Monday, June 24, 2013

Plant a radish...

Plant a radish.
Get a radish.
Never any doubt.
That's why I love vegetables;
You know what you're about!  
The Fantastiks

I think that is one of the reasons I love vegetable gardens, especially when the harvesting begins.  You just know what you're about!
Starting with radishes...they're kind of harbingers of things to come.  These little beauties came out today and there are still lots more in the ground (makes me happy!).  But the importance of today's post is to, implore you to hold onto the greens after you have plucked off the radishes.  I know, I know, when you buy them at the grocery, who knows how long they've been sitting there so I'll give you a pass on those BUT if they come out of your garden and they are fresh and beautiful like these....
Yes...those are radish greens, believe it or not.  That is what they are supposed to look like.  So swish them in a cold water bath, dry and wrap them in paper towels.  Then put them in the hydrator and use them for salads or as a sauteed side...very similar in use to beet greens.  Radish greens are quite tender and not at all bitter.  I think they have more of a grassy taste when they're raw so they do make a nice salad.  I would combine them some other baby greens, fresh strawberries and an Asian vinaigrette, maybe with sesame oil then you could also add in some sesame seeds.  Now, I know you're dying for a recipe...right? This is so simple, it'll make you cry. And, so delicious, it'll make you cry for more.   I also have been known to make this recipe with baby beets and beet greens so feel free to improvise.  If you're feeling adventurous slice some radishes and toss them in too!
Sauteed Radish Greens with Pasta
Serves 4

One large bunch of radish greens
Extra virgin olive oil

1 -2  slices applewood smoked bacon

½ medium onion, sliced
1 lb penne or other short pasta
4 oz. goat cheese
Kosher salt and black pepper

Wash radish greens well and shake to dry.  Remove any tough ribs and cut crosswise across large leaves but leave small leaves intact.  Cut bacon into lardons and fry in a large sauté pan until fat is rendered then add sliced onion and sweat onions until tender and translucent.  Add radish greens and sauté until tender.
Boil a large pot of water with salt and cook penne until al dente.  Drain but reserve pasta water.
Add penne to the sauté pan with the radish greens and toss to combine. Crumble goat cheese over the top and combine until cheese is melted.  If needed, add a ladle of pasta water to bring the ingredients together and thicken the sauce.  Salt and pepper to taste.

* This was one of my favorite posts from last year and I thought since my radish crop was so sad this year that I would reminisce.  Plus, I had to add a picture of the finished dish.  I do saute some sliced radishes and add them before serving.  The recipe appears in my cookbook.*

As always...

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Monday, June 17, 2013

The Pink Flamingo Invasion

So, I'm willing to try anything.  Why not, pink flamingos?
We had a thing for pink flamingos when I was in high school.  The group I ran with, affectionately referred to as The Family, revered all things kitschy.  Bette Midler was our goddess, the laundromat (Ranch Acres Laundromat, specifically) our second home, exotic dancers (aka strippers in the 70's) our namesakes and then, yes, of course, Pink Flamingos.  We even had t-shirts printed with pink flamingos emblazoned across the front (thank you, Mat).  I think we were all devastated to hear the news that the company producing our rare birds was closing its doors.  Citing rising costs of plastic resin as well as lack of interest (what?!), Union Products in Leominster, Massachusetts stopped production on November 1, 2006 just two months shy of our beloved lawn art's 50th birthday!
So now I'm sure you're wondering why I'm talking about plastic birds that you can't buy anymore...well, leave it to one of our Family members, Bert, to buy most of the pink inventory that remained when the company closed.  Fast forward to earlier this year when Bert is moving to smaller digs and can no longer house our mascots.  Rather than just dispose of them, he creates an inheritance program where the rest of the Family members can have his/her very own pair of flamingos.  You know, of course, that flamingos must be in pairs, they mate for life and cannot be parted until death.
So there you have it!  I have inherited my pair of flamingos. And, they are being put to very good use in my vegetable garden.  Here's hoping that they will terrorize the other birds, rabbits, squirrels and any other critter that comes along.  With a little help from Sevin dust (I'm sorry Bobby Lee but I was desperate!  The bugs were eating up my tomatoes, escarole, eggplant and brussels sprouts!!) and a sprinkling of a product called Critter Ridder (it is organic and has pepper oil, etc in it), the flamingos will do a better job of keeping the unwanted visitors at bay.  Just for fun, because I am getting into the whole video,YouTube thing, I thought I would offer up a garden video for this blog post, featuring, yes, my new pink flamingo friends.  I bought this cool video app for my iPhone so I had to try it out.

I promise I will work on my camera skills but cut me some slack!  This is my first real effort!!
Now that you've been properly introduced, I think the flamingos need names.  So COMMENT with your suggestions after this post with your favorite names.  It has to be two names, they are a couple you know.  And, let's be creative people!
As always...

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Come join the fun and take a class with us!  Visit my website at Urban Kitchen on Cherry Street and check out the Class Calendar.

And, I'd love to hear from you so leave me a comment...let's have a conversation!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Cooking without a Parachute - The Writing of a Cookbook

I have written and self-published a cookbook.  It is called, Cooking without a Parachute:  Fearless cooking from my kitchen to yours.  It has a very nice picture on the cover.  On Tuesday (tomorrow), Urban Kitchen will be open for a book signing party and I hope some people come.  I think they will, they said they would.  If they don't, I will have a lot of food left over.

I am a writer by nature, and probably by personality, since I enjoy writing once I sit down to do's just that sitting down part.  I was once told by an English teacher that I have a "native talent" for writing.  I'm sure I interpreted that to mean that since I was naturally talented, I didn't have to work at it.  And, since I thought I would do many things in this life besides write, I could just do it as a hobby.  The problem is this; when you are a decent to good writer, people find out and they want you to write things for them just so they don't have to.  I was always told I was good at English and languages but not math.  I found out years later, when I was trying to avoid any career associated with math that I was, in fact, very good at math.  I just had VERY BAD math teachers!  Constructing a grammatically correct and meaningful sentence is hard for many people.  It is not hard for me.  I have written many letters for many people because they thought they couldn't.  They probably were told they were good at math.  Consequently, I chose not to write for myself for many years because I was writing for everyone else, BORING!  But now, I am doing a lot of things that I either was never able to do or, at least thought I wasn't.

I have wanted to write a cookbook for a very long time.  In the 80's, my brother published a book of my mother's recipes to give to his friends and clients (He owned a printing company so he could print whatever he liked.).  As you have heard me say before, my mother was an amazing cook.  She had a "native talent" for cooking and one I like to think I inherited.  The book was called Bob's Mom's Recipes by Ma Conley and that is exactly what it was, a book of recipes.  Actually, it was a book of lists of ingredients and sort of what to do with them.  Each list had a title of some sort but beyond that, it was not a recipe.  I told Mom there was no way for anyone to use this book if they didn't already know how to cook.  I have also said that Mom was no teacher, and as such, I don't think she really ever wanted anyone to be able to replicate what she did.  She left out ingredients and steps and, in the end, it was just a pamphlet of ingredient lists with a couple of instructions thrown in.  Since that recipe book was printed, I have wanted to produce a cookbook that was useful and helpful.  But there are a lot of useful and helpful cookbooks out there; I needed something to make mine different.
My vision for this book is to weave recipes and stories together.  Almost every recipe has a story or a memory associated with it from my mother and our family.  My vision is also to update those recipes so that they are useful and helpful today. 

WARNING:  That is not the cookbook I have written at this point.  And, that is not the cookbook you will be seeing at my book signing on Tuesday.

Because here's the thing, getting published.  I am not the only person writing cookbooks (or any other book for that matter) and I am certainly not a famous person (not yet) writing a cookbook.  So you have to get out there with lots of other things before you can be published without publishing it yourself.  My first cookbook is self-published.  There is no shame in that.  It was a challenging task and I am happy with my first effort but it is just that...a first effort.  This is my "getting off the ground" cookbook.  It is full of recipes (with ingredients and instructions) from my cooking classes and also from my mother (I made up the instructions for hers and they work!).  I want people to cook without fear.  Julia Child said, "Don't be afraid!" long before cooking became the mega-industry that it is today.  But people are still afraid!  I can tell in my classes when you don't want to move or touch the food or cut it up so that it's easier to work with...I can tell!  So I want you to cook fearlessly and this cookbook is my first effort towards that end.

The "vision" cookbook will be written.  In fact, there are a number of vignettes I have penned and shared on my blog that will be a part of this future cookbook.
In the meantime, if you are in Tulsa, I hope you come to my book signing.  There will be food and drink and fun.  There will be cookbooks there for buying and signing.  I would like to say "hello" and thank you for supporting me whether it's on Facebook, in my cooking classes or just being there as my friend.
The adventure has just begun...
And as always...

If you liked this post, SHARE it on Facebook, Twitter or with someone you think needs to see it!

Come join the fun and take a class with us!  Visit my website at Urban Kitchen on Cherry Street and check out the Class Calendar.

And, I'd love to hear from you so leave me a comment...let's have a conversation!

Monday, June 3, 2013

Garden Update - Things are growing!

I'm really glad I made the decision to do my garden updates every other week.  Changes and growth are so much more noticeable!
If you follow my Facebook page, you already know that the arugula has been harvested for the first time, in the name of a delicious B-A-T sandwich (bacon, arugula and tomato).  I cannot take credit for the Beefsteak lovely that we enjoyed with the greens but it did come from a farmstand close to Fort Gibson.  I pass it on the way to my boyfriend's house in the country and it is almost impossible to keep my car from making the little detour off the road to see what there is each week.  The stand is actually a very small red frame house, no more than 10 x 15. It has an old screen door posted with a sign that says "No dogs inside".  The farmer, Mr. Harrison, built it for his wife so she could sell vegetables from their garden after she became ill and couldn't work any longer.  The farmstand gave her something to do and all the visitors kept her company during the day.  She has since passed but Mr. Harrison keeps the stand open during the summer growing season.  And, although he does grow a lot of what is in the stand, I believe these tomatoes were from near the Arkansas border since we haven't had enough tomato growing weather yet but still, local enough.
Here is another charmer...many times when you stop in at the stand, no one is there.  It runs on the honor system so there is a small, spiral notebook where visitors write down what they bought and how much money they left in the little lock box on the card table.  Luckily, I had a ten so I was able to buy 5 lbs of tomatoes...because there was no one there when I stopped in.  Hard to believe that the honor system still works but isn't it nice to know that sometimes it does?
There is much to be said for buying local or growing your own.  As we were building the B-A-T (we added avocado too so I guess it was really a B-A-A-T), we couldn't help but remark on the difference between buying arugula in the grocery and pulling it out of your backyard garden.  Just think of all the people and machinery that touched the store bought arugula as it made its way to the grocery (and how dependent we are on that!).  It was harvested just like mine but that's where the similarity ends.  How long does it take to get it from the field to the store?  It must be harvested, picked over, packaged, distributed, transported and probably more that I can even think of.  And, then, on the other hand, there is walking outside to the backyard with a pair of scissors, clipping what you need, bringing it in, rinsing it, drying it and eating it.  Crazy, isn't it?  That's as close to philosophical as I'm going to get so...on to the pictures!  I know that's what you really came here for anyway, not to hear me wax poetic! is yesterday's arugula harvest.  Barely touched what was there but it was more than enough for two sandwiches.  So the rest of the crew in those boxes are from left to right starting at the bottom...two rows of Italian parsley (I don't know why one row is doing better than the other), then the other two rows are the arugula.  If you are a novice gardener, you should really try growing arugula to start out.  It's like a weed.  Easy to grow and just keeps coming back.  Then in the top box, there are radishes (why I only planted one row, I have no idea) then chioggia (candy cane) beets, bok choy and escarole.  The escarole is gorgeous!  And, what can I say, I just love those peppery, bitter greens.  Also, escarole is one of those amazing greens that stays intact even when wilted.  I put it in soup for the first time, many years ago, and couldn't believe how well it behaved.  I thought it was going to act like spinach and just melt away.  It did not!  I have been a fan ever since.

The sugar snap peas are doing quite well and are running up the trellises.  I don't know if you can tell in this picture but there are lots of white flowers so I am anticipating pea pods by the next update!  You can kind of see the pumpkins peeking out at the lower left hand side of the picture but that clearly does not do those beauties justice so take a look at this...nice, huh?!  These plants should bring us some pie pumpkins so we can have real pumpkin pie for Thanksgiving this year.  Fingers crossed! 

Next photograph, eggplants!  OMG!  I think I'm going to have so much eggplant, I'm going to be paying people to take them.  These two plants are lovely and with just those, not too out of control, right?  But...I planted a bunch of seeds in Jiffy Pots and I had them identified by variety then I put them outside to harden off, a storm blew in (imagine that!?) and all of my markers with it.  I had no idea what I was planting and I think I planted a BUNCH of eggplants.  YIKES!  We're going to find out shortly but I think there are at least three or four more plants. 

Some of the pepper plants are doing very well but not all of them and, once more, I don't know which is which.  I also think I've got a tomatillo or two in there but all of the markers washed away or something so I feel like the biggest ditz.  Ummm, yeah, I have this really nice garden but I just planted all these seeds and plants and I don't know what they are!  Holy smokes!!

In the bottom of the pepper photo are onion starts.  My boyfriend put them in and he says they'll grow into big round onions but we don't know what variety they are either!  Oh well, you spins the wheel, you  takes your chance!

Then, there are the tomatoes.  If I get one fruit off these plants it's going to be a miracle.  I was so stoked to have all these great heirloom varieties.  Between the critters and cutworms, I guess, they haven't done squat.  And, it hasn't helped that the weather has been cool and rainy.  They are starting to perk up a bit but I still think I'm going to lose two more of them,  Just in case, I planted a couple of other things next to them...I don't know what they are but they looked healthy so....
not knowing what it is hasn't stopped me up to this point, why should I start identifying things now or worrying about it?
I was looking at pictures from last year's garden and at how amazing the tomato plants were at this point.  But also remember that the squirrels, birds, tomato worms and heat did most of them in.  So, I haven't given up!  I sprayed everyone with Miracle Gro this morning and I have great looking compost that will go on at the end of next week so all is not lost!