Category Archives: garden


714d7163-69e7-4477-bfa8-965537149405As longtime readers of this blog know, I’m no stranger to making my own pizza. At least, I wasn’t before I became a parent. These days, however, I’m not only short on time, but recognize that eating a big slab of white bread with cheese is probably not the best idea if I’m trying to keep energy levels up. Socca, a sort of flatbread made with ground chickpeas, is not only pizza-like enough to sate a craving, it’s inexpensive, gluten-free, full of protein and, best of all, can be made quickly and easily in a single cast-iron pan. It can also be topped with anything you happen to have on hand. You don’t even need cheese! (This time I’ve used feta, but other times I’ve gone without and it’s been just as great.)

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Winter-squash soufflé: 73 cents/serving

Starting our winter squash in the greenhouse this year has paid off—a good bit of it is already ready to harvest. So far we’ve gotten a medium-sized green turk’s turban, a small acorn squash, an enormous hubbard squash, and a small white gourd of indeterminate origin. Given that more are on the way, I felt no compunction in roasting what we had, puréeing it, and freezing it to use as baby food*. I did, however, reserve about a cup’s worth to use in a soufflé, the flavors of which turned out to be a delicious fall preview. In fact, it’s a great catch-all recipe for any winter squash you may have and not know what to do with; no need to worry about texture or flavor, so long as it’s vaguely squashlike.

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Summer-squash muffins: 12 cents each

Odds are, you or someone you know is suffering right now from an overabundance of summer squash. No need to avoid eye contact with neighbors or pretend you’re not home. In fact, I say get your hands on as much as you can—you can grate it, freeze it in 3-cup increments, and use it to make muffins, which can last you months if you let them cool, then individually wrap them and put them in the freezer. That way you can either grab one on the way to work—it will probably be thawed by the time you get there—or zap it in the microwave or toaster oven for a minute or so; it’ll be just like fresh-baked. This recipe works with any kind of thin-skinned summer squash; this time around I used crookneck, pattypan and two different kinds of zucchini. Don’t even bother peeling them; just cut off the stem ends and run them through the grating disc on a food processor (or grate them by hand). Just think—a little elbow grease now could keep you in free squash (and cheap breakfasts/snacks) all the way until spring.

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Potato “galette”: 11 cents/serving

Last week, when I solicited suggestions for what to do with all these potatoes we pulled up out of the yard, someone suggested a potato galette. Which I thought was a splendid idea—not only would it use up a ton, but it would display their pretty pink and purple insides. Now, this suggestion was probably intended for someone patient enough not only to layer each slice of potato in an attractive manner, but carefully flip the galette over when it came time to do so. I am so not that person, especially when it comes to the “carefully flip” part. It was just B. and I, so why risk a mess and the whole thing sticking to the pan? So this is what we have here. I’m posting it anyway because it’s still delicious—the top potato-chip-crisp, the middle buttery and soft—cheap, and vegetarian, and you’ll probably do a much better job than I did. In fact, I’m including the link for you to see what it’s supposed to look like. (We paired it with other salad fixin’s from the garden and a quick balsamic vinaigrette.)

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July: a day’s harvest

Those who read June’s garden update might be wondering how everything is faring now that summer is in full swing. Minus the potatoes, which are definitely not a daily thing, what you see above is a pretty good sampling of what we’re getting out of the garden on a daily or every-other-day basis (other than herbs, of course) before the peppers and “real” tomatoes ripen. A handful of snow peas and sungold tomatoes, and maybe some carrots, lettuce, or a few stalks of rhubarb. Enough for a decent salad, a snack, or even a meal on its own if we let it accumulate. Nothing dramatic, but the quality is above and beyond anything that’s available at the grocery store, it’s all organic, and nothing beats the convenience of just going in the back and picking what you need. More important, though, anyone have any great ideas on what to do with all these potatoes? One can only eat so many roasted potatoes, and it’s not exactly gratin season…

Fresh oregano pesto: $1.15/serving

If I could go back three years and undo one of my many newbie gardening mistakes, it would undoubtedly be planting herbs in our raised beds. Specifically, rosemary, sage, thyme, mint and oregano. I’m not exactly sure what I was thinking, but as anyone with half a brain cell could have predicted, they’ve all become mutant bushes of death that have taken over and choked out anything within a 5-foot radius. Thankfully, most the herbs are (almost) making up for the inconvenience with their usefulness. Not so much the oregano, however. Sure, I use it here and there, but it’s not sturdy like rosemary, sage and thyme, or supremely versatile like mint. I don’t know why it took me so long to try it in a pesto, but I think it may have found its new calling. Not only does it use up a lot of the leaves, but this pesto tastes incredible; full of fresh-oregano flavor without being overpowering. Try it on pasta.

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Rhubarb compote: 37 cents/cup

When I was a kid, my parents used to buy a lot of those wonderfully convenient little cups of Yoplait yogurt. (Of course, these days I would NEVER buy a 60-cent container of pre-sweetened, artificially flavored yogurt, but you’re all welcome to come back and laugh at me once I have kids.) My absolute favorite flavor of all time was strawberry rhubarb, and although Yoplait doesn’t appear to be making it anymore, I admit that part of my motivation in planting rhubarb once we got a garden was to be able to make my own version. We had our first rhubarb harvest in late spring, before we had strawberries, so my first attempt at re-creating the yogurt was rhubarb-only. It was still delicious, but it just wasn’t the same. Luckily, the Pacific Northwest has a second rhubarb harvest, in June, right at strawberry time, so you can imagine what I’ve been eating for breakfast this week. Anyway, this recipe is for the rhubarb component only, because it’s not only great by itself in yogurt if you don’t have strawberries, but it’s delicious on ice cream, biscuits, oatmeal…you get the idea.

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Strawberry sorbet: 20 cents/serving

As predicted, our strawberry patch this year is out of control (in a good way), yielding several pounds of strawberries every week. This was all fine and good for a while, but after eating strawberries for lunch, snacks, and dessert for days at a time, we were ready for a different iteration. I make this sorbet every summer after the novelty of plain strawberries wears off, and so far this week we’ve already made two batches of it. It’s pretty simple—just strawberries, sugar, and a little lemon juice (and optional kirsch), but we both prefer it to just about every frozen dessert out there. It’s also a good way to use up ripe strawberries that got half-eaten by slugs—just wash, trim out the bad parts, and store in the freezer until you’ve accumulated one pound.

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Garden update June ’12

You know how when you first start out gardening, it seems like EVERYONE knows more than you do and seems to enjoy effortless, months-long harvests of magazine-worthy produce while you dutifully water and weed your scraggly plants only to end up with one misshapen, partially ripened tomato by early September? No? Was that just me? In any case, it’s been three years since we bought our house and started gardening in earnest, and I’m still learning. My refusal to buy pricey starts and sets and grow everything from seed probably doesn’t help, but each year our yield is slowly improving, and the variety of plants we have success with is slowly expanding. Take a look at what is and isn’t working for my brown thumb so far this year.

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Starting seeds indoors

So, you’ve consulted the garden calendar to beat all garden calendars and bought—or, better yet, traded for—the seeds you’re going to use this year. What now, person with below-average gardening ability and no fancy greenhouse? If you’ve got a sunny window with the ability to put something right in front of it all day, buy a bag of potting soil and some seed-starting trays. I prefer the larger plastic ones above, set on something to catch water (they’re often sold next to trays that fit them). They’re big enough that you can grow plants large enough to be transplanted with some success, and they’re plastic, so they can be re-used year after year. I also find they retain heat better than the fiber-based ones, which have a tendency to become waterlogged and nasty.

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