In the Garden

I am SO excited for this year’s garden to start producing. So far we have eaten a few artichokes and a ton of raspberries from the yard and we have about 10 jalapenos ready to be eaten. This year is the first time we planted our tomatoes in wine barrels and raised beds instead of directly in the ground and I am anxious to see if they turn out as well as they have in the past. From the looks of it they are doing fairly well so far!

Tomatoes in April

Tomatoes in June

                          This year we tried to make the garden a little less maintenance since we are constantly out of town, so we really didn’t plant as many vegetables as we have in the last few years. We tried to focus on planting flowers and trees that would come back every year and be a little less demanding.

Right now we have fresno chilies, jalapeno peppers, green onions (we have those all year), cilantro, basil, rosemary, tomatillos, artichokes, raspberries, and my favorite, an asian pear tree. We bought the tree last year and it is already producing!! I snapped a photo of it on my iPhone last night to send my friend in New York who loves them as much as I do. I cannot wait for them to be ready for harvest!

We also planted grapes two summers ago and they are now TAKING OVER. I love it! We planted 4 plants, one at the base of each of the posts on our overhang in the backyard. They have been climbing and climbing and now are growing over the top and grapes have started poking out through the wood and hanging down. They have given us some much needed shade on that side of the house and they look green and pretty all summer long. Not to mention the grapes are delicious!

Stay tuned for lots more gardening photos and of course some recipes with all of the delicious tomatoes.

Advertisements

Chicken with Tomatillos and Roasted Chile Peppers

A coworker brought me some Fresno and Anaheim peppers from her garden this morning and I immediately started thinking of what I could use them for. I found a recipe for chicken breast covered in a mixture of tomatillos, onions, roasted poblano peppers, green onion, and bell peppers. It sounded good, but I knew I could make it better with a few alterations. So, I used that recipe as a starting off point, and mixed it up a little. The result- one of my favorite entrees I’ve ever made. It was delicious!

What you’ll need: (sounds like a lot of ingredients, but it really is easy!)

– 1 yellow onion, chopped

– 2 handfuls of tomatillos, chopped in quarters

– 4 anaheim (or poblano) peppers

– 1 fresno pepper, finely chopped

– 1 jalapeno pepper, sliced

– 4 green onions, chopped

– 1 large green bell pepper, chopped

– 3 garlic cloves

– 1 cup organic chicken broth

– 2 small organic chicken breasts, cubed

– 1 large tomato, chopped

– 3 Tbs. flour

– Dash of salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper

– 2 Tbs. cilantro

– Brown rice- not necessary but I thought it went well with this dish!

– If you don’t like a lot of spice, remove the fresno and jalapeno peppers- it will still taste delicious!

Directions:

– Cook your rice (I prefer the rice cooker to do all the work) and pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees to roast the Anaheim peppers. They need to roast at 450 for 25 minutes until their skin peels off easily. While the peppers are roasting, cube the chicken, coat in flour and salt and pepper, and cook in a skillet until lightly browned and cooked through. Next chop your yellow and green onions, garlic, tomatillos, fresno, jalapeno, and bell peppers and combine in a large pot. I use a large cast iron pot.

Doesn’t it already look delicious?!

Saute for a few minutes, and then add chicken broth. Bring to boil and let simmer while you peel the skin off of the anaheim peppers.

Chop anaheim peppers and add to the tomatillo mixture. Add salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.  Let simmer for 10 minutes. Stir in chopped tomato.

Serve over brown rice and garnish with cilantro.

And don’t forget dessert! Served on one of my favorite homemade cake stands!

Another Farmer’s Market Wednesday

Today I visited the farmer’s market twice. Once around 10:30 to beat the crowd and buy my fruit and veggies, and the again when I met my husband for lunch and we walked around to enjoy the weather and music. There is usually some sort of music playing at lunch time in the park on Wednesday’s and today it was especially good. I walked around listening to the man playing the sax and after a few seconds of wondering “why does this sound so familiar?” I realized he was playing a Michael Jackson song. I’d never heard a saxophone rendition of any Michael Jackson songs, but it was good! Gotta love Wednesdays!

Giant heirlooms. I wish mine grew like this!

The flowers at the market are so cheap!

The bundles were only $6 and the larger ones are just $10!

Bru-ske-tta

If you read my  Tomatoes Tomatoes Tomatoes post…you know that I have a garden full of tomatoes and in the summer, I eat them just about everyday.

I am always trying to think of new ways recipes and ways to eat them. This one is definitely not new, but I think I have perfected it over the years. I love this recipe because it is so simple. You only use fresh, light ingredients, most of which I can find in my backyard, it’s quick, and so tasty! I learned how to make bruschetta (pronounced bru-ske-tta, not bru-she-tta like most people say here) when I was living in Northern Italy. I had always loved bruschetta at home and thought it would be fairly similar.

When I sat down in my cooking class, which was held in a little Italian woman’s living room, I was surprised by the way she taught us how to make this old favorite. She baked the bread until it was lightly toasted, just like at home. Then she peeled a clove of garlic and cut it in half. She did the same with a large tomato. Next she rubbed the garlic on the bread and then the tomato, she poured a little olive oil, sprinkled a little salt, added a fresh piece of basil  and said “va bene.”

I looked at her confused. Where where the chopped up tomatoes? Where was the balsamic vinegar? I was skeptical of this thing she called bruschetta..but of course, it was delicious. It was so flavorful despite the fact that there was nothing actually on it. This was her speedy version of bruschetta and I thought it was genius. I now use this recipe when I am tired and don’t feel like doing much cooking or prep work, or I’m just in a hurry to make a good party appetizer. Although I love this fast, easy, Italian version of bruschetta, I still don’t think you can compare it to having fresh tomatoes and basil spill over your toasted bread as you take a bite. So here is my version of bruschetta. I make it “speedy” by recruiting my husband to do most of the chopping.

Here is what you’ll need:

Tomatoes of course!(diced)I like to mix up the variety here. Yellow pear tomatoes and red cherry tomatoes are my favorite. I like to add an heirloom in the mix if I have one.

Green onions – I like to use green because they are more mild than regular onions, thinly chopped

Fresh Basil (the key here is FRESH), torn apart

One sourdough baguette, sliced

Balsamic Vinegar

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Salt and pepper to taste

Directions:

Slice bread into small pieces. Place on baking sheet and brush with Olive Oil. Broil for 3-5 minutes until bread is crispy on the outside and tender on the inside. Place diced tomatoes, onion, and basil in a bowl. Mix together with a little salt and pepper.

Tomatoes mixed with onions and basil

Spoon tomato mixture on top of bread slices. Drizzle olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the bread.

Sprinkle with salt and pepper and enjoy! I promise you’ll love this!

Va Bene!

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Our first cherry tomatoes ever. Iphone photo

I love tomatoes. And my husband really loves tomatoes. When we bought our first house about 3 years ago, we decided to plant one tomato plant and one basil plant in the backyard. We didn’t know what we were doing as neither of us had ever had our own garden, but we were pleasantly surprised by the outcome– Fresh tomatoes! And basil!

We had so much fun with that one tomato plant that we decided to plant more the following year….lots more. I let my husband pick out the plants and he became obsessed. He bought a new tomato plant every time he left the grocery store, hardware store, and he even made special trips to the nursery for them. In the end, we had about 15 tomato plants, just for the two of us. We ended up with such an abundance of tomatoes that I began bringing bags upon bags into work to give away. We also planted jalapenos, green onions, zucchini (we had way too many zucchinis and had to give them away by the dozens all summer), bell peppers, and a few different herbs. We made salsa every week, spaghetti sauce from scratch, fajitas with the peppers, and the list goes on and on.

Just some of the fruits and veggies from our yard

Having our very own vegetable supply a few steps away from the kitchen was the coolest thing to us. Why hadn’t we been doing this for years? Oh yeah…because it’s a ton of work. Our drip system doesn’t work very well so in the heat of the Sacramento summer we have to water these plants almost every day. And then there’s the weeding, oh the weeding. It never ends. After a summer of wedding planning and working, and trying to keep our garden alive and healthy, we decided we would scale back a little the following year. This was just too much work.

Before

After

The next year came and we decided to plant some tomato plants from seeds this time around. We would buy seed packets and little containers to start the plants and keep them inside until the weather permitted their move to the outdoors.

This is what the tomato starters looked like in the beginning

We planted tons of seeds thinking only a few would take because that is what we’ve seen in the past. Although we had never planted anything inside. So, to our surprise,  they all took. They all grew into tiny little tomato plants and when it came time to move them outside, we couldn’t bare to get rid of any of them. So we planted them all. Which ended up adding up to well over the 15 we had the last year. So much for scaling back.

This year we have romas, shady ladies, yellow pears, red cherrys, red grapes, early girls, lemon boys, and multiple different heirlooms who’s names I have forgotten. We also have a slow-producing zucchini plant, an overgrown monster-of-a-squash plant, we had lots of grapes before the birds ate them, we have green and white onions, thai chili peppers, a few bell peppers, and a crazy overgrown raspberry that we planted and now wish we didn’t. Oh, and my favorite vegetable of all time, artichokes. We had one artichoke plant that produced about 6 delicious-but-small artichokes. Yum.

Our first artichokes

Here is a mix of what we're growing now!

Spicy Thai Chilis

Little Cherry Tomatoes

We had so many onions!

Grapes..before the birds ate them all!

This year my favorite tomato plant has surprisingly been the roma plant. This is the first year we have planted them and I really love their flavor and texture. They stay nice and firm for days after they’re picked! They are perfect for my homemade spaghetti sauce (with extra basil).

Here is a recipe that I basically just throw together from the veggies I find in the yard-

What you’ll need (amounts aren’t listed because I never measure, I just throw it all in!):

– as many roma tomatoes as you can harvest (you can mix in other varieties as well)

– yellow onions

– olive oil

– fresh garlic

– fresh basil

– fresh oregano (or dried if you can’t find fresh)

– a little red wine

– salt and pepper to taste

What to do:

Blanch washed tomatoes in boiling water for 30 seconds. Remove and cool under cold water while peeling off skin. Saute onions and garlic in olive oil in a large deep pot. Dice tomatoes and throw into garlic and onion mixture once onions start to look clear. Add a little red wine and bring to low boil. Throw in oregano, basil, salt, and pepper, and reduce heat to low and simmer up to 2 hours. I usually do the faster version, simmering only for 30 minutes.

Top with fresh basil and shaved parmigiano reggiano and you’re done! Oh and this next part is mandatory- pair with a delicious glass of red wine.

Homemade spaghetti sauce with angel hair pasta