Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

My Garden, May 2015 – Everything is Different May 12, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 9:15 am

I decided to try to keep better track of my garden this season, especially the tomatoes.  I have planted lots of “new to me” varieties, and I’d like to remember what does well.  I’m really horrible at that; keeping track of the little plant markers and making notes.  With that in mind, I’ve been watching everything closely and taking lots of photos.

Everything is different this season.  We’ve had abundant rain and cooler temperatures than I can recall, in all my years of gardening.  My plants are all loaded and some things are producing much earlier than they usually do, like peppers and tomatillos.  I was excited to can my first two jars of Salsa Verde yesterday – with my own (and some Springdale Farm) tomatillos, onions, peppers, garlic and cilantro.  That’s a first for me, this magical alignment of ingredients from the garden.

I don’t remember ever enjoying my gardens quite this much before.  The first thing I do every morning is walk up the street to take my dad’s paper in, then rush back home to spend time in my gardens.  There is so much beauty in the gardens, and I feel like I’m seeing it all with new eyes now. You see, my sweet mom passed away suddenly and unexpectedly in January.  She was beautiful, and I adored her, and then she was gone.

So, with thunderstorms, possible hail, and damaging wind being threatened, I spent extra time in my gardens this morning.  Because, I know, in five minutes they could be gone, and there is nothing I could do to save them.  And they are beautiful now, and fragile and totally out of my control.  So, here are some of the photos I’ve taken of my garden, with some identifiers, because I’m trying to be better about that.  I’m going to be different.

Tomatillos, planted late March, 2014

Tomatillos, planted late March, 2014

Purple Calabash Tomato

Purple Calabash Tomato

Black and Brown Boar  Tomato

Black and Brown Boar
Tomato

Michael Pollan Tomato

Michael Pollan Tomato

IMG_0923

Arkansas Traveler

Arkansas Traveler

IMG_0952

Large Red Cherry

Sweet 100

Sweet 100

Mountain Princess

Mountain Princess

 

Update-My Favorite Spring Events, 2015 March 5, 2015

It most certainly feels like Spring may never get here, but surely things will start to warm up soon.  I’m cheering myself up by looking forward to some of my favorite Springtime Events.  This list certainly in not all inclusive, and doesn’t include some of the obvious large annual events – these are just a few more affordable events I enjoy.  The update is to add Live Fire, the details of which were just released.

March 7, 2015  Sunshine Community Garden Spring Plant Sale This event is held the first Saturday of each March, and is my favorite plant sale for vegetable transplants.  The greenhouses will be filled with everything you need for your Spring Garden, including more tomato and pepper varieties that you can even fathom.  Peruse their online inventory and make your own list to take with you, or you might be overwhelmed.  Go early, wait in line, and be prepared for the crush of humanity that will ensue when they open the gates.  It’s part of the fun, I promise.

March 28, 2015  Fais Do Do, Gumbo Cookoff at Rain Lily Farm  This annual event sponsored by Farmhouse Delivery, is held at Rain Lily Farm on Shady Lane.  Your $35.00 ticket will get you unlimited gumbo tastings, complimentary beer, cocktails and non-alcoholic beverages.  Proceeds benefit Creek People.  This is a really fun time, on one of our lovely East Austin Urban Farms.

March 29, 2015  Edible Austin’s Children’s Picnic and Real Food Fair  This is a fun event for the whole family, held at the historic French Legation Museum and grounds.  There will be lots of food vendors, and lots of educational opportunities as well.  Kiddos typically pet baby goats, learn about backyard chickens, learn gardening from volunteers, and leave the event with their own little box garden.

April 4, 2015 Funky Chicken Coop Tour  This-self guided tour of some of Austin’s most interesting and innovative chicken coops.  Homeowner’s show off their coops and share their experiences keeping backyard chickens.  Drawings and giveaways will be available at the launch site, Buck Moore Feed Store.

April 9, 2015 Austin Food and Wine Alliance’s Live Fire This event is a meat lovers paradise each year.  The lineup of chefs has just been released and it looks amazing!  Many of your favorites local chefs and some from restaurants in other cities, will cook over live fire, and for $70 a ticket (early bird price), you will get to sample them all.  The event is held at the Salt Lick Pavillion, and will also feature live music, mines, cocktails, and craft beer.  Proceeds go toward the Alliance’s culinary grant program.

April 12, 2015 East Austin Urban Farm Tour  Also self guided, this is a tour of 4 of Austin’s Urban Farms, Boggy Creek Farm, Springdale Farm, Hausbar Farm, and Rain Lily Farm.  These four farms are all within walking distance of one another, and just a short 3 miles from Austin’s Capitol.  Each unique farm will host hourly tours by the farmers, and you will enjoy bites from some of Austin’s best restaurants, and sips from local beverage artisans and brewers.  While the final restaurant/artisan list has yet to be announced, the early word is very impressive, including Lenoir, Wink, Olamaie, Texas French Bread, Dolce Neve, Live Oak Brewery, Weather up, Austin Wine Merchant, Qui, Kome, Fixe, Fukumoto, Uchiko, Hops n Grain, Mescal, Paula’s, Banner Vodka, The Driskill, Swifts Attic, The Hightower, Anjore, Eden, Gardner, East Ciders, Liber & Co., Zhi Tea, Dai Due, Fresas, Odd Duck, Bola Pizza, Treaty Oak Distillery, Real Ale.  I’ll update this list once it is finalized. The tickets are $50.00 for adults, kids under 10 are free and proceeds benefit Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.

Ongoing:  Keep an eye out for volunteer opportunities with Green Corn Project.  We will be installing gardens for our recipients through March.

Ongoing:  Antonelli’s Cheese Shop has events every week, including cheese and jam pairings, cheese and beverage pairings, and classes.

Ongoing:  Confituras has jam making classes throughout the year and they are really fun and informative.  It is about to be fruit season!

 

Kung Pao Chicken, at Home January 7, 2015

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 12:17 pm
Tags: , , ,

I’m working on becoming a better cook, with a goal of conquering some Asian cuisines.  My first effort, was Indian Butter Chicken, which turned out great, so now I’ve turned my sights on Kung Pao Chicken.  This happens to be one of my dad’s favorite Chinese dishes, so he will act as my test taster.

I chose one of the easier recipes I found, from Food & Wine Magazine, online. (link above)  I was looking for a recipe that didn’t venture too far astray from my eating philosophy, which is eating seasonally and using produce and proteins I can get from my local farmer’s market.  Although I grew peanuts last year, I had to purchase the ones I used here.

The main ingredient is chicken, and I used boneless, skinless chicken breasts from Smith and Smith Farms, which I got at the Mueller Farmer’s Market.  This chicken was beautifully trimmed and incredibly fresh.  (Learning to properly debone a whole chicken is also on my lists to conquer, but I’m dreading that one).

Smith and Smith Farms Chicken

Smith and Smith Farms Chicken

The first part of the process is to cut the chicken into bite sized pieces, and marinate the chicken in Soy Sauce, sherry and Cornstarch. (I bought Tamari for the soy sauce and Bob’s Red Mill Cornstarch.)

Once the chicken was cut marinating in the fridge, I chopped the onions and Bell Pepper.  The recipe didn’t call for Bell Pepper, but B5 Farms at the farmer’s market, had some beautiful bell peppers, grown in the greenhouse.  I couldn’t resist.

B5 Farms Tomatoes and Peppers

B5 Farms Tomatoes and Peppers

I cut one bell pepper into the same sized pieces as the chicken, and separated the green onion whites and greens and set those aside.

Next, I made the sauce, which consisted of Tamari, Rice Vinegar, Sherry, Sesame Oil, Water, Cornstarch and a little sugar.

Ingredients

Ingredients

The Sauce

The Sauce

I wisked the sauce to get the cornstarch incorporated and set it aside. At this point I made the rice, and set it aside as well.  I could tell that the next steps would happen quickly.

Time to start cooking.  First, I poured a Tablespoon of Avocado Oil, (recipe called for Peanut or Vegetable Oil), into my wok, and let it get hot.  Once hot, I quickly cooked the raw peanuts until they were golden brown, then set them aside.

Cook the Peanuts

Cook the Peanuts

A little more oil into then pan, and I quickly cooked the scallions, bell pepper and chili flakes.

Cook the vegetables

Cook the vegetables

To the vegetables, I added part of the chicken.  It was clear the amount of chicken I had cut up (doubled the recipe), would be more than should go into the wok.  It was still crowded, which made it take longer to cook, and caused some sticking to the wok.

Cook the Chicken

Cook the Chicken

Once the two batched of chicken were mostly done, I put them back into the wok with the sauce and stirred as it thickened.

Add the Sauce

Add the Sauce

At this point, I tasted the sauce, and wanted more heat, so I chopped up a garden Serrano Pepper and added it to the mix.  I then turned off the heat and threw in the peanuts.

Once the sauce had reached what seemed like the appropriate thickness, and the chicken was done, I plated some up for myself, then bundled the rest to take to my parents up the street.

Serve over Rice

Serve over Rice

I enjoyed this dish, but felt as it it lacked some complexity.  While I would make it again, I would like more heat, more onions and peppers, some ginger and perhaps some garlic.  I’ll also revisit some of the more complicated recipes I looked at, to see how it could be made more interesting.  It was very easy and fairly quick to make.  My taste tester called after finishing his dinner to give the recipe an A+.  My mom liked it as well, and she is the pickiest eater I know.

 

Alton Brown’s Scratch Onion Dip December 31, 2014

The holidays provide an excuse to eat things we don’t indulge in during the regular year, and you know I try to keep things local, seasonable and non-processed.  However, I was looking for an excuse to indulge a little and had some folks coming over, so I decided to try Alton Brown’s Scratch Onion Dip recipe.

This couldn’t be simpler to make, or any more delicious.  First, you slice onions.   I used a mix of onions from my dwindling garden onion stash – 1015s and White Bermudas.  (I’m starting to dread the time between the end of last year’s onions and next year’s harvest.)

Onions

Onions

I doubled the recipe so this was about 3 cups of onions.  The most important step in this process is to caramelize the onions, which takes a little time.  They cook over medium heat in a little of olive oil, and need to be stirred around for more even cooking. Easy!

Carmelizing

Caramelizing

You want them past the translucent stage, which will cause them to reduce quite a bit.  This brings out their sweetness.

Getting closer

Once they get to the desired stage, allow them to cool completely.  I also chopped them up so that people didn’t have strips of onion to contend with.

When cooled, I added them to the mix of mayonnaise, (I used Duke’s,) and sour cream, then added the white pepper and garlic powder and gave a good stir.

Mixing together

Mixing together

I made this a day ahead, to allow the flavors to meld.  I served it with Kettle Chips, which are non-GMO verified, and have no trans fats or preservatives, which made me feel better about eating potato chips!

Chips and Onion Dip

Chips and Onion Dip

Based on the reaction I got from people eating this onion dip, it’s going into permanent party recipe rotation.  It would be perfect for a Superbowl Party.

Alton Brown’s Onion Dip

 

Stuffed Quail on the Fly December 29, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 9:09 pm
Tags: , , ,

Once or twice a year, I’ll order a case of semi-boneless quail from Texas Quail.  Quail is delicious, easy and quick to cook, organic, sustainable and all the things I want food to be.  It is so versatile- you can fry it, smoke it, grill it, stuff it, bake it, etc.  And, if it can arrive on my doorstep with just a couple mouse clicks – all the better.

A couple of days ago, I took a package of 4 quail out of my freezer to defrost.  I had been reading recipes, and had one sort of made up in my head.  I would make a delicious mushroom risotto, and stuff the quail with it and some local goat cheese, then bake it in the oven.  Fast forward to this evening, and I have a million things to do, the quail needs to be cooked, and I have no time to devote to it.  But, I also need it out of my fridge because I need the room and I need something for dinner.

So, I decided to wing it, as it were.  I put some Carolina Gold Rice on to cook, and chopped up a handful of Baby Bella Mushrooms from Kitchen’s Pride, which I got at the farmer’s market.  Into the pan with the mushrooms, I put a couple tablespoons of butter, some crushed garlic, and a generous helping of fresh thyme, the leaves from 4 or 5 sprigs.

Baby Bella Mushrooms

Baby Bella Mushrooms

Once the mushrooms were cooked down, I folded half of them into some Water Oak Chèvre, which I get at Boggy Creek Farm.

IMG_0506

 

Using my hands in the messiest way possible, I stuffed a couple tablespoons of the cheese, mushroom mixture into each quail.  I didn’t bother to tie their little legs together – rushing, rushing after all.   After a generous seasoning of sea salt and pepper, I popped them into the oven at 350.

Quail ready for the oven

Quail ready for the oven

The remaining buttery, garlicky mushrooms, went into the rice.  At that point, I realized that my quick plan had no vegetable component.  I had some fresh spinach in the fridge, so I chopped up a a handful and put it into the still hot rice and stirred it up, figuring that it would wilt a bit and take on some of the thyme and butter.

Spinach in the rice

Spinach in the rice

After about 40 minutes, I switched the oven to broil, to brown the quail a little.  They looked done, but a little lacking in color.  Once they browned up, I took them out, and served one for my dinner over the mushroom, spinach rice.  I garnish everything, because it makes me happy, so I snipped up some garden parsley for the whole plate.  It was a quick and easy dinner – not the elegant meal I had envisioned a couple days ago, but simple, tasty and I got a lot done while it was cooking!

Goat Cheese, Mushroom Stuffed Quail

Goat Cheese, Mushroom Stuffed Quail

When packaging the leftovers for later, I tossed in some chopped pecans, which I though would add some texture to the whole meal.  It will be a nice surprise when I reheat it!

 

Puerco Pibil with Robert Rodriguez’s 10 Minute Cooking School December 19, 2014

I have always loved the idea of Cochinita Pibil, but never really thought to try making it myself, until I discovered filmmaker Robert Rodriguez’s 10 Minute Cooking School on YouTube.  He has several – one for BBQ, Tacos, Volcano Cookies and this one for Puerco Pibil.  They are very fun, and this one certainly demystified this slow cooked pork dish for me.

Two things make this dish unique, the first of which is banana leaves.  I procured banana leaves at Central Market.

Banana Leaves

Banana Leaves

The second unique ingredient is Annatto Seeds.  I got these from Penzy’s.  Annatto Seeds, or Achiote, really look like no other seed you’ve ever seen.  They are from a tropical tree, the Achiote Tree, and historically have been used as yellowish/orange food coloring for a variety of things, including cheddar cheese.  The taste is rather difficult to describe.

Annatto Seeds

Annatto Seeds

The Annatto seeds are ground up and blended with the other spices for the marinade.  I used a coffee grinder to pulverize the seeds.

Spices for marinade

Spices for marinade

The marinade calls for orange juice and lime juice.  I also used some orange zest, because I wanted lots of orange flavor.  I also backed off of the vinegar and used about half of what the recipe called for.  I put the pork  shoulder (cut into 2 inch cubes) and marinade in plastic baggies and allowed it to marinate for several hours.

Pork Marinating in Citrus

Pork Marinating in Citrus

I warmed the banana leaves over the flame on my stove, to make them more pliable, then lined the dutch oven with them.  I poured the pork and its marinade into the dish, and wrapped it in the leaves, then cooked it in the oven with the lid on.

Banana Leaves warmed over the stove

Banana Leaves warmed over the stove

When the pork was done, it was very tender.  I skimmed off the fat and some of the liquid, then shredded the pork, using two forks.

Cooked pork

Cooked pork

I ate the first meal with my Cochinita Pibil, or Puerco Pibil, served over rice, with quick pickled red onions and peppers.  The next night, I put the same mixture into corn tortillas, for Pibil tacos.  It was a fun and easy dish to make and I highly recommend Robert Rodriguez’s Ten Minute Cooking School on YouTube.

Puerco Pibil over rice with Quick Pickled Red Onions and Peppers

Puerco Pibil over rice with Quick Pickled Red Onions and Peppers

 

Indian Butter Chicken December 15, 2014

Filed under: Uncategorized — austinurbangardens @ 6:53 pm
Tags: , , ,

I first heard of Murgh Makhani, Indian Butter Chicken, several months ago, and for some reason, now it seems to be popping up everywhere.  When the New York Times published their best recipes of 2014 a few days ago, which including Sam Sifton’s Indian Butter Chicken, I decided I was supposed to make it.

Prior the closing of Savory Spice Shop, downtown then in Barton Creek Mall, I hoarded lots of interesting spices I wanted to cook with, so I had everything I needed for this recipe, Garam Masala, Cumin, Cinnamon Stick.  And I had planned a cooking and baking day on Sunday, so I had plenty of time.

First you mix the spices with yogurt and lemon juice and marinate the chicken thighs.   I let mine marinate for 5 hours while I made cookies for Christmas.  (You could use any part of the chicken, but I was following the recipe.)

Indian spices

Indian spices

Yogurt and spice marinade, with chicken thighs

Yogurt and spice marinade, with chicken thighs

Before time to cook, I grated the ginger, minced garlic and chopped onions and got those ready.

Ginger, Garlic, Onions

Ginger, Garlic, Onions

The next phase is where the butter comes in.  The onions sauté in some oil (I used coconut, although the recipe called for neutral) and 1/4 pound of butter.

Onions

Onions

The onions cook for quite a while, until they become translucent, then begin to turn brown.  This is where a lot of the flavor in this dish comes from.    Once the onions were ready, I added the chicken and the yogurt marinade.  After that cooked a bit, the recipe called for tomatoes.  It isn’t tomato season, so I used a pint jar of my home canned crushed tomatoes.  This probably amounted to more than 2 chopped tomatoes, but I was fine with some extra tomato flavor.  I also added a little extra red serrano from my garden.

Adding tomatoes

Adding tomatoes

This simmered for about half an hour, until the chicken was done.  At that point, you add 1 1/2 cups of heavy cream.  You are also supposed to add a little tomato paste, but I skipped this step, having none, and because I used extra tomatoes already.

Mixture with cream added

Mixture with cream added

That’s it!  After simmering with the cream for a few minutes, it was ready to serve over rice and garnish liberally with cilantro.

Indian Butter Chicken

Indian Butter Chicken

It was really delicious.  I served it Carolina Gold Aromatic Rice.  I thought of infusing the rice with some ginger, but it really didn’t need it.  I highly recommend this recipe!

 

 
Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 96 other followers