Sunday, September 27, 2009


Today, our tub overfloweth. Somehow or another, it has decided to back up overnight, even though we did not use it last night, and now is slowly filling with murky water. While I think that the main drain to our house may be blocked, I won't know for certain until the plumber arrives in a few minutes.

Last night, our house overflowethed. (What is the past tense of overfloweth? Overflew? Of course, according to The Squiggly Red Line That Dictates All Correctness, overfloweth isn't even a word, so I can find no immediate suggestions.) But our house's overflowing was much more pleasant than the tub's, for our house overflowethed with people.

We celebrated a year of living here yesterday with good friends and food. One friend brought mozzarella and prosciutto on sticks, aka Meat and Cheese Popsicles, and skewers of melon and prosciutto. Another brought microbrewed rootbeer, another watermelon aqua fresca, another creamy baked artichoke hearts; the pastry chef brought his incredible cookies; a longtime partner in crime brought creampuffs from Beard Papa's. There were beers and wines of all sorts that folks brought. No one came empty-handed: our friends are generous and wonderful creatures.

ECG and I served the crowd food that we could plan ahead and serve outside easily. We rubbed chicken thighs with garlic, salt, and Aleppo pepper, and drizzled them with orange juice early in the morning so they could soak up the flavors through the day to be treated with a smoky grill in the evening. Early in the day, I made two tartes tatin to flip over just before serving that night. I baked three loaves of no knead bread and collected an armful of Armenian cucumbers to toss in a simple salad with red onion. In the evening, ECG, in Argentine fashion, amply salted flanken style ribs before he threw them on the charcoal fire, and I put the creamed corn together. Then, we all ate.

We love living here, but we love living here largely because we are able to share it. From here, with friends we have hiked deep into the canyons; friends have sat with us in the front yard and watched a fire threaten to swallow even more than it did; friends helped us move in; friends have helped ECG build the furniture that we live in and on; friends help us eat what we grow; and friends have spent long hours with us on the back patio, talking into nights loud with cricket calls and coyote howls. As I said before, our friends are generous and wonderful creatures.

For them, we are grateful. For the overflowing tub? Not so much.

Homemade Creamed Corn for 25
The corn remains crunchy, fresh, and sweet in this recipe, but bathed in a rosemary and turmeric-scented cream that doesn't taste like rosemary and turmeric, but instead like amplified corn. If you're not feeding 25 people, halve the recipe to the original proportions Alton Brown suggests. Or, just keep these proportions and freeze what you don't eat immediately to eat during the winter when there is no more fresh corn. I cut the corn off the ears early in the day yesterday so I wouldn't be doing the time consuming part just before the party; the actual cooking takes only a few minutes, so it easy to throw together at the last minute.

You will need:
16 ears of corn, shucked
1 onion, diced
2 tablespoons of butter
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 4" lengths of leafy rosemary
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 tablespoons yellow cornmeal
2 cups cream
freshly ground black pepper, to taste

To make the creamed corn:
Over a very large bowl, carefully hold the stem end of an ear of corn, and using a large, sharp knife, cut the kernels off the length of the ear. Rotate the ear and cut another strip of kernels off and into the bowl. Repeat this to finish the ear, then, using the dull side of the knife, scrape the pulp and corn milk into the bowl. Follow these instructions with each ear of corn. By the end, you should have a large pile of kernels and juicy pulp.

In a large, heavy pot, sweat the onion in the butter and salt until translucent. Add the corn and rosemary to the pot and stir until the corn milk evaporates (as Alton says, "the juice tightens"). Stir the sugar and turmeric into the mixture and continue stirring constantly for 3 minutes. Add the cornmeal and cream, and cook until the corn has softened slightly, about 4 minutes. Remove the rosemary branches and season to taste with black pepper and add salt as necessary.

Place the big pot of corn on the big table on the back patio, and let people serve themselves however much they'd like to eat.

(I know it is another picture of the same spider as my last post, but look! It has changed color! It's my favorite pet bug right now.)

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Summer Harvest Roundup

Here are this summer's winners:

In the SEXY Category:
  • Teton de Venus Tomato: As I've already raved, how can I not love a tomato that is productive, tasty, a great canner, and named after boobs?

In the FECUND Category:
  • Armenian Cucumber: Last year, I believe I used the phrase "rabbits on ecstasy productive." Yup, they're still living up to that image, and they're delicious too.
  • Goldie Groundcherry (Physalis pruinosa): Laura at Mas du Diable shared seeds for these sweet little babies with me. I was familiar with them from selling them to local German farmers at the garden center (Otten Brothers) where I worked in high school and the first summer of college. I loved snagging the paper-enclosed golden fruits off the overgrown plants left in six-packs at the end of the summer; they were sweet and tropical-tasting in a place so far from the tropics. In my garden this summer, they fruited and fruited, despite the constant attack from spider mites. I have a feeling these guys may naturalize on our property if I'm not careful.

In the MUSICAL FRUIT Category:
  • Almost all of my beans! Blue Coco and Indian Woman Yellow lived up to the high expectations they set for me last year. Rattlesnake was a delicious new addition, and a great one in its multipurposeness; they beans are absolutely delicious green, but if I let them go too long, no worries! They give me loads of dry pinto-ish beans. Mitla Black was another new addition this year. A bush bean, supposedly a tepary (though I have my doubts), it handled the heat and drought well and gave me loads of small, shiny black beans. I haven't cooked with them yet; I hope they're as pretty in my mouth as they are in the jar.
  • Red Noodle Asian Yardlong Bean: So beautiful, so long, so purple, so heat-tolerant! Superlative, superlative, superlative! The gophers tunneled through the open end of my bean bed and got to Red Noodle's teepee before I stopped them; the evil bastards took out all but one of my vines. However, the little vine that could soon turned into a mighty, unstoppable beast, giving me many beans despite its loneliness. Revenge on the ground-dwelling critters? I hope so.

In the I CAN'T STOP EATING YOU Category:

In the WTF? Category:
  • Not Seminole Squash and Not Piel de Sapo melon: I have great enthusiasm towards my involvement in Seed Savers Exchange, but with that enthusiasm, I have to have some flexibility. This year, one member sent me two varieties that weren't what they were purported to be. I'm not sure if this member was not careful during pollination and allowed cross-pollination to occur, or, if this person mislabed saved seed. But, the Seminole Squash, a variety I'd been wanting to grow for years and finally had room for, turned out to be some kind of Calabaza-esque squash. And, the Piel de Sapo (Skin of the Toad) melon from the same source turned out to be a Crane melon. Birds and Toads—who could confuse 'em? Oh well, neither are bad; they just aren't what I wanted.

  • Orangeglo Watermelon: It is September 23rd, and when I was out today, I noticed that these vines have just set their first fruit. Too bad sucker, you're never going to come to maturity, because you and your vine are coming out in two weeks. I have no idea why it has taken so long to get these vines started. I'll give it another try next year, though, so I haven't given up complete hope on it.
  • Pepper plant after pepper plant: Nearly all my peppers, with the exception of Fish and Bonnie's Hot, failed this year. Complete capsicum catastrophe. I'm pretty sure part of my problem was where I planted the majority of them; they really need more fertile soil than what they had. Next year, next year, next year.
  • Poha, Physalis peruviana: My friend who lives around the corner gave me a seedling of this after I tasted one at her house. They're beautiful fruit, about the size of a nickel, taxi-yellow, and encased in an elegant, papery robe. The fruit I tasted at her house was tropical and complex, sweet and haunting. The plant she gave me grew at an astonishing pace, set fruit up and down and all around its branches, and gave me buckets of fruit. So why am I complaining? Because not one fruit that I've collected, whether it's fallen dead-ripe off the plant or not, has shown any sign of sweetness. Each has been so tart that biting into one is equivalent to taking a big swig from that cider vinegar bottle that is in the kitchen cabinet.

What about you? Any new discoveries you made in the garden this summer?

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Grow Garlic

On Sunday at 5pm on September 20th, I'll be leading a garlic growing workshop at the Altadena Community Center. It's $5 at the door, and no RSVP is required. If you plan on attending, please bring a copy of this handout to take notes on. I'll answer all the questions on it and more!

Prepare for a garlicky-good time. Some of you will win door prizes, some of you—the daring ones—will leave with garlic-reeking breath, and all of you will leave with new information. I hope you can make it.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Not Really About Quiche

Oh, I really wanted to write about an incredible quiche that I created, rich with the ingredients of the beginning of fall: roasted Pasilla peppers, sage, fresh corn, mushrooms.


It wasn't great. It wasn't horrible, but it just wasn't great. I didn't get the proportion of custard to goodies right, so I've got to tweak and rework the recipe until it sings the way it has potential to sing. Definitely more eggs and cream and cheese, or maybe a different cheese will appear in the reworking.

When I imagined posting this quiche that I set out to create, I wanted to crown the beginning of this school year with jewels of capability. I wanted to say, "Hey, look at me! I can start the school year, keep up with the ever-growing-garden, invent delicious dishes, and actually semi-regularly post on this site!" Clearly, I'm not as amazing as I hoped I would be. Nope, in fact, I'm downright unamazing. Just like the quiche, more often than not, I'm meh, as the kids would say.

This sounds a bit whiny as I reread it; while on the surface it may seem that way, truthfully, I'm not complaining for I have more to rejoice in daily than I ever expected. And all of that seems more evident than ever after getting through this summer.

Tonight, it is cool. As I write this at the desk in front of my living room window, a man is walking by my house wearing a sweatshirt—a sweatshirt!—and though an occasional water-bearing helicopter still flies over, for the most part, I can watch the sun set without a stain of smoke or the fluorescent scar of fire retardant. I have a job, a good one I love, one that even keeps me entertained. Today, in the classroom, while I gave a little mini lesson on rhetorical terms, the students exemplified the word anecdote by telling a few. We laughed and laughed at the ridiculous little tales we've lived through, and I thought to myself, these kids make me so lucky. Tonight, my husband, a man who loves me thoughtfully and generously, is working late at his job, one that while difficult and sometimes frustrating, allows him real work using all parts of his brain. We have a house full of music and books and computers and art and affectionate animals, and frequently, full of kind, fascinating friends and family.

So I am meh, my kitchen-brainstorming ineffective, and my quiche mediocre, and . . . so what. I'm going to go eat quiche leftovers joyfully.

Holy crap. I sound like a Hallmark card. Whatever, I've got a dinner to go eat.