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Lady Jane is Always the First to Bloom

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I always summer my Amaryllis bulbs in the garden and rest them for a couple of months in the fall.  I bring them up into the sunlight in late January to have some beauty in the cold days of winter.  I’ve had Lady Jane at least 20 years.  Happy Spring!!  [Click here for a link for full instructions that I posted earlier.]

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Happy Pi Day!!

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In celebration of Pi Day, 3/14, I made this raspberry pie from berries we picked last fall.  Yum!!

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Lemon-Ginger Rhubarb: A Pie for Summer

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In spring strawberry/rhubarb pie is one of my all time favorites but once hot weather sets in, the strawberries have gone by.  I still have lots of rhubarb and decided to make this pie which I’ve adapted from a friend’s recipe.  It requires an oven but I can bake in my toaster oven so it doesn’t heat up the house too much.  The lemon and ginger give it a refreshing flavor, nice with a tall glass of iced tea on a hot afternoon.

Lemon-Ginger Rhubarb Pie

  • Pastry for 2-9″ pie crusts [I use Pillsbury roll outs but don’t tell anyone!]
  • 3 1/2 C diced rhubarb
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. AP flour
  • 1 lightly beaten egg
  • 1 Tbsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 tsp. grated ginger root (or ginger paste), or to taste
  • 1/2 C water
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 Tbsp. butter

Preheat oven to 425º.  Spread diced rhubarb evenly in a pastry lined 9″ pie pan.  Using a double boiler (or being extremely cautious using a regular saucepan), blend sugar and flour then stir in the remaining ingredients, stirring constantly over low heat until smooth and somewhat thickened.  Pour over the rhubarb and cover with top crust.  I like to make a lattice crust and sprinkle crystallized sugar on it for this one.  Bake 30 minutes.  Protect edges if they brown too soon.

 

 

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Garden Update and a Recipe

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I found this post on my computer just now from about 5 weeks ago, so I’m posting it now.  I apologize for the lateness and promise to try and do better.  Between four trips and getting the garden caught up. I have not been diligent about my postings!

The Sugar Snap peas are ripe and we’ve had our first stir fry of the season.  The first fawn of the year was born in the yard a couple of days ago.  The long cold spring is over and I’m finally finishing up my spring planting and transplanting.  This year I am trying a few grafted tomato plants after hearing a friend rave about them.  I picked tried and true varieties:  Brandywine, Early Girl, Cherokee Purple, Goliath, Big Beef and Delicious.  They were a third the size of the ones I had grown under lights so I found my old “Walls of Water” and used them for the grafted plants.  This worked quite well and they are catching up to the others.

The broccoli raab (true to form) matured quickly, provided us with several meals and is now going to seed, all in less than 8 weeks.  My favorite way to use it is sauteed and used as a pasta sauce with sausage and orecchietti, a dish I learned long ago in Italy.  The customary pasta shape for this dish is the orecchietti (little ears) as the shape cradles the thin sauce so it doesn’t puddle on the plate.  When I made it a couple of days ago I found I had run out of orecchietti and used linguine instead.  To be sure the pasta is flavorful I cook it just short of al dente and added it to the pan with the sausage, raab and sauce (for which I just use a big splash of dry vermouth and a bit of pasta water).  I turned the ingredients over and over until some of the sauce was absorbed and served it with grated Romano cheese.  Delicious!

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Broccoli Raab with Sausage and Linguini

Broccoli Raab with Sausage and Orecchietti (for 2)

  • 1 pound (or less) loose hot Italian sausage (you can also get the links and remove the casings) If the hot is too hot get the sweet and add red pepper flakes to taste.
  • 1 Tbsp. olive oil
  • About 4 cups packed broccoli raab (tender stems, tops and leaves)
  • 2 large cloves garlic chopped (or chop up a garlic scape)
  • About 1/2 cup dry vermouth
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 pound orecchietti (or other pasta, something with a cup to catch the sauce preferred but not required)
  • Grated Romano cheese

Bring pasta water to boil, salt it and blanch the raab leaves in it.  Remove the raab as soon as it turns bright green, drain well and chop it coarsely.  Saute sausage in olive oil, breaking it up as it cooks.  If the sausage throws off a lot of fat, drain it before proceeding to the next step. Add garlic, pepper flakes and chopped raab and saute while the pasta cooks (in the same water you used to blanch the raab), adding more oil if needed.  Add vermouth and about 1/4 C. pasta water and stir, turning the sausage & raab in it until the pasta is done.  Drain the pasta, add it to the pan and continue to turn it gently until the sauce is nearly absorbed, adding salt & pepper to taste.  Grate on Romano cheese generously and mix it in.

Serve with additional Romano.

Added Note:  A reader named Judy asked for information about “Walls of Water.”  I answered in the comments and add a photo below.

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“Walls of Water” around a tomato seedling. In back you can see the kale from last year going to seed. I let it go for the bees.  They love it and there isn’t a lot around for them at this time of year.  The plants between the tomatoes are volunteer potatoes.  I never know where they’ll turn up!

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Success with Eggplant (almost)

Last summer I tried a new (to me) way for keeping my eggplant bounty over for use in the winter.  I’ve really been happy with how it has worked out.  I sliced it thinly, brushed the slices with a thin coat of olive oil and baked them spread out on cookie sheets at 350º until they turned golden brown.  That’s all; no breading and frying, no salting and draining.  When they cooled I froze them on cookie sheets, and when frozen, piled them into plastic bags and stored them in the freezer.  I’ve used them several times with excellent results.  Last weekend we were having guests for dinner and I made an eggplant lasagna (using the eggplant in place of the pasta sheets).  Since I didn’t want to defrost any more eggplant slices than I needed, I got out my container and counted out the slices I would need.

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I decided to make it a double layered dish, one of meat, one of cheese.

I used my marinara sauce and my adaptation of Marcella Hazan’s Bolognese sauce, both made last summer.

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A base of marinara topped by a layer of eggplant slices.

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A layer of Bolognese, then add another layer of eggplant slices.

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Add a layer of cheese.  I mix ricotta with Parmesan, egg, S&P and dried herbs (since I have no fresh yet) and then a final layer of eggplant.

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Top with a final layer of marinara.

After this I got busy with preparations for guests and forgot to take any more pictures (sorry!) but I covered it with foil and baked it at 350º for about 40 minutes until all was bubbling.  I then removed the foil, added a layer of mozzarella and put it back at 400º melting the cheese and browning it slightly.  It made a beautiful lasagna, very light, not at all heavy or greasy.

There was only one problem:  The husband was allergic to eggplant!

“You should have told me!”

“I thought, what is the likelihood of her serving eggplant?”

“Coming to a gardener’s house?  Better than average…”

 

 

 

 

 

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Madagascar 4: The Rain Forest

We went from the Spiny Forest, climbing through terraced rice paddies to reach the rain forest.  This ever dwindling natural resource of dramatically different habitats is brimming with still more unique species like geckos and chameleons.  It took quite a while to pick out this Mossy Leaf-tailed Gecko until he moved.

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Mossy Leaf-tailed Gecko

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Up and about

Much of our exploration was through challenging terrain with long drives in 4 wheel drive vehicles on horrible roads to begin our hikes into the forest.  Those hikes were physically arduous but the rewards were great:

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Like this Collared Nightjar – a bird’s nest in a bird’s nest fern,

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a Giraffe Beetle,

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Jewel-like pill bugs,

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a Madagascar Malachite Swallowtail and

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A Paradise Flycatcher nest with babies.

Plus there were all the frogs, snakes and more birds, not to mention more lemurs like the Indri, with their haunting calls.

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An Indri family group.  You can hear their calls at this link from Wikipedia

Near the end of our trip we had lunch beside this lovely forest pond where we enjoyed watching endemic waterbirds; a family of Madagascar Little Grebes and a pair of Meller’s Ducks.  A day or two later I was finally struck down by Madagascar’s “travelers complaint,” an ailment that had hit the rest of the group earlier.  I was fairly incapacitated after this, getting home on Imodium and finally resorting to Cipro (a must for anyone contemplating this wonderful adventure).  This trip is full of sights everyone needs to see.  Beside the amazing wildlife, there are lessons here on so many levels, especially on the effects of our misuse of natural resources because we put immediate human needs above the future of our environment.  This is a lesson we need to heed right here at home.

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Lunch by the pond

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A Bittersweet Week

 

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Here’s Pete at age three. Look at that jacket! Madras was in style.

This week saw the third anniversary of my oldest son Pete’s death from lung cancer and, two days later, my birthday.  Pete was a smoker, so one could say that he should have known better but there’s no way that rationalization can make those of us who loved him feel any better about it.  He is sorely missed.

He was a natural mechanic with an innate understanding of engines.  I didn’t think he needed a car of his own when he turned 16.  After all, he could use my car and we lived within walking distance of school.  I came home one day to find two VW Beetles in the driveway, one of which was given to him and the other one he had bought for a dollar.  Neither of them ran but I watched in awe as he built a functioning car piece by piece from the two old hulks.

“How do you know how to do this?” I asked.

“It’s just logical, Mom,” he said.

Heaven is a better place with you in it, Pete.  I just hope they have machinery for you to tinker with.

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Here he is with his wife, Sue, at our middle son’s wedding. He was about six weeks into his chemo at that point and had lost quite a bit of weight.

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