On Eating from a Garden--A Manifesto

When you grow food, you have made food exist in the world. The earth did not previously include that food. From here several things can happen to the food you created. It can show up in some delightful meal you serve yourself and maybe others; it can be donated to someone else who will want to eat it more than you do, or it can sit in your garden until it is no longer delicious but instead is tough and seedy or even rotten. When I have grown some food, I see it as my responsibility to aim for one of the first two destinations for it, and avoid the third as much as possible.

            It feels bad to me to waste food I have created, but neither do I want to feel bad because I am trying so hard not to waste it that it ruins my fun in growing it. Here are the ways I try, without causing myself distress, and without making eating from my garden feel like a responsibility, to avoid wasting what I can grow.

Perhaps most important, I try to grow what I will actually want to eat. If I grew something, but didn’t eat it, I figure I either didn’t want to eat that crop or didn’t plan how much I would eat very well. I sort of like parsnips. One came up uninvited in my garden a few years ago. I roasted it with some other root crops and ate it. It was good, but truly, I could do without it. I'd rather buy a parsnip for the one or two times a year I might decide to roast mixed vegetables.

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Root Vegetables to Roast--Including Homegrown Carrots and a Volunteer Parsnip

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Roasted Root Vegetables: Golden Gate Gardening, page 378

Same for beets. My husband actively dislikes them. A couple of times a year, I like to grate one to make a lovely shredded beet salad, in which the sweetness of the beets melds with the sourness of the vinegar, and the flavors of onion, dill, and olive oil add to the deliciousness.

But in truth, I don’t need to grow either one to enjoy them once in a while. On the other hand, I will harvest all fall and winter from a big bed of carrots. They will become “carrot coins” in soups and stir fries. They will get cut into sticks to eat raw with hummus. They will get matchsticked with celery, cabbage, and green onion to go into a delectable Vietnamese vegetable dish, flavored with a bit of fish sauce, topped with some dry roasted, unsalted, crushed peanuts.

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Vietnamese Vegetables Cooking (carrot, celery, Napa Cabbage, Wild Onion)

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Vietnamese Vegetables--ready to serve, with crushed peanut toping  (Recipe in an earlier post on this blog)

And parsley! How I delight in having plenty of parsley plants all year long. I will add a tablespoon or two to French or Italian dishes, a quarter cup or more to North African and Middle Eastern dishes. I will mince it with a mezzaluna (curved blade) in a wooden bowl and freeze a little extra to have on hand. When the plants bloom I will cherish the syrphid flies that feed at their flowers and use the umbrellas of tiny pale yellow blossoms to back up larger flowers in a bouquet.

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Parsley in my garden.

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Chopping Parsley with a Mezzaluna

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Parsley in Bloom

In the places where I could be growing some crops, but don’t, I enjoy watching hummingbirds sip at abutilons, fuchsias and other flowers, I grow Alstroemerias for bright, long-lasting bouquets, enjoy the exuberant flowers of Tigridia from my window in July, and wonder at the variety of forms succulents can take.

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There are plenty of flowers to enjoy in the areas I don't use for food. The hummingbirds love our abutilon.

            I gave myself a few years to decide what crops I would eat, and therefore where I should put my food gardening energies. While I was exploring that, I watched what grew well that I want to eat, and what grew well that I have not eaten in the past. In both cases, I begin to collect recipes. I have found that having shortlists of favorite recipes at the ready to use crops I grow greatly increases the chance I will eat them. (This is why I put some recipes in Golden Gate Gardening.) Collecting recipes is a personal matter. You may not like the ones I collect; I may not like the ones you collect.

            It used to be that hunting for a recipe that used a particular vegetable or herb was difficult. Even if you had the cookbooks, in our meat-centered food culture, the index often did not tell you if a dish includes, say carrots, or parsley. But now there are two improvements. First, as our diet has become more plant-centered, recipes including specific crops are much more often identified in an index. (And there are more books on cooking from a garden—I will list some in a future post.) Second, of course, is the internet. In fact the internet is so easy to search that many cooks probably depend mainly on a search for a recipe that will use what they have on hand. But even with these ever-so-handy improvements, I encourage you to do a search, try some recipes, print or copy a short list, try them out, and choose favorites to keep for use with specific crops.

            Look for recipes that either use a crop you like and can grow or one with which you are less familiar but can grow well. For example, I found that with good care and timing, I can grow beautiful, large, fennel bulbs. I had not eaten fennel often, and, in fact, am not fond of its anisey flavor when it is raw. But I tried a recipe for it cooked, and found that the anisey flavor disappeared, leaving a quite pleasant and distinctive taste. (See recipe: Sweet lemon-braised fennel, below). So I have been collecting recipes for cooked fennel. A second one I have enjoyed is in the soup Sicilian Beans and Greens. This soup uses other crops I can easily produce, and is a wondrous addition to my repertoire. (I will put it up soon.) Now I am about to try a recipe for a sheet pan dinner with pork chops, fennel, potatoes, onion, tomatoes. If it works out I will have three recipes, probably plenty since I only have room to grow about a half-dozen fennel bulbs a year. But what a lovely contribution they make! I like them so much that I have to buy a fennel bulb now and then to fill in when I have none ready in my garden!

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Fennel Bulb Growing in the Garden

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Cutting up a Fennel Bulb. I will cook the slices on the plate in the rear of the photo.

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Sweet Braised Fennel--recipe at the end of this post

When you are looking for recipes, look for ones that include the vegetable in question, and also represent cooking methods you like—such as roasting, stir-fry, braising, or sheet pan dinners. Also give points for seasonings that sound good to you--curry, middle eastern, tomato-based sauce, whatever. Give extra points for recipes that include more than one crop you can grow and harvest in the same season.

            A small garden will always have an unsteady harvest. At the beginning and end of the harvest period for any particular crop, there will always be wee bits to harvest. And in a small garden, you may never have more than a wee bit of some crops. To deal with the wee bits, what you need is recipes that combine just a little of this and that. The world’s cuisines, many of which started in a garden, offer numerous possibilities. There are omelets and frittatas, salads, stir-fries, soups, and many undefinable options. Keep your eyes open and you will find them.

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A colorful winter salad, made when I had only a tiny bit of this and that. I used chard stems and a bit of purple cabbage as bright vegetable confetti. I parboiled the broccoli before I chopped it for the salad.

In the middle of its season, there may be a glut of a crop. You can always tell what gardeners of the past, in particular cultures, had a glut of in midseason. You will need recipes that can use large amounts of those that came in all at once or in midseason profusion. To find them, look to cuisines of places where the crop is most easily or commonly grown. You will find recipes for gratins of summer vegetables, lettuce wilted with sweet and sour sauce (GGG, page 233 Wilted Lettuce) zucchini fritters (GGG, page 377). You may also want recipes for preserving the glut, such as by freezing canning, making relishes and jellies, or pickling. (That’s when the watermelon rind pickle and the sun-dried tomato were born.)

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Gratin of Summer Vegetables

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Zucchini and Cottage Cheese Fritters

Or you may say hell no, if there is too much of something, I don't want to preserve the extra. I just want to grow less of it next year. But for the immediate situation, do find your extra harvest a kitchen in which it will be eaten. Start with family and friends, who might be delighted for a bag of something you grew, or even a small regular sample, or, you may ask yourself: “Is there somewhere I can donate all this food?” Yes indeed, there probably is. You only need a bit of local research to turn up answers. In San Francisco, there is the Free Farm Stand, in the Los Niños Unidos park on 23rd Street between Treat Avenue and Folsom, on Sundays. They are currently bagging food at 10 AM, due to Covid, but will probably return one day to distributing produce from boxes at mid-day, letting people choose what they want to take. Another option is the local food bank. Just be aware a little asking around will certainly turn up places delighted to receive some home grown produce, including herbs.

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We give away hundreds of pounds of apples every fall.

Fruit trees are a special case, in that one tree typically bears more fruit than a family can eat up in a timely manner. You can hunt for recipes, make preserves, give fruit away (look for gleaning organizations that specialize in harvesting fruit to give away). A separate kind of solution is to prune to keep your tree or trees small, so they won’t produce more than you can possibly eat. This is best done from the beginning, when you first bring home a sapling fruit tree, but it can also be done when a tree has grown larger. Use the book Grow a Little Fruit Tree, by Ann Ralph, Storey Publishing, to guide you. It tells you what you need to know simply and clearly.

Sweet Lemon-Braised Fennel

Adapted from Fresh From the Garden, by Perla Meyers, Clarkson N. Potter, Inc., 1996.

One large or 2 small fennel bulbs                   Juice of ½ lemon (or more, to taste)

3 Tablespoons butter or margarine               salt and pepper, if desired

1 Tablespoon olive oil                                     ½ cup chicken broth, vegetable broth, or bullion

½ teaspoon sugar                              

  1. Trim the root and leaves from the bulb(s), leaving only the pale green and white “bulb.” Cut each bulb in half or quarters if it is large, then cut into narrow slices, with some central stem holing each slice together. Try to make the slices under ½ inch at the wider, outside, edge. If some pieces get separated from the core, save them to use as well.
  1. In a large, heavy skillet, melt the butter or margarine (such as Smart Balance) with the oil, over medium heat. Add a single layer of fennel and brown it nicely. When one side is brown, use a fork to turn the pieces over. When they are done, place them on a plate and add more slices to the skillet until all are browned. Reduce the heat to medium low, return any pieces you have set aside to the skillet, and sprinkle with the sugar and the lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper, if desired, turn gently with a spatula once or twice to mix the ingredients. Continue to sauté until the fennel is glazed and brown.
  1. Add the half cup of broth and braise, tightly covered, for 10 minutes, adding more broth if needed. When the fennel is tender, but not falling apart, transfer it to a serving dish.
  1. (Optional) if you want to, you can add another half cup of broth, more lemon juice, and some extra butter, heat through and serve with this extra liquid poured over it. I don’t do this, so can’t report the result.

 


New Recipes for Chard and for a Tomato Soup with Carrots

Following are a couple of recipes I mentioned in my talk today at the Ortega Branch of the SF Public Library.

I had never been to chow.com, but was very pleased with the results of this recipe. The creator of the recipe suggests serving it as a side dish with baked salmon or lamb, but I found it to make a very nice main dish for lunch. It transforms and masks the chard, so it is ideal for gardeners with an excess of this crop. My chard is starting to flower now, so this was an end-of-season discovery. I will surely make it again next chard season! The vinegar and feta give it just the right piquance.  (Trader Joe's has crumbled nonfat feta if you are watching cholesterol.)

Lentils, Chard, and Feta Cheese Adapted from a recipe posted on chow.com by Amy Wisniewski  

INGREDIENTS

2 tablespoons olive oil                                12 ounces Swiss chard (about 1 bunch)

1/2 cup small-dice yellow onion                 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more for seasoning

2 medium garlic cloves, finely chopped      1/4 teaspoon black pepper, plus more for seasoning

1 cup brown or green lentils                         4 teaspoons red wine vinegar

2 cups water                                                 1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese (about 2 1/2 ounces)

INSTRUCTIONS

1. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a medium saucepan. Add the onion and garlic, season it with salt and pepper, and cook it on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes.

2. Stir in the lentils, and the water. Use high heat to bring just to a boil, then turn to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until  lentils are just tender and the water has evaporated, about 30 minutes. Remove from heat; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, cut the stems from the chard leaves, including the thick part of the stem that goes into the leaf blade.  Cut the stems into small pieces and put them in a bowl. Stack the leaves, cut them in half lengthwise, then coarsely chop into bite-sized pieces; set aside.

 4. Heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a large frying or straight-sided pan over medium-high heat . Add the reserved chard stems, season with salt and pepper, and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, about 5 minutes. (Or put them in the microwave first, on high, for 2 minutes, covered with a piece of paper towel, to hasten the process.)

5. Add the chopped chard leaves, measured salt, and measured pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until wilted, about 2 minutes. Add the red wine vinegar and reserved lentil mixture and stir until evenly combined. Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, about 3 minutes.

6. Sprinkle in the feta and stir to combine. Taste and season with salt and pepper as needed.

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Cream of Tomato Soup  (Adapted from a recipe by Cynthia Scheer)

With tomato season coming up, we can always use a way to use the excess. But if your garden is too chilly in summer for a good tomato crop, you will still appreciate this recipe for its use of the cool-prefering crop, carrots. A blended soup is a great way to use up extra produce, and if the carrots have a bit of insect damage, you can cut it away and no one will know. Note that, though the title includes the word "cream", this recipe doesn't contain any dairy products. If you make it with vegetarian broth, it is vegan.

2 lbs. tomatoes (about 4 large) chopped,    A half-inch wide 3-inch long strip of lemon peel

or 1 14 oz can diced tomatoes                   1/2 teaspoon salt (less if canned tomato product is salted)

or 2 8 oz. cans of tomato sauce                 1/8 teaspoon pepper

2 onions (about 1 lb.), chopped                  1 quart of water or chicken or vegetarian broth, fresh or canned)

2 large carrots (about 1 lb), sliced               2 tablespoons each of flour and softened butter or margarine

2 tablespoons sugar                                    1 1/3 cups of milk (whole, nonfat, or even reconstituted nonfat

One bay leaf                                                     dry milk are fine)                                                             

1. In a 4 to 5-quart pot, combine tomatoes, onions, carrots, sugar, bay leaf, lemon peel, salt, pepper, and water or broth. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, simmer till vegetables are tender--20-30 minutes.

2. In a small bowl, mix flour and butter or margarine until smooth.

3. Remove the bay leaf and the lemon peel from the soup mixture. Transfer the mixture a third or fourth at a time to a food processor or blender and whirl until smooth. Return to pot over medium heat.

4. Stir a bit of the hot soup into the flour and butter mixture and mix well, then stir this mixture into the soup. Heat, stirring often, until soup boils and thickens.

5. Turn off the heat, and then pour in the milk. Stir to blend well. If soup is not steaming hot, heat gently, stirring occasionally until it is. Do not let it boil again.

You can serve this soup hot, or refrigerate it and serve it as a cold soup.


Some Recipes for Garden Cuisine

As promised, here are some of the recipes I mentioned in my talk at the SF Flower and Garden Show on March 24th, 2013. I chose them because I have found them to be particularly useful for cooking from my garden. For the recipes in my talk that are in my book Golden Gate Gardening, see that book.

Flat-leaf parsley is one of my most useful crops. (For cooking, flat-leaf is better than curled parsley, because it is easier to chop.) I grow it in my backyard, rather than in my community garden, so I can have it handy for last-minute needs. Even if you have only a container garden, this could be a useful crop to grow. Use pots 8-10 inches deep, 8 inches wide for one plant, 10 inches wide for 3 plants. Parsley is biennial, so it will flower, go to seed, and then die after it has been exposed to cold weather. Inland, this might only happen after winter cold. Near the coast, cool spring weather, or even cold summer nights might be enough to tip it over the edge. I let a plant or two make seed once or twice a year, so I end up with plants of different ages all the time.(You can continue to eat any leaves or tender stems after the plant makes flower buds, but by the time flowers open, the plants are usually rather tough.) If I were growing in containers, I'd start a few new plants once or twice a year, in a new container, and pull out the ones that are about to flower. (Parsley plants too mature to eat, but still green, are great additions to flavor soup stock, to be strained out before using the stock.)

Middle Eastern Garbanzo Bean Salad

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1 can garbanzo beans, drained   

1/4 cup flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

1/4 cup onion, finely chopped

one small clove garlic, minced

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

2 Tablespoons olive oil

A pinch of cayenne pepper if desired

Optional additions: 1/4 cup crumbled regular or nonfat feta cheese, 1/2 cup chopped fresh tomato.

Rinse the garbanzos and place them in a medium bowl. Chop the parsley, onion, and garlic. Put them in a small bowl and add the lemon juice and the olive oil. Mix the dressing ingredients. Then pour it over the garbanzos and mix. If you are adding the feta cheese and/or tomatoes, do so now and stir them in. 

Serve cold or at room temperature. About 4 servings.     

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Shredded Beet Salad (Adapted from Farmer John's Cookbook, John Peterson, Gibbs Smith, 2006)

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2-3 cups coarsely grated raw beet

1/4 cup olive oil

2 Tablespoons white or rice vinegar

1 Tablespoon finely chopped  shallot (or white part of wild onion , scallion, or chopped bulb onion)

1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 small clove garlic, finely minced (1/4-1/2 teaspoon)

1 Tablespoon chopped fresh dill leaves or one teaspoon of dried dill weed)

salt and black pepper if desired

Put the grated beets in a large salad bowl. In a jar with a lid, combine the rest of the ingredients. Put the lid on and shake vigorously to mix ingredients. Pour the dressing over the beets and toss with two spoons until well coated. Adjust flavor if needed. Ready to eat, but even better if marinated in the refrigerator for at least an hour. Keeps in the refrigerator for several days.

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Two bonus recipes. I have adapted two recipes from a 1986 cookbook for use with currently available and inexpensive kinds of fish:

Fish in Seafood Sauce (Adapted from the book From Sea and Stream, by Lou Seibert Pappas, 101 Productions, 1986) (The wild oinion referred to in this and the previous recipe is Allium triquetrum, a Mediterranean escaped species that is a weed in California gardens. Please only eat weeds if you are sure of your identification skills.)

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8 medium mushrooms, sliced

1 green onion or 2-3 wild onions, cut up

1 Tablespoon butter or margarine

1 cup milk (nonfat is fine)

3 tablespoons cornstarch

1/4 teaspoon salt

a dash of nutmeg (that's like half a pinch)

1/4 cup dry white wine

3-4 ounces of small peeled shrimp or other seafood

1 /13 pounds swai (which is also called white roughy and basa) or snapper

Set oven for 400° F. Spray-oil or grease an approximately 9x12 oven proof casserole or pan. Arrange pieces of fish in the casserole in a single layer. In a small skillet, saute mushrooms and onion in butter or margarine until soft. In a small saccepan, put the milk, then add to it the cornstarch, salt, and nutmeg. Cook the milk mixture, stirring often, until the sauce thickens. Stir in the wine, mushroom/onon mixture, and shrimp or other seafood. Pour the sauce over the fish. Bake, uncovered, for 15-25 minutes, until fish separates easily with a fork. Good served over rotelli pasta. Makes 4-5 servings. 

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French Fish Soup (Adapted from the book From Sea and Stream, by Lou Seibert Pappas, 101 Productions, 1986)

This is adapted from a fish stew recipe from Normandy that included fennel seeds. I used dill instead. I also added a second seafood and more broth. It can be made with rockfish, red snapper, halibut, or tilapia.

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2 Tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 leek, chopped (white part only)

6 cups chicken or vegetable broth (canned or homemade)

1 cup of dry white wine

2 medium potatoes or equivalent, cut into 3/4 inch pieces

1 medium carrot or equivalent, cut into 1/2 inch slices

1 bay leaf

1/2 teaspoon of fennel seeds

1 pound of fish, cut into 1-2 inch pieces

1/4 pound small, peeled shrimp or small mussels (not in shells)

Salt and pepper to taste

Add the olive oil to a medium skillet and saute the onion and leek, while stirring, until it is soft. Start to heat the broth and the wine in a large pot, and add the onions and leeks to it as soon as they are cooked. When the pot boils, add the potato, carrot, bay leaf, and dill seeds. Return the mixture to a boil, cover, and simmer about 20 minutes, until the potatoes and carrots are tender. Add the fish and other seafood, cover, and simmer about 10 more minutes, until the fish separates easily with a fork. Season with salt and pepper if needed.

Serve hot in wide bowls. 4-6 servings.

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Parsley and Sundried Tomato Pesto

I gave a talk at the SF Flower and Garden Show today, about cooking from a garden. I mentioned this recipe, but couldn't fit it onto the handout. It is one of the many recipes that I prepare using the flat-leaf parsley that self-sows in my garden.

Parsley and Sundried Tomato Pesto      Adapted from Beyond the Moon Cookbook, by Ginny Callan

5 large cloves of garlic, peeled                                   ¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese

1 cup drained oil-packed sun-dried                                (3 oz.) or Romano

    tomatoes (or use soaked dry ones)                       Black pepper (to taste)

½ cup pecans                                                         ½ cup finely chopped parsley

½ cup Greek olives                                                  Linguine or other pasta for 4

½ cup olive oil                                                               

 

If serving with pasta, put a large pot of water on to boil.

(If using dry sun-dried tomatoes, boil a little water, pour it over them, let sit 15 minutes, drain—save

the soaking liquid to use later in this recipe or as the liquid in another recipe.)

In a blender or a food processor, puree the garlic, tomatoes, pecans, olives, olive oil, grated cheese, and pepper.

Boil the pasta. When the pasta is done, stir a little boiling water into the pesto. You can use a little of the pasta water, or you can reboil the water in which you soaked the tomatoes and use some of that. You will need on the order of ½ cup, but stir in a little at a time to avoid overdoing it.

Serve the pesto to put over the pasta.

Alternatively, you can use the pesto as a spread on bread or crackers. You can omit the added boiling water if you use it as a spread, or add the boiling water, serve pesto with pasta, then refrigerate leftover pesto and serve it as a spread.


Finally time for Apple Pie--An illustrated recipe

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Our tree with ripe apples, which is usually in Mid-October.

However, the apples were nearly a month late to ripen this year. I was wondering if we'd ever have them for eating out of hand, chopping into yogurt with walnuts, making Waldorf salad, and making pies. But they are finally sweet enough. I decided to photograph the entire process of turning fresh apples into a pie:

Start by peeling and cutting up 6 medium-sized apples. (Of course if they are from your tree, they may be different sizes, so you may have to do more or maybe fewer.) I have tried not peeling them, but our particular apple has a kind of tough peel, so I am back to peeling. I quarter them, then peel the quarters. I cut into the inward side of each peeled quarter-apple in a broad V, to remove the core. Then I slice the quarters crosswise, or, if they are wide, I may cut each quarter in half before I make the final cuts. To help remember how many apples I have prepared, I set the part of the core with the stem attached aside for each--one stem = 1 apple.

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Here you can see the little row of core sections with stems attached, the bowl for peels and cores, and the bowl of finished, chopped apple.

I used the 1953 Joy of Cooking when I first made apple pie. It's recipe suggests mixing the apples with 1/2 -2/3 cups brown sugar, 1 to 1 1/2 Tablespoons of cornstarch, and (optionally) 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon and/or 1/8 teaspoon nutmeg. Joy of Cooking authors, writing at a time when many more people were cooking from their own tree, and more kinds of apples were being sold. They are clear that apples vary. "Only very tart apples need the larger amount of sugar, only very juicy apples require the larger amount of cornstarch." "If the apples lack flavor, sprinkle them with 1 tablespoon of lemon juice."

In my case, I usually add the lower amount of sugar, the cinnamon, extra cornstarch (maybe 2 Tablespoons), and a couple of teaspoons of lemon juice, since my apples are sweet, juicy, and don't have any acid tang to add to their flavor. In any case, add everything you are going to add, toss well, and set apples aside.

I think making pie crust requires a very personal interaction of cook and recipe. I tried several recipes before I found the one that makes good crust for me, and offer you the one I chose, but you may find another is better for you.

My father's mother used lard, baking several pies at a time for her large family. Lard didn't appeal to me, but her crust was quite delicious. I used to use butter. Now I use Smart Balance Buttery Sticks, a vegan, no trans fats margarine, and it works fine. The recipe I use is 1 1/4 cups unbleached white flour, 1 stick of the margarine, and a few tablespoons of icy water (2? 3? something like that).

The first step is to cut up the margarine and put it in a bowl with the flour.

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There's the flour with the cold margarine cut up in it. Next to it is a quarter cup, with some water and an icecube or two. And behind that is 1/2 of the paper from a large brown paper grocery bag, laid out for a surface on which to roll the crust, and the rolling pin, at ready.

Next, I crumble the margarine into the flour, using my thumbs and fingers to rub the two materials together.There's nothing tricky at this point, as long as you do it while the margarine is still relatively cold.

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When the mixture looks like coarse meal, it is time to add the cold water. I pour a little in and begin immediately to try to form a ball of dough. This is the sort of tricky part, because you don't want to actually work the dough. No kneading in this recipe, or the gluten will begin to develop and the crust will be tough. Just push the stuff together, getting it all moist until it will form a ball that isn't sticky but will clean the bowl if you dab it on the unattached pieces.If you run out of water, add a tad more to the cup with the ice and pour from it, a bit at a time.. Then smear some flour on the working surface, and set the ball on it.

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OK, now the fun begins. Roll the crust, gently at first, then more firmly as you begin to develop the round think shape you need. Roll from one direction and then another. Change directions if the shape isn't round enough. Make it pretty thin and rather bigger than your pie pan, which should be standing at ready on the table by now.

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If your dough has the right amount of water in it, it won't stick too much, but be ready to add a little more flour to the surface, or even lift a corner of the dough after you begin to roll it (using a knife to lift it if needs be) and add more flour. Also, if the dough is correct, you can mend it where it tears or cracks just by placing one piece over another and rolling it, or by moistening both sides with a little water and then rolling.But hopefully, you will have no problems with either, or only minimal ones.

When you get a nice large round, fold it in half, lift it carefully, and place it in one half of the pie pan. This one is a Corningware pan. It looks small, because the sides are vertical instead of at an angle like most pie pans, but it holds the same amount of stuff. I know because I filled it and a regular pan with water, and they held the same amount.

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Now carefully lift the folded over half and ease it into the pan. You have to kind of push a little from near the edge inward to get the crust to fall into the pan without tearing. That is, don't try to stretch it, as that won't work. Next you will make the crimped edges that make the pie pretty. You fold the crust under about 1/2 to 3/4 inch above the edge of the pan, and use your fingers and thumbs to make the fluting pattern. Any extra crust, extending below the crimps, on the outside of the pan, cut off with a knife. At any low places, where there isn't enough dough to make the crimp, use water to glue on more rolled dough from the pieces you cut off elseshere, and use that to make the fluted edge. (The crimp, or flute, is made to the measure of your fingers, a very individual form, unlike that of a machine crimped crust.)

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Here I'm making the fluted edge. You can see that there will be some extra crust to cut off in this part of the edge.

I like to cover my pie with a Danish apple pie topping. I put any extra bits of trimmed off crust into a bowl and add a little brown sugar (1/3 cup?) some margarine cut into bits (3 Tablespoons), a little flour (2-3 tablespoons?) and maybe 3/4 teaspoon of cinnamon. This recipe isn't exact, because it depends on how much crust dough was left over to use and how much topping you want on the pie. I crumble the ingredients all together with my thumbs and fingers.

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I put the prepared apples into the crust and then crumble the topping evenly over the apples.

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In baking the pie, I follow the recipe in my old edition of Joy of Cooking. First bake the pie at 450 degrees F for 10 minutes, or a little bit longer, to let the crust brown a little bit. (If you are going to let it go for longer than 10 minutes, keep a close watch on it.) Then turn the oven to 350 and bake until done, from 3/4 to 1 hour total. To tell if it is done, you can insert a knife in an apple to see if there is any resistance .

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Ta dah! The finished pie. Hope yours turns out to be delicioius! Happy Thanksgiving!


Shell Bean Succotash

October_07_054_copyGardeners sometimes eat beans at the shell stage, which is after the beans have fully formed in the pods, but before they have hardened. Just about anything you can cook with dry beans, you can cook with shell beans--but faster. You won't find them in the market often, since they don't keep well, so they are mostly a gardeners' secret.

You could eat any common garden bean variety at this stage, but several are sold specifically for it. They often have these splashy red pods. This one is a bush bean called 'Taylor's Horticultural'. Sometimes you find a similar one called 'Tongue of Fire.' At the shell stage, the beans are white or white streaked with red. When they become dry beans, they are bown streaked with maroon, and are often called cranberry beans.

So, in any case, I planted these in July in San Francsisco and harvested them at the shell stage in the second half of October and early November. I grew about 10 cups of beans (out of the pods) in a bed about 6 by 3 or 4 feet. And then I experimented with cooking them. They were great as Boston baked beans, fine in a French soup with pistou, and made yummy succotash.

October_07_102_copy And here is the succotash I made, with some of the beans and an open pod. The recipes I used were from The Victory Garden Cookbook, Marian Morash, Alfred Knopf, 1982. I modified the succotash recipe to make it vegan so I could take it to a class potluck. The recipe, as modified: 2 cups of shell beans, 2 tablespoons of chopped onion, 1 cup chopped tomato (from a can), 2 cups corn kernels (from frozen), 2 tablespoons Smart Balance margarine, a bit of salt and pepper. Put beans and chopped onions in a saucepan and add a cup of water. Bring water to a boil, cover, and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in tomatoes and corn. Simmer for 10 minutes longer. Stir in margarine, salt and pepper to taste. (4-6 servings).

The original recipe suggested using a mixture of lima and shell beans, since the original native American dish was more likely to use limas, but limas don't do so well in cool SF, so I just cut to the chase and used all shell beans. Got me thinking about succotash, which I for some reason thought was a Native American dish from the Southeastern part of the continent. But when I looked it up, I found that it was a dish of the Nanaganset, of what is now Rhode Island, who spoke Algonquian. The word, in Algonquian, was m'sickquatash, and meant "corn not crushed or ground." So there you have it.

What was in the original succotash? Not bacon, which was in the recipe I used before I modified it, though maybe other meat. And I read that the tomatoes suggest a Dutch influence, since they were known to add tomatoes and other vegetables to succotash.

Final analysis: great crop; good eating. Worth doing again next year.