Dill-icious Potato Salad

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OK, that title is so corny but I couldn’t resist.

Last weekend my husband made spicy dill pickles (yum!).  Due to a slight error I made in calculating how much dill we’d need, we ended up with five unused bunches of dill in the fridge even after making a dozen jars of pickles.  So even though I didn’t grow the dill myself, I thought I’d throw out the recipe for those of you who might be growing dill and/ or potatoes, peas, or any of the other ingredients in this cool, crisp salad.

From Recipes From A Kitchen Garden by Renee Shepherd and Fran Raboff

  • 1 1/2 pounds new potatoes, steamed and cut into chunks
  • 1 cup cooked peas, drained
  • 1/2 cup chopped celery (I used cucumber instead)

Dressing:

  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1 clove garlic, halved (I crushed mine)
  • 2 T white wine vinegar
  • 1 T Dijon mustard
  • 1/2 t sugar
  • 1/4 cup mayo (I used light)
  • 1/2 cup plain yogurt
  • 6 scallions, finely sliced
  • 6 T chopped fresh dill
  • freshly ground pepper to taste

Prepare peas, potatoes and celery/ cucumber and set aside. Mix together all dressing ingredients. Pour over peas and potatoes and mix gently together. Garnish with sprigs of dill.

I’ve still got 4 bunches of dill in the fridge. What should I do with those? One can only eat so much potato salad!

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Mint – Easy To Grow, Easy To Use Up

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I planted two mint plants this year, despite warnings from friends as to how mint takes over the garden.  Considering all the weeds that seem to be usually taking over my garden, I thought a mint invasion sounded like a grand idea.  So far, it’s turned out to be just that – grand and delicious.

I planted a Moroccan Mint plant and a spearmint plant. Neither have taken over, both are beautiful and delicious as iced tea.  I’ve been brewing fresh mint tea every day or two and my whole family loves it. It’s so easy it hardly qualifies as a recipe, but here goes.

Minty Fresh Iced Tea

Clip a large bunch of fresh mint from the plant and rinse well.. I generally use 5-7 full branches. Place the branches (no need to remove leaves – use branches and all) in a large glass, heatproof container and pour boiling water over the top. Let steep for a few minutes or a few hours, depending on how strong you want it. I sometimes let it steep all day. When ready to drink remove mint leaves and pour over ice.

To make something even prettier I throw in some slices of fresh fruit and/ or berries and feel like I’m drinking a summer cocktail!

Any other ideas of ways to use large quantities of mint? Even my tea-drinking habit isn’t keeping up with the plants so I could use more ideas!

Getting Your Garden’s Bounty To The Table

Preparing, planting, watering, and weeding my garden make up the bulk of the work involved in growing my family’s own food, but true panic sets in when I go out to harvest and think “Oh my gosh, what in the world am I going to do with 5 pounds of kale?”  This year I got smart – I’ve been reading recipes all summer in anticipation of the abundance of ripe goodness to come.  I’ve decided to share some of my favorite recipes periodically on this blog as we prepare and devour them, but only the good ones of course.

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Yesterday I harvested our first tomatillos in 105 degree heat (no wonder they were so plump and juicy!). Last year I had no clue what to do with that exotic vegetable but my friend Karen shared with me a recipe then that I have been waiting, no, salivating to recreate this summer. Ladies and gentlemen, I give you Pork Chops with Fire-Roasted Tomatillo Sauce.

For the meat:

  • 2 T kosher salt
  • 2 t ground cumin
  • 1/2 t cayenne pepper
  • 4 boneless pork chops, about 1 inch thick

For the sauce:

  • 8 medium tomatillos, husked and rinsed
  • 1 poblano chile (I used 2 jalapenos since that’s what we had in the garden)
  • 2 slices bacon
  • 2 t minced garlic
  • 1 white onion, diced
  • 1 cup loosely packed cilantro
  • 1/2 t brown sugar
  • 1/2 t kosher salt
  • 1/4 t black pepper
  • Olive oil for brushing pork chops

Brine the meat in a mixture of salt, cumin and cayenne with 2 cups water. Cover and refrigerate for 45-60 minutes.

To make the sauce, grill the tomatillos directly over medium heat, turning occasionally, until blistered and soft, 6-8 minutes. Grill the chile directly over medium heat, turning occasionally, until blistered but still holding its shape, 6-8 minutes. When the chile is cool enough to handle remove and discard skin, stem and seeds. (Side note: I did all the roasting under the broiler on high rather than on the grill).

In a medium saute pan, cook the bacon over medium heat, turning occasionally, until crisp, about 10 minutes. Transfer the bacon to paper towels to drain. Add the garlic and onion to the fat remaining in the pan and cook over medium heat until soft, about 4 minutes. Remove pan from the heat.

In a food processor or blender, puree the tomatillos and chile. Add bacon, garlic-onion mixture, cilantro, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Process until smooth. Transfer to a medium saute pan over low heat and bring to a simmer. If the sauce seems too thick stir in 2-3 T water. Keep warm over low heat.

Remove the pork chops from the brine, pat with paper towel, and lightly brush both sides with olive oil. Grill the pork chops directly over medium heat, turning once, until barely pink in the center, 9-11 minutes total.

Serve the pork chops warm with the scrumptious tomatillo sauce!

How do you use up your tomatillos? I need more ideas as the bulk of the harvest is still to come!

Summer Happiness

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It makes me so happy to walk out front and pick a little posy like this. My goal for my garden has never been landscaping perfection. My hope for it, now realized this year, has been to have a garden full of cheerful blooms and lots of good things to eat. More pics of my tiny suburban “farm” next time…

My First Round-Up, And Not The Kind You Spray In Your Yard

Believe it or not fellow Portlanders, today was my first time to drop by one of Metro’s Household Hazardous Waste Round-up events. I had a bowl full of about 50 dead batteries I’d been hanging on to. When I received a flyer in the mail announcing Metro’s visit to Tualatin, I marked it on my calendar. My stop was quick, easy and educational. Here are a few tidbits I picked up at the event:

  • Metro collects all kinds of toxic stuff at these events. You can safely dispose of old paint, unused lawn or pool chemicals, dead batteries, motor oil, and so much more at a Round-up. For a full list visit here.
  • Metro uses the Round-up events as a community education platform as much as for recycling. Before I even pulled up to the drop-off point, a volunteer waved me down and chatted with me  about organic gardening. I just spent 2 hours hand-pulling weeds this morning so I picked her brain some good ideas to control our prolific weeds.  She also gave me some great free literature on natural gardening.
  • Metro offers a ton of free gardening workshops. Who knew? I have the July 11th Winter Veggies workshop down on my calendar. I want to delve into growing some of our food year round. Steve and I have the summer fruits and veggie thing down but we have much to learn on growing during the winter.
  • The guys and gals who run these Round-ups have a lot of fun with it. Grace loved watching them sling empty paint cans up into the dumpster and the guy who took our batteries thought it was hilarious that he was wearing white gloves. He kept calling them his “Mickey Mouse” gloves, and Mickey Mouse (or any mouse for that matter) is a big favorite of Grace’s.
  • If you live in the Portland area you can find a list of Hazardous Waste Round-ups here. If you live elsewhere, don’t dispair. Try Earth 911’s site for help on where you can dispose of your hazardous waste materials. Or else look into moving to Portland.

It’s Time To Salsa, Baby

Since tomorrow is October 1, I suppose summer is more or less over. My garden however did not get that memo. It’s still full of juicy ripening tomatoes, hot habanero chiles, sweet green peppers and plump tomatillos. I’d say we’re going to harvest a few more bowlfuls before the weather gets too fall-ish.

Today’s gorgeous ripe vegetables make the perfect mix of salsa ingredients, so that’s what I’ve done. I scoured my cookbooks for ideas and then, using the techniques I found, came up with my own salsa version based on what I had from my garden’s bounty.

Here’s my Summer Salsa “recipe”:

Pile of tomatillos, paper husks removed
Pile of ripe tomatoes
2-4 hot chile peppers, depending on how hot you like your salsa, halved and with seeds/ cores removed
1-2 small white onions cut in quarters
1-2 bunches of cilantro
salt to taste

Put the tomatillos, tomatoes, chile peppers and onions on a cookie sheet. Place under a hot broiler on high and roast for about 10 minutes, until starting to blacken and juices are flowing. Remove from oven once appear somewhat “melted,” or roast another 5-10 minutes until the vegetables start to break down.

Allow the roasted veggies to cool slightly and peel off the tomato skins.  Put the roasted veggies and their juices in a food processor or blender along with as much cilantro as you like and some salt (start with less, you can always add more). Blend until as chunky or smooth as you like (I prefer slightly chunky) and voila, delicious summer salsa with all the fresh flavors of your garden!

I’ve now made the above recipe twice, once using more tomatoes than tomatillos, the second time using far more tomatillos. The latter makes more of a “salsa verde” whereas the former is more of your traditional salsa you might be served with chips in your neighborhood Mexican restaurant. Both are delicious.

Coming tomorrow: Chicken tortilla soup using your excess Summer Salsa

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