tomatillos

My green car is even greener.....

Elisabeth and I have developed a system for the seedlings we start indoors.  She has a cold basement and a shady backyard.  I have a warm basement and a good-sized sunny patch in my backyard.  She starts the cool weather seedlings (like the brassicas) in her basement, and I start the warm weather seedlings (like the nightshades) in my basement.  When the seedlings are ready to go outside, they go first to her backyard, and then to mine.

 

Today was transfer day for most of the warm weather seedlings, from her backyard to mine.  My car was completely filled (the back, the floors, and all the seats except the driver’s seat) with tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, and tomatillos.  It did all fit, but barely.

2013 Nightshades (end of season notes)

Eggplant: Italian, Asian & White, plants less robust – result of weather or fertilizing or location in garden?
Peppers: the best year ever, all varieties (bells, poblanos & chilis) did well – repeat varieties, staging
Tomatoes: many suffered from diseases, good long yield from remaining plants – grow more resistant varieties next year, cover soil with landscape fabric to warm it before planting, experiment with clover groundcover, repeat sucker experiment, plant some in lettuce bed, try a grafted plant, more normal-size varieties & fewer zebras next year?
     SMALL: Sun Gold*, Super Sweet 100*, Green Grape*  
     MEDIUM: Mountain Magic, Stupice^, Ramapo*, Paul Robeson^, Green Zebra^, Red Zebra^
     SAUCE: Granadero, Mariana*
     * varieties we should definitely consider next year
     ^ varieties that failed
Tomatillos: grew well, caging worked great – try one purple plant, start seeds a week or two later than tomatoes next year

Fresh-from-the-garden Chili

If you garden, you know the question: How do I make the most of the seasonal selection of vegetables from the garden tonight? In this case, it was finishing up several small Onions, five random Tomatoes in various states of ripeness, a few green Peppers, a half-dozen Tomatillos and some charming little Hot Peppers.

fresh from the garden chili

The answer was Chili. I chopped the Onions, Peppers (green & hot), Tomatillos and skinned Tomatoes, adding them sequentially to a sauté pot with a small amount of oil. When the veggies were all in, I added a standard can of rinsed beans (in this case, butter beans), whole cashews and some chili seasoning. The result was three very hearty servings of my best chili ever!

Kabocha squash and tomatillos take me back

Today my colleagues at the Garden were kind enough to let me take home one of the two kabocha squash that we harvested. I regret that I didn't photograph it, but my colleague Elisabeth provided this photo of another of our beautiful kabochas (surrounded by tomatillos). Wikepedia informed me, with its usual degree of authority, that Kabocha squash is also called "Japanese pumpkin". Indeed, as you see, it is very pumpkin-like. We also harvested two sugar pumpkins from our "Three Sisters" plot today, and our kabocha looked like they could easily have been their unripe cousins.

Elisabeth reminded me about an amazing soup that uses kabocha, along with tomatillos.  I recalled the recipe, too, the minute she mentioned it yet, inexplicably, it's been over 10 years since I last prepared it.  It's "Tomatillo and Squash Soup" from Anna Thomas' "The New Vegetarian Epicure".  It is probably the best soup I've ever made, or eaten.  How on earth have I lived without it, let alone forgotten about it, for all these years?! I'm quite sure that the last time I made it was in the late 90's.  Kabocha squash and tomatillos were relatively hard to come by back then.  As we reminisced in the Garden today, you had to search for tomatillos at "Bread and Checkbook", and they cost a lot, and even the 12 required by the recipe were not necessarily in stock when you needed them.  Kabocha squash, with its firm very deep orange flesh and unique flavor (and tough constitution...you'd better have a good knife!), was not particularly easy to find either.

In our Garden, a tomatillo shortage is NOT an issue.  Our two tomatillo plants are thriving, and we have more tomatillos than we know what to do with!  (Until today, I've just been skewering and grilling them...delicious, yes, but so is anything that's skewered and grilled, no?). 

So, arriving home with my tomatillos (about twice as many as specified in the recipe;  this is my standard practice...I double up on the components I love the most) and my kabocha (deceptively small in appearance, as it turns out..it weighed in at just about the 2 lbs suggested by the recipe), I dug out my copy of Anna Thomas' classic book and got to it. This soup is somewhat labor intensive, and heats up your kitchen, but it is so, so worth it!  I roasted the tomatillos, along with our own Garden tomatoes and about a dozen garlic cloves* until lightly charred in the oven, cooled them a bit, and then blasted them in the food processor.  Meanwhile, I simmered the peeled and diced squash to extreme tenderness in Trader Joe's organic vegetable broth, skipping the additional water the recipe suggests.  Once these components were all cooked, I left them sitting and ran out to buy onions.  (Unfortunately, onions from our Garden are not large enough; they're mainly bunching onions -- yummy in their own right, but not for this recipe).  I was able to find organic sweet onions at Trader Joes.  I then carmelized the onions, along with one mashed garlic clove and a bit of salt, in EVOO.  At this point, it was time to toast, according to the book, "2 dried red serrano or other hot peppers" on the stovetop, chop them, and add them to the soup.  Instead of dried peppers, I first selected two fresh hot red peppers from the Garden. But, when I charred them and processed them (in my mini-food prep Cuisinart), they, despite my having removed the seeds, gave off such strong hot pepper fumes that, honestly, I was afraid to put them in the soup -- in fact I could barely breathe without coughing (guys, what ARE those peppers we're growing??).  I love this soup so much and, while I appreciate hot peppers, they can so easily overwhelm.  So, I discarded most of the hot pepper into my compost pile (sorry!).  I then went to the cupboard and selected a half dried Guajillo pepper from Penzey's, which describes it as as "not hot but rich, smoky and complex".  If I'd planned enough in advance I would have soaked it a bit but, instead, I just ground it up in the mini-prep (along with a small bit of the juice and pulp from our Garden hot peppers).  This is what went into the soup, along with some of our Garden cilantro and sea salt.  That's all.  Heated it through and, yes, it was still, after all these years, wonderful!  Still is, in fact..we have enough for lunch tomorrow. Elisabeth, thank-you for reminding me about this soup that I used to love so much! It's extraordinary!

 

Along with our Tomatillo and Squash soup for dinner tonight, John and I had a little cole slaw that I made, also inspired by a suggestion of Elisabeth's. I prepared the cole slaw with a tiny little cabbage, the result of a Garden experiment (see Lisa's post "The Great Cabbage Experiment", 08/01/2011).  I sliced it and combined it with one of our yellow carrots (coarse grated), our bunching onions (sliced thin) and a dressing of:  mayonnaise (Trader Joe's organic), cider vinegar, sea salt, black pepper and celery salt.  After mixing it all together, I decided to also add a bit of minced pineapple to temper the vinegar taste a bit.  Came out pretty good, if I say so myself.  Elisabeth, thanks for suggesting the cole slaw and, also, especially, for suggesting the original experiment that led to these sweet baby "2nd gen" cabbages!

Well that was our dinner tonight, along with some fresh, still sweet corn from Busa's, our beloved neighborhood farm.  The ingredients were mostly from the Garden, with some help from Busa's and TJ's.  Oh, yeah, and the perfect wine to accompany this feast was something crispy and cold from Enzed.  We bought it from either:  Menotomy Beer and Wine, TJs in Cambridge or Busa's Liquor..we don't quite recall where we got this one, but it was just right tonight.

 

 

* Garlic cloves are not yet available from the Garden, but stay tuned!  Now that we have been granted permission to keep the garden open through the winter, we will be planting some.  In the meantime, I used organic garlic from Trader Joe's.

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