Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Forced Pink Rhubarb Experiment Results . . . and the last of the pea shoots

A month ago we covered up one of the three rhubarb plants with a heavy ceramic pot to provide the necessary darkness for forcing. Once uncovered, the rhubarb was indeed pink, but also white, with very small, pale leaves.

The green bits were duly blanched

That plant needs to recover and therefore will not be subject to forcing next spring. Its leaves are getting bigger and greener.

The large leaf in the upper right corner belongs to one of the unforced plants

The stalks were sliced, sugared, roasted, pureed, and frozen. The exquisite colour along with a more delicate texture will lend itself to many delicious offerings, especially to the fresh mint whipped cream rhubarb fool that I will eventually make.

Looks like juicy pink grapefruit chunks!

The large pot planted with peas gave its last harvest a few days ago.

The shoots were washed, chopped, and sauteed with some minced garlic in olive oil till tender which took a few minutes. Some leftover cous cous was stirred-in and then heaped so two wells could be made to accommodate eggs. The pan was covered and the heat turned on high for a few seconds then turned off. The pan sat for about five minutes.

Voilà! One very easy and delicious meal.

Getting close up to lilacs reveals a world of intoxicating fragrance . . .

. . . and  subtle colour.

The calla lily 'thicket' is flourishing.

Dirac the Young Cat who is approaching two years of age loves spring and vases full of flowers, especially 'bridal wreath' spirea.

À la prochaine!

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Rhubarb Harvest Begins, Asparagus Picking Ends!

There are so many ways of serving rhubarb; one of our favourites is rhubarb crumble/crisp.  It is a comforting dessert or a sweet breakfast which is easy to make.

about 10 ample servings, surplus can be frozen

  • Rhubarb, red/pink streaked, even better, is forced pink rhubarb, 1 kg (15 medium stalks)
  • Sugar, white, 620 g (divided into 320 g for the topping and 300 for the filling)
  • Flour, white, 320 g
  • Butter, cold, 160 g
  • Strawberries, rhubarb coulis & whipped cream for garnishing

Preheat oven to 205 degrees C/400 degrees F.  Stir together the flour and 320 grams of sugar in a large mixing bowl. Coating the butter with the flour allows much neater and quicker cutting into small chunks right in the bowl. Then, using your fingers, work the butter into the flour/sugar mixture until it resembles coarse sand which will take several minutes. Refrigerating the topping while preparing the rhubarb will produce a much firmer crumble.

Trim any leaves from the rhubarb. Rinse and dry.

Slice into chunks, 2.5 cm/1 inch pieces. Put them in a suitable baking dish.

Sprinkle on the remaining sugar and mix well.

Bake for about thirty minutes or until the rhubarb is tender but still solid. Stir once or twice during the baking.

To ensure that the topping doesn't dissolve, spoon out most of the juices, strain, and reserve. Roasting rhubarb instead of simmering retains its pinkness.

Spread chilled topping onto the roasted rhubarb. Bake for thirty minutes.

Though it is wonderful on its own, served warm or at room temperature or even cold (texture is less malleable), dishing up some strawberries by letting them macerate in sugar for about ten minutes, topping the crumble with them along with whipped cream and a generous splash of rhubarb coulis makes this dessert fantastic by focusing on two very compatible and fabulous early-spring produce.

And to mark the end of the harvesting of our asparagus patch, the remaining spears were quickly simmered, heaped on a plate unceremoniously, then drenched with freshly squeezed lemon juice and melted butter. Lovely!

À la prochaine!

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Asparagus in Minestrone? Yes!

Robust minestrone, thick with pureed white beans, tomato paste, hearty veggies, chunks of succulent beef, macaroni, gutsy garlic, copious olive oil, and zesty herbs, surprisingly took on the addition of delicate asparagus with gracious acceptance: all other ingredients were the supporting cast for the early-spring potager's star performer.

A week or two remains before the asparagus harvest ends

After polishing off a couple of bowls for lunch, this gardener was ready for an afternoon of work.

For the greens ingredient, I used sorrel from our potager

Rhubarb harvesting has begun. The three plants easily overextend their beds so those stalks got picked first as to make the strimming of nearby paths possible without ravaging the huge leaves.

The poisonous (if eaten) leaves got put on the compost pile

The peas are now sprouting shoots.

One short row of twenty in the bed

Calla lilies are opening their satiny blooms.

Our husky bay leaf shrub started out as a puny volunteer-seedling about six years ago.  This is the first season that it showed its beguiling, raggedy, pom-pom flowers.

The irises are rippling their blooms right down their long border.

Why is Dirac the Young Cat so serious?

Ensuring that the bird baths are filled with clean water is a demanding task . . .

Since a kitten, he often sits for several minutes with a front paw raised. Too cute!

. . . so demanding that it is fitting that he got some of the whipped cream before it became one with the soothing hot cocoa I imbibe as soon as the gardening day is done.

À la prochaine!

Wednesday, April 6, 2016

Don't Spare the Asparagus!

The asparagus bed is offering a daily harvest to the delight of my stomach. Luscious spears are added to whatever we are eating. The Calm One made a big batch of his special macaroni and cheese. Special? It has three kinds of pasta and three kinds of cheese! Not to mention saucisses de Strasbourg and a generous splash of cream. No recipe, I am afraid, as he follows none. It starts with a roux, that I know, and is done on the stovetop.

Penne, corkscrews & pipes; cheddar, emmental gruyère

Asparagus bob happily in creamy herb, potato, and sausage soup.*

In a couple of weeks, tomato and sweet red pepper plants sowed mid-March will be ready to go into the ground.

Four varieties of tomatoes!

Lilacs have delayed their flowering this season which I suspect was because they did not get enough chilling as our winter was very mild.

That pink cloud is a neighbour's gorgeous ornamental cherry tree.

Bright emerald green of grass and foliage makes a sublime setting for the amethyst of irises and the citrine of calla lilies.

Queen Elizabeth shrub rose & strawberry, leek, carrot, beet, and asparagus beds

Calla lilies have a dignified flair.

Bearded irises at the head of their long border get the most sunlight and therefore are the first to bloom.

A blueberry bush planted in a large pot filled with the necessary acid soil for it to thrive is putting out delicate flower-bells.

The sun, low in the horizon, lights up an edged-with-red, deep-yellow tulip.

Whoever painted the edges got a bit careless with the brush!

À la prochaine!


*Recipe for creamy herb and sausage soup (some photos have been corrupted in this old post but text remains correct)


A new high quality, early season variety of asparagus
Cooking, cooling, then reheating pasta and potatoes have health benefits

Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Early Spring Kitchen-Garden Delights: Pea Shoots & Asparagus

Pea shoots are a delicious addition to early spring menus. Tagliatelle and chopped shoots are simmered together, then drained, reserving some of the pasta-cooking water. Saute a nice dose of minced garlic, finely chopped fresh ginger, and red pepper flakes in some olive oil for a minute or two over medium heat. Add a couple of heaping tablespoons of whole almond meal along with the reserved water till creamy. Stir in the pasta and pea shoots. Salt to taste. Creamy, nutty, spicy, fresh, and good!

Our shoots came from peas planted in a pot six weeks ago

A pleasant brunch can be had by simmering some asparagus and a cracked egg in chicken broth while the toast is being made.

Flip over the egg.

Our 4-year-old plants can be harvested until the end of April

Pour some of the broth over the slices. Top with spears and the egg. Fleur de sel would be a nice sprinkle.

A trap door exposing the golden treasure

Bluebells are just starting their blooming.

Cream-coloured species tulips are being buffeted by the wind.

The bright splash of golden yellow in their centre is a wonderful accent.

The first calla lily bud has made its appearance.

The irises are unfurling their purple blooms.

To get raspberries in early summer in addition to their typical fruiting in late summer/early autumn, I leave the stems from last season alone until they put out fresh leaf growth. Then the spent part of the stems will be clearly seen and can be trimmed off. In a month or so, new shoots will grow from ground level and will fruit later in the season.

À la prochaine!