Monday, June 27, 2011

Two Simple Summer Salads

It seems that in life, most people follow a similar journey when a comes to salads and their dressings. Of course, at the start, salads are that vile green thing Mom eats while you carefully pick out the faux marshmallows from a box of Lucky Charms. You wouldn't even think about the dressing she uses because you may barf.

One day you are tricked into eating a carrot dipped in Ranch dressing and suddenly a few more formerly revolting vegetables are palatable (even though you're really only tasting Ranch). At restaurants, if a house salad is mistakenly served as a side to your chicken fingers, you would ask for double Ranch and gingerly eat a few bites of now-white lettuce.

At this point, the road diverges slightly. Either one, you become a salad eater or two, you do not. Typically if you become a salad eater this early on, you are an overly weight-conscious, eager-to-please first date, overly self-aware teen. Maybe you expand your dressing horizons to the realm of vinaigrettes. If you stop eating salad, it's probably because you realize most cream dressings actually counteract the health benefits of salad and why eat limp, tasteless lettuce that has been sitting in the fringe turning liquidy for days in your fridge or a restaurant's?

Fast-forward and here I am today. I happened to take the road of no salads for most of my post-Ranch life because I felt I could choose many many other healthy dishes that I would actually enjoy eating. Just the thought of sliced American cheese on torn head lettuce with flavorless Kroger-bought tomatoes makes me cringe. But now I understand that salads and dressings can be fresh, imaginative and delicious in ways I could have never dreamed.

My first realization occurred when I started being more adventurous with dressings at restaurants. I would order a incredible feta dressing or balsamic vinaigrette, and so impressed, I'd pop over to the grocery store, pick out what seemed like the same thing, spend too much money on it and only use it once when to my horror it would be disgusting and nothing close to the restaurant experience. This was when I began making simple dressings at home that I could alter slightly for different salads and always prefered.

My second realization came about when I started making salads with fixings other than the blandest of lettuce. Adding beans, nuts, mache or mizuna, a little arugula or even some fruit really transformed my definition of salad for the better.  Now I can say confidently that I'm a salad convert...thought it will never be the food I request for my last meal ;)

Basil Vinaigrette
a rough base to play around with

1/4 cup olive oil
2 Tbsp. red wine vinegar
Tsp. Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
handful of basil, chopped
salt and pepper to taste
optional: lime juice, hot pepper

Whisk or shake all ingredients together and let mull in the fridge before serving.


Now for my two simply summer salad suggestions...but first, let me mention my third and perhaps most critical salad-related revelation. I learned to buy my produce, particularly tomatoes and greens, at the farmers market. The difference in quality is striking and the varieties available to you will be unlike any you'll see at your mass market supermarkets.


Bean and Tomato Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

1 lb. yellow wax beans, ends removed
Fresh cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
Basil vinaigrette

Cook beans in boiling salted water for 3 minutes, or to your desired tenderness. Plunge in an ice water bath immediately after draining. Pat dry the beans and arrange on a plate with the tomatoes. Top with vinaigrette and serve.



Kale, Tomato and Radish Salad with Basil Vinaigrette

One bunch of lacinato kale, center stems removed, cut to easily edible size
Cherokee purple tomato, sliced in quarters
Pickled radishes, sliced (or plain radishes, thought I like the tang of pickled radishes)
Basil vinaigrette

Thoroughly toss together all ingredients and eat on a hot summer day. Kale is one of the most nutritious greens available!



Do you have any favorite off-beat salads? For a few other summer salads of late, check out my Kohlrabi and Asparagus Ribbon Salad, this Asian Noodle Salad or Bon Appetit's Shaved Summer Squash Salad.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Pickling...for someone who doesn't much like pickles

I know the concept of a self-professed "pickler" doesn't seem to mesh well with a non-pickle-eater, but I prefer to look on the bright side of things. For my whole life I passed the free pickle on my dinner plate to my neighbor and said "no thank you" to my mother as she munched on pickles as a late night snack. In fact, I am so inexperienced in eating pickles that I don't know anything about buying them, how to distinguish between the many varied types found on the wall of pickles at the grocery store.  

But in the past months, I've learned that there's room in the realm of pickling even for me. From radishes to carrots to cherries and blood oranges, I'm in heaven with a jar of pickled vegetables at my finger tips.

 

Pickled Cherries and Blood Oranges

1 1/2 cup water
1 1/2 cup distilled white vinegar
3/4 cup sugar
3 tsp. whole black peppercorns
1 tsp. ground coriander seeds
1 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
2 lb. fresh bing cherries, pitted
2 blood oranges
1-2 large rosemary sprigs
we had to improvise with a meat thermometer, lacking a true cherry pitter
1. Zest one blood orange. Peel both oranges and thinly slice the peel of the non-zested orange. Chop both oranges. 
2. Bring the first 6 ingredients and zest from one orange to a boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce heat to medium and simmer 5 minutes. 
3. Strain and return to the pan. Add cherries, oranges and rosemary. Simmer until cherries are tender, 3-5 minutes.
4. Pour fruit into a mason jar and add enough pickling liquid to cover. Store up to 1 month, serve chilled. 



I served these sweet and spicy treats with shortbread, which turned out to be a delicious dessert. Other more savory pairings for pickled cherries include cornichons, pate or salami.


Spicy Pickled Carrots

1 cup water
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 cups distilled white vinegar

0.5 ounce chiles de arbol, stems removed
1 tsp. ground cumin
1 tsp. oregano
1 tsp. black pepper
1 tsp. kosher salt, to taste
1 pound carrots, cut into thin rounds
1/4 cup slivered onions
1 garlic clove
1 jalapeño, seeds and stem removed, sliced

1. In a medium-sized pot, bring the first 4 ingredients to a boil, then turn the heat down to medium. Cook for about 5 minutes, uncovered.
2. Add cumin, oregano, black pepper and salt, and continue to cook on medium for 5 more minutes. 

3. Add the sliced carrots, onions, garlic and jalapeño, and cook for 10 minutes, or until the carrots are the desired texture. Taste and add more salt if you prefer.
4. Cool and refrigerate for up to one month.



These carrots are very spicy, but also very tasty. Feel free to cut down on the chiles de arbol or use less jalapeno to tame the heat. Dried chiles de arbol can be found at Mexican grocery stores. 

 Pickled Radishes

1/2 cup red wine vinegar or rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup cold water
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar
healthy pinch red pepper flakes
2 to 3 cups radishes, quartered or sliced to your preference
1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1. Place radishes in a mason jar and top with fennel seeds. 
2. Whisk together the first five ingredients; stir until the sugar and salt are dissolved. Pour the vinegar mixture over the radishes. Cover the jar and refrigerate for at least an hour and up to one week.
These radishes are a perfect summer snack one their own, offering a nice kick of flavor. Using rice wine vinegar gives a subtle Asian flavor which I paired with spicy coleslaw on a beef and feta slider. I've also found that watermelon radishes, my favorite, tend to retain more of the radish flavor, making them a good candidate for pickling.





So readers, what foods do you like to pickle?

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Baked Pepper Jelly Cream Cheese Donuts

Inspired by my favorite donuts at Ike & Jane and by the desire to make donuts without having to fry them and subsequently dispose of vast quantities of oil, I adapted a recipe for baked donuts on 101 Cookbooks to create Pepper Jelly filled donuts with a cream cheese frosting. They certainly wowed the crowd with a flavor similar to sweet rolls paired with the slight heat of the jam and the creaminess from a dab of frosting.


Baked Pepper Jelly Filled Donuts with Cream Cheese Frosting
Adapted from 101 Cookbooks. Makes 1 1/2 - 2 dozen medium doughnuts.
1 1/3 cups warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees (divided)
1 packet active dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
2 tablespoons butter
2/3 cup sugar
2 eggs
5 cups all-purpose flour
Couple pinches of nutmeg
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 jar of pepper jelly
1 cup Confectioners Sugar
4 oz. cream cheese at room temperature
1/2 stick of butter, softened
1/2 tsp. vanilla. extract
Optional: 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
Optional: sugar to dust

    1. Warm milk slowly in the microwave until its about as hot as the average hot water out of your kitchen sink. But err on the side of less warm because if the milk's too hot you may kill the yeast. Place 1/3 cup of the warm milk into a large bowl. Stir in the yeast and set aside for five minutes or so. Stir the butter and sugar into the remaining cup of warm milk and add it to the yeast mixture. With a fork, stir in the eggs, nutmeg, and salt. Add the flour and stir just until the flour is incorporated. Pour the mixture into a food processor and pulse with the dough blade; otherwise use a hand or stand mixer on medium. If your dough is overly sticky, add flour a few tablespoons at a time. Too dry? Add more milk a bit at a time. The dough should pull away from the sides of the mixing bowl and eventually become supple and smooth. I actually skipped this last step for lack of counter space and things turned out fine, but do the following if you choose: turn it out onto a floured counter-top, knead a few times (the dough should be barely sticky), and shape into a ball.

    2. Transfer the dough to a buttered (or oiled) bowl, cover, put in a warm place. Heidi Swanson suggested turning on the oven at this point and setting the bowl on top. I left mine in the dining room and obviously (see image below) things rose just fine. Let rise for an hour or until the dough has roughly doubled in size.
     
    3. Punch down the dough and roll it out to about 1/2-inch thick on a floured surface. Use a 2-3 inch cutter  (cookie cutter, wine glass, etc) to stamp out circles. Transfer the circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet. If you are not creating filled donuts, here is when you would stamp out the smaller inner circle for the hole. Over estimate how big the hole needs to be because a small hole will simply expand together when cooking. Cover with a clean cloth and let rise for another 45 minutes. If you are not baking them all right now, leave the shaped donuts on a baking sheet, covered, overnight for second baking the next day. They are best when eaten immediately. An hour before you are ready to bake the donuts, take them out and let rise in a warm place before baking.
     
    4. Bake in a 375 degree oven until the bottoms are just golden, 8 to 10 minutes - start checking around 8. In this case, under-baking is better than over-baking.

    5. Remove the doughnuts from the oven. Optional: brush with melted butter and sprinkle lightly with sugar. Pipe jelly into the insides and spread cream cheese frosting on top.

    Friday, May 27, 2011

    Chocolate Cake: Two Ways


    I'll be the first to admit that it took me a long while to become a chocolate cake person. Chocolate ice cream, no. Chocolate cake, yes. But as with most things we didn't like as kids, it was because I hadn't had a truly good chocolate cake until later in life. I've since realized that for me, the two key components that determine if I'll like (and later crave) a chocolate cake are moistness and subtle coffee flavor.

    Today I want to share my two favorite chocolate cake recipes - one vegan and one not. Yes, you heard me, a vegan cake, a vegan cake that puts many typical chocolate cakes to shame. The other cake is classic chocolate cake recipe I learned in a French cooking class. These are my two standbys and I hope they can become yours.



    Vegan Chocolate Death Cake
    from The Grit

    4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
    3 cups sugar
    1 cup cocoa powder
    1 Tbsp. baking soda
    2 tsp. salt
    1 1/2 cups vegetable oil
    2 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
    3 cups strong brewed coffee
    1/4 cup cider vinegar

    Icing
    1 12oz. package firm silken tofu
    3 cups vegan chocolate chips (many semisweet brands contain no dairy)

    A blend of wholesome soybeans, water and natural coagulant is poured into each of these little boxes. Once sealed, the mixture magically transforms into creamy, silken tofu right in the box. Cool, huh?
    1. Preheat oven to 350. Grease three 9 inch round cake pans, dust with flour and line bottom with parchment paper.
    2. Sift together dry ingredients in a large bowl. Add oil and vanilla extract. Beat together on low until fully combined. On medium speed, gradually blend in coffee. When the mixture is smooth, add vinegar and blend on low speed until just combined.
    3. Divide batter into the pans and bake 20 to 25 minute or until a knife or toothpick in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting and eating.
    4. For icing: Drain excess fluid from silken tofu, crush and place in a medium saucepan with chocolate chips. Stir together over medium hear until chocolate is very soft. Puree in a food processor until fully blended. Cool  before frosting. Top with edible purple violets for a lovely look.


    Classic Chocolate Cake

    butter, for grreasing the pans
    1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
    2 cups sugar
    3/4 cups good cocoa powder
    2 tsp. baking soda
    1 tsp. baking powder
    1 tsp. kosher salt
    1 cup buttermilk, shaken (If you're tired of buttermilk going bad between cakes, try using Dry Powdered Cultured Buttermilk Blend at 4 Tbsp. to a cup of water. Don't forget to refrigerate after opening.)
    1/2 cup vegetable oil
    2 large to extra-large eggs, at room temperature (Put in hot water for 1 minute if in a hurry)
    1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
    1 cup freshly brewed hot coffee


    Icing
    1/2 cup butter
    1 cup dark brown sugar
    1/3 cup heavy cream, or more if needed
    1 16oz. bow confectioner's sugar
    1 tsp. pure vanilla extract

    1. Preheat the oven to 350. Butter and flour two 8 inch round cake pans. Line the bottoms with parchment paper.
    2. Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, baking powder and salt. Mix gently with a fork until combined.
    3. In another bowl, add the vanilla to the eggs. Then add the buttermilk and oil and combine.
    4. Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry using a stand mixer if you have one or beat on low with a hand mixer. Still on low, slowly add the coffee and stir just until combined.
    5. Pout the batter into the pans and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until a knife or toothpick comes out clean. Cool for 30 minutes before frosting and/or eating.
    6. For icing: Melt butter in a saucepan over medium heat and stir in brown sugar and cream. Bring to a boil and transfer to mixing bowl. Add confectioners' sugar and vanilla. Beat with a mixer until it reaches spreadable consistency. Add more heavy cream, a tablespoon at a time, to reach the desired thickness. Frost and sprinkle with nuts if desired.

    Friday, May 20, 2011

    Fried Green Tomatoes and Homemade Pita Chips

    Sometimes a sweet and simple meal is just right for a relaxing day. At the store today I spotted some green tomatoes and realized how long it has been since I'd eaten one...and more importantly how few times in my life I have eaten them altogether. You see, although I've lived in the south all my life, my family is yankee through and through. I grew up on corn meal mush and cream of wheat instead of grits; johnny cake instead of cornbread; and certainly no fried green tomatoes. To make matters worse, I spent my childhood in Marietta, where cultural food experiences are lacking almost as much as Southern accents. It wasn't until college and a few trips to Albany, Georgia that I discovered the magic of good grits and the brilliance in fried everything (on occasion). I'm still learning, but here's what I considered a great fried green tomato. And in honor of Southern cooks everywhere, I used Duke's Mayonnaise for my dip.



    Panko-Fried Green Tomatoes with Dill, Horseradish and Mayonnaise Dip

    1 large green tomato
    1 egg, lightly whipped
    Panko for coating
    Vegetable oil, for frying

    1/4 cup Duke's Mayonnaise
    1 Tbsp. horseradish
    1/2-1 tsp. fresh dill, minced
    pepper to taste



    1. Remove the core and thinly slice a green tomato. Heat 1/2 inch of oil in a small frying pan on medium.
    2. Stir together the mayo, horseradish, dill and pepper. Taste and adjust if necessary. 
    3. Dip each slice in egg, then coat with panko on both sides. Place in hot oil, about 2 minutes on each side, or until brown and long enough to cook the tomato to sweetness.



    See, wasn't that easy? And delicious! But if you're like me, you can never settle for just making one thing. I saw some whole grain pita bread in the "Oops we over baked" section and decided to make pita chips as my aunt did last weekend. Although they take a bit more time then purchasing and opening a bag of store bought pita chips, I guarantee these are worth the time. They are more flavorful, you have the creativity to invent your own flavors, and they are crisp but not rock hard like the ones at the store. I opted for Parmesan, rosemary and salt pita chips.


    Baked Parmesan and Rosemary Whole Grain Pita Chips

    1 bag of whole grain pita bread
    Roughly 1/2 cup shredded Parmesan
    Dried rosemary
    Kosher salt and pepper
    Olive oil



    1. Preheat oven to 325.
    2. Slice off the outer edge of each pita such that you can separate the two halves then cut each into 5-6 triangles.
    3. Brush olive oil on both sides of each triangle. Sprinkle cheese and a small pinch of salt, pepper and rosemary onto each chip.
    4. If possible, arrange on a wire rack to allow optimal air circulation and crispiness. If not, baking straight on a baking sheet should be fine. Bake for roughly 12 minutes. Enjoy plain, with your favorite dip or even the extra dip from the fried green tomatoes!

    Wednesday, May 18, 2011

    Italian inspiration on a cool summer night

    While Blair's romantic future may be ever in question, while Serena's hips appear ever wider in ever shorter skirts, and while the number of characters Gossip Girl writers manage to write in simply to dream up an elaborate, multi-character, history-spanning deception will never cease to shock, Monday night dinners always satisfy.

    This Monday marked both the first Monday night dinner of the summer as well as the last Gossip Girl episode of the season. The meal had to be fresh, part cool and part warm to fit the unseasonable weather, and most importantly, use up a hella lot of basil and other market goodies in the fridge. This is a 3-part menu so get ready for dinner party ya'll.


    I'd picked up some large, green kohlrabi from my favorite farmers at Cedar Grove Farm as well as leeks, purple and green asparagus, sweet onions, and radish peas from other Athens Farmers Market vendors. It seemed only fitting to dream up a cool, raw salad to match the hot summer days ahead. I've become obsessed with kohlrabi lately, because they are in season and because I only just discovered how tasty they can be when eaten raw. And radish peas were a wholly new discovery. Apparently, radishes, when left to seed, produce pea-like pods that taste like strong radishes. In Asia, it is more common to cultivate radishes for this purpose than for the radishes we know and love here.


    Cold Kohlrabi and Asparagus Ribbon Salad with Radish Peas and a Lemon Vinaigrette


    2 large kohlrabi heads, julienned
    Bundle of asparagus spears, purple and green if possible, peeled into ribbons
    Small bag of radish peas, chopped into small discs
    2 small leeks or 1 medium, julienned, optional
    Shaved parmesan

    Vinaigrette amounts estimated to taste
    1 lemon, juiced
    2-3 Tbsp. olive oil
    2 tsp red wine vinegar
    salt and pepper to taste



    1. Julienne the kohlrabi using a food processor if you have one. Strip the asparagus into ribbons using a vegetable peeler, slicing off the heads to serve intact. Slice radish peas into small discs. Use as many as you prefer to make the salad pack the punch you desire.
    2. If a touch of sweetness is something you crave, thinly slice small leeks into matchsticks and caramelize on medium low heat in a touch of olive oil or or truffle oil. I threw in a few fresh tarragon leaves as well. Allow to cool before adding to the salad.
    3. Whisk together the vinaigrette ingredients, adding more olive oil or vinegar to your taste. 
    4. Toss all ingredients together and serve with shaved Parmesan on top.



    Now, if we were really Italian, we'd be going in reverse order, eating our salad last, but it's often at my house that whichever dish is done first, is eaten first. We did begin the evening with a bottle of wine and some crostinis. These could also be eaten as more of a main course as larger open-face sandwiches (which I did tonight with the leftovers.



    Broiled Crostinis with Mozzarella, Pesto, Marinated Tomatoes and Fresh Basil


    Half loaf of fresh bread, sliced thinly - we used a semolina loaf from Alfredo's Bread
    3 tomatoes, sliced
    Mozzarella, sliced into discs
    Handful fresh basil
    Balsamic
    Rosemary

    Pesto - makes extra for freezing and leftovers
    5 packed cups of basil
    4-5 cloves garlic
    1/4 cup pine nuts
    scant 1/4 cup sliced almonds
    1/4 cup Parmesan cheese
    1/3 cup olive oil, add to taste up to 1/4 cup
    salt and pepper to taste
    pinch of cinnamon


    1. Marinate sliced tomatoes with balsamic vinegar and rosemary. 
    2. Pulverize nuts and garlic in the food processor. Add the basil, Parmesan, salt and pepper, pinch of cinnamon. Pour the olive oil in as you process. Taste and adjust.
    3. Turn oven on broil. Slice bread thinly into squares of half loaf slices; remove crusts. Arrange bread on a baking. Spread pesto on each slice. Top with one tomato and one tomato slice.
    4. Broil until mozzarella is slightly brown and bubbling, check after 3 minutes. Slide a piece of fresh basil under each tomato and serve immediately.




    At this point we were 2 bottles of wine in and ready for a warm soup merging classical technique and seasonal tweaks to adjust for the unusually cool evening. This variation on a ribollita truly hit the spot, with layered notes of flavor, using greens on hand in the fridge, an experiment with veggie boullion and a punch of vegetarian goodness. In place of kale, I chopped up kohlrabi and beet greens. After thumbing through my copy of Super Natural Cooking Everyday, I decided to take Heidi's advice and use bouillon cubes instead of buying veggie stock since I didn't have any homemade on hand. I grabbed a veggie bouillon from the organic section at Kroger and I couldn't have been more pleased with the flavor and the price.


    Vegetarian Ribollita

    1/2 pound dried Great Northern beans
    Kosher salt
    1/4 cup olive oil
    3 small yellow onions, diced
    1 cup chopped carrots, about 6 small organic carrots
    3 stalks chopped celery, chopped
    6 cloves minced garlic
    1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
    1/4 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes
    3 tomatoes, chopped
    Roughly 4 cups coarsely chopped greens - I used kohlrabi greens (2 bunches) and beet greens (1 bunch)
    1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves
    3 bouillon cubes in 6 cups water or 6 cups vegetable stock (I recommend Edward & Sons Garden Veggie Bouillon Cubes)
    Roughly 3 cups foccacia bread cubes
    1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan, for serving

    1. Soak beans overnight or boil beans for 3 minutes and let soak for 1-2 hours. Drain. Bring the beans to a boil in unsalted water then reduce to simmer for 45 minutes. Add about 1 tsp. salt and cook for another 10-15 minutes or until desired tenderness. Save the cooking liquid.


    2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large stockpot. Add the onions and cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the onions are translucent. Add the carrots, celery, garlic, 1 Tbsp. of salt, pepper, and red pepper flakes. Cook over medium-low heat for 7 to 10 minutes, until the vegetables are tender. Add the tomatoes, greens and basil, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for another 7 to 10 minutes.


    3. In the bowl of a food processor, puree half of the beans with a little of the cooking liquid. Add to the stockpot, along with the remaining whole beans. Add bean cooking liquid (to cups) to the stock to make 8 cups. Add to the soup and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.


    4. Add the bread and simmer for 10 more minutes. Taste for seasoning and serve hot in large bowls sprinkled with Parmesan.


     Buona sera readers! Buon appetito!

    Friday, April 29, 2011

    Growing your own Food

    The growing bug has hit me hard. I'm so ecstatic about my upcoming summer garden that every day I cannot wait to check each pot, tray and plot to see what tiny green sprouts are popping up. I've really committed myself, despite living in a rental that I will have to leave at the end up the summer, with a 10 x 20 foot garden I dug out myself by hand (no minor feat in hard clay with roots and rock), many containers and two new tires.

    Here's my preliminary plan for the plot. Certainly to be adjusted through trial and error I'm sure!

    I've been reading about companion planning for a long time now, so I've been using that philosophy to guide my planting. Louise Riotte's book Tomatoes Love Carrots is excellent. I even wrote a children's book using her principles for a class project last semester where the main character, a little boy named Max Marigold, learns to like vegetables as he learns how they help each other grow strong and tasty. I'll try to upload it soon. 


    This week my big project is expanding the garden such that the 3 sisters - corn, beans and squash, will have the required 10 x 10 foot space to grow. I'll need to amend the soil with compost and manure because corn is such a heavy feeder and the newly dug soil won't have benefited from my winter cover crop. The three sisters technique was developed  by the native Americans and is founded in the principles of companion planting. Basically, the corn acts as a post for the beans to grow on, and both provide the shade that is preferred by squash. Additionally, beans, as a legume, replenish the soil through nitrogen fixation. Here's a diagram of how I'll do it. 


     For now, things are growing growing growing so I want to share a few pictures of my pride and joy to hopefully inspire you to start growing at home.


    Charlie loves the catnip. He rugs it down and covers it in cat hair, and it always grows back!

    Had to offer these wee basil plants a little help - it's been so windy

    Some spearmint with the biggest leaves I've seen. Perfect for mojitos

    These bloomed against all odds - biggest odd being that I planted the bulbs 4 months late


    Potatoes in a tire Part 1
    Tomatoes in the Tire Part 2 - These sprouted from organic store bought Yukon Golds and Russet potatoes
    Nasturtiums, a tasty edible flower, peaking out to help the radishes grow in between

    100% of the cucumbers germinated! Ready to go into their tire container soon


    English thyme

    Red onion starters


    Mesclun, basil, lettuce and spinach popping up

    Sweet corn!!!!

    Globe artichoke plant with chives starting to come up around it

    Oregano, Cilantro, and Sage

    My herb and tree oasis. Redbud and Oak saplings thriving