Garden, Plant, Cook!

Monday, October 14, 2013

Garlic is the October Herb of The Month - How Timely - Time to Plant Garlic!

Dear Folks,

Garlic, the wonderful condiment, is also an herb of distinction for its many medical properties.

It is a base dishonourable unworthy part of the College of Physicians of London to train up the people in such ignorance that they should not be able to know what the Herbs in their Gardens be good for. —Nicholas Culpeper, A Physical Directory, 1650*

If you need any additional boost to consider using more garlic and also growing some here is an article to read.  Always do your own research when you are considering using alternative treatments for medical issues.

Garlic Compound Fights Source of Food-Borne Illness Better Than Antibiotics

In the desert we plant Garlic between October 1st - and no later than October 31st.  This is to ensure a long cool growing season which creates the head of cloves we want.  The picture is from my garden last year, showing the sprouted garlic one month after planting in October. I planted both regular and elephant garlic.

If you really love garlic plant extra and harvest as green garlic when you need a scallion-like addition to your food preparation.  Look for the cloves to have swollen a bit and the greens to be about 8-10 inches tall.

Garlic needs full sun, well draining soil, regular but not overwatering and pull the weeds.  That is it.  It is pretty simple to grow, it just takes about 7 months to harvest time of the heads.  Choose heads without any visible mold, separate, do not peel, plant each clove about 2 inches down, pointed end up.

All parts of the garlic edible, from the bulb to the greens to the flower head bud (called a scape), so what are you waiting for?  Get growing your own garlic.

* I took the quote from Susan Wittig-Albert's fun weekly newsletter.  Read it here.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady

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Sunday, October 13, 2013

Recipe! Eggplant, Pasta Sauce and Pumpkin, oh my.

Dear Folks,

My huge white eggplant is giving me a lot of fruit and I was in the mood for something pasta-ish yesterday.  I've also been in the mood for more pumpkin dishes.  (The picture was taken at my table at the Mesa Farmers Market where I took my extra to sell.)

So, I made a pumpkin tomato pasta sauce for sauteed eggplant and angel hair pasta (threw in some diced cooked chicken for a little extra protein).

Pumpkin / Tomato Sauce
Serves 2-4

1 1/2 cups of tomato sauce (I did not have any of my homemade ready so I got Muir Glenn's organic tomato basil sauce)
1/2 cup of pumpkin puree (make sure you get only the puree and not the pumpkin pie can - or you can cook up your own pumpkin puree*)
6 fresh basil leaves, slivered
2 small eggplant or one large one (the white and smaller varieties are a little less seedy and do not require the salt soak to remove bitterness)
2-4 ounces of angel hair pasta (or any small pasta like shells would work nicely)**
2-3 tablespoons of onion or shallot minced
1-2 tablespoons of fat of choice (butter, olive oil, bit of uncured bacon fat, other oil)
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan Cheese
Pepper to taste
Salt - maybe, taste first
Optional:  Cooked and diced meat, chicken, pork, beef or could use diced drained firm tofu.

Mix pumpkin and tomato sauce and set aside.
Dice eggplant
Mince onion or shallot.

Start water for pasta, add salt.

Heat oil in frying pan and add onion  Stir and cook on low-medium for about 1 minute (the onion should sizzle a little but you don't want it to burn).  Add eggplant, stir and cover on medium, stirring frequently, until the eggplant begins to turn opaque (about 5-7 minutes).  Sprinkle with black pepper.  Add sauces, stir to mix well, cover and continue cooking until the sauce is nice and bubbly, add meat or tofu.

When you add the sauce to the eggplant, add the pasta to the boiling salted water.  Cook until 1-2 minutes under directions, i.e., you want the pasta not quite completely cooked.

When the pasta is ready, drain, and add to sauce.  Add basil and cheese, stir to combine and serve.

The pumpkin marries nicely with the tomato without adding a 'pumpkin' flavor which is what I was looking for.

Left-over tip:  Next morning or for lunch the next day, heat some of the pasta and sauce in a frying pan, add water if needed to loosen it up.  Make a center opening in the mix.  Add 2 beaten eggs, and begin incorporating the leftover pasta into the eggs until eggs are completely cooked.  Serve with toast.  Or heat the sauce in the frying pan to bubbling.  Crack 2-4 eggs into the mix, cover and poach eggs to desired done stage, serve over toast.

*Making your own pumpkin puree is easy - a bit of time required but easy.  Cut a pumpkin up into sections.  Remove all the seeds and membrane but don't skin (save the seeds to rinse and make toasted pumpkin seeds later).  Bake the pumpkin sections without anything (no oil) on a cookie sheet at 400 degrees until you can insert a knife easily in it.  Remove and cool completely.  Pare the skin off and chunk up the pumpkin.  Use a food processor to puree the pumpkin add a little water if needed to keep the blades going.  Refrigerate for use or freeze in batches.

** I favor Barilla Plus for its high protein and fiber count even though it is not organic.

-- Catherine, The Herb Lady