Saturday, August 30, 2008

Transplanting Time! (and some growth status)

8/30/09 The veggies have all sprouted and are growing like mad!
I transplanted some of the arugula and radishes into new pots in order to give them some room to grow.

Arugula Sprouts and Radish Sprouts

After the big transplant, I collected the and enjoyed some radish and arugula microgreens for lunch and dinner.

The Blackpearl cherry tomato is starting to change!

Slow Food Nation

Houston's very own purveyer of all things local, Monica Pope (T'afia, Beaver's), guest blogging for Alison cook at Slow Food Nation 08 in San Francisco.


Ever notice that quaint little restaurant on Westheimer with the big pig on its sign...that's Feast. We have been wanting to go there for a long time. The chefs who run it are from England and have a love for local fresh/seasonal ingredients. We arrived early and were able to take part in their tasting menu...which they normally only serve on weeknights. Our waitress seated us in the rustic dining room filled with dark woods, providing a homey atmosphere. I find that fall in Houston is more of a state of mind than an actual change in temperature and season. While our fellow countrymen are donning their sweaters and cozying up for some warm apple cider, we Houstonians are still sitting in the high 80s/low 90s sweating through summer part II. I am ready for fall...I dream of it as I run in the mornings...picturing the crisp fall air and the feeling that I could run on forever...sadly I am quickly snapped back into reality by the ravenous mosquitoes and suffocating heat and humidity. Last night's dinner added to my fall fantasy; helped along by Houston's LOVE of air conditioning I was even able to pull on a sweater of my own :).
We started the night with some wine served up in humble juice tumblers and a warning from out waitress that we had 7-8 courses coming...chefs choice for the tasting menu.

First course: Ham, Potato and Parsley Soup. Delicious! The bits of ham and cream added a richness which was nicely balanced by the freshly cut flat leaf parsley. This was a favorite for the entire table.

Second: Tarragon Marinated Manchego with Almonds and Olives...this was served up with toast pints that had been rubbed with fresh garlic and tomato with a slightly spicy kick...or at least that was our guess.
Act 3: Fennel, Cucumber, Radish and Mint Salad. I'll never turn away fresh veggies. Very fresh and flavorful with a side of aioli..yum!
Fourth: Pan seared Sardines...they were huge and very fresh. Are we dining off the coast of Italy??? Sardines in Houston?? The chef later told us that a new fisherman that they are using
out of Galveston catches them on his week long forays out to sea...interesting. They are much larger than any sardine that I have had before. They were quite flavorful and well prepared. I am not a huge fan of the Sardine...all those little bones...brings back childhood memories of choking on trout bones...but still enjoyed the experience!
Number Five (still going): Red Beans, Pork and Carrots. This was the favorite of the night. The hearty dish was served up in a large clay pot with a delicious crust on the pork and perfectly roasted beans and carrots. We would have licked the bowl if we weren't afraid of burning our tongues and causing a scene.
Six (not much room left): Roast Bluefish, Fennel and Saffron Rice and Tarragon Tomatoes. Fish was moist and the the Tarragon tomatoes were amazing.
Seven (nearing the bursting point): Braised Beef Shank, Mashed Potatoes and Kale with Anchovies. Perfectly cooked, cut with a form beef and I can't get enough of the sauteed Kale...the anchovies received a mixed review, but I thought it brought an interesting way to add some salty flavor to the kale.
8: Compari and Orange Sorbet. Tart and refreshing.
Ninth: DESSERT! Always room for dessert. Chocolate and Espresso Rice Pudding. Amazing. Rich chocolate rice pudding topped with clotted cream. Wonderful ending to an interesting tasting tour.
Nine courses for $45...we'll be back.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Sprouts and Attempt at Raised Bed

Apparently my soil is very furtile and planting 10 seeds per hole was not the best idea. My current plan is to let them grow a bit more and then transplant. Ideas?
Arugula and Swiss Chard Day 4
My master not kill by little nascent veggies, I am going to thin them out in a few days and re-plant in my back-yard...formally known as the Elephant Ear garden...they have literally taken over my yard....

I plan to cover my mini-raised bed garden with plastic to kill off any unwanted vegetation...good idea?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Veggie Claus!!

My friend Jess has become my enabler. No longer am I just a sporadic supporter of my local farmer via the Houston Farmer's Market, but am now a full fledged share holder!! Jess linked me up with some local families who purchase bulk local grass-fed/free range meat and poultry. Our first order arrived a few weeks ago. We ordered some chicken breasts, chicken sausage, and ground turkey through this group from Fran's Fryers. Wonderful!! I'll need to post some of the recipes.
Jess also introduced me to Community Supported Agriculture (CSA). What a novel idea! Buy a share of a farm (based on your family size) and get whatever is ripe and in season that week! Being a recent transplant from Houston to the burbs I seriously have been missing my farmer's market and the best store on earth...Central Market.
While we tried to get into a few CSAs around town I stumbled upon a great alternative, an Organic City Co-op nearby. The Southeast Organic Co-Op offers weekly share buy-ins with a pick-up location near San Jac College in Southeast Houston. Great what a few people who care about what they eat can do!
Finally Monday morning I had a little surprise in my offer to join BlueStar CSA. This CSA is made up of a group of 22 farms in Alvin, TX. They deliver right to your door!! You just leave a cooler on your front porch on the given day and voila...fresh "organic" produce magically appears!! The kind lady who runs the CSA offered for us to join that day! I eagerly placed my cooler on the porch, turned on the light, and went to bed. I popped out of bed at the sound of our alarm, ran to the door, and their it first share! Neatly packed with care in my cooler was an assortment of beautiful produce...cantaloupe, strawberries, summer squash, long beans, green onions, yellow pepper, red potatoes... Being a LOVER of ALL things Vegetable I am in produce Heaven!
I was so inspired by the harvest that I planned my lunch already at 6am...before coffee and breakfast...Salad Nicoise. It was DELICIOUS. I haven't found anywhere in Houston that makes it right, but I am open to opinions!

Salad Nicoise Recipe:

Small Red Potatoes (boiled with salt), boiled long beans, tomatoes, hard boiled egg, tuna, olives, capers, and salt&pepper.

Dressing: red wine vinegar, Dijon Mustard, and Olive Oil (my new favorite: ArteOlivaHEB/Central Market in a gold "box" container)

Monday, August 25, 2008

Veggie Babies!!!

I puttered out my door at 6am to water my new garden and low and behold.....Sprouts!!! I have Sprouts!! The Arugula and Radishes have pushed through the soil and are displaying their tiny little leaves.

They are so CUTE!! My little seedlings have hatched! I feel like I should have had this experience at an earlier age, but alas...this city girl is growing something! :) (I think I saw a pea sprout too, but I'll hold back the joy until it is official)

Veggie Buddies!

Since I found my Lowes garden experience a bit less than thrilling I decided to head to Maas Nursery( in Seabrook to get some real gardening help!

Success! I picked up some mint and bell pepper transplants as well as a FABULOUS looking tomato plant. The name got can you pick a plain old slicer tomato over that. This will be the gem of my little garden :) I planted the Blackpearl in a 5 gallon pot. Reading a bit about my new gem online, I found that it can grow up to 12', produces continuously, AND tastes like Concord Grapes when chilled...we'll see about that last one.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Let the Planting Begin

Planting Day!
With my house warming gift of a basil plant wilting pitifully on my windowsill, I decided it was time to move it outside into the sun, and start my little garden. I have never grown anything before, and have successfully killed every single house plant I have owned. However, this time I think it will be different! I have a house with a real yard, live in a sub-tropical climate, and blinding optimism! I figure that starting with a container garden is the best option for a starter garden in Houston. We have clay for soil here, and I am not so blindly optimistic to rip up my backyard without testing my skills.
I had dreams of heading to a local nursery where I would be guided through the ins and outs of Houston gardening...however Sunday found me heading to Lowes. With tele-assistance from my brother-in-law in Denver, I worked my way through the garden section to search out seeds, pots, and some soil. First off, the seeds. Lowes doesn't have the best selection (shock!), so I went with what I thought would be yummy and what was available and would potentially grow in the Houston fall, or summer part two. I grabbed the following Ferry-Morse seed packets:
  • Arugula
  • Sugar Snap Peas
  • Sparkler Radishes
  • Swiss Chard
  • Cilantro
  • Parsley
Next up....some potting soil and containers. Eyeballing the packets and the growing constraints of my soon-to-be plants, I chose 3 containers: 2.5 ft wide x 1 ft deep wooden trough, 2 ft wide x 1 ft deep barrel, and a shallow 2 foot wide bowl for my herbs. I chose some Miracle Grow Organic potting soil.

Donning long sleeve shirt, leggings, gloves, and a hat (the mosquitoes are insane right now!) I set to planting. I placed my containers in my backyard deck in an area that gets full view of the sun from about 9:30am to 5pm. I transplanted my basil plant into the herb bowl and added in the cilantro and parsley. The Arugula and Radishes were planted together, and the swiss chard and sugar snap peas share the barrel. I gave my little seedlings a good watering and some well wishes for a good sprout!

Harvest Plan (per the packets)

  • Arugula - October 2nd

  • Sugar Snap Peas - November 1st

  • Sparkler Radishes -September 18th

  • Swiss Chard - October 22nd

  • Cilantro and Parsley - ?