My goodness. I have really been slacking on the bellaterraposts. 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Caesar Potato Salad with Sugar Snap Peasfrom Bon Appetit, June 2009
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
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.
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.
Add dressing to potato mixture and toss to coat. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Do you ever have nights when you just don’t feel like spending a lot of time in the kitchen? I know you do. I can usually tell early in the afternoon when it is going to be one of those nights because I am either dreading the process of preparing what we’ve got on the menu or I have no interest in thinking about something to cook. Leftovers come in handy on such nights as do Amy’s pizzas stashed in the freezer. Sometimes a quick batch of guacamole won’t seem too daunting and Brian and I will spend the evening snacking on seven-layer dip, other times we resort to picking up the phone and ordering various tofu dishes from our favorite Chinese take-out place. But my favorite no-effort meal is, by far, of the crusty loaf of bread, hard cheese and simple salad variety.
I was in one of these moods on Sunday after arriving home from the cabin. We’d spent the weekend cooking in a foreign kitchen for extra people - which was a blast - but by the time we got back to our own house and unloaded the car and the coolers of leftover food I knew that there would be no cooking happening that evening. Even so, a grocery trip was on the afternoon agenda so that I could pick up necessary ingredients to eventually make this and these for Meghann'sblogger bake sale [during which she made an incredible amount of money and exceeded her fundraiser goal by over $1000!!!]. I hadn't made a menu for the week so spent the first 10 minutes or so wandering through the produce department looking for inspiration. And I saw these:
Radishes and I don't have much of a history. In fact, until Sunday, I didn't think that I even liked radishes. But as I stood in front of the deep scarlet globes in the middle of a very busy produce department and racked my brain trying to think of why I didn't like them I could not come up with one recollection of ever actually eating a radish. Maybe once or twice, shaved over baby greens on a salad, but never on their own or displayed proudly and prominently as a key ingredient in a dish. And, since I'd been reading Molly's book while in West Virginia and had come across this recipe, I decided it was time to give the bright red beauties a fair review.
I even, coincidentally, picked up Plugra. The same salted European butter that Molly recommends on Orangette for this very treat, although I didn't know it at the time. Armed with a French baguette I arrived home and happily announced to Brian and our last lingering house guest that we would be having sliced, salted radishes on fresh bread for dinner, along with a salad. Though they weren't convinced at first (and we did add a hunk of fresh sheep's milk cheese from the local farmer's market to the mix, separate from the radish ensemble) they came around after the first bite. For thinly sliced radishes with delicately shaved butter and sea salt on a fresh baguette is a delicious combination. Truly.
So impressed was I with my first official radish experience that I came home from the office today to make a salad with radishes for lunch, stopping first at the local market for an avocado. I made this soup [scroll to bottom] for dinner last night and knew that it was destined to be my mid-day meal, but couldn't resist the urge for fresh Spring greens to accompany it. A quick search on epicurious for a good radish salad [remember, I'm new to them] yielded this recipe. The avocado and fresh cilantro seemed to be the perfect compliment for the radishes and ultimately my spicy tomato-based soup, and I wasn't disappointed. Oh radish, I'm your newest fan.
The recipe describes a lovely presentation for the salad on the plate, but in the name of time [and simplicity], I just dumped everything in a bowl. It was still delicious, although the display would be lovely if you have the time.
Radish and Avocado Salad with Fresh Cilantromodified from epicuriousserves 2
leafy green lettuce, such as butter or bibb
1 ripe avocado, peeled, pitted and sliced
4 medium radishes, halved and sliced thinly
2 tbsp fresh cilantro leaves
1 tbsp minced shallot
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp cabernet vinegar (I'm out of champagne vinegar, which the recipe calls for)
2 tsp dijon mustard
Whisk last 4 ingredients together to make dressing. Divide first 4 ingredients into 2 bowls and drizzle dressing on top.
The recipe describes a lovely presentation for the salad on the plate, but in the name of time [and simplicity], I just dumped everything in a bowl. It was still delicious, although the display would be nice if you have the time.