Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Bears in Waiting

These honey bears are lined up waiting to be mailed out to generous Kickstarter supporters all across the continent!  I am  also preparing to mail some of the other Kickstarter rewards-- notecards,  music CDs and T-shirts next.

So much has been going on this month:  sad farewells,  happy celebrations, travels, big projects, Kitchen Kickstarter  progress, winter preparations... I will try to write a catch up post in a day or two. But right now I must pick up more package sealing tape and head to the post office!

Thursday, October 3, 2013

Pesto Manifesto

I believe in pesto.
I believe that pesto is one of the universe's most perfect green foods.
I believe that you should make many batches of pesto in the fall to freeze and supply you though the winter.

This year our basil patch in the greenhouse has been extraordinary. While the garden basil is past its prime,  weedy and seedy and scruffy and tough, the high tunnel basil is still picture-perfect, with large, tender leaves and full, abundant plants. But the basil's days are numbered - it will very soon be too cold for basil even in the greenhouse, and it's time to transplant some cold season crops into that precious spot.

I have been meaning to transform that basil into pesto  for weeks, but dreading it because our old blender is just not up to the task. It is so annoying trying to get the leaves to feed down to the blades to be chopped up and not just whirl around intact. But, this week I splurged on a new blender/food processor called a Ninja, that boasted excellent consumer reviews. It has 1500 watts of power, but what impressed me most was that there is not a single blade at the bottom, but three tiers of blades! That ought to chop up the greens for my pesto and my smoothies. So, today I pulled up a few basil plants and eagerly loaded my pesto ingredients into the blender.
What a joyful experience - perfect pesto in moments! No intervention required to get the leaves to blend.  And the texture was just how I like it, with tiny, discernible bits of  parmesan, pine nuts and basil, not a green pureed mush. Oh, I am so happy with this new toy, I mean, tool.
I made two batches of pesto this afternoon, enough to fill an ice cube tray. I freeze the cubes, then after they are frozen, vacuum pack them individually. The color stays beautiful, bright green and the flavor stays vibrant and fresh.  One cube is the perfect amount of pesto for a meal for Rog and me. This tray is one cube shy of full because we ate one serving  for lunch.
I think this was my best batch of pesto ever - served on pasta. sprinkled with a few pine nuts and tossed with Indigo Rose tomatoes from our garden (they have dark purple skin and twice the amount of cancer-fighting anthocyanin as other tomatoes.)

Basil Pesto

2 c. packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c. pine nuts (or walnuts)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
2/3 c. parmesan reggiano cheese (or pecorino, asiago, or a blend)

Combine the ingredients in the blender. In the Ninja blender, I just set it on "chop" and  turned it on for about 10 seconds and it was perfect. In a less powerful blender, pulse until smooth. Or use a big mortar and pestle and grind by hand--that's  how pesto got its name!

I like to toast the nuts slightly.  You can make wonderful variations of pesto--one of my favorites is to use fresh cilantro instead of  basil, with toasted pepitas instead of pine nuts and a little dried chile and a squeeze of lime to spice it up.  Yes, maybe I will make that version tomorrow.

Bon appetit!

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

A Promise of Peanuts

Last spring, I started some Virginia peanuts inside, then planted them in the greenhouse in hopes of getting enough peanuts to make my own jar of peanut butter.  I know nothing about raising peanuts and wasn't even sure they would grow in Minnesota, but the plants have grown well in the high tunnel.  You are supposed to dig the peanuts when the  plant dies pack. My plants look like this now--a few leaves are brown on the tips, but they are probably still growing a bit too strongly yet.  I was curious and impatient, so I dug underneath one nevertheless.
What do you know!?
Little tendrils/roots grow down from along the  branches and dig into the ground and grow a peanut at the end!

There were also quite a few tiny peanuts starting, so I harvested a handful of the larger peanuts, then carefully replanted the plant.  I will give them another couple weeks. The weather is going to turn cold now and days are getting short, so they may not grow any bigger. But based on the number of large peanuts growing on this one stem, I should definitely get enough to make a jar of peanut butter! 

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Wren Rescue

Yesterday I found an adorable, tiny wren floundering on the steps of the  farm store. I presume he had flown into the glass of the door.  I scooped him up so Zinnie or a cat wouldn't get him.
Nothing seemed broken, but he  didn't attempt to fly away, so I was worried about a possible internal injury.  I carried him around on my hand for almost half an hour.
Finally, after perching on my little finger for a while, he flitted off into the trees. I think he will be ok.