You are currently browsing the monthly archive for September 2012.

Let me take a break from bringing you recipes from my garden, to tell you about a neat way to grow plants when you have very little outdoor space. I recently came across this post and I was hooked.

I live in a town house and have a very tiny garden. While I have plants from summer taking up most of that space I need to start seeds to harvest lettuce and other greens in the coming months. With inspiration from the  Gardening Services Auckland site, I made my hanging wall garden with gutter planters.

Here is a step by step of how I put it together.

Buy a length or two of gutter or as they call it in NZ, spout. I bought the lightest in the store which was made from aluminum and it came in 10‘lengths. Depending on how many pieces you are going to cut it, buy that many pairs of end caps to seal the sides.

Take a vehicle that will fit the gutter as they don’t cut metal in the home improvement store. Luckily I was helped by a gentleman in the parking lot. I was trying to fit the gutter in my small car but it was sticking out on both ends by more than a foot. He came over and offered to help me and asked me to put the back seat down so one end of the gutter could be fit into the trunk of the car. I told him Oh! no my back seat doesn’t go down, because I only had the car for nine years and that had never happened before. He very sweetly asked if he could show me how it was done. In one click he pressed a button which I swear wasn’t there before and down went my back seat and in went the gutter!

Anyways…

I cut the gutter into 2’lengths.  As you can tell by now other than wanting to create a hanging wall garden I had no plans on how to go about it. Everything I did was on the fly. I drilled holes for drainage and a couple more at the end to run a wire through to hang from my fence. I had plastic glitter wire from a past craft project which I ran through the outermost holes and hung the gutter by looping it through a lattice trim on my fence.      

                                                   

Then this happened. The trench did not stay up to be able to hold soil.

Luckily the front top part of the gutter [this is the first I am getting up close and personal with a gutter] actually has a lip which is folded over creating a gap. I threaded some wire through this and pulled the gutter and lifted it and tied the wire to the top of the fence. This also gave some central support to the system.

I fit the end caps, Voila! a nice hanging trench. 

I laid an inch or so of mulch to cover the drainage hole instead of the standard rocks as it might make the whole contraption too heavy. Then I filled it with soil and voila a soil bed is ready. 

I am also planning to grow my winter greens in these planters, at least some of them till my garden patch becomes available. I still have a patch of Okra, another patch of basil, peppers and roselle [gongura] and another patch where I am supporting one cucumber plant on several tomato plants! Once I pick the last of my cukes and the okra are pulled out I’ll be able to grow lettuce in those patches. In the meantime the seedlings will be getting ready in these gutter planters. Hopefully it will work out as I am trying this for the first time. I can’t tell you how excited I am to have come across this idea. I’ll post pictures when I have something decent sized growing in the trenches.

Would love to hear from you if you attempt this. The way I put it together may not work for you. Please be careful as this will get heavy when the soil is watered, so be mindful of how you hang it.

Thanks for dropping by

Best, S.

The last few days I have been cooking from my garden. Yesterday I made chimichurri with a mélange of herbs. Today I’ll share a couple of simple ideas on how to use the condiment. Before that let me show off my garden beauties once again.

A good looking bunch, right? The cantaloupe was a disappointment though. It wasn’t very sweet. We looked at each other as we ate it, not wanting to be the first to say ‘our cantaloupe’ didn’t have much flavor. Drizzled some chimichurri sauce, sprinkled some S & P and the melon was transformed.

Isn’t it a neat idea to skewer melons?  Not mine though, something I came across while visiting China.

Here is another way to use chimichurri, flavor brown rice and edamame or rice and tofu with chimichurri for a simple salad meal.

Thanks for dropping by.

Best, S.

 

Herb sauce/condiment made with thai peppers and herbs from my garden.

Many people I know grow at least a couple of different herbs. As window decoration. It gives them great joy to nurture. Some even grow herbs in beautiful containers in their patio. As patio decoration. These are normal people [read, not bloggers or food obsessed people] who go about their daily lives watering their pots and window sill gardens till winter arrives and the herbs die their seasonal death. Without ever having graced any dish.

True story as told to me by garden club members to whom I gave a talk a while ago! The topic, how to include herbs in everyday life. Here is a simple idea for anyone who grows herbs. It doesn’t matter if you have one or two or several herbs growing. You can always make chimichurri. It is basically a parsley sauce from Argentina which is popular throughout  South America. The other components are garlic, vinegar, oil, salt, and red pepper flakes.

You can substitute parsley with any or several herbs that you have growing. Use good quality ingredients as this is fresh sauce.

Here is my version from what is growing in my garden.

Chimichurri

1/4 cup red wine vinegar

1/4 cup olive oil

1/2 cup mixed herbs [I used mint, oregano, basil, thyme and garlic chives, alas no parsley]

1 Thai pepper

Salt to taste

I skipped the garlic as I always do, but please add as per your taste.

Chop all the herbs, add it to the oil and vinegar and season.

This sauce is very versatile. It makes an excellent salad dressing.Tomorrow, some very interesting ways to use chimichuuri.

Hope you’ll put your garden herbs to good use.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

Cooking with end of summer tomatoes and garden herbs.

At this time of the year in the North East home gardeners are probably pulling out their tomato plants. The fruits are getting smaller, there are worm holes in them and the plant is an eye sore. I would say hold off a little bit more to give the remaining green tomatoes a chance to get a little bit bigger. I’ll share a green tomato recipe later. For now, what to do with the small misshapen, flavorless orange-red tomatoes? How about cooking them with some insipid grits? Two negatives make a positive, right? 

I would hear over and over again my friends say their single most hated dish was grits. I bought some to check it out. The instructions were to practically cook it in butter and smother with cheese. That sounded like a one note dish. I love carbs so I knew I was going to love grits. It was so easy to think of flavoring it with grilled tomatoes, herbs and lots, I mean lots of salt. That is how I like it and this South Indian girl eats far more grits than any Southern girl, I am sure of it!

There is no recipe as such for the tomato grits. Prepare grits according to package instructions [In just plain water, no butter please]. Slice or cut tomatoes in half and arrange in a baking dish. Drizzle a good quality oil,  and broil on high till brown spots appear on the tomatoes. You can then turn the tomatoes over and blister on the other side though I skip this step most of the time, like today. Plate the grits, drizzle some olive oil, add the broiled tomatoes, garnish with basil and other herbs of your choice. Salt liberally. Add pepper, pepper flakes or dashes of hot sauce, whatever  you prefer and enjoy. You won’t be a hater anymore!

Food Notes.

  • You can make this totally fat-free. Broiling tomatoes releases a lot of  juices which is very syrupy and mimicks the texture of oil. No need to drizzle oil on the grits either. It doesn’t take away from the taste as the broiled tomatoes are so flavorful.
  • I added basil, chives and thyme as a garnish to my grits.
  • I only use a glass, ceramic dish for broiling/grilling the tomatoes so I can confidentally consume the run offs. Can’t say the same if I were to use a regular metal sheet pan.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

Cooking with white eggplants and onions from my garden.

I enjoyed growing this variety of eggplant in my garden. It was a visual delight, growing in elegant white clusters amidst beautiful star pointed purple flowers. It was also surprisingly mild and sweet tasting.

After I came back from my trip towards end of summer, I was only able to harvest a few eggplants, not enough to make a substantial dish for the whole family. So I decided to stretch the vegetable by adding it to rice to make an Indian rice dish called Vangi Baath or Eggplant Rice. This is traditionally made in western and southern parts of India.

The vegetable is cooked with a premade spice powder and then added to rice to make a less fussy version of a pilaf.

Vangi Baath or Eggplant Pilaf

Cook 3-4 cups of white rice and set aside.

For the spice powder

½ tsp oil

1 tbsp yellow split peas [Chana Dal]

2  tbsp coriander seeds

1 tbsp cumin seeds

5-6 whole dried Red Indian chilies

Warm a small pan with oil. Add the split peas and coriander, stir continuously till fragrant and the split peas are toasted to a light brown hue. Next add the cumin and red chilies and toast for a few seconds. Turn the stove off, cool and grind the spices to a fine powder.

To prepare the vegetable

3 tbsp oil or ghee

1 tsp  whole mustard seeds

A few curry leaves

2 cups diced eggplant

1 cup diced onions

Salt to taste

A small amount of tamarind soaked in a 1/4 cup of hot water [see pic]. When cool, squeeze the tamarind to extract the pulp. Discard the remnant fibres.

Soak the diced eggplant in water for ten minutes to leech out any bitterness, then drain.

Warm oil in a pan, add the mustard seeds and let it pop, add the curry leaves.

Sauté the drained eggplant and onions till the eggplant is almost cooked, about 12-15 minutes.

Add salt, the tamarind extract and 1-2 tablespoon of spice powder and cook for a minute.

Putting it together

Spread 3-4 cups of rice on a wide plate. Add the cooked eggplant to the rice and gently mix so the rice doesn’t clump together. Adjust for salt, put in a dish and serve, with raita and papad or potato chips.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

Cooking with Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onions and Thai Chilies from my garden. 

I asked my dear friend Saroj while we were both living in London, to teach me a dish from her native Orissa. She rummaged through my vegetable crisper, pulled out an eggplant and a tomato, handed it to me and asked me to boil it while she looked for other ingredients. How about you teach me something else I said with trepidation at the thought of a soggy, collapsed eggplant. I was already planning a backup lunch if things didn’t work out. Boy was I wrong! This eggplant dish is one of my faves and I have become its ambassador, recommending it to anyone who asks me for a simple healthy suggestion for a side.

Method

You simply boil or steam the eggplant, tomato and potato. Peel the potatoes, then mash everybody else together skin and all. Finely chop a medium onion, a chili pepper or two and a handful of cilantro leaves. Chop this garnish really fine as you don’t want to bite into chunky pieces of raw onion or chili. Mix the garnish into the mash. Add salt to taste and squeeze the juice of ½ a small lemon.

Please take note, even though this is not a sophisticated dish, follow the proportions indicated in the picture. Too many tomatoes will make it runny and too many eggplants will make it very earthy.

The eggplant in this dish is normally grilled whole over a flame, but in London neither of us had a gas stove so she adapted the recipe to include steamed/ boiled eggplant. Why bother with all the bits of flying eggplant skin while grilling or messing with an oven to roast the eggplant when it works so well this way.

It doesn’t take much effort to make this, it is fat free and tastes great. Hope you will try this and not be skeptical like I was at first. 

Saroj, thank you so much for this recipe.

Food Notes

I boil and steam the veggies simultaneously in an Indian style pressure cooker. I put the potatoes in water in a stainless steel bowl and set it in the the cooker. Then I put a steam rack on top of this bowl with the eggplant and tomatoes on it. This way the eggplant and tomatoes hold their juices inside while the potato cooks perfectly in water.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

A long trip to India had kept me from my home, my garden and blogging for most of this summer. I am happy to be back and blogging again.

My garden was waiting for me in all its lush greenery, well-tended to by the family I left behind to enjoy my vacation! However, I had sadly missed the peak summertime bounty. Now in September with a waning harvest of fruit and vegetables I realize I have to be very creative in using my garden produce. I don’t have pounds of veggies, just but a couple of eggplants here, a handful of mottled, misshapen ripe tomatoes there, three onions, a lone melon, plenty of unripe, green tomatoes, well you get the drift.

Maybe some of you gardeners who live in colder climates are in the same predicament as I am, how to creatively use these odd lots of veggies. In the next week to 10 days, I’ll be posting recipes made primarily from my garden, with occasional supplements from the grocery store.

This season saw my first success with onions; I harvested a grand total of three!!

Look out for the first in my series of “My Garden To Table Recipes” tomorrow.

Thanks for dropping by,

Best, S.

 

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