...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.


Clearing the Larder

After one long winter, we're finally getting some spring weather though it's been in small doses.  I suppose it's best to eeeease back into it.  Although we do have some rows of visible veggies popping up in the garden--salad mix, arugula, radishes--the delayed onset of warm weather has given me one last chance to empty my larder from the past season.  The last jar of dilly beans was consumed on Monday, canned tomatoes are long gone (though I still have one gallon freezer bag of our garden toms), onions and potatoes are sprouting on the cellar rack, and dried tomatoes and herbs are dwindling.  Had it not been for the batch of freezer jam I made a few weeks ago from some frozen local berries, we would have been way out of sweet preserves as well.

This time of the year is always challenging for eating locally and I certainly can't say that the majority of our diet is from nearby right now, but we are still managing to find our fair share of local veggies--either  properly stored winter crops like onions and squash from our CSA farmer or hoop house grown greens like lettuce and spinach that they've grown this spring.  It's been a slower week around here so I've had more time to cook beyond my handful of go-to recipes.

Sunday night found us with a couple pounds of regional grass-fed organic ground beef so along with some stuffed Greek Burgers I prepared Greek Potato Salad with a rainbow of potatoes I had in the larder from our CSA farmers.

Rainbow Greek Potato Salad
Serves 6-8

I added sweet potatoes for color and bulk, but one could use just regular potatoes.

2 c. scrubbed and cubed salad potatoes in a variety of color--purple, pink, yellow, white--1-inch pieces
1 c. peeled, cubed sweet potatoes, 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt
1/2 c. lightly packed fresh parsley leaves
2 T. extra virgin olive oil
1 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 c. crumbled feta cheese, divided
1/2 c. chopped kalamata olives
1 c. diced celery
1/2 c. sliced scallions (white and green parts)
1/2 t. salt, or to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Cook cubed potatoes in highly salted water 15-20 min. or until tender; drain and spread on sheet tray; cool to room temp.  Place parsley, oil, vinegar, and half the feta into food processor.  Cover and process until finely chopped.  In large bowl, combine potatoes, olives, celery, scallions, salt and parsley-feta mixture.  Grind pepper on top, toss until combined.  Chill or eat immediately.

Colorful, steamy potatoes alongside an onion, dill pesto, spinach, and feta mixture I stuffed into the burgers.

And last night I finely had the time and patience to try a slightly more tedious recipe I'd had in my "Recipes To Try [Soon]" folder for quite a while.  The beautiful winter spinach was from Springdale Farm and the roasted red peppers were the last of our non-sharp batch from last season.

Spinach Roulade with Red Peppers and Ricotta
Serves 4

The last of our sweet roasted red peppers from 2012
Adapted from The Adaptable Feast.  Despite how this roulade looks as you're rolling and baking it, once you slice into it, there's a great chance it will look beautiful.  If using frozen spinach, thaw completely and drain before using.  Fresh basil is an unseasonal indulgence here.  One could substitute 1/2 the amount of dried, but the flavor of fresh basil really brightens the dish.

1 T. grapeseed oil
2 t. minced garlic
10 oz. chopped spinach (or Swiss Chard), fresh or frozen
4 eggs, separated
3/4 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 t. salt, plus additional
1/2 t. ground nutmeg
1 heaping cup (about 10 oz.) full-fat ricotta cheese
2 T. minced fresh basil
2 T. minced Italian parsley
1/2 t. lemon zest
Freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. roasted red peppers, or jarred, cut into thin strips
4 c. warm marinara sauce (optional)

Preheat oven to 425F.  Line 9-by 13-inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or silicone baking mat, spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Heat oil over medium heat in large saute pan.  Add garlic and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds.  Add spinach and cook until wilted (if fresh) or all liquid has evaporated (if frozen), about 3 min.  Drain spinach in fine-mesh sieve and squeeze to remove excess moisture.  Combine spinach, egg yolks, 1/2 c. Parmesan, 1/2 t. salt, and nutmeg in food processor and pulse until combined.  Put back in sieve and place over large mixing bowl to drain additionally while working with egg whites.

In medium bowl, whip egg whites with pinch of salt until soft peaks form (this can also be done with electric beaters or mixer.)  Pour off any additional liquid from spinach mixture and place mixture in bowl.  Gently fold a quarter of egg whites into spinach mixture, then fold in remaining egg whites.  Spoon mixture gently onto prepared baking sheet and smooth with rubber spatula.  Bake until roulade base feels firm when touched, 12-15 min.  Invert onto a parchment lined cutting board, remove pan and allow the roulade to cool for 30 min.

Pour off any excess liquid from ricotta and discard or save for another use.  Combine ricotta, basil, parsley, lemon zest, and remaining 1/4 c. Parmesan in medium bowl.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Spreading the filling
Reduce oven temp. to 350F.  Carefully peel top layer of parchment paper/silicone baking mat from roulade.  Spread cheese mixture evenly over roulade, leaving 1/2-inch border on sides.  Blot peppers dry with paper towels and distribute evenly over cheese mixture.  With long end facing you, use bottom piece of parchment as guide to tightly roll up roulade as you would a jelly roll.  Carefully place roulade seam side down on baking sheet.  (Unbaked roulade can be stored in fridge, wrapped tightly in parchment paper, for up to 1 day.  Unwrap and allow to sit at room temp. for 40 min. before baking.

Bake roulade until heated through, about 25 min.  Slice into 1/2-inch-thick slices with sharp serrated knife, and serve with warm marinara, if desired.

Didn't turn out too bad
In other homestead news this week, Ben found time to complete and install the passive solar awning for our upstairs.  Our hemp awning finally disintegrated so he wanted to match the lower awning our contractor installed a few years ago.  I'm not sure we'll plant anything to reach the top awning this year, but the bottom awning will hopefully finally serve it's purpose with our choice of prolific, vining morning glories in the window boxes.

B hard at work
Backyard hens are still on the horizon for us, but we got some practice this week as we brought V's classroom chicks home for a day.  It was a slight circus trying to wheel them home via the bike trailer, especially across a busy street, but we made it and they fared well.  They are pretty darn cute even though they poop A LOT!

Carmel, Carmel, Blackie, and Sun.
The yard is really starting to pop this week with buds on the cherry trees, sorrel, chives, leafed out berry bushes, rhubarb.  I do believe spring is finally here!

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