Tag Archives: eggplant

Cutting, Cooking, Freezing and Preserving

27 Jul

This past Sunday was a big day for preparing for the winter.  (Yes, a bit hard to grasp the concept of frost and mittens given we were on the heels of a heat wave that set records and nearly wiped out my bean plants.)  But nonetheless, like the friendly squirrels that run about our yard (and dig up my lettuce time to time in order to plant their acorns), I knew that summer harvests could be perserved for the upcoming winter.

My plan included cooking up a huge batch of minced meat with peppers, onions, eggplant and herbs so that we could have some for dinner this coming week but also so I could freeze enough for a few dinners come November.

Freezing Pesto in Ice Cube Trays

I also wanted to make multiple batches of pesto so I could freeze some for the winter by using ice cube trays and, when done, pop the pesto cubes into freezer bags. I used a number of pesto varieties from purple to green to varigated, resulting in different shades of pesto.

Further, my eggplant and green bean harvest surpassed our intake capacity, so I was excited to learn how to blanch and freeze for winter. So it was a big day and I was ready to get started.  I decided to start on the minced meat first.

The Bandaged Finger Injury

Nano seconds after I began to cut the eggplant, I cut my finger.  I quickly was transported to my little (well not so little as you will see when you gaze at the photo) burn injury on my calf from last week when I backed into the broiler pot that had just come out of the oven and had been placed on a foot stool due to the micro kitchen counter space I have. (I waited to post a photo until it was healing nicely to spare the reader.)

The Burn

With nothing more than  a 1960’s vintage wall air conditioner unit that blows only enough air to slightly cool down about half of the living room, the kitchen is always balmy (somewhere around 90’s throughout the summer).  Add a bit of cooking, a confined space, multiple pots simmering on different time schedules……and well, you get the picture: the brain is less than focused and “ouch!”accidents happen. So after bandaging my cut, I decided that I needed to practice mindfulness and focus on the task at hand.  Not an easy endeavor for a person like me. I am usually juggling multiple balls at once, while my mind darts from topic to topic.  I then start thinking about all the things that need to get done the coming week and get caught up thinking about world events. My mind generally wanders about while I am cooking. So to practice mindfulness, I took a deep breath and steadied by attention on cutting. Just cutting. Slice after slice of eggplant. I was in the eggplant moment…..

Green Beans Blanched and Ready for Freezing

Eggplant Blanched and Ready for Freezing

So I made it through the day with no further injuries. No cuts and no burns. The green beans and eggplant are frozen (thanks to the great step by step directions on the following website:  http://www.pickyourown.org/beansfreezing.htm  AND http://www.pickyourown.org/freezingeggplant.htm).

As I was just concluding this blog entry, my husband Patrick called me to the window to see a very hot and tired squirrel lazing about.  Did I mention the intense head wave we are having here in Washington, DC?  I took one look at the squirrel and smiled. I am with you little squirrel and was ready to plop down myself after a very full day of cutting, cooking, freezing and preserving. And perspiring.

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This Week’s Garden Round Up (July 25, 2011)

25 Jul

We have been experiencing a major heat wave the past few days.  There have been excessive heat warnings and record highs. The air quality has been steadying at code “red” meaning it is unhealthy for the general population. Aside from most of my squash, so far both the community garden plot and my home garden are holding their own.

Community Garden Plot

Patio Container Garden: Tomatoes, Beans and Peppers

Squash Planter

My patio container beans got a little overwhelmed and suffered a some leaf damage but are doing okay. So I spent time over the weekend cleaning out the dried up dead leaves. One patio container tomato plant looked droopy and some of the developing tomatoes looked a bit puckery but with some water, the leaves and tomatoes plumped back up.

As I mentioned, most of the squash did not fare so well. But they were on the ropes anyway from the powdery mildew so their demise under the heat stress was not unexpected. One mature plant and three tiny plants survived. I planted more squash seeds and hope the growing season will last long enough for them to produce.

So I hope everything will continue to be okay as we get a few days of respite just in time for another heat wave that is predicted to set upon us later in the week.

As evidenced by the photo above, I harvested a wonderful crop of eggplant, beans and tomatoes.

Squash Struggles

18 Jul

Another big eggplant and tomato harvest.  So I looked for a recipe. I found what sounded like a very tasty dish. Trouble was, it called for squash and well, let’s just say I suck at squash.  Three years going and each year, I struggle.  The first year crop was wiped out by powdery mildew after producing two little yellow crook necks.  Figuring the shade was a contributing factor, I moved my planting the next year to big pots on my sunny patio.  I was thrilled when I got three really good sized zucchinis. Then the plants wilted and died. I learned that a squash borer got to them and learned more about the little pests than I cared to know.  I tried to cut them out and save the plants but no luck.  Not to mention I got totally grossed out by the sight of the borer grub photos as I was researching what to do.  I think this contributed to my less than aggressive search for them.

So this year we transformed Calvin’s no-longer-being-used sand box into a squash planter.  All was well.  That is, until the plants were over come by the dreaded powdery mildew. I continue to work hard to stave off defeat by spraying the leaves with an organic mixture of mainly soy bean oil and rosemary. It worked great last year but not so great this year.  I am thinking it is because the sand box plot is less sunny than the patio pot area. Anyway, not sure who will win, me or the powdery mildew. But for now, all I have is one small scallop squash trying to grow. (As back up, I got a big pot this past weekend and planted more squash in it and placed it on the patio).

At least I take solace in knowing that my community supported agriculture farmer is also struggling with squash and not getting the yields he had hoped to get. (He explained this sad fact in his recent e-mail to those of us who wait excitedly each week for our “share.”)  So even real farmers have  troubles too.

Oops.  I digressed.  Back to the recipe.  Okay, so I did not have squash and put the recipe away until either my crop or the farmer’s land produced.  But then low and behold, Patrick and Calvin came home from the community garden plot with two beautiful zucchinis!   Anne, a fellow plotter, gave them to the two while they were watering our plot.  Thank you, Anne!

So Patrick, Calvin and I each give this recipe five peas ••••• (our new rating system from 1-5.)  I gave it five peas despite the fact that I suffered a significant burn on my leg. The downside of a tiny kitchen is the lack of counter space, thus requiring use of a stepping stool to place the roaster full of vegetables that I had just pulled out of the oven. Well, I forgot it was there and backed into it.  Result: a burn with blisters.   No peas for that! Oh, well.

Pasta with Roasted Vegetables, Tomatoes, and Basil

Epicurious  | April 2000

Bon Appétit Outdoor Entertaining

yield: Makes 10 servings

Great served warm or at room temperature.

ingredients

  • Nonstick vegetable oil spray
  • 3 red bell peppers, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I substituted green and pale yellow bell peppers that came in my CSA delivery)
  • 1 1/2 medium eggplants, unpeeled, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 1 1/2 large yellow crookneck squash, cut into 1/2-inch pieces (I substituted the zucchini that was given to us by a fellow community garden plotter)
  • 2 1/4 cups 1/2-inch pieces peeled butternut squash (I substituted more eggplant since that was what I had from my community garden plot)
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil (I used a bit more than the recipe calls for)
  • 1 1/2 pounds penne pasta
  • 3 medium tomatoes, cored, seeded, diced
  • 3/4 cup chopped fresh basil or 2 1/4 tablespoons dried
  • 3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar  (I used a bit more than the recipe calls for)
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3/4 cup grated parmesan cheese

preparation

Preheat oven to 450° F. Spray large roasting pan with nonstick spray. Combine red bell peppers, eggplant, crookneck squash, and butternut squash in prepared pan. Drizzle with 3 tablespoons olive oil; sprinkle with salt and pepper. Toss to coat. Roast until vegetables are tender and beginning to brown, stirring occasionally, approximately 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite. Drain; reserve 3/4 cup cooking liquid.

Combine pasta, roasted vegetables, tomatoes, and basil in large bowl. Add remaining 3 tablespoons oil, vinegar, and garlic. Toss to combine. Season pasta to taste with salt and pepper, adding reserved cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten, if desired. Mound pasta on platter. Sprinkle with Parmesan and serve. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Cover and keep at room temperature.

Read More http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pasta-with-Roasted-Vegetables-Tomatoes-and-Basil-105764#ixzz1SNnRdlYA

“It Makes my Heart Happy”

19 Jun

First Tomatoes Turning Red

I stopped by my community garden plot this evening to check in. To my sheer delight, I had tomatoes turning red, eggplants growing and peppers harvest ready. It seems that the last two days of heavy downpours, followed by sun, helped the garden out.

As I left the community garden, a woman approached me. Gazing over the garden plots, she said that when she looked at all the things growing, it reminded her of her home country and how they grew vegetables. I asked her where she was from and she said, Ghana. We spoke excitedly about the power of gardening and farming and she said that in Ghana, everything her family ate came from their own plot. She asked how one could get a community garden plot and, concerned that she worked during the week, how much time it took weekly for me to keep my plot up.

I told her all about the process of getting a community garden plot through the county and how I tended my plot around my full-time + work schedule.  She then paused, gazed once again over the community garden, and with a joyful facial expression said, “It makes my heart happy to see this!”  I agreed. It makes my heart happy to be part of this amazing opportunity to plant, grow and cultivate from my own community garden plot. I got back in my car and as I drove away, we waved to each other and smiled, acknowledging the joy in our hearts.

 

Bell Pepper

Banana Pepper

Little Fingers Eggplant

Cubanelle Pepper

 

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