Summer of ’18 First Harvest

Been a fairly good year in the gardens. I tried a lot of new varieties this year and was amazed with their success, in spite of the sporadic drought and deluge. I want to talk about some plants that I’ve already eaten.

Garlic A perennial favorite. This year marked the 15th year I’ve been cultivating my bulbs by natural selection. I’ve been reserving the largest cloved bulbs for planting each year and have developed a crop is red striped and  each has 4-6 large cloves. So beautiful to admire, so few to peel, so delicious to eat…..


Padrón peppers  – These small peppers from Galicia, Spain are like cracker jacks. 10 to 25% of them are hot, so you don’t know what the prize will be. Sweet and tasty or hot and sizzle. I’ve never had one I couldn’t handle but for some it might be too much. Just keep a baguette nearby.

Simply fry them in hot olive oil until they  turn dark. Thinned skin they are, so you can just grab them by the tail and eat. My Galician friends went wild over them.

Mizuna (ミズナ(水菜)Fun to read about,  beautiful to look at and delicious to eat.  Also called Japanese mustard green but the name doesn’t describe the taste. The characters are more so. Very easy to cultivate, grows fast and furious so you can start dining immediately. One plant would have been more than enough. Add it to salads or a salad on it’s own with simple dressing of rice vinegar, a tad of sweetener of choice ( Mirin is best ), roasted sesame oil and soy sauce.  I’m going to have some now.

Beets Tried a few new varieties and was very pleased. I really can’t grow enough to keep my son and I in beets; fortunately there is an abundance at the St. Paul Farmer’s Market.  Boiling or steaming seems too brutish so I rub them down with olive oil and roast at 375 till al dente.

Slice and serve with goat cheese and a honey dijon dressing on a bed of Mizuna.

Yellow San Marzanos – Didn’t yield as expected but very colorful and tasty. They don’t resemble San Marzanos so don’t expect a large, dense fruit.  Perhaps they didn’t get along with other family members planted close by.

Yukon Gold Potatoes  The sandy soil at the Rice Street Community Gardens is perfect for spuds. Very easy to grow. I grab a bag of organic from the coop making sure there is lots of ‘eyes’.  Let them get a start in the bright light, then cut, separating the eyes. Plant to depth of 4-6 inches. So fun to dig up and be surprised what happens in the darkness. A freshly dug potato is a wonder !


Soon I’ll have more as the winter squash start to roll in. Also I will be talking about pollinators and the role they play. Hope you enjoyed this bit of garden adventure in the Urban Landscape.

Anything we can grow organically, keeps us off the pesticide/herbicide/chemical fertilizer grid.


Gravlax is so succulent and wonderful that even squeamish folks who wouldn’t eat sashimi love it. I personally enjoy the fatty fish from Norwegian farms. It melts in your mouth.

A Norwegian native friend, Anne, showed me how to prepare it as it’s done at home. Of course there was no recipe ( written that is ).  Homemade is usually a little more rustic than restaurant prepared so experiment all you like with different flavors. I’ve even added a drop of fresh lime. Be bold but don’t drown the fish !!

Start with two filettes of the freshest salmon you can, sashimi grade if  available. This is of course the key ! You will also need salt, sugar, and a few stalks fresh dill. ( dried will be *ok* but fresh dill is the best )

Take equal amounts of salt and sugar, rub in a thin layer on each cut side of the fish, next, layer as much chopped dill as you can get on top of one piece.

Place the fillettes, rubbed sides together, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and place in a container with raised sides, it should be flat also. Refrigerate for at least one day. Pour off the liquid if you like.

Slice thinly, serve on thin rye bread with honey mustard. If there is any left, refrigerate. Will keep for a few days at least.

Aquavit is a fine accompaniment !



This is another prepare ahead of time party delight from Turkey. It can be purchased in jar form but is so much better freshly prepared. The scent of roasting peppers,garlic and eggplant is like perfume…

Ajvar, pronounced, “eye – vahr ” is a vegetable dish made from roasted red peppers, eggplant, garlic, olive oil and any other things you might want to add. There are several local variations running around Romania, , Bulgaria, Serbia and other Balkan nations. For a party use the following recipe:
6 fresh red paprika (mild or medium-hot, to taste)
3 medium-size eggplants
1/4 – 1/2 cup olive oil
1 large onion, finely minced
3 large garlic cloves ( at least ) , chopped
1 to 2 tablespoons lemon juice

Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsley for garnish

Roast the paprika and eggplants over charcoal or a gas flame until the skin is blistered and black. Place the roasted vegetables in a plastic bag and let them steam in their own heat for 10 – 15 minutes. Peel off and toss the burnt skin along with the steams and seeds.

Sautee the onions and garlic in some olive oil until soft. Add all ingredients together and run thru the food processor until you get the texture you like. It’s nice a little chunky.

I dress it up with a little chopped parsely or cilantro.

Serve with warm baguette or crackers.

Kimchi Chigae (Kim Chi Soup)

On a cold autumn evening, I re-visited my Korean cookbook; this recipe leapt out at me and begged to be cooked. In order to maintain a healthy body temperature during cold weather, folks around the world cook up hot soups and this pepper infused stew looked like the perfect cold weather elixir. It is so quick and easy to prepare I eat it a couple dinners a week. Aside from the delightful kimchi*, the main ingredient is called Kochujang, a tasty paste made from glutinous rice powder mixed with powdered fermented soybeans and red peppers. On a visit to my favorite Korean grocer, I found a red box of it made by CJ Foods. The ingredients also included malt syrup but it contained no preservatives except for some grain alchohol, I can deal with that. As soon as I got into the car I popped the lid and ran my finger through the vermillion paste and stuck the warm slightly sweet lump in my mouth. After two more fingers I put it away as a light warm mist developed on my forehead.

As soon as I got home, I put a pan on the fire and sauteed a few cloves of garlic in some Canola oil, olive somehow seemed foreign to the intention. I chopped up about a cup of kimchi and added it to the mixture. After pouring a half a box of chicken stock I added a couple tablespoons of the Kochujang. I let it come to a boil and tossed in half a block of tofu cubed. I had also purchased some frozen kim chee dumplings which I tossed in for the last 3 minutes. A litle garnish of chopped scallions and the feast was ready.

The basic recipe:

1 tsp light-flavored oil, like canola (cooking spray works, too)
3 cloves garlic, minced
handful of pork, sliced thin (if desired)
Kochujang to taste, start with a couple tablespoons
1 cup kimchee, cut into large bite-size pieces
1 tsp soy sauce
2 cups water or chicken stock
3 green onions, chopped for garnish
1/2 block FIRM tofu, cut into 1 in cubes
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil for garnish

* kimchi is pickled napa cabbage with hot red pepper, fish sauce, sugar and garlic ( simply delcious! ) Google it if you would like read more….

Coming Next: The cousin from the west: Hungarian Sauerkraut Soup

Chick Pea Crepes ( Chilla )

Chick Pea Crepes ( Chilla )
I bought a bag of chickpea flour (besan)  to add to my roti, but while looking for recipes for that I hit on this one. So simple, so fast and so tasty. I’d say from prep to eat maybe 8 minutes. Mix a fairly loose batter of the chickpea flour and water. Shred some raw cauliflower, chop onions, garlic, cilantro, whatever you like and mix it into the batter. Lightly oil and heat a pan, when hot pour the desired size crepe into the pan, turn when one side is barely brown.  the EAT!  You may dip it in yogurt use it to create wrap sandwiches or grab ’em right off the fire.

The original recipe I found in an Indian cookbook used Methi which are fenugreek leaves, rather hard to come by except in Indian grocery stores. I planted some and it grows like a weed which of course all plants are. On other websites I discovered many fresh vegetable recipes from the Maharashtra region of Indian. I’ll post them as I try them.

Gajarachi Koshimbir

As I explore the cuisine of the Maharashtra region of India, I’m finding these wonderful veggie sides that are both delicious and colorful. This one in particular, a beet and carrot salad is refreshing and light and is best eaten with Chickpea Crepes ( see my recipe ) or other flat bread. The sweet sour lime dressing with the mustard seeds, jalapenos, garlic and Asafoetida topped with chopped peanuts and cilantro can be prepared from any combination of vegetables, cucumber, tomatoes and onions being my favorites.

Two large  grated carrots , one beet  and jalapenos to taste( I personally enjoy chopped into fine sticks) If you prefer tenderness, boil or roast the roots.
juice of  a lime juice and a pinch of ground cumin
½ tsp of sugar, raw is best
Salt,to taste
Chopped cilantro to taste
Chopped roasted peanuts for garnish

To temper, heat the following until seeds begin to pop and pour over vegetables

A tsp of oil
A tsp black mustard seeds
A pinch of Asafoetida



Don’t ya love that name. This is a Moroccan all purpose salsa used for marinades or as a finish to my favorite, Moroccan Fish Stew.

It should be used almost immediately after preparation. If not the spices seem to go limp. If used for a marinade it will be fine for a few days.

I use it as a marinade for chicken over couscous or for ANYTHING over couscous !

Combine the following:

  • 6 large cloves garlic
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    Juice of 2 lemons
    1 small to medium onion, coarsely chopped
    1-2/3 cup chopped fresh cilantro with some stems
    1/4 cup chopped Italian parsley with stems
    1 1/2  tablespoons sweet paprika
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1/2 teaspoon cumin
    1/2 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper



Tajin bi’l-Hut (Moroccan Fish Stew)

The first thing we need to do is to prepare a batch of Charmoula to be used a marinade and garnish. Get some fresh, white fleshed fish. A fish that is too oily will taste a little too strong for this meal


  • firm-fleshed white fish steaks such as halibut (about 1 1/2 pounds), cut about 1 1/4-inches thick
  • tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • medium-size boiling potatoes (about 1/2 pound), peeled and sliced 1/ 8 -inch thick
  • 2 green bell peppers, seeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 large ripe tomatoes (about 1 pound), peeled, seeded, and thinly sliced
  • cup tomato purée (preferably fresh)
  • tablespoons finely chopped fresh coriander leaves
  • tablespoons finely chopped fresh parsley leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1. Prepare the charmoula. Coat the fish steaks with half of the charmoula and marinate 2 hours in a ceramic or glass.

2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Lightly oil a tagine, Dutch oven, earthenware casserole, or enameled cast-iron casserole and arrange the potatoes on the bottom. Lightly salt and pepper the potatoes. Place the fish steaks on top of the potatoes. Cover the fish with the green peppers and then the tomato slices, arranging everything very neatly and decoratively. Lightly salt and pepper again. Spoon half of the remaining charmoula over the tomato slices. Pour the tomato purée over and sprinkle with the coriander, parsley, and more salt and pepper. Spoon the remaining charmoula over everything.

3. Bake the tagine, covered, until the potatoes are tender and the fish cooked, about 1 hour. Do not check until at least 40 minutes have passed. Serve.