Archive for August, 2011

Roasted Salsa with Papalo

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

This year I decided to finally grow papalo, Porophyllum ruderale, also known as  quillquiña.  This herb has a flavor somewhat similar to cilantro, but unlike that plant, it has thrived throughout a summer of triple digit days.  Not having cooked with it before, it gave me an excuse to make a quick roasted salsa.


Papalo in Geoff's garden.


  • 1-2 tomatoes
  • Several hot peppers, I used a mix of fresh and dried peppers
  • 1-2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small onion
  • a handful of papalo leaves, chopped
  • 1/4 tsp salt

Heat a cast iron skillet on low.  Cut the stems off of the peppers.  I leave the seeds in the peppers, but you can remove them if you want the salsa to be less hot.  Peel the onion and cut it in half.  Roast the tomatoes, peppers and onion in the skillet without oil and turn them occasionally.  Remove when they get a few black spots.

Roasting Salsa Ingredients

Roasting the salsa ingredients

Add the tomato to a blender and blend it first without the other ingredients.  You may have to cut the tomato into smaller pieces to get it to blend.  Once the tomato has liquified add the other roasted ingredients, a little at a time until they also get thoroughly chopped.  Then add the raw garlic, the papalo and the salt.  Blend another ten to fifteen seconds and you’re done.

Roasted Salsa with Papalo


Note:  papalo has a stronger flavor than cilantro, so you may want to use a small quantity if you are not used to its flavor.

T-Post Tomato Trellis

Sunday, August 21st, 2011

I finally built a tomato trellis that I’m happy with.  I knew this was a good approach years ago, but it was one of those projects I never took the time to complete.

I usually grow about 30 tomato plants in three rows in one of my 20 feet long by five feet wide beds.  Two years ago, when my crop was decimated by late blight, I learned that blight can be slowed by good air circulation.  Crowded and damp conditions greatly increase the chance of blight, and I certainly was crowding my plants.  I always had good fruit production, but until the blight hit, I didn’t realize I was setting myself up for problems because the plants were too close to breathe properly.

To increase the amount of air circulation around the plants, which I grow up through traditional conical tomato cages, I sloped the outer two  rows of cages outward  and planted the tomatoes farther apart in the rows across the bed.  To keep the cages from falling over as the tomato plants gain weight, I lace all the cages together with jute twine and tie cages adjacent to the T-posts to the posts.  This system will stand up to the strongest wind storms and no matter how heavy the plants get, they cannot pull over the cages.

In years past I set six T-posts per bed along the outside rows and just tried to tie the sprawling plants to the posts where possible.  It was obvious that cross bracing at the top would solve a lot of problems in forcing the plants growth upward.  This year, I used 8 posts per bed and laced branches across and around all the T-Posts at the top.  I’m bundling about three stems of tomatoes together and lacing those to the cross-branches above and back to T-posts wherever I can.  So far it’s working great.  Just a caveat, while good air circulation can reduce blight problems, there is no guarantee that it will prevent blight.

I try to keep the area at ground level pruned of any tomato stems and fruit that may want to lie on the ground.  I don’t mulch my plants for weed protection.  I did that once and had a slug infestation.  The plants seem to like having dry soil at ground level and keeping that area clean really improves air circulation.  I can also verify that a bed full of tomatoes planted intensively really reduces the amount of weeding required.

Lao Cucumber Salad

Wednesday, August 17th, 2011

Last weekend I went to a wedding on the Lao side of our family.  I took advantage of the trip to learn how to make spicy Lao style cucumber salad from my cousin Kristi’s husband, Sie.


3 medium cucumbers
5-6 Asian hot peppers
1 garlic clove
1 ½ tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
3 small tomatoes
2-3 TBS fish sauce
1-2 lime wedges

This salad can also be made with green papaya.  If using papaya, peel it first.  The cucumbers only need to be peeled if the skin is really thick.

Using a sharp knife chop the cucumber rapidly and shallowly in a lengthwise motion, only cutting about a ¼ inch deep.  Once the cucumber has been cut all the way around slice off the thin strips and repeat.  Continue until you get to the seeds.  If the seeds are mature, don’t use them.

Cuttin cukes for Lao salad

Sie demonstrates his knife technique. Watch your fingers!


Chopping cukes

Close up on the cucumber chopping.

Slicing thin cucumber strips.

Slice off the long thin pieces and then chop another layer.

Set aside the cucumber and add the peppers, garlic, sugar and salt to the mortar.  Use the pestle to thoroughly crush the mix.  Make sure that you crush these ingredients at the same time as the sugar and salt to help prevent the peppers from flying all over the place when they are smashed.

Peppers, garlic, sugar and salt.

The hot peppers and garlic about to be smashed with sugar and salt with a mortar and pestle.

Add the cucumber slices and crush some more, but with more of a mixing action than a crushing one.  Add the sliced tomatoes, lime juice and fish sauce to taste and mix a bit more.

Serve immediately and prepare to cry tears of joy from the hot peppers.

Finished cucumber salad.

The finished salad, spicy and delicious.

Potato Crusted Broccoli Rabe Quiche

Tuesday, August 9th, 2011

Try this satisfying and tasty quiche.  The potato crust takes less time than making a regular pie crust.  You don’t have to feel guilty about using using a little sour cream in the filling because you’re not using a quarter of a pound of butter in the crust.


2-3 cups shredded potatoes (2-3 medium size potatoes, peeled or not)

¼ cup finely chopped onion

2 T. Olive Oil

1 clove garlic, pressed

¼ tsp salt


1 cup shredded Swiss or other sharply flavored cheese

1 cup broccoli rabe, chopped and lightly cooked

4 farm fresh eggs

½ cup sour cream

Pinch of salt & pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees.  Toss potatoes, onion, garlic & salt with olive oil until oil is evenly distributed.  Press potato mixture onto bottom & sides of 9” greased pie pan.  Bake 15-20 minutes depending upon how thick your potatoes are.

While the crust is baking shred the chosen cheese.  Clean & chop 1 generous cup of broccoli rabe or other vegetable of your choosing and steam or simmer until barely tender.  Beat the eggs with the sour cream.

When the potato crust has baked for 20 minutes remove from oven and lower the heat to 350 degrees.  Spread the shredded cheese over the bottom of the crust, add the drained broccoli rabe and pour the egg mixture evenly over everything except the top edges of the potato crust.  Bake for another 30 minutes until the eggs are set and a testing knife comes out clean when stuck into the middle of the pie.

This dish is good any time of the day for breakfast, lunch or dinner!