Tag Archives: Zucchini

August in the Production Kitchen

It’s hot out – 94+ degrees. It’s hot inside, too. Why?

Production kitchen in August

Production in my kitchen

If it’s August, it’s time for production in my kitchen.

My counter tops are covered with various vegetables picked at just the right moment (except for the giant zucchini I missed!).

If you garden, you know that this month is the time when just about every single plant you put in the ground in May or June starts turning out produce at an almost alarming rate!

I pick every day.

I try to keep up but don’t always succeed.

This morning, the first thing I tackled were my Rosa Bianca eggplant, that beautiful purple globe surrounded by the raw ingredients for sauce.

Raw ingredients for eggplant parmesan

Raw eggplant parmigiana

I slice then convection roast eggplant at 475 degrees. NOTE: I don’t peel or de-seed these eggplant because they are so sweet and tasty, especially if picked before they get too big.

The 1/4 inch slices are dotted with a bit of ghee or olive oil and sea salt before they go into the oven.

Eggplant parmesan

Eggplant parmesan fresh from the oven.

Because they are being cooked at such a high temperature and because it’s so hot out, I got the eggplant in the oven before 5AM this morning.

Once the slices are nicely browned I layer them with my homemade tomato sauce and Mozzarella and Parmesan cheeses.   Then I slide the Eggplant Parmigiana into the oven.

The oven is already hot from convecting the slices so I cover the pan with aluminum foil, turn the temperature down to 375 degrees and bake, covered for 40 minutes.

 

I uncover the pan and bake it another 15 minutes to lightly brown it. Voila – Eggplant Parmesan fresh from the oven.

Next came dicing and putting 16 cups of mixed tomatoes into the largest pot in my kitchen to cook down and let the flavors of Atomic Grape, Consueleto Genovese and Black Vernissage tomatoes to blend together.

Tomatoes simmering into salsa

Tomatoes becoming salsa!

This will take about 20 hours at a very, very low temperature.

Once most of the liquid is boiled off and the flavors are blended, I will add the spice set to turn this brew

into medium salsa.

Then I will cook the salsa for another hour and can it in pint jars. If it comes out right, the salsa will also be used for holiday gifts!

Another gift I like to give at the holidays are small jars of jam – organic and low sugar because I use Pomona Pectin to make it. A full batch of jam using this pectin only takes 1 1/2 cups of sugar; at traditional batch of jam can take up to 6 cups of sugar!

Jam canning jars

Jam canning jars

So, these small jars wait on the counter and blueberries and blackberries wait in the refrigerator for their turn to be made into jam and brandy, respectively.

And my zucchini will be turned into one of the most delicious and healthful pizzas you can make – the crust is zucchini with a dash of coconut flour and the sauce is mine – made last year!

 

Gardening is hard work; putting up the produce from your garden is hard work too. But I love every step of every phase of growing, eating and preserving food that is organic, lovingly raised and gently but persistently canned, frozen or dehydrated for the coming winter.

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The Summer of 2016 Is Ending

Am I crazy? Is summer really ending??

August heat baking my garden

Garden baking in the August sun

Today’s heat index in Southeast Pennsylvania says it will be 114 degrees out. It’s only August 13th. Summer isn’t over. It can’t be!

Bianca Rosa eggplant

Bianca Rosa eggplant enjoying the heat.

I am still harvesting like mad. My Bianca Rosa eggplant have given me 15 beautiful globes and there are more than that still on the plants. The Fox Cherry tomatoes are coming in so fast it’s hard to pick them (especially when you were silly enough to plant 10 of them!).

Growing giant Zucchini

Sicilian zucchini gone rogue.

The Sicilian Zucchetta are downright frightening in their productivity and sheer size.

I’ve been giving them away, cooking with them, jousting in the back yard and leaving them on neighbor’s doorsteps in the dark of night (too big for their mailboxes).

Green beans are producing about a pint a day and my Frigatello Sweet Italian peppers are just warming up, throwing off 5 or 6 peppers a day.

And I’m still getting beets, inter-planted among the tomatoes, keeping cool and waiting for me to harvest them.

Fox Cherries protect beets

Fox Cherry tomatoes shade my beets.

IMG_2568

So how can it possibly be summer’s end?

It happens every year, I wake up and step outside before the dawn light and something has changed.

The feel of the breeze on my skin. The smell of the air. A tiny change in the song of the insects. Every year, there is a single moment when I know that summer is ending.

2016 Perseid meteor showers

Perseid meteor cuts across the night sky (courtesy AMS, Ltd)

This morning, sitting on my patio watching the Perseid meteor shower (image courtesy of the American Meteor Society, Ltd.), I knew as any long time gardener whose blood runs to soil and whose bare feet crave time connecting to the earth knows.

Summer into Autumn is always bittersweet for me. My garden, this garden, will never come again. Next year, the war with Japanese Beetles and the ongoing struggle with Mexican Bean Beetles will begin again. Triumphs and defeats will eddy and swirl across my back yard.

Sunflowers grace my garden

Sunflowers tower over my garden…and me!

But then there will be all that glorious, organic food flowing from my garden to my kitchen table and the tables of friends, relatives and neighbors, again.

And sunflowers, bachelor buttons, chamomile, marigolds and lemon verbena will open for the bees. Lemon balm, milkweed and borage will offer food and nectar to butterflies, wasps and beneficials.

Blueberries and blackberries will be joined by elderberries and goji berries, adding to the delicious, healthy treasures growing just steps from my back door.

And I will once again know why I garden.

Note: the image of the meteor, above, was taken by Eddie Popovits and used with the express permission of the American Meteor Society, a non-profit, scientific organization founded in 1911 and established to inform, encourage, and support the research activities of both amateur and professional astronomers

Healthy Mushroom Burger You Will Love

Organic Italian produce

Zucchetta, peppers and onions from my garden.

End of summer and I still have tons of healthy, tasty Sicilian zucchetta, sweet Italian red peppers and my sweet Italian red onions -detect a theme?  Italian is what happens when you marry one and cook for him for 30+ years!

Mushroom burger

Healthy, tasty mushroom burgers served with avocado dip.

So I am in the kitchen, cooking up a storm.  Here are my two of my favorite recipes – tasty and healthy – for this end of season bounty Hope you enjoy them as much as we do!

Mushroom Burgers
I live in mushroom country – near Kennett Square, Pennsylvania so I have easy access to all kinds of mushrooms at very reasonable prices.  My husband’s a diabetic with serious insulin issues that made us change everything about the way we eat.

This recipe is one of results and it’s one of his favorites and one of mine.  The base was from a 2010 Bon Appetit recipe but I made some changes in ingredients and cooking method.

INGREDIENTS:
2 T butter or ghee
2 T olive oil
1½ lb sliced cremini mushrooms
2 sliced Portabellas
2 cloves minced garlic
1 small red onion diced
2 eggs – beaten
2 T grated Parmesan cheese
2 T chopped basil
2 T chopped Italian parsley
1 tsp salt
1/4 to 1/2 c almond flour
½ tsp freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS:
Melt butter or ghee with olive oil in deep pan over medium-high heat.
Add all mushrooms and sauté until crisp – about 14 minutes.  Stir often.
While mushrooms cook, preheat the griddle to medium heat.
Add garlic to mushrooms, stir for 1 minute.  Transfer mix to food processor.
Add eggs, parmesan, herbs, almond flour, salt and pepper to processor and pulse until mushrooms are chopped – medium coarse.
Put English muffin rings on griddle and do a quick spray with olive or coconut oil.
Scoop mushroom mix up with your hands and place inside each ring, filling each ring and patting mix down to level the mix off.
Grill for 7 or 8 minutes on one side, flip with the rings and cook for 7 to 8 minutes on the other side.  If the centers of the burgers still seem a little soft, flip again and cook for another 5 minutes.

If you want to have a melted cheese center, put half the mix in the English muffin ring, place shredded cheese on top then put the rest of the mushroom mix over top of the cheese and pat to level inside the ring.

I’ve already posted a recipe for Zucchini Crusted Pizza that is DELICIOUS!  Next time, I will share my recipes for Zucchini Fritters and Zucchini Chips – delicious!

Grow So Easy Organic – How To Grow Summer Squash

If you’re new to gardening and want to expand beyond tomatoes and cucumbers, I would take a look at raising some summer squash.  I always have yellow squash and zucchini tucked into opposite corners of my garden and I’m always rewarded with lots of wonderful, sweet, tender veggies.

USDA summer squash

Two favorite summer squash – zucchini & yellow. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Easy to start from seed, easy to transplant, fast growing and very productive, summer squash grow in such a wide range of climates and soils that just about anyone, in any zone can get them to produce. 

In fact, once you know a few basic rules of the road for raising squash, you’ll quickly learn that this vining vegetable plant just seems to be one of those that can take care of itself once you put it in the ground – my kind of plant!

How To Grow Summer Squash
Some people like to direct sow their squash.  I tend to start seeds indoors to give my plants a jump-start on the growing season.  However, because squash germinate so easily and grow so fast, I don’t start these seeds until 4 weeks before my last frost.  In Zone 6a, that means I start them in early to mid-April.

My squash seeds are started in 4 inch peat pots, not in cells and not in smaller peat pots.  Again, if you give the seeds the right conditions, water, heat and light, they are going to crack right open and start growing in just a few days.

If you put them in cells or 2 inch peat pots, they will outgrow the space so quickly that you won’t be able to keep them going until it’s time to transplant them outside.  So start with large peat pots that will give the squash plants plenty of room to set roots in and grow.

A week before transplanting the squash, make sure you start to harden them off.  It’s the same process for all transplants started in doors – a couple of hours outside the first day.  A couple more hours the next day and so on until, by day 5, the plants have been out all day long.  Day 5 or 6, your transplants should stay out all night.

NOTE:  Use common sense about hardening off.  If it’s been raining for 4 days, definitely don’t leave the plants out to drown.  If the wind is very high or it’s going to be down in the high 40s or low 50s, don’t leave these warm weather babies out overnight, either. 

The objective of hardening off plants is to prepare them for living outdoors, 24 hours a day.  But if the conditions are not conducive to keeping the plants healthy, don’t stick to your schedule.  You’ll kill the plants or slow production down so much that you won’t get a lot of squash for a while or even at all.

When & Where to Plant Summer Squash
Figuring out when to transplant squash isn’t rocket science.

As I’ve mentioned, summer squash are warm weather babies.  Bring your transplants out, harden them off and put them in the ground after all danger of frost is gone.  If you prefer direct seeding, you can sow summer squash seeds in prepared beds or hills at the same time. 

And if you want to have squash all season long, plan on a bit of succession planting 2 to 3 weeks after you put your seedlings in the ground.

Putting squash plants into the ground isn’t rocket science, either.  Dig a hole, pop the plant and peat pot in and press the dirt around the base.  But….and it’s a big but…there are a couple of things you really need to know before you plant them.

Where you plant your squash depends on three factors — space, proximity and wind direction. 

I learned about these three the hard way…by killing or crossing various types of squash.

Space:  Unless you buy squash that was bred to be bushy, make sure you give each plant enough real estate to roam.  Zucchini and Summer squash need about a 4 foot square to grow in.  That’s why I don’t grow a ton of squash in my garden. 

It’s also why I say I tuck them into the corners.  I have been very successful with squash when I plant them near the fence line in the blueberry patch.  One or two of the same type go into the 3 areas that are not packed with blueberries. 

Space is one thing squash need.  Their own area in the garden is another.  This is the proximity factor.  Never plant two different types of squash near each other.  Never plant squash near cucumbers.  Bees will pollinate and cross-pollinate and you could end up with cuchinni or zuchsumbers.  I have raised crosses of all three.   They look beautiful but they tasted terrible.

So I use odd and unused corners in my yard for squash.  I even put one variety in one of my compost bins.  And I make sure my squash plants are not sheltered from wind.  Why not?

I’ve found that the nice gentle breeze that comes up the hill and crosses our backyard helps to keep my squash from getting powdery mildew which can kill vines almost as fast as squash beetles.

Next week…bugs and diseases that can attack your zucchini and yellow squash.