I have never let my schooling interfere with my education. - Mark Twain

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Are we there yet?

Dear dog almighty but I am done with this mess. Is it still winter? Can I opt out? No? Let me figure out how to spell aaaggghhh and I'll be right back...

We finally came out of the deep freeze (for the Mid-A, anyway) only to get some more rain and therefore soil so soggy I can't even walk in the HIGH side of the yard without sinking in halfway up my shoes (which may help the gentle reader understand the title of this blog).

That was the obligatory winter bitch for this month; I'm all done now. March 21 is right around the corner, isn't it? (Pleasepleaseplease).

The seed envelopes are beckoning, and I am about to dive in with merry abandon to plan the 2010 garden. Until then here is a little bit of snuggle for your tummy, as I believe that Soup Can Save the Human Race, and the next garden will have lots of soup ingredients. I hope.

The croutons here really add a nice carb note- sorry, Atkins devotees!

White Bean and Sausage Stew
8 servings

Stew ingredients
2 Tbs. oil
8 oz. veggie Italian sausage, sliced
2 medium carrots, diced
2 stalks celery, diced
1 large onion, diced
2 large cloves garlic, minced
3 cups or 2 cans (~15 oz. each) white beans, rinsed and drained
3 cups or 2 cans (~15 oz. each) diced tomatoes
½ cup vegetable broth or water
½ tsp. salt, to taste
¼ tsp. pepper, to taste
½ tsp. dried thyme, to taste
½ tsp. dried rosemary, to taste

Crouton ingredients
2 cups small croutons, diced from coarse bread (2 - 3 slices)
2 Tbs. oil
1 clove garlic, minced and mashed
½ tsp. salt, to taste
¼ tsp. freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 Tbs. minced dried parsley, chives, or other dried herbs of choice

Heat oil in a 5-qt pot or deep saute pan over medium heat. Brown veggie sausage, turning frequently, until heated through and beginning to crisp, about 5 minutes. Remove to a plate on paper towels and set aside.

In the same pot, sauté carrots, celery, onion and garlic until beginning to soften, adding more oil if necessary, about 5 minutes.

Add sausage and remaining stew ingredients to saucepan. Simmer, covered, for 30 minutes, or until heated through.

While stew is simmering, heat oven to 375ºF. Lightly oil a cookie sheet.

Place croutons in a large bowl. Blend oil, garlic, and seasonings together in a small bowl, drizzle over croutons, and toss thoroughly to combine. Spread on prepared baking sheet. Bake 15 to 20 minutes, tossing once or twice, until toasted.

Remove to the bowl used previously, and toss croutons with herbs while still hot. Cool slightly to allow the croutons to crisp up, and serve over stew.

Adapted from a recipe at Woman's Day.

Friday, January 8, 2010

The waiting is the hardest part

Actually it looks like the waiting may be over.

This is what 10 seeds of Murraya koenigii, or Curry Leaf Tree, looked like on December 11, 2009, about 45 minutes after receiving them in the mail from Horizon Herbs.

This is what they still look like on January 8, 2010, so I didn't take another picture.

Curry Leaf seeds are notoriously finicky about germination, from everything I've read, and despite heroic efforts to plant them immediately, keep them warm with a heat mat, placate them with song (not really), they are apparently dead (or do they really take this long to germinate?) They may have have been deceased when I received them, but they still looked a little moist, which is required for seed of this tropical species to be viable.

The ideal method of germination, I think, is to have them fall off the plant when ripe directly into a planting pot, and then hope for the best. If you live in Sri Lanka or India this is not a big deal, but the Mid-A ain't neither.

We have had one of the most disgusting winters I can remember. And it just got started. Got cold early. Has stayed below freezing at least part of the day for weeks. Dumped 21 freaking inches of snow on us in one day (and I HATED every flake). I want me some global warming!

Don't get all worked up, I didn't plant the seeds outside, they are inside on a light stand with a heat mat. I just needed an excuse to complain.

Update 1/9/10: See here for the culprit!

The whole game plan behind growing a Curry Leaf plant was that the leaf is a key ingredient in many Indian dishes, and I would like to start trying more of them at home. Curry Leaf tree, the real deal, has absolutely nothing to do with the curry powders we buy at Giant, Safeway, or even Whole Paycheck. Those reportedly started out as Brit bastardizations of the spices used in Indian cooking, and even though I really like curry powder, it just doesn't hold a candle to Curry Leaf.

Almost forgot, I'm also trying to root a small cutting from a curry leaf branch I bought at an area Asian market. Dipped the cutting in some rooting hormone, on two different occasions even, but the branch wasn't the freshest, so this could be pointless.

So the first seed starting of the season appears to be a dismal failure. Not to worry, I am laying plans for starting some other herb seeds as we post, just to make myself feel better, but I may just have to break down and order a Curry Leaf plant (aack- quitter!) from Logee's soon...