Lettuce Soup

I just love recipes like this one that really stretch your ideas about how ingredients should be used. Who ever heard of cooking lettuce? I had a lot of it from the garden that I wanted to harvest before it got bitter, so I looked around the Internet to find recipes that use a lot of lettuce. I found a few recipes on Epicurious.com for lettuce soup – it sounded interesting and easy, so I decided to go for it.

First, I sauteed onions, (local) garlic, and a russet potato in olive oil. I added chicken stock, cooked it for about 15 minutes, and then added the greens….

Here’s the lettuce and herbs before they started cooking. I used green leaf lettuce, and a little bit of sorrel, parsley, and sage, all from the garden.

It started to cook….

and cook…..

Here I am pureeing it with the hand blender.

This isn’t the best picture, but this is what it looked like in the bowl with croutons and dollop of sour cream (the recipe didn’t call for cream, but I figured it couldn’t hurt.) It was surprisingly tasty! The texture was similar to a pureed spinach soup, but the flavor was lighter than spinach. It kept its lettuce-y flavor, which somehow worked in soup form. Definitely a great way to use up a bunch of lettuce!

Late June Garden Pics

The onions are blooming! This is a red onions I planted last fall. The plant is about 3 feet tall! It’ll be ready to dig soon.

The Rose Campion is doing really well this year – I just love the color! The plant has been here for who knows how long, but up until this year is was so stifled under ivy and blackberry vines that it only had one or two blooms. We cleared it out late last summer, and it’s going off this year!

The tomatoes are doing pretty well. This one is blooming already. It’s still pretty small, but I guess I’ll just watch it to see what happens. I’ve learned not to be overly optimistic about growing tomatoes here – it’s just too cold in the summer-time.

I harvested all the lettuce leaves (for soup!) but I left the plants in the ground so they can re-seed themselves. I had lots and lots of volunteer squash and tomatoes coming up amongst the potatoes, so I transplanted a few among the lettuce. We’ll see what happens. I don’t have a lot of money to spend on plants, so I decided to try an all volunteer veggie garden this summer.

We finally got the soaker hose out this weekend, so at least I’ll know things are getting enough water. I had been neglecting the watering pretty badly, but with the soaker hose all I have to do is turn in on for 15 or 20 minutes every few days.

All the forest fires in Northern California this the past week have brought an unusual amount of smoke our way. There’s no fog in this picture, it’s all smoke billowing in from the fires. We don’t usually get much smoke here on the coast, but I guess the wind’s just right this time, plus there’s a lot of fires burning. It’s pretty odd to have it be overcast, but without clouds.

The kaffir lime tree on the front porch is really happy now – It’s setting lots of new leaves. There’s really no decent Thai food in this area, so I’m forced to make it at home. Kaffir lime leaves are an essential ingredient, and I can’t always get them at the C0-op.

This is the French sorel on the front porch. It seems to like it there. I love the sour taste of the leaves – especially in salad.

The back garden is nicer than it’s ever been. The deer haven’t raided it yet this year, so we have an unusual amount of un-chewed-on-plants.

This rose always blooms around the Fourth of July. It’s quite patriotic with the blue lobelia behind it!

Th fuchsia by the front door is going off right now as well. The blooms are so intricate, they always look fake to me….

Killer Chocolate-Cherry Birthday Cake

I’m not kidding when I call this cake killer! I made it for the birthday potluck I had on Saturday, and it was about as rich as a cake can possibly be.

These are local cherries from Willow Creek. It was perfect timing – the cherry harvest is in full swing up there! I got a mixture of Bing and Rainer cherries from Neukom Family Farm – growers of some of the tastiest fruits in all of Humboldt County!)

Here they are pitted. It took a while, but I did it all with just a paring knife. My hands were stained yellow by the time I was done!

Lots and lots of whipped cream, with a tiny bit of sugar, vanilla, and cherry flavoring added.

And here are the caked! I quadrupled this recipe from Epicurious. It’s amazingly simple, and amazingly rich – just chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs, and cocoa powder. I made quite a bit – I wasn’t sure how many people to expect, and I certainly didn’t want to run out of cake!

Here’s the first layer of cake. There were six layers in all. Between each I slathered on whipped cream and a layer of cherries.

Here it is almost frosted. Mmmmm…..

And here’s the finished cake! I covered it in chocolate shavings for an added touch. The only drawback to this cake is that it was very very very rich. Too much could make you feel a little woozy. It was amazing in small doses though!

June-Birthday Locavore Pesto

My birthday was last week – Johnny and I took the day off and went to the South Fork of the Trinity – about an hour and a half drive up into the mountains. It was about 20 degrees hotter there than in Arcata – it’s so nice to get away from the coastal cold foggy-ness! I will get to the food, but I wanted to post some of the pictures from the river. It was just gorgeous!

There were some rapids, but we managed to find places we could safely swim downstream. We didn’t take any chances – people have died on this river!

Lots of cool wildlife! This frog seemed like he was enjoying getting his picture taken!

The same day we came home and made an almost-locavore-birthday-dinner. Here are the main ingredients:

A few new potatoes from the garden! They’re definitely not all ready yet, but I don’t think it hurt the plants at all to take some. We’ll have lots more soon!

This garlic is from G Farms in the Arcata bottoms. They’re growing a bunch to sell to the Co-op, and this is a sample I got when I visited the farm two weeks ago.

Summer squash from Willow Creek! I love it when the blossoms are still fresh!

Basil from Orleans. It had been in the fridge for a few days, so it was starting to brown a little, but it was still perfect for pesto.

I made a super simple pesto with the basil, olive oil, walnuts, lemon juice, Parmesan, salt, and pepper. I don’t really measure any of those ingredients, I just blend them together till it tastes right.

I roasted the veggies with olive oil and two small pork chops. The pork was not local – when it comes to meat I’d rather know that the animals were raised humanely and naturally than having it be local. I’d really rather it was both humane and local though! Anybody want to raise hogs in Humboldt? I’d buy some!

We have so much lettuce in the garden! This is all freshly harvested, about 5 minutes before we ate. I mixed it with some purslane from Little River Farm in Bayside.

Here it is. Roasted veggies, pork, salad, and fresh pesto. The perfect early summer birthday meal!

Erin’s Local Veggie and Quinoa Salad

I had a potluck birthday party this weekend, and I just had to post this beautiful dish that my friend Erin brought. It was a delicious quinoa/fresh veggie salad – much of it is from her own garden! I love the presentation – nothing dresses up a dish like a few nasturtiums!

Bacon Wrapped Date Surprise

I decided to make these on whim last week. We have some bacon in the fridge, and we don’t usually cook with bacon, and I’ve been trying to think of creative ways to use it. My mom and I had bacon wrapped dates last winter at Devotay, in Iowa City. (I sure hope it’s not underwater right now!) It was delicious! I really liked the sweet/salty flavor combo, and I’ve been meaning to try it out myself ever since. First, I cut bacon into really thin strips.

I had a total of 8 dates, and I wanted Johnny and I to each have one of each filling, so I stuffed them with four different fillings: garlic, walnuts, cheddar cheese, and blue cheese. I picked those ingredients because they were what I happened to have on hand, and not for any particular gastronomic reason. I was curious to see which worked and which didn’t.

I rolled them up, skewered them to hold them together, and baked them till the bacon seemed done. They were incredibly rich! I liked both the cheeses and the walnut – the cheddar was surprisingly good. The garlic was a little weird though….. I like experimenting with food like this – I’m just glad Johnny agrees to eat all the weird stuff I come up with!

El primer carne asada del verano

This picture is actually not part of the carne asada, but it does fit in with the grilling theme. Earlier in the week we grilled this asparagus, and I experimented with grilling a few chard stems. The asparagus was delicious, but I probably wouldn’t recommend the chard. It was kind of tough and stringy. It made a nice picture though.

Now on the real subject of this post. Last night we had two other couples over for dinner, and since the weather was nice, we decided to grill out, Mexican style.

I decided to try to use as many local ingredients as possible. This is zucchini from the Pierce’s in Orleans. It’s getting bigger and better as the summer starts to really warm-up up there.

This is cilantro from Blake’s Farm in Blue Lake. It’s probably the nicest, most flavorful and aromatic cilantro I’ve ever seen. I am in total awe of Blake – he grows some of the most beautiful produce around….and he’s an incredibly humble person. I bought two bunches and picked the leaves from the stems.

These little spring onions aren’t local…but they’re from Northern California somewhere. They reminded me of the little onions I’ve had grilled in Mexico. These were just a little bigger than those Mexican cebollitos, however.

Johnny made guacamole. He won’t tell me exactly what’s in it: “It’s a secret,” he says. It sure was good though – our guests made short work of it!

This is the cheese I used. I couldn’t find any Mexican cheeses at the Co-op (kind of shameful, given that we have cheeses from all over the rest of the world!) so I went to Rita’s Market behind the Co-op and got this. It’s Oaxacan style….kind of like mozzarella. Unfortunately, it’s not organic. It’s rare that I eat non-organic dairy, but I figured cultural correctness was more important than organic in this case. Besides, I like going to Rita’s – I get to practice my Spanish!

Unfortunately, we didn’t get any pictures of the actual grilling. Our guests got here, and I was too busy making tortillas and helping Johnny oversee the grilling to remember to take pictures. Someday I’ll take pictures of corn-tortilla-making for this blog, but not this time. It’s actually quite easy….all together we had tortillas, meat (marinated in lime juiceand grilled,) grilled veggies, sour cream, cilantro, cheese, guacamole, salsa, chips….perfect!

The best thing about a meal like this one is the left-overs! This was our dinner tonight: Left-over tortillas made into quesadillas, lettuce from the garden, cilantro, sour cream, salsa, chopped tomato, beans, and re-heated grilled meat and veggies. Oh, and of course lime. Oh, how I wish limes grew locally!

Deep Dish Polenta Pie

I’ve made a lot of variations of this polenta pie. Basically, I start with a bottom layer of olive oil and sliced polenta, then pile a bunch of yummy Italian cheeses, veggies, and meats on top, and bake it till it looks done. It’s always a little different, but always delicious!

This is the pie I made last week. I started out with polenta, then a layer of salami, local basil, chopped local garlic…..

….sliced tomatoes, blue cheese, local green onion, more polenta, a drizzle of olive oil….

….and some grated cheese. All I had, besides the blue cheese, was Monterey Jack. I would much rather have used mozzarella, but the Jack worked fine.

Like I said, it’s really easy to make this dish really delicious!

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Berries

We’re planning a party in a few weeks, for which I want to make a black forest cake (chocolate with cherries.) One of the people coming is allergic to gluten. Since I’m not familiar with gluten-free baking, I made an experimental cake this weekend. (Yes, this was in part just an elaborate excuse to make a cake, but the experience will really help with the black forest cake too!) It’s a super simple recipe from Epicurious: Flourless Chocolate Cake. It’s just melted chocolate, sugar, eggs, cocoa powder, and butter. I topped it with fresh berries, and man, was it good. Very rich, but with more of a cakey texture than you might think. The recipe should work really well as the base for a black forest cake. the trick will be making thin layers with cherries between them….mmmm….the possibilities!

Early June Garden Pics

This pretty pink climbing rose has just started blooming in the front yard. I really like simple rose flowers like this one – it smells really good too!

The veggie garden is looking great! I had just watered in this picture, so the potatoes were a little flattened. Most of what you see on the right are garlic plants that we planted last fall (with a few red onions scattered in). Hopefully they’ll be ready in a month or so.

In the course of watering the garden, I accidentally uncovered these baby potatoes! It was great timing, since we had eaten some of the very very last of the local russets from last fall just the night before. Potatoes are one of the only starches that are grown locally around here, and now we’ve proved that you can have them year round if you do it right! You really could survive quite nicely here all year on local potatoes, greens, dairy, meat, and fish. I boiled these and we ate them as a snack. The flavor of a potato right out of the ground is simply wonderful! I won’t dig up the rest for a while, but it’s good to know everything’s growing well down there.

I bought some tomato seedlings at the farmer’s market this Saturday – here’s one of them. It’s so cool here on the coast all summer that I don’t have a lot of hope that they’ll thrive, but I decided to give it a try anyway. One is a Sungold (gold cherry tomato) that I’ve grown with some success in the past. The other is an Early Girl – a regular red tomato variety. The farmers I bought them from seemed to think the Early Girl would do well on the coast, but I’ve been disappointed before…. It just doesn’t get hot enough here for lots of tomatoes or basil, which is pretty sad since they’re two of my very favorite summer foods.

The lettuce, on the other hand, is doing really well. This is red romaine ready to be eaten.

This sage plant sat on our porch in a big 10 gallon pot for a year and looked just horrible. I couldn’t figure out why it just wasn’t happy, so I planted it in the ground a moth ago or so and what do you know? It’s blooming and looks as happy as a clam!

For a year and a half, since the fall of 2006, we’ve had a local blue Lumina pumpkin sitting on the front porch slowly decomposing. It was interesting to watch all the stages – by this spring it was reduced to a dried out pancake stuck to the porch. When I went to clean it up, I noticed how many seeds there were. On a whim, I planted some, and they came up! I’ve got 5 or 6 nice pumpkin seedlings!