Grilled Aspragus, Carrots and Radishes with Lemon Aioli – plus Radish and Red Onion Salsa

I used to seriously dislike radishes.  They are so sneaky – pretty, alluring red and then, BAM, hot-peppery-cabbage taste.  However, before you go nodding your head with the “uh, huh, sista,” consider a radish that’s not been sitting in a bag for two weeks waiting for some unsuspecting person who loves colorful food to put them in their shopping cart.  What if instead, you found them at a farmer’s market.  They’d been picked the day before, grown in cool weather, were small and not woody.  THEN you would feel how I currently feel about radishes.

Garden Radishes

I am in love with them.  I put them in my salads, roast them, make salsa with them and dip them in aioli.  They are still a tiny bit peppery and when they are paired with baguette and good butter, the nutty taste of them is enhanced and boy, is that good.  Of course, I will admit, that almost anything paired with baguette and butter is better than on it’s own, but hey, it’s all good.

So I took my radish show on the road to the Maine Ingredient and paired a Radish and Red Onion Salsa with Fish Tacos plus Homemade Tortillas, Refried Pinto Beans and a Pineapple and Red Pepper Salsa.

Grilled Asparagus, Carrots and Radishes with Lemon Aioli
For this recipe you will need either a grill pan or a cast iron skillet which can be placed directly over the grill.

1/2 pound asparagus, ends removed and cut into 1 1/2-inch lengths; about half a bunch
1/2 pound carrots, peeled and cut into thin sticks the size of the asparagus or thinner; about 3 carrots
1 bunch radishes, ends and tips removed and cut into quarters
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

Make a direct heat fire or heat the grill to medium-high heat.  In a large bowl, combine all of the vegetables and coat with oil, salt and pepper.  When the fire is ready, place the grill pan or skillet onto the grill and allow to heat, about 3 to 4 minutes.  Place the veggies on the grill pan or skillet.  Keep a constant eye, moving the veggies around frequently.  Remove those that are seared on the exterior to the original bowl.  The asparagus will be done first, the carrots next and the radishes last.

Serve immediately with Lemon Aioli

Serves 4 to 6

Lemon Aioli
1 small clove garlic, smashed and coarsely chopped
1 egg yolk
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon lemon zest, zest from about one lemon
2 teaspoons lemon juice
dash Worcestershire
1/8 teaspoon salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup canola oil

Combine all ingredients except oil in a food processor and pulse until combined.  Ever so slowly, while the motor is running, add the oil.  After about a minute of dribbling the oil in, you can add it more quickly.

Makes a little over 1/2 cup

Herbs Arrive in the Garden

Some silent but beautiful signs of spring and life in the garden…  Hello, old friends.

PerennialHorseradish
Horseradish – the leaves are sprouting and the roots are just peaking out of the soil.
PerennialLovage
Lovage – An old fashioned herb similar to celery in taste.
PerennialTarragon
Russian Tarragon – Not the lovely French culinary herb, but tall and wispy all the same.
PerennialChives
Chives – Add them to everything!

Thank you for the small changes I see everyday

Thank you.  Thank you for the sun, the warm weather, the seeds that are sprouting and the really simple plastic covers that are making it all possible.  Thank you for it all.  It’s such a blessing to walk in the garden everyday and delight in new growth and green.

The plastic is a new idea this year and it’s working.  When it’s rainy, it protects the seeds from hard rains which wash away the little gems.  When it’s sunny, the plastic serves to retain moisture and buffer the wind on our windy property.

Simple, easy, perfect.  Thank you.

SeedsGrowing1
Radishes, spinach and lettuce coming up under the mini-greenhouse.
SeedsGrowing2
Tiny, tender pea shoots. Salad here we come!
YardCleanUp
Moved the greenhouse which still needs to be covered. All of the beds in the background are seeded and sprouting!
AnniePowerTool1a
Making good use of the chipper/shredder. Love that thing.

Potato, Leek and Watercress Soup

Farmer Tom from Hope’s Edge delivered gorgeous fronds of leeks to me in early May last year – not nearly far enough into the growing season to have them as large as they were.  But these leeks were special.  They’d been heeled in and over-wintered under a deep layer of straw.

Spring pulled Leeks

When we had a bumper crop of King Richard leeks last fall, I decided to give it a try.  Who knows, right?  As E and I tromped out to the garden to take a look, I could see bits of brown stem poking through the straw and I wasn’t sure they’d made it.  Our property is windy and the deep bed of straw had been partially blown off – by all those blizzards this winter.  But some stuck and that was enough!  While I couldn’t make a stock out of the tips, I was  sure I could use the tender white and lime green parts closer to the roots.

This recipe used up the rest of the watercress from a batch of local cress which I wrote about in the Maine Ingredient – Creamy Potato and Watercress Soup.  Similar, to this soup, but creamier and more elegant.

Potato, Leek & Watercress Soup by Annie Mahle

Potato, Leek and Watercress Soup
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
2 cups diced onions; about 1/2 a large onion
4 cups diced leeks; about 5 medium leeks
6 cups white potatoes, quartered and sliced thinly; about 4 potatoes
1/2 teaspoon salt
several grinds of fresh black pepper
1/2 cup white wine
6 cups vegetable or chicken broth
2 cups lightly packed watercress leaves and stems, coarsely chopped into 1-inch lengths
1/2 cup cream fraiche

In a large pot over medium-high heat, melt the butter.  Add the onions, leeks, salt and pepper and sauté until the vegetables are translucent, about 10 minutes.  Add the potatoes and white wine and bring to a simmer.  Add the broth and bring to a simmer again.  Simmer over medium heat until the potatoes are cooked through and beginning to break apart slightly, about another 15 minutes.  Remove from heat and add the watercress.  Serve immediately with a dollop of cream fraiche on top.

Serves 4 to 6

Walk Awaaaay From the Computer

Sometimes, no matter how mountainous the piles, no matter how voluminous the dust bunnies, no matter how numerous the emails, when a person opens the door to personally receive the mail from the mailman and feels not a blast of icy air but gentle warmth and gets a whiff of not brisk or crisp, but soft and dirt, they need to walk awaaay from the computer and go outside to play in the garden.

Greenhouse1

GreenHouse3

Then things like peas, swiss chard, spinach, mesclun, arugula and whatever else one grabs from the seed box will, like magic, begin to appear from the dark loam of the earth and become a meal or ten for a family or a boat.

GreenHouse6

I do believe that we will have fresh greens and vegetables even for our first sail this year.  In part this has to do with planning (and giving in to the impulse to get out in the garden all the while ignoring the piles that will still be there when I come back inside).  In part this is due to excellent husbands who help build cold frames.  Lastly, we must give a nod to Mother Nature who seems to not have any more snow in our future this spring.  I may have spoken too soon and you can blame me if snow arrives, but I with cautious optimism, think we just might be done.

GreenHouse5

Here, you can see four different season extenders.  In the foreground are milk jugs with the bottoms removed and then plunked in the ground over pea seeds.  In the background, from left to right is the angled cold frame, a hooped bed which will receive plastic over the hoops and an a-frame cold frame.  All work equally well.

Annie
Counting the days until my first garden greens of the season

Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Caper and Kalamata Olive Pan Sauce

The column runs today.  What’s for dinner?  Parmesan-Crusted Chicken Breasts with Caper and Kalamata Olive Pan Sauce; Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes; and Toasted Pinenut and Garlic Spinach.

I made this meal for my mom and dad when they were last out.  Mom liked it because it felt light and Dad liked it because it was hearty enough.  Score!

Annie
Sometimes you can please all of the the people all of the time

And this is what the greenhouse looks like the morning after…

growing under a greenhouse covered in snow

Green! Its Green!

Radishes, spinach and lettuce seeds are all happily sprouting on the window sill in the kitchen where I can water them, love on them, enjoy them and talk to them.  The ground is still mostly covered with snow.  The skies are often gray but oddly bright with frequent white fluffy flakes drifting down.  And inside, green is growing.

spinach seedlings

LettuceSeedlings

RadishSeedlings

I’ll use them as micro greens and will probably transfer many of them as starts into the mini-greenhouse out back.  As often happens, you can see the spinach seedlings are reaching for more light (I understand perfectly.)  All will need either to be trimmed or relocated to help them along, but for now, it’s a hopeful, happy symbol to have as I cook along in the kitchen.

The mini-greenhouse is now all set.  The plastic has been laid and three bags on potting soil added.  When I was out a couple of days ago to wipe snow off of the windows, the temperature was about 40 degrees under the glass.  A few hours later, when I returned to collect eggs from the hens, the temperature had risen to 60 degrees, even without much sun.  I’m still fascinated by how this works – simple science, I know.  I’ve set the plastic up so that its both a layer on the bottom and a extra layer on the top for those colder nights that are sure to still come.  Again, lettuce, spinach, radishes and the like will all go into the soil and hopefully by next week I’ll be reporting on their progress.

Annie
Growing Micro-Greens

First Seedlings of the Year

I couldn’t take it one more day.  The seed catalogs have begun to saunter in and I’ve resisted looking at one, but instead have filed them in the cabinet next to my desk.  It’s February you see.  If I look at seeds and green and growing, I will start to yearn – for seeds and green and growing.  Like this…

green garden

And I will no longer love the snow, which is gorgeous, clean, white and covering the entire garden.  Like this…

fresh snow

Until today I succeeded.  Until I didn’t, and then I just had to plant some seeds, just a few.  Because it is so cold, I didn’t feel up to braving the garden shed for containers and instead got ingenious with the newspaper.  These little window boxes fit perfectly on my window sill and contain spinach, bibb lettuce and radishes.

PaperWindowBoxes

It didn’t take but a few seconds before I was on a roll and thinking creatively about how to use the misplaced mini-greenhouse out in the back garden to squeeze some greens out in late April.  Because it isn’t over a garden bed right now, but instead just in a path, I won’t plant directly into the ground, but will fill several shallow boxes with several inches of dirt and actually plant rows.  The edges of the greenhouse will need some straw for insulation and I think a row cover or two will do the trick to protect the seedlings…

Seed packets

Annie
Yup, I’m on a roll and green is in my future!

Dear Grandma, Can I tell you about my Elderberries?

Dear Grandma,

Well, the moment I’ve been dreaming about and waited on for so long has arrived and I’m about to go out to harvest my first crop of elderberries.  When I do, I’ll don a white, long sleeved shirt that Jon tossed into the rag pile, only it won’t go down to my knees like it did when I was little and I’ll only need to roll the sleeves up once.  We used to have metal buckets when we tromped out to the fields behind Uncle Bob and Aunt Marjorie’s house, but mine all have wood ash in them from emptying the wood stove so I’ll bring a basket lined with some parchment paper so that the berries don’t fall through the bottom.  I don’t remember ever picking through the berries with you once we got home.  I suspect that I made myself scarce at that point and you and mom did the lion’s share of that work with me running into the kitchen for a snack to take out onto the patio where I sat in some much needed shade and watched the daddy long-legged spiders build nests and listened to the background music of you and mom catching up and telling each other stories.

I’m going to make your pie first, but I have a lot of berries so I’ll also make some jelly and syrup.  If you were here, I’d love to share some with you over a cup of tea, but I guess we’ll have to wait on that until I see you again in the future.

Love,
Anne

elderberry picking

picking elderberries for jam and syrup

cooking with elderberries

It’s Always Something

It seems as if there’s always something one could fret about when it comes to bees – too hot, too cold, too moist, too dry, predators, mites, not enough flowers/pollen – a person could loose sleep!  Luckily, that’s not my style, I tend toward the “live and let go” side of the fence, trusting that their inner sense of guidance will lead them toward healthy and happy hives, generously flowing honey.  While that may be where I trend, it’s clear that bees sometimes need a little help from us to make it through as they adjust to our changing weather – in Maine or out.

Joe, our resident bee guy, is the fretter on site.  He checked on our two hives recently and found that they are both healthy.  When he lifted the lid he could both hear and see them.  Also, it was a little warmer than the air when he put his hand close to the entrance.  On the other hand, because our winter has been so mild, he’s actually more worried for them than if they just hunkered down and stayed still.  The warmer it is, the more active they are.  The more activity, the more honey they eat.  So, Joe’s worried they won’t have enough food stores to get them through to pollen collecting time.

On goes a 5# bag of sugar on top of each hive.

bee keeping

Helping our bees through the winter.

be happy and healthy bees!

Tucked in but still healthy and active.

one of our two bee hives

Joe, The Bee Guy, Rebecca The Most Excellent Gardener and the Peanut.