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!