Let the Planting Begin! Or not.


For me, this year’s gardening season had officially begun.  I had sun.  I had 60 degree plus weather.  It felt like spring.  Even though it was before the calendar officially rang in spring, I was ready to get a jump on the end of winter and leap optimistically into spring.  So I kicked it off with a trip to the nursery to pick up packets of seeds and buy a beautifully designed and written book on growing, harvesting and cooking.

Then off to the community garden plot to pull off the plastic from the cold frame that was protecting my lettuce, swiss chard and kale that I had been over-wintering since the fall.

Spring was in the air. I could feel it. I could smell it.  I could hear the birds chirping in the morning. I was in ether of spring fever. Nothing could stop my joy. I grabbed my new iPad Mini and found a gardening app to help me with my seed planting schedule. The old notebook method be damned. My recently purchased packets were carefully organized according to cool weather seeds and warm weather seeds. Peas and parsley seeds were jumping out of my hands ready for planting.

Well. That was two weeks ago.

Now there is a forecast for snow for this weekend.   We are talking 20-30 degrees at night and up to 40 degrees by day.  The cold frame plastic is back on. Well, only after I kindly requested (forced) my husband to put it back on.

Okay, I knew better.  I always know better.  I do this every winter/spring. But spring (and hope) springs eternal.


Double Header: Quinoa-Stuffed Red Cabbage Salad and Israeli Couscous with Asparagus, Peas and Sugar Snaps

I was searching for a recipe for my Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) delivered red cabbage and the red quinoa that I had in my cupboard. I came across a blog with an interesting-sounding recipe for Quinoa-Stuffed Red Cabbage Salad.  I decided to try it out and am very glad I did.  It was incredibly flavorful and went really well with a recipe for Israeli Couscous with Asparagus, Peas and Sugar Snaps that I found in Bon Appetit.  The couscous was amazingly tasty and a perfect use for the couscous that had been in my cupboard and some fresh asparagus and frozen peas that had been unused from a previous meal.  So the double header, Quinoa and Couscous, was a bit hit.  (It’s baseball season so I could not resist a bit of baseball analogies.)

I made an adaption to the quinoa recipe.   Rather than goat cheese (I am not a fan), I used feta cheese.  Here is the recipe that I pulled from blog.freshlevant.com

Quinoa-Stuffed Red Cabbage Salad

1 head red cabbage

For the Stuffing:

1/2 cup quinoa
1/4 cup baby carrots, fine dice
1/4 cup fresh corn kernels
2 tbsp fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper

For the Vinaigrette:

1/4 cup grapeseed oil
2 tbsp Sherry vinegar
2 tbsp shallots, minced
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 tsp sea salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
Crumbles to goat cheese to taste (about 1/4 cup) (optional)

If you’ve never rolled cabbage leaves, you should. They look great once cooked, makes for a nice presentation and teaches you patience! Yes, it’s a bit challenging, but also fun if you enjoy playing with food. So, here’s a major tip for those of you who will attempt this for the first time (it only takes one time and you’ll crack the rolled cabbage code too): Boil the cabbage whole and start peeling the leaves as they soften and become flexible enough to roll with no resistance. The core takes more boiling time. My suggestion is to submerge the entire head in simmering water, cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Using tongs, remove the head from the water (keep water on heat), gently peel away as many softened leaves as you find. Once you notice resistance, return remainder back to simmering water and repeat process until you have enough leaves or you get bored, whichever comes first. Cut alongside the rib and each softened leave will yield at least two rolled pieces.
While the cabbage in under water, prepare the stuffing. Soak the quinoa grains for about 5 minutes, discard water then rinse under running water and let dry for a few minutes. Finely dice the carrots, mince the garlic and chop the parsley. Mix all ingredients together in a small bowl, adding fresh corn, lemon juice, olive oil and salt and pepper.To assemble, simply place about a tablespoon of the stuffing mixture in the middle of the leave androll parallel to the veins (important tip to eliminate resistance). No need to tuck in the ends. As you roll, line the bottom of a narrow deep pot with the rolls, tightly packed.
Once first layer is complete, start another placing the rolled cabbage perpendicularly to the previous layer(important tip to prevent the rolls from getting loose). Once all leaves are rolled, cover the rolls with just enough water to simply submerge the top layer, juice of half a lemon and a teaspoon of salt. Cover pot, bring to a simmer for approximately 20 minutes. Turn off heat and let cool to luke warm. Remove rolls and serve at room temperature with vinaigrette below.

Prepare the dressing by mincing shallots, soaking them in the vinegar for 10 minutes. Add mustard, salt and pepper. Whisk grapeseed oil in. Add minced parsley and goat cheese. Drizzle over the cabbage to your liking.

Israeli Couscous with Asparagus, Peas and Sugar Snaps

Israeli couscous is small, round, toasted pasta with grains about the size of peppercorns. Serve this dish chilled or at room temperature.

BY Jeanne Kelley
Bon Appetit: June 2010


  • 4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 2 large garlic cloves, minced, divided
  • 1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon peel
  • 1 1/3 cups Israeli couscous (6 to 7 ounces)
  • 1 3/4 cups (or more) vegetable broth
  • 14 ounces slender asparagus spears, trimmed, cut diagonally into 3/4-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 8 ounces sugar snap peas, trimmed, cut diagonally into 1/2-inch pieces (about 2 1/2 cups)
  • 1 cup shelled fresh green peas or frozen, thawed
  • 1/3 cup chopped fresh chives
  • 1/2 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
Test Kitchen Tip
To trim asparagus, hold onto the top of the stalk with one hand and bend the bottom of the stalk with your other hand. The stalk will snap, separating the woody end from the tender top.
Ingredient Tip
Some sugar snap peas have a tough string running along the top of the pod. To remove it, snap off the leaf end and pull the string.
  • Whisk 2 tablespoons oil, lemon juice, 1 garlic clove, and lemon peel in small bowl; set dressing aside. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat. Add couscous, sprinkle with salt, and sauté until most of couscous is golden brown, about 5 minutes. Add 13/4 cups broth, increase heat, and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer until liquid is absorbed and couscous is tender, about 10 minutes, adding more broth by tablespoonfuls if too dry.
  • Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large nonstick skillet over high heat. Add asparagus, sugar snap peas, green peas, and remaining garlic clove. Sprinkle with salt and pepper; sauté until crisp-tender, about 3 minutes. Transfer vegetables to large bowl.
  • Add couscous to bowl with vegetables. Drizzle dressing over. Add chives and cheese; toss. Season with salt and pepper.


Peas or Peace??

Peas or Peace? I have been intending to start a blog about gardening and my newly found but now deeply rooted (ha ha) connection to the dirt, seeds and things that grow from a vegetable garden. I suppose that I am one of the modern day vegetable gardeners who found herself passionately in love with seeds, seedlings and the magical process of growing vegetables.

I was so excited about the thought of spring that I went to the nursery two weeks ago, despite the fact that it was 30 degrees outside. With total excitement, I scanned the seed packets, trying to distinguish between the dozen or so types of tomato varieties. Then the selection of peas. Oh, so many!! What to choose?? Focusing on peas because they will be the first that will get planted in my cold frame and tomatoes because that is what I will be starting inside this year. Purchased some seeds and soil and brought them home intending to plant them this past weekend. But they have yet to be planted. Why?

Well, that is where the peace part comes in. The Peas or Peace part. (And tomatoes too but given this blog starts with peas, well I HAVE to include them or where would be the required symmetry be?) Okay, I digress. The peace part. Well, the issue is when I was ready to get started on spring, a kinda late winter storm came crashing down. The US House of Representatives decided to zero out the funding of the United States Institute of Peace. That is where I work. So my focus and energy was immediately shifted to the need of planting seeds of a different type: peace. So no peas. Stay tuned. Still working on the peace…..and peas.

Peas for Peace

Finally!!!  My blog.  About Gardening and Peace.   My two favorite subjects.   I can’t believe I finally did it and figured out (okay, also after being a tad bit, okay, totally intimidated on how to set up one of these things) how to set up a blog (with a little help from Patrick and Calvin).  Nothing like a “crisis” to spark one into action and get the intentions put into action.  I suppose that is where challenges are to be thanked, for their ability to get us to finally plant the seeds that we only talked about in theory.  Please see next blog for the “crisis” that I have to thank for planting this seed.