Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Durian Ice Cream

My mom has always loved durian.  With a few good Asian supermarkets around us, she's able to taste her favorite fruit from time to time.  She would probably describe it as unique, rich, tropical, pleasant, and sweet. This large and spiky "King of Fruits" however, is notoriously stinky.  Its taste and smell have been described by my family (and confirmed by the population at large) as similar to: gasoline, excrement, and rotting pineapple, with a texture like baby vomit.  This is why in some of my earliest memories, she is eating durian in the garage, on a stool, next to the car, by herself.  She was not allowed to enjoy her favorite fruit inside the house.

This year, I figured there would be no better homemade gift than to make her several pints of ice cream, starring her beloved durian.  No one in my family made me go outside like we used to make my mom, but I do warn against making this recipe while it's 30-something degrees out.  When I cut into the grand, sharp thing, it let out a "ppffftttt" and began releasing its intense odor.  Suddenly, I had a family of drama queens running around, opening every door and window, forcing me to make my ice cream while shivering in my winter coat. But as my younger daughter said, "You made our whole house stink! You really love Popo (grandmother) don't you".

The recipe below was adapted from this recipe, and uses the flesh from a whole, large durian. It is less sweet just like my mom would prefer, so add more sugar if you like a more conventional sweetness.  Just taste the custard before allowing to cool and add more sugar if you like.  Makes about 2.5 quarts or about 5 1-pint containers.  *Most ice cream freezers only spin about 1.5 quarts.  This recipe makes 2 batches.

Durian Ice Cream

1 whole durian
6 large egg yolks
1/4 cup sugar
3 teaspoons vanilla extract
3 cups light cream
3 cups whole milk

Cut open durian and remove segments of flesh.  Remove seeds.  Puree in a food processor.  Press the puree through a sieve to strain out the stringy fibers.  You will have about 2 cups of smooth durian paste.  Cover and chill in the refrigerator.

In a medium bowl, whisk egg yolks with vanilla and sugar.

Bring milk and cream to near boil over medium heat.

Reduce heat to low.

Ladle about a cup of hot milk mixture and whisk into eggs.  Pour egg mixture into milk mixture on the stove.  Stir constantly until thickened, a few minutes.  Do not let the mixture come to a boil.

Allow custard to cool, then chill in refrigerator or in a large Ziploc bag set in an ice bath.

When very cold, pour half the custard into ice cream machine.  Add half the durian paste and spin until frozen. Remove to freezer-safe container to ripen in freezer.  When ice cream freezer bowl is completely frozen and ready to use again (usually in 24 hours), spin second batch of custard and durian mixture.

Sunday, June 8, 2014

A garden book you'll definitely need to buy

Many of you might know Niki Jabbour's bestselling book The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener.  Niki has followed up with a new book that is truly fantastic.   Appealing to newbie, experienced, or any other level of gardener in between, this book contains 73 illustrated plans for a ridiculous number of specialized gardens.  I'm thrilled to say that my plan for growing an Asian vegetable garden is included.  This is a book that everyone will want to own - and it's available on the shelves of your favorite bookstores now!  

Sunday, June 1, 2014

No-till gardening

One of these days, I'm going to collect all the materials to build a thick and proper lasagna garden.  But for now, the goal is to do take some action so that my raised beds aren't a fallow sitting duck, just waiting for any and all weed seeds to drift on in and take root.  Typically, by the time I'm ready to transplant my seedlings, my beds are filled with dandelions, shotweed, and creeping charlie.  

This spring, I started by weeding the garden well, adding a thick layer of compost and manure, then topping it all off with a thick (and it needs to be thicker than it is in the photo above) layer of straw.  Below, when I'm ready to plant, I'll be able to pull out the mulch and simply plop the seedling in the soil.  We'll see if this method reduces my weed-pulling time and how it lasts the season!  Do you "no-till" or use a lasagna gardening method?  How does it work for you?  

spring garden peas

Sunday, May 25, 2014

Dandelion Jelly

I have a lawn.  It's just not made of grass.  It's about 60 percent creeping charlie and 40 percent dandelions.  Though the yellow flowers are no doubt very pretty on a sunshiny spring day, once they develop seed heads, all I can envision is a lawn of more and more and more and more dandelions.  Their long tap roots and ratty leaves are less than attractive to me and truth is, to me, they're weeds I spend a lot of energy pulling.

As I wandered Home Depot the other day, I walked down a quiet aisle looking for fencing options when I passed bags and bags, stacked two stories high, of product promising me a weed-free grass lawn.  Oh, I know there are intense anti-lawn folks out there, and in all other philosophies we are kindred spirits, but my 60/40 mix is simply not going to do it.  I got sucked in and bought a bag.  

On the way home, I was thinking about the upcoming weather and trying to figure out the best time to finally eradicate all the weeds (the chemicals require the lawn to be wet) when I suddenly snapped out of it.  I am not an herbicide user.  I decided that if I could put the dandelions to use, I may (hopefully!) come to see the dandelions as an asset rather than a nuisance.

My older daughter and I spend a quick 20 minutes picking all the flowers we could manage to.  We tried some battered and fried blossoms.  Tasted like...batter.  Then I made this dandelion jelly.  Delicious!  Just like the recipe described - like spring honey.  A friend who appreciated a jar said it was fabulous on crostini with some goat cheese, the dandelion jelly, and some finely chopped fresh herbs.  I'd take food over herbicide any day.  Wouldn't you?

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Purple Asparagus

It's been perhaps 6 years and the asparagus is ridiculously fat, very tender, and on rough days, makes me feel like a competent gardener! In my raised bed, I add a layer of manure in the very early spring each year and mulch with straw as the asparagus begins to send up shoots.  Aside from the that, the only trick with asparagus is patience.  Here's some advice about growing and harvesting asparagus. If you grow asparagus, how long did it take before yours got really good?

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Gardening and Immediacy

I'd been reading a lot of Facebook posts recently by experienced gardeners scoffing at newbies for infractions like buying tender annuals too early or buying tomato plants far before it's time to plant them.  Though I'm experienced enough to also know these novices are wasting time and money, I am also a spur-of-the-moment, or haven't-totally-thought-it-through-but-I-wanna-do-it kind of person.  Some may call it impatience, but I believe it's the sheer excitement of gardening taking over, and it's a feeling I wouldn't want to lose.  I wrote about it here for the popular Garden Rant blog.  What are your thoughts?

Sunday, May 4, 2014

Beef, bison, lamb, goat, and turkey jerky

As some of you might know, each year, my husband, sister, brother-in-law and I do a secret Santa gift exchange (which almost never happens at the holidays).  The only catch is that the gift has to be homemade.  I originally thought it'd be an awesome deal for me because it would significantly reduce the number of gifts I would need to think up to give my husband.  
Except for the fact that I keep drawing his name year after year - grrrr!! 

This year, I decided to try my hand at making jerky.  But not just beef, I made all the variations below:

  • Bison with wasabi teriyaki (store bought marinade)
  • Beef with a smoky classic marinade (worcestershire sauce, soy sauce, honey, onion powder, liquid smoke, ground black pepper, red pepper flakes)
  • Turkey (soy sauce, honey, sesame oil)
  • Goat (red wine, white vinegar, mint, onion, hot sauce, soy sauce water, olive oil)
  • Lamb (onion, cumin, turmeric, garam masala, curry powder, cardamom pods, tomato paste, salt, water)

Everything but the kitchen sink in these marinades

The basics of making jerky:
  1. Slice meat along the grain about 1/3 inch thick, as evenly as possible.  Partially freezing your meat first will make it easier to cut nice even slices.  
  2. Marinate your meat overnight.
  3. Drain marinade and pat meat strips dry.
  4. Dry on highest setting (about 160F) for about 6-8 hours.  Meat should be leathery and pliable, but will be dry, chewy, and stringy when pulled apart.  
Store in an airtight container and use within a month or two (though I assure you it will be long gone by then!).  

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

How to grow microgreens

Beet microgreens - research proves microgreens are supernutritious
I hope you get to check out the spring issue of Heirloom Gardener magazine.  My article about how to grow microgreens is inside, along with many really interesting articles and lots of DIY projects.  Here's the shortened 3-step version - because I'm THAT confident anyone can grow a great flat of healthful, delicious, and beautiful microgreens that easily.

STEP 1: Heavily sow seeds onto shallow tray (with drainage holes) of soil.  Cover with a fine layer of soil.

STEP 2: Daily, mist until soil is completely moist.  

STEP 3: Harvest in about 10-14 days by snipping just above the soil line.  

Microgreen salad mix: sunflower greens and radish greens - served with goat cheese medallions

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

I made a simple request. Please water my seedlings while I'm away for 3 days.

It was just about 3 days!  And I came home to this...


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Everyone: look at my hellebores!

I'm very annoying to my family members from about April through September.  Everytime we pull up in the driveway, "Wow, look at that striped clematis."  Everytime we walk up to the house, "Oooh, did you see the Asiatic lily?"  When we're in the kitchen, "Look at the blooms on the fothergilla."  And currently, "The hellebores - everyone!  Look at the hellebores!"  Can you really blame me though?

At the end of every winter, the hellebores get their simple tidying up... a few minutes per year of care, and...

...voila! Really.  I can't think of an easier, more gorgeous, carefree perennial.  Shade-loving, persistent even when occasionally snowed upon, and with a form that looks like a bouquet growing straight out of the ground.  And maybe also a bit because they herald spring, hellebores are probably my favorite perennials in my garden.  

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Seed Starting: multi-cell seed-starting kits versus individual pots

The first time I started seeds on my own, I bought a 60 cell seed starting kit complete with a styrofoam tray that floats in a bottom tray (so you can't over or under water), a clear "biodome" to provide a warmer and more humid environment, and moist little pre-fab plugs I was supposed to simply drop a seed into.  Easy as pie.

Ten days later, the tomatoes were 3 inches high and threatening to pop the biodome off, a few of the eggplant had just started to germinate, and there were no signs of life from any of the peppers.  With the variety of seeds at different stages - some requiring heat, some needing to be moved under the grow lights, and some nearly needing to be potted up already, a multi-cell seed starting kit for the backyard gardener is just not the best method for seed-starting.

Recently, I bought a few 10 cell kits thinking that I could simply put a single variety of seed in separate trays to avoid the problems I had with the 60 cell kit.  The idea of not worrying about watering and the ease of simply dropping a seed into a plug and then plopping that plug in the hole in the tray was so appealing.

The results? Tomatoes germinate reliably and quickly as usual.  Peppers were not reliable and as seen in the photo above, it was a great waste of valuable space under the lights to keep this whole tray with just a few seedlings going.  By the time I consolidated the seedlings that DID germinate by potting them up and labeling them, I could have just done it the right way from the beginning.  And the tomatoes that are looking great?  Well, they're quickly outgrowing the 3/4" plug and will need to be potted up.  The final word on these seed starting kits?  A waste of time and space.  What I would consider almost a gimmick - that I fell for again.

Today, I started a second batch of seedlings using the method that I've used for years prior to being hyponized by the apparent ease of the seed-starting kits.  I also potted up some plants have have outgrown their tiny plugs.  My hands get dirty.  It's a lenthier process.  I make a little bit of a mess on my kitchen table. I have to keep an eye on watering.  I had to go to my local coffee shop to steal my plant markers (and to pick up a latte because this seed-starting process takes more time and energy). But it's simple and effective.  I can recycle the medium-filled pots if seeds don't germinate.  I can move individual pots around that are ready to go under the lights or keep pots that haven't germinated together in a warm environment or on the heat mat.  My seedlings also have a longer period of time in these larger pots before they need to be potted up and most can go directly in the garden.  Am I the only gardener that continually needs to learn you shouldn't try to fix what ain't broke?

Friday, February 14, 2014

Lemon Curd recipe

I had 72 eggs in my refrigerator the other day.  You'd think my father's chickens would slow down a little with the snow and freezing temps, but they're laying those eggs like gangbusters.  With 6 dozen eggs in my fridge, there was little room for anything else!  I quickly solicited the help of my Facebook friends.  Within a few minutes, I had all kinds of ideas that required many eggs such as: quiche, flan, chocolate mousse, cheesecake, Lyonnaise salad, fritatta, creme brulee, pavlova, souffle, okonomiyaki, pound cake, eggnog, crepes, tortilla Espanola, and a couple of suggestions for egging Justin Beiber.  Yes, to all of the above suggestions.  But one recurring suggestion stood out - lemon curd, lemon curd, lemon curd.  With anticipated snow and a probable day off of work, I had all the time in the world to make this easy recipe while canning enough to give away.  I found a few recipes that sounded good, tripled it, and added a couple extra egg yolks in the end because the curd was not thickening as much as I'd liked.  

Lemon Curd -  makes about 3 pints

20 egg yolks
3 cups sugar
about 8 lemons (Meyer lemons preferably) totalling about 1 1/2 cups of juice
3 sticks butter, cut into chunks
zest of all the lemons, finely chopped

In a heavy pot over medium heat, whisk yolks and sugar.  Add lemon juice and stir gently and constantly with a wooden spoon.  Do not boil.  Reduce heat to low to prevent curd from boiling.  Continue to heat and stir for about 15 minutes or until thickened and curd coats the back of a spoon.

Remove from heat.  Add chunks of butter and stir gently until melted.  Pour curd through sieve into large bowl.  Gently stir curd in sieve to work curd through and catch any solids.  Stir in zest.

Ladle into hot jars leaving 1/2 inch headspace and process in a boiling water canner for 20 minutes.  Remove lid and let sit for another 5 minutes.  Remove from canner and do not disturb while cooling.  Lemon curd is shelf stable for only about 2-3 months after processing in a boiling water canner.

Amazing on some blueberry scones for breakfast!

These are gluten free and dairy free - made of an egg, almond meal, coconut flour, coconut milk, honey, and blueberries. 

With this easy recipe and all the other suggestions on my list, these chickens can go crazy with it!

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