Heirloom Tomato Salad + Garden Lessons: Diversity

Summer reaches its peak when the markets begin to fill with tomatoes. Our garden tomatoes are still green, as each cultivar fills in with new blossoms and sets fruit. At the market were we go there’s a farm stand that each week displays an array of tomato cultivars with a rainbow of yellow, orange, purple, pink, green, red, tie-dye, and multiple shades of colors, shapes of cherry, grape, elongated, round, boat and even deformed, flavors high in acid and sweetness, and nuances I never knew existed. All different, all beautiful, all tomatoes. 

tomatobasilsalad

This year we planted five different tomato cultivars: cosmonaut, speckled roma, black cherry, cherokee purple, and pink Berkeley tie-dye, to create a microsystem of diversity and insure a harvest for different uses. The speckled roma to make sauce, the cherry tomatoes to sprinkle in salads or make a quick pasta pomodoro, the cherokee purple and cosmonaut to slice in big slabs and eat simply adorned with a sprinkle of salt. Next to them we planted a couple of miniature red and yellow pepper plants, a few purple, globe, genovese, and lemon basil plants to impart flavor {or so I read}, and marigolds to ward off pests. Purslane made its home sharing space underneath the tomatoes helping break the hardpan, clay Colorado soil, while growing deep roots and releasing nutrients from the sublayer. 

Continue reading Heirloom Tomato Salad + Garden Lessons: Diversity

Black Lentil and Bulgur Salad with Carrot Greens Pesto

Even with its unbearable heat waves, summer is a luxurious time of year. I wish I could grab it by its tail, harness it and slow it down. I love the flowers in every yard, walkway and park. The plants bearing fruits and vegetables, and the farmers bringing their best to the market.

With July gone, we are down to August and September, and then is winter. Unless we get a long enough fall to drown our sorrows before the snow stars to pile. I shouldn’t be thinking about winter and should just enjoy the present, the hot weather, and the abundance from the land.

My new weekly ritual includes a trip to the Union Station Farmers Market, which is proving educational. We’ve had markets in Denver on previous years, but none that accumulated the quantity and quality of locally grown produce that this, new to the city, market is bringing.

For years, I envied the Boulder and Longmont markets, and traveled at last once a month during the summer to indulge on buying produce grown just a few miles away; now they travel every Saturday to bring their produce to us in Denver.

union station farmers market denver

Many meals and cooking ideas spring every week based on what’s available, a concept I didn’t follow particularly close before I challenged myself to cook the majority of our meals using only seasonal produce. By seasonal, I mean whatever is in season around me, or at least in the United States especially during the winter months, not including Hawaii, I haven’t bought a pineapple in years, and not including snow and sticks from our Colorado winter harvest.

Some meals are simple variations using, for example, different types of cucumbers {which just this year, after 15 years in the U.S. and 13 of those in the kitchen I found they are nicknamed “cukes”} like lemon cucumbers in a cucumber-tomato salad dressed with carrot greens pesto.

lemon cucumbers

Other meals, like this Bulgur and Lentil Salad, are born out of the necessity for an easy to take lunch that’s nutritious and simple to make, all while providing a punch of flavor to keep me from stopping at the burrito place nearby for a second snack. Continue reading Black Lentil and Bulgur Salad with Carrot Greens Pesto

Lemony Carrot Greens Pesto

carrot greens and curry pesto

The garden glows. Spring harvest past its prime with the last few peas the bunnies stole and the bolted radishes and arugula left behind, giving way to beans, tomatoes, squashes, peppers, and the heat of summer.

potted eggplant

The Union Station Farmers Market bustles. With growers from Boulder, Longmont, Hygiene, Larkspur and more towns I can’t even recall, and patrons eager to taste the local harvest. Carrots and beets from Cure Organic Farms, mushrooms from the Mile High Fungi, cherries from Ela Family Farms, are just a few of the goods I found.

garden lavender

This season I’m striving to try every vegetable I see and every new, to me, idea I’ve read, like using carrot greens, for example. I’m guilty of composting the tops of many vegetables, unaware of their delicious possibilities in the kitchen. It makes me wonder, what do Colombians do with all of those tops? Feed them to animals? I have never seen a beet or radish green in the markets there and it never occurred to me they could be used in cooking.

using carrot greens

Continue reading Lemony Carrot Greens Pesto

Leaf + Fruit + Root : Salad

Two weeks down and it’s just hitting me that I’m a teacher. The hours seem longer when I stand in front of students glaring at me as I float through words as if it were a dream. I enter panic mode when I run out of material but not of time, and make up conversation trying to shake the lethargic crowd from their modern 10 minute attention span daze.

“Any questions or thoughts on today’s lecture?” I ask
“…” crickets, and the look my dog gives me when he’s misbehaved.

I must say, teaching is as much of a learning experience for me as for my students. One thing is to know the subject one is teaching, and another is to know how to teach it. The first week, I rambled through lecture so fast, as if it were some prep I had to finish as quick as possible, and ran out of material before my time was up. Happy students, they were, getting out early on the first day of class.

On week two I brought TedTalks, videos, quotes, articles, and every imaginable trick to stretch the class and keep my subjects alive. Lecture slides finished, time left 1 hour! At least I didn’t bore them to death.

So my new goal is to work hard at the art of s-l-o-w-i-n-g-d-o-w-n. Taking my time. Looking at the world. Pacing life. Enjoying every bite.

citrus

Continue reading Leaf + Fruit + Root : Salad

Rainbow Chard and Root Vegetable Salad – The Road to Recovery

I can still hear my mother shout from the kitchen “Comete las acelgas!” eat your chard. The edges of the plate crowded with leaves the color of canned green beans. Tears, rolling down my pale cheeks.

Much of my culinary scars come from early experiences of not-the-right-cooking-method syndrome. I can attest to have company on this recovery journey. A friend once told me “I never knew asparagus had crunch!”

winter salad

Continue reading Rainbow Chard and Root Vegetable Salad – The Road to Recovery

Vegan Quinoa Salad, For A Family Gathering in the Berkshires

When a four-year-old girl tells you “Your mushrooms are stinky,” you worry about the welcome your dish will have at the family gathering.

Earlier this summer we visited with relatives in Massachusetts for the yearly family reunion in the green and lush Berkshires. The area is crowded with lakes, ponds, creeks, twisty roads walled by towering trees, and a lot of history I’m just discovering. A different kind of summer, a contrast to the dry, bug-free Colorado.Big Pond MA Continue reading Vegan Quinoa Salad, For A Family Gathering in the Berkshires

And It Rains…

Last Sunday, Mother’s Day, the garden was buried under 7 inches of snow.
7 inches!
I suffered all night thinking about the tall and skinny pea plants, making dozens of scenarios of broken, frozen or plain dead plants, hunting me out of the snow.

gardenFear no more. Stronger than I could ever be, the flimsy stalks stood up to the challenge and even encouraged the rest of the veggies to push through.
When I first sowed the seeds back in march, I followed the expert advise of local farmers who swore these vegetables were hardy enough for the season ahead.
They were right!
Every plant made it alive.
Carrots, beets, lettuces, peas, Fava beans, radishes, chives, kale, spinach; even the self-sowed parsley and oregano, which started showing signs of life a couple of months ago, all survived and are now growing franticly.

pea plants and trellis

Continue reading And It Rains…

Seeds: A Hurricane Force of Life + Pea Shoot Spring Salad

Seeds. Life. Future. Uncertainty.

It’s spring time. A time for new beginnings. A time to rethink a path, or to start a new one.
Like a seed. A little hard-shell housing a hurricane force of life. Ready to crack, to push, to fight for light.
The uncertainty of the season. Would the seeds sprout? Would they become a plant? A fruitful one? Would the past two years of hard work and dedication provide a fruitful future? Or will I be back at the same place?
Continue reading Seeds: A Hurricane Force of Life + Pea Shoot Spring Salad

A New Gardener + Vegetable Slaw

I’m not a gardener. I have never planted a tulip. Not once. I have a 99 percent orchid killing success rate. The 1 percent gracing the living room window has been the only one to last two years. The only one to escape the macabre touch of my dark digits. I do OK with indoor plants. A couple of palms for clean air {or so I heard} and a few bamboos for good luck, and just because they are pretty. Last year, I tended to our first vegetable garden. We bought baby plants, tomatoes, zucchini, basil, parsley, oregano, thyme, sage, chives, rosemary and purple beets. We followed the rule, “Don’t plant anything until after mother’s day.”
We finished the raised beds the weekend after mother’s day and planted all of our findings. Yes, raised beds. No weeding please. My lack of skill can only take plants we can actually eat.
It was all nice and dandy until one day. That one day. The day that started it all.
Continue reading A New Gardener + Vegetable Slaw