Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Radishes and Daikon

As a kid one of my favorite sandwiches was slice of rye bread spread with butter or goose fat and topped with salted radish slices. I can still hear the crunch when you have the first bite. I did try to grow regular supermarket radishes but I found it to be a waste of time, energy and space. Two years ago I have ordered Asian type radish seeds from AgroHaitai and planted them later this spring. When I tasted the radish I wanted some more seeds but when I searched for the seeds it looks like they do not carry it anymore. It is too bad, because I do like this radish. Anyway, this radish has same diameter as regular large radish but is so much longer that you could cut it into pieces equivalent to 6 large radishes. What a space saver! I guess it is back to seed catalogs to find replacement.
Daikon is another story all together. We love daikon in any which way: fresh sliced, julienned, stir-fried, boiled in soup, etc. So, I got seeds from same company and what a surprise I had when in 2 weeks I had a field of huge leaves and no sign of root, just a half inch spear. I was puzzled so I have sent a question to my email friend and gardener extraordinaire, Ferdzy at Seasonal Ontario Food. Her reply was straight to the point:
“I find radishes will just sit there with a lot of leaves and no root until almost the last minute. Then, suddenly, the root will fatten up and they are ready. So if' you are not seeing or feeling a daikon root it probably isn't really there yet. I think it will surprise you how quickly it forms when it is ready though.”
Well, lots of leaves are gone right now. I did give them good shave in order to give some room and light for my tomatoes. I guess it is now wait and see. I did leave 3 leaves for each root but I am not sure if it is enough.
Lesson learned: “Never plant daikon (or anything else for that mater) if you do not have the space and wait for reply to your question before you take drastic action”. Thanks Ferdzy!

Daikon was choking my tomatoes so something drastic had to be done.

Since tomatoes are so much more important the daikon got serious haircut. The leaves filled large bucket. Because the leaves are a bit hairy they are not good as salad greens.

I think that I will have real daikon radish after all.

What a great radish this is! I hope that I will find replacement.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Mongolian Beef with Fresh Lo Mein Noodles

This is not to be confused with chow mein dish. Lo Mein noodles have a great texture, lot of bite and are flat and relatively thick. Chow Mein noodles are more like wheat vermicelli. Fresh noodles are always so much better then dried variety.
This dish, like most Chinese dishes takes very little time to cook but the preparation takes time:
Cook noodles till almost al dente, drain, rinse in cold water, drain again and toss with a bit of peanut oil.
Slice flank steak very thin and marinade with chopped garlic and ginger, soy sauce, sugar and sake.
Prepare vegetables you are using (in my case it was just garlic, ginger, white onions, red pepper and snow peas.
Prepare sauce using 1 part each of Hoisin sauce, Oyster sauce and sake and 1/2 part Sriracha sauce. You will need about 1/2 cup for each serving.
Once mise en place is done it is very fast.
To a very hot wok add peanut oil and brown the beef for about 30 seconds. Remove and keep warm. Into same wok ad another half tablespoon of oil, add vegetables and stir fry for a minute or two. Add sauce, then noodles and reheat. Beef goes back into wok, toss to combine and serve.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Salmon and Asparagus – Three Ways

Salmon is such a versatile fish. We just love salmon any time of the year, Last week I have prepared it 3 times using same base ingredients (salmon and asparagus) and same sauce (teriyaki).

Simplest way is just pan fry it in very hot pan for 1 minute, turn over and add teriyaki, cook another 30 seconds and it is done. Plain steamed rice, nuked asparagus (1 minute on high) wasabi mayo dressing and sliced plain cucumber completes the meal.

Second way is basically same except that salmon is cut into large chunks and wasabi-mayo sauce is replaced with teriyaki glaze. Served with bowl of steamed rice topped with Furikake Seasoning and cucumber.

Third way is more complicated. It is a regular stir fry where you cook sliced red onion, asparagus and snow peas. When veggies are just soft add salmon chunks and teriyaki sauce, Stir fry for a minute and serve on bed of rice with Furikake Seasoning or just toasted sesame seeds. Cucumber salad is a natural with salmon.

Even though most ingredients are same the taste is little bit different because of cooking technique.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Veggie Garden Update June 22, 2011

Rats, it is 1st day after Summer Solstice and days are getting shorter! I am not a great fan of Summer Solstice, no sir!
Not much new in veggie garden:

Couple Mountain Magic Tomatoes are red and ready to eat but we will wait till whole cluster is ripe and sweet.

Eggplant Greta formed fruits and they are ivory white.

Yellow Bush Beans are full of flowers so I should have some beans in couple of weeks.

My Hardneck Garlic scapes formed full piggy tail and so I will cut them by the weekend. I just love how long they store.

Unfortunately I have neglected my salad greens patch and they have happily bolted and are in full flower. I’ll give them a good haircut tomorrow if it doesn’t rain.

Last winter I started seeds for Marjo’s Turban Squash. Today I counted 8 flowers, some forming fruit already. It is her favorite squash and one that she painted so beautifully. Have a look and tell me if it is not super realistic botanical watercolor painting. Just click here and scroll down (4th from bottom).

 Cucumber is new plant to grow for me and since my seedlings failed I bought some. I have no idea what they will look or taste like but it is  good experiment for me to grow cucumbers in container and on trellis.

Tomorrow I will update on containers and flower beds.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Veggie Garden Update June 18, 2011

Everything is right on schedule despite a late, wet and cold start. I started harvesting parsley, arugula, mizuno and chives last April and this week I started to harvest snow peas.
Peppers (“Green to Red”, “Red Banana” and “Sweet Pimento”) are doing great and could be used today as green peppers but I want red peppers J.
Tomatoes “Mountain Magic” are turning red and will be ready in a week or so.
White eggplant “Greta” has flowers and cucumbers started to form fruits and are climbing fast.
Beans started to climb and yellow bush beans have flowers. Garlic is in scapes stage (the scapes started to form piggy tails). I’m looking forward to harvest those and make pesto
Even though my veggie patch is very small and many plants are in containers we do get a lot of veggies and there is nothing like eating your very own produce. All plants were grown from seeds, just check older posts from March and April.

Snow Peas.

"Green to Red" pepper.

"Sweet Pimento" pepper.

"Mountain Magic".

"Greta" eggplant.


Beans and Peppers.

Garlic scapes form a piggy tail.

Japanese Furikake Seasoning

Furikake is our favorite Japanese seasoning but utill now we used it very sparingly because it is so expensive and we have to drive over one hour to buy it. We use it on fish, rice, cucumber salads, noodles etc.
There are few rough recipes on Internet but for me the biggest stumbling block was how to chop nori (dry seaweed) into small pieces. With the knife it is very tedious and messy job – the nori flakes fly all over the kitchen. When I tried food processor or mini chopper it was a failure as I was left with mix of powder and some large chunks, there was no consistency at all
Then, I had an idea: why not to use spaghetti attachment on my pasta machine? Today I gave it a try and it is a winner!!! It is so fast and easy I couldn’t believe it!
Here is my version of Furikake and my technique to chop nori. You can adjust ratio of ingredients to your taste, add some more or omit some. Just use your imagination.

2 Tbs. toasted white sesame seeds
2 Tbs. black sesame seeds
2 Tbs. bonito flakes
2 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 tsp. Dashi soup base powder or 1/2 tsp. fine sea salt
1 tsp. dried mandarin or tangerine peel, cut into small pieces
1/2 tsp. chili powder or to taste
4 sheets toasted nori, chopped (see tip at bottom)

Remove stems from shiitake mushrooms, chop into smaller pieces and grind in coffee or spice grinder into powder consistency. Add orange peel and grind till fine. Add bonito flakes and pulse couple times to break larger pieces.
Empty grinder contents into mixing bowl, add sesame seeds, Dashi, chili powder and nori flakes and mix till well combined.

Tip: How to chop Nori into flakes using pasta machine.

Take 4 nori sheets and cut into 4 equal pieces.  You will have 4 piles with 4 small sheets.

Take each pile and run through spaghetti attachment of pasta machine. Keep strands running in same direction.

When all piles are cut into strips, place them across cutting roller and cut them into flakes. If you want longer flakes use fettuccine cutting roller.

All done and no mess.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Late Spring Blooms

Here are some close-up photos of our flowers. We are only four days away from Summer Equinox and next week days will be getting shorter again! L Grrr...!!!

Black Eyed Susan Vine.

Cosmos Double-click




Purple Petunia

Pink Petunia

Climbing Pinata Rose


Snapdragon Lampion

Snapdragon Rocket

Dwarf Sunflower Sunny Smile


Purple Millet

I just love my Canon Rebel T1i! All pictures were taken using external flash with ETTL exposure metering for almost perfect fill-in light.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

Flower Garden Update June 16, 2011

Most of the plants I grew from seeds are in the bloom now with the exception of Rudbeckia (Cone Flower), Echinacea and Hollyhocks (from last year seedlings), Jasmine Scented Nicotiana (Tobacco Plant) and some Salpiglossis. Interesting thing about Salpiglossis (Painted Tongue) is that even though I have planted mix only blooms I have are yellow. I really like the red and blue ones because they are so spectacular, just like a stained glass. Actually, in some places they are called Stained Glass Flower. Purple Millet is just beautiful and so is Snapdragon Rocket mix. They are already almost 5 feet tall. Lobelia is growing nicely in all containers and shows white, purple and blue flowers. I guess it is too early for a full bloom, the small flowers are still quite sparse.
Our Heuchera collection is in full bloom and will stay that way till late fall. Again, just a beautiful display of miniature flowers in all shades of red, cream and green.
Hemerocalis collection is ready to bloom and judging by the number of buds it will be spectacular.
“Climbing Piñata” rose is really eye catching; it has the best and most blooms since we have planted it 4 years ago. Very interesting rose, the blooms start red and then gradually turn blazing orange. I hate to use the word “spectacular” but that’s what this rose is.
Next post I will show individual flowers in close-up.

Left to right: Nicotiana, Salpiglosis, Petunia. Back row: Snapdragon, Purple Millet and Zinnia.

Hemerocalis and Heuchera.

Heuchera section.

Hollyhocks in front and Snapdragons.

Purple Millet and Dinner Plate Dahlia in center.

Lobelia Mix.

Climbing Pinata.

Snapdragon Lampion.

Bottom stairs Lobelias, 2nd stair Sunny Smile Sunflower (L) and Salpoglosis (R), 3rd stair Hemerocalis and on top Zinnias. Hanging basket is Calibrachoa Million Bells.