Posts tagged homesteading

A Garden Grows in Manhattan

The summer solstice brings blinding sun and sizzling temperatures to the city garden. Days like today require a watering in the morning and again in the evening. The scarlet runner beans were attacked by some invisible enemy, but they may recover. Cabbage worms and aphids are jerks, but a little garlic and pepper spray seems to keep them at bay. Nearly all the spring greens have been harvested, as have the first beets, fennel, peas, and some garbanzo beans. Every morning, we bring in a handful or two of ground cherries.

Heirloom tomatoes: green zebra and Omar’s Lebanese

Tall telephone peas and the first blossoms of eggplant

The melon feels a bit behind schedule. Since we’re on the seventh floor, the cucumbers require hand pollination. (It’s not as dirty as it sounds.)

View through the garbanzo beans, and view toward the young willow tree.

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Four Rhubarb Jams with a Twist

Making your own jam enables you to move beyond the expected, like mixing rhubarb with ginger, lavender, or even balsamic vinegar. Here are four simple rhubarb preserves recipes interspersed with scenes from the heather garden in Fort Tryon Park.

Lavender Rhubarb
6 cups of chopped rhubarb
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of local honey
2 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoons of lavender flowers, placed in tea infuser

Place all ingredients in kettle over medium heat, stirring occasionally for an hour or so, until it reaches your desired consistency. Discard lavender. Spoon jam into dishes and freeze, or process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Place lavender flowers in tea infuser.

(Does it look like there’s a baby in this flower?)

Ginger Rhubarb

(Slight variation from Lavender Rhubarb)
6 cups of chopped rhubarb
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup of local honey
2 tablespoons of water
1 tablespoons of finely ground ginger

Place all ingredients in kettle over medium heat, stirring occasionally for an hour or so, until it reaches your desired consistency. Spoon into dishes and freeze, or process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Balsamic Vanilla Rhubarb
Inspired by Delectable Musings
6 cups of chopped rhubarb
2 cups of water
2 cups of sugar
2 tablespoons of honey
Dash of vanilla extract
1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar

Place all ingredients except for balsamic vinegar in kettle over medium heat, stirring occasionally for an hour or so, until it reaches your desired consistency. Add balsamic and return to boil for five minutes more. Spoon into dishes and freeze, or process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Rhubarb Orange
Slightly adapted from Ball Home Preserving
2 oranges (nope, not local)
5 cups of finely chopped rhubarb
1 package of natural fruit pectin
3-4 cups of sugar

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel from one orange and cut into very thin slivers. Squeeze juice from both orange and add water until filling one cup. Combine orange juice, orange peel, juice, and pectin and whisk until dissolved. Bring to boil over medium-high heat, stirring frequently. Add sugar and return to boil, stirring constantly for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat and skim off foam. Spoon into dishes and freeze, or process in boiling water bath for 10 minutes.

Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peel from one orange.

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Roasted Asparagus with Rhubarb Sauce

There comes a moment in late April when the earth seems to rustle from a cold, white winter. A pair of my favorite spring signals—asparagus and rhubarb—recently appeared at the farmers market. Here is one way to marry them in a dish, served with warm cornbread.

Roasted Asparagus with Rhubarb Sauce

Inspired by a handful of sources
Serves 4 and costs about $6

1 pound or so of asparagus, trimmed
1 tablespoon olive oil
2-3 tablespoons butter
3-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tablespoon of grated ginger
4-5 stalks of rhubarb, diced
1 tablespoon of local honey

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place asparagus in an even layer in tin foil and coat with olive oil, salt and pepper to taste. Wrap the foil around the asparagus, creating a tent with a small opening in the top if you’d like. Roast on a cookie sheet for 15 minutes.

As asparagus roasts, melt butter in skillet over medium heat until it caramelizes. Add garlic, ginger, and rhubarb, cover pan and cook for about 5 minutes. Stir in honey and lower heat.

Remove asparagus from oven and divide stalks on plates. Spoon rhubarb sauce over asparagus, and add a dash of salt or pepper, if you’d like.

Rhubarb stalks may be red or green, and frequently somewhere in between.

Skillet Corn Bread
Adapted from Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook
Makes one skillet and costs about $5

1 1/2 cups cornmeal
1 tablespoon organic sugar
3/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon local honey
2 eggs
1 stick of butter

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Place 10-inch cast iron skillet in oven while preparing the batter. (Do this step first if making with asparagus recipe.) Whisk together all dry ingredients in large bowl. Combine wet ingredients (including honey) in a small bowl.

Remove skillet from oven and add butter. Add sizzling butter to wet ingredients. Combine wet and dry ingredients and mix until just combined. Scrape the batter into the hot skillet and bake for 20-25 minutes.

Oven mates: roasted asparagus and skillet cornbread.

I’ve read that asparagus is costly because it must be harvested by hand. Conjures a handsome image of farmers stepping lightly near hedgerows. After you’ve purchased your bundle of asparagus, eat it quickly, as its flavor begins to flatten immediately.

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Being Alive (Chicken with Minted Arugula)

With spring comes life. Bewitching hyacinth. Flourishing trees. Stretching seedlings. Breathtaking weddings. Last week, two of my greatest friends were married here in New York, and I’m still buzzing with joy. I had a front row seat at the celebration of their new life together, and was charmed by this ceremony song, Being Alive:

Spring also sparks a change in local food. We’re beginning to see cool spring greens, spicy herbs, and—soon—tangy rhubarb. Learn more about what’s in season at my Farmers’ Market class this Saturday.

Stuffed Chicken Breasts
Inspired by The Beekman 1802 Heirloom Cookbook
Serves 2 and costs about $16

1 tablespoon of butter
2 shallots
5 ounces of spinach
Dash of sugar and salt
4 ounces of soft, smoky cheese, shredded
2 eggs
Dash of olive oil
Dash of oregano and black pepper
2 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts, raised and butchered humanely
2 tablespoons of lemon juice

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In an oven proof skillet, melt butter over medium-low heat. Add shallots and cook until tender. Add spinach and cook until just wilted. Sprinkle with sugar and salt and cook until most of the liquid evaporates.

Add cheese, eggs, oil, oregano, pepper, and spinach mixture to a medium bowl. Using the back of a butter knife, carefully loosen the skin from the chicken breast, being careful not to remove it. Slide spinach mixture under the skin of the chicken.

Return chicken to oven proof skillet, pour lemon juice over breasts and bake for 35-40 minutes. Depending on the size of the chicken, you may wish to cover the pan for portion of the cooking time.

Minted Arugula Salad
Inspired by Apartment Gardening
Serves 2 and costs about $3

Two handfuls of arugula
1 handful of mint leaves, torn
1 lemon
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste

Divide arugula and torn mint onto two plates. Zest the lemon into a small bowl, add the juice, olive oil, and seasonings. Whisk well and pour over greens.

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Apple Cinnamon Butter

7:45am is one of my favorite times of the day. There is a quiet in my apartment that is palpable. The sun glows over the buildings on Broadway, and I can hear the whispered hum of my refrigerator. In only an hour, I’ll be on the subway headed for the tangled wilderness of midtown Manhattan, but for now I have the world to myself.

Apple Cinnamon Butter
Makes 12 4-once jars

6-7 apples, cored and peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
5 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of sugar
2 teaspoons of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
1/2 teaspoon of ground cloves

Place apples in large pan, add water and bring to boil over high heat. Boil until apples break down, upwards of 30 minutes. Mash in pan or puree apples in blender.

Return apples to pan, and add sugar and spices. Bring to a boil and then simmer for a few hours, until the sauce reaches your desired consistency.

Freeze, or process in water bath for 10 minutes.

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No-Can Pumpkin Pie

Over the holidays, I was overwhelmed by the amount of blogs, episodes, and photos that centered on pumpkin pie. They all looked really great, but I noticed that only one or two recipes did not use pumpkin puree from a can. Whether you’re nervous about BPA levels from canned food or are just hoping to go completely homemade, this is for you.

Pumpkin Pie
Adapted from Martha Stewart and Kitsap Sun
Makes one pie and costs about $5

Shortbread pie crust
4 tablespoons of butter, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
2 egg yolks
1 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon sea salt

2 cups of pumpkin puree (see below)
1/2 cup milk
3 eggs
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
Dash of ground cloves and ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon

To make pumpkin puree, choose one baking or cheese pumpkin, remove seeds and chop into 2-inch pieces. (Some farmers sell slices of cheese pumpkins good for one recipe.) Roast, skin side down for 45 minutes at 375 degrees.

Meanwhile, prepare shortbread crust. Mix butter and sugar in a bowl. Fold in eggs, flour, and sea salt. Press crust into 9-inch pie pan and stick in freezer for 20 minutes. Remove from freezer, let stand for 5 minutes, and then add to oven with pumpkin puree for 15 minutes. Remove and set on wire rack.

Withdraw pumpkin from the oven, and slice off peels from the flesh. (Some folks will say to let the pumpkin sit for 1 hour. I don’t have that kind of time.) Working in batches, add pumpkin to food processor or blender and puree. Measure 2 cups of puree and freeze the rest for a later use. Add all of the ingredients for the filling to the bowl and mix well. Add more milk if necessary.

Pour wet ingredients into shortbread crust and bake for 45 minutes at 350 degrees.

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Cranberry Apple Chutney

This is a winner. Tart, sweet, savory, chewy, and sour. All at the same time. Will wonders never cease?

Cranberry Apple Chutney

Adapted from a few sources
Makes about two pints for about $5

1/2 onion of your choosing, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, minced
1/2” piece of ginger, finely chopped
4 cups of cranberries, chopped
1 apple, cored, chopped (and peeled, if you’d like)
1 cup of water
1/3 cup of apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup of golden raisins
1 cup of packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon of sea salt
Dash of cinnamon

In a soup kettle, saute onion, garlic and ginger over medium heat for a few minutes. Add remaining ingredients and cook for 40-45 minutes over medium-low heat.

Serve warm or cold. Refrigerate, freeze, or can preserve.
Slowly cook down over medium-low heat.

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Thyme Shortbread with Cardamom

I’m not much of a baker, although I give it a shot from time to time (like here, here, and here). I usually get my baking fix by perusing the gazillion baking blogs out there. My taste tends to land on the savory-sweet, or salty-sweet. When I saw a few recipes for shortbread, my mouth got feverish. I came up with a concoction of my own, in which I used too much butter (America’s health crisis is nestled in that muggy crust), so I’ve adjusted the recipe below for what I think will make the ideal amount.

Thyme Shortbread
Makes a baking sheet of shortbread for about $4

2 cups of flour (check for local options)
13-15 tablespoons of unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1 cup of sugar
6 sprigs of thyme, leaves pushed off of stalk
3/4 teaspoon of cardamom

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Using a pastry cutter or two knives (Edward Scissorhands-style), cut together all ingredients until they resemble a coarse meal.

Press dough mixture onto a baking sheet, and smooth with your hands. Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown. Remove pan, cool for 5 minutes, and cut shortbread into wedges. Cool completely and serve.

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Sweet Potato Pizza

I returned from a week in San Francisco and noticed the leaves have departed Manhattan’s bony trees. A lazy walk through Fort Tryon Park confirmed that the seasons have officially clicked. The late autumn air is rich and vivid and the colors remind me of sweet potatoes. Bring on the carbohydrates!

Sweet Potato Pizza
Serves 4 and costs about $10

1 pizza dough, defrosted
1 sweet potato, scrubbed but not peeled
1-2 cups of pesto (my recipe below)
1 1/2 cups of Parmesan cheese, grated
1 bunch of beet greens
Olive oil, salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Roll out dough and place on pizza pan, drizzle with a little olive oil and bake for 5 minutes. Slice the sweet potato into thin rounds, place in a bowl, and mix with a tablespoon of olive oil and a few dashes of salt.

Remove pizza from oven and smooth pesto over crust. Sprinkle half of the Parmesan cheese over pesto, and then layer the sweet potato. Add salt and pepper to taste and top with remaining cheese. Return to oven and cook for 10-12 minutes more.

Meanwhile, wash and chop beet greens, discarding the thick stems. Add to a pot of boiling water and cook for a few minutes. Drain and towel dry, and add to pizza. Return pan to oven and cook for five minutes, until beet greens start to crisp.
Third attempt at spreading the dough.

Choose a sweet potato that is long and lean.

Fort Tryon Park in Manhattan.

Earthy Pesto
Makes about 4 cups and costs about $4

1/2 cup of pine nuts or walnuts
6 cloves of garlic
6 cups of fresh basil, parsley, and/or kale (try mixing them as well)
Salt and pepper to taste
1 1/2-2 cups of olive oil

Place pine nuts and garlic in food processor and pulse until well mixed. Add basil (or parsley, etc.) and seasonings to taste. With blade running, slowly add olive oil until you’ve reached the desired consistency. Refrigerate or freeze.

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