This morning the kids and I harvested breakfast and dinner from our garden. Not a full meal, but at least part of it. For starters, we had a handful of home grown strawberries - a few of the tiny white alpine ones, and half a dozen nice red ones, minus a few slug bites. It turns out that a strawberry takes at least a week or so as a red berry to become fully ripe. We didn't realize this right away, and I had doubts our garden could actually produce sweet berries. But now I know, it just takes a long time for them to be ready. The red berries need to be dark red and super shiny, swollen looking, almost. Just turning red isn't enough. The little white ones are harder to gage, but the best indicator seems to be that they get larger than I expected, soft, and dry out a little, so that they are lighter in weight than their less sweet neighbors.
The white alpine plant is super productive, I'd love to find a red one. Its probably too late to plant berries for this year, but I'm plotting a spot for next year to replace my son's digging area. He'll have to move his ancient, rusty dump truck somewhere else.
We also dug up potatoes - about five and a third pounds from a three foot by four foot section of one of the raised beds. I am really cheap at heart, and would like to at least feel that I'm getting a reasonable deal on the produce we grow, and in this case I do. I paid about three dollars for seed potatoes, planted half of them back in January in this location, and then ignored them until now. I think thats a good trade - they were essentially free, since I didn't give them any water or food. Now that our dry foggy summer has arrived, I'll have to become a slave to the hose for everything else. Or maybe debug our sprinkler system, though after the humungous water bill we still haven't paid off from last year, I'd rather stick with something I can control. Maybe I'll buy one of those old school rotating sprinklers that screws onto the hose for the lawn.
The favas from our garden really surprised me last week, and this morning the kids picked more. I know that fresher produce always tastes better, but I figured that the favas growing in our yard would taste about the same as the ones we get from our CSA box. But that was way wrong. Picked just before cooking, they are like a completely different food - bright green, soft and really delicious. Our CSA favas are fine, but now I know I should eat them right away, instead of letting them languish in the fridge for a week or more while I schedule time for podding, skinning and cooking. Its much better to just bump the schedule back half an hour and do it as soon as the beans are picked.
So the favas win my Cheapest Yardfood Award. They need really, absolutely, no care (as long as it still rains occasionally), appear to have no pests, and are a thousand times more tasty than what you can buy in the store, one hundred times more than when fresh from someone else's farm. What a great deal!
After the potatoes were dug, my daughter requested that we eat them with roast chicken for dinner. So we did. Along with some favas. The recipe I used for favas is actually for asparagus, but I threw in a bit of both. This is the third time I've made it, and it is good this way, but I think it might be better with favas alone. When they are super fresh. My good friend Shelley gave me this cookbook, Fast Fresh and Green, for my birthday, and I'm really enjoying the author's blog posts as she gardens and cooks, just like me.
When preparing this dinner, have the favas removed from their pods (they don't have to be skinned yet, but it would be easier if they were) before you start cooking. Then begin with the chicken. Once it is in the oven put on a pot of boiling water if you need to skin the favas. Prep the potatoes and get them in the oven when you flip the chicken after the first 20 minutes, then use the next 20 to prep the veggies and the last 20 to cook them. My kids love to take favas out of their pods - yours might too.
Roat Chicken: (adapted from Alice Waters' In the Green Kitchen)
One three to four pound chicken
Sprigs of thyme or other herbs
Preheat the oven to 400°. Wash the chicken with water, then pat it dry with paper towels. Salt it liberally inside and outside. Put the chicken in a lightly oiled roasting pan, breast side up. Put a few sprigs of herbs in the cavity, then tie the legs together. Tuck the wingtips under the back of the neck.
Roast the chicken for 20 minutes, then turn the chicken over and roast breast side down for 20 minutes, then turn it over again so that it is breast side up and roast for 20 more minutes. To test for doneness, pierce the leg joint with a knife and make sure the juices that run out are clear, not pink. When done, remove the chicken to a platter and let it rest for ten minutes before carving.
While the chicken rests, add a little stock or water to the pan and, using a wooden spoon or spatula, scrape the brown bits off and stir them into the liquid. Then remove the fat (you can spoon it off, but I like to pour it into a fat separator). Pour the juices over the meat after carving, right before serving.
Favas and Asparagus with Dijon Thyme Pan Sauce: (adapted from Susie Middleton's Fast, Fresh and Green)
1/4 cup chicken stock (you can always sub in water if you don't have any - and its good to freeze it in small increments, next time you have extra)
2 Tablespoons dry white wine (like sauvignon blanc)
1 Tablespoon olive oil
1 Tablespoon unsalted butter
2 bunches medium asparagus or 2 cups peeled and skinned favas (you'd probably want two full plastic bags worth before podding, see below for fava prep instructions) or 1 of each
1 Tablespoon fresh thyme, with the leaves pulled off the stems (you can sub in dried if needed)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
Combine the stock and water in a measuring cup.
In a large, straight sided saute pan, heat the olive oil and butter over medium high heat. When the butter has melted and is bubbling, add the asparagus and favas and salt, toss to coat. Arrange in one layer, and cook without tossing until the undersides are browned, about four minutes.
Give the veggies a good stir, with the intent of turning them to their other sides, and let them cook over medium heat for another two minutes. Carefully pour the measuring cup of liquid over the pot, it will sputter, so be careful. Simmer for a couple minutes, until the liquid is nearly gone, then stir in the thyme and mustard and turn off the heat. Serve the veggies while warm and pour the pan juices over them.