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Archive for June, 2009

This has nothing to do with the usual topics of this blog, except that I do like to listen to podcasts as I garden and cook.  One of my favorite podcasts, Filmspotting, does special episodes in which they’ll review one movie from a list chosen by a randomly selected fan who has donated to them.  This month I happened to be the lucky winner, so I sent them a short list of campy comedies that my friends and I loved in college.  The hosts were very good sports as they reviewed what was probably the silliest option, Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion.  I’m pretty sure no other film critics have ever used the word “Brechtian” in a review of Romy & Michele.  You can download Filmspotting After Hours Episode #9 here. Listen for a voicemail cameo from me around the 3 minute mark!

In other off-topic news, I finally got around to ordering a real digital camera: the Sony DSC-W290 based on a very positive CNET review.  I’m excited to be able to take photos at the distances and light levels that make my iPhone cry.  Fair warning: this could mean even more gratuitous food and garden porn on this blog in the future.

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Growing herbs is a total foodie win, not only for freshness’ sake but also because you can take just the amount you need without forking over four dollars for a wan little plastic-encased sprig from the grocery store.  Plus, the herb will usually replenish itself by the next time you need it.

excess_basilBut some herbs will only last so long.  Basil is quick to bolt in the DC heat, and although pinching off the bolting head can prolong the life of the plant somewhat, there comes a point when the plant has simply decided it’s time to go to seed.  At this point, the leaves become bitter, with an almost licorice-y overtone.  My basil plants were rapidly approaching this stage, so I ruthlessly severed them at their bases and brough a whole mess of basil home for processing into pesto.

pesto_in_blenderI combined the basil with five cloves of garlic, several tablespoons of olive oil, and a healthy handful of toasted pine nuts in my mini food processor.  If I were using the pesto right away, I would have added grated parmesan at the end, but this pesto was bound for the freezer for later use, and it’s best not to freeze cheese.  I spooned the pesto into an ice cube tray so that it’ll be easier to defrost appropriate portions.

With quick-bolting annual herbs like basil and cilantro, I think it’s best not to get too precious about individual plants.  Don’t try to make a single basil plant last all summer, and instead try succession planting.  I’ve already got several new basil seedlings out in my garden to replace the plants I just harvested.  This way I’ll never have to settle for bitter basil.  Any excess will just be made into freezer pesto, giving me access to the taste of summer all year round.

pesto_ice_cubes

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Golden colors are everywhere right now!  A nice match for the good weather (i.e. sunny with manageable humidity) we’re having this weekend in DC.

Sunflowers for sale at the Adams Morgan farmers market

Sunflowers for sale at the Adams Morgan farmers market

Day lillies are out in full force around DC.

Day lillies are out in full force around DC.

This golden cauliflower matched my Le Creuset stock pot!

This golden cauliflower matched my Le Creuset stock pot!

I picked two handfuls of Sun Gold cherry tomatoes from my garden, but only one handful made it all the way home.

I picked two handfuls of delicious Sun Gold cherry tomatoes from my garden, but only one handful made it all the way home.

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One year ago today I started this blog, en route to DC after finishing grad school. I wrote:

Some of the recent trends in environmental living – eating local, reducing one’s carbon footprint, etc – are ideas I’d like to adopt into my everyday life, at least to the extent that the constraints of time, geography, and personal finances allow. I’m not in a position to get religious about this, but I’m trying to make the sorts of incremental changes that eventually add up.

Tangentially, I’ve been bitten by the gardening bug. […] It’ll mostly be container gardening again this season, but perhaps in the future I’ll get a plot at a local community garden.

Over the course of the year, a couple of things happened.  As a political analyst, I got VERY busy with the election season and stopped having the time to blog – or, for that matter, to put much effort into being eco-friendly.  But then after the election when things were calmer I was indeed assigned a plot at a community garden, and I recommitted myself to my earlier goals.

So here I am, blogging again, and finding a good balance in my life.  As I said in this blog’s first post, it’s not easy to make monumental lifestyle changes, even if you feel passionately about a cause.  So I’m going step by step, shifting more of my grocery shopping towards sustainable and local food, maintaining a vegetable garden without using chemicals, and generally being better about reducing, re-using, and recycling.  I am not, and never will be, the world’s most zealous environmentalist, but I’m doing what I can to become greener… gradually!

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cowgirl_creameryAlthough most the merch is usually out of my price range, I love stopping into cheese shops and specialty stores and just gawking at the fine food.  This week I finally stopped by the famed Cowgirl Creamery in downtown DC.  What a warm, friendly place!  Simple racks and blond wood shelves showcase cheese, wine, preserves, charcuterie, and so on, in displays that are elegant, but forthright enough to avoid being gratuitous food porn.  And they earn brownie points for serving Counter Culture coffee, a fair-trade roaster from North Carolina which has quite a following here in DC.  Being more of a tea drinker myself, I got a cup of their iced tea infused with lavender, mint, and lemon – a perfect drink to counter the DC humidity.

Maryland_CheddarI also liked that they prominently featured many local products, though they’re certainly not doctrinaire about it.  I bought a great wedge of Maryland cave-aged cheddar that had much more nuttiness and complexity than any cheddar I’ve tasted.  The cheese station is set up so that they can easily give out paper-thin samples of the wares, which was helpful.  I might not have thought an expensive cheddar was worth it otherwise.  And sampling helped me steer clear of a too-salty extra-aged gouda (never thought I’d meet an expensive cheese I didn’t like).

buy_local

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black_bean_browniesWith its bizarre punctuation and nomenclature, I find Twitter rather confusing.  But I did finally join (page here).  So I’ve been adding friends and bloggers to my Twitter feed, and came across a tweet from Modern Domestic asking for wheat-free dessert suggestions. This reminded me of a recipe I made recently that was featured on 101 Cookbooks and is definitely worth re-publicizing: Amazing Black Bean Brownies!

That’s right.  Brownies made from beans.  They’re gluten-free, sweetened with agave nectar instead of sugar, and sound like they should be funny-tasting hippie food.  But they were really good!  The brownies were tender and rich, with more chocolate flavor than I’d expected given the ingredient ratios.  Maybe not quite as dense and fudgy as I prefer my brownies, but nor were they outside of the normal range of typical brownie textures and tastes.

I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as health food, but I like the idea of subbing out some refined carbohydrates in favor of more protein and fiber.

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Thinning carrots can be delicious.

Thinning carrots can be a delicious task.

I try not to play favorites in my garden, but I am growing increasingly enamored of my root vegetables.  They are easy to grow, have long windows for harvest, and the thinnings can usually be eaten.  The carrots, for instance, have defied their prima donna reputation and been extremely low maintenance.  Plus there’s the bonus of getting to eat the little carrots I pull out to make room for all the others to grow big.

Beets have been even easier and more versatile.  I thinned out the earliest growth and got delicious beet greens for salads, and now I can thin out the baby beets for fancy appetizers.  Onions, too, can be thinned and used as scallions, and garlic scapes have been all the rage on the blogs lately.  Potatoes are one of the least fussy vegetables I can think of.

I’m not saying I’m about to rip the tomato plants out of my garden and plant turnips instead, but I think next year I will plant more of these low investment, high return root veggies.  On the other hand… is it too late to sow parsnips?

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