Friday, June 25, 2010

greenwood black beans and rice

We went to the Boordy Vineyard last week for an evening picnic. Several people asked for my black bean and rice recipe, so I thought I'd post what I recall of that batch, here. No two batches are ever alike, you see! For one, our friend Jess doesn't like mushrooms(?!), and because we love Jess, I made this batch without them. (Normally, sliced mushrooms would go in with the onions and ground meat.) Still, this batch was particularly good. . . .

1 lb ground pork
olive oil
1 large Vidalia onion chopped fine
1 or 2 cans of black beans
- (I used one jumbo can – not sure if that’s 2 cans or not)
3 or 4 carrots chopped fine
- (primarily for colour so measure accordingly)
Knorr’s beef bouillon cubes
- (enough for 6 cups of water – so 3 large cubes)
3 cups rice
- (I used 1.5 cups “Royal Blend” wild rice blend and 1.5 cups basmati rice)
red pepper flakes (to taste - don't be shy!)
whatever other herbs tickle your fancy
– I used [probably – who remembers?!] celery seed, cumin, rosemary and savory – and chopped parsley to mix with the onion to add later as a garnish, on top)

In a large heavy pot (suitable also for cooking rice – so with a good, tight lid), pour in olive oil, add half of the chopped onion (the rest will be reserved for garnish) and cook over medium heat. Add in the ground pork and brown and cook. When the onions have softened a bit and the pork is browned and crumbled, add in the bouillon cubes, and mash them to mix with the olive oil, onion and meat. They mash easily, as they are heated.

Stir in the rice, and stir to coat. Keep the heat at medium to medium high, and drain the bean juice into a measuring cup, counting it toward the 6 cups of water you will need to add to the rice. Pour in the bean juice and then add the balance of 6 cups in water, stirring it all up, to make sure the beef bouillon is mixed through. Add maybe a half cup of the beans (you’ll add the rest when the rice is cooked). Add your carrots, herbs and red pepper flakes and turn up the heat, stirring often so the rice doesn’t scorch, until the mixture comes to a boil. You want to get it to a boil as quickly as possible.

As soon as it comes to a boil, turn down the heat – for me, I turn it down as low as my medium gas burner will go – cover with tight lid, and let it simmer for 20 minutes. Don’t lift the lid or do anything to it for that 20 minutes – this is a bit of a faith element, as you have to trust the heat is neither too low (it won’t cook) or too high (it will scorch. . . .) . Pretty much cook the rice the way you usually cook normal rice, though, and you should be ok.

After 20 minutes, take pot off heat and let it sit – still covered – for another 5 to 10 minutes. No peeking!

Now for the moment of truth: lift the lid, and fluff the rice with a big fork. [and hope it’s neither undercooked or overcooked!] Stir in the black beans, and adjust seasonings if necessary.

Serve with sour cream and the chopped onion/parsley mixture (into which I also pour a bit of good olive oil).

Sorry, no pictures of either the dish or our outing. It was a beautiful setting. . . . Fireflies among the trees.

Tuesday, June 22, 2010

cayenne warfare

Last year, the queen-mum found a gorgeous day lilly garden in Bethany Beach, with an obliging gardener who will occasionally dig up some of his prize day lilies for you, for a modest sum. She ordered all kinds and colours from him, some of which made their way to the greenwood. Not having seen the garden in bloom, I had to take the rave reviews on faith. We planted them last fall.

The first blossom was certainly not a disappointment. It looked like a cross between a honeydew and a cantaloupe - almost good enough to eat! The next morning, I went out to see what new blossoms might be open. They were all gone. The deer ate all the day lilly blossoms except for this one.

Man! That's it. No more mister nice-guy!!!

The colour suggests my recourse. Cayenne pepper. Just a little over $3 from Sam's Club. This would hurt, going down. So far, so good. They haven't touched it. And that's good news, as that means I'll get at least a couple blossoms this summer, even if they are all cayenne-coloured! Next year, I'll break out the cayenne at the first sign of budding.

Oh, and for the green beans, too. The deer don't eat the beans themselves, but they eat all the leaves off the plant, which effectively stops the plant in its tracks. . . . Everything in the garden now sports a reddish glaze. Here, you can see wee green beans left behind when the deer ate the green bean leaf canopy overhead. . . . I peppered the remaining leaves. All's fair in garden warfare!

(but I will remember to wash my hands after picking green beans. . . . I will remember to wash my hands after picking green beans. . . . I will remember to wash my hands after picking green beans. . . . )

Sunday, June 13, 2010

meanwhile, underground. . . .

In stark contrast to the abundant herb bounty are the root veggies I planted in late April. We've got radishes and carrots. After an initial good show on the radish front, they seem to have fallen off. We have lovely radish tops, with red, string roots below. No root vegetable. Or not much vegetable yet, anyway.

The carrots have great carrot tops, but not much root yet either. I keep thinking "I'll give them another week", but it's hard to resist looking to see how they're doing. I sacrificed another one yesterday, trying to impress the wee princess visiting us who condescended to take notice of my garden. We debated which was the largest carrot top, and pulled it up to see what was going on underground. I was holding my breath. It wasn't much, but it was the best so far and we took it inside, washed it, and prepared to dine. The princess and I took turns eating the carrot slices, which looked for all the world like Advil tablets. Except they were very, very sweet. I'll try again in another week or two - unless another princess comes calling. . . .

herbes de le bois vert

Somehow I've always thought that the fall was the proper harvest time. I'd been wondering how I would get through the summer without buying another tin of herbes de Provence before I could properly harvest the greenwood herbs and start making my own greenwood blend. We grow all the required herbs here, after all, and it's not all that difficult to dry them and mix them together in a blend I can keep on hand to use most everyday!

The herb garden has become horrendously overgrown, however, so yesterday - midsummer - I took my shears to it. There are a lot of herbs!

The oregano in particular was invading all its neighbors and had to be dealt with, with a severe hand. Likewise, the thyme. They're all washed and bundled now, drying. With any luck, I'll have another harvest in the fall.

Meanwhile, I have to decide upon the best recipe to combine the herbs. There are as many recipes as there are people who make the concoction. As I do not intend to try and slavishly copy my idea of the proper "French" mix, though, I shall take a free approach to it. The herbs I usually cook with are rosemary, thyme and savory. I'll use them in approximately equal proportions (25% each of the whole), and add in lavender, tarragon, sage, oregano and basil to make up the remaining 25%. A lot of the blends available here in the States also include dried garlic. Oh no. The garlic must always be fresh!

I'll certainly have a new batch of herbes de Provence before my last tin of the commercial blend runs out. But it's not herbes de Provence, is it? It's herbs of the greenwood: herbes de le bois vert.

I can hardly wait.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

the making of a sock monkey

Found in the attic of my mother some time ago: a pair of vintage red-heeled socks, together with the original instructions for making a sock monkey. They had belonged to my grandmother - to Nana - who had a fondness for making small stuffed critters. For a reason I cannot imagine, she never got around to making this particular one.

Actually, I can imagine why she never made this sock monkey. Believe it or not, I think the only reason I was able to make the sock monkey at this particular point in time is because of my recent experience steeking! I kid you not. I am a knitter - Nana was a knitter (heck, she was the one who taught me) - and most normal knitters can not bring themselves to cut their knitting. The thought alone sends them shrieking from the room.

As a result, the sock monkey socks sat in Nana's stash, unused, for years. (You guessed it: making the sock monkey involves cutting the knitted sock. . . .) Upon her death, the socks eventually came to me (and that was a while ago) and have sat in my stash until just this point in time, where the anticipated arrival of a grandson, coupled with the failure of the world to stop revolving upon the happening of the cutting [oh horror!] of knitting, combined with the love of our daughter-in-law for monkey toys (and our love for her) to push me over the edge and induce me to find and finally make up Nana's vintage sock monkey.

That would make this a present from his great, great grandmother to baby Torre!

If I can pry it away from Luther, that is.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

zucchini ramblings. . . .

OK, I'm not crazy about zucchini. The queen mum had requested room for one (count it - "one" - "1" - however you want to say ONE single, solitary) plant here in the garden, which I reluctantly agreed to harbor. She solemnly promised to look after it and to dispose of all the bounty. Heaven knows one zucchini plant can put out an impressive array of zucchinis. Around here, the joke goes that in August you lock your car and keep the windows up just to avoid gift bags of homegrown zucchinis!

Well, the queen mum claims there was a mix-up and that White Flower Farms mistakenly sent THREE zucchini plants instead of only one. What's a queen mum to do but send all three to their new happy home here at the greenwood - overseen by a gardener who can't stand zucchinis?!

No, I don't like squash, either. No, I don't care if you have a recipe that renders them "absolutely delicious." And somebody please explain to me why anyone would cook zucchini in a recipe that supposedly makes them not taste like zucchini at all?! I always figured that if you like zucchini, you'll be happy cooking and eating zucchini that tastes like zucchini. If you don't like zucchini, I'm thinking you're better off cooking something else entirely - something you like, let's say - rather than trying to disguise the taste of zucchini!

Just thinking out loud here, folks.

Here's one rather nice thing about the zucchini plants, though. They put out some pretty flowers! Based on the number of pretty flowers, we're going to have a bumper crop of zucchini.

Better lock your doors.