Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Height of Summer Chicken and Corn

The garden is so beautiful right now! The cherry tomato plants have taken over most of a 4 foot by 6 foot planter box, but there is a sky blue morning glory with flowers as big as saucers that has climbed up and through those tomatoes and up some more.

There is a smaller Early Girl plant that is starting to produce red, ripe tennis ball size tomatoes, too. I used both the cherry and Early Girl tomatoes in today's dish. The squash plants yield about one a week, which is fine since there has been no baking to speak of until today for about 5 weeks, and not much real cooking either. Sweetie grills the squash, just like using a campfire. Come to think of it, having no working kitchen is a bit like camping out, without the bugs. Fun for a while, but it was so nice to finally bake today!

A good friend has corn that has all ripened at once, so she gave us some a few days ago. The first eating was lightly steamed and right off the cob. Today I cut the kernels off the cobs and added them at the last minute to a chicken casserole which also has fresh tomatoes, white wine, onions and fresh basil. It's based on a recipe I've loved for years, Chicken Cacciatore. This is a fresher combination and really delicious.

It is also one to bookmark because you can make it up the night before, or even a few days before you eat it and then reheat it when you have had a busy, busy day. Sitting overnight or longer melds the flavors and it is even better than freshly made. Just be sure to add the corn 5 minutes before you serve the dish. It really only needs to warm up!

I served this with fresh from the garden steamed green beans, but it would be lovely with a salad and some nice bread, too. Bread baking coming soon, I promise.

Chicken with Corn, Onion, Tomato and Basil

1 chicken, cut up (I used 4 chicken breasts, each cut in half)
1 large onion, sliced thin
1 pound fresh tomatoes, washed, stem end removed, and cut up (I used about 14 oz. Early Girl and the rest cherry tomato...with the cherry tomatoes cut in quarters)
3 tablespoons fresh basil, sliced in thin slices or chopped
2 ears fresh corn, cut from the cob
salt & pepper to taste & olive oil for the bottom of the pan

Sprinkle chicken with salt. In a large, heavy ovenproof skillet, over medium heat, brown chicken in hot oil. (I use just enough oil to coat the pan bottom to keep the chicken from sticking. If you have a large, heavy ovenproof non-stick skillet, you don’t even need the oil.)
Add the onion; cook about 3 minutes, stirring, until the onion is crispy-tender. (If using chicken breasts, remove them to a bowl...which retains the juices...while you stir the onions, then place them over the mixture once the tomatoes have been added. Otherwise they may cook too long and become tough)
Remove pan from the heat. Stir in the tomatoes and pepper. Sprinkle with the basil.
Bake in a pre-heated 350 degree F. oven for about 30-40 minutes, or until tender. 5 minutes before dish is cooked, add the corn, cover, and return to oven for 5 minutes. Serve at once.
 If you will be reheating the dish, don't add the corn until you have reheated the dish. Keep the corn refrigerated until ready to use.
If you are reheating the dish, place it in a preheated oven, without the corn, and heat it until internal temperature registers 165 degrees F. Uncover, add the corn, cover and keep heating for 5 minutes. Serve at once.
It is OK to let the casserole stand in turned off oven up to 1 hour, but the corn will not be as sweet.
Serves 4-6.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Honey From the Hive

Last spring we pulled into the driveway and stopped for the mail from the box by the road. An intense humming sound drew my attention toward the olive tree downhill and I was happy to see that there was a bee swarm. Why would that make me happy? Well, I knew that our near neighbors, just across the road, were hoping to start a bee hive in their garden and here was a local swarm, ready to find a new home.

Later that day, dressed in a bee costume and armed with clippers and a cardboard box, AM, G and Sweetie captured the swarm from the olive tree where they were unsuccessfully trying to create a home. They took to their new home in the hive quite well, although initially they started a comb in a part of the box not meant for a comb. Soon they were buzzing about the local area, pollinating the fruit trees and berry shrubs, the veggies and the flowers in the cultivated gardens, gathering pollen and making honey. With the current problems with bee hive disease and die off, every healthy hive is a welcome addition.

Yesterday we were in San Francisco celebrating the birthday of one of our favorite people. The traffic home was slower than usual, so we were very happy to get home. We were even happier when we rolled up the hill and met AM, who had just dropped off something for us.

There, by the door, was a package wrapped in lined paper with "taste me" written on it. Given that AM makes amazingly delicious cheese, soup, bread, and other goodies there was no telling what delights were in store for us.

We removed the paper and found a golden, almost glowing, piece of honey comb, full of fragrant honey!
All thoughts of dinner fled as I quickly made tea and toast.

The toast was the perfect vehicle for that honey.See the little chunks of honey comb? We could almost taste the flowers. A delight indeed. Thank you AM and your bees!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Eat From the Garden

Farm to table is really big right now in the restaurant world. That is probably a good thing because getting people to really taste fresh veggies and fruit soon after they are harvested might help generate demand for that taste hit in regular and fast food restaurants, to say nothing of in grocery stores.

Even better than farm to table is garden to table. To have planted the little seeds, nurtured them, set them out in the garden when the time was ripe, kept them going with regular water (and plant food as needed), tying up the tomatoes and re-routing the wayward pole bean vines, watching the first fruits form and grow and ripen...then to pick and eat that ripe food shortly after picking. Bliss.

I usually try to do as little as possible with the harvest if I only harvest enough to enjoy that day. Today I harvested enough lovely green bush beans for Sweetie and I to enjoy with our dinner. All they needed was a quick rinse and a rapid steam to turn them brilliant green and heat them enough to enjoy. Nothing else was needed! We had them last night, too. The thing to remember if you decide to grow bush beans is that they come in almost all at once...within a week or so. Great if you are canning them, but otherwise you need to pick them almost every day and figure out what to do with them. My pole beans seem to take a bit longer, so I harvest them less frequently.

The small tomatoes (Early Girls, I think) also got a quick rinse and then were sliced. The slices were laid on a platter and I sprinkled on a tiny bit of garlic salt and freshly ground pepper.

These tomatoes never saw the inside of a refrigerator, so they were room temperature. They taste like summer...juicy, tart, the essence of tomato. Last night's cherry tomatoes were even simpler. Wash, put on plate. Remove green top, eat, repeat.

If you don't have a garden or a neighbor who wants to share, try a good farmer's market. It will be almost as fresh and very, very delicious.

For those who are keeping track, we now have a counter and sink and faucet in the baking center, so washing up is easier. The photo of the tomatoes and cutting board shows a sliver of the new quartz counter top. Still no regular stove or oven, but Sweetie is patching some dry wall tomorrow and I'll be working on the mural this weekend, so it won't be too much longer before I can bake again.

Tuesday, August 05, 2014

Apple Pie-ish

The Gravensteins are here! A big banner, sponsored by the Slow Food movement, announces that fact right near Whole Foods in downtown Sebastopol. Gravensteins are one of the early apples. They are delicious and make great applesauce and cider, even pie, but don't keep and don't ship well. Fortunately, we have a couple of Gravenstein trees on the property and this morning I had my first taste of the season.

My breakfast was apple pie-ish because I diced half of an unpeeled Gravenstein, sprinkled it with cinnamon, microwaved it for a minute and a half, then used that delicious, hot apple goodness as the base for my cereal and plain yogurt. If you think about the bran cereal as having pie crust flavors, and the yogurt as having the dairy flavor that some ice cream or whipped cream would have, it isn't difficult to pretend that you are eating apple pie...well, if you have an imagination like mine anyway.

The main kitchen cabinets are here this morning, too! Soon we will be having breakfast in regular bowls, not paper ones, because we will have a dishwasher again. Once the stove is hooked up, there will be real cooking and baking again, too. Exciting!