Archive for September, 2008

Bruschetta Vinaigrette Veggie Salad du Jour

Tuesday, September 30th, 2008

How’s that for a mouthful of salad and my latest craze for fast food lunches? Being the cook book lover and foodie that I am reading recipes is at the top of my list. So I tried an intriguing black bean and sweet potato salad last week from one of the magazines I read. It had an olive oil, balsamic vinegar, garlic, cilantro dressing with chopped tomato in it. How can you lose with some of our favorite flavors?

What I realized after making the salad was that it tasted very much like a tomato bruschetta with added elements. So the next time I skipped the recipe and made my favorite bruschetta mixture with fresh chopped tomato (2 medium), 2 cloves chopped garlic, 2 T. extraordinary olive oil, 2 T. balsamic vinegar, 1/2 cup fresh basil, salt and fresh ground pepper. (Let it stand a while to let the many flavors blend with each other.) This time I tossed it with some leftover cooked quinoa and a can of navy beans and we had another winner.

As long as you have fresh tomatoes, fresh herbs and, of course, fresh garlic the possibilities are infinite.

A Penalty for Neglect, but a Reward at the End

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

This year’s garden has been far from great. I’ve been on the road so many weekends that weeding maintenance has suffered. I didn’t even get a lot of beds planted. The fallow beds were not mulched, so weeds are rampant. I’m playing catch up, but things are starting to look up. Geoff and Anneliese are doing most of the shows we have scheduled for the rest of this year, so I should be able to get the garden cleaned up and covered with leaves before the snow. I didn’t get my leaves raked before the snow last year and I paid the price. But if all goes well, I’ll be back to my normal planting schedule come spring.

The top picture shows two beds in disrepair. The bed on the left was once an herb bed. It still has a lot of lemon balm and two patches of horseradish, but it is mostly grass. It has been untended for two years. On the right is a bed that has only been neglected for a year, but grass, burdock, curly dock, dandelion and a whole lot more have established themselves.

I soaked the two beds with the lawn sprinkler yesterday. Today I used a garden fork to loosen things up, then I followed up on my knees pulling out clumps of weeds with a border fork. Hard work, but I was able to do an excellent job of getting the grass and the lemon balm out. Some of the burdock will show up again. It’s just not worth the effort to try to dig those deep roots out, but the dandelion and curly dock are out for the moment. All the weeds will come back if you let them. In better years, I’ve been able to do weeding patrols and scalp off most of them when they were small, but I must admit that even in good years some things get out of control.

When I hit the big clump of horseradish after about two hours of weeding, I decided to quit. Digging out the horseradish is going to be major excavation. I probably should rent a backhoe. The second picture shows how much I cleaned up, about a third of the two beds. I’ll try to finish them during the week.

My reward for today’s effort is a quart of horseradish. Good stuff! Making it involves a little work, too. The roots have to be cleaned and peeled. Then I use a food processor. It’s a two step process; first I shred the pieces, leaving them dry, then I grind them up, mixing in just enough white vinegar to keep the batch spinning without hanging up on the sides of the processor. Emptying out the food processor is the most fun. Like whiffing tear gas, it sure cleans out your sinuses. We keep the finished product in the refrigerator and put wax paper under the jar lid. The vinegar will attack the metal lid, otherwise.

Horseradish is considered a health-benefiting herb. It’s extremely easy to grow. The only major problem I’ve ever had with it is keeping it under control. Like the broom in the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, each little piece comes to life when it’s cut and left in the ground, and it spreads eagerly.

Attack of the Hyacinth Beans

Wednesday, September 10th, 2008

Dolichos lablab in front of the makeshift cinderblock wall that I built off my front porch. Now when I sit on the front porch I see this:

The view from the front

Once the plants were established I gave them no additional water other than the little bit of runoff that they got when I watered the potted plants on the porch. The vines thrived during the 100 degrees for days on end drought that we experienced in Austin this summer.

However, unlike the hyacinth beans that I grew last year at the South Austin Community Garden, these have yet to produce any flowers or bean pods and so far show no purple coloration.

I will need to prune them back from the walkway as they are starting to take after their killer cousins from The Center of the Earth