21 May 2010

Playing with food: Lettuce fresh from the garden

I made a salad today that incorporated lettuce grown in my container garden. The lettuce has sprouted so fast and beautifully that I had to harvest my first bunch or risk crowding the pot. I could not believe how flavorful the leaves were. I love salads, but I don't think of lettuce (esp. leaf lettuce) as particularly tasty. But these leaves were rich and complex - even better than lettuce purchased at the farmer's market. I'm a complete convert to eating foods picked seconds before.

In addition to yummy leaf lettuce, I added chickpeas, artichokes (water-packed), feta cheese, and kalamata olive. I also whipped up a tasty vinaigrette by blending a shallot clove, balsamic vinegar, good-quality olive oil, and a bit of Dijon mustard.

above: lettuce the day before it was picked (it was even lusher the following day)

19 May 2010

Randomness: New blog title - coming soon....

As I anticipated, I now hate the title of this blog, but I'm not very good at coming up with clever titles. So, I'm asking for help. If you have any ideas, please email me or leave a comment.

But first, some context. In my teens and early twenties, I felt cooking, gardening, etc. were anti-feminist, so I refused to participate in any of the "domestic arts." I was naive, of course; and it was not until I began reading about sustainable farming and fair food practices, and local and slow food movements, that I wanted to have a closer (and more ethical) relationship with my food. The decorating bits thrown into this blog stem from my love of accumulating crap collecting.

So, for blog titles, I've been playing with the idea of "Domesticated" or "Attempts at Domesticity." But I want to make sure I pick a title I love, so I don't have to change it again. Therefore, your suggestions are much appreciated

Playing with Food: Shepherdess pie

I somewhat deconstructed Veganomicon's shepherdess pie, which is already a deconstructed shepherd's pie (Veganomicon: The Ultimate Vegan Cookbook). Basically, the tempeh (a substitute for the ground beef of the traditional recipe) is placed on top of a bed of mashed potatoes. Sauteed mushrooms and onions, and frozen corn and peas, make up the veggie portion.

The potatoes themselves are so yummy, even though they lack the butter and milk of conventionally mashed potatoes. Grapeseed oil takes the place of the butter, and soy milk or creamer take the place of the milk. I was skeptical the first time I veganized mashed potatoes, but you can't even tell the difference!

09 May 2010

Signs of Plant Life: First attempts

My container garden is starting to show signs of life. My transplants are still alive and most of the seeds are beginning to sprout. I'm a bit worried that most won't make it because I still have little idea about what I'm doing. For example, I drilled holes into inexpensive buckets, packed them with potting soil, and water them daily. However, I didn't learn until after finishing my planting that you should add rocks, pot shards, or even styrofoam pellets to the base of each pot to prevent the holes from clogging up. So, yesterday I bought a strawberry plant at Urban Jungle - an awesome new garden store in South Philly - and filled it with leftover packing styrofoam, after the instructions listed on my new blog obsession, Plants on Deck.

I'm reading as much as I can about container gardening, and even attended an urban gardening workshop. Hopefully, these efforts will pay off. I can't believe how many times a day I go onto my back patio and scrutinize my plants! I also ordered a thousand worms so I can begin vermicomposting.

(above) totes and cheap plastic planters house potatoes, cilantro, onions, carrots, tomatoes, leaf lettuce and mesculun - gray bucket in the rear holds compost

(above): tomato seedlings on the right and a planter filled with parsley, oregano, and thyme

(above): my brand new strawberry plant on the left, garlic (already sprouting) on the right

(above) the tiny beginning of carrots and mesculun

Playing with Food: Dosa heaven

I love Indian food. It's probably my favorite cuisine. So, when I found a recipe in Gourmet magazine for a dosa filled with chickpeas and potatoes, I knew I had to try it.

I did not included the coconut, jalapeno, or cinnamon - mostly because I'm not a fan of the latter, and I didn't have the former two ingredients on hand. My finished dosa was a bit softer than I would have liked, so I used it as a "bed" for the filling rather than as a wrap. I'm not sure how I messed up the dosa itself - perhaps I inadvertently added too much water. Even so, it was delicious and really easy to make.

What I really want to make successfully is chana masala, which is probably my favorite meal. I have tried about six recipes, and none came out to my satisfaction. I'm trying to replicate the chana masala served at Pittsburgh's India Garden, since I haven't found a decent chana masala here in Philly (10 restaurants an counting). If you have any ideas for a fabulous recipe, please share!