Tuesday, July 30, 2013

A Potting Shed for Rattlebridge


When we began renovating Rattlebridge Farm, a potting shed was the last thing on my mind.
It didn't even make the Top 500 in my To-Do list.
Then we built a small vegetable garden (a potager-to-be) and refurbished another space,
all the while caring for weed-loving herb and perennial gardens.

It wasn't long before we'd filled one end of the garage with tools, fertilizer, weed
emergent, and even a few bottles of lethal and icky Round-Up.
Two city slickers, eaten alive with ticks and chiggers, yet knee deep in chemicals.
A view of our "potager" from afar, with its itty boxwood border:
We could see a Godzilla-sized mess forming, so we met with a local landscape architect. Jason
was a Master Gardener at Cheekwood Gardens before starting his business, and he
suggested a few ideas, which I instantly embraced.
He envisioned limestone steps leading to the potager.
And a potting shed, Williamsburg style, tucked to one side of the magnolia (hill) garden.

Here's a picture of the potager (foreground) and the freshly weeded hill garden (magnolia).
 There are two possible places for the shed.

The refurbished, weeded hill (or magnolia) garden lies beyond the potager.

Jason thought a gate would look lovely, too.
And a focal point.
I always, always, forget about that.

 He described a curved path that would lead to the potting shed.

I don't know.
This might be a place where I would spend lots and lots of time.

 I have a lovely potting table in the basement, a bit similar to this one:

Tonight, as rain glazes the windows and a coolness spills
through the mountains, I think of my gardens. I won't need
to water them until tomorrow. Until then, I can take a breath and dream.


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Asian Pork Tenderloin with Spinach and Sugar Snap Peas

"What's for dinner?"
When strung together, those three words can strike terror into my heart.
Sometimes I just don't know what to cook.
Does that every happen to you?
Do you flip through old magazines, hoping a recipe will catch your fancy?
One rainy day, while watching Food Network, I was fascinated by the way Chef Anne Burrell put together a sublime dish--grilled pork tenderloin with an Asian marinade and a mirepoix of spinach and sugar snap peas.
By the time she'd plated the food, I'd already made a grocery list.

Asian Pork Tenderloin with a Spinach and Sugar Snap Pea Mirepoix
                                                               Source: Chef Anne Burrell,  Food Network.
3/4 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup rice wine vinegar
fresh ginger -- 1-inch, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
1 scallion, chopped
Zest of 1 orange
Main Dish:
2 to 4 lb pork tenderloin
2 tablespoons coriander seeds (ground)
1 lb fresh sugar snap peas
1/2 pound baby spinach
1 scallion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, smashed
1-inch piece of ginger, chopped
(my addition) 1 box Thai kitchen's Pad Thai Noodle Kit
Prepare marinade by combining first 6 ingredients. Place pork in a deep bowl
and add marinade. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and marinate for 2 hours.
Remove meat (reserve marinade) and sprinkle coriander over the pork.
Pour marinade into a saucepan. Bring to a boil, reducing liquid somewhat.
As Chef Anne says, the liquid absolutely must be boiled vigorously (read her recipe HERE). I was a bit scared at this point, but the aromas from the pan soon calmed me down.
Remove pan from heat and set aside. This will be the sauce for the pork.
Prepare the grill.
Add pork to rack and sear on all sides. Scoot the meat to the edge of the grill and continue cooking. Chef Anne advised 7 to 10 minutes. But I just had to cook it a bit longer because I am chicken when it comes to pork.
Remove tenderloin from grill and let it "rest" for at ten minutes or so.
Meanwhile, remove stems from the sugar snap peas. 
Remove stems from spinach.
You'll need:
Sea salt (or Kosher salt)
Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 (1-inch) piece of fresh ginger
1 scallion, sliced
Put salt and ice in a large bowl and set aside. This is your "water bath" to blanch the peas.
Place peas in a pan and boil for 4 minutes. Put peas in water bath. Remove peas, drain, and set aside.
Coat a pan with EVOO and add ginger, garlic, and scallions. Sautee until the scallions are soft and translucent. Add sugar snaps, tossing in the seasoned oil. Add spinach and keep tossing until the spinach wilts.
Remove from heat.
Prepare noodles. I only followed the 1st step of the directions, eliminating the egg, etc. I cooked the noodles, drained them, and returned noodles to the pot. Add Thai sauce and mix.
Slice the pork, arranging it on the mirepoix of spinach, sugar snaps, and noodles.

Drizzle with (boiled/reduced) marinade.

It sounds complicated. A hand-wringing sort of meal.
But it's really easy.

The fragrant marinade will wing its way from the grill to your kitchen, scenting the air with ginger.  Best of all, for at least twelve hours, you won't have to face the age-old question:
What's for supper?

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Sunday, July 28, 2013

Lavender Week: Day 7

The last seven days of my life have been sweetly colored with lavender.
Thanks to the Novel Bakers,
I've felt brave enough to dip my culinary finger in purple.
When I tested recipes, rain and cloudy skies kept me indoors much of the time,
but I was surrounded by the calming aroma of lavender. However,
I've got to admit: I wasn't sure about eating calmness. My family
was even more dubious.
Look at Will, rushing away from the lavender lady.
As the days sped by, my kitchen sink filled with measuring spoons and
bowls. A delicate aroma spiced the air. Soon, my family came to love this remarkable, versatile herb.
If you are a lavender virgin, or live with one, I've got the perfect "jumping-off"
recipe: Grilled Lavender Honey Breast of Chicken.

What You Need:
3/4 cup white wine (or lavender) vinegar
1/4 cup grated lemon zest
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup lavender honey (or honey)
1 tablespoon dried organic lavender buds, finely ground
1 1/2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 tablespoon cracked black pepper
8 boneless chicken breast halves with skin
To make the marinade, mix all ingredients (except chicken). I added extra honey because my Dear Honey was standing over my shoulder and he said, "The marinade tastes bitter! Do you know what you're doing?"
The answer was, "Dear Honey Cakes, stuff it."
But he wouldn't go away so I added the honey.
Back to the recipe:
Place chicken breasts in a dish and add marinade Cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Prepare your grill. Remove chicken from the marinade. Place breasts on the rack, skin side down. Naturally I couldn't find skinless and boneless breasts--in my part of the
South, one cannot have both, apparently.
Cook until chicken is done--prick the breasts with the tip of a knife, and if the
juices are clear, your chicken is done. Don't forget to baste.
(I forgot.)
It's wise to NOT talk on the phone while grilling
or your chicken might incinerate.
It goes without saying to discard the leftover marinade.

 By the end of the week, my family was ready for a bit more purple.
They wanted something sweet and cold.
I wanted something easy.
 No-Cook Lavender Vanilla Ice Cream
 1 pint heavy cream
1 pint half-and-half
2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground lavender buds
food coloring, if desired
Whisk ingredients and pour into an electric ice cream maker.
It took forever and ever for the mixture to solidify,
but it was worth it.

Come on, try just one little spoonful.
It's been a delicious week.
I always cook on a wing and a prayer,
but when you add lavender to a recipe,
you are calling down the angels.

Resources for Essential Oils:
You will find a plethora of information and resources
in the index of Sharon Shipley's The Lavender Cookbook.

I've had fun playing with Mary (Home Is Where the Boat Is), Mari (Once Upon a Plate), Jain (A Quiet Life), and special guest baker Pam (Sidewalk Shoes). If you click on the
links (below), you can see all of their posts from Lavender Week.

You can check out the Novel Bakers' earlier culinary visits to Italy, France, and Ireland
HERE. You'll find links to recipes and gorgeousness by Mary, Jain, and Mari.
The Novel Bakers will return in late August
with their 3rd adventure. More food and fun!
A Metamorphosis Monday  contribution.

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Saturday, July 27, 2013

Homemaking With Lavender: 3 Recipes

Welcome to the next-to-the-last day of Lavender Week.
In addition to having a joyous time, I've learned a few things.
My husband has enjoyed it, too. He looked up the Latin word for lavender:
The word rolls softly on the tongue, doesn't it?
It means "to bathe or to wash."  Since lavender is renowned for its
relaxing qualities, I wanted to find non-edible ways to use this herb in my home.
First, I made lavender bath salts.

2 cups Epsom salts
1 cup coarse sea salt
4 to 6 Tablespoons baking soda
16 drops lavender essential oil
lavender buds
Mix and pour into jars.
How easy was that?

A family member suffers from peripheral neuropathy, and he
has found relief by soaking his tired feet in lavender salt.

Individual jars make darling gifts.
I found tiny jars at a wedding party favor website, then
added the mixed salts. 

How to Make Lavender Fire Starters
Gather lavender, pine boughs, rosemary, and other herbs.
Tie into bundles and hang upside-down to dry.
During Lavender Week, I used bundles in the grill to add a lavender-scented smoke
to whatever I was cooking. The aroma is magical. These bundles would
be perfect in an outdoor fireplace.
Suggested Reading and Resources:


How to Make Lavender Water
This clean-smelling solution is perfect for ironing clothes, spritzing on pillowcases,
or washing floors. In France, many homemakers mop their floors
with lavender water.
(Be sure to test the water on your fabrics and/or floor before applying it.)

Be sure to use a high quality essential oil.
You can find a tutorial HERE.

Resources for Essential Oils:
You will find a plethora of information and resources
in the index of Sharon Shipley's The Lavender Cookbook.
You'll have fun visiting Mary (Home Is Where the Boat Is), Mari (Once Upon a Plate), Jain (A Quiet Life), and special guest baker Pam (Sidewalk Shoes). 

Lavender Week
July 22 - July 28 
 Several Bakers (me, too!) will have posts for you on Sunday.

 Metamorphosis Monday and  Wow Us Wednesdays  contributions.

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