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Recipes from our last Grow and Graze of 2019, Pumpkins and Sweet Potatoes

Harvest Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Ingredients

1 baking pumpkin, peeled, seeded, and cut into 1 ½-inch -thick slices

¼ cup melted butter

1 ½ teaspoons salt, divided

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

1 cup extra-virgin olive oil

⅓ cup balsamic vinegar

8 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled

1 shallot, minced

6 cups salad greens

¼ cup grated Parmesan cheese

¼ cup toasted pecans

Directions

Preheat oven to 350˚F. Lightly grease a large baking sheet.

Place the pumpkin slices 1 inch apart on the prepared baking sheet. In a small bowl, whisk together the melted butter, ½ teaspoon salt, ½ teaspoon pepper, and garlic powder; evenly coat pumpkin slices with the butter mixture. Roast pumpkin for 20 minutes, or until tender.

Using a food processor, mix together the oil, vinegar, remaining salt, remaining pepper, bacon, and shallot until well blended.

In a large bowl, toss the salad greens with ¾ cup of the vinaigrette. Mound the greens on a serving plate, and top with roasted pumpkin. Drizzle the remaining vinaigrette over the pumpkin, and top with the Parmesan cheese and pecans.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Curried Pumpkin Hummus

 

Ingredients

1 (15-ounce) can pumpkin

3 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste)

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 clove garlic, peeled

2 teaspoons olive oil

1 teaspoon curry

1 teaspoon cumin

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Garnish: pepitas, (pumpkin seeds), paprika, olive oil, and fresh thyme 

Directions

In the work bowl of a food processor, combine pumpkin, tahini, lemon juice, garlic and olive oil. Pulse until smooth. Add curry, cumin, kosher salt, black pepper and cayenne pepper; pulse to combine. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Garnish with pepitas, paprika, olive oil and thyme, if desired. Serve immediately with toasted naan or pita chips or refrigerate in an airtight container for up to 5 days.  

Yield: Makes 10 servings

Pumpkin Chai Pots de Crème

Ingredients

1 cup whipping cream

1 cup whole milk

¼ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

6 large egg yolks

¼ cup granulated sugar

½ cup canned cooked pumpkin

⅓ cup strong brewed chai tea

2 teaspoons grated orange peel or Meyer lemon peel

1 teaspoon vanilla

Pumpkin seed brittle

Directions

Preheat oven to 325˚F (convection not recommended). In a 2-to3-quart pan over medium heat, stir cream, milk, and brown sugar until sugar is dissolved, 2 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat.

In a bowl, whisk egg yolks until light yellow. Add granulated sugar and whisk until blended. Gradually whisk a fourth of the hot cream mixture into the egg mixture. Then slowly whisk in remaining cream mixture and the pumpkin, chai, orange peel, and vanilla.

Divide mixture among six ramekins (¾ cup). Set in a 12- by 16-inch roasting pan at least 2 inches deep. Set pan in oven and pour in boiling water to halfway up sides of ramekins.

Bake until custards barely jiggle when gently shaken, 45 to 50 minutes. Lift ramekins out of water and let cool on racks for 30 minutes, then chill until cold, at least 1 hour. Cover when cold.

Shortly before serving garnish with shards of pumpkin seed brittle.

Yield: Makes 6 servings

Pumpkin Seed Brittle Recipe

Ingredients
1 cup sugar
1 cup Karo® light corn syrup
2 cups raw, shelled pumpkin seeds (pepitas)
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 tbsp baking soda
Butter for the baking sheets (about 2 tbsp)
Candy thermometer
Directions
Prepare cookie sheets and measure all ingredients before starting to cook. You will not have time to measure ingredients in between steps. Butter two cookie sheets and place on a heat-resistant surface. Combine pepper, cinnamon, salt and baking soda and reserve in a small bowl. Once the sugar mixture is ready, you have to work quickly, so keep these readily accessible. A wooden spoon is best for this recipe.
In a heavy 2-quart saucepan, combine sugar, syrup and pumpkin seeds and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve sugar. Clip the candy thermometer in place and continue to cook, stirring frequently to keep seeds from burning on the bottom of the pan. Watch carefully when mixture turns light amber and you can smell the sugar starting to caramelize.
When the temperature reaches 300 degrees F (150 degrees C), or a small amount of mixture dropped into very cold water separates into hard and brittle threads, work quickly. Add the spice/baking soda mixture and stir to combine (mixture will foam up). Pour the mixture immediately onto the two cookie sheets, put the pan aside, and spread with the wooden spoon to distribute the seeds and foaming syrup. Continue to spread until the syrup is no longer foaming. Some recipes say to use two forks to further thin and stretch the mixture, or if desired you can wait a few moments for it to cool and use buttered fingers to stretch the candy slightly. Please use caution! This requires perfect timing. Too soon and you’ll burn your fingers. Too late and the candy will already be set, which simply results in a thicker brittle and does not affect the quality of the candy.
When cool, break into pieces and immediately store in an airtight container.

 

Maple Sweet Potato Bread Pudding

Ingredients

1 ½ pounds small sweet potatoes, or 3 large sweet potatoes

5 eggs

2 cups heavy cream

2 cups whole milk

1 cup maple syrup, plus additional for serving, warmed

½ cup firmly packed light brown sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

½ teaspoon ground nutmeg

½ teaspoon kosher salt

1 (1 pound) loaf challah bread, cut into 1 ½- to 2-inch cubes (12 packed cups)

Ice cream or whipped cream

Directions

Preheat the oven to 400˚F. Wrap the sweet potatoes in foil and bake until tender when pricked with a fork, 50 to 60 minutes. Carefully unwrap the foil and let them stand until they are cool enough to handle. Remove the skins and place the cooked sweet potatoes in a bowl. Mash coarsely using a potato masher. Lower the oven temperature to 375˚F.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs until frothy. Whisk in the cream, milk, the 1 cup maple syrup, the brown sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Stir in the sweet potatoes. Add the bread cubes and stir to mix thoroughly. Let stand for 15 minutes for the bread to soak up the liquid, stirring occasionally. Butter a 9 by 13-inch baking dish. Pour the bread mixture into the dish, cover tightly with aluminum foil, and bake until the pudding is set in the center, 50 minutes to an hour. Uncover the baking dish and cook until browned on top and a knife inserted in the center comes out clean, about 15 minutes. Serve warm, drizzled with the warm maple syrup and topped with ice cream or whipped cream

Yield: Makes 9 to 12 servings

Linda Alexander

Pictures by Linda and Starla Willis

Sweet Potatoes…Cornerstones of Southern Tradition

Beauregard Sweet Potatoes in Sheila’s Garden

Sheila Kostelny led the sweet potato segment of the panel discussion, sharing some insightful information about what many consider to be one of the world’s most nutritious vegetables.

*We have Christopher Columbus to thank for discovering the sweet potato on one of his voyages to the West Indies. He was so impressed that upon his return to Spain, he brought some back to Queen Isabella. Later explorers found sweet potatoes growing in much of Central and South America. Most historians think the sweet potato arrived in the U.S. after Columbus, as a result of trading between the early American settlers and the West Indians.

*The sweet potato belongs to the Morning Glory Family (Convolvulaceae). Its scientific name is Ipomoea batatas.

*The yam belongs to the Yam Family (Dioscoreaceae). Its scientific name is Dioscorea Species.

*The confusion between sweet potatoes and yams started when early slaves mistook the sweet potato for a yam (which is grown in Africa). It wasn’t long before sweet potatoes were commonly referred to as yams, especially in the South. Yams are rarely found in American markets. (*Fortunately, we did find yams from Costa Rico a few weeks ago at our local Walmart).

*Many supermarkets use the terms sweet potato and yams interchangeably.

*All crops grown in the U.S. are sweet potatoes with the largest crop grown in North Carolina. Yams are imported from the Caribbean but are difficult to find.

*Other than being from two different plant families, the sweet potato is a storage root and the yam is a tuber. Other differentiating characteristics:

Sweet potato: smooth, with thin skin. Short, blocky shape with a moist, sweet flavor. High in beta carotene (Vitamin A). Propagated by transplanted or vine cuttings with a 3 to 5 month growing season.

Yam: long and cylindrical with a dry and starchy taste. Low in beta carotene. Propagated by tuber pieces with a 6 to 12 month growing season.

*Growing sweet potatoes:

Purchase sweet potatoes for cuttings or slips from local nurseries in late spring. Allow the cuts to scar for a few days and, as with regular potatoes, include 3 or 4 eyes, if not sprouted. Plant the slips or cuttings deep, with at least 3 nodes below ground or 3 to 4” deep and 12 to 16 inches apart.

It’s also fun to try the “second-grade” sweet potato vine method, which is to root a sweet potato suspended in water using toothpicks.

Unlike most vegetable crops, sweet potatoes do not do better with high levels of organic matter. They need loose soil with good drainage…raised beds are ideal. Sweet potatoes are fairly drought tolerant but do appreciate moist soil.

Sweet potatoes demand warm growing conditions. Do not plant until all possibility of frost has passed. As soon as the soil temperature is at least 60˚F, plant 2 inches below the surface. They need at least 8 hours of sun each day for maximum yield.

Ideally, incorporate 1 pound per 100 sf of bed with a complete lawn or garden fertilizer or an organic fertilizer, per instructions, to the soil before planting. Ideal ph is 5.5 to 6.5.

Harvesting:

Generally ready in 90 to 110-120 days. Peak harvest season being October to December. Some say a light frost will sweeten the taste. Harvest before a hard frost.

Sweet potatoes don’t actually mature but are dug when they reach a usable size. Dig very carefully in dry soil. (They may be kept in the ground to continue sizing but should be dug up before the soil temperatures drops below 50˚F to prevent chill injury).

Cut the roots away from the spuds and allow them to dry for 3 to 4 hours in the shade before placing in a warm, humid area to cure for at least 2 weeks, which turns their starches to sugar.

Ideal curing temperature is 80˚-85˚F with 85 to 90% humidity.

Proper Storage:

Ideal storage temperature is 55˚ to 60˚F in darkness with moderate humidity. The average storage life is 4 to 6 months. Allow good air circulation.

Recommended varieties for our area (Zone 8):

Beauregard (perhaps the world’s most popular sweet potato…favored for high yields of uniform, reddish potatoes with tasty, deep-orange flesh that keeps well in storage. Developed at Louisiana State University in 1987), Centennial and Jewel.

Sweet potatoes are not only a nutritious and tasty vegetable, the skin and flesh are excellent sources of fiber. And, this very versatile vegetable, along with the turkey, makes our Thanksgiving feast complete.

Here’s one of our favorite sweet potato recipes to get us started after our recent Grow and Graze event-Pumpkins on Parade, Sweet Potatoes for Adornment.

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

 

Ingredients:

2 packages active dry yeast

1 cup warm water (105˚ to 115˚)

1 cup cooked mashed sweet potato

½ cup shortening

½ cup sugar

1 egg

1 ½ teaspoons salt

5 ¼ to 5 ¾ cups all-purpose flour

¼ cup butter, softened

Directions:

  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water in a large mixing bowl; let stand 5 minutes. Add sweet potato, shortening, sugar, egg, and salt; beat at medium speed of an electric mixer until thoroughly blended. Gradually stir in enough flour to make a soft dough.

 

  1. Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface, and knead until smooth and elastic (about 5 minutes). Place in a well-greased bowl, turning to grease top. Cover and let rise in a warm place (85 degrees), free from drafts, 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.

 

  1. Punch dough down, and divide into 3 equal parts. Roll each into a 12-inch circle on a lightly floured surface; spread each circle with 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon butter. Cut each circle into 12 wedges; roll up each wedge, beginning at wide end. Place on lightly greased baking sheets, point side down, curving slightly to form a crescent.
  2. Cover crescent rolls and let rise in a warm place, free from drafts, 30 to 45 minutes or until rolls are doubled in bulk. Bake at 400˚ 10 to 12 minutes or until light golden brown.

Yield: 3 dozen

More recipes coming!

Linda Alexander

 

 

The Fall Garden You Should Have Already Started

October 11, 2019

I’m late.  I should have been making space for fall vegetables in my 8x 10′ garden in August. My excuse is that the squash and basil were still producing and I had a fervent hope that my cucamelon vines would finally spring forth with those tiny cute cucamelons (alas, it did not).

My good friend, Sheila Kostelny, however, planted her garden in a timely manner. It’s the garden I’ve been dreaming about.

She has planted seeds of beets, carrots, spinach and 3 varieties of peas.

 

And already in the garden are transplants of Bright Lights Swiss Chard, Southern Giant Curled Mustard, Tiger Collards, and garlic.

Below are her Beauregard Sweet Potatoes which are arguably  the world’s most popular sweet potato. It’s popularity comes from producing high yields of uniform, reddish-purple potatoes with tasty, deep-orange flesh.

By the way, Sheila will be teaching how to grow sweet potatoes at our next Grow and Gaze event on October 22. Tickets for the lunch are sold out but the lecture is free and open to anyone who wants to attend.

For anyone else who is just now working on a fall garden, you can purchase transplants of broccoli, beets, Brussel sprouts, cabbage, swiss chard, lettuce, mustard greens, spinach and other cool season crops at your local garden center.

I’ll see you there!

Ann Lamb

 

Edible Landscaping, Here’s What You Plant!

The beautiful and edible Roselle Hibiscus planted in our Greenhouse beds. 

All plant material in the edible landscape is carefully selected for culinary purposes. Whether it be the leaves, flowers, fruit, roots or seeds, at least one part of the plant must be edible. Creating a visually attractive landscape design using only edible plants is the framework for our lovely garden. We hope you enjoy your visit to The Edible Landscape at Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills.

Edible Plants in Our Garden and Some of Their Culinary Uses:

South Sidewalk Raised Beds (Left Side)

Garlic Chives – leaves and blossoms; salads, egg dishes and sauces

Spearmint – leaves; mint syrups, fruit salads, garnish for beverages, use with beef, lamb, English peas, cucumbers, tomatoes and watermelon

Basil – leaves and blossoms; beverages, desserts, egg dishes, pesto and salads

South Sidewalk Raised Bed (Right Side)

Sweet Fennel – leaves; salads, sauces and grilled meats, – seeds; teas and sausage

Okra – pods for sautéing, roasting, frying and sliced raw in salads; leaves for frying

Strawberries – fruit; beverages, desserts, jams, jellies and soups

Trellis

Luffa – young vegetable and flowers; young vegetable can substitute for squash, zucchini or eggplant, flowers can be dipped in batter and sautéed

Clay Pot Bed

Sweet Myrtle – leaves, berries and blossoms; leaves in stews, roast meats, stuffing, salads and meat ragouts, berries as a substitute for black pepper

Dwarf Fig Tree – fruit; preserves, salads, grilled and baked

Stonescape

Mexican Mint Marigold – leaves; fish and poultry cookery, ice creams and teas

Curry Plant – leaves; mix with cream cheese for sandwiches, egg and chicken salads

Society Garlic – leaves; herb butters, egg and cheese dishes, starchy vegetables

Cutting Celery – leaves; dressings, salads and soups

Summer Savory – leaves; vegetable cookery, especially beans 

Italian Parsley – leaves; white sauce, scrambled eggs, baked corn or potatoes, poultry, dressing, biscuits and butter

Swing Set Frame Raised Beds

Pelargoniums (Scented Geraniums) – leaves; desserts, jellies, sugars and teas

West End of Swing Set Frame

Lamb’s Quarters – young, tender leaves for salads

Wire Frame North Side of Swing Set Frame

Anise Hyssop – dried leaves used for teas and seasonings

Lovage – leaves; salads, soups and stews – seeds; crushed or whole can be used like leaves – stems; blanched and eaten like celery

Scarlet Emperor Bean – leaves, blossoms, fruit; leaves cooked or raw, blossoms in salads, fruit (bean) young like green beans, or mature, used like dried beans

Statuary Bed  

Onion Chives – leaves and blossoms; breads, egg dishes, sauces and salads

Pumpkins – pulp and seeds; breads, pancakes, puddings, soups and toasted seeds

Square Raised Bed

Bay Laurel – leaves; seasoning for soups, stews, vegetables and sauces

Peppers – fruit; grilling, jellies, roasting, sauces and stuffing

Crescent Beds

Pineapple Sage; beverages

Sweet Marjoram ‘compacta’; breads, soups, sauces and pasta dishes

Stone Walkway, East Side

Salad Burnet – fresh young leaves in salads and dips

Hügelkultur

Winter Savory – leaves; vegetable cookery, especially beans

Italian Oregano – leaves and flowers; breads, spaghetti sauce, basting meats while grilling, pasta dishes

Artichokes – choke; steamed and sautéed

Strawberries – fruit; beverages, desserts, jams and jellies, soups

Swiss Chard – leaves; frittatas, savory tarts and soups

Wave Wall

French Sorrel – leaves; salads, sauces and soups

Greenhouse Beds

Monarda (Bee Balm) – leaves and blossoms; teas and salads

Lemon Balm – leaves; use as a garnish for summer drinks and salads, teas

German Chamomile – flowers; tea

Roselle Hibiscus– calyx, leaves, seeds; calyx for tea and jam, leaves in salads/stir fry, seeds ground into flour

Cinder Block Front of Greenhouse

Roselle Hibiscus – same as above 

French Tarragon planted in the half moon bed.

Brick Half Moon Bed, North Front of Greenhouse

Lemon Verbena – leaves; beverages, breads, desserts, jam and jellies and salad dressings

Mediterranean Swoop Bed

Pomegranate – flesh and seeds; jellies, salads and sauces 

French Tarragon – leaves; eggs, cheese dishes, sauces for fish, chicken tarragon and a classic in bearnaise sauce 

Thyme – leaves and flowers; stews, leafy vegetables, beef, fish, lamb, pork and poultry cookery, also used to cook with legumes

Culinary Sages (Garden, Purple and TriColor) – leaves and flowers; breads, poultry and pork cookery, thanksgiving stuffing 

Mexican Oregano – leaves and flowers; same as other oreganos

Raised Bed on Concrete Pad

Sweet Potato (Beauregard) – baking, roasting and sautéing for vegetable dishes and desserts

Plant Guild

Hardy Satsuma (Orange Frost) – fruit

Sweet Marjoram – breads, soups, sauces and pasta dishes

Cedar Fence

Sweet Olive (Osmanthus Fragans)- blossoms; dried and used in cakes and sweets 

Ginger – root, leaves; sauces, pickled, baked goods, leaves can be infused to provide a mild ginger flavor (compared to the root)

Linda Alexander

 

Grow and Graze-Pumpkins on Parade, Sweet Potatoes for Adornment – TIME CHANGE

“Pumpkins on Parade, Sweet Potatoes for Adornment”

PLEASE NOTE: Start time has been move back a half hour to begin at 10:30. Traffic on nearby streets, particularly Preston, Royal and Walnut Hill is difficult to navigate because of storm debris. Midway is open north of the garden and south to at least Royal Lane. Please allow extra travel time, and we hope to see you at the garden!

Tickets are sold out but the class is free, so please join us!

Join us for an in-depth look into these harvest-season jewels that have become an intrinsic part of classic autumn fare.

Tuesday, October 22nd

A ‘Grow and Graze’ Event Hosted by the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills

10:30 – 11:30am * 11001 Midway Road * Church Sanctuary

Free Program by Raincatcher’s Vegetable Experts

Immediately following the program, please join us in the Community Hall for Lunch

11:30 – 12:30

$15 per person, Reserved seating for 60, Ticket Sales Begin September 24th

Deadline Tuesday, October 8th

For Lunch Tickets, visit https://www.eventbrite.com/e/pumpkins-on-parade-sweet-potatoes-for-adornment-tickets-72885583743

 (Master Gardeners earn two CEU’s if attending both events)

Menu

Curried Pumpkin Hummus with Toasted Pita Chips

Autumn Bisque

Harvest Salad with Bacon Vinaigrette

Sweet Potato and Black-eyed Pea Salad with Rosemary-Honey Vinaigrette

Sweet Potato Crescent Rolls

Maple Sweet Potato Bread Pudding

Pumpkin Chai Pots de Crème Garnished with Pumpkin Seed Brittle

Orange-Scented Water and Hazelnut Coffee

Linda Alexander

Facts About Growing Okra and Recipes from our Latest Grow and Graze Event

 

Botanically speaking, okra is a member of the mallow family. Looking deeper into the Malvaceaes, we learn that it shares family ties with cotton, cocoa, balsa wood, hibiscus and durian fruit. Ancient cultivation of okra can be traced back to East Africa, West Africa, India and Southeast Asia. Its arrival in America is documented as one of Africa’s major crops that were brought to the United States on slave ships. Okra probably landed in the US through the ports of Charleston and New Orleans in the 1700s.

Varieties:

The USDA Germplasm Resources Information Network (GRIN) yields 1,099 accessions, most unnamed.

The National Bureau of Plant Genetic Resources in New Delhi claims over 4,000 accessions. 

Okra comes in all sorts of shapes and sizes: fat and thin pods, long and short pods and all sorts of variations in between. Colors vary from Burgundy, Red River, Louisiana Green Velvet, Emerald, Silver Queen, White Velvet and Jing Orange to Hill Country Red.

Tips:

Okra prefers a pH of around 6.5 and performs well in soils that are rich with organic matter.  Full sun is required. For best results, soak seeds for a few hours up to overnight. Plant okra seed 3” to 4” apart, thinning to 12”. For summer crops sow seeds in April and May. For a fall harvest, plant in late July to early August.

After the first harvest, remove the lower leaves to help speed up production. 

When shopping for okra, look for small bright green or red pods with no browning or discoloration, especially at the tips. Okra should be firm to the touch with no signs of limpness. Plan to use within a day or two or it will lose its texture and may even turn moldy. 

Interesting facts:

Okra will produce large flowers about two months after planting. The okra pods will be ready to pick three-to-four days later.

India is the largest producer of okra in the world. 

Okra leaves are incredibly nutritious. However, they need to be cooked as you would spinach or collard greens. Young leaves can be fried.

Okra plants are stunning and can be grown for their landscaping aesthetics alone, especially the red-stemmed varieties. We are currently growing both red and green varieties in the edible landscape at Raincatcher’s for this purpose. It’s something we hope to continue in 2020.

Following the program, guests were treated to a corn and okra flavor-filled lunch menu. Enjoy the photos and recipes from this delicious experience hosted by the Raincatcher’s Garden of Midway Hills. 

Our final ‘Grow and Graze’ event of 2019…Pumpkins on Parade and Sweet Potatoes for Adornment will be October 22nd.

Sign up will begin on September 24th. Ticket sales for our last event sold out in a few hours so mark your calendars now….

 

Warm Okra and Red Onion Salad with Pine Nuts

Ingredients

½ cup pine nuts

1 ½ tablespoons coconut oil (divided use)

½ red onion, thinly sliced

¾ pound okra, halved lengthwise

½ teaspoon kosher salt (divided use)

2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce

2 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 tablespoons finely chopped basil

2 tablespoons finely chopped mint

Directions

Toast pine nuts: Heat oven to 400˚F. Place the pine nuts on a rimmed baking sheet. Cook for 5 to 8 minutes, shaking every 2 minutes. Remove from the oven when golden. 

Place ½ tablespoon of coconut oil into a large cast iron or nonstick pan. Add the onion and cook over medium heat for 3 to 4 minutes. Remove the onions and set aside. 

Add 1 tablespoon of oil to the skillet and increase temperature to medium-high. Once the pan is hot, add half of the okra and ¼ teaspoon kosher salt. Sauté for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Remove the okra and add to the onions. 

Add the second batch of okra to the pan (add a bit more coconut oil if the pan is dry). Cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the onions and okra back into the pan. Stir to combine. 

Add the Worcestershire and vinegar to the pan. Cook on medium-high until the liquid is reduced by half. 

Remove from the heat. Stir in the parsley, basil, mint and toasted pine nuts. Stir well to combine. Salt to taste and serve immediately. 

Yield: Makes 6 servings.

Fried Okra with Pickle Aioli

Ingredients

Pickle Aioli

½ cup mayonnaise

2 tablespoons chopped dill pickles, plus 2 tablespoons pickle juice

2 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh chives

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

Okra

Vegetable oil, for frying

1 cup buttermilk

1 tablespoon hot sauce

1 ½ cups all-purpose flour

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning

Kosher salt

1 pound okra, halved lengthwise

Directions

To make the pickle aioli: In a medium bowl, stir together the mayonnaise, pickles, pickle juice, dill and chives. Season to taste with salt and pepper. 

To make the okra: In a large Dutch oven or other heavy-bottomed pot, heat 2 inches of the oil to 350˚F over medium-high heat. Alternatively, heat the oil to 350˚F in a deep fryer following the manufacturer’s directions. Line a large plate with paper towels. 

While the oil is heating, whisk together the buttermilk and hot sauce in a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, whisk together the flour, cornmeal, Old Bay and 1 tablespoon salt. 

Add the okra to the buttermilk mixture and toss to coat. Transfer to the flour mixture and toss to thoroughly coat. 

When the oil is hot, remove the okra from the flour mixture, shaking off any excess, and fry the okra in two batches until golden brown and crisp, about 5 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to transfer to the prepared plate and season lightly with salt. Repeat with the remaining okra. 

Serve hot with the pickle aioli.

Yield: Serves 4

Fresh Okra Muffins

Ingredients

2 cups self-rising cornmeal

1 tablespoon sugar

½ teaspoon salt

1 ¼ cups milk

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

¼ cup vegetable oil

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

¼ teaspoon hot sauce

2 cups thinly sliced fresh okra (about ½ pound)

¼ cup chopped onion

Directions

Combine first 3 ingredients in a medium bowl; make a well in center of mixture.  Combine milk and next 4 ingredients; add to dry ingredients, stirring just until moistened.  Fold in okra and onion.

Grease muffin pans, and place in a 400˚F oven for 5 minutes.  Quickly spoon batter into prepared pans, filling two-thirds full; bake for about 20 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from pans immediately.

Yield:  1 ½ dozen.

Linda Alexander

Facts About Growing Corn and Recipes From Our Latest Grow and Graze Event

Corn, the golden essence of summer and okra, a garden giant, were the two features at last week’s ‘Grow and Graze’ event. A panel discussion led by master gardener, Linda Alexander also included Dorothy Shockley, master gardener and vegetable specialist, along with Jeff Raska, Horticulture Program Assistant, Dallas County.

Starting with an historical look into the recorded beginnings of both crops, our panelists shared helpful suggestions and tips for growing them in our home gardens.

CORN
Some sources say that corn’s true origins date back 10,000 years ago to the pre-Columbian civilization. It is native to southern Mexico.

There are 5 main classes of corn:
Dent – called dent because of the small dent in top of the kernel. Used for livestock, the dinner table when harvested early enough, cornmeal and oil.
Flint – or Indian corn, this the colorful corn used for fall décor.
Flour – used for starches, flour, cornmeal and masa harina.
Popcorn – for popping, also can be colorful. Interestingly, any dried corn will “pop”.
Sweet – open pollinated and hybrid. The hybrid sweet corn is what we find in our markets today.

Tips:
Growing corn requires full sun, well prepped soil and varieties recommended for our area:
Kandy Korn, Silver Queen, How Sweet it Is, Merit, G90.

Plant corn seed 8” to a foot apart and always in a square or rectangle to help with pollination. Dorothy recommends putting two seeds in each hole and then thinning out the smaller one. Pollination should start in about two months.

Interesting facts:
Corn takes about 70 to 80 days to maturity. The tassel starts to emerge about 20 days before maturity. In that 20-day period, the most interesting part of the pollination takes place. The tassel, the male part of the plant appears. The tassel has anthers that will open up and spray the pollen. As this is happening, the silks, the female part of the plant emerges from the ear. The silks will be sticky on the ends, which allows the pollen to stick. The leaves will also be collecting some pollen. Along comes the wind blowing that pollen around your corn patch which connects with the silks. This is the main reason for planting corn in a square or rectangle
and not a single row.

Each one of those silks run down that ear, inside the shuck to a kernel. This pollinates the kernel and it starts to swell or fatten and develop.
Remember, when purchasing corn at the grocery or farmer’s market always buy corn with husks still in place. Look for ears that are full, filled out at the base and fresh silks that are not dried out. And, don’t forget to do the “peel back” test to check for freshness and plump, full
kernels. Ideally, fresh corn should be prepared either the same day or within two days.

Corn Trivia:
*Each corn stalk has two ears. Most ears have exactly 16 rows of kernels. Cut an ear of corn crosswise to see the formation. The number of lines may vary but, generally, every ear of corn
has 400 to 600 kernels.
*The average American eats 25 pounds of corn a year. This include everything from corn-on-the-cob, to cornbread, corn syrup, corn starch and, of course, tortillas.
Enjoy these delicious corn recipes from our picnic-style lunch and you might be well on your way to consuming the yearly average of 25 pounds per person.

Recipes

Santa Fe Corn Soup

Ingredients

3 ½ cups fresh corn kernels (8 to 12 ears), or frozen corn

1 cup chicken broth

¼ cup butter

2 cups milk (or 1 cup evaporated milk and 1 cup water)

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon oregano

Salt and pepper to taste

3 tablespoons canned chiles, rinsed and diced

1 cup cubed cooked chicken

1 cup grated Monterey Jack cheese

¼ teaspoon baking soda

1 cup diced fresh tomatoes

Garnish: Fresh oregano and fried tortilla triangles

Directions

Combine corn and chicken broth in blender or food processor and puree. 

In 3-quart saucepan combine butter and corn mixture and simmer slowly 5 minutes, stirring to keep corn from sticking to bottom of pan. Add milk, garlic, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to boil.  Reduce heat and add chiles and chicken. Simmer 5 minutes. 

Remove soup from heat and add cheese and baking soda (to prevent curdling). Stir until melted. To serve, ladle soup into 6 bowls. Top with tomatoes and garnish with tortilla triangles and a sprig of fresh oregano. 

Yield: Serve 6

Fresh Corn Cakes with Heirloom Tomato Relish and Tarragon Crème Fraiche

Ingredients

¾ cup yellow cornmeal

½ cup all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill 

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon 

¾ cup whole milk

1 large egg

2 cups fresh corn kernels

Salt and pepper, to taste

Vegetable oil (for frying)

Tarragon Crème Fraiche (recipe follows)

Heirloom Tomato Relish (recipe follows)

Directions

In a large bowl, whisk together cornmeal, flour, baking powder, dill, parsley and tarragon. 

In a small bowl, whisk together milk and egg until smooth. Add milk mixture to cornmeal mixture, stirring just until combined. Stir in corn kernels. 

In a large skillet, pour oil to a depth of ¼ inch. Heat over medium heat. Drop cornmeal mixture by one-fourth cupfuls into hot oil, and cook until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side. Let drain on paper towels. Serve corn cakes topped with Tarragon Crème Fraiche and Heirloom Tomato Relish. Garnish with herbs, if desired. 

Yield: Makes approximately 18

Tarragon Crème Fraiche

Ingredients

1 (8-ounce) container crème fraiche

2 tablespoons minced fresh tarragon 

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together crème fraiche, tarragon and mustard. Cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days. 

Yield: Makes approximately 1 cup

Heirloom Tomato Relish

Ingredients

3 large multicolor heirloom tomatoes, seeded and chopped

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1 teaspoon lemon zest

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon ground black pepper

Directions

In a medium bowl, stir together tomatoes, olive oil, basil, lemon zest, salt and pepper just before serving. 

Yield: Makes approximately 2 cups

Corn and Jalapeno Jelly Muffins

Ingredients:

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 cup yellow cornmeal

¼ cup sugar

1 tablespoon baking powder

1 teaspoon dried red pepper flakes

1 egg

½ cup plus 1 tablespoon milk

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

1 (10-ounce) package frozen corn kernels, defrosted

¼ cup jalapeno pepper jelly

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 373˚F.  Generously butter 12 muffin cups; each 2 ½ inches in diameter.

In a large bowl, mix together the flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking powder and pepper flakes. 

In a medium bowl, whisk together the egg, milk, melted butter and corn.  Pour the liquid mixture over the dry ingredients and stir lightly, using no more than 15 to 20 strokes, to combine. 

Fill each muffin cup about half full with batter; reserve ⅓ of the batter.  With the back of a teaspoon, make a small depression in the center of each muffin and drop in 

1 teaspoon of jalapeno jelly.  Divide the reserved batter over the tops to cover the jelly (do not spread the batter). 

Bake in the middle of the oven for 25 minutes, or until light golden on top.  Let the muffins rest in the pan for about 2 minutes. Using a blunt knife, ease the muffins out onto a wire rack and let cool for about 20 minutes.  

Yield:  Makes 12 muffins

Esquites: Mexican Street Corn Salad

Ingredients

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

4 ears fresh corn, shucked, kernels removed, (about 3 cups fresh corn kernels)

Kosher salt

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

2 ounces feta or Cotija cheese, finely crumbled

½ cup finely sliced scallions, green parts only

½ cup fresh cilantro leaves, finely chopped

1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and stemmed, finely chopped

1 to 2 medium cloves garlic, pressed or minced on a Microplane grater (about 1 to 2 teaspoons)

1 tablespoon fresh juice from 1 lime

Chili powder or hot chili flakes, to taste

Directions

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet or wok over high heat until shimmering. Add corn kernels, season to taste with salt, toss once or twice, and cook without moving until charred on one side, about 2 minutes. Toss corn, stir, and repeat until charred on second side, about 2 minutes longer. Continue tossing and charring until corn is well charred all over, about 10 minutes total. Transfer to a large bowl. 

Add mayonnaise, cheese, scallions, cilantro, jalapeno, garlic, lime juice, and chili powder and toss to combine. Taste and adjust seasoning with salt and more chili powder to taste. Serve immediately. 

Yield: Serves 4

Chocolate Polenta Pudding Cake

Cake Ingredients

2 ½ cups whole milk

¾ cup coarsely ground cornmeal

½ cup plus 3 tablespoons sugar

½ teaspoon salt

8 ounces bittersweet chocolate

Shredded zest of ½ large orange

1 ½ teaspoons ground cinnamon

⅛ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

4 large eggs, separated

1 tablespoon vanilla extract

½ cup heavy whipping cream

Topping Ingredients

1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa

1 tablespoon sugar

Powdered sugar for dusting

In a 2-quart saucepan bring the milk to a boil. Meanwhile, combine the cornmeal, ½ cup sugar and the salt in a medium metal bowl. Whisk in the hot milk until smooth.

Wash out the saucepan, fill it two thirds full of water, and bring it to a simmer. Cover the bowl with foil, set it over the water and cook 40 minutes; the polenta will be thick and stiff.  Stir three or four times as it cooks and add water to the pan if necessary. 

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350˚F. Butter an 8-inch springform pan. Finely chop three quarters of the chocolate and cut the rest into generous 1-inch pieces. 

When the polenta is cooked, remove the bowl (or pan) from the water. Blend in the finely chopped chocolate, the orange zest, cinnamon, pepper, yolks, and vanilla. Place 1 cup of this mixture in another bowl and stir the cream into it. Set aside. 

In a large bowl, whip the egg whites until frothy. Beat in the remaining 3 tablespoons sugar, and then whip to soft peaks. Fold a quarter of the whites into the non-cream chocolate-polenta mixture to lighten it. Then fold in the rest, leaving a few white streaks. Fold in the chocolate chunks with one or two strokes. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan. Using a spoon, hollow out the center of the batter so the polenta-cream mixture will sit in a pocket. Add the cream mixture. Cover with the rest of the batter. Sift the cocoa over the top, the sprinkle with sugar. 

Bake 1 hour, or until a knife inserted at the edge of the pudding comes out with moist crumbs on it, but when put into the center, comes out with creamy streaks. Cool on a rack for 15 minutes.

Release the sides of the pan and set the cake on a plate. Serve warm or at room temperature, dusted with powdered sugar.

Yield: 1 8” cake (8 servings)

Recipe adapted from “The Italian Country Table”

Sweet Corn Ice Cream with Blackberry Lemon Verbena Sauce

Ingredients

4 ears fresh corn, shucked

1 ½ cups milk

2 cups heavy cream

1 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar

6 large egg yolks

¼ teaspoon fine sea salt

¼ cup sour cream 

2 sprigs lemon verbena or ½ teaspoon grated lemon zest

1 ½ cups blackberries (about 6 ounces)

Directions

Using a large knife, slice the kernels off the corn cobs and place in a large saucepan. Break cobs in half and add to the pot along with milk, cream and ½ cup sugar. Bring mixture to a boil, stirring, then remove from heat. Let stand to infuse for 1 hour, the discard corn cobs. 

Using an immersion or regular blender, puree kernel mixture. Return mixture to a simmer, then turn off heat. In a small bowl, whisk egg yolks, ⅛ teaspoon salt and another ¼ cup sugar. Add a cup of hot cream mixture to yolks, stirring constantly so they don’t curdle. Add yolk mixture to saucepan, stirring. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until custard thickens enough to coat the spoon, about 10 minutes. 

Pass custard through a fine sieve, pressing down hard on the solids. Discard solids. Whisk in sour cream until smooth. Let custard cool in an ice bath, then cover and chill for at least 4 hours.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan, combine remaining 5 tablespoons sugar, lemon verbena sprigs (or zest) and ¼ cup water and bring to a simmer. Let cook, stirring occasionally, until sugar melts and syrup thickens slightly, about 7 minutes. Add blackberries and cook for 5 to 7 minutes longer, until fruit just softens, but doesn’t fall apart. Let cool, then discard verbena. 

Freeze corn mixture in an ice cream maker according to manufacturer’s directions. Serve with blackberries and syrup on top. Recipes makes 1 ½ pints.

Linda Alexander

More recipes to follow later this week.

 

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