The Root of the Problem? More Like the Solution

The thought of preparing something with carrots and radishes doesn’t necessarily conjure up images of delectable eats. They’re not ingredients I’m excited utilizing in the kitchen. Carrots have a place, yes, in salads, crudités and as the starter for many dishes (soups, sauces, stocks), but very rarely is it the star. And radishes? Well, the extent to which I handle radishes is limited to slicing them up and adding them to salads and that was when I was a kid (prior to bagged salads being all the rage and the only lettuce available was your trusty ol’ iceberg).

But I wanted to take a stab at growing carrots this year (don’t they say, after all, that the carrot is the easiest vegetable to grow?). And I read that since carrots take forever to germinate, it is advisable to plant rows of radishes between the rows of carrots kind of like a marker since it only takes 30-45 days to harvest. So with the purchase of two varieties of carrots, I picked up some French breakfast radishes.

What I was quick to discover is how tiny carrot seeds are. And the fact that you have to sow them 1 inch apart makes this task….well, very challenging. Okay, almost impossible! But nothing that can’t be addressed when they start to germinate; you just “thin them out” to allow what’s left in the ground enough space to fully mature. And so we wait. And wait. (This was back in the middle of April!)

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Up sprout the radishes and those are harvested. I even have time to plant another row of radishes…and those I harvest!

My neighbor (for whom I experience garden envy-her plot is HUGE and she never seems to have problems with her pepper plants) informed me that carrots are ready to be pulled when you can see a quarter of an inch of the carrot peeking out of the soil. This is true with radishes so I should have known better. So with that rule of green thumb (get it? I love puns!), I wait some more. By now I’m past the recommended 70 days to harvest date on the seed packet and I cannot wait any longer! So I start pulling.

I gotta give it to those carrot farmers. Those carrots you buy year-round in the store are, for the most part, uniform. My carrots?

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They grew appendages. One even looked like a mutant hand digging into the earth. It’s plain to see why baby carrots are so readily available. Too many irregular carrots are harvested so they whittle them down to make these uniform and adorable smaller versions of the original.

So I quickly determined that I do not particularly care for radishes. The French breakfast radishes are milder than the other radishes you find at the store, but I still found them to be too peppery and bite-y. I thought of ways to subdue that spiciness.

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From what I’ve researched, there are two prominent ways the French prepare them: quarter them and serve with room temperature butter and some salt- scoop, sprinkle, eat, repeat, or braise them in butter. Oh, how I LOVE French cuisine! Forget bacon. BUTTER makes it BETTER! For my first batch I wound up braising those babies in butter with a little salt. It was good. You can’t go wrong with that preparation, but I thought “What about pickling them?”

Of course! Pickled radishes and carrots. Ding! After referencing Epicurious, the website and app that archives recipes from Bon Appetit, Gourmet and a few other magazines, I found one worth doctoring up (Check it out here).

I doubled the recipe considering I have lots of veggies that need pickling and made some substitutions and additions: I used both rice vinegar and white wine vinegar, brown sugar instead of white sugar and I smashed a garlic clove and added a few shakes of crushed red pepper flakes for some heat.

I love to eat in color! Veggies are so appealing to the eye. What do you think?

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Check out my mad knife skills!

As for what I did with this pickled medley:

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Pan-seared flaxseed tempeh with soy sauce over pickled vegetables

As for my readers who don’t prefer meat analogs, you could easily substitute the tempeh for seared ahi tuna or grilled chicken marinated in ginger, garlic, oil and soy sauce. Fresh, light and scrumptious!

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Harvest Update

My experience with gardening has seemed to become taking two steps forward and one step back. I’m always making progress through the mastery of a few skills, but seemingly at the expense of another. One summer my harvest is bountiful with summer squash and the following I’m purchasing the fruits of another’s labor at the farmer’s market (darn you, squash borers!).

Zucchini blossom
Zucchini blossom

Sure, it’s like that for any gardener and maybe that’s part of the enjoyment of it (though I’m not doing this for my health, peeps….okay, maybe I am). But don’t we all want something successful to come from our efforts? And consistently, for that matter? Absolutely!

I made a valiant attempt this year to grow my own plants from seeds (got them here). It’s so exciting to see little seedlings sprout in March before the weather conditions allow anything viable to grow outside. There’s so much potential and promise in those tiny seeds. And it’s a welcoming reminder that warm weather will soon be upon us.

Buttercrunch lettuce
Buttercrunch lettuce

So everything was off to a great start! Herbs, summer squashes, cucumbers, three varieties of tomatoes and even brussel sprouts were on their way! Until they weren’t. And everything started to shrivel. I couldn’t figure it out. It’s not like the transplants were root-bound from being confined to a small pot. The root system wasn’t developed at all! Not enough water, maybe? Ah well, I remedied what I could (only the cucumbers, tomatoes, basil and oregano survived) and planted the rest directly in the ground from seed. Fortunately, everything took hold, but at a slower pace than I had hoped. So here we are with it:

Park's Whopper Tomatoes
Parks Whopper Tomatoes
Cucumber Munchers
Cucumber Munchers

 

Bright Lights Swiss Chard
Bright Lights Swiss Chard

Hopefully soon I’ll be posting my culinary experiences from veggies I’ve harvested in my own garden! Stay tuned!

Roasted red pepper hummus

I love a good mezze platter. And fortunately, my husband does too. Sunday afternoons during football season, you won’t find chicken wings or pizza (nachos, yes, I make a killer guacamole). Rather, you’ll find a platter of veggies, olives, stuffed grape leaves, feta cheese, tzatziki and HUMMUS.

I. Love. Hummus. And I’m not afraid to let the world know! It’s one of those foods that you can experiment with to your soul’s content- very much in line with my approach in the kitchen. I always have a can of chickpeas on hand and it’s a snap to make.

So into the food processor goes a can of drained and rinsed chickpeas, a clove of garlic, whatever roasted red peppers from a jar I had left over (as my mother would say, UTILIZE!), salt, pepper, a quick shake of crushed red pepper flakes and tahini which is a sesame seed paste. Tahini is a fairly high expense running for like 8 bucks a jar, but guys, it is worth it! It makes the hummus so creamy and decadent (you might just say unctuous!), you’ll be glad you shelled out the cash. Plus, it can be made into a delicious dressing with lemon, oregano, parsley and olive oil over a Greek salad or drizzled over falafels.

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Buzz it up in the food processor and slowly drizzle in olive oil until it reaches the consistency you prefer.

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Serve it with pita chips, veggies, spread it on sandwiches or eat with a spoon!

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And don’t feel bad for the husband. He is a willing participant in my revolving, often meatless, healthy food repertoire and he has his share of rare prime rib whenever he dines without me.

Crepes with strawberry sauce

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Every once in a while, I like to rummage through my fridge/freezer/pantry and identify an ingredient to base something around. Forget how insignificant and underplayed that ingredient can be to the final product, it’s just what I do. And, in gardening, sometimes you have to roll with it. (What to do with all this parsley? Let’s make chimichurri sauce!)

So I was hoping to get myself to Baugher’s Orchard in Westminster and pick me some fresh strawberries before the season is over (unfortunately, I’m pretty sure it is). Regardless, I can’t justify picking 5 pounds worth of new strawberries when, I’m embarrassed to say, I’ve got some in the freezer left over from last year. So ashamed! They’re good for smoothies, you know, I just haven’t made one in a while. What’s a girl to do? I will not throw them away! Freezer burn be damned!

Strawberry sauce! Yes! You can never go wrong with cooking down fruit, adding some sugar, a little bit of acid and some warm spices. So that’s exactly what I did! I don’t measure, people, I experiment and, more often than not, the result is edible success (notice I did not say scrumptious success). So in a pot go the frozen strawberries (probably 3 cups), some orange juice (3/4- 1 cup), cinnamon (1/2 tsp.), brown sugar (a few tbsp.) and cornstarch to thicken it a lil’ (1 tbsp.). Simmer for 10-15 minutes and it’s good to go. I used an immersion blender to whip that stuff up (one of the best kitchen tools ever).

So now I’ve got this strawberry sauce. Now what?

I’ve been wanting to makes crepes for a while now. And it’s one of those foods that has so much variability with how you can prepare it (breakfast, lunch, dinner, dessert, sweet or savory) that it should be a must in my go-to arsenal as a self-proclaimed foodie. So I went to it. 1-2-3. That’s your ratio for crepes: 1 cup of flour, 2 cups of milk, 3 eggs. I also added about 1 tsp. of sugar, 1 tsp. of vanilla extract and 2 tbsp. melted butter. Whisk it and strain it through a sieve. It’s French cuisine. You have to go the extra mile.

Nonstick skillet, medium heat. Use just the tiniest amount of batter like 2-3 tbsp. and swirl it around in the pan until there’s a nice even coating (you’re going to be in front of the stove for a while, have a cup of coffee, listen to your favorite Pandora station, dance). Two minutes on one side, flip for 30 seconds or so on the other side and voila! One down. Many more to go….

I have to say, it looks very impressive, doesn’t it?

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The beauty comes in this dish’s ability to be transformed based on the likes of the eater. Stuff it with lemon curd, whipped cream, nutella, sweetened ricotta or mascarpone with orange or lemon zest. Or, what I did for the husband, mango yogurt. Yep. That easy. Makes me want to host a crepe party…with mimosas and bellinis.

 

Welcome to the Blog-O-Sphere!

So I finally did it! At the recommendation of my friends who told me to “Go blog about it,” I summoned up the energy (actually I was pretty bored) and courage (I hate rejection) to put myself out there and assume I could offer the internet something that it wasn’t already saturated with! Well, I know that’s not true, but who’s to say I can’t offer something valuable to someone else? At the very least, this blog can be my testament to what I’m doing with my life and how I spend my time. So, always a fan of the Transcendentalist movement, I lead with this quote:

emerson self