Austin Urban Gardens

Raised Bed Gardening and Eating Well in Austin, Texas

It’s Sweet Corn Season, Make Esquites! May 28, 2015

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I only eat fruits and vegetables from my garden or local farms, so everything I eat is in season.  One of the beautiful things about eating seasonally, is the anticipation for things I haven’t had since their last season.  I can think of few things as delicious as freshly harvested Sweet Corn.  When I saw that Boggy Creek Farm was to have sweet corn at their market, I went early to the farmstand to snag some.  They hadn’t harvested any when I got there early, so Carol Ann took me to the fields to harvest some with her.  The ultimate test of when the corn is ready, is to taste it, raw, right in the field. It was tender and delicious and I came home with several ears.

I already had something in mind for it, Mexican Street Corn Salad.  When I searched for a recipe I settled on one from Serious Eats.  I had never heard of Esquites before, but it looked like exactly what I wanted, and I had jalapeños and cilantro from the garden to use.

http://www.seriouseats.com/recipes/2012/07/esquites-mexican-street-corn-salad-recipe.html

I cut off the worm end of the corn,  removed the husks and picked off the silks.

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I would have loved to grill the corn to get it a bit charred, but alas it was raining.  I scraped it off the cob, and cooked it in a hot pan until slightly charred.

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The recipe called for more charring, but the starches had begun to stick to the pan, so I pulled it out,  and added salt and pepper.

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I doubled the jalapeños, because I had fresh garden peppers to use and wanted more heat.

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I mixed in some scallions, lime juice, mayonnaise, cilantro and then pulled out the cheese.  The recipe called for Cotija or Feta.  Alas, I had gotten Queso Fresco instead of Cotija.  The sharpness of Cotija was exactly what this needed, but I made do with the milder Queso Fresco, because that was what I had.  I finished it off with some Springdale Farm Smoked Pepper Mix, which is good on everything.

The result was still delicious, but the proper cheese would have made it outstanding.  This salad even better the second day, because the heat from the pepper had settled in.  Sweet corn will be around for another few weeks at the farmstands and farmer’s markets.  I highly recommend this recipe, and can’t wait to try it again with the correct cheese.

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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!

 

Homemade Chorizo August 12, 2014

I like to make breakfast on Sundays, and had a craving for Chorizo, Potato and Egg breakfast tacos, so I decided to make my own.

I settled on this recipe, which looked like authentic Mexican chorizo.

A trip to Penzey’s Spice Shop  was necessary to purchase some of the spices I didn’t have.  It’s always best to use fresh spices.

Penzy's Spices

Penzy’s Spices

I measured them all out and set them aside.  This looks like a lot of spices because it is – I made a 5 pound batch, while the recipe called for just over a pound.

I backed off of the clove and vinegar in this batch, because some flavors get to be too intense when multiplied.

IMG_0141High quality pork, and the right ratio of lean to fat are very important.  I went to Salt and Time, and told Brian the butcher there exactly what I had in mind.  He ground the pork in a 70% to 30% lean to fat ratio for me.  It is awesome to have a local butcher shop carrying high quality, hormone free, local proteins.

Good Quality Pork

Good Quality Pork

I simply dumped the spices and about half of the vinegar called for into the pork and mixed it well by hand.  While you want to get all of the spices incorporated, you don’t want to overwork the pork.

The most important thing you can do, when making chorizo and other sausages, is to taste it!  I made a small patty, and cooked it to test the flavor.  It was good, but I wanted more heat and smoke, so I added some of Springdale Farm’s smoked pepper mix, and some smoked onion powder that we made on the farm a while back.

Taste

Taste

I tasted it again, and it was exactly as I wanted it to be.

Chorizo, is best after 24 hours or so of resting to let the spices blend with the pork.  By Sunday morning I was ready to test it out.  Boggy Creek Farm potatoes, Springdale Farm Eggs, Homemade Chorizo, Homemade corn tortillas and some delicious (soon to be launched) salsa from Austin Josie Artisan Foods.  Happy dance!

Breakfast

Breakfast

 

Pickled Capperino Peppers July 14, 2014

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Springdale Farm had these beautiful little Capperino Peppers at the farmstand this past weekend, and I procured some with pickling them in mind.

Peppers

Peppers

They have fairly thick walls and are very seedy, so I thought it would be nice to hollow them out, and pickle them that way.  I imagine using them like Peppadews – simply open the jar, stuff with goat cheese or something, and use them for appetizers.

 

Seedy

Seedy

It was a little time consuming, but I hollowed them out and rinsed the seeds out.

 

Hollowed

Hollowed

 

Keeping the Peppadews in mind, I decided to add some sweetness, but not too much, to the brine.  I used my standard pickling blend, 2 cups Cider Vinegar, 2 Cups White Vinegar, 4 cups water, 4 teas. Salt and I added 4 Tbls. sugar.  The first three Tbls. of sugar neutralized the acid, and the final Tbls. added a hint of sweetness. I didn’t add any thing else to the brine, because I just want to preserve the pepper flavor, not add to it.  I processed them for 10 minutes in a boiling water bath.

 

Pickled

Pickled

I got some fruit float, which I expected, because these are hollow and I didn’t want to crush them, by packing them really tight.  I’m ok with it.

I can’t wait to crack a jar open and stuff them, like these Peppadews.  I think they will be hotter, but hopefully the hint of sweetness will neutralize the heat a bit.

 

Peppadews

Peppadews

 

Canning Juliet Tomatoes and Trying to Avoid Fruit Float June 23, 2014

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Tomato season is here and in full swing!  That means lots of tomato canning for later use.

Fruit float is common in canning, especially when canning tomatoes.  Fruit float, is when the bulk of the tomato floats to the top of the jar, leaving sometimes considerable liquid at the bottom half (or quarter, or third) of the jar.  It can typically be resolved by shaking the jars around a bit after 24 hours, but there is still an element that you’ve done something wrong, because it just doesn’t look right.  I like my canned goods to be aesthetically pleasing, so I’m always looking at ways to make my jars more attractive.

We’ve had such good weather this year, with cooler highs, and plenty of rain, the tomatoes are abundant, to say the least.  I had a tomato canning day scheduled with Paula of Springdale Farm today, and she wanted to try cold packing Juliet tomatoes, because they are meaty and she thought we could pack them down in the jars, to get less float.

We started with 35 pounds of Springdale Farm Juliets.

35 pounds

35 pounds

35 pounds seemed daunting at first, especially because they needed to be peeled.  To loosen their skins, we took a workable portion out of the bin and poured boiling water over them in a bowl.

Loosening the skins

Loosening the skins

Once they were cool enough to work with, using paring knives, we took off the skins, from the stem end, which also removed the tiny stem.

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Having read that we could dehydrate the skins, then later make tomato powder, we reserved the skins.   Working in batches, once we had enough to fill the water bath pot with quart jars, Paula started packing the jars, as I continued to peel tomatoes.

 

Packing the jars

Packing the jars

She packed the jars very tightly, trying not to crush all of the juice out of the tomatoes, but with enough pressure to remove the air pockets, and really get them packed in.  We used citric acid rather than lemon juice, to increase the acidity for canning.

We loaded up the dehydrator trays with tomato skins, and put those in to dry out.

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Once the jars were packed, we put them in their water bath for 85 minutes, the amount necessary for cold packed tomatoes. After processing, we pulled out the jars, and found that we had achieved nearly zero fruit float!  Very exciting, indeed.

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The skins are dried out as well, although I’ve not seen the final product.  We will grind them into tomato powder, which will be a great way to preserve tomato flavor for soups, eggs, or just about anything.

These will come in so handy once tomato season is long gone.

 

Spring Means Fabulous Outside Events in Austin! (Revised) March 25, 2014

After a long, and very cold winter in Austin, I look forward to outdoor events in the Spring.  There are many, many events, and this list is not exhaustive by any means.  I do have my favorites, all of which involve amazing food, cocktails and  support good causes. My picks also boast some of my favorite outdoor venues in the City as well.

March 29, 2014 – This weekend, there are two events that I really enjoy, this Saturday March 29th, is Farmhouse Delivery’s Fais D0-Do, Gumbo Cookoff at Rain Lily Farm.  Stroll the gorgeous grounds at Rain Lily Farm, sampling Gumbo from the varied entrants, sipping on bloody marys, listening to Zydeco music.  There are raffle prizes, too. I’m in!  $10 a ticket.  Proceeds benefit Creek People.

March 30, 2014 – this Sunday, 2nd Annual Crawfish Boil at Lenoir, benefiting Austin Food for Life, a non-profit  organization that assists Austin area food workers with health care.  This event will take place in the garden behind Lenoir.  $25 in advance, $30 at the door.

April 13, 2014East Austin Urban Farm Tour – Spend a Sunday afternoon strolling amongst the crops, visiting the chickens, donkeys and goats on four urban farms mere blocks apart. At each farm, chefs will offer tastes of their art, using farm ingredients. Local mixologists, brewers, and wine merchants will share sips. In the fields, farmers will introduce their crops, share their experiences as farmers and answer gardening questions. It will be the perfect opportunity to get your gardening questions solved, with farm tours on the hour.  Proceeds benefit Farm and Ranch Freedom Alliance.

Your $50 ticket will tell you which farm to start at, to prevent a backlog at any of the farms. No charge for children 12 & under.
Boggy Creek Farm – 3414 Lyons Road Austin, TX 78702

Food: Wink Restaurant,  Cafe Jose, Dolce Neve, Lenoir, Bufalina.  Drinks: Austin Wine Merchant, Live Oak, Weather Up

Hausbar Farm – 3300 Govalle, Austin, TX 78702

Food: Qui, Bola Pizza, Kome, Anjore Deepa, Dai Due.   Drinks Dripping Springs Vodka, Wahaca Tequila

Rain Lily Farm – 914 Shady Ln, Austin, TX 78702

Food:  Olive and June, Fabi and Rosi, Fresa’s.  (will update with full list)

Springdale Farm – 755 Springdale Rd, Austin, TX 78702

Food:  Eden East/Hillside Farmacy, Driskill Grill, Peche, Olamaie, Confituras. Drinks  Vinyards of Florence, Hops N Grain, Peche

See my recap of the 2011 East Austin Urban Farm Tour here:

April 19, 2014Austin Funky Chicken Coop Tour – Spend an afternoon on a self-guided tour of select Austin-area produce keepers to get inspiration for your own urban coop.  Proceeds benefit the Urban Poultry Association of Texas, Inc.

My recap of the 2010 Funky Chicken Coop Tour is here:

April 17, 2014Live Fire! – Austin Food and Wine Alliance 6:30 – 9:00
This year at the Salt Lick Pavilion, local and regional chefs will exhibit their culinary mastery over open flames. Stroll the beautiful grounds of the Salt Lick Pavilion, taste the chefs’ offerings, taste a variety of wines and enjoy being outside before summer moves us all back inside. $75.00

Chef lineup:

Rene Ortiz of Angry Bear, Jesse Perez of Arcade Midtown Kitchen (San Antonio), Brandon Fuller of Cafe Josie, Kendall Melton of Contigo, Jeff Martinez of El Chile Cafe y Cantina, Aaron Franklin of Franklin’s BBQ, Matt McAllister of FT33, (Dallas), Jason Dady of Jason Dady Restaurants (San Antonio), Ronnie Killen of Killen’s BBQ (Pearland), Rick Lopez of La Condesa, Monica Glenn of qui, Ben Runkle, Bryan Butler and Josh Jones of Salt & Time Butcher Shop & Salumeria, Callie Speer of Swift’s Attic, Josh Watkins of The Carillon, Timothy Rattray of The Granary (San Antonio), Scott Roberts of The Salt Lick (Driftwood), Kristine Kittrell of Weather Up, Reece Lagunas of Whole Foods Market

More about this event from their website: http://austinfoodwinealliance.org/?page_id=610
To order tickets, go here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/live-fire-2014-tickets-10930275749
My recap of the 2011 Live Fire event here:

April 30, 2014Homegrown Revival Dinner at HOPE Outdoor Gallery.  “A very special dinner on the top level of one of Austin’s most popular landmarks – The HOPE Outdooor Gallery.  The night includes a 5-7 course locally sourced dining experience with music and pairs drinks along copy of  HOPE Outdoor Gallery; Lost &  Found Vol 1 art book & collection sticker pack.”  The dinner will be prepared by Chef Sonya Cote.   This should be a fabulous evening with amazing food, drinks and company. $150.00.  For tickets click here.

May 8, 2014 – Sustainable Food Center Farm to Plate: http://www.sustainablefoodcenter.org/donate/farm-to-plate $125.00

Sip and stroll format, with lots of local chefs, at the beautiful Barr Mansion.  Proceeds benefit the Sustainable Food Center and their many fabulous programs.

 

Hank Shaw Book Tour Dinner January 28, 2014

Hank Shaw, wild food advocate, hunter and forager is the author of Hunt, Gather, Cook and now, Duck, Duck, Goose, and popular food website, Hunter, Angler, Gardener, Cook.  Shaw ended his months long book tour in Austin, last night, with a dinner hosted by  Foreign & Domestic, with Ned Elliott and Jesse Griffiths, of Dai Due.  I attended the first seating.

The first course, prepared by Ned Elliott, was Poached Breast of Muscovy Duck, with Pickled Hearts, Beets & Rutabaga Sauerkraut.

Poached Duck Breast with Rutabaga Sauerkraut

Poached Duck Breast with Rutabaga Sauerkraut

As I watched the dish being plated, I was thinking that looked like a lot of Rutabaga Sauerkraut, which I wasn’t sure I would like.  On the contrary, it was amazingly complex, not at all sour, and actually quite delicious and buttery.   Ned always does amazing things with vegetables.

The second course was prepared by Hank Shaw – Ganseklein, a German Sweet n Sour Giblet Soup with Scorn Spaetzle.  The soup was very Earthy and hearty.  My picture doesn’t do it justice.

Ganseklein

Ganseklein

The third course, by Jesse Griffiths and Chase Cole, of Dai Due, was Muscovy Duck Kasekrainer, with Sprouted Wheat Pilaf, Pickled Mushrooms, Daikon & Mailbock Mustard.  I’ve always loved Kasekrainer, and finely ground sausage with chunks of Mill-King cheese curds, and this Duck variety was delicious.

Duck Kasekrainer

Duck Kasekrainer

Dessert was Duck Fat Cornbread, with Duck Egg Ice Cream, Pickled Cherries, Roasted Fruit, & Sea Buckthorn prepared by Ned Elliott.  Not being a fan of really sweet desserts, I loved the cornbread, and the ice cream was really rich and delicious.  I was dining with friends Houston and Stephanie, Austin’s own award winning jamstress, and she was curious about the Sea Buckthorn, so Ned brought her a spoonful.  We tasted it, and it was slightly familiar, yet different from anything.  Stephanie compared it mostly to tamarind, which I would not have figured out.  When spooned over the cornbread, it added a tart and  slightly sweet flavor that blended well with the roasted fruit, and creamy ice cream that was a perfect end to a delicious duck dinner.

Duck Fat Cornbread, with Duck Egg Ice Cream, Roasted Fruit

Duck Fat Cornbread, with Duck Egg Ice Cream, Roasted Fruit

I’m looking forward to reading my new cookbook, and hopefully cooking more wild game.   There are lots of recipes for duck eggs as well, which are available locally at Springdale Farm and Countryside Farm.