Too many sprouts

Here's the thing: One day you have no sprouts, the next day you have so many that you're going, "Here, kitty, kitty...nom, nom!"

Having gone all vegan, I've read that living foods--sprouts--are particularly beneficial. (Though once they hit the hydrochloric acid swirling around in your tummy, no doubt, all bets are off as far as health benefits.) So I ran off to my favorite source for all things herbaceous (Mountain Rose Herbs) and loaded up on sprouting seeds and a hemp sprouting bag, developed by a guy who calls himself, Sproutman. I'll just leave it there. Sproutman.

It's all very easy. You water them. Drain them. Keep them in the dark for a time. Give 'em a dose of sunlight, pumping them up with chlorophyll and before you know it you

The germinating seeds pictured above in the little bag are radish sprouts, the ones in the jar are red clover. What in the world are we going to do with them?

Ecce Spotholders!

A good pal, who just moved in to a new-to-her Midcentury Modern, has a birthday. The house is being done up in shades of gray with splashes of Modernist art and carefully selected High Modern furnishings. The kitchen accents? Lime green and orange.

I plan to post a pattern--for knit and crochet versions--but may sell it to benefit a local food equity program. Denverites tend to be passionate gardeners, in spite of (maybe because of!) our short growing season. And there are wonderful organizations who transform parking lots into garden plots.

As the crab apple trees display their dramatic pale-pink toppers and the tulips display their pretty dresses, it seems appropriate to help spread some fertilizer in those neighborhoods where access to a convenient grocery store is limited.

Plus they make quick housewarming gifts!


Liberal medicinal herb laws notwithstanding, the above baggies contain basil pesto. Really.

Though we could be hiding anything in our tangled garden at this point. The black cherry tomato plant overwhelms and the herbs have gotten all leggy and flower-topped, which makes for happy bees and not-so-tender leaves. Temps threaten to graze 90 today but inevitably we'll get a killing frost, and the herbs, tough as they are, will be toast.

Hence the wrestling with the Cuisinart. Fresh basil, costing what it does in the dead of winter, well, an hour or two in the kitchen is a small price to pay for some easy weeknight dinners come January.

Feeling in a bit of a pesto rut, I consulted Bittman for inspiration. I love how he offers loose formulas and ideas not dogma. His pages on pesto, for example, include notes on basil, dill, mint, parsley, arugala and cilantro varieties and how to serve. More on some of these other condiments later.

Back to the basil at hand. Classic Genovese Pesto, he writes, is made with a mortar and pestle. I'm sure it's divine. I'm sure it's superior, but I registered for a Cuisinart for a reason. Moving right along. 

He also writes that one needn't add cheese to the mix, plus his ratio of basil to nuts seemed high but intriguing.

With a food processor there is no labor to pesto, except for processing the vegetable matter. The whole mess has to be washed and the leaves and flowers stripped from their woody stems, a dreary, painstaking chore. Then whirrrrrrr and it's done.

The result? About a cup and a half. 

And he was right about the nuts.

Instructions follow:

Wash and stem about four cups basil leaves.

Sautee 2 cloves garlic in a dollop of olive oil.

Toss a healthy handful of walnuts into the food processor.

Add 1/4 cup to 1/2 cup olive oil.

Toss everything in the food processor with a good pinch of salt.

Grind up. Taste. Adjust seasoning. Serve with fresh pasta.


Pie Eyed

The apple tree has been a source of great bounty--and repetitive stress--this season. From our tree friends and neighbors have made jam, sauce and dehydrated slivers, and we've churned out numerous cakes, pies, crumbles and breads.

(My brother had me in stitches when he referred to my tragic, dry-as-dust apple cake as "pandowdy," an appellation that sent us to the Internet and the discovery that the apple crisp-cobbler category contains delights, variously named, pandowdy, Brown Betty, slump, buckle, sonker and grunt, among others. The  noun, "grunt," had us laughing uproariously. "Remember what grandma called grunt?" I asked. If you come from Southern Indiana--or tasted my "pandowdy," you'll realize my brother and I never matured past age 12.)

Still the apples persist. Mitch and I have composted as many as we can and put the grade A's to good use, but a quantity, nonetheless, have gone to the landfill, where they are contributing to the global carbon load. This weekend we made a last stand, Mitch picking the pinkest, fattest fruit and me rendering them into pie--four in all--plus a crumble.

You'll notice I cheated--Kroger, transfat-infested shells as a cradle for our organic apples. But the topping is healthy-ish: Oatmeal, walnuts, butter, brown sugar and maple syrup. A quick, tasty topping for girls-on-the-go beset with too many apples.


Garden report

Lethargy and a big orange cat on my lap prevent me from shooting this morning, but picture the usual: Really big zucchini, really tiny tomatoes.

Like most high altitude farmers, we're in the waning days of our garden. The broccoli continues to amaze; it is the brassica that keeps on giving. After initially putting forth six large bouquets, our six plants weekly push out enough tender florets for dinner. And there's no end in sight. We will definitely repeat.

After fighting back from a bout of powerdery mildew, our zucchini has been a steady producer. Instead of showering us with more squash than is manageable, it's been languidly proferring food stuff, one dirigible-sized vegetable after the other. We've feasted on zucchini casserole, zucchini lasagna, zucchini bread, stir fry and quiche. It pretty much goes into everything.

We are also the happy parents of seven winter squash of questionnable identity. Beautifully striped like delicata, they are turban-shaped like the buttercups. We have no idea. They're curing in the basement, the mother plant succumbing to the aforementioned powdery mildew.

The Black Cherry tomato has been a champ, if a bit invasive. A garden hog if ever there was one. The Purple Cherokee persists in disappointing, laden as it is with heavy, green fruit. The Big Boy, reliable but unimpressive. Our sweet pepper, which gave us two brilliant red darlings, has late in the game sprouted seven offspring. We're hoping for a bit of speedy ripening but not holding onto our eyelashes.

And, the herbs? Brilliant as always. This weekend, there will be pesto, bags of it, pasley, sage and basil, stacked in the freezer for a taste of summer all winter long.

Is it time for lunch, yet?

The tomato crop

We understand now why heirloom tomatoes became heirloom. While the more modern cultivars stay in their cages like proper plants, the heirlooms sprawl onto the sidewalk and into the herbs, making themselves completely comfortable like a messy in-law come to stay.

It's not like we don't like the idea of the old vines (and we're quite fond of the offspring), but here in the city where garden space comes at a premium, the heirlooms, well, there's nothing to be said except, they're piggish about real estate.

Behold the above monster. We've had our sights on it for some time. (It's a Cherokee Purple, incidently.) I'm thinking it deserves a good stuffing.


Aphids: Ahimsa loses again

A few weeks ago, I yanked all but one of my brussels sprouts from the garden because of aphids--tiny, translucent succubi that destroy leaves and sap plants of their nutrients. Aphids favor cruciferous vegetables, and worried about the health of the nearby broccoli I wiped out this favorite of all crops except for one plant.

Located on the far western side of the garden, this babied sprout continues to struggle. Every two or three days I blast its leaves with water happily sending large colonies of bugs to a sodden grave. I shudder to think of the karmic debt, but this is about potential, about a dream of an autumnal meal of carmelized, roasted sprouts served alongside root vegetables and savory chicken.

Cheryl, who has a deep appreciation for the natural world beyond the culinary, asked if we had ants. We do, legions of them.

"Sweep them away," she said.

My eyes widened. And incur more karmic wrath?

Aphids, it turns out, have made an unholy alliance with ants, who lull and protect and carry them to favored food sources in exchange for their sweet excretions. Ants will even "milk" the bugs, stroking them with their antennae, until the aphids release these sugary juices.

Nature's disgusting.

"Sweep them away," she shrugged.

OK ants, make my day.

(I'm going to hell.)



Broccoli rave and rant

All you people in the fecund, woody corridors of the East and Midwest have no idea of the toe-tapping, teeth-grinding and hand-wringing Mile Highers suffer waiting for their gardens to produce. All that moist air and black earth, those glistening hot nights; why you've been pulling peas out of your planters since March, haven't you?

Go look at Norma's post. I'll wait. See those tubs of blueberries? Tubs. Of. Blueberries. My blueberry bush looks like it's been to Mt. Sinai and back and they're flagrantly tossing these lapis gems on cereal. You know where we get blueberries in Colorado? Costco. And they taste like gunshot.

Know what's coming up here? Broccoli. That bright green cruciferous favorite of George H.W. Bush, flowering cabbages, basketfuls of bitter, tough florets left too long on the stalk. And it's time for dinner.

Mark Bittman came to the rescue (not in the flesh, though that would have been nice had he offered to cook). His aid came in the form of How to Cook Everything Vegetarian, which I'm quite liking for its informal toss-this-or-that-in approach. Turn to the aparagus gratin recipe. A riffer, Bittman offers recommendations for other gratins, including a variation for broccoli with pesto, breadcrumbs and parmesan cheese.

I did this on stovetop so as not to heat the house by firing the oven.

Broccoli Gratin by way of Bittman

Sautee broccoli in garlic and olive oil until tender.

Add 1/2 to 3/4 cup pesto  (I did a simple pesto from walnuts, basil, olive oil and salt)

Top with 1/2 cup prepared breadcrumbs (Bittman says, "homemade," whatever)

and 1 cup grated parmesan cheese.

Cover until cheese melts and broccoli is heated through.

You'll like it. Tastes a lot better than it sounds.

Grazie mille, Mark.





Local beet, goat cheese and arugala salad

Imagine that a beautifully styled photograph of roasted beet salad occupies this spot. The cordovan-colored roots are glistening with vinaigrette and sitting atop a bed of bright, perky baby greens. Dollops of creamy white goat cheese and a handful of woody pecans punctuate the image. Everything about this shot says "languid, lazy summer" meal.

So here's reality.

I spent 30 minutes peeling and chopping the beets afterwhich I boiled them in the microwave. This resulted in a red sea of a mess when a tsunami of pink water flooded turntable. Cleaning of the microwave ensued. Eventually I drained the beets, threw them in a roasting basket and carried them out to the grill, trailing rose-colored juice through the back of the house. Then there was the chopping and roasting and cooling of pecans. The whisking and amending of the vinaigrette (a tablespoon of chopped shallot and a bit of dijon added necessary depth and tang.) The retrieving and cooling of the beets (thank goodness for big freezers). The tossing of the salad. The serving to self and husband.

It was delicious. But it was anything but languid and beautiful.

The recipe follows:

3 large beets, peeled and cubed

3 Tbs olive oil

1 Tbs minced shallot

1 tsp dijon mustard

1/4 cup rice vinegar

2 Tbs sherry vinegar

salt and fresh-ground black pepper to taste

4 oz baby arugula leaves

1/2 cup chopped, toasted pecans

2 oz goat cheese, crumbled


Cover beets with water in a microwaveable dish. Nuke until soft. Drain. Then roast on grill in a grill basket with a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper until slightly browned. Cool. Make vinaigrette from mixing the next six ingredients. Toss everything in a large bowl.

Put cold compress on forehead.

Local, non-vegan, delicious

We spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about food here at Nake-id Knits and have recently stumbled on some local products and resources that are quickly becoming regulars.

1. Noosa Yoghurt--This is an Australian-style yoghurt from a Boulder company. The. Best. Yoghurt. We've. Ever. Had. Creamy, with the perfect mix of sweet and sour. Noosa isn't so cheap or low-fat. But, wow. Put it in a bowl and call it dessert.

2. Morning Fresh Dairy Farm--Milk is milk, right? Not so much. This moo juice from Fort Collins tastes like fresh, clean...milk. Even the skim. We're converts.

3. Ranch Foods Direct Beef--Local, hormone-free, anti-biotic free, this pasture-raised, grain-finished meat is a revelation.

4. Tea Dojo--Four words: Coconut Creme White Tea.

Where to buy? The Denver Indoor Farmer's Market, In Season, and other local markets.