Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tomatoes Are Go

My best intentions of getting some garden work done were frustrated by rain so I did the next best thing and started all of the tomatoes. A bunch of heirlooms I got from Seed Savers(all the varieties that have won the annual taste test over the last 8 years. Of course, there are Cherokee Purple as well and seeds from the heirlooms I have saved too. Main season tomato is going to be the hybrid "Celebrity" this year but I have also started some Rutgers(heirloom) as a back up and something to save the seeds from. For my paste tomato I usually plant "Margherita"  but this year I decided to go with "San Marzano" they are both heirloom varieties and we'll see how they do here in the South. I also started seed for a ground cherry called "Aunt Molly's", The are supposed to be native to the Eastern U.S. but I've never actually seen or tasted one but they get raves. They have a husk like a tomatillo but are supposed to be sweeter and juicier. Looking forward to trying those.

Still a few weeks away for the rest of the seed starting....melons and okra and cukes.

Going Fast

Finally some actual time off. The part time job took 37.5 hours last week and six straight days. Seriously thinking about losing it and taking the health insurance risk on myself. So anyway, had a dentist checkup yesterday and my first gym session in a week. I also actually got some yard and garden work done but as is obvious no blogging. The dentist discovered that I had a chipped front tooth and partially missing filling on same so this morning I had that fixed. I am off to the gym again in a bit and then some more yard work and garden stuff. Just about time to get some more stuff planted in seed trays. Tomatoes being the big item. All the peppers are doing nicely and are in the greenhouse as are the shallots, leeks and onions. All the winter stuff(arugula, spinach, lettuces are all in the compost to make room for summer stuff. If we don't get significant rain over the next few days it will be time to make the first till of the garden and get it limed. I should also get some potatoes and peas in the ground within the next week or so. Lots of work and not a lot of time.

Monday, February 20, 2012

A Page From Aristophanes

I have been thinking a lot about the latest assault on women. I had mistakenly thought that(with the exception of the abortion battle) we had put the question of the rights of women to bed. Somehow the bat shit crazy people, in their search for some wedge issue against President Obama, have decided that contraception is the winning game. It is profoundly embarrassing and disturbing to see this happen. It just amazes me that these dirty old men(and a few self loathing crazy women) feel justified in continuing to tell our mothers, sisters, wives, and even grandmothers how they should treat their own bodies. How can they ignore the glorious, magical power of women and their ability to bring new life into the world. How can these jerks insist that this supremely powerful gift of women be turned over to them to do with as they please?
I think it might be high time the women of this country take a lesson or two from Lysistrata.

Crazy Schedule

Somehow the scheduling system has it in for me. I have been doing back to back shifts (closing and then opening the next morning). It basically leaves no time for anything but not enough sleep. I do have two days off coming up after a closing 8 hour shift tonight and another 4 hour closing shift Tuesday. I am also falling behind in my spring preparations for the garden though I do have peppers sprouting as well as shallots, onions and leeks.
BTW the pressure cooking of eggs(hard cooked) really worked. Peeled as slick as a whistle and they were very fresh eggs. Definitely a keeper technique.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Gorgonzola Pita and Pressure Cooked Eggs

I don't why I haven't tried it before but I haven't until today. Got home from the gym hungry but not starving and just wanted a light bite. Rummaged in the fridge and found a whole wheat pita and some Gorgonzola left over from the great pasta the other night. Split the pita and sprinkled a little cheese on one half (not much maybe a 1/4 cup) and put the other half on top. Put in on a hot grill pan brushed with a little olive oil and grilled it on both sides until the cheese melted and there was a little crispness to the bread. Cut it into 6 triangles and ta-da! I must say it makes a tasty little snack. I'm sure you could kick this up with a little fresh spinach or arugula but plain is just fine. I wonder why I never thought of a grilled blue cheese sandwich before! The little wedges would make nice snacks for a party as well.

Now I am off to find a small pressure cooker. I have a big one but I need one in the 5 or 6 liter size. Mark Ruhlman had a post today (by guest Laura Pazzaglia who lives in Italy and blogs at hippressurecooking.com). On how to cook eggs in a pressure cooker. I love hard cooked eggs but since I buy very fresh eggs and they don't hang around long I almost always have trouble peeling them without ravaging them somewhat. Using a pressure cooker is supposed to eliminate the problems of peeling hard cooked fresh eggs. It is also faster than the method I use currently which is bringing the eggs to the simmer and then turning off the heat and let them sit for 13 minutes before rapidly cooling. This method eliminates the eggs getting too hot and developing the unappealing green ring around the yolk. I shall report on whether pressure cooker does the deed.

Oh! If you follow the Mark Ruhlman link above Laura also gives a method of making
Oeufs En Cocotte which is a great alternative to the fried, poached, scrambled dilemma and something I love but never think of when trying to decide how to have my eggs.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Darn Early

Just got back from Madam's little cataract surgery with no problems. I would just like to know why surgery is scheduled at such early hours. We had to be there at 645a and since it is all the way inside the Perimeter off of I-75 we had to leave the house at 545a. I will note that there is not much traffic at that time of day. All's well that ends well but there might be an afternoon nap in the offing.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

No More Seal Hunt In Canada

After years of struggle by people horrified by the cruelty and waste that surrounded the Canadian seal hunt it appears that environmental pressures and the lack of market for seal pelts has finally ended the yearly tragedy. That will be my happy thought for the day.

Back to Work

A good two days off but I start back today 1230p til 915p and worse I'm scheduled for returns which really sucks. To top it off I have to back at 745a Sunday. Best case I'll get to bed by 1030p tonight and have to roll out Sunday morning no later than 5a. Not looking forward to the weekend needless to say.
Everybody have a safe and happy weekend. If you are of a mind try the pasta recipe below as it was fabulous, especially with the fresh made spaghetti. Just note that you should be prepared to add a nice dose of the pasta water to the dish or it will gum up quickly as the cheese and pasta cool.

Friday, February 10, 2012

Change In Plans

I grandly announced yesterday that I was going to fry some chicken today but Flavor of Italy published a recipe this morning that changed my mind. I love blue cheese and Gorgonzola is high on my list.  Spaghetti with Gorgonzola Sage Sauce. It's so simple it is bound to be good and with nothing but butter, sage and Gorgonzola how can it be bad?

Here's what you need, to serve one person:

Spaghetti, 100 grams
Gorgonzola cheese, 60 grams
Butter, 20 grams
Sage leaves (fresh), 5 finely chopped
Parmesan cheese, grated

While your spaghetti is cooking in boiling, salted water prepare your sauce. Put the ingredients in a saucepan and cook until hot and sizzling. Done!
Drain the pasta and reserve some of the cooking water. Toss the spaghetti in the Gorgonzola sauce. If it's not creamy enough add a tiny amount of the cooking water.
If you wish you can sprinkle the pasta with grated Parmesan cheese. I don't as the sauce is so rich and tasty it really doesn't need it.
Note that there's no salt in the recipe. Gorgonzola is naturally salty so it's quite unnecessary.
This is the menu for tonight with a salad of baby greens from the greenhouse and some fresh made ciabatta. I'm hungry already and all I need to do is stop and get some Gorgonzola and decide whether to make fresh pasta or use the dried stuff. I have the day off so fresh is definitely a possiblity.

Oh, and if you need a lesson on making fresh pasta you can get a nice pictorial from Flavor of Italy as well by going here. It is very simple, the recipe for pasta is simple: 100 grams of flour + 1 egg = 1 portion of pasta. In spite of what you might see in fresh pasta recipes there is no oil or water or salt. The only trick is learning when the dough is right and the lesson linked above does a good job. Even though I have a good Italian made manual pasta machine you don't need one if you have a rolling pin and good place to roll out the dough. Just divide the dough into batches small enough to handle easily.

Much Ado About Nothing

Thanks to Mother Jones for pointing out that all this flap about President Obama’s “unprecedented assault on America’s religious freedoms” by requiring church-related hospitals and universities to cover contraception at the federal level has actually been on the books for, oh, about 12 years now.

That's right

In December 2000, the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission ruled that companies that provided prescription drugs to their employees but didn’t provide birth control were in violation of Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which prevents discrimination on the basis of sex. That opinion, which the George W. Bush administration did nothing to alter or withdraw when it took office the next month, is still in effect today—and because it relies on Title VII of the Civil Rights Act, it applies to all employers with 15 or more employees. Employers that don’t offer prescription coverage or don’t offer insurance at all are exempt, because they treat men and women equally—but under the EEOC’s interpretation of the law, you can’t offer other preventative care coverage without offering birth control coverage, too.
The wingnuts are so uninformed about the real world it just makes you want to crawl away and hide.

H/T Balloon Juice

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Meat Loaf

I have developed a urge for meat loaf and I will make it for dinner tonight. Madam is not a fan but she is not here and it will a done deal before she gets home. I had to run get some ground chuck but I already had some ground veal and pork in the freezer so I am good. You never know there might also be mashed potatoes (I'm not a fan but Madam likes them) to balance and of course there has to be some Dixie butter peas.
I fortunately fought off the urge for buttermilk fried chicken (mostly because I didn't have time to properly brine the chicken ) but the meat loaf wouldn't go away.

I basically use my recipe for meatballs (add Dijon mustard,Tabasco and Worcestershire sauce)and just make a giant meatball which I cook like a loaf of bread on a sheet pan instead of in a loaf pan as you get a better crust and not as much fat. Sauteed onions, fresh parsley, garlic, 2 eggs, bread soaked in milk, tomato paste, a bit of oregano, a dollop of plain Greek yogurt, olive oil, black pepper, salt, Dijon mustard, Tabasco, and Worcestershire sauce with a pound of ground chuck and a half pound each of ground veal and ground pork.  350F for an hour. If you like you can glaze the loaf with a mixture of half catchup and brown sugar about halfway through the cooking.

If I stop and get a chicken on my way home from my haircut first thing in the morning I will have enough time to brine it properly and fried chicken could be on the menu for tomorrow night.

As you can see I have two straight days off this week and I need some kitchen therapy.

Better Big Blue Marble

NASA has a new earth image available. It is very high definition and was created from multiple earth passes on January 4th of this year. It's a very cool picture.

You might also note the lack of snow cover over the U.S. for a January day. Just sayin'.

It Ain't All Bad

For all those who insist that government regulation is bad and always a failure there is this little bit of good news.

The amount of trans fat in the American bloodstream fell by more than half after the Food and Drug Administration required food manufacturers to label how much of the unhealthful ingredient is in their products, according to a new study.

Blood levels of trans fat declined 58 percent from 2000 to 2008. FDA began requiring trans-fat labeling in 2003. During the same period several parts of the country — New York most famously — passed laws limiting trans fats in restaurant food and cooking. The makers of processed food also voluntarily replaced trans fats with less harmful oils.

The decline, unusually big and abrupt, strongly suggests government regulation was effective in altering a risk factor for heart disease for a broad swath of the population.

Thursday, February 02, 2012


Ok, 19 varieties of peppers in flats and now beginning to react to the moisture. It is truly a miracle that a small little flake of stuff will awaken, answer the program Mother Nature left in its DNA and start the cycle of life once again. I never get tired of the show. Some cool heirlooms in the mix this year and it just tickles me to no end to know that these seeds have been gathered, protected and replanted year after year to preserve their unique qualities. Two of the strains I started today started their journey in Italy, who knows how long ago. I have now stepped up and will add my small bit to their history.

Oh Boy! The Seeds Have Come

My two largest seeds orders came yesterday whilst I was at work. A nice surprise to come home to. I'll do my duty and get an hour or so at the gym this morning since I have a day off but the rest of the day will be dedicated to getting the first seeds of the spring into their little containers. Peppers are the first phase since they will take about 8 weeks to be ready for the outside. Lots of peppers and some new varieties especially two new Italian heirloom sweet peppers and all the regulars as well. Also, I snagged some seed from Seed Savers for an heirloom red habanero to add to my traditional orange. Still a few weeks away from getting all the tomatoes started but I'm looking forward to some new heirlooms. Seed Savers offered a collection this year of all the tomatoes that have won their annual taste test over the last few years. Can't wait...I can almost feel the juice running down my chin! Cherokee Purple hasn't won the taste test and I am looking forward to trying a tomato that could taste better than a Cherokee fresh from the vine and still warm from the sun. Don't worry I will have Cherokee's in the garden as usual as well.

It is also time to get the onions started as well. This year I am going for class and will start cippollini from seed. They are very expensive in the market and they are a brilliant fresh onion and we won't even mention them roasted in olive oil. Of course, I will also start the leeks from seed as well and this year we will try the heirloom variety Lincoln. I still have probably a bushel or more of leeks from last years planting still in the garden. Rather too many than not enough.

Wednesday, February 01, 2012

Candlemas, Imbolc, Brigid's Day

A blessed Candlemas, Imbolc, Brigid's Day to you. For those of you unfamiliar with this special day it is considered the "morning of the year" when we begin to awaken in the dawn of a new cycle of birth and growth. We revere Brigid the Summoner of Spring, the Radiant Flame of Gold.

May Brigid bring you a new cycle of creativity and growth.

My thanks to Joanna Powell Colbert for pointing me to the video.