Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Rancho Rewind: Beet Pizza

One of the things that I'm most looking forward to in the winter garden are all of the beets.  Last year Jeremy and I made beet pizza a couple of times, and flipping through photos, I came across one of our creations that got me excited for this years crop.

We used the regular pizza dough from Trader Joe's for this one.  (We need to start making our own, I know it's easy, but not as easy as buying it from TJs!)  We usually brush a little olive oil onto the sheet pan and then sprinkle that with some yellow corn meal. (Nope, we don't gots a pizza stone.)  After a couple of initial versions, we decided that with a beet pizza we need to pre-bake the crust before adding the toppings (the beets and beet greens have so much moisture that it makes it hard for the crust to crisp up if you don't). So we bake the plain crust for 8 minutes or so, pull it out and dress it up.

Dressing it up:
  • sauteed beet greens
    • I just chop them up and through them into a hot cast iron pan with a little olive oil, salt and crushed red pepper.  Cook until wilted and just tender.
  • roasted beets
    • I scrub them, cut the tops off, and put them into a roasting pan or pyrex.
    • larger beets I might cut in half, but otherwise I leave them whole.
    • sprinkle a couple of teaspoons of water into the pan, cover tight with aluminum foil, and roast at 400 degrees for about 30 minutes, until fork tender.
    • let the beets cool, then peel the skins off with your fingers.  (it's a little messy, but the skins come off really easily.)
    • cut the cooled beets into thick slices.
  • walnuts , rough chopped
  • goat cheese
  • parmesean cheese
  • fresh parsley, chopped
Spread the goat cheese on the pre-baked crust.  Distribute the greens and the sliced beets over the cheese.  Sprinkle walnuts and parmesean over the top.  Bake for another 8-10 minutes. Sprinkle parsley on the finished pie.

We kept it pretty basic, but you could easily add other flavors that would be great.  Maybe some balsamic vinegar or flavored olive oil or walnut oil drizzled over the top when it comes out of the oven?  Chives, onions or shallots?  Pickled onions or shallots?  Pine nuts?  Blue cheese?  No cheese?  However it is modified, I am looking forward to recreating it with at least a part of the new season's crop.  Hurry up beets!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Winter Vegetable Garden

Three weeks ago now, I got the lower bed seeded with the winter veg.  This is the first season that we haven't planted both beds at the same time; we are officially "experimenting"  - in the effort to learn to stagger our crops, to know more about which perennials we can leave in the ground from season to season, and to figure out just what we can do in the space we have. So the eggplants and peppers stayed put in the upper bed and I planted bits and pieces around them.  The lower bed got the full-on, seed sowing treatment.  Mainly, I used standard row planting - short rows that cut vertically along the long bed.  I did break a little from the seed-packet recommendations though, and set my rows closer together - about 12 inches apart, as opposed to 24 to 32 inches.  I could just be shooting my cabbages in the foot (or is it shooting my cabbages in the head?) trying to squeeze more out of the space.  We'll see.

Here's what I sowed:
  • Upper Bed
    • 1 row Butter lettuce  (Renee's Garden)
    • 1 small patch Common arugula  (Seed Savers)
  • Along the length of the lower bed
    • 4 Copenhagen Market cabbages  (Seed Savers)
    • 4 Mammoth Red Rock cabbages  (Seed Savers)
    • 4 Early Snowball cauliflower  (Seed Savers)
  • Starting from the north end of the lower bed
    • 1 row heirloom shelling peas  (Renee's Garden)
    • 1 row Tonda di Parigi carrots  (Renee's Garden) & French Breakfast radishes  (Seed Savers)
    • 1 row De Cicco broccoli  (Seed Savers)
    • 1 row Cosmic Purple carrots  (Renee's Garden) & Watermelon radishes  (Renee's Garden)
    • 1 row Chef's Choice cauliflower, mixed colors  (Renee's Garden)
    • 1 row Purplette mini onions  (Huntington)
    • 1 row Purple Top White Globe turnips  (Seed Savers)
    • 1 row Romanesco broccoli  (Seed Savers)
    • 1 row Cipollini onions  (Huntington)
    • 1 row Cylindria beets & Burpee's Golden beets  (both Seed Savers)
    • 1 row Five Color silverbeet  (Seed Savers)
    • 1 row Bull's Blood beets & Chioggia beets  (both Seed Savers)
    • 1 row Sunshine carrots  (Renee's Garden)
    • 1 row Pigeon peas  (from Irma)
  • Herb Garden
    • Italian Large Leaf Basil  (Armstrong's seedling)
    • Coriander  (Armstrong's seedling)
    • Curled Chervil  (Armstrong's seedling)
    • Italian Parsley  (Armstrong's seedling)
    • Florence fennel  (Renee's Garden)
    • Nasturtium  (Burpee's)

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Bulbs: Part One

Along with the edibles, it has always been a part of the plan to have a cutting garden at Rancho Garbonzo as well.  Natives they are not, but a vase of dahlias or tulips or peonies on the mantle is hard to beat.  So, last weekend I got started by planting 100 daffodil bulbs on the slope under our pepper tree.  (Daffodils remind me of my Grams.)

The area is really shady, with only a little dappled light here and there throughout the day.  Unlike the rest of our yard, this slope has been covered with a thick layer of mulch for the last few years - partly just leaves and twigs that have fallen from the huge tree above, and partly a deliberately placed load of chipped yard waste that the tree trimmer dropped off a couple of years back. Also unlike the rest of the yard, the soil that I uncovered beneath the mulchy top layer was lovely! Not a clumpy ball of reddish clay in sight! Now is that just the mulch working its magic over time on our crummy soil or was there completely different soil in this section of our yard to begin with?  I think the former makes the most sense.  Three cheers for the mulch!  So, bone meal and bulbs into the ground and fingers crossed; I'm hoping that we'll see some of these babies popping up by the start of Spring.


(Unfortunately not my yard, the pics are scanned from the bulb bags.  I bought them at Costco.)