Monday, September 24, 2012

Green tomato update

I'm back (again)!  Sorry, it's been awhile.  Life gets in the way sometimes and cooking and catering and classes and, and, and! So...some of you have been waiting for the green tomato update.  I have photos to offer up but it's just all those little guys, you know, grape and cherry and only a couple of larger varieties.  And, it's kind of cute when the red ones are trying their best to express themselves but just one here and there.  I must say what is really growing - Poblano peppers!  They are enjoying the weather so not only do I have fruit on the vine but again, lots and lots of blossoms.  Had to take a picture of them!  So that's the garden update.  It really is winding down and because the holidays are fast approaching, I simply haven't had the time to put in the winter varieties.  I have been working on my compost so after this last harvest of mainly little green tomatoes and Poblanos, we'll turn the beds over, wait for Spring and see what the magic of compost does!

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Tomato promise...

As I reported a week or so ago, I was on a mission to re-vamp the garden for fall.  In the midst of pulling up the spent killer cucumber (all show, no go!), I found something interesting amidst the tomato vines.  I pulled off the bird netting which by the way, was worthless...I either have really smart birds in my yard or I am totally inept...ok, don't answer that question!  But here's what I found:  tons of yellow blossoms!  The blooms are everywhere. I'm not sure about the pollination so I've been shaking them together and talking to them.  They got a nice long bath this morning because it's supposed to be really hot today...yay! Indian Summer!

I couldn't pull up those plants with so much promise on them so I'm watching and waiting and hoping for a nice harvest of green tomatoes because you know what that means! Fried green tomatoes, tomato relish, salsa verde and I'm sure I'll concoct something else. So feast your eyes and dream with me...I'll let you know what happens. 

Friday, August 31, 2012

A little something for tailgating...

I know many of you will be reading this and asking this really Candace or has she been possessed by some otherworldly being who tailgates...?
Well, have no fear!  It is me and no, I'm not really tailgating but I do happen to love the food associated with football season...actually, this time of year it starts being fun to cook again so I'm all for it.  Anyway, you may be looking for the recipe that I shared this morning on FOX23 Daybreak for Sweet and Spicy Thai Chicken Wings and not being one to dissapoint here it is!  This is a really yummy one, too!!

Sweet and Spicy Thai Chicken Wings

Serves 10 – 12
3 – 4 lb. chicken wings, wing tips removed, split in half
¼ cup Lovera’s Italian Grill Rub (or your favorite spice mixture)
2 – 3 tbsp canola oil
½ cup sweet chili sauce
3 tbsp fresh lime juice
3 tbsp ketchup

Preheat oven to 400°F.

Place prepared chicken wings in a large bowl. Toss with oil and spices. Arrange in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet. Roast for 45 minutes until crisped and golden.

In a large sauté pan, mix the sauce ingredients and allow to warm until bubbling over medium to medium low heat. When wings are cooked through, add to the sauce ingredients, increase heat to medium and cook wings in the sauce until glazed, approximately 15 minutes. Turn wings onto large platter and serve.

Monday, August 13, 2012


The garden is "in transition" so I'm moving back inside to the kitchen.  I promise to have more from the garden after I've done a little overhaul and planted some late harvest veggies.  In the meantime, I thought you might enjoy some recipes.
Chimichurri, for those of you who have been living under a rock, is an Argentinian steak sauce similar to many salsa verdes out there.  It can be categorized as a salsa verde because well, it's verde, it's green and it is a sauce.  Every household in Argentina (and I'm certain many other South American households) makes its own version of chimichurri.  They change up the herbs, the vinegar, the seasonings and, of course, every person who makes it, thinks theirs is the best.  And, I, of course, think mine is the best! IS really, really good and most people who come to my classes where we make chimichurri really, really like it.
Chimichurri is primarily made for beef because Argentina is as well known for its cattle as well...Oklahoma...okay, and Texas.  But it is delicious served with chicken, shrimp, pork and along side starchy vegetables as well, potatoes, plantains, oh my, it's Heaven served with sauteed plantains.  But here is a photo taken of the dish I took to NYC when I auditioned for the new ABC cooking show.  This is grilled ribeye (perfect medium rare), patatas bravas (spicy sauteed potatoes), garden fresh tomato and onion salad and yes, chimichurri.  I, personally, think it looks luscious.
And, here is the chimichurri recipe.  This is one of those recipes that you really need to "make your own".  In other words, experiment with the herbs, seasonings, etc., until you get it the way you really like it.  This isn't rocket science, you know!  This is Cooking without a Parachute!
It will keep in the fridge for up to a week but I don't think it will last that long!

Makes about 2 cups

½ cup olive oil
½ cup red wine or Sherry wine vinegar
3 – 4 green onions, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
1 tsp kosher salt
½ tsp black pepper
½ tsp crushed red pepper
2 cups Italian parsley, stemmed and chopped
1 cup cilantro, stemmed and chopped
½ cup fresh oregano

Combine first 7 ingredients in a blender or food processor and blend until almost smooth.  Add ½ of parsley, cilantro and oregano and blend until incorporated.  Then add remaining herbs and puree.  Can be made ahead, cover and chill.  Allow to come to room temperature before serving.

Sunday, July 29, 2012

This and that...

Well, it's 105 in the shade.  I can hear my vegetable garden panting.  I continue to water twice a day when the garden is shaded and can catch its breath.  I know I talk about it like it is alive...because it is!  Don't mean to anthropomorphise (bet you didn't think I could throw big words around, did you?) but the little darlings seem to need some additional respect these days out in this unbearable heat.  Honestly, it is almost impossible to be outside.  That said...look at these beauties that were growing quietly next to the fence.  Thank goodness, my boyfriend was out there yesterday to pluck them because I obviously didn't see them.  Yes, I am literate but also blind as a bat.I am hopeful that the three tomato plants I put in a few weeks ago will fare better than their many cousins across the garden divide.  The butternut squash is still looking good and here's hoping that I will get a few more bell peppers and Poblanos before they give up.
I don't know if you can tell how tall and leggy they are but but they are very tall and leggy! And, seem to have a lot of blossoms coming on so we'll hope for the best, once more.  And, I will continue to water, water, water, until the city tells me to stop.  At this point, I feel as boring as the temperature so let's move on.  I didn't expect to be busy at the kitchen this summer because well, it's summer and in Tulsa, that means that people are not around.  They are staying in (smart), or on vacation (smarter) or summering at their second home in Colorado or Maine or somewhere much cooler than Tulsa (what?!).  Since I don't have the luxury of a summer home, I am typically in town and working so that maybe someday I will have the luxury of a summer home (I better hurry, though, I'm not getting any younger!).  Happy to say that classes have been quite full and loads of fun.  The last one that was a particular blast was the Ricotta Making Class.  This really is one of those projects where you just can't believe how easy it is and why you have never tried it before!  You don't need special ingredients, equipment or anything!  Just milk, salt and some sort of acid (vinegar, buttermilk or lemon juice but lemon juice is my gives it just that hint of lemon) to make the milk turn into cheese.  Also, everyone has their own method for making ricotta but here is the recipe I like best.  Now, go forth and make ricotta!

Homemade Ricotta
Makes about 2 cups
½ gallon whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
½ tsp salt
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
Line a large strainer or colander with cheesecloth and place over a large bowl.
Slowly bring the milk, cream and salt to a boil in a large, heavy saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally to avoid scorching.  Add lemon juice.  Reduce heat to low and simmer, stirring constantly until mixture curdles 5 minutes or less.
Pour into lined strainer and let drain for at least an hour.  Discard liquid, chill ricotta covered.  It will keep for 2 days.

News from the kitchen...September will feature a new type of class.  We will be trying out "Date Night at Urban Kitchen".  Recently, I have been fielding calls from folks looking for something different to do on a date and cooking seems to be "it"!  So, we're responding to the request with a special class for couples.  We will feature foods to cook together (romantically, of course) so Date Night will be more "meal-based" versus "topic-based".  We're excited to offer this class so hope you will grab your significant other and come cook with us!

Last but not least, I am going to be working on moving all of my blogging to Wordpress.  Blogger was a good way for me to start this adventure but the more I look at (and admire) other food-focused blogs, it seems that they use Wordpress so watch this space and I'll let you know when it's time to go...

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pssst...I'm back!

Hey Everyone!  Sorry for the length between posts!
Frankly, I got distracted by this crazy ABC Cooking Show audition and also somewhat bored with what's going on in my garden.  I will catch you up on both, no worries!
First, the audition...this new show is very hush hush but we found out that it will be called "The Taste" and will be similar in format to "The Voice".  After what I believed to be a good audition, I have not yet received a call back (frowny face) but!  You learn something with every experience and here is what I learned from this one...even though the produced begins the interview with whatever kind of question, you must never stray from your mission which is:  it always comes back to the food.  I didn't follow my own advice and just ended up having a goofy gabfest with the producer but didn't talk much about my food.  So notice taken...will not make that mistake again and believe me, there will be another "again"! 
But I digress...on to the garden and more photos!
It is definitely summer in Oklahoma now.  Over 100 degree days, day after day after day.  I'm looking forward to little bit of weather but it doesn't look like it's going to happen soon.  I have taken to watering my poor babies twice a day now, early in the morning and then late in the evening when it's just 90 degrees.

The 'maters have not fared as well as I had hoped but they are still trying.  Between the birds, squirrels and plain ol' heat, I don't have the crop I thought would be there.  The yellow and red cherry tomatoes keep going and they are wonderful so I appreciate them so much.  The bird block I put up has helped keep the birds out but I'll be damned if I didn't see a squirrel running across the top of the fence with a big tomato in his mouth and then stop to take a bite while I was right there!  I chased him with a rake (a la Mr. McGregor) but it didn't scare him in the least!  I'm hoping that the rest of the crop will be high enough that he (and the bunnies) can reach them.
The killer cucumber looks beautiful but no fruit...if it ever comes on, I'm going to be pickling.
The Italian parsley and the basil are happy as are the butternut squash and peppers. 

So, we have to hope for a break in the heat!  Should be coming before long...I know I'm humoring myself, sad isn't it.
In the meantime, I'll be indoors at the kitchen.  We have lots of great classes coming up in August so don't forget that you can beat the heat at Urban Kitchen.  Keep watching the website (and this blog) for some exciting new promotions that will start in September.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Pssst...Killer cuke returns...

I'm hot!  It's 105 and it will be for the next week or so and I am sick to death of it already!  Last summer was awful, so hot and it burnt everything up in the garden.  Please don't let that happen again.  In the meantime, the killer cucumber seems to be thoroughly enjoying this horrible heat.  Vines are going everywhere.
I have found two very large, one you would almost call huge, specimums hanging up underneath the foliage.  It truly is like Audrey...kind of scares me to go looking for things.  It took two hands to pull one of them off the vine.  If you notice in the pictures, the vines are crawling right up the fence, taking little notice of the very nice and new trellises I purchased for them at Home Depot.
I will admit both of the monsters were quite tasty.  I was a little nervous peeling the first one but the flesh beneath the skin was snowy white...couldn't believe it!  No green cast, whatsoever!  My next fear was that I would find a big, pithy hole running the length of the fruit but once again, I was proved wrong.  Juicy and completely beautiful through and through.  I know, I've been a bit hard on my cucumber plant and I'm kind of starting to feel bad that I've made fun of her.  I guess as long as she keeps producing, I'll let her run all over the place.  Now...where did I put that pickle recipe?

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Pssst...Money can't buy you love or...homegrown tomatoes

In today's Sunday paper (I know, I'm showing my age by confessing that I read the newspaper), there was an article in the editorial section that waxed poetic over homegrown tomatoes.  Understandably so, there is nothing so sad as those pale, pathetic tomato wannabes that overrun the produce sections during the off season...which is most of the year.  Consequently, during tomato season, people go nuts for the vine ripened, blood red beauties that we have the good fortune to have in Oklahoma.  The newspaper article was about Arkansas tomatoes and I'm sure their growing season will be just as robust as ours but I'm sticking to Oklahoma 'maters, thanks very much.
A bumper crop is predicted for this season and I have no reason to think otherwise.  You will see from my pictures that the tomato garden is going crazy but I am also going to offer up some tomato close ups.  I have already harvested (and it continues) yellow and red cherries and the thick skinned and quite small Juliet Romas.  I made a wonderful tomato and Vidalia onion salad with white balsamic and olive oil to grace the top of a juicy grilled rib eye a few weekends ago.  There is nothing quite like the acid of that homegrown salad against the rich, fatty (fat is flavor, you know) beef of a rib eye.  You really should do it sometime AND only season your meat with salt and me on that one, try it and let me'll never use another marinade or dry seasoning mix again!
But back to our with a bumper crop, you will need to "put up", can , preserve, whatever you like to call it, this luscious bounty!  If you don't, they'll go bad and then you'll be sad!
Canning is not hard but it can be time consuming.  I promise this, you will be happy you took that time in the winter when you have jars of ripe, red tomatoes staring at you from your pantry shelves.  And, you don't have to can bushels and bushels of fruit.  Years ago, people did that because they didn't have grocery stores and the abundance of food that we have now.  So although we are very lucky to have the availability, it's the quality of the summer crops that we lose during the winter.
Canning can be as simple as pouring cooked sauces, jams or jellies into sterilized jars and sealing the lid; no water bath processing needed.  But if you are canning fresh fruits or vegetables, you will need to process them.  This can be done (and this is the time consuming part) in a very large pan with simmering water or you can use a pressure cooker which can shorten the processing time by two-thirds or better.  I'm not going to bore you with the intricacies of canning tomatoes because you can usually get a canning pamphlet along with a box of canning jars.  I still have the one my mother used from 1945!  I recommend canning your tomatoes fresh and then processing them.  That way, in the winter, you can have tomatoes for salads, sauces, just about anything.  And, in the winter, money cannot buy you homegrown tomatoes but you can sure have them waiting for you in the pantry and you will LOVE that!
Next week...the killer cucumber returns!  Be very afraid!!

Monday, June 11, 2012

New additions...what?

Yes, I've been showing you how great my garden is growing and there shouldn't be anything new added but...the radish bed was empty and was looking kind of forlorn so I had to do something!  The answer was three new tomato plants and aren't they precious?  Another beefsteak, a golden heirloom and a Cherokee purple...can't wait to see that purple one! 
Farmers have rotated their crops for years and when one bed is finished, well, in goes something else.  That way you have veggies coming up all summer and into the fall.  So we'll have some late summer additions coming on as spinach, more arugula and cabbages.  These tomatoes will be about 2 -3 months behind their brothers and sisters that are growing like wild fire and here's the proof of that...
On the left, in the back...yes, 13 tomato plants are rocking and rolling and have green fruit and blossoms all over them.  There's going to be some serious canning going on in August! 
The bushy, low plants are carrot tops on the right...beautiful!  Then, the killer cucumber is behind them crawling up the fence after latching on to two trellises that we put up on Saturday.  And, yes, I admit I didn't listen to my guy who said that I would need a lot more trellis than the cute little ladder that I bought initially.  In fact, you can't even see the ladder anymore or how cute it is. It may have been eaten, who knows?  I see cucumber pickling in my future as well.  But all is not well in the little garden in spite of Hooty watching over the proceedings.  Critters in the form of bunny rabbits are picking and choosing which close to ground treats they want.  They've tried some of the Roma tomatoes but I think the skin is so tough even the rabbits don't like them.  They've eaten the tops of some of my beets and are obviously skipping through the beds, apparently trying to decide what to eat next.  I guess I'm going to have to get some rubber snakes since Hooty can't seem to handle the job.  Just so you don't think I'm making this up, I came across this guy as I was walking out to the garden this morning. 
I know, I know he looks cute but don't let that fool you!  He and his family will ravage your garden in a heartbeat!  No, I won't do anything mean to him, other than shoo him away when I catch him but I am going to try some of that liquid, invisible fence or whatever it's called and see if between that and the rubber snakes I can keep Peter, Flopsy, Mopsy and Cottontail at bay!  Next week, we'll take a closer look at the carrots and the beets, have a tomato update and another peek at that killer cuke!

Monday, June 4, 2012

Everything's coming up tomatoes!

Yellow cherry

It's hard to know where to begin...the vegetable patch is so happy; it truly is hard to single out one veggie over the next but I promise each will get proper recognition.  This week it has to be tomatoes.  And, there will be more on the tomato family because there's so gosh darn many of them!  I have everything from red cherry to yellow cherry to Beefsteak and Beefmaster and then there are the heirlooms that are really going nuts.  So I'm just going to share the pictures with you now and suffice it to say...when they're ripe, better get in line!  Just sayin'.

Early Bird

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Attack of the Killer Cucumber

Yes, it is terrifying...especially for my poor pepper plant that is this crazy cuke's next door neighbor.  I was in such a rush to get all of the tendrils off the pepper, I didn't stop to take a picture of it strangling her but here is a hint of what this monster is doing and I'm so thankful that I only have one!  YIKES! 
It's almost like she's beckoning you, isn't it? Reminds me of Little Shop of Horrors so I think I may have to name her Audrey.  And, I've called out enough "B" movies for one post, I think.  So, this is actually just a regular cucumber.  Nothing remarkable about the variety but they do climb and if you don't have a large enough trellis to start with it (read:  I did not have a large enough trellis to start with.), you will be coaxing her onto an old, battered tomato cage left over from the previous owners but thank goodness, it was around.  You can see it there in the right side of the picture.  She has pulled over the darling little ladder trellis that I had to have (and, thought would be sufficient) so everyday, I pull it back up hoping that she'll balance herself out and leave the trellis where it belongs.  Honestly, I couldn't imagine that cucumbers got so big and ranged so far from their original place.  I have some faint recollection of them being on a mound of dirt or some such thing.
Look at all of the blossoms so I can't complain...she's just doing her job.  I will have lots of cucumbers in addition to the tomatoes that continue to go crazy.  I just harvested a bushel (or what seemed like one) of arugula.  The radishes are finished just in time for one of the butternut squash plants to take over that bed.  Lots of those little guys, too.  May have to do some squash blossoms in one of the next classes...  Still waiting on the beets to grow a bit.  I'm hoping they'll be ready in time for the next Seasonal Vegetable class so stayed tuned for that one.  Carrots continue to grow...beautiful fronds and, yes, you can eat carrot tops, too, so you know we will!  Pesto is on the horizon so if you're coming to class this're getting it, fresh from the garden!  Next week's update...more tomatoes and tomatoes and tomatoes!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Just around the corner...

It's hard to know where to begin and what pictures to share simply because I could spend the whole day taking pictures of these darling tomatoes.  They're becoming like children!  I really didn't intend to buy any Romas but as you can see...somehow I ended up with these lovely girls and I say girls because this variety is called "Juliet".  I thought they were going to be grape tomatoes (absolutely love those) but they're already too big for grapes. And, there are going to be a lot of them.  I would say, "get ready for lots of sauce" but I fall into the camp with Mario Batali where I don't use fresh tomatoes for sauce.  Fresh tomatoes should be appreciated for their freshness so don't start making a bunch of sauce with them.  Can them, first, please.  Then, in the winter, make sauce.  The plants have become so large and lush, you almost can't tell where one ends and the next begins. 
These little guys are hidden near the ground but somehow are getting enough love to turn red.                                                                                                                                
Apparently, they were supposed to be in a container garden...oops!  They're early birds though, so they'll be gone first, hopefully before they're over run by their neighbors. 
Like those fellows below....they are heirlooms and aren't they beauties?  Variety name is Brim, not quite sure where that comes from but probably names after someone.  Anyway, I think they're going to have a very interesting kind of squatty shape so I can't wait to see them and then give them a try.   The rest of the garden is happy and healthy.  Almost at the end of radish season and it's a good thing because the butternut squash is trying to take that bed over.  I can't keep up with the arugula and the carrots tops are fuzzy and full.  The cucumber plant has some babies and it tried to wrap itself around one of the pepper plants...luckily, Kornell came to the rescue and moved it back to its trellis.  Now, if the forecasters would get their positive hats on and stop talking about another heinous summer...we'll all be happy!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Gardens gone by...

It is has been so many years since I had a garden and then beyond that a garden that was actually productive.  Have I changed?  Have my methods changed?  Both?  Who knows?  All I can say is that this garden holds the promise of time well spent.  I always loved gardens and admired those who could make things grow.  When I was little, my mother had tomatoes.  They were big and red and beautiful but I wouldn't eat them...yuck!  Luckily, my taste buds have changed over the years.  She said her dad (my Grandpa Claude) grew the most beautiful Big Boy tomatoes (I don't see that variety anymore) but hers seemed pretty wonderful to me.  That year though, the birds were getting in her garden and eating them up before they matured.  As you can imagine, she was not happy.  I was probably four or five and watched a lot of cartoons and then The Wizard of Oz and would see scarecrows out in cornfields to chase off the birds.  I decided to help my mother and make a scarecrow for her.  I didn't have any wood so I used yardsticks and made a sort of stick figure then stapled (I think, although I had issues with staple guns...that's another story) a paper scarecrow on to the yardsticks, stuck it in her tomato patch and proudly told her that my scarecrow would chase the birds off.  I'm sure she thought it was cute so left the yardsticks in her garden to humor me but it actually worked and the birds stayed away!  She ended up with lots of tomatoes...none that I would eat, of course, but I liked that I had a part in keeping that garden growing.  That is my first fond memory of gardening and I'm glad that it happened to be with my mother.

This past week was mulching week.  Grass clippings from the lawn went onto the beds.  All around the tomatoes and in between the rows of green.  Whoa!  Did things take off!  Some of the tomato plants already have fruit.  The radishes (first picture) have bushy greens.  The carrots required another thinning.  The cucumber and the squashes are vining and have blossoms.  I think I will be harvesting baby arugula in the next couple of weeks...can't wait!

The beets are a little slower to grow.  They probably would do a lot better if I could keep the critters from running through them.  I may have to fire Hooty, he is present but not consistent so yardsticks and staple gun may be next!   And we can't finish without a look or two at the tomatoes and a peek at the herbs.  See you next week!

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Garden...Up Close and Personal

WOW! I had no idea how different the veggies would look from one week to the next. Everything is going ca-razy! With the addition of tomato cages and my friend, Hooty, the garden is super happy. I don't want to overstep my bounds but I may be selling tomatoes on the corner in front of my house this summer. This is going to be a photo heavy post so enjoy the view! 
Herbs, herbs and more herbs!  Rosemary, Greek oregano, basil, and sage.The tomatoes are caged!  And, Hooty's in the house!!

Monday, April 23, 2012

More from the vegetable garden...

It is so exciting to watch a vegetable garden grow!  I can see my little corner of the gardening world from my bedroom window...didn't really intend to do that but so glad I did.  Every morning, I open the shades and it makes me smile to see how happy all of the plants are.  I must get tomato cages this week or my tomatoes will be close to out of control but I really want to find just the right ones and haven't seen them yet.  There they are at the top end of the photo...I promise to get up close and personal with all of the plants for the next post but wanted you to get the whole picture.  In the foreground are beets.  I have been thinning them like mad but they insist on multiplying so we should have lots and lots of beets with goat cheese, sauteed beet greens and beet salads.  I grew up thinking there were only pickled beets in jars, that bright magenta!  A color that truly does not exist in nature!  But I discovered how delicious beets can be when roasted until just tender and then tossed with other wonderful flavors like vinaigrettes and cheeses (especially goat).  I have people in classes who cringe at the thought of beets but never say anything until after they have tasted the ones we make in class.  Then, it's...I don't like beets but these are so good!  So...get ready to try my beets, we will be having them in class!   
Now this picture is really exciting!  There are beautiful peppers (red bells and poblanos), butternut squash and a cucumber plant (only one because they go crazy) at the top of the photo.  Next down are rows and rows of my favorite...arugula!  I can't wait to start the harvest and believe me, there will be lots!  It is so wonderful in salads but is sublime...not wimpy like spinach but has that lovely peppery bite that stands up to beef and lamb and then blends beautifully with fish and poultry.  DIVINE!  Next to the arugula...carrots!  They are in need of thinning so I will be in the carrot bed tonight and whoever is walking through my vegetable patch (Mr. Squirrel)...I will be on the lookout for you!  Closest to the bottom, radishes that have been thinned and are growing like ca-razy!  The plant is a second butternut squash...hoping for squash blossoms to stuff, yummy!

And, now the lovely herb container garden.  That's Greek oregano on the right in front then next to it and behind, basil that I have already trimmed once...I see pesto in my future and in my freezer, next is sage.  If you haven't used fresh sage in soup or on pizza or in your Thanksgiving dressing, you need to get some and go for it.  Wonderful heady and earthy pine fragrance...and it will remind you of the holidays.  Last but definitely not least, my friend, rosemary.  I have a very funny (ironic) rosemary story where a chef friend of mine insisted that my rosemary plant was lavender and even had me smell it and then said...see, it's lavender!  Well, no, honey, it ain't lavender and if you think it is...turn in your chef's coat, right away.  So there you have it...Week Two of the vegetable adventure!  Stay tuned for next week...

Sunday, April 15, 2012

I LOVE my garden!

It's been sooo many years since I have been able to have a vegetable garden.  But I bought a house last Spring and moved in on Memorial Day weekend.  Really too late to start a garden and luckily, I didn't since last summer was one of the hottest on record and everyone's gardens burnt up.  It was such a sad sight to see.  This year, though, promises a wonderful growing season.  You can tell how excited people are to put vegetables in to make up for last year's dismal showing.  I, for one, am especially happy!  My first garden in years!  I eagerly bought tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, butternut squash, and herb plants.I bought seeds for beets, Italian parsley, arugula, radishes and carrots.  I was intent that I would do raised beds and put down weed control fabric underneath so that I wouldn't have to battle the Bermuda grass (because it will win!) but only the airborne weeds.  So as the story unfolds...I found the coolest raised bed kits at Sam's.  They looked great but then when we got them out of the box...we found that they were like Lincoln Logs so just fit together with nails, screws, hammering, etc.  It was amazing.  We did have to put in A LOT of soil but all sweet boyfriend (couldn't have done it without him) and I spent no more than 2 and a half hours from start to finish.  And, that was with two stops when it was pouring rain.  Frankly, I couldn't have picked a better weekend to plant.  Since then, temperatures have been cool and it has been rainy.  My little garden is super happy and my cooking class students and catering clients will soon be reaping the benefits of our labors! 
Yes, that is basil that you see in those to grow it and other herbs in can also see rosemary, oregano and sage coming up. 
Here's a recipe for pesto to keep you interested. 
Fresh Basil Pesto
Makes about 2 cups

3 large garlic cloves
½ cup nuts (pecans, walnuts or pinenuts)
2/3 cup Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
3 cups loosely packed fresh basil leaves
2/3 cup olive oil
Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

In the bowl of a food processor, add all ingredients except the Parm and olive oil and process until finely chopped. With motor running, add oil, blending until incorporated.
Pour mixture into a bowl and blend in grated Parm until well combined.
Pesto can be frozen in ice cube trays for use at a late time, like winter.
Also...mess with the ingredients to find your favorite combinations. 

And, of course, I will keep you posted on the garden's does photograph well, don't you think?

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

So...what do you do in a...pasta class?

I am often asked, "what happens in the pasta class?". 
Well, we don't just open the bag and throw it in the water...if that's what you mean!

The pasta classes at Urban Kitchen are some of the most popular and fun classes that we have.  Pasta is made from scratch using a basic two-egg dough that is easy for beginners to handle.  I admit we do not do the "flour on the board with a well for the eggs" method.  I prefer the food processor method; it's must less intimidating, it's fast and it works great! 
The pasta machine is a manual, hand-cranked version that usually requires two people so it is a fun team-building (or friend-building) exercise.  After the pasta is rolled out (if you don't have a pasta machine, you can use a rolling pin), you can cut it into all kinds of shapes.  The class favorite is bowties or farfalle.  We also make linguini.  And, everything is handcut so, yes, it's rustic!
Class includes two sauces; a marinara and then something else.  The marinara helps pass the time while we are allowing the pasta dough to rest (30 minutes).  Once made and laid out on sheet pans, pasta can be frozen or must be used immediately.  In class, we follow the "use immediately" program.  Fresh pasta cooks very quickly so once your water comes to a boil, be ready with a tool that will fish the pasta out a spider or some other slotted or wire tool.  The pasta then goes into a small amount of sauce that has been warmed in a saute pan to finish.  Remember, in's all about the pasta, not the sauce.  Sauce is treated like a condiment.
So that's Pasta 101 in a nutshell...hope to see you in class!