Category Archives: summer

What I’m planting- Week of June 1-7

Because of our trip, I got a little behind on planting. I didn’t want to start seeds before leaving because no one would be here to water them. And it took me about a week when we got home to get my bearings enough to plant. I was getting discouraged and thinking we’d just have to go without summer squash, winter squash, and green beans this year. Then I remembered that last year we didn’t even convert the backyard to a vegetable garden until Memorial Day weekend. That means I didn’t have anything in the ground until the beginning of June. And we got PLENTY of produce last year. In fact, I just checked my handy dandy spread sheet (more on that later) and I hit 184 lbs of produce from my garden last year. Not bad for a late start.

So on Wednesday, the stars aligned. Little man was at preschool and baby girl FINALLY took a good morning nap. This has been a rarity since returning from our vacation. I got a good chunk of time to work in the garden. Here are the seeds I planted:

photo (17)

I have grown Trombetta di Albenga (bottom left) for the past 3 years and they are AWESOME. The best zucchini out there. The flesh stays firm even when you sauté it. This squash lends itself well to being diced up and sauteed in butter, garlic and salt. It is seriously good. And very prolific too.

I’ve never grown Cocozelle squash but have bought them at the farmer’s market and really love the nuttiness of this zucchini. I hope it does well! I’ve never grown Dragon’s Tongue bush beans, either. I thought my little man might get a kick out of the beautiful beans and eat more of them. Turnips are one I’ve actually never grown, surprisingly enough. My friend over at East Sac Edible loves to grow them is always bragging about her awesome turnip tops that she uses in her miso soup. So this year I had to give them a try. You might be wondering what that ugly-looking squash is on the upper left. That Hubbard squash is quite the interesting winter squash. It’s not much to look at, but my aunt brought one over that she grew in her garden last Thanksgiving and it was SO yummy. She prepared it simply- steamed and then mushed up with butter. It was one of the best winter squashes I’d ever tried. And since I’ve never seen it at a farmer’s market, I decided to grow some myself!

I also planted 2 kabocha squash plants and 2 sugar pumpkin plants I bought at the farmer’s market. And, in the front yard raised beds I got some beets in the ground. Now if I can get out there to water often enough to get all these seeds to germinate I’ll be set. Fingers crossed.

Chocolate Zucchini Cake

An overabundance of zucchini in the summer is a very common first world problem. I’ve heard stories of people leaving bags of zucchini on their neighbor’s door, and sneaking away to not give the poor unsuspecting neighbor a chance to politely decline the bag of summer weeds. I found myself with a boatload of zucchini last summer and was getting tired of my usual sauteed zucchini with garlic (which is delicious btw) and zucchini soup, so I went to facebook. One of my facebook friends came through for me in a big way and sent me this recipe, which I’ve since been making at least every 2 weeks ever since. I even froze enough shredded zucchini last summer to get me through the winter without giving up my beloved chocolate zucchini cake. Thank god for breastfeeding, because I would never have lost the baby weight while continuing to eat this on a regular basis otherwise. 
Here is the recipe so that you can enjoy too:

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 2 sticks of butter, room temperature
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla
  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/2 cup yogurt
  • 2 cups shredded zucchini
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
Directions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease two 4×10 inch loaf pans and set them aside. 
  2. In a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together until well mixed. Add the eggs, mix well. Next add the vanilla and mix well. 
  3. In a separate bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, salt and cocoa powder and whisk together. 
  4. Add about 1/3 of the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients and mix on medium-low speed. When the dry ingredients begin to incorporate, add another 1/3 and mix again (you don’t need to wait until the dry ingredients are fully incorporated to add more). Repeat one more time. 
  5. Next mix the yogurt into the batter, then the zucchini. The zucchini should moisten up the batter significantly. Finally, add the chocolate chips and mix until they are well incorporated. 
  6. Divide the batter between the two prepared pans and bake for 50-60 minutes. (Check after 40 minutes, since ovens can vary widely. This cake usually bakes for 55 minutes in my oven, but the original recipe calls for 40-45 minutes of baking). 

Enjoy with coffee as an afternoon pick me up. Or, if you prefer, do what I did- ignore the 2 sticks of butter in the recipe, change the name to Chocolate Zucchini Bread instead of cake, and have it for breakfast. The calories are negated that way. It’s scientifically proven…or something.

Summer tomatoes

Every time we head out to the backyard now, little man goes straight for the tomato plants. We had a slow start to our tomatoes this year since we were in France from mid-May to early June. Even though we weren’t able to plant them until we got home, I knew we’d eventually have some tomatoes to enjoy thanks to our long warm season.
Well, they’re not as impressive as last year, but we have definitely been enjoying lots of cherry tomatoes. Most of them have been eaten right off the plant. This is little man’s preferred method of tomato-consumption. In fact, there have been times when he’s eaten tomatoes voraciously while outside, only to flat out refuse the very same tomatoes in his high chair. I guess I officially have a toddler.
As long as the warm weather persists, I’ll at least be able to get him eating veggies on our trips out to the backyard. Next summer, he might even be know how to choose between green and red ripe tomatoes. What a wonderful way to learn your colors.
For now, we’re taking full advantage of our warm days while they last.
Get in my mouth!

Plum pie with leaf lard crust

The other day, my friend brought over a big bag of plums from her tree. I didn’t have time to make jam, and figured that we wouldn’t be able to eat them all fresh before they went bad (even though they were delicious!), so I decided to make a plum pie. It’s actually pretty rare that I make a classic American-style pie, with the top dough and everything. Something about my French mom drilling into my head how much heavier 2 pie crusts are than one. But, I had some pork leaf lard in my fridge that I purchased at the farmer’s market with the intention of making pie dough and wanted to give it a try.
To some, lard in dessert may sound gross. But seriously, give it a try. There’s a reason for the foodie movement behind leaf lard pie dough. 

At the recommendation from a chef friend of mine, I used this recipe from Food and Wine. She suggested I decrease the fat a smidge and add a bit of sugar. So I altered the recipe a teensy bit and used 1/4 cup less butter, and added about a tablespoon of sugar. The result was a flaky and delicious pie crust. I’ll definitely use this recipe again when I make American-style pies. I will say, I don’t think that using lard lends itself well to French tarts. Those are better when made with 100% butter. The lard makes the crust significantly flakier, which is great for American pie, and not so great with tarts. One of these days, I want to try making Chinese egg custard tartlets using an even higher percentage of leaf lard in the crust. Since making this pie, I’ve decided the lard must be the secret to the deliciously flaky and fatty crust in those.

As far as what went into the pie filling itself- some combination of plums, sugar, tapioca and cinnamon. These plums were very juicy, so I had to use quite a bit of tapioca to absorb the juices and make sure the pie didn’t turn into a runny mess. I thought I had used enough sugar, but it ended up being pretty tart and I wished I’d used more. I never really follow a recipe when making American-style pies. I just go with what the particular fruit I’m using needs. Apparently, I should probably add more sugar than I think I need, especially when using fruit with tart skin like plums. I’m always learning!