Friday, August 31, 2012

The colors of August

I find it hard to believe that stores are advertising their 'end of summer' sales, and friends are having their 'end of summer' BBQ's.  Come on people, it's not the end of summer.  A typical Denver summer averages 35 days over 90 degrees.  This year we are currently at 65 days, still counting, and the forecast hasn't changed much for next week.  Don't bother me with calender milestones, my garden is growing strong and some plants and vegetables are getting a second flush.
The raspberry canes are loaded.  Now I don't feel so bad about the Robin feeding her baby birds a good portion of my raspberries this past spring.
The Jackmanii Clematis is setting blooms again.
There is something about these petite cucumber flowers that I find adorable.
I love this steel gray-blue color of the Tuscan Kale.
The porch geraniums are starting up again.  I planted more seeds in the garden today;  a few varieties of lettuce, spinach, arugula and kale.  They should germinate while it's still warm.
Northern Sea Oats.. I really like their little wheat like flower heads.  They do reseed like crazy, but are easy to control.  Another wonderful thing about them: they are one of the only grasses that will live in part shade. 
With a full moon overhead, I believe I've had good garden karma this year.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Gazpacho is in the yard

I had a light bulb moment when trying to think of what to do with the abundance of vegetables coming out of the garden.  Gazpacho mostly consists of  tomatoes and cucumbers; I've definitely got both of those.  I'm not going to take the skins off the tomatoes or add tomato juice to the mix, simply throw in the washed and cut vegetables.
That's what I did.  Into the food processor....whatever ripe tomatoes I had at the zebra, celebrity, black krim, tomatillo and pineapple tomatillos.
I did peel the skin off the cucumbers, diced a red pepper, a small onion, and a couple of garlic cloves.  When that was a smooth puree, I added  1/4 cup of white wine vinegar and some salt and pepper.  Then refrigerated it overnight.  
When I have a cup of this, I shake in a few drops of Sriracha, and top it with a couple of cubes of diced avocado.  You could use Tobasco or any hot sauce you like.  A spoonful of sour cream or Greek yogurt stirred in is good too.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Peach & Almond Galette

This is such a wonderful dessert when peaches are in season.  Very easy to put together, sort of a rustic pie.  Having a frozen, rolled pie crust in the freezer, makes it that much easier.  My tree had it's last fruit to give, so the question comes up, what am I going to do with these peaches
It must be time for a rustic pie.  The most unusual thing you would need and might not have, is the almond paste.  It is usually sold seasonally, meaning holiday time, so buy a tube of paste then, found in the baking isle, and put it in your pantry for the next summer's peach season. 
This recipe comes from Tori Ritchie in 2010.

Peach And Almond Galette
1/4 C plus 1 Tb sliced almonds, toasted
1/4 C almond paste
6 Tb all purpose flour, divided
1/4 C packed brown sugar
pinch of salt
3 Tb chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2" cubes
1 refrigerated or frozen pie crust
1 large egg, beaten to blend
1 1/2 lbs peaches, halved, pitted, cut into 1/2" wedges
Preheat oven to 375 and line a large baking sheet with parchment.  Combine 1/4 C almonds, almond paste, 5 Tbs flour, sugar, and salt in processor until almonds are ground.  Add butter; pulse until almond topping begins to clump together.  Transfer topping to medium bowl.
If necessary, roll pastry to 11" round.  Transfer to prepared sheet.  Brush crust with some beaten egg.  Sprinkle with 1/4 C almond topping.  Toss peaches with 1 Tb flour in large bowl.  Add 1/3 C topping; toss again.  Spoon peaches onto crust, leaving 1 1/4" border and mounding in center.  Sprinkle remaining topping over peaches.  Fold crust up at edges, pleating as needed.  Brush crust edges with beaten egg.

Bake galette until crust is golden brown, peaches are tender, and juices are bubbling thickly, about 50 minutes. Transfer galette on paper to rack to cool.  Sprinkle remaining 1 Tb almonds over.  Cool completely.  Cut into wedges and serve; for an extra treat serve with ice cream.
I'll bet this would be good with other seasonal fruit as well.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Charming Gardeners

" Let us be grateful to people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom." - Marcel Proust
I believe that everyone is a gardener, encouraging blooms throughout their life.
This Trumpet Vine is covered in small tulip type orange flowers the entire summer.
The Japanese Anenome is a late summer beauty, just starting to show off its poppylike flowers.  It does best in semi shade, and will continue blooming through late October.
This Centennial Hops is beginning to fill out with lime green cones.  The hops plant is a vigorous growing perennial, sometimes growing 8-10" in one day.  Hops are actually the female flower cone of the hops plant.
In afternoon sunlight, this little peach colored Tea Rose really stands out against a backdrop of Northern Sea Oats.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Grilled Stuffed Pork Tenderloin & Plum/Avocado Salad

Cooks Illustrated kitchen fine tunes other recipes and then shares why it works.  I've made this a couple of times and it's really good.  Butterflying and pounding a 1 1/2 pound pork tenderloin gives a larger surface area for the filling, which is then rolled and trussed with twine.
Their recipe serves 4 to 6, I cut this in half and it was plenty for 3 people.
4 tsp packed dark brown sugar
2 1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 1/4 tsp pepper
2 (1 1/4 to 1 1/2 pound) pork tenderloins, trimmed
about 1 Cup of stuffing per tenderloin  (see notes)
1 C baby spinach
2 Tb olive oil
Combine sugar, 2 tsp salt, and 1 tsp pepper in a bowl.  Cut each tenderloin in half horizontally, stopping 1/2" away from edge so halves remain attached.  Open up tenderloins, cover with plastic wrap, and pound to 1/4" thickness.  Trim any ragged edges to create a rough rectangle about 10" x 6".  Sprinkle interior of each tenderloin with 1/8 tsp of both salt and pepper.
With long side of pork facing you, spread half of the stuffing mixture over bottom half of one tenderloin then top with 1/2 cup of spinach.  Roll away from you into a tight cylinder, taking care not to squeeze the stuffing out ends.  Position tenderloin seam side down, evenly space 5 pieces twine underneath and tie.  Repeat with remaining tenderloin, stuffing and spinach.
For a charcoal grill:  Light large chimney starter filled with charcoal briquettes.  When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour evenly over half of grill.  Set cooking grate in place, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
For a gas grill:  Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes.  Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burners.
Clean and oil cooking grate.  Coat pork with oil, then rub entire surface with brown sugar mixture.  Place pork on cooler side of grill, cover, and cook until center of stuffing registers 140 degrees, 25 to 30 minutes, rotating pork once halfway through cooking.
Transfer pork to carving board, tent loosely with foil, and let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.  Remove twine, slice pork into 1/2" thick slices, and serve.
Notes:  I sauteed 1/4 cup chopped onion, 8-10 chopped kalamata olives, and a half cup of sliced mushrooms in 1 1/2 Tb each of butter and olive oil.  Then added 1/2 cup of panko bread crumbs, rather than using a stuffing mix.  Keep in mind this was for only one tenderloin.

This very unusual plum and avocado salad makes the most of seasonal produce and comes from Food52.  

Plum Avocado Summer Salad
Serves 4
2 medium ripe Avocados
5 medium sized ripe black plums
1 cup chopped fresh cilantro
1 small clove of garlic
several pinches sea salt
1 medium lemon
a few glugs of olive oil
1 dried red chili pepper
Peel the plums and cut into cubes
Peel the avocado and cut into cubes.
Gently place the black plum and avocado chunks into a dish -- be careful not to mix too much.  Squeeze with lemon and sprinkle in a couple pinches of sea salt.  Do not mix.
Using a mortar and pestle, smash the garlic clove with a little salt.  Add the red chili pepper and continue crushing (should still be in big messy chunks).  Add the cilantro and continue to mash until the ingredients are combined.  Drizzle in 1/4 cup of olive oil to make the dressing, mashing well.
Spoon the dressing over the plums and avocado.  Salt to taste.  Let the salad sit for 10 minutes to soak in a bit; it's even better the next day.
Notes: Use less than ¼ cup of oil.  I replaced the chili with fresh jalapeno, and added some pineapple tomatillos.  My tree is full of small red plums and I did not peel them.  Crumbled blue cheese sprinkled on top might be worth a try.

Friday, August 17, 2012

Winter squash is on it's way

Have you thought of planting your vegetables in your perennial beds?  Don't get rid of your vegetable garden, I just mean to lace a few vegetables here and there.  I usually plant broccoli, red cabbage, Swiss chard, herbs and winter squash along side my flowers.  This year they are encroaching onto the walkway a little more than usual.
I'm growing Burgess Buttercup and Kobocha squash.  They are hard winter squash that store well, and I love their deep flavor after they've been roasted.  
The brussels sprouts plants are coming along fine.  I believe you either love them or hate them, and fortunately both my husband and I love them.  They will double in size and will be ready to harvest in early November. 
The leeks are thriving.  I am especially pleased about this new garden addition this year.  I have them located in at least six different parts of the garden and now know where they grow best.  Already thinking about next years planting.  
Tuscan kale is a vegetable that does well in cold weather, and actually tastes better after it's been kissed by some cool nights
I'll leave you with this little American gold finch upside down getting his fill.  How can he swallow seeds like that?

Sunday, August 12, 2012

Marinated Cauliflower

If you are craving quick pickled vegetables, try this marinade I found for cauliflower from Food52.  Naturally, I added a few other veggies:  red pepper strips, carrots and broccoli.  It keeps in the refrigerator for a week. 
Marinated Cauliflower

1 head of cauliflower
1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
1/2 cup water
1 teaspoon dry mustard
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
3/4 cups sugar- (I went lighter on the sugar)
pinch of white pepper

Cut or break cauliflower up into florets and put in a bowl that has an airtight lid.  Bring remaining ingredients to a boil over medium high heat, stirring until everything is dissolved and incorporated.  Let cool, then pour over cauliflower.  Cover bowl and let sit at room temperature for 3-4 hours, shaking or stirring occasionally.
Refrigerate overnight to best enjoy this light and lively flavor.

Saturday, August 11, 2012

10th Mountain Hut Trip

As always, we had a good time on our annual 10th Mountain Hut volunteer weekend.  This year we worked on the Fowler/Hilliard Hut which is at 11,500', just six miles West of Vail Pass.  In fact, in the distance we could see Vail's Two Elks Lodge that sits on the edge of the trail that takes you to my personal favorite, Blue Sky Basin.  The original hut, built in 1988, was struck by lightening and burned down in September 2009.  It was rebuilt during the summer of 2010.
One of the many projects this year was to build a wood walkway between the main hut and the outhouse. 
Every morning there was at least one of three horses eating just outside the hut.  A sheep herder, who's family has been herding for generations, stayed in a trailer several hundred yards away, and used the horses to check on his 1500 head of sheep several times a day.
On our second day, we decided to take an early morning hike prior to the start of our days' tasks, in search of the sheep
The vistas were beautiful and well worth the early rise.  We heard the sheep long before we could see them.  Looking down on them, still from far away, I realized the need for the horses.
In the afternoon, a lightening filled hail storm rolled in which halted all outdoor progress.  Good thing there was still plenty of indoor work to be done.  Fortunately, the construction on the walk path was finished, but sealing it had to wait until the following day so the wood could dry.  The storm also stopped work for the group that had taken chainsaws and a log splitter half a mile down the mountain to help stock the wood closet for winter.  At least we had one truck load, but that won't be enough to get through a winter using both the cast iron wood burning stove and wood burning heater.
The 10th Mountain Hut System has a Summer Internship Program for young people who want the opportunity to learn about Colorado’s back country and the system of remote huts.  During those two months the interns spend most of their time working in the field for the 10th Mountain.  They are shown all phases of operations and receive $350 a week.  At dinner one night, we offered the three interns some pulled pork.  The delight on each face was priceless.
The days were filled with endless cleaning, washing, sanding, varnishing, building and restocking.  These huts get a once a year spruce up that will ready them for the busy winter usage.  When the hut was rebuilt, stainless steel counter tops were put in the kitchen; great for wear and tear and easy to clean.  Bob is putting on the finishing touches near the outhouse before we head home.
It was another fun weekend of working together for a good cause.
To learn more about the 10th Mountain Division Hut Association go to their website @

Friday, August 10, 2012

Vegetable shopping at home

Zinnias are one of my favorite annuals.  Every year I plant the seeds and most times critters eat the tender shoots as they come up.  Thankfully that didn't happen this year.  
I remember this view of the garden at the beginning of April, when we were amending the soil and I was planning the layout.
It hardly seems possible for all of this to have happened in just four months.  Some of these tomato plants are taller than I.  This year I really worked at making everything grow vertical. 
My basket is mostly filled with tomatoes: black krim, parks whopper, sungold, juliet, celebrity, husky cherry reds and tomatillos.  There are also a few cucumbers, plums and zucchini in the mix.  Shopping from the garden is my favorite way to shop.
These cute little heirloom cucumbers are mexican sour gherkins.  They are the size of a large jelly bean and look like tiny watermelons.  I love the slight hint of lemon flavor in these crunchy textured one bite wonders. 
The cherry sized tomatoes ripen so fast that I oven roast pans of them all summer long.  I really like this over night roasting method. 
Preheat the oven to 450.  Cut the tomatoes in half and place them cut side up in the pan.  Lightly drizzle some olive oil over them and sprinkle with salt, fresh ground pepper, and thyme.  I like to top them off with a good amount of minced garlic.  When they've been in the oven for 15 minutes, turn it off and let them set overnight.  In the morning, scoop them into containers and refrigerate.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Homemade Tortillas

You can make a dozen 4-5" tortillas, in no time at all, with only three ingredients.
This reicpe comes from Happyolks blogsite.
2 cups Masa Harina
1 Cup warm water
1 tsp salt
For the tortillas, dissolve the salt into the warm water.  Pour over the bowl of masa harina slowly, stirring as you go.  Mix until combined; smooth but not sticky.  Knead lightly and press into a ball.  Cover, and let rest for 30 minutes or up to 2hrs.
Pinch off a golf-ball sized chunk of dough and roll into a smooth ball, set aside and continue until you've used all the dough.  Lay out a few sheets of parchment paper and get a flat plate to help you press out the dough.
Set one dough ball between two pieces of parchment and start to flatten with your hand.  Continue with hands, or for even edges, grab a heavy bowl and put your weight into it over the sheets of parchment and the ball.   I found this awkward and decided to take it to the floor. 
First a wood cutting board, then the parchment paper with the dough sandwiched in between, lastly another piece of wood on top that I stepped on, to effortlessly flatten the tortillas.
Peel back the parchment and you’ve got a perfectly shaped tortilla. Cook for two minutes on each side in a non-greased frying pan.  Set aside and begin to stack them up.
Top them with whatever you're craving.  I like using leftovers, so it was black beans tossed with some ground cumin, smoked paprika and lime juice for the base.  Added chopped smoked pork, fresh corn kernels, avocado chunks and some pickled red onion.  Delicious!
I keep a jar of pickled red onions in the refrigerator.  This recipe from The Family Chef makes two cups and is great on everything.  

Pickled Red Onion
1 red onion, thinly sliced
3/4 C unseasoned rice vinegar 
1/4 C kosher salt
1/4 C sugar
Mix everything together and let sit ten minutes to overnight, then refrigerate.