Archive for June, 2012

Two More Ways to Use Garlic Scape Pesto

I know, garlic scape pesto again, but I am finding it to be so useful.  It has the ease and utility of garlic paste with a gentler, bright, more subtle impact.  Yesterday I put a scant teaspoonful in some tuna salad I was making for our lunch.  I forgo the usual celery/tuna mixtures at this time of year in favor of chopped mixed herbs, fresh from the herb garden outside my kitchen door.   Yesterday I used chives, parsley and dill.  I mixed in lemon juice, mayo, s&p and the pesto… Yum!  With crisp lettuce (this variety is Flashy Troutback), spread on my own whole wheat sourdough bread, it was really good.  The pesto gave it a little zip that raised the sandwich out of the hum-drum.

Tuna Salad Sandwich Filling with Fresh Herbs and Garlic Scape Pesto

Tuna Salad Sandwich Filling with Fresh Herbs and Garlic Scape Pesto

The second experiment was also very successful.  I put a good tablespoonful into Broccoli Raab with Sausage and Orecchiette, using it in place of the finely chopped garlic I usually use.  The broccoli raab is just coming into its own in the garden.  This is one of our favorite meals, one we’ve looked forward to all winter so I was a little hesitant to try the substitution, but it worked out well and avoided the risk of cooking the garlic too long which makes it bitter.  If you can’t find orecchiette in the Italian Section of your store you can use small shells.  Some manufacturers (Sclafani) call it “Little Hats” although it translates to “Little Ears.”

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Broccoli Raab with Sausage, Orecchiette and Garlic Scape Pesto

(serves four)

  • 1 pound sweet Italian sausage  (or hot sausage, omitting the red pepper flakes, loose or casings removed)
  •  2 bunches of broccoli raab (about 6 cups of tender leaves and shoots)
  • 2 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 heaping Tbsp. Garlic Scape Pesto
  • 1 tsp. red pepper flakes (or to taste)
  • 1 C. dry vermouth
  • 1 pound Orecchiette
  • Grated Romano cheese

Fill a stock pot with water and set it on to boil.  Wash and trim the broccoli raab, breaking off leaves from the stems if the stems are tough. Meanwhile, break up the sausage.   Sauté the sausage, adding olive oil if it dries.  Salt the boiling water and blanch the broccoli raab in it until bright green then remove and drain.  Pour the Orecchiette into the salted broccoli raab water and stir to separate individual pastas.  Cook according to package instructions.  While the pasta is cooking, chop the parboiled broccoli raab into bite sized chunks, removing any tough stems.   Drain fat from the sausage if necessary, add olive oil and saute the red peppers flakes (if using) for about 30 seconds, then add the chopped raab and the garlic scape pesto.  Sauté all together for another three or four minutes.  Add the vermouth and continue to cook until pasta is just barely al dente.  Drain the pasta and add to the pan.  Cook all together turning the mixture until the pasta is infused with the sauce and pasta is done.  Sprinkle with Romano cheese and turn again.  Serve with additional cheese.

I added this much pesto to the pan (this is half the recipe, for the two of us)

I added this much pesto to the pan (this is half the recipe, for the two of us)

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Baby Woodpeckers at the Feeder

Don’t you love this time of year?  I probably should take my feeders down in the summer.  There are plenty of insects and natural food available for the birds but I can’t resist the chance to see the babies close up as they try to figure out how to get a quick and easy meal.  I have three species of woodpeckers visiting my small upside-down suet feeder; Downy, Hairy and Red-bellied.  We also have Northern Flickers nesting in the yard and are visited by Pileated Woodpeckers but only the previous three species visit the little feeder by my kitchen window.  Unlike many species where all the work is left to the female, both sexes of woodpeckers are excellent parents and both sexes develop brood patches so they can take turns sitting on the eggs.

In this picture you can just make out Mr. Red-belly's brood patch (where the feathers separate between his legs).

In this picture you can just make out Mr. Red-belly’s brood patch (where the feathers separate between his legs).

Later both parents teach the young the life skills they need to survive.  I watched Mr. Hairy Woodpecker patiently feeding his two demanding daughters and then take a big chunk off, presumably to Mrs. Hairy Woodpecker who may well now be on her next clutch of eggs.  One of the Downy babies has something wrong with one of her legs.  She can only hold on with one foot.  She seems to be able to extend the other foot a tiny bit more each day, so I think it will be usable in a few days.  Even if it isn’t, she seems able to cope quite well.

This Downy Baby Can Only Use One Foot

This Downy Baby Can Only Use One Foot

 

Here are a few “baby pictures.”

Is This How It's Done?

Is This How It’s Done?

A Young Hairy Woodpecker Waits Her Turn

A Young Hairy Woodpecker Waits Her Turn

Young Red-bellied Woodpeckers Have Brown Heads

Young Red-bellied Woodpeckers Have Brown Heads

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Elizabeth Park Rose Festival

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The Rose Garden

I spent Sunday morning at Elizabeth Park in Hartford, Connecticut helping my friend Michael Corcoran who had been asked to man a table at the Rose Festival Weekend and lecture on Restoring Native Plants to Support Our Native Birds and Butterflies.  Michael is passionate about this and  has lectured widely on the topic (click on the link for an article on his talk at Birdcraft this past year).  This also being one of my favorite topics, I was happy to help out.  After we got everything set up, his wife and I went to see the gardens which were ablaze with every color rose imaginable.  I enjoyed a special treat seeing the perennial garden and the shade garden, which I hadn’t realized existed in the park.

Perennial Garden View:  Daylilies and Siberian Iris

Perennial Garden View: Daylilies and Siberian Iris

Clematis Arbor

Clematis Arbor

Shade Garden View

Shade Garden View

 

Following are a few photos, just to give you a flavor of the roses themselves (click on any photo to enlarge).

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Hot Weather Protection For Lettuce

We are now entering the “Three H” (Hazy, Hot & Humid)” stage of the year and cool weather crops such as lettuce will bolt (go to seed) if they are not protected from the heat.  I’ve found I can extend my lettuce for another few weeks if I give it shade during the heat of the day.   I plant about three feet of lettuce (maybe a dozen plants) every five or six weeks and the lettuce I want to protect now was planted in April.  It’s at its peak of succulent perfection but will be toast soon in our 90º+ weather.  I’ll plant the rest of the lettuce this season in natural shade; between tomato plants and in the middle of my pole bean teepees.

To provide shade for my early lettuces and other cool weather crops, I devised a simple, inexpensive shade contraption from PCV plumbing piping found at the local home improvement big box store.  With four four-foot lengths of pipe, two tee connectors, some pipe cement, two 48″ plastic stakes and a sheet of plastic lattice cut in half, I got away quite cheaply and the arrangement has lasted many years.

1.  After assembly (fitting the pipes into the tee connectors and cementing them), pound the two tee pipe assemblies into the ground firmly at either end of the row, then lay the two stakes across and lash them to the tee.

Pound the post in firmly and lash the cross pieces to the frame.

Pound the post in firmly and lash the cross pieces to the frame.

2.  Lay one half of the lattice over the frame created by the tee and the stakes and lash it to the tee assembly.

Lash half of the lattice securely to the frame.

Lash half of the lattice securely to the frame.

3.  Lay the other half of the lattice on top of the first and lash it loosely to the first, keeping it loose enough to allow you to slide the secions over one another to vary the light getting through.

Tie the other half of the lattice loosely over the first so it can be moved about to adjust the size of the openings.

Tie the other half of the lattice loosely over the first so it can be moved about to adjust the size of the openings.

If you feel it will be extremely hot you can lay some summer-weight row covering over the whole thing and give it even more shade.

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Garlic Scape Pesto

Here's a container of pesto.  To keep it for the winter, I will freeze it in small cupcake papers and store them in a plastic bag.

Here’s a container of pesto. To keep it for the winter, I will freeze it in small cupcake papers and store them in a plastic bag.

Yes, more ways to use garlic scapes…  I got this idea last fall from a farmer at the Hudson Valley Garlic Festival in Saugerties, New York.  I took about a dozen scapes, (The pigtail like stems with flower buds that come up from the middle of the garlic plant) trimmed off the flower buds and pureed them in the food processor.  I then eyeballed the volume, added about 1/3 the amount of toasted walnuts (being annoyed at the price of pine nuts), 1/3 the amount of grated parmesan, olive oil to make it pasty and salt to taste.  It is great to drop a spoonful into rice , mashed potatoes or pasta.  I’ve used it as part of my sauce for Pasta Primavera, mixed it in with the potato for twice baked potatoes and put a dollop into soup.  The mild garlic flavor is a refreshing change from garlic paste.  The farmer told me she uses it as a cracker spread.  It might be a little strong for me in that application, but I haven’t tried it yet.

A spoonful mixed into rice at the very end gives a brightness without being too garlicky

A spoonful mixed into rice at the very end gives a brightness without being too garlicky

I scraped out the shell, mashed the potato and mixed some in, the sprinkled crisp bacon over the top and ran it under the broiler.  Yum!

I scraped out the shell, mashed the potato and mixed some in, the sprinkled crisp bacon over the top and ran it under the broiler. Yum!

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House Wrens: Good Neighbor/Bad Neighbor

Mrs. Wren, peeking out.

Mr. Wren delivers a spider’s egg sac to his mate.

This morning I was weeding my onions and listening to the excited chirping of the House Wren nestlings as the parents scurried back and forth carrying insects to the nest box.  The nestbox sits on one of the garden fenceposts.  I put it up, hoping for Bluebirds, but the spot hasn’t attracted them and I’ve let the House Wrens have it.  House Wrens are a mixed blessing.  Who hasn’t felt his heart lift on hearing the first joyful burble of their song when they return in the spring?  I like them in the garden because of all the insects they eat, and there’s the company.  I’m scolded if I come too close to the nestlings yet they will perch and watch me at work in the garden with what appears to be curiosity, not fear.  They have a very dark side, however, as they cannot bear to have another bird nesting within their territory.  Fortunately the territories are small.  I read that the average House Wren’s territory was no more than a circle with a diameter of 100 feet, but I watched one on a killing spree as it poked holes in the heads of four robin nestlings more than sixty feet from the nestbox (120 feet in diameter).  There are few good nest sites near my garden so I accept them for being my good neighbors and try to overlook the fact that they are very bad neighbors to other birds.

Naughty Neighbor

Naughty Neighbor

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More With Garlic Scapes: Stir Fry with Chicken and Snow Peas

Stir Fry of Chicken, Mushrooms and Vegetables (Note the fork.  I am inept with chopsticks)

Stir Fry of Chicken, Mushrooms and Vegetables (Note the fork. I am inept with chopsticks)

The garlic scapes are coming on strong now so I made a stir fry using them.  I used one boneless, skinless cubed chicken breast that I marinated for half and hour in Tamari sauce (soy sauce) as the protein and for vegetables, snow peas, garlic scapes, onion, asparagus and some sweet red bell pepper for color.  I added mushrooms using some of the Hen o’ the Woods that I collected last fall, sauteed and froze.  These are probably too many vegetables for a purist, but I must use what is fresh in the garden while it is at its peak and stir fry is unsurpassed for this.  The trick with stir fry is advance preparation.  Have everything sliced and arranged in order of how you plan to add it to your wok ahead of time.  Mix the final thickening sauce and have it ready in a side dish to add at the end.  Have any spices you wish to add (I added red pepper seeds) ready to go.  I used brown rice that takes 45 minutes to cook so I began that ahead of time and did the rest of my preparation while it was cooking.

Clockwise from upper left:  onions, mushrooms, snow peas and asparagus tips, red pepper pod (to break open for seeds), red bell pepper, asparagus stems; and center- garlic scapes.  Thickening sauce, chicken broth and soy sauce at the sides

Clockwise from upper left: onions, mushrooms, snow peas and asparagus tips, red pepper pod (to break open for seeds), red bell pepper, asparagus stems; and center- garlic scapes. Thickening sauce, chicken broth and soy sauce at the sides

1.  First drain any marinade and cook the chicken pieces in the wok, stir frying them in hot oil (I used safflower which is less likely to smoke with a few drops of sesame oil for flavor).  Remove and set aside.

2.  Add the vegtables, putting in the ones that take the longest to cook first.  For my combination, it went like this:

  • onions & mushrooms – stir fry about three minutes then add red pepper seeds and any other seasonings;
  • asparagus stems and garlic scapes – stir fry about 1 minute;
  • red pepper, snow peas and asparagus tips – stir fry one minute.

3.  Pour in about 1/2 C. of chicken broth, add back the chicken and cook about 1 to 2 minutes more, until the chicken heats back up.

4.  Add the final thickening sauce which is 1 Tbsp. cornstarch dissolved in 1/4 C. chicken broth with a Tbsp. of soy sauce.  Stir until the sauce clears and thickens.  Serve over rice.

All Ready for the Rice

All Ready for the Rice

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