Monday, November 29, 2010

Last tomato/Winter garden

Another Thanksgiving holiday has come and gone, and here's hoping everyone had as great a time as we did spent with family and friends.  Lots to be thankful for, indeed.   Despite the bruises and pulled hamstrings from the flag-football game with the kids earlier in the day, I still managed to drag my knife through the turkey and the rest of the trimmings.

There's a turkey carcass underneath
As long as we're talking turkey, here's a photo of the turkey stock brewin' away on the stove after the last of the guests have left.  It's become something I look forward to making each year,  even though turkey soup isn't high on my list of favorites.   This year I made it with fresh thyme, rosemary and parsley (all from the garden)  in addition to the usual odori that go into the pot.  The parsley looks great this time of year.

Look at that knife blurr - mad knife skills!
I've got the winter crop all set now that the weather has turned cold.  My apologies to my friends up north and back east, but we've been experiencing some rather brisk weather in LA, and when I say brisk, I mean it's been in the low 30's at night.  Apparently the result of some Alaskan winds caught up in the jet stream, this cold weather is teasing us with the promise of a third season (winter) that we never seem to experience.  The cabbage seems to be enjoying it.


I also put in some Brussel Sprouts (never grew them before) and cauliflower.  I dug in some onion and garlic bulbs that I hope will be ready before the summer garden goes in.  I'm growing seedlings of Swiss Chard again, along with Romaine and other varieties of lettuce.  Let's see if I can coax the carrot seedlings to sprout as well.

Swiss Chard, Romaine, Head Lettuce

On a sad note, I picked the last tomato of the season.  You guessed it, Celebrity.  I'm actually thrilled that I was able to harvest a tomato after Thanksgiving!  Ever the one to share, this one was offered up on the the altar of my cutting board and added to a pot of Chili I made for the Notre Dame - USC game (ND came through after eight consecutive losses to those Trojans).  Way to go Irish!  I'm sure my November tomato made all the difference.

The last tomato of the season

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Garden Sentinels

The dogs finally make an appearance after all these months.  Here they are standing watch over the earthbox, which is still doing quite well with basil and parsley.   Don't let their tough looks fool you - trust me, the only thing standing between them and the burglar is a drool-soaked chew bone  presented at the foot of the thief, followed by a submissive offering of the soft underbelly in hopes for a good scratch. 

The summer crop has been removed from the main garden despite some hanging fruit  for which I don't have the patience to wait to ripen in the cooling weather.   I roasted the Chile Relleno peppers,  which have been seeded and stored in the freezer for future use.   The Jalapenos finished well and I'm bummed I didn't have the time to make pepper jelly this year.   I'll put the last of the tomatoes in a bag to ripen and keep my fingers crossed.

I'm into bonus time with the basil, which looks great this far into the season.  The Sunday sauce comes out so much better with fresh basil and oregano.   I put four cabbage plants into the ground a couple of weeks ago, along with a direct seeding of Swiss Chard and Spinach.  The seedlings emerged a week later only to be cut down by slugs or some other bandit.  I'll see if I can get my hands on some 6 pack seedlings at the local nursery.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Smokin' Baby-Backs

Wow,  it's been over a month since my last entry and we have some catching up to do.  I removed the last of the summer plants this last weekend and planted some cool-season cabbage, spinach and swiss chard.  More on that later, but I wanted to post some pics of a recent rib session before the weather cooled off for good.  Hickory-smoked Baby-Back ribs!

I set up the Weber for indirect grilling and soaked some large chunks of hickory in water for a few hours. After removing the silver skin membrane, I let the ribs marinate with the dry rub for a couple of hours.

Next, into the rack over a drip pan, and add the hickory.  As the ribs cook, I keep the mop handy.

When the meat starts to pull away from the bone, it's time.

Is summer really over?

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sausages and Peppers

Here's another of our Sunday favorites made better with fresh peppers from the garden:

5 Italian sweet sausages
4-5 Frying peppers - various colors (I only had red ones in the yard)
1 Onion - chopped
1  8oz can tomato sauce
Salt and pepper to taste
1 Tbs olive oil

Poke holes in the sausages and brown in a large skillet over medium heat until they are cooked through, approx 30-40 minutes.   Meanwhile, chop the peppers and onions into bite-size pieces and set aside.  When the sausages are cooked, remove from the pan.  Add the olive oil and saute the vegeatbles for about five minutes.
While the peppers are frying, slice the sausages into bite-sized pieces.

Add the sausages to the peppers and mix well.  Cook for an additional five minutes or so.

Next, add the tomato sauce and mix well.  Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook until the peppers soften- about 15 minutes or so.

To finish it off, I like to grate some fresh Pecorino Romano cheese over the mixture and pour into your favorite pasta bowl.  Heat a nice loaf of Italian bread in the oven until crisp.  You can serve the bread on the side, or use it to make a sandwich.

This dish goes great with a fresh tomato-cucumber salad.

"Tutti a tavola a mangiare!" 
(Everyone to the table to eat)

Saturday, September 4, 2010

Freaks and BLTs

I don't live anywhere near a nuclear plant, which nullifies any reasonable explanation as to why there always seems to be at least one showing of garden freaks every year.  So here they are in all their mutant splendor:

The eggplant looks like a tulip.  The tomatoes look like hearts, and the zucchini in the middle looks like a, umm, uh,,,,a microphone!

Here's a shot of a trio of heirlooms, very tasty this summer.

I've found that a nice-sized Zapotec is the perfect fit and taste for the BLT sandwiches.  I know I was down on this variety earlier in the year because the plants were HUGE and there was no fruit.  Too bad I failed to notice it was a "late-season" variety and ripped the other plant out.  It pays to read the label!

I yanked out the two eggplants.  The production was great, but I wasn't a fan of the thinner, Japanese-style. They seem to have more skin than actual flesh, and they just weren't worth the effort.  I'll go back to the larger Italian Black Beauty.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Life is a bowl of Cherries (tomatoes)

Who says life isn't a bowl of cherries?   I got hundreds of Sungolds off of my one plant, and it's still going strong.


I finally harvested that lone behemoth of a cabbage today.  It came in officially at a whopping 8 pounds!  It'll turn up in cornbeef and cabbage later on tonight.

Zapotec Pleated

The first of the Zapotec Pleated tomatoes came in as well.   Oddly shaped, but they taste great and have a very mild flavor.

Here is the rest of what I harvested today.  The Paul Robeson is still doing well, but last week's heat wave have taken a toll on all of the plants for sure.  Things look like they are starting to wind down.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Trout in the Eastern Sierra

It's been awhile since my last post, but I wanted to put up some pictures of my recent flyfishing trip.

    Carson Peak from Silver Lake                           

              View from my float tube


Back to the garden stuff on the next post.  Gonna attempt to make Chile Rellenos with those relleno peppers tomorrow.

Monday, August 2, 2010


The hard work is finally paying off.  Those large peppers are "Carmen" and we're looking forward to some sausages and peppers later in the week.  It never ceases to amaze me how the small seeds in my dining room in February transform into a jungle in my yard and the resultant bounty.

Speaking of peppers, take a look at "Chile Relleno".  I've never grown this variety before and if the peppers taste as good as they look, they'll be a permanent staple in the allotment.

What ever became of those slacker tomatoes I lamented over last month?  Well, here is one of them, "Zapotec Pleated".  I originally planted two, but sent one to the cornfield after it sprawled across half the garden with nothing on it.  I'm glad I kept the remaining plant as it is finally giving up the goods.  Neat looking tomato.

It's raining eggplant.

That is the sun reflected in the SunSugars.  They might as well be called jelly beans.

I learned something new this year relating to potted plants.  If you line the pot with ordinary newspaper before adding the potting mix, the roots will be afforded some relief from the hot California sun.  This is one of the "Lipstick" pepper plants and I have never had a potted vegetable look as good as this one.

Looks like a heart to me.  This is "Paul Robeson," destined for a Caprese Salad on Wednesday.

I wanted to show the real thing, but I've been told that would have been in bad taste.  Apparently there was only one rat, and he was probably a forward scout.  His lungs no longer carry the message of what awaits over the block wall and through the wooden gate in Farmer Vic's plot.   There will be others. I will remain vigilant.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Game on!

I'm not one to pick fights, but the rats have arrived in the garden and bloodied my nose.  I went out this morning to pick some tomatoes for the fire-roasted tomato salsa (which turned out great by the way, washed down with cucumber margaritas) and noticed that several tomatoes had been gnawed and slashed by the vermin. 

Now I know these rats are not the filthy, disease-ridden sewer dwellers of the big city, but then again they're not Remy from Ratatouille. Nevertheless, they're into my stuff and they must go.  It'd be one thing if they focused on one plant, I could easily sacrifice one of the hybrids and set it aside complete with searchlights and a marquee.  But nooooo,  they move from plant to plant nipping and gnawing like they're on some sort of foodie excursion.  And they ruin everything they touch. It's uncanny how they seem to know that I'm gonna pick that near-perfectly-ripe tomato TOMORROW, for when tomorrow comes, I find it laying on the ground half-devoured, and I'm too late, again.

When Alberto Contador took advantage of Andy Schleck's broken chain during this year's Tour de France, Schleck told reporters, "My stomach is full of anger and I will take my revenge."   I couldn't say it better myself.

Traps will be deployed at 2030 hours.  I've chosen the Tomcat T-Rex style snap traps that worked well for me last season.  Baited with a peanut butter/cheese cocktail, I'm quite confident.

Time to kick some rat ass.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Upside down

I have to admit that the upside down tomato-thing really works.  Those are REAL tomatoes on that plant, but then again that's Celebrity for you.  I really believe that variety will grow anywhere and in almost anything.

I harvested some zucchini, a Marvel Stripe (that I forgot I had sown), Paul Robeson and Rutgers.  The little pepper is Lipstick, which goes great in Tuna Salad.

We recently spent the day with friends at  the OC Fair in Costa Mesa and had a great time.  No trip to the fair would be complete without a visit to the Centennial Farm.  So while the kids were busy riding the Vomitator and the Spine Cracker, I made my way amongst the raised beds of produce.  Oh, and let's not forget the gigantic pigs and their very recent piglets.

Thursday, July 1, 2010


Where did the second half of June go?  We spent last weekend in Palm Springs with friends - 114 degrees!  Too hot  to grow much of anything worth eating, but the palms look great.

Here's an updated photo of the sickly pepper from a few posts ago - as you can see, it's much happier now and bearing plenty of jalapenos.

Speaking of jalapenos,  I've got several of these giants waiting to be stuffed and loaded into the Chile Grill for the 4th.

This is Rutgers loaded with tomatoes in the Earthbox.  Everything is progressing nicely with the exception of the two mentioned in the last post.  No rant this time.

Don't let the size fool you, they're actually SunSugar  cherries.

Here's wishing everyone a happy and safe Fourth of July!