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Friday, May 30, 2008

Off the beaten path

A couple of days ago, I had a meeting in Montgomery. Since my car has been acting strangely, Mr. G drove me . On the way home, I commented that it would be nice to take a side trip and stop off in Jemison to visit one of our favorite nurseries. Mr. G agreed, and we headed off to Petals from the Past, a nursery owned by Jason and Shelley Powell, specializing in heirloom plants, especially old-fashioned roses. But they grow and sell an astounding number of so many plants- including not only the gorgeous, fragrant old-fashioned roses, but perennials, vegetables, herbs, fruit, garden art, water garden plants, and more. The nursery store is an old farmhouse, surrounded by an inviting wraparound porch and breathtaking display gardens. I was sorry that I didn't have my camera with me. All the roses we've bought there have done well in our garden. Almost too well, as you can see from this Katy Road Pink-if I ever manage to keep the spent blooms picked, it keeps blooming and blooming, but it is SO loaded, that the task becomes an impossibility. But it also bears lovely large hops, which the birds love, so all is not lost. This bush has never been sprayed, the only fertilizer is a side dressing of compost every once in a while, and has survived droughts, floods and neglect. Katy Road is a real trooper, as are most of the heirloom roses I've encountered. Here's a close-up of one of the buds:

I must apologize for the poor quality of some of the pics I've been posting. The cover to the battery compartment on the camera is broken. In order to take a photo, one must keep it squeezed shut while trying to keep the camera steady- which sometimes proves difficult.

We didn't buy any roses on this trip, but did buy some herbs and veggie plants and a Meyer Lemon tree to replace the one we lost a couple of years ago. It even has some buds- so we may get lemons this year!
The nursery also has you-pick fields of blackberries, which just opened. The huge berries are now ripening and should hit their peak in a week or two. The plants are grown on post and wire trellises in long rows, which makes picking easy- and you don't get covered in chiggers in the process. Since I was dressed for a business meeting, not for berry picking we didn't even try this time, but I'm thinking we need to make another trip down there in the next two weeks.

Thursday, May 29, 2008

Adventures in cooking

I just rediscovered one of my herb books- The Herb Garden Cookbook: The Complete Gardening and Gourmet Guide, by Lucinda Hutson. It is chock full of information on growing and using herbs, and the recipes sound wonderful. So I decided to try a couple. Night before last, we had Garlicky Rosemary Shrimp, with rosemary and bay leaves fresh from the garden. Last night I decided to try the recipe for Texas Goat Cheese Tart. Of course, I had no Texas goat cheese in the fridge, but I did have some goat cheese. Not as much as the recipe called for, though- so I began substituting. My tendency to substitute stuff in recipes worries Mr. G.

He'll wander into the kitchen while I'm perusing a recipe, look over my shoulder and say, "That sounds good- is that what we're having for supper?"

I often reply, "Well, sort of... I don't have any ____ so I'm using ____ instead."

Mr. G generally groans and mutters stuff under his breath at that point.

Sometimes the substitutions work- sometimes they're a disaster. And sometimes I get carried away and the final product has little in common with the original recipe. Fortunately, this turned out to be quite good, and I plan to try several more of Hutson's recipes- I may even follow some to the letter! The book has been relocated from my garden book shelf to the cookbook shelf in the kitchen.
Here's the recipe- if you decide to try it, let me know how it turns out!

Goat Cheese & Ricotta Tart

1 9 inch pre-baked pie crust
¼ cup loosely packed parsley
2 T fresh rosemary
¼ cup fresh basil
1 small clove garlic, mashed
6oz. Goat Cheese
6 oz Ricotta Cheese
4 oz Sour Cream
2 ounces unsalted butter
1T flour
2 eggs
Salt & Pepper to taste

Bring cheeses, sour cream, butter to room temperature. Preheat oven to 375F. Place herbs and garlic in food processor to mince, add cheeses, butter, sour cream, eggs, flour, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Pour mixture into pre-baked pie crust. Bake until puffed and golden on top (about 25-30 minutes). Serve warm or at room temperature.

Notes: This would probably taste better with crème fraîche instead of sour cream, but I couldn’t find any cream that wasn’t ultra-pasteurized, so wasn’t able to make crème fraîche. The original recipe also calls for 12 ounces of goat cheese and 4 ounces of ricotta- but I used what I had. You could also use another combination of herbs, more garlic, etc.

Also, while the instructions call for a food processor, I have a very small one, so minced the herbs, added about half the amount of the cheeses, the butter and the eggs, then turned it all into a mixing bowl, added the rest of the cheeses and the flour and blended with a mixer until smooth.

Monday, May 26, 2008

Back to Blogging

Egads! It's been over a month since my last post. Since then, I must sadly report that Henrietta died, here's the last pic of her, helping to dig out some new veggie beds last month. Poor Henrietta, blind in one eye, survived a vicious pecking by the other hens and Sam, and seemed to be doing fine, laying an egg a day and digging around quite happily. Then one morning, she didn't come out of the coop. I still don't know what killed her, she wasn't pecked, and I don't think any possums or racoons got in the coop-Sam usually raises a ruckus if any nocturnal critters come around.

So now we're down to Sam and Monique- who has stopped laying. Her only interest seems to be eating, avoiding Sam's amorous advances and digging holes in the garden so she can take dust baths.

The area that Henrietta is pecking in the photo is now part of my new little veggie garden. It was so overgrown with weeds and honeysuckle vines that digging it out was a real chore-- so much of a chore that the garden fork couldn't take any more and had to be replaced. I use a modidified version of Square Foot Gardening, and it is now planted with tomatoes, cabbages, squash, carrots, bush beans, leeks, herbs, marigolds and okra. The squash has little baby squash and the tomatoes and beans are blooming, so if I can just keep the nasty bugs at bay, we should have some nice fresh veggies in a few weeks.
I put together some bamboo bean tepees in another part of the back yard for pole beans. I had Mr. G till that area (I'd used up all my energy digging the other bed), so now we have a nice long bed with pole beans, more tomatoes and some cucumbers. The beans are beginning to wind their way up the poles.

I haven't been on another jelly roll, but did make some strawberry jam with some of the most delicious strawberries from a local farm. The jam wasn't a complete success, it's a little too runny, but should make a nice topping for ice cream, and it still tastes good on toast- albeit a little messy. I froze about a gallon of the berries, so may make some more jam later.