Garden Tour & Cream of the Crop

img_8962

thank you slateplate for this beautiful serving tray

Good morning dear followers. Not exactly sure what the weather is like in your neck of the woods, but the mid-Atlantic feels like spring this winter. Bulbs are pushing their bright green shoots through the dirt already with temperatures climbing into the 70’s. Warm and loud thunderstorms are replacing snow. Will it stay this way? Doubtful, but hopeful.

img_8947

speckled trout lettuce in a cold frame

The fear of winter’s return hasn’t stopped me from getting into the garden and finishing  some clean-up. The north wind has a nasty habit of burying the landscape in leaves and riddling the yard with sticks. Being in the garden is as much therapy as cooking, so I don’t mind the dirty work. It’s the best distraction thinking March winds and April showers are just around the corner.

img_8945

hoping for some fresh asparagus in a month or two

Good Grief Cook thought throughout the gardening/growing season it might be interesting to take you on a good, the bad and the ugly of the garden. It’s February. All looks dark and dead right now, or maybe it’s just asleep. Anyway, this will be your first glance of the winter garden. Should be fun to watch it transform month to month. Let the tour begin.

img_8950

protecting the fig trees-unveiling come May

Hope you have enjoyed these few photos today. In addition to the garden I am working on improving my photography and food styling. Isn’t that black slate tray beneath the creme brûlée a natural beauty? It’s made in the USA. You will be seeing a lot of it. Thank you, Garmon for this gift.

img_8949

sleeping raised bed

Let’s make some creme brûlée. It seems to be the cream of the dessert crop. I posted this photo on instagram and was surprised to learn how many people consider creme brûlée their favorite dessert. A simple, but rich and creamy vanilla custard topped with crispy caramelized sugar….okay I get why people love it so much. Plus it involves fire.This recipe is adapted from Christopher Kimball’s Dessert Bible.

img_5316

Crème Brûlée

1 cup heavy cream

1 cup light cream

3 eggs

½ cup sugar, divided

1/8 teaspoon fine salt

1 ½ teaspoons vanilla

Heat oven 300F. Place a cloth napkin over the bottom of a roasting pan. Place 4 (5-inch) brulee dishes or 6 ( 6 oz) ramekins in the roasting pan leaving space between each dish. Boil water in a tea kettle or a pan with a spout. In a saucepan, bring the heavy cream and light cream just to a simmer. (you should see whisps of steam). In a medium bowl, whisk eggs, ¼ cup sugar, salt and vanilla. While gently whisking, very slowly pour hot cream mixture into the egg mixture until combined. Strain mixture into a large measuring up or bowl with a spout. Divide mixture evenly among brulee dishes or ramekins. Pour hot water into roasting pan until it comes up half way the sides of the dishes. Bake 25 to 35 minutes or until custards are set but still quiver in center. Remove from water bath and cool. Chill in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours. Can be made 2 or 3 days in advance at this point. Just before serving sprinkle tops evenly with remaining sugar. Using a kitchen torch melt the sugar. Serves 4 to 6

img_8941

my little jelly bean dressed for some garden work

Tomato-Tomato-Tomato

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

It occurs to me that I have yet to share much of my 2016 garden with you. If you follow @goodgriefcook on instagram then you have gotten some snippets. I love instagram. It is such a happy place with the best photography of people, places and food. Right now home-grown tomatoes are trending.

IMG_2382

home-grown tomatoes with red onion jam

Back to my garden. It has been the most bountiful, yet. Each year seems to be better and better. It helps to rotate crops and purchase plants and seeds from reputable places. The last two years I have been a huge fan of the Burpee company because every single seed and plant purchased from them seem to flourish in my little plot of heaven. More good news is that I haven’t needed to use any herbicides or pesticides on my plants. It seems hungry birds make a meal of most of the bugs. We encourage birds to hang around in our yard by providing  suet in the winter and a few nesting boxes scattered around the garden area.

IMG_2316

One thing I really do need to learn is how to properly plant a variety of plants and seeds that don’t ripen all at once. Feast or famine? Right now we are feasting on tomatoes including two varieties (salsa and yellow pear) that self seeded from last year. I love those surprise plants and all the others that inspired today’s recipes.

IMG_2330

Toasted Fennel Tomato Jam is one of my all-time favorite recipes. I featured it around this time last year as inspired by my son’s love for the caprese salad. If you really want to add some life to your favorite Italian mozzarella or burrata make the jam.  Happily, I used up a 4 pound mix of tomatoes in this batch and it is as good as ever.

IMG_2324

My latest original recipe is a Tomato Bread made with tomato juice and a mix of soy and bread flour. Back when I attended the National Festival of Breads I was gifted a bag of  soy flour, so I thought I might give it a try. The bread makes a great sandwich with a mild tomato taste and slight sweetness from molasses.

IMG_2358

photo by Caitlin Keys Pemberton

Finally, and at at the suggestion of my daughter, together we whipped up this tomato pie recipe from Epicurious.com. We used gruyere cheese instead of cheddar and filled it with  sweet heirloom cherry tomatoes and a smaller Brandywine variety. From the crisp buttery crust to the spicy cheese topping this tomato pie is a tasty one. It’s perfect for breakfast, lunch or dinner.

IMG_2338

Hope you enjoyed this glimpse of gardening from my neck of the woods. You say tomato and I say delicious especially if it is home-grown.

Tomato Bread

1 (1/4 oz.) package Red Star Active Dry Yeast

1 ¾ cups tomato juice, warmed to about 115F.

1-tablespoon molasses

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dried basil

1-tablespoon olive oil

1-cup Bob’s Red Mill soy flour

3 ½ to 4 cups King Arthur Flour bread flour

Grease a 9×5-inch loaf pan. In large bowl of stand mixer, fitted with paddle attachment, sprinkle yeast over warm tomato juice; let stand 5 minutes. Stir in molasses, salt, basil, oil and soy flour. Slowly add bread flour until it comes together and pulls away from sides of the bowl. Switch to dough hook attachment. Knead dough on speed level 2 for 5 to 7 minutes. Shape the dough and place in prepared loaf pan. Cover and let rise in a warm place, about 90 minutes, or until it rises ½-inch above the rim of the pan. Preheat oven to 325F. Slash top of bread, if desired. Bake bread for 50 to 60 minutes or until instant read thermometer inserted in center registers 200-205F. Turn out on cooling rack and cool completely.

IMG_2312

By the way, I have not been compensated in any way by any of the companies that I have mentioned here. As always I am just sharing my favorite quality products with you. It’s like a good neighbor who suggests her favorite restaurant or a tomato plant variety to try.

 

Dog & Garden Therapy

try some chocolate mint in your next cake or bread

try some chocolate mint in your next cake or bread

Today doesn’t particularly feel like summer. With leaves falling and temperatures dropping its clear warm days are about to come to a raging halt. The wishful thought of an endless summer brings me into the garden where vegetables continue to hang on. The jalapeno peppers are losing their camouflage as they ripen from green to red and the haricot vert cling to their stems as they lengthen. Fall favorites like butternut squash are ripe for the picking. Their skin has darkened and now ready to be trimmed away in preparation for roasting.

butternut squash ready for roasting

butternut squash ready for roasting

My dog, Deacon, follows me and takes a roll in the oregano. There is something about the herby fragrance that brings pizza and Greek baked chicken to mind. Hmmm, either one would be great for dinner tonight, but my attention quickly turns to one overgrown zucchini. I can’t fight it any longer.

nothing like the love of a great pet

nothing like the love of a great pet

Back inside I sit down to type. I can’t help but notice that Deacon is at my feet. I pause and am reminded that every time I sit and write this blog she is at my feet. Dogs sense things. Whether it’s my body language or some grieving scent she knows when to provide comfort. It’s clear why all dogs go to heaven.

slice of heaven come winter

slice of heaven come winter

If you are tired of eating zucchini go ahead and freeze this cake to be enjoyed in a month or two on a crisp fall day with your favorite cup of tea. You will be glad you did.

Endless Summer Zucchini Sweet Bread

2 cups all purpose flour

1-cup white whole-wheat flour

1-teaspoon baking soda

1-teaspoon fine sea salt

½ teaspoon baking powder

3 teaspoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons ground flax seed meal

2 eggs, lightly beaten

1 2/3 cup sugar

¾ cup vegetable oil

1 lemon, grated zest plus 1 tablespoon juice

1-teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh chocolate mint or spearmint

2 cups packed shredded zucchini *

1 cup chopped walnuts

Powdered sugar

Heat oven 350F. Spray a coffeecake pan or Bundt pan (or any pan you like that has at least a 10-cup capacity or 2 small loaf pans) with no-stick cooking baking spray. In bowl, sift flours, baking soda, salt, baking powder and cinnamon; stir in flax seed meal and set aside. In large bowl, whisk eggs, sugar, oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, vanilla and mint. Add dry ingredients, stirring with a spoon until dry ingredients are moistened. The mixture will be very thick. Add zucchini and mix very well to loosen up the batter. Stir in nuts. Pour batter into prepared pan. Bake 5o to 60 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool in pan on rack for 10 minutes before inverting onto rack to cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar just before serving.

*Note: I grate my zucchini on the large cutters of a box grater and squeeze out some of the excess moisture with paper towels.

As always I recommend King Arthur Flour, as it is consistently the best.

I love my Grandog

I love my Grandog, too! So darn cute.