Thank goodness my birthday rolls around soon after school ends each year and shakes me out of my lethargy. Last year, my birthday very effectively motivated me; ECG and I got engaged that day. Doing so created a whole list of things we needed to complete in the upcoming months. This year though, I'm not planning for a wedding. Instead, I have a whole marriage ahead of me, and that means ECG and I have a long list of items to complete together. Some of them are set for an undetermined future: visiting his extended family in Argentina, completing an long-term volunteering assignment together, raising chickens. Some of the items are for our more immediate future: finding homes for all that junk we keep behind the carved wood screen, organizing all of our financial information into Quicken, and going to Portugal. Early next month, ECG has a conference in Lisbon, and I get to tag along. Lucky for me, international conferences appear to be one of the perks of being married to an incredibly talented scientist.
I don't know if it is because the birthday signifies a shortening life (and thereby less time to do all that I want to do—geez, that is depressing), or simply because it is usually such a celebratory time that any summer doldrums disappear (I like that possibility better), but my birthday always snaps me into active mode. And this year, I've made a list of goals I want to achieve this summer. Here are a few with which I need your help.
In the garden:
- I want to figure out the mysteries of peppers. Last year, the few sweet peppers I had were sunburned and unhappy, and the hot peppers were productive, but not very hot. This year, I've started by taking more control over the plants and growing them from seed. (Several varieties never germinated for me, even though I was patient. I'll try different seed sources next year for the varieties that never sprouted.) For sweet peppers, I have Red Ruffled, Buran, and Bull Nose. So far, Red Ruffled is leading the group by far and is lushly full and beginning to flower. The other varieties look healthy but still small. In the hot pepper department, I have Fish Pepper, Bonnie's Hot, and a few slow-growing Chapeu de Frade seedlings. I expect the Chapeu de Frade to be slow, and it should be a perennial here in Southern California, so if I don't get fruit from it this year, that is okay. However, I really want healthy crops from my other plants. All my peppers are in full sun, receive a good soaking from the soaker hose once a week, and are mulched with compost to fertilize and retain water in the soil. What suggestions do you all have for big, flavorful pepper crops?
- Last summer was the summer where I first delved into the splendor of melons (an adventure which I am continuing this summer, by the way), but this summer I'm growing winter squash for the first time. I have one hill of maxima, Uncle David's Dakota Dessert, and one of moschata, good old Waltham Butternut, and I would love your input. Once again, the plants are in full sun and are mulched with compost. I'm training the vines up towers I built from concrete reinforcement wire. Last year, I battled powdery mildew with my melon vines. I've read that a simple spray made from diluted milk works wonders preventing powdery mildew. Has anyone tried that? Does anyone have any other suggestions to combat powdery mildew or increase production on the squash vines? Keep in mind that I garden organically. Here's the latest picture of my mascot:
In the kitchen:
- One of my favorite condiments in the world is chili-garlic paste, the salty, garlicky, spicy goodness that is usually fire-engine red with ample chunks of ivory garlic. This condiment often appears with Korean and Chinese food, and frequently with Christina food. As I'm planning on the bountiful crop of hot peppers, I really want to learn to make this myself, especially since every brand that I find in the stores has all sorts of stabilizers and other ingredients that I don't recognize as food. If you know a good recipe for chili-garlic paste, please direct me towards it. I will be eternally grateful. Just imagine, the recipe that you lead me towards will have a permanent place in my kitchen. Wouldn't that make you feel great?
- Although I have tried on several occasions, I have not yet defeated the pasta monster. I have the pasta maker, I have the recipes from the experts, but I do not yet have the "feel" or instinct for the texture and moisture levels I need to be aiming for. This summer, I will conquer homemade pasta (and twirl it with the goodies from the plot.) Does anyone have any suggestions to help me on the way towards silken sheets of pasta perfection?
You will need:
3 cups freshly squeezed grapefruit juice (strain to remove the seeds but try to leave some pulp, as it add an interesting, explosive texture in your mouth as the frozen cells explode under your teeth)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups water
1 tablespoon limoncello (tiny amounts of booze help keep sorbets from freezing as rock-hard)
To make the sorbet:
Chill the juice. Mix the sugar and water together in a saucepan and heat on medium high, stirring occasionally, until the sugar has melted completely into the water. Remove the pot from heat and let it come to room temperature.
Once the sugar syrup has cooled to room temperature, combine it with the chilled juice. Stir in the tablespoon of limoncello. Pour the mixture into a lidded container and let it chill for at least 4 hours, preferably overnight.
Follow the directions of your ice cream maker to complete the sorbet.
You are welcome.