Thursday, July 28, 2011


I was late pulling out my garlic just as I was last year. Somehow I got confused because every advice on many garlic dedicated web sites gives different visual signs of maturity. Some say that leaves have to be 60% yellow or brown, some 80% brown, some 2 sets of leaves at bottom…and of course, there is about 2 weeks difference between yellow and brown leaves. Next year they will be out on July 15th and that’s it. I will be cleaning them today and then hang them in garage with small fan on for next two weeks.
Last October I have planted German Porcelain, Music, Irkutsk (Siberian?) and cloves from Amish farmer that I grow for last 3 years. The other varieties were new for me this year and were bought at Stratford Garlic Festival. The Music has largest sized bulb and Irkutsk has smallest bulbs but I expect it to be the hottest of the bunch. I assume that next year the heads will be a bit bigger since they will be grown in same location and apparently garlic likes to grow in same patch of soil. Somehow, the Porcelain and my Amish are almost indistinguishable; same shape and color. Interesting thing about Music is that it was developed from Italian garlic on a former tobacco farm. Our house sits on former tobacco farm, maybe that’s why this strain did so well in its first year. Here is an excerpt from Seeds of Diversity Canada publication:
“Music is a Porcelain strain with large, easy to peel, bulbs, a strong flavor and large cloves. It is the most commonly grown type in Ontario and is now generally recognized as the Ontario garlic. It was named for Al Music, who was also a founding member of Garlic Growers Association of Ontario (GGAO) in 1985, developed the strain after getting out of tobacco production in the early 1980’s.”
In 2 weeks I will do my very own “Rye Bread Toast Test” to see how strong each variety is. I will make 4 toasts using rye bread and then rub the clove of garlic on one side only. Each toast will have one strain only. I guess that in order to be objective I will have to rub the garlic exact number of times. There is no way that I’ll be able to go out and talk to other people after this test J!
I will report on results in 2 weeks.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Veggie Garden Update July 26, 2011

This is my first year growing my own cucumbers and to say that I am surprised how fast they grow from flower to mature fruit is understatement. Because of space restrictions in our garden I have decided to grow them (3 plants) in large container on a trellis.  I also grow peppers (2 kinds), eggplants and tomatoes in containers and all are doing very well. Cukes, however, are huge surprise. I knew that my tomatoes will be super-productive but I didn’t expect cucumbers to be the same. City slicker’s ignorance, I guess J.
Here are pictures taken of same cuke taken over span of 4 days. It doubled in volume every day. Another plant that will be grown next year.

And, of course, with so many cucumbers harvested daily I had to start pickling them. After wading through dozens of recipes on Internet I have decided to use Ferdzy’s recipe for “Dill Pickles by the Jar”  published on her blog Seasonal Ontario Food. Now I have to wait 6 weeks to taste the results. What was interesting how fast the cucumber skin turned khaki green from bright green once I poured hot pickling brine in the jars.

The eggplant seeds I bought were for eggplant Gretel (there is also Hansel J) that is white and elongated. Even though I did pick few I haven’t cooked them yet. I did taste them raw and there are no seeds to speak of and not a trace of bitterness, exactly what I am looking for in eggplants.

I did have one nasty surprise, though: Green part at top of fruit has thorns like cactus but almost invisible and when I touched it, it was almost like an electric shock. Next time I harvest with leather gloves. I’ll cook some with garlic and olive oil and use it as one of the toppings for grilled pizza I will make tonight.

Nasty thorns.

Chinese Yard Long Beans
Yup, they are almost a yard long now and growing like crazy. What a great bean this is! The beans are about the size of pencil and no string, no tough parts, just a nice sweet bean that I eat raw when I pick them.  They are best when briefly stir fried with ginger, garlic and chilies. Also, they are very productive and I will harvest right to the first frost. I did last year

Margherita, which is a paste San Marzano type tomato is finely getting mature and red and I will pick first batch tomorrow. When I bought the seeds I didn’t realize that this hybrid is determinate, meaning that all tomatoes mature at same time. However, as you can see on picture some are ready to harvest and others are completely green. What gives? Is there something between determinate and indeterminate tomatoes? I must have missed something. Oh, well, I’ll be freezing them, I guess and make sauce later as needed.

Mountain Magic tomatoes are doing just fine.
I have three kinds of peppers this year: Green to Red, Sweet Pimento and Red Cubana type peppers whose seeds I collected from Mexican peppers sold in big box store. The flesh was so red and thick that I just had to have the seeds. I grew them last year and they were very good. Not as sweet as original but still very good. Conditions for growing peppers in Mexico and Ontario, Canada are a wee bit different, I think J.
The Green-to-Red were first peppers I harvested about  3 weeks ago and yes, they were red already! Amazing!

Sweet Pimento is just few days from first harvest so no idea about the taste and how thick the flesh is.
Mexican Peppers

Turban Squash
I almost forgot about Turban squash because it is not one of my food crops but Marjo’s pet project that I take care of. It stopped dropping flowers and undeveloped fruits and now I can see decent size squash and a tiny brother/sister. I have noticed that lots of ants were inside some fully opened flowers and that later same flower got sort of choked at stem and then dropped of cleanly like somebody tied a rope around it. Since this was a tobacco field, ants are everywhere in garden! This will be one interesting experiment that Marjo started back in March. We will see when fall comes.

Besides radishes, Daikon and herbs that’s about all I grow this year. Garlic report will be posted next.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Pasta and Beans Salad

Pasta and beans salad is so versatile and so much faster to make then my potato salad that it has become our stand-by for busy summer days. This version was done in about 25 minutes from start to plating. There is very little peeling and chopping involved as opposed to potato salad where I can spend at least 30 minutes just peeling and chopping potatoes, onions and carrots, even with my technique using mandolin.
Lately I have been using Lumache shape pasta for salads. The pasta is shaped like a snail and when mixed with other ingredients almost every “snail” is filled with something. In picture bellow you can see how well it holds beans and peas.

(This is just a suggestion, be creative)
1 cup dry Pasta shapes
1 19 oz. can mixed beans
1/2 small onion, chopped
Green beans, cooked and chopped
Tomatoes, seeded and chopped
Fresh Basil, chopped
Balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper, to taste
Hot sauce (optional)
Truffle oil (optional)
Parmigiano Regiano, shaved or grated
§    In a large pot bring salted water to boil.
§    Put chopped onions in a mixing bowl.
§    Drain and wash mixed beans in a colander and place them in mixing bowl with onions.
§    When water comes to boil drop in pasta and scrape bottom to make sure that pasta doesn’t stick.
§    When pasta is almost al dente drop beans and onions into boiling pasta water. This will soften beans and remove harshness from raw onions. I always blanch raw onions for salads.
§    Drain pasta, beans and onions in large colander and run under cold water to stop cooking. Drain well, preferably in salad spinner.
§    Move pasta, beans, onions, chopped tomatoes and green beans into mixing bowl and season with little bit of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, Truffle oil and hot sauce, if using, and taste. Adjust seasoning if necessary.
§    Serve in individual bowls, sprinkle basil and cheese on top. Seasoned croutons are nice addition. You can also add leftover cooked chicken or hard boiled egg. As I said, be creative, it can be nice light lunch.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Salmon Poke

My version of Hawaiian raw seafood salad

Yes, another salmon resipe, there isn’t such a thing as too much salmon, especially raw or, at most, medium rare.
Ingredients that I use in Poke are similar to that of California sushi roll, without the rice, of course. Wikipedia has a good description of history of Hawaiian Poke.

2 salmon filets, boned and skin removed (must be very fresh)
3” of English cucumber
1 avocado
1/4 cup chopped coriander
2 green onions, finally chopped
1 Tbs. Furikake
1 tsp. coarse sea salt
1 Tbs. Teriyaki sauce
Lime juice from 1/2 lime
2 tsp. Maple syrup
1 tsp. wasabi paste
Prepare dressing by combining all ingredients and mix till smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning. It should be on sweet side (salt is added later) and spicy.
Wipe salmon filets with clean wet towel and dice into 1/2” cubes. Transfer salmon to large chilled mixing bowl.
Cut avocado in half, remove pit and skin and chop into small cubes.
Move avocado, coriander and onions to bowl with salmon, mix and sprinkle mixture with Furikake and sea salt. Sprinkle dressing over poke and mix well.
Transfer to chilled serving bowl and serve with cucumber slices or in Nori (seaweed) cones.
Note: Furikake can be substituted by combining 1 tsp. of each: white sesame seeds, toasted sesame seeds and chopped toasted nori. Actually, there is no rule as to what you use in your Poke.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Marjo's Art Update

I have finely got around updating Marjo’s Art page, specifically here Paper Tole Gallery. It can be seen HERE.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Stir-fried Squid or Cuttlefish

Even though name of this Korean dish is “Stir-fried Squid” I always use cuttlefish because it is much thicker, larger and easier to work with. Also, I cut each cuttlefish in 2 pieces and then I cut diamond pattern at bias on the inside side. This way the pieces that are about 3”x2” cook quickly and evenly.

2 cleaned cuttlefish or large squid tubes (about 1Lb)
2 cloves garlic, finally chopped
1” piece of ginger, finally chopped
1/4 c. sake or rice wine
1 tsp. sesame oil
1 Tbs. Sriracha sauce or 2 tsp. hot pepper flakes or to taste
1 tsp. sugar
1 tsp. salt
3 green onions or 6 garlic scapes, cut into 2” pieces
1 small or 1/2 large carrot, julienned
12 yellow beans, ends removed and cut in half
12 green beans, ends removed and cut in half
1 tsp. peanut oil
1 tsp. sesame oil

Lay squid tubes flat on cutting board and cut alongside fold on both sides. Turn over top half to expose inner side. Make diagonal cuts more then half way through about 1/4” apart. Turn 90 ° and repeat. You will now have diamond shaped cuts. Repeat on remaining 3 halves of squid tubes. Cut tube halves into 6 pieces about 2”x3”. Place in prep bowl and marinate in mixture of garlic, ginger, sake, sugar, salt and Sriracha sauce. Marinate in fridge for half an hour.

In a very hot wok add peanut and sesame oil and stir-fry garlic scapes.

 When scapes turn dark green add yellow and green beans and cook for 3 minutes.

Add squids and stir-fry on very high heat till just done. When the squids curl up, they are done, about 1 to 2 minutes, no more.

Serve immediately with bowl of steamed rice.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Kebab – Summer Delight on a Skewer

Kebab is such versatile dish that almost every region in the world has their own version. I had prepared Shish Kebab using small and larger pieces of beef, pork, lamb, chicken, rabbit, seafood and vegetable and even ground meat (lamb, pork, veal or beef) in a dish called Ćevapčići. Recipe for my version is here.
As usual, Wikipedia has detailed article on Kebabs from around the world.
Last week I have prepared 2 versions of Kebab.

First one was inspired by Chinese cuisine: all beef kebab with Char Siu sauce and fried rice with scapes, yellow beans and carrots. The kebab was grilled on BBQ on high heat, turned every 2 minutes for total of 5 minutes for medium done.

Second was more elaborate, a typical Western take on Shish Kebab. I have alternated slices of pork tenderloin, smoked & cooked bacon, onion, red pepper and yellow zucchini (squash). Each skewer had 5 pieces of meat and 4 of each other ingredients and was basted by hickory barbecue sauce. I grilled kebabs on direct medium low heat with BBQ lid closed, turning every 3 minutes for total 8 minutes. It was perfect: tender, juicy and right amount of heat and served on bed of shredded Napa cabbage with bowl of steamed rice.
One tip: I used flat bamboo skewers. These are absolutely ideal because they do not allow anything that is skewered to move or rotate. They are worth to look for. I bought mine in Dollar Store, really inexpensive. Also, I wrapped exposed end of bamboo in few wraps of aluminum foil to prevent burning. This way you can just wash and reuse them.

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Veggie Garden Update July 16, 2011

I can’t believe how fast time flies when you are busy. I just wish I could save some winter time in Time Bank and then in summer draw few hours here and there back. Anyway, we went with Tillsonburg Horticultural Society on 3 day tour of gardens in Gray & Bruce Counties in Southern Ontario so there was no garden work, just automatic irrigation. The tour was great thanks to incredible talent of our past president (yup, I am a member now). I will make post on some gardens later on when I wade through few hundreds of pictures. Digital cameras are great but at times they can be a real pain in the ass because it is so easy to get carried away. Enough of small talk and back to my small but very productive garden.

When I’ve planted cucumbers back in March I had no idea how many cukes they will give me. I am not complaining, I am just amazed. I pick about half a dozen a day from 2 plants growing on trellis in container.

I planted 3 varieties of peppers, all grown from seed as every other vegetable and herb in my garden. The “Green to Red” (from Johnny’s Seeds) is red already! I might pick some in next few days, maybe for my grilled pizza on BBQ.

Eggplant Greta is full of flowers and one eggplant is already about 3” long and ivory white as promised. This one will be grilled for a sandwich when ready.

Only beans I am not picking yet are the Chinese Yard Long beans. The yellow bush and French green string-less are picked daily and are very productive with great taste.

The daikon leaves were shading my tomato plants so I pulled some out and rest got serious haircut, again. The roots are decent size and very hot, right up my alley. They are next year repeat but in another location.


We are really getting slammed with tomatoes already. Only one variety, Margarita, Roma type, is still green. However, that one plant has so many fruits on it that I will have to construct some sort of support. Not only there are many tomatoes, they are also quite large.

Since I thought that snow peas were done I pulled them out and to my surprise I picked about a quart of pods in different stages of maturity. I worked in some manure into old pea bed to get it ready for Amish Snap Peas that Ferdzy, author of “Seasonal Ontario Food”, thinks about so highly. I bought my seeds on EBay and they are, supposedly, organic and non-GMO. They will go in as soon as I get them.
Except for eggplants and yard long beans everything is being picked every day. Time to find some good recipe for pickles, I have way too many to eat fresh off the vine.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Pasta Frittata with Garlic Scapes

Frittata of any kind makes great breakfast, lunch or even dinner. It can be as light or as substantial (read “fat”) as you want to make it. In this version I used very little grated Parmigiano Regiano cheese and just one tablespoon of heavy cream so as far as frittatas go I can consider this leftover spaghettini version quite light.

Ingredients (for 9” non-stick skillet)
2 – 3 cups spaghettini or spaghetti, chopped to 1” pieces
6 eggs
1/3 cup chopped scapes or green onions
1 Tbs. 35% cream
2 Tbs. grated Parmigiano Regiano cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. olive oil

Beat eggs and whipping cream in a larger mixing bowl then add pasta, cheese and salt & pepper.
Heat skillet over moderate high heat, add olive oil and chopped scapes.
Cook till scapes soften, then mix them in pasta & egg mixture.
Reheat the skillet with a bit of extra oil and pour in the mixture.
Cover and cook on medium till top feels dry.
Slide onto a large plate, then place same skillet upside down on top of frittata, turn plate with skillet on top over, remove plate and put back on burner.
Cook another 2 minutes or till eggs are cooked through.
Slide onto serving plate, cut into wedges and serve.
Frittata can be eaten as is or with a toast, hot, warm or room temperature.
Ingredients that you can add are entirely up to you. Crispy bacon, caramelized onions and shredded mozzarella and/or Provolone comes to mind. There are no rules so be creative.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Steak Tartare

(Czech version)

Steak Tartare is one of the biggest delights for a true carnivore like me. It is a raw ground beef (tenderloin or sirloin) combined with other ingredients and served on toast. This is a very simple and simplistic description. What you put in meat mixture and how much is a personal choice so I will just give a basic guideline.
Steak Tartar was named after Tatar tribe of medieval Central Asia. Wikipedia has a great article on history and development of this gourmet dish.
I can not emphasize enough how important fresh meat and eggs are in this dish. Check your eggs for freshness by using water test method or just check the date on egg carton. Meat has to be super fresh and any membranes or sinew must be removed, all you want is just red meat and nothing else. Of course, you must be the one to grind the meat using super clean and cooled grinder. I put my meat (cut into cubes) together with meat grinder parts and mixing bowl, in the freezer for about half an hour before grinding. You want to keep the Tartar as cold as possible from preparation to serving.

3/4 lb Ground beef tenderloin or sirloin (see note above)
1 Egg yolk, raw
1 tsp. Capers, chopped
1 Tbs. Onion, chopped
1 tsp. Parsley, chopped
1 tsp. Hungarian hot paprika
1/2 tsp. Black pepper, freshly ground
1 tsp. Worcestershire Sauce
1 tsp. Dijon mustard
1 tsp. Ketchup
3 Anchovies, creamed
(Adjust amounts to your personal taste)

8 slices toasted rye bread, crust removed
2 cloves garlic, peeled

Mix all above ingredients (except toasts and garlic J) in chilled stainless steel, ceramic or glass bowl using 2 forks till all ingredients are well combined. Do not mix with your hands, you want to keep the mixture as cold as possible. When done, transfer to chilled serving bowl or plate together with a toasted rye bread and garlic.
Rub garlic on one side of toast and spread tartar on same side. Best beverage to accompany this great meal is original Pilsner Urquell, of course.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Cooking with Garlic Scapes

For those that have never heard about garlic scapes, just let me tell you that in some dishes it is the best part of whole garlic plant. In my plant growing zone 6b I harvest scapes at end of June just after they form piggy tail (full circle turn) and then store them in sealed plastic bag in fridge. They do last a long time, last year I was cooking with scapes in November. I love to grill them on BBQ or sear them in a frying pan, either way they turn sweet and tender even though when raw the bottom end may seem a bit woody. They are even better when seared and then cooked in liquid like a sauce or soup. And, of course, most favorite way to use garlic scapes is Pesto. Contrary to what many people think when they hear about garlic scapes pesto, they are not all that garlicky at all. The garlic taste is very mild. I will try to pan fry them roughly chopped in lots of olive oil and then run them through blender, sort of like cooked scapes pesto. I think that it will work. Looks like another subject for a recipe post.
Here are some dishes in which I used scapes last week as a side dish or garnish.

Chicken Teriyaki with red pepper and scapes.
Pan fry red pepper and scapes till soft, add chicken thigh strips, stir fry for 3 minutes, add teriyaky sauce and cook another 3 minutes, uncovered. Serve on bed of rice with lightly salted cucumber and radish slices, no dressing.

Pork Tenderloin Shishkebab
In this version I skewered pieces of pork tenderloin, bacon, onion, red pepper and zucchini, smothered with barbecue sauce and grilled on moderately hot grill with lightly oiled garlic scapes on side.
I served it on bed of shredded Napa cabbage and with rice and cucumber salad.

Ocean Perch with Mashed Potatoes.
The perch is cooked same way as Salmon with Crispy Skin. High heat and short time with flesh side down first and skin side after. The scapes were cooked together with red pepper and white onions till all veggies were nicely caramelized. As for mashed potatoes I run boiled baking potatoes through food mill and then mixed the riced potatoes with sour cream, butter and milk. So rich and so good!!!