Winter’s Equivalent

Happy March! Spring is coming. And that has me thinking of lightning bugs, the coming summer, sweat, and easy, pretty meals comprised of fresh, whole foods.
Here’s what I’m talking about:

baked squash, olives, and tomatoesIMG_3037.JPG
June 9, 2010; July 19, 2009

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June 24, 2009

I was thinking about how these kinds of meals are my favorite. So, I put together winter’s equivalent. I’m sure a much better job could be done, but given that I don’t have a winter garden, I was pleased with the flavors and colors. And also glad I wasn’t very hungry.
What would be on your plate? Maybe a boiled egg and some fermented turnips? Pickles and bread?

Winter's equivalent
February 18, 2011
Christian Cheese cowboy cheddar, dried tomatoes from Mediterranean Deli, radish and arugula sprouts from my kitchen

Okra

okra flower
I grew okra for this first time this summer. It was so easy to grow and productive, unlike my tomatoes. (Bitter? Maybe.) If you’ve never grown it before, consider it. If you aren’t a gardener, consider it. Seriously! It’s a lovely plant, with its dramatic flowers, bamboo-like stalks, and huge, tropical-looking leaves.

  • Okra grows best from seed, which makes it cheap. When the seedlings needed thinning, I transplanted several of them. While the transplants never got as tall as the others, they produced just as many okra pods.
  • It grows in all kinds of soil, as long as there is good drainage.
  • It loves the sun and heat.
  • I didn’t have any problems with pests, but have been warned about aphids.
  • If you plan right, it can provide shade for less heat-tolerant plants.
  • Four plants will give you enough okra to enjoy right away, as well as preserve some for later.

And some trivia from the Southern Exposure seed catalog:

  • Okra originated in northeast Africa.
  • The word “okra” is derived from “nkru” in the Ashanti language of West Africa. The word “gumbo” is derived from “ngombo” from the Bantu language of southern Africa. The words used to be used interchangeably, but now we know “gumbo” as the Cajun dish.
  • Folk uses:
    • Seeds can serve as a coffee substitute.
    • The juice has been used to stop bleeding and to clean metal.
    • The stem fibers can be used to make rough cloth or cordage.

Here’s what I did with my okra. I hope this information isn’t too late to be helpful.mmmm...roasted okra
We’ve eaten lots of roasted okra this summer: scatter the pods on a rimmed cookie sheet or broiling pan, drizzle with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Then broil at 450˚ for 15 minutes or so, occasionally shaking the pan to turn the pods for even cooking.

okra curry
Spicy Okra Curry: cool it off with a dollop of Greek yogurt.

grilled okra
Grilled or roasted okra with lemony-garlic yogurt sauce


Okra and green beans (recipe below), Pork & Greens English banger, sourdough bread with basil pesto and fresh goat cheese crumbles.

Okra and Green Beans
adapted from Vegetables from the “Cooking with Bon Appétit” series

3/4 pound (or so) fresh okra
3/4 pound (or so) fresh green beans
9 ounces water
1 6-ounce can tomato paste
1/2 c olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 large garlic cloves, chopped or crushed
salt and pepper

Cut stems from okra; wash pods. Wash beans and cut into lengths not exceeding 3 inches. Combine water, tomato paste, olive oil, onion, garlic, salt, and pepper in saucepan and mix well. Heat, stirring frequently, until mixture comes to boil. Add okra and beans and additional water if necessary to almost cover vegetables. Reduce heat to low, cover, and simmer gently until vegetables are crisp-tender, 30 to 35 minutes. Use bread to sop up the tomato sauce. Yum!

Mother Nature is Snickering

*snicker*
By the way, this is one of the last photos featuring these ugly countertops. We’re moving soon! More light, better countertops, no more streaky stainless steel, and lots of other good things to come. Can’t wait!

Craigslist Magic

Trading on craigslist turns this:
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Into this:
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8 pounds of tomatoes!

I traded Lazy Day Farm (on Seward Road, 1.5 miles east of I-35 near Guthrie) the massive amount of pots I’ve accumulated for eight pounds of tomatoes. I had no idea she was going to give me so many! I’m going to make gazpacho and salsa.

Garden Update

We finally put plants in the raised bed on May 3rd. Whew, that felt good! Plant dates kept getting postponed due to the weather or my schedule. I’m glad we didn’t hold off any longer since it has remained rainy and overcast ever since.
I bought the tomato and pepper transplants from High Tides and Green Fields; everything else is from seed. I started basil, dill, and cucumbers indoors, but they were pretty mopey by the time I got them in the ground. The cucumbers that were directly sown already look better than the transplants.

2009 garden guide
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I got these neat curly tomato stakes when Nicole took me to North Haven Gardens in Dallas. I’m counting on them. Come through for me, unique tomato stakes!
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The circle garden near the raised bed: strawberries and freshly planted ground cherry plants. There’s also a struggling overwintered red cabbage plant. I should put it out of its misery.
strawberries
potatoes
Potatoes! I’m trying Yukon gold, all blue, and yellow finn. On the far side is the lettuce patch. Sadly, they’re not doing so good. But Abbey is good. She’s such a sweetheart. She never tries to escape, unlike her mischievous sister, Chimay.

I stay organized with this spreadsheet, which helps me remember varieties and plant dates and to make better decisions next time. I’m also using it to keep track of costs, though I haven’t put a lot of effort into that yet. Maybe it will help you get organized, or maybe it will help you feel better about your own system.

Some Reading

A diverse sampling of food-related reading:

“Pig brain mist” mystery concludes

The Price of Tomatoes
Related photos here. As a relatively petty aside, notice the color of the tomatoes.

Nice essay on organic food. Clean food should not be a luxury item.

An amazing 2002 article by Michael Pollan on industrial livestock: from artificial insemination to the shrink-wrapped steak. Extremely informative.

Pizza

pizza pizzapizza dough with pesto
pizzapizza
pizza pocketsgoat cheese pizza
Pizza about to go in the ovenA match made in heaven
hot and ready

I love making pizza! I also love that Matt worked at Papa John’s for 3.5 years, so he’s a pro at rolling out the dough. We get whole wheat dough balls from Earth Elements. They are yummy and convenient. I’ve tried making my own, but it didn’t turn out so well. If you have a good recipe for whole wheat pizza dough, please share! I need to learn how to make tomato paste so that I can have a 100% Oklahoma pizza. That will be a goal for next summer.

Our most recent pizza was amazing. I added some fresh thyme and sage and a little cream to the pizza sauce. We used mushroom slices, copious amount of goat cheese, and  left-over caramelized red onions. The garlic-flavored goat cheese was freakin’ awesome, I might add. However, maybe we went a little bit overboard, or maybe it’s just that we’re not used to goat cheese, but our tummies hurt the next morning. On second thought, maybe it was too much red wine? Oh, well. I suppose it was worth it, because it’s the second-best pizza we’ve ever made. No. 1 had sausage, goat cheese, mozzarella, and pickled jalapenos and mushrooms. A flavor explosion!

Matt’s favorite pizza toppings are hamburger, mushroom, and pineapple, though we’ve never had a homemade version. My favorite toppings are caramelized onions, tomatoes, and goat cheese. Something wonderful happens to the tomato slices when they are baked on a pizza. What are your favorite toppings? And what are some good pizzerias in Oklahoma? The best pizza I’ve ever had was at my beloved Tomato in Denton, Texas. But, it’s closed (much sadness) now, so I need to find a surrogate.
The Best Pizza. Ever.