Garden Update #4 – The bitchin new garden box

dsc_04602Ohhhhhhhhhhh yeah, don’t tell me you aren’t liking my new garden box. It’s awesome. With all the warm weather, and lots of helpful parents around to convince my already sure husband to buy another power tool, the little beauty above was born. Why is this so glorious? well for one, it’s about 2+ feet off the ground which is great for both my back and for the limited space we have to garden in. It’s great for herbs and shallow rooted lettuce-type items, and in fact we used the University of Maryland Salad Box as the inspiration. I had seen it demonstrated on the Martha Stewart show one day when I was home sick from work. We made the box a bit more “urban sized” – so 15″x50″ and used 1×6″ boards as the sides so it could be a bit deeper than the 2x4s the UM folks suggest. I placed some of our basil seedlings, plus I added golden beet seeds, swiss chard seeds and parsley seeds. I’ll keep updating to let you know if this bad boy is all it is cracked up to be. 

In the meantime, some new additions to our garden over the weekend:

dsc_0456Baby mint plants which will hopefull grow into many mint juleps down the road. Our plant from the last place didn’t survive the winter, and my hubby convinced me not to plant the mint in the ground (which we have very little of anyway) because it will take over. I am convinced, however, that it is much harder to keep potted perrennials alive than it is to keep the ones planted in the ground… 

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dsc_0458And as an exception to my earlier comment about potted perrennials, the chives we planted last year have re-emerged in glorious form. We also still have the seedlings which got potted this weekend so I am hopeful we’ll be awash in chives all summer. The thyme which was in the same long pot as the chives is also starting to show some promise of growth, so we’ll see!

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Garden Update #3

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Just a brief update … Progress is being made by leaps and bounds for the seedlings in our kitchen. The basil seedlings above have been slow in advancing, but in the last week or so we’ve seen a lot of growth. The tomatoes have really taken off since we did the intermediate transplanting from the Burpee seed starter to the peat pots:

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We just picked up some compost to mix in with the soil as we prepare to move all the plants outside. Since it’s Boston, and it’ll be in the high 30s tonight, we won’t be doing our final transplant outside for another 3 weeks or so. In addition to the tomatoes, basil and chives, we’re hoping to build an herb box for parsley, the basil, and possibly a few other savories. The box will be modeled after the University of Maryland Salad Table but likely on a slightly smaller scale so we can fit it on our front porch.

Garden Update #2

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After reading about it on Local Kitchen , we decided to transpant our seedlings from the Burpee seed starter flat into intermediate pots to give them more room to grow. The seedlings in the starter flat were becoming a tangled mess and worse, the dirt had all begun to mold over on top. The Burpee kit comes with a watering pad, which keeps the seedlings moist and saves me the trouble of having to water them every day, however the mold is definitely an unpleasant side effect.  The seedlings all seem to be thrilled with the new arrangement. The tomatoes (above), have really taken off in the last few days.

Update on the Garden

Basil seedlings - The beginnings of something good

Basil seedlings - The beginnings of something good

I thought I would post an update on the early stages of our summer garden. We planted seeds about 3 weeks ago in a Burpee starter kit and we are definitely seeing a good start to our summer herbs and vegetables. At the moment, we have everything on top of a wicker chest in front of the kitchen window (which faces West). Unfortunately, with the way homes are here in Boston (one on top of the other), getting good sunlight from a lower level window is nearly impossible, so we’ve supplemented our natural light with 2 grow bulbs which are on about 12 hours a day. Here is what the set-up looks like:

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We’re hoping to get the seedlings hearty enough to plant outside in mid-May, so they’ll be able to thrive and produce tomatoes, etc, a little earlier than last year. I know it would be far easier to buy the plants already well on their way from the local greenhouse, but there’s something very satisfying about seeing things grow from seed.

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Turkey Cutlet with a Side of Chard & Butter Beans

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Tonight’s dinner is a result of wandering around the local Whole Foods store since the only meat we had in the freezer was sausage, and we had some of that last night. I don’t know about you, but when they have the free samples out, especially in the cheese section, I always try them. So tonight’s sampling was a kalamata olive mixed with herbs and garlic (nice!) and a really delish sharp aged gouda cheese. The olives we left behind but the cheese definitely made it into the basket. The following dinner is very simple comfort food dialed up a tiny notch. Instead of using chicken breast, we picked up some super lean turkey breast at the store. Additionally, we grabbed some swiss chard. The butter beans, which I love for their large graphic quality and mild taste,  I had in the cabinet from a trip to the store a few weeks ago. I try to keep a variety of canned beans in the house so I can add them to soups or pastas, etc. Here are the recipes:

For the Swiss Chard and Butter Beans with Grated Cheese:

3-4 cloves of garlic, lightly smashed

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 16oz can of butter beans, drained and rinsed

1 bunch of swiss chard, stems removed

1/4 cup chicken broth

salt & pepper to taste

Finely grated gouda (parmesan or asiago cheese would work here too)

Saute the garlic in the olive oil on medium heat until it starts to get lightly browned, then add the beans and allow them to saute for 1 minute. Add the chard leaves, cut down into medium sized pieces, a generous pinch of salt and the chicken broth. Cover and lower the heat. Allow to simmer covered until the chard is completely wilted (maybe 5-6 minutes). You can remove the cover at this point and allow the excess broth to simmer off. Once most of the moisture is gone, the dish is ready. Plate a portion of the bean and chard mix and then grate the cheese over top.

In the meantime, while the chard is simmering away, you can get the turkey together. We purchased a package of already sliced and cleaned turkey breast, which my husband pounded out until they were reasonably thin (maybe 1/4 inch thick). This allows the cutlets to cook faster and more evenly. The following is the recipe for the turkey cutlets with a vermouth pan sauce:

1 package turkey breast, pounded thin

1 cup all purpose flour

generous pinch Herbs de Provence

generous pinch of garlic salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 tablespoon of butter + some for pan sauce (see below)

1/2 cup dry vermouth

Dredge the pounded out cutlets in the flour – I like to place the flour on a paper plate for easy cleanup after – and make sure there is an even dusting of flour over the entire cutlet. The flour  helps the turkey stay nice and moist. Place the cutlets on a piece of wax paper (or any flat surface) and sprinkle one side with the garlic salt and herbs de provence. In the meantime, start the heat at medium high under a frying pan with the olive oil and butter in it. Once the butter is melted and bubbling (but not brown), gently add the cutlets to the pan. You may have to do them in batches depending on the size of your pan:

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Saute the cutlets until they start to get brown on one side (3-4 minutes). Once they are nicely browned, flip the cutlets to allow them to brown on the other side. Once they are all nicely browned, remove the cutlets from the pan and repeat the process for any remaining cutlets. If you are doing more than 1 package of cutlets, you may have to add additional olive oil and butter to the pan to keep the cutlets from burning as they cook. Once all cutlets are finished, there should be a lot of good brown bits in the pan. Leaving the pan on medium high heat, immediately add the vermouth to deglaze the pan, stirring with a spoon and scraping up all those tasty brown bits to add flavor to the sauce. Add a pinch of salt and once the vermouth has cooked down some (maybe 2-3 minutes) add a teaspoon of butter (just a small amount) to finish the sauce. As soon as the butter is melted, turn off the heat and pour the sauce over the cutlets.

The vermouth adds a sweetness that goes very well with the somewhat more powerful herbs de provence and the butter at the end gives the sauce a bit more of a creamy feel. You could also use white wine to deglaze the pan or even just some chicken broth. The idea and the process are the same for both.

Planning for the Future…

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This is the first weekend my husband and I have both been home together in almost 5 weeks and we decided to take full advantage of it and scratch the spring fever itch by starting our summer garden. We started growing tomatoes together 2 years ago, the first summer that we lived together, and we had 4 enormous tomato plants plus basil, mint and cilantro. The garden has escalated ever since. This will be the 3rd growing season for us as a couple and this year we’ve got 3 kinds of tomatoes seeded (Tumbler, Early & Often and Big Mama!) and we’re expanding to try beets, swiss chard, jalapenos, chives and parsley. Plus we will have basil, mint and rosemary going as well. We’re hopeful that this, along with signing up for a farm share of produce, will be fodder for many excellent meals and posts this summer. We’re also going to attempt to compost for the first time with a compost bin our city provides (if you live in Somerville, I believe there is just a nominal fee for it!). Almost all of our growing is done in pots on our porch and along the side of the condo. It’s probably a good thing we live in a condo in a reasonably urban area, otherwise we’d be overwhelmed and overgrown with planting options…..

Stewed Chicken and Stuffed Artichokes, a collaboration

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It’s been a long week, and I don’t know about all of you but I am tired of the gloom and doom media sky-is-falling-it’ll-be-winter-forever feeling that seems to be in the air these days. Trying my hardest to look on the bright side and one thing that’s been positive about the economy is that both myself and my husband are cooking more (instead of going out) and tonight, we made dinner together which was  a really nice treat.  A little wine, a little cooking, and all of the heaviness of the workday seems to slip away, at least for tonight. Two recipes resulted from tonight’s collaborative dinner effort, the first is from my husband – he is responsible for the delicious chicken concoction pictured above. Here is the recipe:

3.5 lbs of chicken legs & thighs

1 can crushed tomato

1/2 container of mushrooms (6 oz)

1 cup nicoise olives

3 tablespoons rosemary

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1/2 cup white wine

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, crushed

salt & pepper to taste

Place olive oil in a large heavy sauce pan on medium-high heat, add garlic. Add chicken to the pan (you might have to do this in more than one batch) and brown on each side. Take chicken out and set aside. De-glaze pan with white wine, add tomato, mushrooms, olives and chicken (with juices from plate). Add rosemary and salt & pepper to taste, and allow to simmer for 45 minutes, covered. When almost ready to serve, add parsley.

Delicious!

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For my part of the bargain, I found some really inexpensive and nice-looking artichokes at Trader Joe’s last night and I decided to stuff them with some of the leftover breadcrumbs from last night’s pasta dish plus a few additions. The following is the recipe:

4 artichokes – these were fairly small – stems removed and cut in half

2 cups chicken broth – I like the free range boxed stuff from the supermarket

Juice of 2 lemons

Take the artichoke halves, place in a sauce pan with broth and lemon juice and simmer, covered, for about 20 minutes. Once they are done, remove the artichoke halves, but do not discard the broth.

1/2 onion

1/2 cup white wine

1 cup of toasted breadcrumbs – mine had some garlic and pancetta added in (see yesterday’s post on breadcrumb pasta)

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

2 tablespoons olive oil

Take the onion, slice it, and add it to the broth in the saucepan along with the white wine. Turn heat to medium low and allow the broth to reheat while you stuff the artichokes. To stuff the artichokes, mix the breadcrumbs with the cheese and parsley and olive oil. Take a spoon and gently spoon mixture between the leaves. I spooned it into every other layer – you can add as much or as little as you like. Once all the artichoke halves are stuffed, gently place them as upright as possible along the sides of the saucepan. Cover and reduce to a simmer, allow to simmer, covered, for 25-30 minutes.