Sunday, May 31, 2009

Garlic Scape Pesto

If you score some garlic scapes, here is a tasty pesto recipe that I made last year. The recipe is from fellow personal chef Lance Lemke.

This is definitely one of those recipes that you either need to plan to eat alone, or to make sure everyone eats some. You probably won't be terribly popular at the gym the next day either.

Garlic Scape Pesto

Yield: 6 ounces of pesto

● 8 ounces garlic scapes, Top flowery part removed, cut into 1/4 inch slices
● 1/2 cups walnuts
● 1 cups olive oil
● 1/2 cups parmigiano, grated
● 3/4 tsp. kosher salt
● black pepper, to taste
Place scapes and walnuts in bowl of a food processor and whiz until well combined and somewhat smooth. Slowly drizzle in the oil and process until integrated. With a rubber spatula, scoop pesto out of the bowl into a mixing bowl. Add parmigiano to taste; add salt and pepper.
Keeps up to one week in a air-tight container in the refrigerator.
For 1/2 pound short grained pasta such as penne, add about 2 tablespoons of the pesto to cooked pasta and stir until pasta is well coated.

Here are some other links with garlic scape info and recipes:

Tigers and Strawberries - a great Ohio blogger

NY Times

Star Chefs - note: Dante Bocuzzi is now back in Cleveland and moving his restaurant to Tremont

Garlic Scapes on Foodista

Fava Beans Make Me Want to Drink Chianti

Fava Beans.  I know, I know, the first thing that pops into your mind is a crazy looking Anthony Hopkins making that weird slurping sound after he says "And I had his liver with some fava beans and a nice Chianti".

Well I'm here to tell you that it must have been premeditated because fava beans are one high maintenance, low yield vegetable as far as prep goes.

I saw a lovely Pork Tenderloin with Favas and Goat Cheese Pan Sauce recipe by Georganne Brennan on .  In fact, I want to try every recipe in the article.  I had some pork tenderloin.  I went to West Side Market, because honestly, I don't remember ever seeing fava beans at the local grocers.  So I scored one pound of these Jack in the Beanstalk looking things in their giant pods.  Got some goat cheese and figured I was good to go.

Step one: You've got to get the actual beans out of the pods.  Not a big deal really, but it takes a little time.  Then you have a (small) bowl of beans still covered in an inedible white covering.

Step two:  Blanch the shelled beans in boiling water for a few minutes, then shock them in some ice water, then remove the white covering to reveal, ta da, the tiniest little bowl of beans.  The photo of that didn't turn out, but let's just say, they could fit in the palm of my hand.

Ok, so I wasn't planning on making enough to feed a family, but that's a whole lotta work for a relatively tiny payoff.  Then I read on-line somewhere that you need to start with five pounds to feed four people.  I am pretty sure you end up throwing away 4 and half pounds of inedible compost.

After looking at my tiny payoff I decided to make something else for dinner, so I still haven't tried the recipe.  Maybe when a fresh batch of favas hits the markets.

For more fava facts, check out this link from NPR.

So if you see some chef has put a fava heavy dish on the menu, rest assured that there is an army of prep cooks in the kitchen secretly wishing they could have his liver and some Chianti.

Fava Beans: A Springtime Favorite on Foodista

Friday, May 22, 2009

Outdoor Kitchen Complete

Finally completed the patio and outdoor kitchen, just in time for this weekend's plant/garage sale and garden tour to benefit Purrfect Diamonds in the Ruff Pet Rescue

New Infrared grill from Lowe's.  

View from the table overlooking the garden.

I love this chair and netting from Ikea.  It's the perfect place to relax  with a glass of wine and check e-mail after a long day working in the garden.

Monday, May 11, 2009

All-Clad Factory Outlet Sale

The All-Clad Factory is located in Canonsburg, PA, near Pittsburgh. Twice a year (first week of June and December) they have a 3 day outlet sale at the Washington County Fairgrounds.

The next sale is June 5-7th. It's a little over 2 hour drive from Akron. Expect to stand in line for a bit before being let into the sale building. It's all pretty orderly.

If you have a wheeled cart, it's a good idea to take it with you. They provide boxes, and people get plenty creative by attaching bungee cords and dragging them around, but it's a hassle.

These are factory seconds, so expect some imperfections. There are tables for you to inspect your items before going through the check-out.

Tables are arranged by type: Copper-Clad, Stainless, Non-Stick, with stock-pots and odd stuff on the opposite side. Center tables have utensils and smalls. Lids are purchased separately for the most part. Do some research and plan out what you'd like to purchase ahead of time, but be prepared to see things you didn't know existed. One year I went for skillets; last trip I went for saucepans.

Prices are 60% or more off typical retail. These pans are definitely an investment, but will probably be the last ones you ever have to buy.

Friday, May 8, 2009

Bafflingly Bad Customer Service

I am constantly reminded that we are in a bad economic times with rampant employment.  So can someone explain to me why courteous customer service seems to be evaporating more quickly than my 401k?

I went to a national hardware store this week to buy a new garden hose that was on sale.  I like this company's product and went out of my way to go there for this one item.  The shelves were bare.  The display stacked in the middle of the store was not the correct size.  A clerk who was in the back of the store, when asked if they were out of stock, walked over and looked at the empty shelf and confirmed what I already knew - none on the shelves.

She said I could get a raincheck.  I went to the customer service/check-out and purchased one small item and asked if I could get a raincheck.  The salesclerk, who appeared to be on the verge of some kind of fit, was turning from side to side, and muttering how she was losing her mind.  Ok, I'll play along.  I gave her what I hoped was a sympathetic, yet in a hurry to get out of the store look.

She then said to me "Well did you bring in an ad so I could look up the number from it?" To which I replied in a tone that barely managed to squelch my sarcasm, "Well, no I thought you might have one since you WORK here".  After a little more arm flapping and muttering, she managed to indeed produce an ad, get the info, and shove the little form that asked for way too much information for me to buy a hose.

As I was filling out the form and attempting to pay for my $1.47 purchase, a woman was behind me waiting to check out.  I am moving as fast as I can to complete this transaction, but every time I check my peripheral vision, she is creeping closer and closer to me.  It wasn't like she was carrying an anvil that needed hoisted on the counter so she could wait in peace, she had a couple of paintbrushes.  I do not understand how the whole personal space guidelines go out the window in checkout lines.  We were the only two people there, no need for us to be interlocking.  I have in fact informed people in the grocery store if they got any closer we would have to date or get married.

Today I went to a greenhouse to look at tomato plants.  This place does a lot of mail order and it  looked like Santa's elves in Florida as they were stuffing boxes and tag teaming the mail carrier and the Fedex carriers.

Me, the live in the store customer however, didn't even rate an acknowledgement.  I asked Santa as he bustled by, a pricing question.  He grudgingly answered.

I did my shopping despite the fact that this early in season, a lot of the plants I wanted, appeared to be sold out.

I attempt to checkout.  No one at the register.  No one apparently notices or cares that I've parked a cart with plants I'd like to purchase there.  I circle the elves and ask what the procedure is.  One mutters something about no one being at the register, something my powerful sense of intuition already alerted me to, then grunts at Santa, who agrees to take my money.

As he is ringing, I asked "Are all of the tomato plants out?".   He looks at me like I'm probably a little slow and says "We've been selling them since March 15th, and we will be selling them until June 15th.  We are starting some seeds today".  Ok, so I say "Then the answer is no?".  Not only no, but he then informed that it's "nebulous".  What???  Did he have to look that up to do a crossword puzzle?

More to the point, wouldn't the correct response have been: "Was there something you were looking for that you didn't find?"  But I didn't get that until I'd already made the decision to never shop there again ever, a fact I must have transmitted telepathically.  He moved on to nervous, attempted make-up banter, but it was too late.  I won't be back to see if they restock.

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

A Place for Everything Thanks to Ikea

I knew when I redid the kitchen that I did not want upper cabinets. Open shelving facilitates creative cooking. Having a lot of good things to work with does you little good when they creep backward in crammed cupboards, until the hide-and-seek game culminates with a trip to the trash.

If there were a 12 step program for oil and vinegar addicts, someone would probably stage an intervention and suggest I join.

Fig Molasses? Yep, I've got that. Pumpkin Seed oil? Yep, I've got that. And very clearly, a lot more.

Originally I conceived a tower of Lazy Susans to house this obsession. Bruce in short order suggested the two shelves that hold the two above counter versions. I painted them to match the walls.

I love Ikea's magnetic strips and containers. The containers also are very handy for parking recipes on the fridge during a cooking marathon.

An Ikea book ledge and frame (why in the world is the frame 11 x 15 1/2? Is that some standard size in Sweden???), house my signed by Michael and Donna Ruhlman Ratio Chart, companion to the new book. Not sure my vintage Cleveland Scale is up to the task, but I haven't had time to invest in testing the ratios yet.

The Ikea rails, hooks and hanging spice racks, complete the wall storage.

Giddy happy. If I wasn't in the middle of building an outdoor kitchen and getting the garden in gear, I'd be even happier. This is the season when I tend to eat whatever I can forage come dark-thirty.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

White House Gardens CSA

I am dual blogging. In preparation for the upcoming CSA season, I am developing original recipes and testing other recipes to co-ordinate with our expected share harvests.

You can check out the recipes and box contents, even if you aren't a member, here.

Saturday, May 2, 2009

Successful gardening starts with a plan

Plant your favorites in a square or a row. Still too early for many vegetables

By Mary Beth Breckenridge
Beacon Journal staff writer

Published on Saturday, May 02, 2009

You've done the hard work of creating a vegetable garden and figured out what you want to grow there. Now comes the fun part: planting.

It's a legitimate excuse to play in the dirt.

Before you dig, it's best to have a plan, said Geri Unger, director of education at Cleveland Botanical Garden and the coordinator of its Green Corps youth-gardening program. It needn't be anything elaborate, just a rough sketch to help you figure out what will fit and where.

Note the spacing recommended for each plant and its eventual height, information that's on the plant tag or seed packet. And consider your garden's orientation to the sun. Position taller plants in the northwest section so they won't shade smaller plants as they grow.

One planting method Unger likes is square-foot gardening, which involves plotting a raised bed in one-foot squares. You plant one type of vegetable or fruit in each square, making it easier to tell desirable plants from weeds and curbing the temptation to plant more than you can use. If you like, you can plant squares of a single crop over successive weeks to extend your harvest.

The catalog retailer Gardener's Supply Co. has some garden plans based on the square-foot method on its Web site, It also has a garden planner that lets you plot out your own garden online, and the software even tells you how many of a particular plant will fit in each square. Click on the tab marked ''Learning'' to find those planning tools.

Another good resource is the Square Foot Gardening Foundation's Web site,

The more traditional way of planting is in rows. There is some merit to that method, because it makes it easy to tell newly emerged plants from weeds, said Denise Ellsworth, a horticultural educator with the Ohio State University Extension in Summit County. If all the seedlings are in a straight line and look the same, you know those are what you planted, she said. If something looks different, you can tell it's a weed.

An easy way to plant seeds in rows is by making seed tape out of toilet paper, Ellsworth said. Start with a strip about 3 feet long, fold it in half lengthwise to make a crease, and then open it back up and spritz it with water. Use the crease line as a guide to spread out the seeds, spacing them according to the instructions on the seed packet.

Then fold the paper in thirds lengthwise, spritz again, and just plant the strip in the ground. The paper will decompose as the seeds sprout.

When you're planning your garden, don't think just horizontally, Unger advised. You'll make better use of your space if you train some plants to grow vertically on trellises, stakes or other supports. It's also a great way to disguise an unattractive chain-link fence, said Tamara Mitchell, a personal chef from West Akron who also coaches gardeners under the name Green Thumb Diva (

Tomatoes are an obvious choice for vertical gardening, but other plants are good candidates — squash, pole beans, peas and cucumbers, to name a few.

You might even take a tip from the Native Americans: Create a natural support by planting corn, beans and squash together in a mutually beneficial arrangement called the Three Sisters. The cornstalk supports the beans, and the broad squash leaves shade the soil.

You need to plant several rows of corn for adequate pollination, though, so this is a method that requires a good bit of space. And to Mitchell, fresh corn is available so readily in our area that growing it isn't worth the effort. ''I really wouldn't waste real estate on corn for food,'' she said.

If you'll be walking in your garden, create paths, Mitchell said. They'll help you limit how much of the garden gets compacted underfoot — a significant problem that inhibits plant growth.

Whether you plant your garden from seed or transplants depends on what you're planting and how soon you want to eat it. Many plants are best sown directly from seeds, but plants such as tomatoes, peppers and eggplant have such a long growing season that in our climate it's better to start them indoors and transplant them outside when the weather warms.

Nurseries sell transplants, often in multiple packs. But some will sell individual plants — a good choice for small households or gardeners who want to plant several varieties of certain vegetable.

Don't be too eager to plant, Mitchell cautioned. Some cold-tolerant plants such as lettuce and green onions can go into the ground early, but she doesn't plant vulnerable plants such as tomatoes until Memorial Day, when the danger of frost has passed.

Those plants won't grow anyway till the soil warms, noted George Willoughby, owner of Manchester Garden Center in New Franklin. ''The late gardens catch up with the early ones,'' he said.

If you're planting from seed, follow the directions on the package. Heed the instructions for thinning the seedlings, too, which means pulling out some of the baby plants as they emerge. New gardeners are often reluctant to do that, Ellsworth said, but too much competition results in a poor yield.

And don't limit your garden to fruits and vegetables, she suggested. Flowering herbs such as catmint, lavender and thyme or even flowers grown for cutting encourage pollinators and serve as food sources for beneficial insects.

After you've planted, mulch with straw, leaf mulch or some other organic mulch. It suppresses weeds and slows the evaporation of water from the soil, and it feeds the soil as it breaks down.

As your garden grows, you'll need to visit frequently to keep it healthy. Weed at least weekly, because weeds compete with your food plants for water and nutrients. (Mitchell recommends a circle hoe, which lets you get close to plants without damaging them. Order one at

Keep an eye on rainfall, too. A garden needs about an inch of precipitation a week, Ellsworth said. If plants start to get dry, water them — but give them an occasional long drink rather than more frequent sips.

Water near the roots, Unger said, and don't blast the plants. Don't overwater, because too much water can be as harmful as too little, she said.

A soaker hose is another good option, Ellsworth said. It's inexpensive and requires little work.

Unger judges her plants' need for water by whether they look and feel dry, but Ellsworth prefers to rely on a rain gauge. You don't need to buy one, though. A straight-sided can, such as a tuna or cat-food can, will work fine, she said.

Just set the can in the garden and check it weekly to see how much rain it has collected. Then dump it and start again.

Keep an eye out for pests and signs of disease, too, the gardeners said. Books and Web sites can help you identify problems, and some counties have master gardener hot lines that can help. With experience, you'll come to learn good bugs from bad.

Before the season ends, make a note of what you planted where, or take a picture of your garden once everything is in, Ellsworth said. That will help you remember the layout next year, so you can avoid planting crops in the same places. Otherwise bugs and diseases that prey on specific types of plants will keep returning year after year.

Those tiny predators aren't all that can ruin a garden, though. Deer, rabbits, groundhogs and other types of wildlife are notorious for nibbling before the humans can harvest.

If possible, Ellsworth suggested fencing your garden to protect it from the type of wildlife that frequents your yard — a very tall fence for deer, a fence sunk into the ground for groundhogs and a fence of small mesh for rabbits. Mitchell said it's a good idea to check with your local government or your homeowners association to make sure you stay within the rules.

Then just try to be patient till the harvest comes in. It'll be worth the wait.

Mary Beth Breckenridge can be reached at 330-996-3756 or

Friday, May 1, 2009

Pergola and Path In Progress

Two tons of crushed limestone and 2,300 pounds of flagstone later, here is the progress on the path. Fortunately I had some help, but I think it's safe to say that I have lifted more weight this week than in any other in my entire life.

The path and red panels are the view from the kitchen window. With the emerging green of the plants, it is truly vibrant and makes washing dishes more pleasant.

The guys worked on the pergola over the patio yesterday. I went out to check on the progress just in time to hear some unhappy grumbling over a missed measurement. With 80% of the cross beams in place, they all came back down and were redone.

Cloudy, drizzly days are good for one thing: washing windows. Mine are now all sparkling clean, thanks to Invisible Glass. No streaks!

Interior painting nearly complete. I can not wait to get things back in order. Between having to empty the bookcase of hundreds of cookbooks so the carpet could be stretched, emptying the pantry so we could pull it out and paint behind it, and having the garage full of saws and equipment, it's beginning to feel like the entire house was tipped over and all of the contents spilled.