...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.


If You Bake It They Will Come

This has been a busy week--Transition Milwaukee meeting on Monday night, food preservation class on Tuesday night, but last night may have been the most fun.  Community Pie--the volunteer group I've been a part of this summer--celebrated the first culmination of our pie baking efforts.  Our goal was to involve Washington Park neighborhood youth in harvesting fruit from both public and private sources throughout the area where it would otherwise go to waste.  We spent a day in July preparing the crusts at the Washington Park Urban Ecology Center and returned last Saturday morning to help a group of enthusiastic young people make the fillings and bake the pies--strawberry/rhubarb, mulberry, blueberry, cherry/blueberry.  Last night we passed out slices of pie for donation at the Washington Park band shell and enjoyed some great blues music while hanging out with a very diverse crowd from the neighborhood.  It was a joy to see people taste mulberry pie for the first time, some even coming back for seconds.  We are planning another round of fruit collecting and pie baking to use the fall's bounty of apples and pears.

Today I harvested our first head of broccoli (my first time growing it) and our first watermelon.  I noticed this melon was splitting on the bottom so it would have ideally ripened just a bit more on the vine, but under the circumstances, I removed it, still fairly sweet.  I ate half of it straight out of the rind.  This practice always reminds me of my brother, who was a watermelon fiend as a young man.  I remember him eating the melon--with a tool we called the "baller," which I now know better to call a parisienne scoop--seeds and all as he inhaled this fruit as he did most of his meals.  I don't know if he really enjoyed the seeds or if he did it just to gross out his sisters, as brothers do.  Like when he would mix a whole batch of chocolate chip cookie dough--potentially salmonella-laced conventional eggs and all--and sit in front of the TV with the bowl and a big spoon.  That was enough to get plenty of squeals out of me and lots of comments about my brother's intelligence from our older sister.

I'm also still tackling the loads of tomatoes coming out of the garden.  This weekend I'll be canning crushed tomatoes.  I'm oven-drying cherry tomatoes as I type.  It's been an absolutely amazing tomato year, as you may have guessed from our hot weather.  These fruits are part of the almost 100 pounds of produce I've weighed from our garden thus far.  That doesn't include all the spinach and salad mix we ate in the spring and early summer nor does it account for the rest of my carrots, turnips, rutabagas, melons, and leeks.  We may double that yield by the first freeze.

As I think I've mentioned, we're really enjoying the eggplants growing in our yard for the first time this season.  I just picked another one today and there were four more sizable ones still hanging on.  From my experience, there are never enough good eggplant recipes out there so I'd like to share one I tried this evening.  I used eggplant, garlic, green beans, and herbs all from our garden.

Spicy Eggplant and Green Bean Curry
Serves 3-4

I've adapted this recipe which was originally printed in Bon Appetit magazine.

Porcelain ginger grater--a handy tool
5 T. coconut oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 T. chopped, peeled fresh ginger (see note)
1 14-16 oz. eggplant, peeled, cut into 2x1/2x1/2-inch sticks
8 oz. green beans, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
1 T. grated lime zest
1 t. Thai green curry paste
1 c. canned unsweetened coconut milk
3 green onions, chopped (or substitute minced chives)
1/4 c. chopped fresh cilantro
2 T. chopped fresh mint
Cooked brown rice or asian noodles

Heat 4 T. coconut oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat.  Add garlic and ginger and stir 30 seconds.  Add eggplant and green beans.  Cook until almost tender, stirring often, about 10 min.  Cover and cook until completely tender, about 3 min. longer.  Transfer vegetables to a bowl.  Add remaining T. oil, zest, and curry paste to same skillet; stir 15 seconds.  Add coconut milk; bring to a boil, whisking until smooth.  Return vegetables to skillet; toss until sauce thickens enough to coat vegetables, about 3 min.  Season with salt.  Mix in onions, cilantro, and mint.  Serve over hot brown rice or noodles.

Note:  In case you don't already know, it's very easy to peel ginger without loosing too much of the "meat" by using the edge of a spoon to scrape away just the outer skin.

Lots of fresh herbs top the finished dish

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