...Growing, Building, Cooking, Preserving, Crafting...

2006 began our urban homestead when I broke ground on a garden, which now includes perennial fruits, flowers, & many vegetable varieties. We dream of solar panels, keeping bees and hens. Until then we'll continue growing and preserving our own fruits and vegetables, building what we can for our home, cooking from scratch, and crafting most days.


Signs of Spring

I saw Robin Red Breast yesterday!  I couldn't be more excited about spring.  I've been itching to get the compost spread on our raised bed b/c any day now, when the ground thaws, I'd like to get some seeds in--even if it may still snow again.  I examined the outdoor compost turner yesterday and found that the rotting matter on top wasn't extremely broken down.  This is usually the case with our compost.  Ideally, we should have two compost turners outside--a rotation of one that is actively being filled and the other that's decomposing without disruption.  Currently the outdoor one sits idle in the winter, but whatever was added last in the fall doesn't really break down b/c there's not as much heat in the winter to speed the process.  In fact, I emptied what I could yesterday, mostly from around the circumference. It reminds me of my mom always telling us kids to eat the soup from the outside of the bowl first where it was coolest.  There's a similar, although opposite, idea here; the middle was still frozen.   So I temporarily gave up.  What I did spread on the garden, the slightly undecomposed material, will get turned into the soil once the ground has thawed.  Then I will most likely add more topsoil so the organic matter can continue to break down underneath it all and I don't have to look at chipmunks and squirrels rummaging through egg shells and avocado skins (though they're bound to turn them up anyway.)  When I finished with my work I went inside and said to Ben, "I have good news and bad news.  The good news is that I found the garlic press cleaner, the bad news is that it was in the compost bin."  We'd been missing this goofy piece of plastic for months, having to clean out the essential garlic press with a toothpick.  We use this kitchen tool often so we agreed that we'd gladly sanitize/sterilize the cleaning tool and put it back to use.  Last year I found our sink's drain basket in the compost.  It's like a little treasure hunt each spring.  What will next season hold?  This could become a running joke anytime something goes missing around here.

Hope I haven't spoiled your appetite because I want to share a recipe I've adapted.  I made this last week using cellared squash and carrots, and preserved tomato puree and realized what a great way it would be to preserve squash, carrots, and tomatoes when their ripeness briefly intersects in late summer, early fall.  I don't have a canning recipe developed quite yet.  I'm sure one could safely pressure can it, but I like to work with the hot water bath canner so I will have to experiment with a safe pH level this summer and come up with a recipe and processing time.  Till then you could certainly freeze this in freezer grade bags or containers.

Moroccan Winter Squash and Carrot Pasta Sauce
Serves 4-6

2 T. grapeseed oil
1 c. chopped onion
3 garlic cloves, minced
2 t. paprika
1 t. salt
1/2 t. ground black pepper
1/2 t. ground coriander
1/2 t. ground cumin
1/2 t. turmeric
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/8 t. ground cayenne pepper
Pinch of saffron
1 c. water
1 lb. canned or frozen tomatoes (or tomato puree), drained/thawed
2 T. lemon juice
3 c. cubed peeled winter squash (butternut, kabocha, hubbard, acorn, etc.)
2 c. peeled chopped carrots

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium heat.  Add onion; saute until soft, stirring often, about 5 min.  Add garlic; stir 1 min.  Mix in paprika and next 8 ingredients.  Add 1 c. water, tomatoes, and lemon juice.  Bring to a boil.  Add squash and carrots.  Cover and simmer over medium-high heat until vegetables are very tender, stirring occasionally, about 20 min.  Puree in a blender and return to saucepan.  Season to taste.

Note:  This is great over pasta, but can also be used as an interesting pizza sauce.  Get creative with the toppings!

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