A new Dallas County Master Gardener Cookbook is on the way. Our members have submitted a wheelbarrow full of recipes and gardening tips that the cookbook committee has been dutifully busy tasting and testing.
We jumped into July with forks in hand. Tomato recipes were tasteful and tempting. Corn, in abundance, brought comfort to our tummies. Blackberries had us beaming with their beauty. And, peaches just pushed us over the edge with their juicy goodness. What could be better? Well…
In August we anguished over the okra. Which do we like best? Fried, roasted, simmered, stewed or even finessed into little muffins? And, oh how the squash recipes raised our spirits. Shaved into salads, grated for quiche, pureed into soup, carpaccio and casseroles to consider. How will we decide?
September, October and November we celebrated the harvest bounty. Sweet potatoes to savor, pumpkin recipes to ponder, an over-the-top apple recipe, a unique and very elegant pear presentation that left us swooning while Meyer lemon pie made us pucker with pride.
Our journey has been filled with flavor, fun and friendly evaluations. We’ve tasted, tested, eliminated some and accepted over 140 recipes. Profound thanks to our faithful volunteers who have traveled with us. The adventure continues to grow more exciting and we can’t wait to share our discoveries.
Until then, stay posted for more “flavorful news” from the cookbook committee and a special 2016 unveiling.
Take a peek at some “behind the scenes pics” courtesy of Ann and Starla!
Linda Alexander, Cookbook Chair
We’ve tested and tasted, savored and enjoyed but now it’s time to say farewell. Our memories have been sweetened with the most delightful flavors of summer; juicy, plump blackberries, tantalizing tomatoes and the star of the show – those luscious, versatile peaches (many would agree, perhaps, summer’s finest fruit). Yes, we would take them through every season if nature allowed. But, we must let go and only dream about the spring and summer yet to come.
From the Raincatcher’s Garden: We wish you and your family a restful, and pleasure filled Labor Day weekend. Join us on our seasonal garden journey by subscribing to Dallas Garden Buzz.
Blackberry Brie Bites
1 tube refrigerated crescent rolls (Pillsbury 8 oz.)
1 round Brie Cheese (8 oz.)
¼ cup blackberry jelly (Smuckers Spreadable Fruit)
24 fresh blackberries
24 large toothpicks, optional
6 even squares. Press into 24 mini muffin tins.
Yield: Makes 24 crescent cups.
¼ cup minced fresh parsley
3 tablespoon minced shallot
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
6 medium tomatoes, thinly sliced
⅓ cup olive oil
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
Yield: 6 servings
Peach recipe tomorrow!
Heirloom-Tomato-And Goat-Cheese Tartlets
Black-Pepper Crusts (see below)
Pesto (see below)
3 cups heirloom tomatoes, cut in half
1 teaspoon sea salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 (4-ounce) package goat-cheese crumbles
Garnish: fresh oregano and microbasil
Black- Pepper Tartlet Crusts
2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 cup unsalted butter
¾ cup sour cream
In the work bowl of a food processor, combine flour, salt, and pepper; pulse to combine. Add butter, and pulse until crumbled. Add sour cream, and pulse until mixture comes together. Remove mixture and form into a disk; wrap with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours.
3 cups fresh basil leaves
3 tablespoons fresh oregano leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
3 garlic cloves, peeled
¼ cup grated fresh Asiago cheese
¼ cup toasted pine nuts
½ teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon ground black pepper
⅓ cup olive oil
Butterhead Lettuce and Spring Vegetable Salad
5 teaspoons white balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
Coarse salt and ground pepper
2 heads butterhead lettuce, washed and dried
6 radishes, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 large carrot, peeled and cut into thin strips
2 ounces alfalfa sprouts
Yield: 4 servings
Parmesan Asparagus Roll-Ups with Lemon Dipping Sauce
1 package phyllo dough
½ – 1 cup Parmesan cheese
1 stick butter, melted
30 asparagus spears, washed, woody ends cut and dried
Lemon Dipping Sauce
Take pastry out of box and unfold one package of sheets. Cover sheets with a just barely damp paper towel when not using.
Lemon Dipping Sauce
½ cup sour cream
½ cup mayonnaise
3 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, pressed
1 teaspoon lemon zest
Dash of hot sauce, salt and pepper to taste
Put all ingredient s in a bowl and mix well. Serve with asparagus. Chill if not using right away.
And what about those Blackberry Pie Bars? Click here!
Jim and I share many things, a love of dessert, finding just the right pencil for his beloved Martha’s crosswords, and The File.
My life was simple before The File. No longer.
For the last six weeks, my tired brain has been filled with the minutiae of helping Jim pick out trees and berries for an orchard at the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. (We tried to have an orchard at the garden on Joe Field Road, but for various reasons, it didn’t come to pass.)
The File is a brown manila folder about 1½ inches thick filled with downloads, printed emails, notes from extension agents, a parts list for a grape trellis, and receipts.
It comes with a complimentary bottle of Extra Strength Tylenol.
Jim knew right off the bat that he wanted the orchard to demonstrate pears, peaches, plums, persimmons, pomegranates, and “phigs.” Grapes, blackberries, and asparagus rounded out the list.
Apples, too. Well, until we found out about the sex lives of pears, but we’ll get to that in a minute.
Jim downloaded recommendations for North and Northeast Texas from Dr. George Ray McEachern, Professor and Extension Horticulturist with the Texas A&M Department of Horticultural Sciences. This is the guy Texas Monthly calls when they want the inside scoop on the pecan industry in Texas.
We also looked up fact sheets on each crop by Larry Stein, Extension Fruit Specialist with the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension. The peach article alone is 14 pages long.
Peaches, plum, apples, and pears are fruit tree crops that require a certain amount of cold winter weather, measured in chilling hours, to end their dormancy and promote proper blooming and spring growth, according to Doug Welsh in his Texas Garden Almanac. Chilling hours are the number of hours during which temperatures are below 45 degrees and above 32 degrees. If you goof, and plant a variety that requires more chilling than it receives in your garden, the tree may not bloom fully—or at all. Dallas-Fort Worth falls in the 800-hour zone.
Pollination is a big deciding factor, too. Without pollination, a fruit tree may blossom abundantly, but fruit will not develop. Some trees require pollination from another variety and are called “self-unfruitful.” Other trees are “self-fruitful” and can produce fruit from their own pollen. Then, just to make it more fun, some fruit trees can have varieties that are self-fruitful and-–don’t you just love this—other varieties that are self-unfruitful. (Remember, the Tylenol is complimentary.)
Briefly, Jim’s first choice for a peach was ‘Redskin,’ a free-stone variety with yellow flesh that matures about July 20th. With our high alkaline soil, we needed the ‘Redskin’ grafted on Halford Rootstock, which led us to barbecue in West Texas. (More on that later.)
The number of peach varieties is mind-boggling. Freestone, cling, or semi-cling? Ripening date? White or yellow flesh? The real basis of selection, however, is matching the chilling requirements of the variety with the chilling hours expected in your area. ‘Redskin’ requires 750 chilling hours. Peaches are self-fruitful.
Compared with peaches, there are very few varieties of plums adapted to Texas. Jim chose ‘Ozark Premier,’ a large variety with red-and-cream streaked skin and yellow flesh that matures in late June. This plum is self-fruitful–but other varieties of plums are self-unfruitful.
Texas has a few native persimmons, but the Japanese persimmon is preferred by most gardeners because of its large fruit. Jim picked ‘Eureka,’ a self-fruiting variety recommended by Dr. McEachern. ‘Eureka’ produces bright orange fruit as large as teacups in the fall.
We purchased a ‘Celeste,’ fig that is a smaller, brown “sugar” fig with sweet pink flesh and purple skin. ‘Celeste’ matures in August. Water is a big consideration with figs. The trees will drop their fruit if drought-stressed and need heavy mulch and moist soils when developing their crop. (Note to self: is fig on irrigation plan? I’m planning on fig preserves.)
Sarah brought the pomegranate from her backyard. It was dug up and potted at the Joe Field garden, then pampered at Sarah’s for several months.
The big question with blackberries is, thorns? Or thornless? We decided to try a bit of both. We purchased the time-tested thorned blackberry ‘Rosborough,’ the most popular of the TAMU releases. It has a large berry, is disease resistant, and is widely adapted in Texas. We will also try ‘Kiowa,’ a recent thorned blackberry release from the University of Arkansas. Dr. McEachern noted on Neil Sperry’s radio show that ‘Kiowa’ was extremely vigorous and productive.
Our thornless blackberries, ‘Natchez’ and ‘Ouachita’ also come from the University of Arkansas. They are known for their firm sweet fruit.
You would have thought growing grapes in Texas was easy. After all, almost half of all grape species are native to Texas. Native grapes are a cinch. Wine grapes are another story. Pierce’s disease and cotton root rot are some of the conditions that limit choices of grape varieties. Womack Nursery, where we purchased our grapes, suggests ‘Champanel’ for prairie or blackland soils. It has large black grapes that make a loose bunch, great for making jelly.
In addition to ‘Champanel,’ we decided to try ‘Carlos Muscadine,’ a grape variety used to make white wine. Muscadines are the most disease-resistant grapes.
“If you only have one fruit tree, this should be it,” Dr. McEachern advised, when interviewed by Neil Sperry. He was suggesting the ‘Orient’ pear, a variety that Jim picked for our orchard. With pears—unlike fussy plums and peaches—the less you prune and fertilize, the more pears you get. (More tree growth from fertilizer does not equal more fruit.) We also picked a ‘Warren’ pear, since pears are self-unfruitful and you must have two varieties for good production.
Ana really wanted an apple in the orchard. We realized at the last minute that both pears and apples need pollinators. Pears are much more disease resistant than apples, so the space in the orchard went to pears.
Judy and I looked at several area nurseries for fruit trees, but couldn’t find a place that had everything we wanted in stock. One nursery carried the ‘Redskin’ peach, for example, but it was grafted on East Texas rootstock, rather than the Halford stock for alkaline soils.
The only solution was for husband Mike and I to have a road trip to tiny De Leon and Womack Nursery, “Your Texas source for fruit and pecan trees since 1937.”
Womack Nursery is often named as the premiere source for pecans and fruit trees in Texas by fruit and nut experts. Traveling down two-lane Highway 6 between DeLeon and Gorman, you see a series of sheds and a small office. The parking lot is filled with pickups—all white—as crews assembled orders. Thousands of fruit trees, pecans, grapes, and berries were tucked in marked rows of sand. Large boxes waited to be filled with trees and shipped to customers all over Texas.
In a few minutes, our order was packed in damp hay, wrapped in brown paper and plastic, and tightly tied, ready for the trip back to Dallas.
We weren’t quite ready for the big city lights, however. Some of the best barbecue on the planet waited for us in Stephenville on our way home.
Pictures by Starla and Elizabeth
More about blackberries here.
Before Christmas, the poem says, young children dream of sugarplums. Our Linda must have visions of gingham checks. At the May 22 Master Gardener meeting, red gingham ribbon tied white picnic lunch boxes topped with blue gingham bordered menus, nestled by larger red gingham napkins. Picnic tables were piled high with gingham quilts and vintage picnic baskets. An open picnic basket crowned the decorations, all ready for a party and filled—you guessed it—with red gingham napkins and red and white plates.
Master Gardeners visiting the Demonstration Garden were in for a treat. Our Annette pulled out all her teacher skills and fascinated us with the world of earthworms. How-to’s were flying right and left: we learned how to raise little wigglies in the laundry room, what to feed them, and how to sift out worm castings.
Sue and Michelle signed autographs after their unforgettable demonstration of how worms get close and friendly.
Guests opened their picnic lunches to find a carefully packed feast wrapped in ladybug cellophane. They enjoyed Arugula Rocket Salad with Nasturtium blossoms and Raspberry Vinaigrette, Copper Pennies, deviled eggs with candied bacon, crostini with Every Herb Pesto, Lemon Bars and Cupcake Brownies. What a picture perfect day for a picnic. Come back soon, fellow Master Gardeners!
¼ cup raspberries
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tablespoons raspberry or red-wine vinegar
½ teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Using a wooden spoon, push raspberries through a handheld wire strainer to puree.
2. In a medium bowl, whisk together 2 tablespoons raspberry puree, lemon juice, vinegar, and sugar.
3. In a slow but steady stream, whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Season with salt and pepper.
Vinaigrette can be made 1 day in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator.
Yield: Makes about ¾ cup
Adapted from Martha Stewart
6 large handfuls of mixed greens, including wild rocket arugula, herb salad mix, etc.
6 nasturtium blossoms
Toss mixed greens with the vinaigrette. Strew the blossoms over and serve immediately. (Options: may also toss with fresh blueberries and/or raspberries)
1 ½ tablespoons light brown sugar
Pinch ground cinnamon
1/8 pound thick-cut bacon (about 3 strips)
8 large eggs, straight from the refrigerator
¼ to ½ cup mayonnaise, or as much as desired
2 teaspoons whole grain mustard
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh dill, plus more for garnish
1 tablespoon cider vinegar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 scallions, minced
½ teaspoon kosher salt
Paprika, for garnish
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
2. In a small bowl, mix together the brown sugar, a pinch of cayenne and the cinnamon. Place the bacon on a wire rack set over a rimmed baking sheet. Sprinkle each slice of bacon with some of the spiced sugar and bake, about 10 minutes. Flip the bacon, sprinkle with the remaining spiced sugar and continue to cook until crispy, about 20 more minutes. Remove the bacon from the oven and allow to cool. When the bacon is cool, mince it and set aside, reserving a quarter of it for garnishing the eggs.
2. Put the cold eggs in the bottom of a medium sauce pan and cover with cold water. Bring water to a boil and remove the pan from the heat. Cover the pan with a lid and let stand for 12 minutes. Drain the eggs and rinse with cold water. Let the eggs cool a bit and then peel when they are still warm (eggs are much easier to peel when they are warm). After they are peeled, you can then store them covered, in the fridge.
3. Mix together the mayonnaise, mustard, dill, cider vinegar, Worcestershire sauce, ¼ teaspoon cayenne, the scallions and the minced bacon in a medium mixing bowl. Season with the salt.
4. Slice the eggs in half lengthwise. Gently remove the yolks by pressing your thumb against the back of the yolk to pop it out of the white. Add the yolk to the bowl with the mayonnaise mixture. Mash together, using a fork, until smooth.
5. Put the filling in a re-sealable bag. Cut one end off and pipe the filling into the egg whites. Sprinkle with the paprika, extra bacon bits and dill before serving.
Yield: 6 to 8 servings.
For any kind of summer backyard gathering, Grandmother always served these.
¾ cup sugar
½ cup vegetable oil
½ cup vinegar
1 Tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 Tablespoon prepared mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste
2 lb. bag precut and peeled baby carrots
1 small red onion, sliced into rings
1 green bell pepper, chopped
1 (15 ounce) can tomato soup
1. Simmer carrots in water to cover for 5 to 7 minutes or until crisp tender.
2. Drain into a large strainer. Immerse strainer in ice water to cover carrots.
3. Drain briefly then remove to a large bowl.
4. Combine first seven ingredients and pour over carrots.
5. Add sliced onion rings, green pepper and tomato soup.
6. Refrigerate overnight.
Yield: 8 to 10 servings
½ cup Marcona almonds, toasted
2 cloves garlic, peeled
1 cup fresh spinach leaves
½ cup grated Parmesan
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
½ cup fresh parsley leaves
¼ cup basil leaves
¼ cup fresh tarragon leaves
1/8 cup fresh mint leaves
1/16 cup fresh chervil leaves
2 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
Zest of lemon
Juice of 1 lemon
¾ cup canola oil
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Garlic-rubbed crostini, optional
Heirloom tomatoes, chopped, optional
1. Blend the almonds and garlic in a food processor until fine. Add the spinach, cheese, herbs, lemon zest and lemon juice to the food processor. Blend the herbs just enough so they are mixed, about 3 seconds. Add the canola oil and olive oil while the food processor is on a low setting. Season with salt and pepper. Blend to desired consistency.
2. Transfer the pesto to a serving bowl. Place the chopped tomatoes on top of the crostini if using and top with pesto. Any leftover pesto should be placed in a bowl and covered with plastic wrap. Press the plastic wrap right on top of the pesto and refrigerate.
Yield: About 2 cups.
Position a rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 325°. Line a 13 x 9-inch baking pan with a sling made of parchment paper or foil.
Sift into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade:
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ cup powdered sugar
Sprinkle over the top:
12 Tbl. (1 ½ sticks) cold unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces
Pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand.
Pour the crust mixture into the pan and press to an even thickness with the bottom of a measuring cup. Bake until golden brown, 20 to 30 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly. Reduce the oven temperature to 300° F.
Whisk together until well combined:
6 large eggs
3 cups sugar
Grated zest of 1 lemon
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (about 5 lemons)
Sift over the top and stir in until well blended and smooth:
½ cup all-purpose flour
Pour the batter over the baked crust. Bake until set, about 35 minutes. Remove the pan to a rack to cool completely before cutting into bars.
Just before serving sift with:
The Joy of Cooking (1997 edition)
A “go to” recipe for chocolate lovers!
2 sticks butter
4 ounces semisweet chocolate
1 ¾ cups sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup flour
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
1. Melt butter and chocolate together in a fairly large pan. Remove pan from stove and let mixture cool a few minutes. Add remainder of ingredients and mix together by hand.
2. Spoon batter into foil-lined cupcake pans (use either regular-sized pans or the mini cupcake pans – just be sure to use the foil cupcake pan liners). Fill cups ½ full.
3. Bake at 325 degrees F for about 20 to 30 minutes (adjusting time if using mini pans). Let cool.
4. If desired, spread a little of your favorite chocolate confectioners’ sugar frosting on each cupcake.
5. May be wrapped well and frozen.
Yield: About 2 dozen regular size brownies, or 3 ½ to 4 dozen mini brownies.
3 cups fresh or frozen blackberries, thawed
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon chopped fresh mint
Pinch of baking soda
4 cups boiling water
3 family-size tea bags
2 ½ cups cold water or sparkling water
Garnishes: fresh blackberries, fresh mint sprigs
1. Combine 3 cups blackberries and sugar in large container. Crush blackberries with wooden spoon. Add chopped mint and baking soda. Set aside.
2. Pour 4 cups boiling water over tea bags; cover and let stand 3 minutes. Discard tea bags.
3. Pour tea over blackberry mixture; let stand at room temperature 1 hour. Pour tea through a wire-mesh strainer into a large pitcher, discarding solids. Add 2 ½ cups cold water, stirring until sugar dissolves. Cover and chill until ready to serve. Garnish, if desired.
Yield: about 7 cups
Recipes by Linda
Pictures by Starla
Are you craving pie or dessert bars? No problem, here’s a buttery, creamy two in one.
Ingredients for the Crust and Topping:
Zest of two lemons
1 ½ cups granulated sugar
3 cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
1 ½ cups (3 sticks) unsalted butter, chilled and cubed
4 large eggs
2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup sour cream
¾ cup all-purpose flour
Pinch of salt
6 cups fresh blackberries
1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 13-inch baking pan with butter; set aside.
2. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar and the lemon zest. Using your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until all of the sugar has been moistened. In the bowl of a food processor, combine the lemon sugar, all-purpose flour and salt. Pulse a few times to combine. Add the butter and continue to pulse until the pieces of butter are no larger than the size of peas, about 10 to 12 pulses.
3. Measure out 1 ½ cups of the crumb mixture to use for the topping and put it in the refrigerator until needed. Press the remaining mixture into the bottom of the pan. Bake the crust until golden brown, about 15 to 20 minutes. Let cool for about 10 minutes while you prepare the filling.
4. To make the filling, whisk the eggs in a large bowl. Whisk in the sugar, sour cream, flour and salt until thoroughly combined. Gently fold in the blackberries. Spoon the mixture evenly over the crust and make sure all of the blackberries are in one layer and not sitting on top of one another.
5. Sprinkle the reserved crust mixture evenly over the filling. Bake until the top is lightly browned, about 45 to 55 minutes. Let cool for at least 1 hour before cutting.
Yield: 18 bars
Recipe and Picture by Linda