Archive for the ‘Solutions’ Category

Winter’s Cheese

February 19, 2011

I just added a new website to my links on the right, one that I have been reading for the past year and just remembered to add now, in the dead of winter. When nothing else is going on besides snow, cows are still making milk. More white stuff!

New England Cheesemaking

I have yet to graduate beyond mozzarella, but I have been wondering since I started what the heck to do with all the “waste water” that is a byproduct of the process. Technically known as whey, I would save a container of the stuff after every batch for about a week and then end up dumping it down the drain for lack of inspiration on what the heck to do with it.
Well it all seems so obvious now! Soup stock! And what better time of year for cabbage, mushroom, fusion gumbo, split pea, pozole… and that’s just the beginning. The possibilities are endless now and I am super excited to experiment with this new-found broth. Slurps up!

Table for two.

November 27, 2009

HUMBOLDT ST, Brooklyn: Thanksgiving was yesterday. If you have ever wondered what a vegetarian (vegan in my bf’s case) eats on a day basically devoted to eating turkey… here you go:

prepping baby butternut squash for baking…

the spread…

asparagus pan seared with onions and bacos (YES bacos are vegan – soy and engineered bacon flavored chemicals! yum!)

oven roasted acorn squash with a red wine garlic vinaigrette glaze…

baby butternut squash and baked stuffing (stale balthazar bread, onion, green pepper, home grown tomato, garlic, vegetable stock…)

fingerling potatoes, prepared with olive oil, salt and pepper – boneshaker’s infamous fries recipe. served with veganaise of course…

and tofurky! fried deli slices with vegetarian gravy! perfection!

For any of these recipes, please email me – igrewthis@gmail.com

Also check out what the new york times has to say about a vegetarian thanksgiving:
Going Veg for Thanksgiving

Don’t forget about dessert! Stay posted for an in depth post on baking this apple pie:

Food from Food

November 14, 2009

HUMBOLDT STREET, Brooklyn: Production of the cold frame began this week. For those of you I haven’t already bored to death with my epic tales of it’s future glory… Brad and I took off Monday & Tuesday from work this week to build a cold frame off our back door to extend the growing season. It will also act as a vestibule. Needless to say, it’s not finished yet. Plans for completion have been set for this afternoon, and I will post the full documentary of it’s progress once we are 100% done.

In the mean time I would like to dish out some dirt, that is to say, shed some light on composting. There are many ways to go, but in the city it’s hard! Options are limited. It’s not as easy to have 3 huge stalls devoted to the process of dirt making. This would be an ideal scenario. What I have going on in my urban situation is very simple. One galvanized garbage can with a few holes banged in the bottom (with hammer and nail) for drainage. See if you can spot it:

DSCN3950Ok, that wasn’t so hard, it’s right there!!

In my opinion the process of composting is intuitive. You can read a lot on what you are supposed to do and still not get it right. I’m definitely not an expert on soil composition and have very broad standards for mine. Mostly, if it looks good in color (dark) consistency (moist & crumbly) and smells “right” I consider it to be nutritious addition for my plants. This bucketful is well on it’s way:

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My compost is mostly plant matter. The acceptable exceptions to this rule are shrimp tails, empty clams, muscles or other clean (meat free) crustacean shells. Many people will oppose this exception on the grounds of  mercury and pesticide content or that it invites unwanted pests, like rats. But I believe these shells can be important additions providing chitin, which encourages growth of benifial soil micro-organisms and reduces the number of plant pathogenic nematodes. Egg shells also achieve this. The rodent issue is easily avoided with a well sealed bin like a trash can with a tight fitting lid.

I would not recommend meat or dairy in urban composting unless you are specifically set up for it. This means a very deep pit where the scraps can be buried undisturbed to break down with out stirring. This proves challenging in backyard buckets, and not worth the effort, stench, etc. If you want to get rid of this stuff organically, get a dog.

Layering and diversity of ingredients is important. Food scraps need to be cut into small pieces and balanced with garden material. Garden material is dry  leaves, stems, branches and grass clippings etc. This proved problematic when I started my compost because my backyard is a concrete slab and nothing was growing. Luckily I had access to sawdust, which is a perfectly good substitute to start out. I also think it is ok to use shredded paper, although this is another material some would argue because of bleach and toxic dyes.

To start I stacked a layer of sticks and braches every which way to create aeration at the bottom of the barrel. Air is important because the bacteria and fungus need oxygen to live and work. If the mass is too dense or becomes too wet, the air supply is cut off and the beneficial organisms die. Decomposition will slow down and  this is when you get a stinky cold mess.

Next I threw in a layer or garden matter, almost like a cushion or filter to reinforce the air pocket at the bottom. At this point in my gardening career this is all my clippings from deadheading and pruning, and ends up looking something like this:

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I have a pile of this stuff to the side so it can dry out a little, and I can add as needed.

The next layer is the veggie scraps. We have come up with a pretty effective system in our household which eleminates any kind of stink or rotting issue. Instead of having a pail under the sink or on the kitchen counter out in the open, we collect everything in a bag in our freezer. The smaller the pieces, the faster you get dirt. Here is a typical food layer:

IMG_1547Coffee grounds are an excellent source of nitrogen! You can include the paper filter right with the grounds!

To cap it all off, I add a shovel or two of cheap bagged top soil on top of the food scraps. Then repeat layers until your bin is full – dry garden clippings, frozen food scraps, top soil – I always try to end with top soil. Basically what I am doing is creating layers of carbon (garden material) and nitrogen (food scraps) which will all decompose into dirt. The top soil speeds this up, sort of acting as a glue. Or maybe a teacher.

A couple more things… I do not usually add water to mine, even though it is a closed container, because my scraps are frozen the thawing produces enough juices for my local. Heat is the final component. A hot spot where the bucket can really cook will speed the decomposing process. The trash can should feel warm, even hot to the touch. When this happens you will know there  is some good chemistry going on in there and soon you will have dirt! Depending on a million and one factors it should take about 6 weeks. Stirring and turning will help. I just use a shovel to mix it up a bit and bring the bottom to the top, probably every two weeks. The result is very rewarding.

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I Promised You Pickles

October 16, 2009

09-1023_Garden 034HUMBOLDT ST, Brooklyn:  Fresh pack pickling is the easiest method, in my opinion, because you don’t need any equipment that you wouldn’t otherwise have in the kitchen. It’s so easy! Anyone can do it! The other cool thing people seem to forget is pickling is not limited to cucumbers. Pick any fruit or vegetable!

I recently purchased the book Preserved written by Nick Sander & Johnny Acton. Although I found it predominately meat based and a bit vague in the text, the photos are divine and it really did a good job reminding me of all the possibilities that exist for food besides instant gratification. The fate of our grocery store purchases or garden bounty is not limited to that same week. But I am getting off topic – especially considering unsealed fresh-pack pickles should be eaten within a week… Here is what you will need…

Very clean glass jars with lids (I recommend boiling them in water first)

Cucumber (depends on size, but consider how many will fit into your jars once cut)

Jalapeno (approx. 1/2 per jar)

Garlic Cloves (2 – 4 per jar)

Peppercorns (1 teaspoon per jar)

Dill (fresh whole stalks)

Here is the liquid ratio to boil:

1-1/2 cup vinegar

1/2 cup water

2 tablespoons sugar

1 tablespoon kosher salt

Slice your cucs and jalapeneo how you like them best – dimes or spears (something in between??) Make sure you give them a good wash if they are store bought, often there is a thin layer of wax on the skin. Put all the veg in the jars and once your liquid has come to boil fill em up to the top. Cover loosely with the lid while you leave out to cool. Once room temp (or warm to the touch is ok) make sure the lid gets screwed on tight and refrigerate. They can be eaten in a few hours! Lasts a week or two. Experiment with the ingredients to get them just how you like them… saltier, sweeter, dillier. PICKLE PARTY!

Heaven on a Windowsill

July 9, 2009

NASSAU AVE, Brooklyn: This is so inpiring to anyone who loves gardening and wants fresh herbs – but has no outdoor space!! Obviuosly I am huge advocate of growing the things you eat, but it can be overwhelming in a city with limited outdoor space. Danielle proves it’s possible with these pics she sent my way. I am so very impressed:

Garden on a BikeTurns out her boyfriend Bryan has this incredible basket on his bike and he was able to carry home the herbs for her paradise of planters.

It looks like she’s got a tomato plant going, parsley, basil, sage, silantro? I like the idea of having a “pizza” planter. I’ll have to get the run down on the rest and will update soon.

What are you waiting for? Go plant some herbs!!

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MORE GREENS, PLEASE.

July 4, 2009

HOME, Brooklyn: Here is a simple and fast idea for using radish greens. We have so mush leafage right now, I don’t know what to do with it all. The following recipe is a cure for an infestation of greens – could be any kind, really. The photo below is southern curly mustard greens, which are just as good this same way.

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Step 1: Pick or buy your greens. wash.

Step 2: Heat a big fry pan to medium with a drizzle of olive oil. Chop garlic and start cooking this first. If you want to add onions, add them next. We used chives this time.

chivesStep 3: after the garlic gets a little head start add greens with a generous amount of salt and pepper. (I usually just eyeball it but for the sake of you measurers out there say maybe a teaspoon of each.) They will cook down A LOT so don’t be surprised if you have about two bites of greens even if you start with an arm full of raw foliage. Those two bites though, will be so gooood. 

 

mustard greens in panDSCN3985

You can get crazy and throw just about anything else in here, peppers, zucchini, ham (sham in our case.) Just remember the cooking order is important, the greens need the least time (about 2 minutes on medium heat and then they will be good just sitting on low.) SO, cook everything else first. We eat our greens with rice and beans, and it is one of our most favorite and easiest and cheapest meals. I think maybe we ate it everyday this week except one, considering the availability our garden is providing at this point. Also worth mentioning is that this recipe is a great solution if your veggies are a little droopy, because you are just cooking them down to nothing anyway. Key words here being a LIITLE droopy. I am in no way telling you to cook rotten vegetables. Anything brown should be thrown in the compost. 

Try it! Tell me if  you have any questions! Or if you have a recipe for relieving the stress that comes from an abundance of those pesky greens! Yum, cant wait for zucchini season. xoxo.

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BYE BYE BIRDIES

June 30, 2009

 

DSCN3971HOME, Brooklyn: To my surprise it turns out or nibbled lettuce is due to the snacking habits of the local bird population. This photo above is a group looking on as I foiled their dinner plans. I didn’t know birds liked lettuce but sure enough they were ravaging our new little baby plants right in front of our eyes, swooping in low and flying off with a light green flash of our coveted crop in their hungry beaks. 

If you ever want to hear a cacophony of bird song, take away their food. The buggers were freaking out as I put up these deterrents:

DSCN3975The poor mans wind chime, simply cut any kind of disposable aluminum baking pan into strips with scissors and dangle with wire. The sound and movement will keep the birds away, at least until they get used to it. Which in Brooklyn, will probably be tomorrow. Oh well. 

Here you can see the nibbled leaves.

Here you can see the nibbled leaves.

 

 

 

Got any great ideas for keeping garden predators at bay? Please share them! igrewthis@gmail.com