Contemplating the Veggies

I found this quote today, while trolling the Guilford County Extension Service's website.  Thought it was appropriate, since I'd just returned from my morning Coffee Walk (which becomes my Wine Walk...or Sam Adams Walk...in the evening...:).

"I used to visit and revisit (my garden) a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green."  -- Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from an Old Manse
Beans are up and growing in my garden, even beginning to twine around the Tepee Trellis (although they've been severely sheared-back by the bunnies); peas (at least the purple hull pink-eyes...forget about the English variety for this year) are doing well, despite being singed by the application of fish emulsion...in the bright mid-day sun...by moi.  And today's squash report:  definitely seeing tiny, baby yellow/crookneck squashes and Black Beauty zucchini on the vines.  We've achieved Fruit Set!   Thank you to all the bees that made this moment possible.  Now, I'd better start gathering some recipes 'cause I'm afraid we'll be swamped with squash in a short time!  BTW, that's not snow you are looking at in the photo to the right; that's paper from my shredder.  Found a new way to recycle the stuff as mulch in the garden.  Hooray!

Speaking of recipes...thought I'd share a couple with you.

As herbs are about the only edibles that the garden is giving us in these early days, I used some freshly-snipped parsley and chives to spice up an easy Cheesy Scalloped Potatoes recipe, which is baked in a covered casserole dish in a pre-heated 350 degree oven for about 1.5 hours.  First, I scrubbed 3 large baking potatoes thoroughly; then, sliced them thinly with the skins still on (letting them rest in some salted ice water while I got the other ingredients ready).  I dotted the bottom of a 2 quart Corningware casserole dish (one with a cover) with 1 T. butter, cut up into several pieces.   Then, I began the layering process:  about 1 potato's worth of slices, topped with a good sprinkle of kosher salt, a few twists of the pepper mill, and generous snips of fresh parsley and chives (I have a pair of kitchen shears to do this easily); cover with a generous handful of shredded cheese (I used the finely shredded version of Kraft Mexican Blend 'cause that's what I had in the fridge). Top the layer with another cut up T. of butter.  Repeat layers two more times, ending with cut up butter.  In a separate 4-cup measuring cup, whisk 2 T. flour with 2 cups Half-and-Half (which I had on hand because I recently made homemade ice cream; you can use whole milk, or some combination of milk and cream, or even evaporated milk, with pretty much the same results).  I also added a goodly pinch of dry mustard to the cream mixture.  Pour cream mixture over the potato layers in the casserole dish.  Cover and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the potato slices are cooked/tender.  Remove the cover, and return to the oven for 5-10 minutes, until most of the liquid has cooked down.  Then, add another handful of shredded cheese to the top of the casserole and return to the oven until the cheese begins to brown on top (may need to put under the broiler a bit, depending on how brown you like your casserole to be).  No, it's NOT low-cal, but it is delicious! 

I served it with barbecued chicken breasts (3 chicken breasts, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and dry rub; then, cooked in the oven in the covered Le Creuset dutch oven, alongside the potato casserole, until tender; then, "finished" with BBQ sauce on the grill outside), cornbread muffins, and Honey Lime Fruit Salad [based on a Dole recipe, but using what fruit I had on hand:  yesterday, I used a can of Dole pineapple chunks, some fresh strawberry chunks, an orange that I peeled, sectioned, and chunked, and a banana...cut up in chunks; all topped with a "dressing" made of 1/4 cup of reserved pineapple juice, 2 T. lime juice (basically, the juice from 2 limes), and 1 T honey (more, rather than less)...with some lime zest thrown in for good measure].  Opened a bottle of 2008 Bogle Chardonnay for the evening Wine Walk, followed by some quality time in the swing, while the grill heated up.  Then, served up the meal with iced tea...lotsa lemon.  Good eats, as Alton Brown might say!

Tomorrow:  we'll be picking our first SuperSweet 100 Cherry Tomatoes from the pot on the deck.  Can you spot them in the pic (left)?  And, no that's not snow on the tomato soil, either...it's egg shells.  Supposed to provide calcium and help prevent blossom-end rot.

Of course, you may recall that Cherry tomatoes...on the vine...happen to be one of Gus' favorite toys.  He thinks I'm growing him a Toy Tree!  He's already gone up to the pot, sniffed long and hard, like he was getting the scent of it...decided that the Toys weren't ripe yet.  Never known him to pull the green ones; only the red ones.

Stay tuned!

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