Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Trying Out Turnips

Several things have caused me to become more interested in turnips. First I have generally become more interested in root crops since I planted my first batch of carrots a couple months ago. Once they get going you just keep them watered and they magically turn into delicious food hidden beneath the earth. Second, I am always interested in expanding the variety of things I grow. Third and last, in the last Harry Potter book I read they ate mashed turnips, which lead me to believe that they can't be that different than a potato and strengthened my resolve to grow them.

My boyfriend, who is a bit more practical than me sometimes, recommended I buy some turnips and try cooking them before I fill the yard with them. This of course lead to a recipe search and when I saw the recipe I am about to share with you I fell in love. How can anything smothered in a creamy garlic and Gouda sauce be bad? It can't. I served this recipe with the roast chicken I posted about a couple of days ago and it was wonderful. I'm sure it would also make a great companion to your Thanksgiving turkey!

Potato & Turnip Au Gratin with Leeks

1 lb russet potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 lb turnips, peeled and thinly sliced
3 leeks, white section only, thoroughly washed, thinly sliced
1 cup whole milk
1 1/4 cup heavy cream
2 cup shredded Gouda
3 large cloves garlic, minced
2 TBSP butter

Salt & pepper to taste

1) Preheat oven to 365 degrees. In saucepan combine milk, cream, garlic and salt and pepper. Do not boil. Reduce heat and simmer for another 5 minutes, then set aside. Don't be shy on the salt, it will help flavor the potatoes and turnips.

2) In a large pan melt 1 T. of the butter and add leeks. Cook for 7-8 minutes until leeks start to brown, stirring frequently, then set aside.

3) Spread remaining butter around a 9x12 baking dish, covering all sides. Assemble potatoes and turnips in dish alternating each vegetable. Season each layer with salt and pepper.

4) Add 1 cup of gruyere and cooked leeks on top of first turnip and potato layer.Pour cream mixture over the top just barely covering. Layer remaining vegetables seasoning with salt and pepper. Top last layer with remaining cheese and cover with cream mixture.

4) Bake for 40-45 minutes until top is golden brown and potatoes can be pierced easily with a sharp knife. If you're worried about burning you can cover with foil and leave it covered until about 10 minutes before it's done. I would also recommend placeing the dish on a cookie sheet in the oven incase it boils over a bit.

This is a VERY rich dish so a little goes a long way. This recipe serves +/- 9 adults. For a normal family size I would cut it down to an 8x8 dish unless you like lots of leftovers. Mmmm, on second though, stick with the big dish! So delicious.

Year Round Salads

Hey everybody, my mother has graciously written another post for you. Enjoy!

Having grown up in the Midwest, I learned that after cleaning up the garden after the first frost (late September, early October), nothing else was done until Spring unless you were lucky enough to have a full fledged, heated greenhouse. But Sacramento is a different story; gardening can be a year around pursuit. Even without a greenhouse of some sort, veggies can be grown for 9 to 10 months of the year. However, with some sort of shelter, gardening can be a 12 month undertaking.

I found these little popup greenhouses at Emigh Hardware several years ago that are 4 foot x 4 foot and fit perfectly over my raised beds. They have lots of zippers to allow access and ventilation and fold up into a very small round carrying case. It is a bit of a trick figuring out how to fold them but I always seem to be able to get it done. When you take them out, you just throw them onto the ground and they spring up into a neat little greenhouse. They have grommets around the edges so I put some eyescrews near the bottom of my raised beds and either tie or bungie cord the greenhouses to the eyescrews to keep them from blowing away in a winter storm.

Of course, you can’t grown summer crops in them like tomatoes or peppers without supplemental heat, but they are great for onions, radishes, lettace, spinach and other cool weather crops. It means that with very little work you can enjoy fresh salads year around.

I put these up 3 weeks ago and have green onions almost ready to eat. For some reason this year my first planting of lettace and spinach did not sprout but I replanted them and the new ones are sprouting. My seeds were a bit old the first time but I used new ones the second. Sometimes old seeds will sprout with no problem, sometimes they don’t.

These little greenhouses also make great Spring hot houses for starting seeds when the evening temps are still too cold for most seeds to sprout.

My next project will be in January when I am going to try to build a 3 foot x 4 foot raised bed with a greenhouse top made from 2 x 2 lumber and clear vinyl from the fabric store that can fold flat for summer storage. If it works, I will post the design….if it doesn’t you will never, never hear another word about it.

I wish you all happy gardening, successful preserving, creative cooking and delicious eating.

Monday, November 16, 2009

My Little Friend

This weekend I tried a new contraption for roasting chicken and let me tell you, I'm in love. This beauty only cost $3.99 and it made the most beautiful golden brown chicken I've ever made (though the upright cooking position looks a little freaky to me). The skin was so crunchy it started to crack as I pulled the bird off of the stand. I recommend everyone go and buy one of these immediately.

In addition to making a beautiful bird, they also leave enough room in your oven to cook a side dish.

To season my bird I finely chopped about a tablespoon of Rosemary, half a tablespoon of sage and five garlic cloves and rubbed this mix under the skin. I didn't add any olive oil. I then sprinkled a generous amount of salt on top and popped it in the over for an hour and a half and 450 degrees (cooking time for a six pound bird).

I never basted it and it turned out crispy and juicy. I then used the juices that collected in the bottom of the stand to make a tasty gravy. Mmmmmmm...

Monday, November 9, 2009

Seed Sharing

I know it might seem a bit early, but I know at least Theresa is already talking of seed catalogues and ordering so I thought I'd bring up seedling swapping now. Also, I haven't posted in while and my research paper draft is now finished so I have a spare moment and desperately desire to post!

My idea for this spring is that those of us who have gardens, big or small, and those who might be inspired to start one, could participate in a seedling swap. I for one, do not get supper excited about growing my own seedlings, but I am resigning myself to the fact that it is much cheaper to grow them from scratch then to buy them from the store. I must learn to do without, or at least less, of the pure joy I get from walking the aisles of the Longs in Oakland, discovering new things I haven't tried, admiring flowers, sniffing leaves and letting them run between my fingers as I pass by. I must learn to be more responsible with how I spend my money on this gardening obsession of mine! One way to make the tedious act of seed starting more fun would be to make it a group effort.

The way the swap will work is if you have something that you have very good luck at growing from seeds then don't just start enough for you, but start a whole slew of them. Then, anyone who wishes to participate can bring their seedlings to a centralized location , I'm assuming my mothers, on a date to be set this spring and we can all trade seedlings. Mmmm, perhaps there could even be snacks and a punch involved!

Of course this could turn out to be chaos without a little organization, so I thought this post would be a place to start where people could say what they intend to grow extra of in the comments section. If things change, or you wish to add a new plant to your list, then you can just edit your comment later on. Also, if you see something someone has posted that you definitely want, you can comment on that too so they have an idea of who is interested.