August Hodgepodge Soup

It’s a New Brunswick/Nova Scotia tradition Hodgepodge Soupusing bits and pieces of freshly harvested garden vegetable most often pepared in August. Such simple ingredients prove shockingly good with potatoes, carrots, garden beans, corn (1/2 ear per person person) peas, either sugar pod, shelled or both. The pot has enough water to half cover veggies, added step by step so none are over cooked. At the end stir in a generous dollop of cream. Since it is a hodgepodge several other ingredients are often added but we were more than pleased with this simple dish and the broth was amazing. This is an approximation of what we were served at a restaurant in New Brunswick on the Canadian U.S. border.
Ingredients:
6 small potatoes – well scrubbed or peeled
6 medium size potatoes (we used our Rainbow blend of two orange, two yellow and two red but excluded purple because it is too heavily pigmented. Each carrot cut into three pieces.
Two large handfuls whole green and yellow beans
Corn, i/2 ear per person
1.5 cups peas-I used Oregon Giant Sugar Pod
1/2 cup cream —set aside
salt & pepper to taste
Directions:
Fill a Dutch oven or other pot wider that’s wider than deep with water about half way full. Bring to a boil and add 1:Potatoes- Cook potatoes for 7 minutes
2:Carrots each cut into 3 pieces cook an additional 7 minutes
3:Corn and Beans add and cook additional 5 minutes
4:Peas add and cook for about 3 minutes

Pour off water allowing 2 to 2.5 cup to remain and add cream, salt and pepper to taste. As with any soup recipe make it this way once and then don’t be afraid to experiment with more or fewer ingredients. This recipe fed 3 hungry adults.

Blueberry Fool for April Fool’s Day

Fruit fools are old fashioned desserts made from on a handful of ingredients. As a gardener with a freezer I have food in the freezer to use before the bounty of summer is upon us. Blueberry FoolI’ve always thought recipes for fruit fool’s were too rich and have passed them by. In anticipation of April Fool’s Day and wanting an unbaked dessert with blueberries this seemed doable. I doubled the blue berries, replaced half the whipping cream with yogurt, cut the sugar to two tablespoons and added two tablespoons of Greek rose preserves. Another time I’ll try orange marmalade.

Recipe for 4

2 cups frozen Blueberries                                                                                                   1/2 cup heavy whipping cream                                                                                          2 tablespoons sugar                                                                                                             1/2 cup yogurt
2 tablespoons rose petal preserves

BBFool setupSelect four glass containers for your dessert dishes. Coarsely chop frozen berries in a food processor and set aside a few whole berries to use as a topping. Whip cream in a cold mixing bowel and stir in sugar. Add preserves to yogurt. To setup this dessert alternate spoonfuls of berries, yogurt and whipped cream into each glass until all ingredients are used. Lightly run a table knife lightly through each dessert serving.

Country Pate with Beer & Fennel

This fairly coarse textured pate was adapted by a friend from an old recipe containing hefty amounts of veal and bacon. Her slimmed down version is moist and delicious, we served it as an appetizer Christmas day. The plate pictured has a slice of  pate from the recipe below, slices of crunchy Pickled Elephant Garlic, a zesty pickle, pickled beets, mustard, bread, fig jam and Keane’s fresh sauerkraut. I like the fact this recipe is for two pans of pate, the second one goes with us to a gathering later this week. There’s a fine line between pate’ and meatloaf and I think compression with a heavy weight as it cools produces is key to success.

This is a long and detailed recipe and it’s best to read through before beginning. A few sips of beer will help the cook along with preparation. I strongly advise you use the meat thermometer to test that temperature in center of each loaf reaches 165 F before removing from oven.

Ingredients:

  • 5 tablespoons butter
  • 2 large onions, chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 ½ cups fresh parsley leaves, minced, or run in processor
  • ½ cup shelled pistachios
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds
  • 3 pounds sweet Italian turkey sausage, removed from casings
  • 2 cups beer, not too bitter
  • 1 pound ground chicken breast
  • Eight oz. of baguette or rustic Italian bread crumbed in a processor
  • 1 rounded tablespoon Nichols Malibu seasoning or two teaspoons marjoram and a half teaspoon each of oregano and sage.
  • 4 or 5 large eggs
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 10 whole bay leaves

Preparation:

  1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions, garlic, and scallions and cook until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Transfer the onion mixture to a large mixing bowl. Stir in the parsley, pistachios and fennel seeds.
  2. Saute the sausage in two batches in the same skillet over medium-high heat. Cook each batch for 2 or 3 minutes, crumbling the sausage into smaller pieces with the back of a  wooden spoon. Add ½ cup of beer to each batch and cook just until the sausage is no longer pink. Add each batch to the mixing bowl and stir to combine with the onions.
  3. Add the ground chicken breast to the same skillet and cook with another ½ cup beer just until the chicken turns white. Add to the mixing bowl.
  4. Add breadcrumbs, herbs, and the remaining ½ cup beer. Cook, stirring constantly, for 30 seconds and then add to the mixing bowl. (If you’ve overcooked your sausage and there are large clumps either let it cool a bit and break apart with your fingers or run in your processor.)
  5. Add 4 eggs to the pate mixture and beat to make a moist but not wet, meat-loaf-like mixture. Add the last egg if necessary to bind the mixture. Season with salt and fresh ground black pepper. Test for taste by cooking a small bit in the microwave or skillet.
  6. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
  7. Line each pan with parchment paper covering both the sides and bottom. Let the ends of the paper hang over the edges of the pan. Place 3 bay leaves in a row down the center of each of two 9 x 3 inch loaf pans.
  8. Pack the pate mixture into each pan, pressing down firmly with your hands or a spatula. Place two bay leaves on top of each pate.  Cover the top each pate with a sized to fit piece of parchment paper.
  9. Bake the pates for 1 ½ hours or until internal temperature from a thermometer it has reached a safe temperature of 165 degrees. Remove the pate’s from the oven and weight for several hours as they cool. I recommend placing a bread pan on top of each pate and a couple bottles of wine as weights. Refrigerate for several hours.
  10. To unmold the pate remove the top piece of parchment paper run a knife around the sides of each pan and invert the pate onto a clean surface. Remove remaining parchment paper.
  11. This pate will keep up to 2 weeks foil wrapped in the refrigerator. The pate can also be frozen, tightly wrapped in a plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil, up to 2 months.
  12. Makes two 9 x 3 inch pate’s.

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Pasta with Garlic, Olive OIl & Parsley or “Aglio et Olio”

Our Nichols Garlic harvest is beautiful this year and what’s better to serve than pasta featuring fresh from the field garlic? This is a simple side dish, rich in garlic flavor and aromas, a good extra virgin olive oil and plenty of chopped fresh parsley.

Serves 2-4                                                                               

Ingredients

1/2 cup chopped parsley

2 quarts boiling water with 1 teaspoon salt

6-8 oz of dry spaghetti or linguine

4 large cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Preparation is the key to this recipe. First rinse and chop parsley then set aside so you can give full attention to past and garlic as they cook. Peel and chop garlic and set aside.  Bring salted water to a boil and add pasta, gently stirring into water so it does not break or stick to pot.

Take a large skillet and heat to medium low temperature. Add olive oil and garlic, gently cooking with no trace of browning. If it’s cooking too fast lift pan from heat and reduce temperature. Garlic is cooked only until soft ands aromatic. Cook pasta in boiling salted water for 8 minutes, until barely tender. Scoop from pot and add to skillet with parsley. Gently combine ingredients and serve piping hot with a grating of fresh black pepper. This is traditionally served without cheese but add if you like. Garlic can be increased to suit your tastes but always cook slowly as it is retains the rich garlic flavor and aroma. Sprinkle with few red pepper flakes for a light flavor burst.

Bitter Greens

When garden greens are overly mature, on the verge of bolting, aging and consequently becoming bitter and less than tender and succulent use this classic Mediterranean technique. In Italy and Greece where people treasure their cooked greens and enjoy a slight bitterness they commonly parboil the greens in lightly salted water and then saute’ these greens in olive oil and a little garlic.

I use this method with mixed and aging greens of, endives, chicory, mustard, pac choi, chard etc. Into the pot of boiling water go chunky stems and leaves washed, but barely trimmed. If stems seem truly tough I either discard or toss those in a minute ahead of the leaves. Boil for three minutes and drain in a colander while heating a skillet with olive oil and a generous amount of chopped garlic that is  allowed to soften but not  brown. Dump in the greens and stir around for another three to four minutes. On occasion, I’ve  added seed free sliceed Kalamata olives, dried currants, raisins or a sprinkle of pepper sauce. Serve on a platter hot or at room temperature, sometimes surrounded by fresh lemon wedges. The volume of these greens is dramatically reduced. This double cooking method results in very tender delicious greens. There is absolutely no reason to do anything more than a slight chopping of these greens. While I’m sure leftovers would be good we’ve yet to have any.

I’d say use any of your garden greens except large amounts of carrot leaves which don’t taste good and in spite of a recent article to the contrary, the jury is still out on whether these are healthful to eat. You’ll lose a few vitamins by boiling but you will be be preparing a dish with a high nutrient profile yet low in calories.

And a Partridge In a Bay Tree

Years ago I gave a Golden Bay “Laurus nobilis” to a friend whose daughter’s name is Laurel. We dropped by last night with a little Christmas token. They’d strung their Christmas tree with lights in anticipation of Laurels arrival Christmas Eve. As my daughter, Katie, and I were about to leave there was a cry of you must come into the garden. It was dark and somewhat cold so hard to imagine what it might be.
In the back corner the bay tree was dazzling with dozens of lights. The branches seemed filled with hanging pears. What a delight to see such a wonderful transformation. Four of us began merrily stumbling through The Twelve Days of Christmas.
Only the next day did I learn the pears were actually Satsuma Oranges wrapped in netting and hung. These photos give you a view of the tree. Once more the darkest time of year is transformed by friends, gardens, lights, song and sharing. A Merry Christmas to all.

White House Food Garden

This week, First Lady, Michelle Obama, and a group of local school children broke ground on the first White House Lawn Food Garden since Eleanor Roosevelt’s Victory Garden during WWII. This organic garden will feed the Obama family, be used for White House events.

The children from Bancroft Elementary School will continue their involvement with this garden by helping plant and later with harvesting. Ms. Obama frequently discusses food issues and speaks in terms of fresh and nutritious. Her particular focus on enticing children to eat and enjoy fruits and vegetables because their variety and fresh flavor is so delicious sends an important message to everyone.

On the sidelines there has been a steady campaign from gardeners, chefs, websites like kitchengardener.com and food and garden writers. We all appreciate this wonderful example.

Portland Yard, Garden Patio Show

I’m in Portland at the annual YGP show at the Oregon Convention Center this weekend. If you’re looking for a jumpstart on spring and summer this is the place to be. What first caught my eye was  a fence of espaliered apple trees surrounding a flourishing potager garden. In the corner is a cozy chicken coop, one chicken laid an egg yesterday and happily announced her achievement to the world. However, my heart went pit pat when I saw all our Nichols Garden Nursery seed packets used as row markers for the peas, mizuna, mustards, lettuce and more. To our happy surprise the vegetable garden was planted entirely with Nichols seeds. We are not able to down load this photo until we’re back home but I do want everyone to have a chance to see how a productive urban garden can be packed with comfort and charm. This garden from Barbara Simon Landscape Design and Alfred Dinsdale Landscape Contractors received the prestigious “Best of Show Award” features an outdoor cooking and eating area and is an inspiring mixture of enchantment and practicality. Top garden speakers, a multitude of garden products, including Nichols Garden Nursery seeds, plants, bulbs and more  signal we are quickly moving  to the longer days for spring and summer. Come to the show to look, listen and shop and learn. I may even have found some beautiful concrete pavers to easily build a new patio.

Go  to this blog by Kym Pokorny, from the Oregonian for a wonderful garden photo with the potager somewhat hidden.  http://blog.oregonlive.com/kympokorny/     Since I’m not at home with some of my tools you may need to cut and paste this url.

I see it’s time to begin sowing tomatoes, peppers, celeriac, leeks, eggplant and in a couple of weeks get basil started so all will be ready for May transplanting. If you’re sowing leek, onion or shallot seeds go back and see Easy Gardening tips from March 4th 2008 for an easy start on these valuable vegetables.

Easy “Mole” Sauce

A turkey cooked in Mole Sauce is a delicious option for Thanksgiving dinner. This is the recipe Nichols Garden Nursery uses with Mole/Poblano Pepper seed. It is a simple traditional mole sauce. The Mole Pepper is a typical elongated  semi-spicy Pasilla type pepper. As they mature the color changes from green to chocolate brown. Seed starters should think about getting peppers into a starting mix the month of March and keep the sown seeds warm until germinated. As soon as you see sprouts remove from bottom heat.

Moles often include chocolate and a mixture of peppers, spices, broth and are delicious with poultry or pork, serve over rice or fold into burritos. Try this recipe and don’t be afraid to add a few other peppers to smooth out the heat or jack it up to your standards. You can make large batches to freeze.pepper-holy-mole

“Easy Mole” Mole

3 Tbsp Vegetable Oil

2 cups Chopped Onions

8 Red/Brown ripe Mole Peppers,

deseeded & chopped

2 cloves garlic peeled & chopped

1/4 cup raisins, chopped

4 tsp Chili powder, hot or mild

3/4 Tsp Ground Cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon Ground cloves

2 cups Chicken or Turkey Broth

1 16 oz. can Diced Tomatoes or 2 large chopped, peeled tomatoes

1 oz. dark unsweetened chocolate

2 Tbsp. Peanut Butter

1 Corn tortilla, lightly toasted and shredded

Heat oil in a large skillet, add onion, garlic, pepers and raisins. Saute’ until onions are slightly transparent. Stir in remaining ingredients and simmer 20 minutes. Puree sauce in food processor or blender until smooth. For chicken, turkey or pork mole, add precooked meat to sauce. Serve with rice.

This sauce without added meat freezes beautifully and it’s worthwhile to have several pints stocked away. One year we made a fantastic roast turkey basted with mole, defatted and cut into joints and bathed with more mole.A fantastic holiday meal!

Northwest Flower & Garden Show

We’re here in Seattle for one of our favorite annual events. If you are anywhere near Seattle come this week for the what may be the last hurrah at a truly great gardening show. The show gardens never fail to please, Judith Jones and her troop from Fancy Fronds has created a fantasy “The King and I” garden, with wonderful design, details, costumes, and a glorious abundance of  flowering plants, ferns, and shrubs. Judith is a recognized expert on ferns. Over at another garden space an artist  from Costa Rica is creating an intricately carved mask that he told us takes six days to complete. This garden is designed by The Northwest Orchid Society. Entering the show is a garden of four seasons with quilts and plants. It is my favorite entry garden of all the shows I’ve seen. I hope someone takes on this show where February blooms in Seattle. Duane and Alice Kelly, show founders are ready to move on to other things and this show would not be the class act it is without their passion and energy.

This morning I gave a talk on Practical Home Propagation, those who attended pretty much filled the available chairs and were all so gracious to sit through the talk and ask good questions at the end. I’m happy to see more gardeners growing vegetables,  growing from seed, and beginning to feel a little more confident. Only a few years ago I was seeing people’s eyes grow wide as they would say”me, grow from seed, I’m not sure I could do that”. My answer always is a hearty response ” of course you can, your ancestors have been doing this for thousands of years”. I haven’t heard this for awhile, so either gardeners are growing from seed with confidence or I’ve been giving a lot of talks on seed starting.

Roasted Beets

Roasting beets is pretty simple. I trim off the foliage, and leave an inch of root. Rinse and set the greens aside for later use. Give the roots a rinse, no need to scrub. Then wrap the beets in foil, depending on the size, wrap up to three together and place on a baking sheet. You will see recipes with roasting temperatures ranging from 475F downward to 325F. My suggestion is cook them when you are otherwise using the oven and still have extra space. Depending on temperature and size they will take one to two hours. A light squeeze using a hot pad indicates when they are cooked to a tender stage. Let cool in foil wrapper, trim tops, and slip off the skins. Leave any unused beets wrapped, and refrigerated for up to ten days. Since juices may leak, store them together in a plastic bag.
The flavor of home roasted beets is rich and intense. Salads can be sublimely simple with only a touch of olive oil, wine vinegar and salt. Add chunks on top of a tossed green salad for flavor and color, or garnish with a sprinkle of toasted walnuts and blue cheese. Beets are high in folic acid and betaine, a natural anti-inflammatory. Also despite their natural sweet taste they have only 74 calories per cup.

Survivor Parsley & Swallowtails In the Garden

Hope you have had a good winter holiday. Like most of the country, we’ve been having the usual hard cold weather. We’re harvesting beautiful beets, kale, cabbages, a few carrots and the amazingly sweet Survivor Parsley.  Winter hardy plants typically produce extra sugars during cold weather. This acts as a natural anti-freeze and explains why the rugged, flat leaved “Survivor Parsley” is so deliciously sweet and flavorful in winter and spring.

Parsley is a biennial so seeds planted in spring and grows in size through summer and fall. The following summer plants flower, set seed and die. I like to leave a few flowering plants around because they attract butterflies to the garden. Here in Western Oregon, mature butterflies and  larvae of the lovely Anise  Swallowtail “Papilio zelicaon” feed upon the pollen, flowers, and foliage. This adaptable native is found from British Columbia to Baja California. We also regularly see larvae feeding on blooming Angelica plants. Even if your garden is small with only a few containers, grow parsley, a most useful herb. When it flowers you too may enjoy swallowtail butterflies flitting through your garden

Survivor Parsley and Angelica seed are available in our Nichols Garden Nursery catalog. In celebration of 2009 being our 50th year in business, we are offering notable Nichols varieties at introductory prices. Survivor Parsley is included in this listing. I’d also remind readers, if you haven’t received a 2009 catalog please go to our website http://www.nicholsgardennursery.com and request a catalog.

Gardenpalooza

Tomorrow, Saturday April 5th, Keane and I will be at Gardenpalooza with seeds, and Yacon plants. Come to us with your gardening questions. Mention you’ve seen this note on The Gardener’s Pantry and select a free seed packet of your choice. Gardenpalooza is a yearly local event held at Fir Point Farms in Aurora, OR on Airport Road. We’ll be in the lovely big greenhouse with other nurseries and The Chinese Classical Garden. I always pick up new  plants at this show because there is such a great selection. For those of you who out of the area look for local garden events where you can directly ask the grower how to grow the plant and find interesting plants that never show up in the big box stores.

Boise Flower & Garden Show

Keane and I will be at the Boise Flower & Garden Show Friday, Saturday, and Sunday. Friday at 11:00 a.m. I speak on Edible Gardening in Containers & Small Spaces. Saturday, it’s Seed Starting, What a Gardener Needs to Know, at 3:00p.m. If you live in the Boise area come to the show, please stop by our sales booth #101. If you mention The Gardener’s Pantry, we’ll invite you to select a complimentary packet of seeds.

This time of year it’s a steady round of garden talks and garden shows. Next Saturday, April 5th we meet up with many old friends for Garden Palooza in Aurora, Oregon at Fircrest Farms.

I’ll be back with a few recipes and gardening tips once things settle down a bit. Right now our arugula and kale are looking good. Walla Walla Onion plants have been transplanted. Cascadia Snap Peas are growing in straw bales and fava beans are blooming. Can spring and summer be far behind? Probably, we are leaving early for Boise to avoid driving in falling snow on the passes.

Last weekend, we were in the Bay Area to give a talk on Container and Small Space Gardening to the Montelindo Garden Club. We visited the Berkeley Arboretum, museums, friends and family. What was most astounding happened when we stepped out onto the street where our daughter lives. Keane noticed a tree he didn’t recognize and was trying to figure out what it might be. It had large clusters of round seed pods and glossy green leaves. As we looked at it, I noticed the backside of a large bird in the upper branches. We couldn’t see it’s head so were moving this way and that. Suddenly a voice from the window above, said “Do you want to know the story of this tree”? Of course we did! The fellow told us the tree was planted a few years before he arrived 25 years ago. It is a red flowering Eucalyptus. planted by a former president of the California Native Plant Society, much to his embarrassment today. Non native Eucalyptus have been over planted throughout California, and especially in the southern part of the state, they fuel wildfires. This one seemed like a nice street tree. Finally, the bird turned its head, and we were face to face with a falcon. A few hours later we passed by again and there was a pile of pigeon feathers at the base of the tree.

Portland Yard, Garden, Patio Show 2008

February 15th, 16th & 17th, you’ll find Nichols Garden Nursery at booth  #1386 at the beautiful Portland Yard, Garden, & Patio Show. Sunday, at 11:00 a.m. I’ll present a seminar on “Culinary Herbs: How to Grow and Use In the Pacific Northwest”. YGP, gets us enthused about the beginning of spring. With lovely display gardens,  free seminars, vendors offering fantastic selections of plants, seeds, bulbs, this is the place and time Oregon and Southern Washington gardeners gather to shop, learn, relax and plan their garden year.

The Oregon Convention Center has good parking, benches to relax, and such a nice ambience that the entire show makes me feel like I’m already in a garden.

Come by our booth and mention you’ve seen our blog or website and pick up a free packet of spinach or sunflower seed. We’ll have seeds, gardening products, catalogs and we’re ready to answer your gardening questions. If you have a little extra garden space and are concerned about local hunger issues, we’d like to explain Plant A Row For the Hungry, a program of the Garden Writers Association. We can offer you a choice of seed packets to get you started. Collectively, participants raise thousands of pounds of produce for local food banks and soup kitchens where fresh vegetables for those in need are always appreciated.

Catalog Time

Nichols Garden Nursery 2008 catalogNichols Garden Nursery, in Albany, Oregon now has a new 88 page, 2008 catalog. Our new narrower format is easy to handle and read. If you visit our website http://www.nicholsgardennursey.com you can download this catalog as a PDF. Be sure to check the “new and unusual” pages 23 & 24 for what’s new in seeds. We maintain an eclectic selection of good tasting, easy to grow home garden varieties. Some seeds are organically certified, some heirloom, and some hybrid. We offer the best. None of our seeds are treated or genetically modified. You can request a catalog from the website or use our PDF to plan your garden.

Is This Really “Organic”?

Today, I read that “organic” made it onto a list of over used words. This product called “The Batter Blaster” bills itself as organic, certified by the USDA. Packaged in an aerosol can that serves eight, this seems like the over packaging that is exactly opposite to the resource conserving spirit of the organic movement.batterblaster We are concerned about environmentally sound, production, distribution and packaging. It’s New Year’s Eve and as I think through the ways that I can be a greener gardener and cook, the new word “locavore” comes to mind. In our area several church groups adopted the hundred mile diet for a month. The grocery stores that offer local produce all year are favored by many shoppers. For me it means growing what we can, buying at the Farmers Market, and looking at the labels of what I purchase. I don’t expect to find everything locally grown, but when I do find it I can support it with my dollars. Making an effort is a good first step, growing more of our own fresh food has rich rewards.

Making pancakes was an early cooking activity for our children. They stirred the batter and learned the perfect consistency. It was fun to watch the bubbles form and a perfect flip was so satisfying. I enjoyed seeing their competency and confidence in the kitchen and they still make pancakes. A pressurized can may possibly be too cute and enticing for a young child and is it really cooking?