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Blog

bella terra: long overdue

Andrea

My goodness.  I have really been slacking on the bella terra posts.  And its a shame, really, because things are progressing beautifully in our little garden.  And now, looking at all of the pictures I've uploaded I feel a bit overwhelmed because there are so many things to tell you all about.

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Such as how strawberries make a lovely addition to a simple salad, especially when you drizzle poppyseed dressing over the top. And how sugar snap peas are a fine enhancement for that same salad with their delightful crunch and sweet flavor.  Oh, and that lettuce and spinach?  Fresh from our garden as well.  All the rain we've had this year has kept our lettuces very happy, we didn't have nearly the bounty in 2008 as we've had this summer.

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And I can't forget to mention that a strawberry rhubarb syrup is delicious spooned over a lemon bundt cake, a recipe I'll share with you as soon as I can weed through the gazillion other drafts waiting (im)patiently in my drafts folder.

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And what about the blackberries?  They've multiplied exponentially this year, completely taking over the southern edge of the garden and providing respite from the afternoon sun for the tender herbs, onions and lettuces in their shadow.

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Even as I write this post, these pictures I am about to share with you are already inaccurate.  For now, the blackberries have started to turn a rosy red.  In just a few weeks they will morph into plump purple berries the size of my thumb and provide endless possibilities for jams, pies and ice creams.  I can't wait.  I really can't.

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But the sugar snaps, they are our greatest accomplishment yet this season.  In years past we've started the seeds to0 late, so that just as the plants are starting to produce the heat zaps them and they crumple to the ground, leaving us with just enough peas to munch on in the garden but never enough to make it back to the kitchen.  This year though, we've got more peas than we know what to do with.  Each day I am bringing a bowl-full inside after popping half a dozen into my mouth while picking.  They are delicious in salads and added last-minute to a stir-fry.  The less you cook them the better - you don't want them to lose their wonderful crunch.

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My latest use for sugar snaps comes from the June 2009 issue of Bon Appetit.  The peas added a nice sweetness to a salad that threatened to be overwhelming with its spicy radishes, red onions and caesar dressing.  I loved the textures as well - the crunchy sugar snaps and radishes were a nice compliment for the softer potatoes.  Its a nice addition to any picnic or cook-out, and if you make it just for you there will be plenty for lunch all week long.

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I decided to make this salad the day before we were to join some friends for dinner, thinking that potato salad is always more delicious after having sat overnight in the fridge.  And it was delicious the second day, although no more so than the first, and certainly less beautiful.  The vibrant colors you see below were captured just after the salad was assembled, with the potatoes still slightly warm.  The next day all of the colors mellowed and meshed together, leaving a not-nearly-as-nice presentation.  I won't make the mistake again.

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Caesar Potato Salad with Sugar Snap Peas

from Bon Appetit, June 2009

Ingredients:

  • 1-1/2 lbs unpeeled assorted baby potatoes, cut cross-wise into 1/2 inch slices

  • 8oz trimmed sugar snap peas

  • 1 bunch radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced

  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced

  • 1/4 cup olive oil

  • 3 tbsp fresh lemon juice

  • 1 tbsp dijon mustard

  • 1 garlic clove, pressed

  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan


Method:

  1. Steam potatoes on steamer rack set in large pot until almost tender, about 10 minutes.  Add sugar snap peas and steam until crisp-tender, about 1 minute.  Transfer veggies to a large bowl, cool slightly, then add radishes and onion.

  2. Whisk olive oil, lemon juice, garlic clove and dijon mustard together in a small bowl until well blended.  Whisk in parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.

  3. Add dressing to potato mixture and toss to coat.  Serve warm or at room temperature.