Shiso Leaf.

First off, I love a menu typo.  Not because I'm snarky, but because it sometimes shows the joint is chef owned, focusing on the food and not the flair.   Anyhow,  a warm and friendly Japanse + Korean sushi chef named Geno gave me a lesson on the shiso leaf.  It's a member of the mint family, and pretty as all get out. The flavor is strong- floral, citrus, and very bright. He used it on sashimi plates, and in certain rolls as well.

I did a little research and found that Coke and Pepsi both make Shiso soda for the Japanese market.  Interesting!  I suppose it's related to the lemon basil fizzies you might find in a local speakeasy.  Like shiso, basil is also a member of the mint family.
Class dismissed.


Worth the fuss?

To weed or not to weed?

Not like that, silly. That's a given. I'm talking about dealing with the unwanted and uninvited in the garden.  With a full time job, and life going on outside of my garden, the question always comes up- to weed or not to weed?  Weed killers are NOT AN OPTION, so let's take it from there. 
Is it necessary?  Well, weeds can compete with your vegetables for soil nutrients and water. They can also transmit disease. So, it may be worth it......

I did a little research, and here is what I learned:
  • When planting weed sensitive plants, choose sites with low weed pressure. If possible, avoid sites with aggressive weeds, especially invasive perennials. The less weed pressure you begin with, the easier it will be to protect your investment.
  • Design crop rotations to facilitate reduction in weed pressure during the year(s) preceding a weed sensitive vegetable. Select cover crops that fight weeds effectively, yet are easy to manage prior to vegetable planting.
  • Mulch!  A 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch will reduce the germination and growth of weeds. It also helps maintain soil moisture. Evaporation is reduced, and the need for watering can be minimized. Some mulches can improve soil fertility too- bonus! 
So, I say a little thoughtful planning before you plant goes a long way.  I do still find myself pulling weeds, but it shouldn't be a full time gig.  I have accepted that I have a nice bohemian garden, and my production is solid, so a few weeds won't kill either of us.

My Oregan Trail Sweet Peas, with a little clover and Bermuda grass sneaking in.


"...the best poet is the man who delivers our daily bread: the local baker." 
Pablo Neruda


Get out.

Ready for a holiday, vacation, break from the hustle and bustle?
Instead of laying on a beach, or taking the metro to a museum, how about a farm stay?  
Sign me up, sister.
 So, no uncle in the midwest on your dad's side you can borrow a barn from?  Don't fret, check out Farm Stay U.S!
It's a fantastic website that helps you connect with farms, ranches and vineyards across our beautiful country.  
What better way to get to know a community, and help support it's hard working people? Some are true working farms, where you can get your hands dirty.  Others are more of a bread and breakfast addition to a farm, but nonetheless lovely and rustic.  

Relax, learn, explore, enjoy!


Things I’ve learned working in a kitchen 40 hours a week.

1.      The fewer trips around the kitchen, the better.  Gather ingredients and tools in one large sweep, or as few as possible.  (Don’t follow the Rachel Ray method of haphazardly stacking things though, unless you love cleaning unnecessary messes.)  
2.      The importance of prep.  If you’re making one meal or fifty, having your ingredients prepped out before beginning is key.  Don’t start sautéing onions without the next step measured and ready to go.  Mise en place baby.
3.      Even at home, around your family, don’t expect people to anticipate your moves.  If you’re behind, have something hot or sharp, say it out loud.  (I have learned this one the hard way.)
4.      Quality matters.  If you have fresh, organic, locally grown seasonal produce, you can taste it.  Don’t steam, roast, grill or sauce it to death.  Salt, pepper and a little fat (extra virgin olive oil or butter) is all you need.
5.      Store and date items you’ve opened.  If you open cheese, nuts, meat, whatever….label the date opened, and good through date if applicable.  Keep a sharpie and masking tape in a drawer close by.
6.      Use your senses.  Even if it says it’s good through next Tuesday, take a whiff, taste, or look before committing.
7.      Season and taste while you cook, and before you plate.  If I am making a sauce, I will taste it at least 5 times, adjusting seasoning when necessary, before it hits the pasta.
8.      When plating, even if it’s for your spouse on a Tuesday, think about presentation.  Why not?  Use height, textures and color to make your meals satisfy before they are even consumed!


Butternut Squash, on it's way!

It's time to start thinking about winter squash, so I planted some Butternut babies.  Here is an update at 7 days:
They are stoked on the warm soil, and are coming up quick.

Roasting is one of the most common ways to prepare butternut squash. To do so, cut the fruit in half lengthwise, lightly brushed with olive oil, and placed cut side down on a baking sheet. Bake for 45 minutes or until it is softened.
The seeds are edible, either raw or roasted and the skin is also edible and softens when roasted.
Soup, muffins & casseroles, oh my!


  "Find something you're passionate about and keep tremendously interested in it." 
- Julia Child


Watching the seasons cycle...

I know that summer is peaking and heading towards fall. Not only because the kids on the street are back to school, or the warm nights are starting to cool.....but because my of my garden. 
Our corn was "knee high by the fourth of July", and is already cycled through.  I'm starting to think about what seeds to start in it's place.  The fall and winter veggies will get a great head start in the warm summer soil, and by the time they are seedlings, the weather and sun will relax.
Leafy Greens, Brussels Sprouts, Broccoli, OH MY!


Harvesting with friends and family is awesome.
My nephew Nathan found a watermelon that looked ready to pick.  We showed him the test to see if it's ready:   
Tap on it, and it should sound like a dull thump.  
It's important not to pick it too early.  It will only ripen on the vine, much like citrus on a tree.  If picked too soon, it will soften, but will never get any sweeter than it would have on the vine.
We ended up giving the melon to our neighbors, who said it was great.  I have to say that sharing the harvest is even more satisfying than enjoying it myself.


heirloom, or doom!

 "These resources stand between us and catastrophic starvation on a scale we cannot imagine. In a very real sense, the future of the human race rides on these materials. The line between abundance and disaster is becoming thinner and thinner, and the public is unaware and unconcerned. Must we wait for disaster to be real before we are heard? Will people listen only after it is too late."

- (The late) Jack Harlan, Professor of Plant Genetics at University of Illinois at Urbana + Author of "Crops and Man"

Summer sessions.

Lately, I've been a busy food eater.  A busy food maker, actually.  
And with or without me, my garden grows...
I am ever thankful for my hubby's helping hands and our hungry friends who can take the veggies I can't devote my time to right now.
....Just thought I'd share.



Local farms make a great summer classroom.

Check out www.localharvest.com for farms near you!


punch it up.

Homemade croutons are simple, and a million times better than anything you can get out of a box.  
Start with a nice bread, cut into squares (or such), drizzle with a quality olive oil, & season.  Some people saute, but I like to bake at 325*.  Keep an eye, toss every once in a while, and there you have it.
BUT, want to punch up a simple salad?  I love to make a robust garlic & rosemary version, and the batch pictured above are seasoned with curry spices.  Easy peasy.


things to do.

Let's all welcome the EAT REAL FEST to Los Angeles!  
 The successful foodie fest from Oakland is here for the first time!
Disregard the fact that the 405 fwy is closed, and make your way to Culver City this weekend.  There are canning and butchery contests, charcuterie  and beer making demos, and plenty of our favorite food trucks.  There is even a cook book exchange on Sunday!  I'll be there, and I hope you will be too!
Check out their website for schedule, parking info, and public transportation hints.  

seeds saving, 101

Every plant is different when it comes to saving seeds.  We addressed that a little with the tomato seed saving post last year.  Tomatoes have a sprout inhibiting slime around the seeds, which you need to remove, Anyhow.....
Today: Zucchini.
The first thing you need to do is let a zucchini grow to be country fair winningly large.  

Once the zucchini are overgrown, the seeds will be large enough to save, and successfully grown next season.  Please make sure you save seeds from heirloom plants- if you save hybrid seeds they will turn into something unfamiliar next year, typically closer to what their grandpappy plant was.

So, here we go:
1. Cut off the ends.

2. Cut in half or thirds, depending on the size.  
You just want to get it to a more managable size.

3. Run your knife down the center, splitting the zucchini into thirds.
Like so....

4. Run your finger into the center of each section, removing the largest seeds.

5. Now it's time to dry the seeds.
You can space them out on a paper towel, and when they dry, put that towel into a large envelope.  You can literally plant the paper towel and it will compost itself as the seeds sprout.
Or, you can let them dry (about 1 week), and then put them in an envelope, in a jar.  It's important to keep moisture out, so don't put them in the fridge.


make yummy stuff.

It's peach season!
Take advantage with a simple and mind-blowingly tasty take on salt + sweet.  
Find yourself some really righteous french baguette, like Picket Lane Bakery's, and toast it up.  Then, layer on ricotta cheese freshly sliced prosciutto, fresh peaches, local honey and freshly cracked pepper.  (Fresh isn't being over used in the last sentence by the way. You'll understand when you taste it.)



According to my garden, it's time to pickle. 


Being present.

"A cook, when I dine, seems to me a divine being, who from the depths of his kitchen rules the human race. One considers him as a minister of heaven, because his kitchen is a temple, in which his ovens are the altar." 
Marc Antoine Desaugiers


Dear Business Owners.....

If you are going to do nothing more than bagels and coffee, please do them well. 
The humble bagel is more than just a blank slate for you to be creative with- it should be a well baked bread.
Don't under bake it.  Don't burn it. Don't be a dummy.
Coffee is more than just throwing grounds in a machine.  Have you even tasted the range of flavor you can get through fresh roasts, and less aggressive brewing techniques? Spend 5 minutes and a few dollars in a true coffee house, (not St*rbucks!) and then try your coffee again.  It's sad really.
And when you charge 300% on food, I understand, you're in business to make money.  But don't forget that without a respect to your customers, and their levels of taste, you have no business.

Good day sir!


Summer is the time when one sheds one's tensions with one's clothes, and the right kind of day is jeweled balm for the battered spirit.  A few of those days and you can become drunk with the belief that all's right with the world.
~Ada Louise Huxtable



Here's another great idea to inspire us. 
It's a great example of good people making a good effort, consciously & creatively.
A new grocery concept is schedule to open Fall 2011 in Austin, Texas. 
  In.gredients will be the first PACKAGE FREE, ZERO WASTE grocery store in the U.S.    
A similar store in London, Unpacked, has been a great example of how this can work.  So, how does it work exactly?  Locally & seasonally sourced market items will be available to you, sans packaging. Since your pockets will fill quickly, you can bring containers from home or use their compostable containers.  The goal is to "pre-cycle".   And get this- with every purchase, the consumer decides what charity a portion of the proceeds will benefit.   

I like it.

Log onto their website for more info, which includes a great blog.  They are accepting donations and investors to get the doors open.  

The (not so) Fun Facts

  • The US fills 63,000 25-ton garbage trucks every day; about 700,000 tons of garbage is placed in American landfills on a daily basis.
  • Packaging makes up about 40 percent of that. The packaging we throw away, then, annually totals nearly 39 million tons of paper/paperboard, 13.7 million tons of plastics, and 10.9 million tons of glass.
  • Meanwhile, 30 million tons of packaging was recycled annually from 2005 to 2010.
  • The total amount of packaging wasted from 2005 to 2010, however, grew 1.8 percent annually.

Mark your calendar. Go ahead, I'll wait.

"From the Ground Up:
Seed Starting and Garden Planning,"
presented by Christy Wilhelmi.

Sunday, June 26, 2011
10:00 am-11:00 a.m.

3300 S. Centinela Ave. at Rose Ave. in West Los Angeles
90066. South of the Santa Monica Munipcial Airport, north of Palms

Sponsored by Ocean View Farms Community Gardens, a nonprofit community
garden, Los Angeles County Smart Gardening Program, operating the gardens
under permit by Los Angeles County Dept. of Recreation and Parks.

The general public is invited.
Contact - Melody Girard, educationchair@oceanviewfarms.net



Mochi, mochichi!

Let's start off by saying this is no chocolate chip cookie, but it's good!
While trying to please both a gluten free and vegan crowd, MOCHI came to the rescue!
Mochi is a Japanese cake, made of glutinous rice.  It is pounded into a paste and then molded into shape. In Japan it is traditionally made in a ceremony called mochitsuki. Mochi is a traditional food for the Japanese New Year and is commonly sold and eaten during that time, but you can find it year round.  Sushi restaurants often have a green tea version for dessert, and whole foods carries flavors like what we had, cinnamon raisin.   It's not a texture that Americans are used to in dessert foods- it's a little chewy, and not very sweet.  Moral of the story- it's worth a try- MOCHI!


Hats Off.

Being a farmer is damn hard work.  
With minimal groundbreaking in my new garden achieved,  I'm toast.  I've never felt back pain like this before.  For once, the romance of homesteading isn't turning me on.  I have officially been kicked in the pants. Year one is no joke.  Proper tools, the right time of day, and moxie are speaking loud and clear.


"No yoga exercise, no meditation in a chapel filled with music will rid you of your blues better than the humble task of making your own bread."
-MFK Fisher


Cherries are Here!

It's always fun when you can witness the seasons changing.  Since we're spoiled with weather here in southern California, we need to look else where for hints of things to come.  This week the arrival of cherries at our farmer's markets lets us know it's May, warming up, and summer is just around the corner.
Grab some before it's too late!


Tomato Update.

Willie has been keeping a keen eye on the tomato plants.  We're almost 2 months in, and they are doing great.  The Yellow Pineapples are about 10 inches tall, and the Brandywine are bushy and full.  I can't wait until I can get them into the ground, and they can really take off!

When being snobby is encouraged.

GMO's are creepy.  We can probably all agree on that.
Organic is better, local is good, etc etc.  So, in an effort to live pure home-steady lives we plant victory gardens.  We compost, avoid pesticides, and feel quite proud at the constant and surprising growth.  But think about the plants you are bringing into your garden too.  Did you get them from the huge hardware superstore?  Did you know they are probably a GMO version of the vegetables we used to know?  So, what's the alternative?  
Seeds.  Heirloom seeds.
Starting from seed isn't as hard as it sounds.  You can remember to feed yourself everyday, right?  You don't let yourself bake in the sun, or get dehydrated.  Think of the potential of the seeds- they will become productive plants, feeding you and your family- an extension of yourself.  That helps me remember to care for them.  You will be vested in your garden- not just babysitting.

Here are some of my favorite sources for heirloom seeds.

The Gettle family practices what they preach (and sell).  I feel in love in their Petaluma seed bank, and have spent countless hours reading their catalogs.  Corny, I know.  But they have fruits & veggies that are rare, beautiful and tasty as hell.  They also stock some pretty amazing books too.  Recently they purchased Comstock, Ferre & Company, the oldest continuously operating seed company in New England.  Comstock offers free shipping on all of their seeds, but the Baker Creek collection is larger and more diverse.

http://www.seedsavers.org/Since 1975, SSE has been doing what they can to get the word out, and grow an extensive library of heirloom seeds.  Funded by memberships, they offer seeds, and free literature on how to save your own seeds.  If you're anywhere near Iowa, you an visit their information center, farm, and plant sales.  Despite all of the recent drama, I'm on board with SSE. 


Because cute matters.

 These were made by separating the dough in 2, dying one blue.  then i rolled out a log shape of each.  After being in the freezer enough to firm up, the logs were cut down the middle, length wise.  A half of each makes a 2-colored log, which is pressed together & refroze.  Once firm, slice &bake.
I split my sugar cookie dough into 3 equal parts.  In a deep dish lined with parchment paper, I flattened the dough in layers.  A hour in the fridge helped it firm up so it was easier to work with.  I ended up rolling it out a little to keep the cookie thin.
Blue & white cupcakes, w/ sugar detail.


Gardening for community.

I've learned a lot in my garden.
I've found out the hard way that mint doesn't believe in boundaries. Potatoes in the compost pile can lead to more potatoes. And that cilantro behaves not unlike Goldilocks.
I've also learned alot about myself.  
I enjoy planting seeds. I love all of the fussing and waiting, watching, and listening.  I can forget about a pepper, and let it go from ripe to rot without even noticing the poor thing.  And that I can make it work, usually with what I have, what I can borrow, or what I can find in an alley.  I guess that last bit is a family trait. My dad once found a fern, strung it up, and has had it longer than he has had me as a daughter.  My sister can find a treasure anywhere, for pennies or peanuts.
And I've learned about others.  
Who good friends are- they'll be there to water when I'm not, and let me tell them about every plant's needs.  I've shared heirloom tomatoes with chefs that I know will make them into a creative meal, teaching me more about their potential that I even realized. I've watched my husband make friends with neighbors by sharing my seedlings- like a peace offering of sorts.
"Out of gardens grow fleeting flowers but lasting friendships."
-  Beverly Rose Hopper  
Watching the simple act of gardening unfold and expand into a sense of community is exciting.  You may not be able to keep a garden full of carrots or melons year round, but the experiences that come with the trials, errors, epiphanies and questions are beyond rewarding.  Knowing that the flowers you planted bring bees to your neighbor's yard to pollinate is quite satisfying.  Think about it- you can't really garden alone.  What you plant and how you care for it affects your environment, mood and neighbors.

"A garden is a public service and having one a public duty.  It is a man's contribution to the community."
-  Richardson Wright, Truly Rural, 1922 

Even if you only have a single pot of rosemary, I bet someone close to you doesn't.
"You don't have a garden just for yourself.  You have it to share."
-  Augusta Carter


Progress Report, Zucchini.

Day 13
They're taking off!


"First we eat, then we do everything else."
-MFK Fisher


edible flowers are awesome.

The perks of working with a farmcentric chef?  Trying pineapple guava flowers on a Wednesday morning.
It's sweet and delicate petals almost melt away, leaving hints of honey and summer days on your tongue.  The rest of the flower isn't edible, but showy none the less.


Another friendly reminder.

"Our society is run by insane people for insane objectives. I think we're being run by maniacs for maniacal ends and I think I'm liable to be put away as insane for expressing that. That's what's insane about it."
-John Lennon
(In my best Lennon voice....)  Lovely quote eh, but how does that relate to food, or gardens really?

Que The Clash:
Consider it a friendly reminder to stay aware, be involved, and use your voice.  Our freedoms are defined by people who not only might not agree with us, but don't always have our best interests in mind.  How, where, and what we eat is on the agenda.  Don't let it define you.  
You can grow true food- without science and chemicals. You can eat it simple as the all powerful nature provides it.  
.....know your rights.....
And when they decide it's wrong, tell them where they can shove it.


I heart bees!

I found this little bee on my foot when I was gardening the other day.  He was just holding on, checking things out.  I gave a little shake and he wasn't going to budge, so I used a paper to slide him over to the flowerbed.  
It made me happy to see him, even though my first instinct is to panic.  
Bee stings are a bitch, I know from experience.  
But after reading so much about colony collapse, I was proud to see him hanging about.  Maybe one day I will make the leap to backyard beekeeping, but for now, growing their favorite flowers and keep pesticides out of the picture is a start.  

Read more on the decline of the ever important honey bee, and what you can do to help, from PBS and Science Daily.


Day 27

Purple Cherokee

Yellow Pineapple

Red Zebra