Harvests this week:
butter beans, field peas, the very last green beans (hurrah, we’re tired of picking and canning them at this point and they’re just relentless), cucumbers! and yellow summer squash! (in Mid-Sept!), sweet and hot peppers of all kinds.
Seeded another box of carrots this week. The box was slated to be our early spring carrot box but since the tomatoes were removed and the fall carrot box germination is less than stellar (too much August heat), we decided to go for a second fall box. It’s probably a bit late for a good fall harvest crop; so maybe they’ll have to be overwintered. We also seeded some more head lettuces in the box where heavy rain did a number on our lettuce seedlings.
We looked critically at the watermelon and winter squash plants – they made it through this week, but the upcoming week doesn’t look good for them in our plans. We also reseeded a few lacinato kale seeds, which are being slow getting up and running so far. One of the california wonder pepper plants started wilting all over for no apparent reason; we picked the 4 mostly red peppers and pulled up the plant.
Just yesterday we had noted that we needed rain; today it is raining.
I verbalized (in my brain) the slow-down on the cooking part of this blog this week. In the past 3 years I’ve really refocused on my cooking – I’ve had experience cooking all my life, known some famous chef people, cooked in restaurants, done all manner of things related to it. And I really thought when we started this blog that I’d be contributing regularly to the cooking side of what we do. And while there have been, and will continue to be, recipes that I’m particularly fond of that I want to put up here, most of what I’d have to relay to others isn’t about recipes at all. It’s about techniques. If you know techniques and styles, then recipes start to become superfluous. Cookbooks find themselves at a loss for “yellow squash” recipes; but the truth of the matter is that I know a score of different ways to do a squash – but they’re all simple and should be fairly obvious to almost anyone. Molecular gastronomy isn’t necessary for great food – in fact, my opinion is that you have to be five times the cook to get equally pleasant results from molecular gastronomy as someone else can do by steaming whatever it is you’re cooking.
Some of the fun things I know about cooking, for example, are: a) make your own baking powder (baking soda & cream of tartar only); b) a convection oven (a real one) lets you get textures on food that you otherwise only see in a restaurant; c) bakers in bakeries use a different high quality flour that you can’t buy in your typical grocery store, thereby giving them an edge in baking, d) commercial cake mixes are one of the few processed food products that are superior to what you can typically do on your own due to the wonders of chemistry, e) small amounts of unrefined peanut oil do wonders for a lot of dishes.
I own oodles of cookbooks with recipes (actually, far fewer than I used to, but still oodles). But honestly, I get more from the technique sections of The Art of French Cooking, from Pepin’s “Methode” and “Technique”, from the CIA’s Professional Chef than I do from any number of recipe books.
You want to make great potato salad? Then put in a couple tablespoons of distilled vinegar when you boil the potatoes, then let them cool a bit before cutting them up – the texture will be superior and the potatoes won’t tend to disintegrate on you. Use minimal ingredients and the style of them will shine through much more than if you add many different things.
My “southern potato salad” is pretty much:
White potatoes (not yellow) boiled in water with white distilled vinegar added.
Chop into cubes
Toss with celery seed, salt, pepper.
Add a little chopped dill and sweet pickle relish, a smidgeon of brown mustard, and a bare dollop of mayonnaise (you should need to check twice to be absolutely sure that’s mayonnaise in it).
Serve and eat.
It doesn’t need onions, carrots, or a lot of other things added to it to be good. The best things in life are elegant in their simplicity, from my perspective. So I was thinking about all this in the past week, and decided to include in today’s blog, in case any of the regular readers wonder about the irregularity of things added to the cooking side.
You could change the above potato salad completely by putting in dill instead of celery seed, cracking a bit of rosemary over it, and going with some dijon mustard and no mayonnaise. Or leave out the pickle relishes, mustard and mayonnaise – add some herbs de provence, a crumble of sheep’s milk feta, and use fresh celery. Radically different dishes. And none of this is written down anywhere in my stuff (until now, oh well). It’s all fun to do, and will free you from the tyranny of worrying about “cooking to the recipe” once you discover it.