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The Garlic is Planted!

16 Nov Tuck them in and let them sleep until spring!

Since garlic was one of the few things we managed to grow successfully in this summer of failures, I decided we should plant more than last year.

It can be tough for little hands to get the head started in separation, but if you get them started, they can separate them.

It can be tough for little hands to get the head started in separation, but if you get them started, they can separate them.

I followed the lead of our CSA, Restoration Farm. Since they planted last Saturday (and we went to help for a little while, which refreshed our memories on how to plant) and Caroline said she follows biodynamic practices for most auspicious sowing moments, we planted a day or two later, which was about as soon as I could manage.

note that the bottom end is free of the root residue, but not cut off. Leave it intact!

note that the bottom end is free of the root residue, but not cut off. Leave it intact!

We used the tomato bed, since it is a good idea to rotate vegetables every year. If any pests or blights have made a home in the bed, when spring comes they won’t find their usual victims waiting to be destroyed. Instead, they’ll find something else that they don’t like very much and can’t harm. We’ll put the tomatoes where the peas were and where there should be a whole lot of nitrogen that they left behind.

turning the earth and smashing apart clods is happy work

turning the earth and smashing apart clods is happy work

The bed is about 10′ by 3′. Farmer Dan suggested we plant the garlic every 9 inches in rows 1 foot apart, which meant we could stretch a measuring tape across and Leandro could learn a lot about the 9 times tables. So we turned the dirt, outlined three rows and made holes every nine inches (How many cloves do you think we planted?). We separated the heads into cloves, being careful to leave the cloves tightly wrapped in their papery husks so they don’t rot before they have a chance to overwinter and start sprouting in the spring.

An impromptu math lesson with a measuring tape and the nine times tables

An impromptu math lesson with a measuring tape and the nine times tables

You stick them in, root end down and pointy bit up, cover and, if necessary, water. Then you play football in the backyard until the sun gets too far down in the sky and it gets cold.

And the answer to how many is: 30 cloves, each of which we hope will result in a new delicious head of 4 to 10 cloves next summer. And in the meantime, we can just forget them!

Long Island Organic Poultry and Egg Source – Updated for 2013

12 Nov Ready to eat!

This one is for my homies: my readers here on Long Island. I welcome anyone else who has certified organic birds on Long Island to contact me so I can post it! Everyone else, be sure to click on links for additional information on what makes poultry organic and best practices for making the most of your real farm-raised bird.

Local, Fresh and Organic: We’ve been getting our eggs and Thanksgiving (and sometimes Christmas) birds from Makinajian Poultry Farm in Huntington for a number of years now (They’ve been around and family-owned since 1948). We didn’t discover them by ourselves; once we joined C.S.A. – first at Sophia Garden and now at Restoration Farm – eggs and Thanksgiving turkeys were optional shares. It’s a good thing, as a drive to their farm in Huntington is kind of a hike for us to do on a regular basis – 30-40 minutes from our house. It’s a nice place to go though – farm animals in the front yard, coops out the back and a sweet country-style store…Worth a visit!

The eggs and poultry are organically raised. Importantly, it’s all fresh – the organic eggs you buy in the supermarket can be weeks old (the USDA says eggs are fresh 45 days after being laid), while these are farm to table.

If you want a turkey for Thanksgiving, you should order it now! Click the link or here’s the number: 631-368-9320. And don’t forget to bring your order number when you pick up; it’s troublesome for them to find your order when the line to pick up is out the door…

From the Makinajian Facebook Page

“We will start taking orders for Thanksgiving on Nov.1. We have turkey, turkey breast, duck, goose, capon& cornish hens all available to order. Please call for all prices.”

A Bird in the Bucket is Worth Two in the Freezer Compartment

A Bird in the Bucket is Worth Two in the Freezer Compartment– brining the bird

I usually order extra turkey necks for the gravy and often pick up one of their homemade pies (still warm!) while I’m there. They also have organic produce…pretty much anything you might have forgotten to pick up for the Big Eat. Note: I do brine the bird overnight for extra tenderness and flavor and will probably do it again this year. I’ll let you know all about it!

400th Post – A celebration because YES, I have ripe tomatoes!

7 Sep tomatoes

This is my 400th post, which seems to be quite a lot. It’s funny how much energy you can manage to put into the things you love. Even when you don’t have any energy to spare.

Another view....

Another view….

So I am not going to say much, just show you my paste tomatoes, which are lighting up a summer that was otherwise dark with failed crops….

And more to come...provided we keep a few steps ahead of the blight!

And more to come…provided we keep a few steps ahead of the blight!

Thanks to all of you for your visits and comments, It is terrific to know that there are so many kindred spirits out there gardening, cooking, eating….I would love it if you would take a moment to tell me what some of your favorite posts or recipes are!

Your friend in food,

Natalia

(P.S. that is not blossom end rot on that ripe one in the background…just a funny ripple in the skin. Whew!)

Blackberry Muffins: Moist and Tart and Sweet

31 Aug Look at that fruit!

We finally made it down to the berry fields at Restoration Farm for blackberry season and boy am I glad we did!

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

No butterflies were harmed in the making of these muffins

The little guy picked and popped the berries directly into his mouth (“Oh Mom, these are so good! Try this one!) and ran up and down the rows and climbed up and down the compost pile, while I picked the juiciest and blackest berries and dropped them into my paper bag, and chatted with Donna “The Chicken Lady/Social Commentarist” in the cooling breeze of the late afternoon. One of my favorite things about going to the farm and volunteering my labor (which I don’t do as much as I should once the summer kicks in) is talking while you work. The folks at the farm are so interesting and warm and funny, and weeding occupies the hands, while it frees the mind to wander and the ears to listen and the mouth to chat.

Allison -- our long-time CSA partner -- picks her berries.

Allison — our long-time CSA partner — picks her berries.

Berry-picking does much the same thing. Once you soften your touch to only take the berries which fall off into your hand with the gentlest of tugs — if you tug at all — you find a rhythm as old as time and the conversation comes easily. So does silence.

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

Taking with my not-particularly-smart-but-loyal phone. Not such a bad shot, no?

For someone like me, who always has to be getting something done, it is a great relief to be able to have my hands occupied in dignified work, while sharing with friends. I also learn a lot about what to do in my own garden when nothing is going right. And the little man identifies the birds: swallows and mockingbirds and the occasional red-tailed hawk wanting a go at Donna’s chickens. The hawks cause quite a bit of excitement in Mr. Mini-Audubon. And the chickens, of course, who scurry under the coop.

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

Treat these berries gently and use them immediately!

So, we collected just under a quart of warm, sweet, soft berries that needed using immediately. Since back-to-school is right around the corner, my fill-the-freezer-frenzy has begun. Mini-muffins make for a perfect lunchbox snack, so that is where I went. Continue reading

Make Your Own (Freezeable) Tomato Puree

29 Aug The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns....

While I wait, anxiously, for my own paste tomatoes to ripen before some sort of blight gets them (my tomatoes are abundant and my only hope left for a reasonable harvest of something this summer), my CSA, Restoration Farm, is piling on tomatoes of all stripes..I think we picked up 7-10 lbs this week alone, and since the friend we share with , Allison, has not been around, we’ve been taking it all home. So…I have made and frozen a couple of quarts of sauce recently, using the simple recipe that follows.

Bubbling puree. Stir occasionally to break up.

Bubbling puree. Stir occasionally to break up.

There are other ways to do it (some cooks just blanch, peel and run through the food mill and don’t cook it at all; while some, including me, just blanch and freeze whole tomatoes), but I like this because the puree is smooth and ready to go in a pinch and the hint of garlic gives it a round flavor without taking it in a particular ethnic direction.

I strain the sauce through a regular strainer, then eat the seeds and solids!

I strain the sauce through a regular strainer, then eat the seeds and solids!

The blanching may seem daunting at first and yes, it does add time to what you are doing, but it is so simple and I like to watch the tomatoes float up and down in the bubbles and slipping off the peels so easily is somehow satisfying.

So give it a try if you get your hands on some paste tomatoes and enjoy summer freshness when there is snow on the ground!

The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns....

The final product! Tomato puree that will be great when the weather turns….

Tomato Puree

3-5 lbs paste tomatoes

3-5 cloves garlic minced

½ tsp coarse salt

To blanch tomatoes, put a big pot of water on to boil. Be ready with tongs and a big bowl of ice water on the side.

Rinse and core tomatoes. Drop into boiling water (you will probably have to do batches). Remove each tomato as soon as its skin starts to wrinkle/split, and drop in the ice water.

Once the tomatoes are sufficiently cooled to handle, slip off the peels and discard peels or add to stock (thanks John Picardi, or was it Mad Dog for that tip!).

Dump the water from your big pot and add the peeled tomatoes, split or chopped in half if you like. (If you have a food mill, you can put the tomatoes through the mill first to eliminate seeds. Or, there is another suggested way to do it later in the recipe). Add garlic and salt, bring to a boil, then simmer for five, ten, 15 minutes…however long you want. The flavor is bright early on and mellows somewhat with more cooking, so it is up to you which you prefer.

When you’ve reached desired flavor, let cool. At this point, since my food mill is missing a piece, I press the sauce through a strainer into a bowl. The solids remain in the strainer and…true confessions…I use that as a spread on toast because the seeds don’t bother me there, but they do bother me in a smooth sauce. Then pour the sauce into a freezer-safe container (you will yield anywhere from a pint to a quart depending on quantity of tomatoes and how much liquid evaporated in the cooking) and freeze for a fresh neutral tomato puree in the middle of winter!

At Least We’ve Got Some Beautiful Garlic….

31 Jul Lovely heads of garlic!

Our vegetable garden has been fairly catastrophic this year. Aside from a decent harvest of peas and some nice lettuces, much of what we have planted has been eaten by critters, rotted by excessive rain, wilted by excessive heat, or inexplicably stunted. The radishes never took off, the broccoli hasn’t produced a single floret, the eggplant looks like an bad bonsai experiment — utterly lacking in buds to boot — even the basil has been chewed to a lace and ribs, and do you know ANYONE who can plant zucchini two years in a row and only have ONE, that’s right, ONE SINGLE SOLITARY, zucchini to show for it? That’s just pitiful.

Helping out with garlic harvest at Restoration Farm (in 100 degree heat!?!)

Helping out with garlic harvest at Restoration Farm (in 100 degree heat!?!)

Well, I could go on, but that might jinx the tomatoes, which actually look quite good, except I think my watering has not been consistent and there could be some blossom end rot in my future.

So, I will look on the bright side and say that not only did our garlic produce lovely scapes earlier in the season, but we are also drying a healthy bunch of our own garlic bulbs, planted last October in our raised beds from a head that I reserved from Restoration Farm last season.

Accentuate the positive...our homegrown organic garlic is beautiful and heady with fragrance. My friend Vic Munoz calls this stage: terrestrial jellyfish

Accentuate the positive…our homegrown organic garlic is beautiful and heady with fragrance. My friend Vic Muñoz calls them terrestrial jellyfish for their look!

So, no recipe today. Just a deep breath, thanking goodness that I am not depending on my crop to feed my family. A celebration of what has gone right. And a resolution to keep trying. Because knowing how to grow your own food is important and because perseverance is important and because everything takes time to master.

Wish me luck with the fall vegetables, some of which are already planted….

 

 

Three Deliciously Sweet Blueberry Baking Ideas

14 Jul Sweet and petite blueberry mini-muffins

Blueberries are in at Restoration Farm, our C.S.A.! We pick our own, each family picking as much as seems reasonable, given that we share with a lot of people, but keeping in mind that these berries won’t stay ripe forever.

Blueberries are one of those power foods, loaded with anti-oxidants, which may or may not counter the aging process. We just know they are powerfully delicious! The good news is they don’t seems to lose that phytonutrient power when frozen. They are also native to North America, which makes it positively patriotic if you are from around these parts.  The bad news is that even domestically-grown blueberries are high in pesticide residue, according to the Environmental Working Group. So use their freezeability to your advantage. Buy them organic while in season and freeze them for later use!

Here are three of our favorite blueberry recipes — should you be brave enough to turn on the oven in the middle of a hot summer. Or, store these recipes when you store your blueberries in the freezer, and pull them out for a burst of summer in your baking in the middle of winter!

Blueberry-Strawberry Muffins

We like mini-muffins because you get so many you can share them around!

We like mini-muffins because you get so many you can share them around!

Blueberry Pound Cake

Blueberry pound cake is rich and tart and sweet

Blueberry pound cake is rich and tart and sweet

Blueberry-Lingonberry Muffins

A favorite for tea, lunchbox or thoughtful treat for neighbors, caregivers and friends

A favorite for tea, lunchbox or thoughtful treat for neighbors, caregivers and friends

I wouldn’t say I am cheating on you, but you might see it differently….

10 Jul potluck

While I haven’t been posting with my usual frequency here on Hot, Cheap & Easy, I have been busy working on stories for Edible Long Island’s blog (and for the upcoming digital launch). it has of course, involved food and agriculture.

So if you’ve missed me lately, I have missed you too!

So let me catch you up a bit on what I’ve been up to. Please click on the images or links and feel free to comment over there as well as over here. We love feedback!!

A Slow Food Huntington potluck at Restoration Farm!!!!

Click on image to go to my short post on Edible Long Island about the Slow food event!

Click on image to go to my short post on Edible Long Island about the Slow food event!

Do NOT call it a garden! The Stony Brook Heights Rooftop FARM at Stony Brook University Hospital.

An unusual location that makes perfect sense...a farm on a hospital roof!

An unusual location that makes perfect sense…a farm on a hospital roof!

 

Cilantro & Parsley Pesto Variations With Queso Fresco and Without Nuts

26 Jun Cilantro-parsley pesto

We’re moving on up! I was invited to do a cooking demonstration recently at The Old Country Road School, a K-5 school in the Hicksville Union Free Public School District. The school was celebrating its successful garden project, now in its third year! It being a school, I figured it would be a hoot to let my then-five-, now-six-year-old show everyone to make one of his favorite sauces - hand-ground basil pesto! I mean, if a five-year-old can do it, why can’t everyone?

Proud, Proud Mama!

Proud, Proud Mama! Photo: Kara Gallagher

He was a star, waving the garlic around, handing out basil for the kids and their parents to feel and smell, and smashing the pesto into a paste with great gusto. He wasn’t a bit nervous, but I think there are a few Food Network stars who should be…Come to think of it, maybe I should be nervous too?

This pesto holds its bright green-ness much better than basil pesto!

This pesto holds its bright green-ness much better than basil pesto!

Continue reading

The True Tasting Room Experience – A Summer of Wine and Work at Paumanok Vineyards

30 May With then-Senator Hillary Clinton

The other day I posted a remembrance of my experiences behind the bar. I had meant to talk about a day in the tasting room at Paumanok Vineyards, as I came back to lend a hand over Memorial Day weekend. But somehow the post morphed into a mini-memoir about my time pouring drinks in a biker bar and I didn’t really do enough justice to the original intention.

So….for your reading pleasure, a true taste of The Tasting Room Experience. This is an article that was published in 2007, in Spanish, in Puerto Rico’s Le Connoisseur magazine for which I was a contributor for much of the magazine’s ten-year or so life. It recounts my experience s in the tasting room — what I learned and the fun we had. And explains why I am in that picture with Hillary Clinton. This article has never been published in English before! Please remember…it is  an article published in 2007 recounting the summer of 2005. Some of the information may have changed slightly in the ensuing years!

Salim Massoud serving up on a busy day in 2007

Salim Massoud serving up on a busy day in 2007

Continue reading

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