Wednesday, June 30, 2010

June is for Berries

The Pacific Northwest is renowned for its berries, and it is a well earned reputation. Our berries are abundant, sweet, and relatively inexpensive.
Last week I found an abundance of strawberries and blueberries in the refrigerator. On the brink of becoming over-ripe, I decided to turn them into a cake.

This cake is sweet on top, but rich and dense on the bottom. In my opinion it works equally well as a dessert as it does a breakfast or snack cake (ie: it tastes really good with coffee).

Strawberry-Blueberry Up-Side Down Cake
enough halved strawberries and blueberries to cover the bottom of your baking dish when
cut and fleshy parts are face-down.
1 1/2 c sugar
1/4 c butter (room temperature)
1 Tbs olive oil
1 tsp vanilla extract

1 egg (room temperature)

2/3 c milk (room temperature)
1 1/3 c flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 F (put on convection if you can). Liberally butter a pie dish.
2. Coat fruit with about 2 tablespoons sugar (more or less depending on sweetness of the fruit). Add fruit to pie dish, flesh side down. Try to make it pretty as this will become the top of the cake.
3. Cream 1 cup sugar, and 1/4 cup butter. In a separate bowl mix together vanilla, egg, and milk. In a separate bowl sift together flour, baking powder and salt. With the mixer on low speed alternately add the dry and wet ingredients, just until combined (start and end with dry ingredients). Finish mixing with a rubber spatula.
4. Pour batter over the fruit, pop into the oven, and let bake for 50 minutes (or until a toothpick inserted into the middle comes out clean). Let cool 20 minutes and invert onto a platter. Note that if you wait too long to invert, the cake is more likely to stick to the pie dish.
5. Eat! *Tastes best warm or at room temperature, but is not bad cold. 

Friday, June 25, 2010

Crunchy Kale

One thing I'm proud of this summer is my kale crop. I'm getting an unbelievable number of leaves out of just about 9 plants. I started the plants by direct seeding way back in late March, and now it's towering.

This is an heirloom Italian variety of kale called 'Lacinato'

My favorite way to eat kale is by roasting in the oven until it gets crispy. The texture is unbelievable. I don't know how to describe it other than airy and crispy. Better than popcorn.

Preheat oven to 375 (set to convection if you can).
De-vein kale and rip into bite sized pieces.
Toss with a drizzle of olive oil and a sprinkling of sea salt.
Let roast until crispy (about 10 minutes, unless you have other things in the oven, in which case it will likely take longer due to steam).

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Growing despite the cold and rain

Vegetable gardens are really exciting for me. I just can't wait to eat all the produce.
This year I planted a demonstration garden the King County South treatment plant in Renton. We are using biosolids compost (GroCo) to fertilize the beds, and the ornamental beds are getting irrigated with reclaimed water. How cool is that?

Potatoes, eggplant, and tomatoes are getting huge!

Herbs are looking lush and healthy

Cucumber seedling. The trellis is ready for the cucumber to start climbing. Trellising cucumbers is a great way to grow them in less space. Also, keeping the developing fruit off the ground help the cucs to grow straight.

My first eggplant bud of the season. I can't wait for it to bloom... eggplant flowers are so pretty.

Some of my tomato plants are already setting fruit! Amazing given the fact that our weather has been so weird (and cold). I like to grow my tomatoes as a single vine. I find that the plants tend to be healthier, and the fruit tastes better when I grow them like this, as opposed to using cages. I use nylon footsies to tie the single vine to a bamboo stake because they are both strong and gentle. I also trim back any leaves that are making contact with the soil surface, as an effort to reduce fungal infections.

Friday, June 4, 2010

Arugula Salad

I recently pulled out all my Arugula. It had started to flower, which is a sign that the leaves are about to turn too spicy and tough for my liking...
My favorite way to prepare an arugula salad is with steak. The peppery-ness of the arugula makes a perfect (almost classic) accompaniment to the sweet and robust flavor of the steak. I composed the salad with a balsamic and lemon vinaigrette, Parmesan, and roasted, canned sweet peppers from last summer's harvest (wonderful gift from my friend Jana). Delish....