Tomato Basil Butter

Years ago I had the opportunity to work with a German dentist on a research project. One day his wife Monika brought in some soft pretzels and a wonderful dip that I've never tasted before couldn't quite figure out what was in it. I am usually pretty good with figuring out what goes in a dish by tasting it, this one stumbled me. I asked her what the recipe was. She told me it was her late mother-in-law's family recipe, and very simple to make. There are five ingredients in it: fresh basil, garlic, butter, tomato paste and salt. Upon hearing that, I said "Of course! All familiar ingredients, I just never thought of putting them together this way." This has become one of my all time favorite recipe, especially in summer time when basil is in abundance in my garden. Here's my version of it (This recipe is also on the basil seed packet from New Dimension Seed):
2 C. loosely packed basil leaves, finely chopped, 3 large cloves of garlic, minced, 1 cube of butter (room temp), 1 small can (6 oz.) of tomato paste, salt to taste. Mix all ingredients together until well blended. Use for sandwich spread, serve soft pretzels or fresh baked bread. YUM!!! 

Blackberry Scones

Every summer blackberry rambles along an old logging road near our place. The juicy sweet berries are free for the picking. One recipe I love to make with these fresh free berries is blackberry scones. It is great with coffee or tea. Enjoy!

2 C. all-purpose flour,
1 C. rye flour,
1/2 C. sugar,
2 1/2 t. baking powder,
1/2 t. baking soda,
3/4 t. salt,
3/4 C. cold butter, cut into small cubes,
3/4 C whole milk,
1/4C sour cream,
1 C. blackberries (or other berries),
Egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 T. water),
sugar for dusting.

Sift the dry ingredients together, cut in cold butter to form a course textured mixture. Add the wet ingredients, kneed gently to form a soft dough. Refrigerate the dough for about 1/2, then roll the dough out on a floured surface. Spread blackberry on half the surface, fold the other half on top. Pinch the sides. Cut into triangles. Brush the surface of the scones with egg wash then dust with sugar. Bake at a pre-heated 424F oven for 12-15 minutes until the golden.

Blueberry scones
2 C. white flour
2 C. rye flour
1/2 C. sugar
1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking soda
2 T. lemon juice
1/2 C. butter
1 C. butter milk
1 egg

Mix egg, butter, sugar, salt, lemon juice, butter milk together until smooth. Sift together while flour, rye flour and baking soda. Gradually add the flour mixture to the liquid. Roll out the dough on a floured surface. Pour blueberry syrup on the surface, then roll up the dough. Cut into 1" thick slices. Bake at 425 F for 12 minutes.

Early Maturing Vegetables Fare Better

Here in the Pacific Northwest, it is another year of cool weather. If this becomes a pattern, we gardeners will have to adapt. There are several strategies we can use to get an early harvest despite of the adverse weather conditions, the most important one I think is to plant early maturing vegetable varieties. I have made that my quest for the past decade, many of the early vegetable varieties are included in my New Dimension Seed collection.
Bell pepper usually requires lots of heat and extended time to maturing, I plant a pointy shaped sweet pepper called Early Red Roaster Sweet Pepper. It sets peppers early on and the peppers turn color a lot sooner than the bell peppers. The plant is stocky and robust, no worry about if falling over. It has high fruit setting rate, one small plant can produce 20+ peppers. It is good for stuffed peppers, roasted for sandwich and dips, even chili rellenos (the non-spicy version). It is late July, the peppers are already putting out large fruit.
Another one of my favorite early maturing veggies is Opus Eggplant. For the story of Opus Eggplant, you'll have to read my blog

Happy Gardening!

Fingerling Potatoes

Last fall, I got three kinds of fingerling potatoes from Cecil and Gwen, they are red, pink and white. Cecil and Gwen is a lovely couple who have a big garden, each year they fill the garden with potatoes, onions, beans, squashes, tomatoes, cucumbers and any veggies you can think of. Besides enjoying the fresh veggies, they can and preserve much of their harvest to feed the extended family and whoever happens to stop by. Cecil and Gwen came from many generations of gardeners, their parents gardened in the 1930's, their grandparents gardened in the 1900's. The garden tips I got from them are the real deal, simple, effective and cheap. Cecil and Gwen  make the best soap bars they call "Columbia Bars", only natural ingredients were used. After bathing with their soap, the fragrant lingers on all day. Unfortunately, the only place you can buy them is at Scappoose Farmer's Market...

Cecil told me about how he got started on these wonderful fingerling potatoes. Years ago, someone gave him six fingerling potatoes. Instead of eating them, he planted them. That fall he harvested a couple dozens of them. He didn't eat any of it, instead he saved all his harvest and planted again next year. From then on, each year he would save a bucket of the best potatoes and plant again next season. I was lucky enough this year to get about 5 lb. of the fingerlings them. I planted them all this year in early May. When I first planted the potatoes, the rows were kind of bare, so I planted some lettuce in-between the potatoes. It worked out really. I was able to enjoy the lettuce before the potatoes were up. As the weather got hot, the potatoes were able to shade the lettuce, delaying the bolting. It is a real good combination. When the potatoes got to about 2 foot tall, I piled on soil at the base and continue to do so throughout the season. I was told by Cecil this will make the potatoes more productive as the buried portion will produce potatoes.

Buy the end of July I was able to dig out a few to taste, they did not disappoint! They are creamy, sweet and buttery good. The potatoes start to bloom, I can tell by digging around the base there are quite a few potatoes in there. By August, the weather is heating up and the potato plants starting to deteriorate. I pumped more water making sure the base is moist, allowing the tubers formed at the base to grow even larger.

Huckleberry Cream Cheese Roll

Foraging around the woods on our friend's property, we came across some huckleberries. This cream cheese roll is what I did with the huckleberries to showcase the delicate flavor. Judging by how fast it all disappeared I'd say it's a success...

For the cake:
3 eggs;
1 C. white sugar
1/3 C. Sour Cream;
1 t. lemon juice
3/4 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt

1. Beat the eggs, lemon juice and sour cream together until fluffy. Sift together the dry ingredients, gradually add to the egg mixture. Beat to incorporate. This will make a thin batter. Pour the batter in a sheet pan. Bake in a preheated 425F oven for 12 minutes. Remove immediately.

2. Carefully separate cake from the pan with a thin cake decorating blade or other instrument. Place a piece of wax paper on top of the cake and flip the sheet pan to release the cake.

3. Roll up the wax paper to a loose roll. Let set until cool.

For the filling:
1 pack of cream cheese;
1 stick of butter;
Huckleberry syrup (cook 1 C. huckleberry with 1/2 C. of sugar until the berries softens and release its juice)
Beat all ingredients together until smooth.

Unroll the cake roll, spread the filling evenly on top. Roll the cake up carefully. Frost the extra fillings on top of the cake. Serve.
Option: You can dust some powdered sugar on top. In this case, the cake was gone before I had a chance to do that. Thus it doesn't have powdered sugar on it...

Oh No! Zucchini is Coming!

In my opinion, everyone should have zucchini plants in their vegetable garden. It is the one vegetable that can bring you as much pride as embarrassment. Zucchini is among the first in the garden to produce. You probably remember how excited you are when you get the first fruit. It's like breaking the fast after a long winter without fresh veggies. And then it all hits you, as one zucchini plant can put out 20-30 zucchinis, you'll get 4, 5, 6 zucchinis a day. You probably have done your share of pushing them on everyone you come in contact with. I have certainly done my share of racking my brain to find new ways to dispose of them. Here's a few strategy I've derived from my experience. So next time a zucchini storm hits you, you'll know what to do.

Zucchini pancakes is always the fist thing I make when fresh zucchini become available. Recipe: combined the shredded zucchini with new potatoes and fresh onion from the garden, added salt to draw the moisture out of the vegetables and added one egg and just enough flour to bind everything together. Cook it like you would pancakes on a flat non-stick pan with a small amount of oil on the bottom.
Next: you can try to grill the zucchinis. Slice them to 1/4" thickness, brush with olive oil, sprinkle salt and pepper and garlic powder and/or dried herbs. Grill until it takes on some grill marks. They make great vegetarian sandwiches.
Next: Saute zucchini with olive oil, green olives, onion, garlic, lemon juice, capers, herbs and Ricotta Salata... goes great with a loaf of crusted Italian bread.

If you tried everything else including giving them away but still have too many of them, then pick the flowers off the plants before they get a chance to bother you. By the way, zucchini blossoms taste great stuffed with cheese. That's the subject of another blog.

Bye for now. Remember, keep your sanity in zucchini season.  And Happy Gardening!