Thursday, June 20, 2013

Garden Update (6.19.13)

Update time!

We were out of town from Thursday morning through Monday afternoon last week, and I watered minutes before we left, but then it (finally) got hot in Chicago, so... the peas suffered a little. They seem to be recovering nicely.


First tomato sighting!


Thai chile blossoms and cilantro doing great!


Lots and lots of baby red bell peppers:


Green beans, cherry tomatoes, zucchini:


A little sprouty part inside the green beans; not sure what it will look like in a week, but I suspect this is the part where the beans will come out:


Raspberries aplenty, and annuals looking as glorious as always!




Your turn! What's growing?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Fresh and Frugal: Skirt Steak with Chimichurri

Skirt steak with chimichurri |

My parents were in town last week, and I wanted to treat them to some great food! During my regular market trip, I stopped by the Mint Creek Farm stall to check out their selection and prices. I had ribeye on the brain, but at $29/pound, it was outside my price range for four people on a regular weeknight. Sustainably-raised beef is pricey. So how can a steak-lover answer a craving without bombing their budget? Two ways: choose a cheaper cut, and shrink portion sizes. Scanning the list, I decided on just under a pound of skirt steak.

What's wrong with cheap meat? First of all, meat can be bought so cheaply at your local supermarket because of how it's raised: in concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs). Animals are packed very tightly into these facilities, with barely any room to move, and are fed a diet of mostly grain. These conditions lead the animals to a much higher-than-normal susceptibility to disease and infection, and so farmers routinely mix antibiotics into their feed. Aside from the fact that this is a sad life for animals, these practices are also detrimental both to the environment and to the nutritional quality of the meat. For a deeper look into these issues, I highly recommend In Defense of Food and The Omnivore's Dilemma, both by Michael Pollan, and Food Matters, by Mark Bittman.

Chimichurri sauce |

Tips for successfully serving smaller portions:

Don't overcook. Always important, but especially so with grass-fed meats, which are leaner and slightly tougher than their conventionally raised counterparts.

Season well. With salt and pepper, of course, but also with herbs, spices, butter, or sauces. Depending on the cut and preparation, adding something extra can really highlight the unique deliciousness of the meat.

Serve great sides, and lots of 'em. Nothing would be worse than getting to the end of your meal and worrying that your guests are still hungry!

Skirt steak with chimichurri |

I used this recipe for chimichurri from the new Bon Appetit Grilling Book (which would be a GREAT Father's Day gift if you don't already have one!), and since we are without a grill, I arranged the steak on a rack set on a baking sheet, sprinkled it with salt and pepper, and broiled it on high for 2 minutes on each side. It was perfect.

Garden Update (6.12.13)

This week, I got an indoor/outdoor rug and a couple of patio chairs for the roof, and I've been taking my morning coffee up there. Anne sits on the rug, and I sip my coffee, and it is completely worth the three flights of stairs I have to climb to get there.

Garden 6.12.13 |

Garden 6.12.13 |

This morning I was looking at the tall, tall pea plants, laden with peas and flowers, and thinking about what to do with those pots when the peas succumb to the summer heat in a few weeks. I'm really going to miss those leafy green vines! They're so pretty.

Garden 6.12.13 |

Garden 6.12.13 |

Gardening is like tandem painting with God. I do a little work, a little planting, watering, thinning, fertilizing. Then I leave for a day or two and come back up to see what my Partner has added to my work. He provides the sunshine, rain, and all of the magic that happens when plants grow and bloom and flourish. The garden never stops changing, and needing to be changed.

Garden 6.12.13 |

Garden 6.12.13 |

Garden 6.12.13 |

When your garden is on the roof and there's no hose up there, you have to lug watering cans up the stairs (or hope it rains a lot). I was very excited to see a big rain storm in the forecast for this afternoon and evening, until I noticed another little detail: possible damaging hail. Pretty frustrating, but I'm feeling thankful for meteorologists (and my friend who alerted me of the hail warning!). All the plants are safely in the stairwell until the threat is past. I'm hoping the hail dies down before the rain; I would gladly drag all those babies out in a downpour if I thought they'd get a good soak without my having to bring them water. Plus... playing out in the rain is fun.

Garden 6.12.13 |

Garden 6.12.13 |

Garden 6.12.13 |

Garden 6.12.13 |

Friday, June 7, 2013

7 Quick Takes: Rhubarb Roundup

Linking up with Jen this lovely Friday with my favorite favorite favorite things to do with rhubarb! Go forth into the kitchen while the rhubarb's still here!

A gorgeous shot of a sink full o' rhubarb from ksbuehler on Flickr.

1. Rhubarb Syrup! I just made a batch of this, and added a cup of fresh raspberries to the rhubarb while it cooked. Completely amazing. I see some raspberry-rhubarb gin and tonics in my future.

Spring 2012 255

2. Honeyed Rhubarb Cobbler. Take it to a potluck!

3. Roasted rhubarb with white wine and vanilla bean. Perfect on ice cream or stirred into plain yogurt.

4. Overnight guests? Make them this Baked Rhubarb Oatmeal and they'll never want to leave.

Baked Rhubarb Oatmeal |

5. Rhubarb Streusel Muffins. (Hey Dad! Bebop-a-rebop!)

6. Strawberry Rhubarb Crostata. When you're not in the mood to make a whole pie.

7. Rhubarb Cornmeal Upside-Down Cake.

I'll be back next week with one more rhubarb recipe for you! Have a fantastic weekend!

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Garden Update (6.5.13)

The weather's been cooler, so things don't seem to be happening as fast, but on the upside, I've still barely had to water, and I bet the rhubarb season is going to be long this year. There are 4 pounds of rhubarb in my kitchen right now, just waiting to be turned into delicious treats. Here are this week's developments:

Tiny baby bell pepper!
Mini red bell pepper 6.5.2013 |

Green beans:
Green beans 6.5.2013 |

Zucchini | 6.5.2013 |

Tomato 6.5.2013 |

Carrots 6.5.2013 |

Sugar Snap Peas, with PEAS on them:
Sugar snap peas 6.5.2013 |

What about you?

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Market Day (6.1.13)

Another beautiful day at the market with my girl this morning! We hopped right out of bed, got ready, and walked out to the bus stop (little detour to Starbucks on the way). We got there around 7:45, and it was already hoppin'! Strawberries are here! We had a little picnic breakfast of rhubarb muffin and fresh strawberries. Cool breeze, warm sun, soft grass, sweet strawberries. Heaven.

Farmers' Market 6.1.13

Farmers' Market 6.1.13

Farmers' Market 6.1.13

She grabbed a strawberry and squished it in her tiny little paw; see the strawberry juice running down her arm? That's my girl.

Here's what we got, clockwise from the top left:

Farmers' Market 6.1.13

Fingerling potatoes: $4.50
Baby kale: $4
Arugula: $4
Rhubarb (2#): $8
Spring onions: $3
Lettuce: $5
.8 lbs skirt steak: $15
French breakfast radishes: $3
Peonies (3): $10
Strawberries (3 pints): $15
Asparagus: $3

Baked goods, not pictured:
Bread: $6
Rhubarb muffin: $3
Rhubarb focaccia: $3

Total: $86.50

Menu ideas:

Strawberry purée for Anne
Broiled skirt steak and pan-roasted potatoes
Lots of salad
Toast with butter and radishes
Rhubarb breakfast cake

What about you? Did you start your weekend at the market?

P.S. this lettuce is bigger than my head. A lot bigger.

Farmers' Market 6.1.13