Just Picked: Broccoli

In just one week the head of broccoli went from being flat and buried at the center of the stalk to rising out of the middle and actually looking like broccoli.  Yesterday Tim was checking out the plants and said, "I  think this broccoli is going to bloom if we don't pick it." 

Pick it?  It was already time to pick it?  It seemed too early--I guess I assumed broccoli was more of a fall vegetable.  But he was right; Tim got a serated knife and sliced the head off at its base, leaving behind a large broccoli plant that we're not sure what to do with.  Do we leave it there?  Will it keep growing?  Produce more broccoli?  We have no clue.

Tim was in charge of dinner last night and he wanted to keep it simple: seared tuna steak, white rice, and steamed broccoli.  If you can imagine, the broccoli was the strongest broccoli-flavored broccoli I've ever tasted.  It was worth the wait it took to grow it.


Garden Update: 6 Weeks

It's not July-hot around here.  No sir, it's August-hot.  The steamy kind of hot where you start to perspire before you walk more than a few feet outdoors.  These are the type of days where Tim and I look at one another and ask, "How did we live in that townhouse without air conditioning?"

Because we were newlyweds.  In love.  It had a backyard.  And I was going to grow things. 

In reality, the backyard of that townhouse was barely 15 ft x 15 ft and was mostly shaded mud, but I tried anyway.  I hung one of those upside-down tomato plants in the one spot wayovertooneside where I thought it just might get enough sun.  It didn't really grow and I was disappointed. 

During that first year of marriage we added two little (and rambunctious) dogs to our family, and they needed more space, too.  We looked around in the city, but there wasn't anything that fit all of our needs--central air, a big yard with a fence, a couple of bedrooms, and a garage or basement for storage.  As a semi-last resort, we looked in the suburbs and found a place that met all of those requirements. 

The dogs like it--there is plenty of room inside and out for them to run, explore, and wrestle.  It's very quiet here, which is so different than anywhere I lived in the city.  There is a calm in the neighborhood that I can only attribute to people putting down roots.  It makes me feel calm, too, and I like it. 

The biggest perk, of course, is the vegetable garden.  Especially when it's this hot--August-hot--we just walk outside and turn on the hose, neither of us minding if the spray gets caught in the wind and blows back on us.

I know it seems like I just bragged about how much things where growing in the garden, but I'm still surprised every day at the progress of the plants.  The Mr. Stripey heirloom tomato is a monster of a bush, towering over our other plants and continuing to reach upwards.  And the White Wonder tomato plant has been officially nursed back to health and even has new blooms.  The Early Girl tomato plant that we have been growing in a pot on our patio has already given us four ripe tomatoes with many more green tomatoes maturing. 

Tim picked an eggplant today that was getting so big and heavy that the plant was tipping to the side.  I'm not exactly sure what to with just one.  Grill it?  Fry it?  Parmesan it?  Suggestions are appreciated.

As for the pumpkins, we have two that have really started to take off, going from the size of a softball to the size of a large melon in less than a week.  I can't find any information specifically about "compact pumpkins" online so hopefully I will intuitively know when they are full grown. 

How about you, reader? How is your garden coming along? 


If I Hadn't Looked Closely

Nestled at the base of the biggest leaves is the beginning of our first head of broccoli.

If you've ever wondered why it's called an "egg"-plant, all you have to do is look at that picture. 

And if you're perplexed at why the British call an eggplant an "aubergine," then the deep purple hue of this varietal should clear that up. 

Sometimes you have to look twice to see the changes.  We didn't even notice these Thai hot peppers until Tim realized the peppers were growing unexpectedly upwards.

The butternut squash is, or perhaps more correctly we are, dealing with Blossom End Rot.  It could be our fault from overwatering.  Or maybe now we are underwatering.  Or it could be that there isn't enough calcium in the soil--it's hard to say.  No matter how many times I ask the squash to tell me what they need, I'll never get an answer.  So we do our best, and celebrate when a squash gets as large as this one and remains healthy. 

Every day there is something new to see on our "compact" pumpkin--freshly opened blossoms, baby-sized pumpkins, and gigantic new leaves.  There is absolutely nothing compact about this plant (it's 3 times the size it was in my last garden update); I'm not sure why it was given this name.

And we were about to give up on this grape tomato plant a few weeks ago, but now there are a dozen or so tiny fruit starting to mature.  If I hadn't looked closely--very, very closely--I might have missed it.


Wyoming Avenue Farmer's Market

Weekends seem to be the most popular days for farmer's markets out here in the Cincinnati suburbs.  Our Saturday's have been filled to the brim with activities and committments that we haven't made it to a single market this summer.  I miss them--and we went often last summer--so when I suggested to Tim that we go to the Wyoming Avenue Farmer's Market on Tuesday, he quickly agreed.

There were a half dozen or so vendors, with various products ranging from gelato to baked goods to fresh produce.  Tim picked out a few watermelon zucchini, some summer squash, and raspberries.  I was looking for some pickling cucumbers but when I asked a vendor she smiled and told me what I already knew--the cold, rainy spring weather has put most of the vegetables back 2 or 3 weeks or maybe more.  I smiled back and told her that I'd return to buy a bunch in a few weeks.  And I meant it. 

Tim's favorite vendor was the Fire Side Pizza Wagon.  They actually bring their own brick oven--on a wagon--to the location and cook pizzas to order.

We ordered the Greek pizza and shopped around while we waited for it to be ready.  The original plan was to take the pizza home to eat it, but it was so fragrant and hot that we sat on a park bench next to the market and ate it right away.

The toppings were salty and bright and the crust was thin and crisp.  It was one of the better pizza's I've eaten recently and I'm always up for impromptu picnicking, especially in such good company. 


Pie Party: Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping

Last year on the Fourth of July, I was bobbing up and down on a lake in Virginia with Tim's extended family.  I do wish we could have done that again, but we had an assortment of other things keeping us at home.  In fact, being home gave me an excuse to bake a pie.

If you hadn't heard, there is a Pie Party today.  What is a Pie Party, you ask?  Well, a few food bloggers were chatting on Twitter about baking summer pies, and someone suggested having an online gathering where you bake a pie and post about it on a certain date.  That date is today--July 5--and if you go to the Pie Party's host's website, Shauna of Gluten Free Girl and the Chef, I'm sure you will find that on July 5 her page will be overflowing with commenters sharing their Pie Party submissions.  It's not a contest, but it is an opportunity to find new and interesting pie recipes for your collection.

To be honest, I'm a novice baker.  I do enjoy baking, and many of my recipes on this site are baked goods, but I wouldn't consider myself a pie maker.  I needed to do some research.  In the back of my mind, I could remember something I read in the New York Times about pie, and after a quick Google search, I found the article.  In this piece, Melissa Clark did some testing of ingredient combinations to find the perfect pie crust recipe.  Unfortunately her conclusion was to use lard in the mix--and while it sounded tasty, that just wasn't something I had the resources to do.  I instead opted for a mix of butter for flavor and shortening to help the crust hold its shape.  I must have made a wrong turn somewhere; while the crust was really, really tasty and the bottom and sides held their shape well, the edge was quite crumbly and didn't survive much handling.  I haven't completely given up on pie crust making, but in the recipe for this pie, I think I'll recommend picking up a ready-to-bake crust. 

Tim has been stockpiling strawberries in the hopes that I will create something interesting with them, so I guess this was his lucky weekend.  I opted for a Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping.  It was easy enough to assemble (it would be a cinch with a ready-made crust), and I especially liked that it was pie masquerading as cobbler masquerading as pie.  The best of all summer dessert worlds. 

I know strawberries are ending their season in many parts of the country and just beginning their season in others, so don't wait--wherever you are--to make this pie.  We practically licked our plates. 

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie with Crumb Topping
adapted from Bon Appetit via epicurious
serves 8

The recipe was written for a deep dish 9-inch pie plate, but all I was a regular, 9-inch pie plate.  It worked out perfectly for me without decreasing the quantity of filling.

1 ready-made pie crust, pre-baked according to package directions

For the filling
3/4 lb rhubarb, sliced 1/2 inch thick on the diagonal, about 3 1/2 cups
1 lb strawberries, hulled and halved
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup cornstarch
1 tsp lemon zest

Combine all filling ingredients in heavy bottomed pot.  Stir and let stand for 30 minutes.  Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.  Reduce heat to a simmer and allow to thicken, stirring occasionally, about 4 minutes. Pour filling into pre-baked prepared crust.

For the topping
2/3 cup plus 2 tbsp rolled oats, divided
1/2 cup all purpose flour
1/2 cup dark brown sugar
1/4 tsp cinnamon
6 tbsp chilled, unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch pieces

In a food processor, combine 2/3 cup rolled oats, flour, dark brown sugar, cinnamon, and butter and pulse until crumbly.  Transfer to a medium bowl and mix in remaining 2 tbsp rolled oats.  Sprinkle over filling in pie crust.

Bake in preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 20 minutes.  Cool on rack.  Serve warm or at room temperature.

For more Pie Party recipes, you can search on twitter for the #pieparty hashtag.