiting to be made into something. Tonight I decided it was finally the time. I had some Buttermilk that needed to be used up, so I searched for a Buttermilk Bread Pudding recipe. Here’s the onethat I found, which I followed loosely.

First I mixed the bread with melted butter and chocolate chips….

Then I combined the bread mixture with a mixture of eggs, sugar, milk, buttermilk, and vanilla. The whole thing is soaked for a few minutes and then put in a baking dish (I used a pie pan,) sprinkled with nutmeg, and baked.

Here it is out of the oven. The setting sun was really bright at that particular moment, so the picture isn’t that great.

It turned out really well. What a great way to use bread that would have otherwise been thrown out! I made a strawberry sauce to go with it – just pureed strawberries with Agave Nectar, Cream Sherry, and Vanilla.

While the pudding was baking, I cooked the steaks. This recipe is taken from epicurious.com. First I trimmed all the fat off the buffalo steaks and seared them in the cast iron skillet.

Then I spread Dijon Mustard on the steaks, sprinkled them with fresh Rosemary, and roasted them for about 10 minutes.

Here they are out of the oven. We moved them to a cutting board, sliced them horizontally, and stuffed them with a mixture of Butter and Roquefort Cheese (the recipe calls for Gorgonzola, but we happened to have some Roquefort, so we used that instead.)

We had them with baked potatoes on the side. This was seriously one of the best dished I’ve made in a long while! Really rich, but totally worth it! I really like buffalo – it’s leaner and higher in iron than beef. Plus, since buffalo haven’t been willing to be domesticated like cattle, there ‘s really no such thing as non-free range buffalo.

And of course, Leo the cat watches it all with interest……..He’s always delighted when we eat anything meaty since he gets to try it too!

Last weekend we planted potatoes!

I cut them up the day before so they could heal over a little….

Here’s the patch that we planted. We made a kind of elliptical shape. I hope they come up! It’s been a week, and there’s no sign of anything yet.

We used some of the compost from our kitchen composter when planting the potatoes. There’s an amazing number or worms in it – definitely a good sign! Using composted kitchen waste to help fertilize next years potatoes which will eventually contribute to the kitchen waste….it’s a simple cycle, but it feel really good on a symbolic level.

Baked Local Russets

Hard to believe, but there’s still some really good local Potatoes left over from last fall – these are from Warren Creek Farm, right here in Arcata. It’ll probably be at least 3 or 4 months until we have any new crop Potatoes around here. These Russets were the perfect size for baking…..

While the Potatoes were baking I fried up some Bacon, stir fried some Asparagus and Spring Onion in Olive Oil, grated some Cheese, chopped up some Chives…..


Carpaccio with Arugula

Yes, Carpaccio is raw beef…. I’ve never “cooked” raw beef before – It seemed a little risky, but since this is fresh, local, grassfed beef, I decided to go for it. -It was totally worth it!

We started with a smallish Filet Mignon. The first step is to freeze it, thaw it just a little, and cut it into slices….

The slices are put between two pieces of plastic (I didn’t have any plastic wrap, so I cut up this Ziploc Bag.)

Then you pound it with a mallet. This part was way easier than I thought it would be….

Here it is pounded quite thin. The process didn’t take long at all.

The pounded meat then gets rolled up in the plastic and put in the fridge to chill for an hour.

While it was chilling, I made this simple Vinaigrette – White Vinegar, Lemon Juice, Wine, Salt, Pepper, and some Chives.

And here’s the Arugula! It’s local now from Little River Farm in Bayside. It’s really bountiful – the farmer has more than he knows what to do with!

For the finished dish, you peel the beef off the plastic, then top it with Arugula, the Vinaigrette, and Parmesan. I couldn’t believe how good it was! Except for the cheese, it was completely raw!

Fun with Blood Oranges

Blood Oranges are just over their peak season now. They were on sale last week, so I got a bunch. Here’s two of the more delicious things I did with them…..

Blood Orange Margaritas

This is fresh squeezed Blood Orange juice, Tequila, Triple Sec, Agave Nectar, and a little Lime Juice, all blended with ice.

Blood Orange and Strawberry Fondue

This was really good – the picture doesn’t do it justice. Blood Orange sections don’t really show off the amazing red color. The chocolate sauce is melted down chips with a little cream and vanilla added. We speared the fruit with shish kebab sticks and dunked it. Messy, but worth it!

Sesame Crusted Fish, Burdock Salad, and Accidental Sushi

Last weekend, we welcomed a friend back into town after a two year absence. I decided to make a celebratory Japanese style dinner. I got a beautiful piece of Ono (a type of Tuna, wild caught in Hawaii,) cut it into three pieces, and marinated it in a mixture of Spring Onion (shown above,) Green Garlic, Chives, Soy Sauce, Fresh Ginger, Rice Wine Vinegar, Sesame Seeds, and Chili Garlic Sauce (very spicy.) It was a gorgeous marinade!

I let it marinate in the fridge all day.

I also made a Burdock Salad. Burdock (also known by its Japanese name, gobo) is an extremely healthy root vegetable that tastes more or less like sticks – which, in my opinion, is not necessarily a bad thing……

Here’s the finished salad. I cut the Burdock into thin slices, boiled it for a few minutes, and strained it. To that I added Local Carrots, Bamboo Shoots, Local baby Tat-Soi (a type of Mustard Green,) Ginger, Soy Sauce, Rice Wine Vinegar, and Sesame Seeds. I let the salad marinate in the fridge for a few hours before we ate it. It’s was really quite tasty – the marinade helped lessen the woody taste of the Burdock, but it still had a nice earthy quality.

Then….just a few hours before our friend arrived, she called to ask if she should bring anything…. and….it turns out she’s a vegetarian! Oh no – what about the fish??

So we decided last minute to scrap the baked fish idea, and make sushi instead. We looked around and realized we had all the ingredients we needed except Soy Sauce and Wasabi, so we asked our friend to bring just those two things.

We baked one of the pieces of fish for sushi for Johnny and I. We also had Avocado, Mango, Local Shitake Mushrooms, Sweet Potatos, Local Carrots…..a lot of stuff, but nothing to add protein to our friends non-fish sushi. So we came up with the above concoction – mashed Japanese Sweet Potatos and Cashew Butter (which we happened to have,) Soy Sauce, and Chives. We added this paste to the sushi and – wow! It was awesome! I love it when unexpected things like this happen. The sushi was delicious (although I didn’t get any pictures,) and we managed to spread the fish out over two nights.

We had lots of leftover Burdock Salad and Sweet Potatoes, so the next night we baked the fish and had approximately what the first meal was supposed to have been.

The remaining two pieces of fish had been marinading an extra day, so they were extra-super flavorful. Before I baked them I rolled them around in Sesame Seeds and then poured on some of the marinade.

And here’s the finished meal!

Strawberry Rhubarb Times Two

I’ve made two pretty delectable Strawberry Rhubarb desserts in the past week – their both coming into season, and I just can’t resist!

This is a Strawberry Rhubarb Pudding Cake. I loosely followed this recipe from Epicurious, but since I happened to have more Strawberries and less Rhubarb than the recipe called for, I adjusted the amounts a little. I also used more vanilla than the recipe called for, and I used Sucanat (Evaporated Cane Juice) instead of sugar. We brought it to a potluck, and brought the dish back empty!

This picture turned out way too dark, but this is a strawberry rhubarb pie I made last weekend. I bought the crust frozen from the Co-op’sbakery, so I guess I chested, but it was a cinch to put together. I used a simple recipe, (fruit, flower, Sucanat for the filling) but I added a little orange extract to it just for fun.