gardening, fish or cut bait edition

Fish or Cut Bait Gardening 1

So remember what I said earlier? How I have no experience with ANYTHING having to do with gardening? Keep that in mind. Because of my insane nerdspaz tendencies, I own FOUR gardening books. FOUR. I had yet to plant anything (beyond the seed of doubt in my mind that any of this will be remotely successful, of course) until this past Sunday. I’ve probably spent more time on Google in the past few months than the people who WORK at Google. If there was a show for information hoarders, I would star in the first episode.

As I mentioned, last weekend I dug up all four of the garden beds, and also spent a few hours looking like an uneducated stalker at the local Southern States and nurseries. Seriously, I went to TWO local nurseries, and TWO different Southern States. And I asked for people’s opinions at every single place I went. At one of the nurseries, a woman implied that I might be biting off more than I can chew for my first year of gardening. (Actually, there was no implication. She straight just said, “you’re biting off more than you can chew.” I left after that.)

I stopped asking people for help after that.

Thus, my “fish or cut bait” title — which is really the Politically-Correct-Food-Blogger Version of another less-than-popular colloquialism that I decided not to use because I’m too classy because I was afraid people would be offended. Basically, I figured it’s time to stop asking questions and just DO SOMETHING.

Fish or Cut Bait Gardening 2

I think, out of sheer terror of not having a plan of attack, I’m going with the Square Foot Gardening technique this year. It’s good for newbies like myself, and it keeps you organized and such. I figure later on, once I get my bearings, I can change it up if I see fit. So at 4 beds each measuring 8 feet by 4 feet, I have… 132 squares to fill with plants.

My first thought was something along the lines of, WOW THAT’S A LOT OF SQUARES. Which was also my husband’s first thought, although our interpretations were somewhat different in a very men-are-from-mars-women-are-from-venus way.

Me: “Wow that’s a lot of square feet. Shit, I hope I can grow at least ONE tomato or else I’m going to look like a total ass.”

Brad: “Wow that’s a lot of square feet. I bet we’ll grow so much, we can sell the extra tomatoes to the neighbors for $6 a pound.”

Um, no, husband. You can go inside now. Go sit inside with your high expectations. Go sit inside where I can’t see you.

Anyways, here’s what has gone in so far:

1 square of lacinato kale (planted from seed on Sunday 3/4/12)
1 square of spinach (planted from seed on Sunday 3/4/12)
1 square of red cabbage transplants (planted Thursday 3/8/12)
1 square of mustard greens transplants (planted Thursday 3/8/12)
1 square of cauliflower transplants (planted Thursday 3/8/12)
1 square of broccoli transplants (planted Thursday 3/8/12)
1 square of arugula transplants (planted Thursday 3/8/12)

Have you ever heard the phrase “fake it till you make it”? I’m thinking I’m going to officially name my garden the “Fake It Till You Make It Garden” since I basically have no idea what I am doing. Case in point – transplants, how do you plant them? I heard somewhere you were supposed to tease the roots away from the ball of soil, so that’s what I did.

It’s been a week, and theoretically my spinach should have sprouted, but we did have a two nights with below-freezing temperatures this week, so I’m just going to give them the benefit of the doubt that they’ll show up soon. It makes you wonder about using wooden greenhouses sometimes. The transplants look much the same as the day they left the nursery, except now they’re in the ground.

Tomorrow I’ll plant beets, radishes, leeks, peas, turnips, and rutabega. And then after that will come carrots, lettuce, onions, and even some seed potatoes… whenever I figure out when to plant them.

Lacinato Kale and Sausage Risotto

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Whenever Brad works too many long hours at work, he ends up eating too much take out and then complains that he is [any combination of the following:] fat, lazy, a whale, a “lard bucket,” or one of many other creative terms he comes up with when he’s sleep-deprived. This week he wasn’t feeling too healthy, so he requested homemade meals to take for lunch.

One thing I will not understand about B is that he always requests lots of meat for lunch, or dinner, or even breakfast. Comparatively, when I really buckle down and want to eat uber-healthy, I tend to focus on eating LESS meat, and I eat more whole grains and beans. Brad, on the other hand, really just wants to eat lots of meat, whether it be multiple pounds of beef, pork, or chicken. Someone (preferably someone packin’ heat ifyouknowwhatimsaying) PLEASE explain the logic behind that. It’s that kind of dude-thinking that will confuse me until I die.

In the end, I have to temper a bunch of meat with carbs, whether it be pasta, rice, or a whole grain. Otherwise, if I just fed Brad straight-up seasoned beef for lunch, we’d be spending $40 on beef for him to eat everyday (that’s assuming beef is $10 a pound, and yes, he could eat 4 pounds of beef in one sitting if I let him. I still haven’t figured out where it goes and we’ve been together 8 years.)

This recipe is from “Salt to Taste,” by Marco Canora. Brad actually says the author is on the current season of “The Next Iron Chef,” but I don’t keep track of that crap. I can’t remember the last time I watched the Food Network, during prime time anyways. I did, however, catch Aunt Sandy making a “cowboy potato salad” from frozen diced potatoes today. In true form, I really did want to jump into the television and whack her upside the head with the giant bottle of vodka she was holding. But that’s pretty normal for me.

Anyways, since the recipe is straight from a cookbook, I won’t be including it here. (My motto is, unless it’s published by the author on the internet already, I won’t type it up for all to see here. If I wrote a cookbook, I wouldn’t want people to freely share my hard work on the interwebz, either, unless they were sending me a $20 check in the mail each time someone read it.) Marco has a great breakdown of how to make the perfect risotto in his book, so it’s definitely worth perusing the next time you hit up your local (independent!) bookstore. I highly recommend you pick up his cookbook, Salt to Taste. I flipped through it upon purchase, and I think I might have to jump on the bandwagon and become one of those bloggers who cooks through the entire cookbook because EVERYTHING in that book looks downright amazing. The next recipe I want to make is actually featured on his website right now. Head on over and check it out. I’ll let you know how it turns out!

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Pelle Carlberg / I Love You, You Imbecile

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Early November Farmer’s Market, Plus, How to Pick a Winter Squash

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The Front Range here in Colorado has seen no snow so far this fall. It’s kind of a big deal, apparently. According to Brad’s internet research, the latest that Denver has ever seen snow is somewhere around November 21st. So basically, if we don’t get snow for the next two weeks, we’ve broken some sort of record. I’m extremely, almost perversely happy about this because I think snow is highly, HIGHLY overrated.

So all this “hot” weather (read: temps in the 40s-60s) extended the growing season on the front range. The Boulder Farmer’s market, which usually closes on the last weekend in October, is staying open for two more weeks in November. I ventured up to Boulder yesterday to see what delicious things I could cook.

I came home with a large bag of curly and lacinato kale, some baby bok choy, and some green onions, all of which I’ll be using up tomorrow. I got some multi-colored carrots, too. Then I got a large Cinderella squash, which I’ve heard makes an excellent pie pumpkin… we shall see! And then I got another squash, but it’s like the Unidentifiable Squash-Like Object, because I have no idea what kind it was… and neither did the 9-year old girl who sold it to me. We traded ideas on how to pick out squash – she said the more barnacles a squash has, the tastier it is. My theory is similar: the uglier the squash, the better it tastes.

Then I got down to the last stall, manned by Isabelle Farms, which had a veritable MOUNTAIN of acorn and kabocha squash. As I eyed two kabocha, I asked the lovely girl who was manning the table how to pick out a good winter squash. Her response?

“Well, there’s really no way to tell which will be the tastiest. My advice? Pick the squash that speaks to you.

Ahahahaha. I love it.

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Kale with Lemon and Parm

Kale with Lemon and Parm

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So, before I became The Kitchenette (I say it like I stepped in the closet Bruce-Wayne style and emerged a Superhero), I was kind of a picky eater. I think my mother would agree that my brother and I were both extremely picky, actually. I didn’t like a lot of foods… especially vegetables. I was pretty much a potato-and-carrots-only vegetable eater.

But once I started cooking regularly, I really just wanted to try new things. At first my curiosity leaned towards trying new ways to cook the things I liked already; I tried various meatball recipes before finding one that has now become my staple. Then I began cooking things at home that I could buy or get only at restaurants; I tried making falafel at home (a big failure – it’s still on the list of “Recipes to Master”). Lately, I’ve really been inspired to try new foods entirely. In the past year, I’ve found that I was secretly harboring a love for sweetbreads (neither sweet nor bread), veal cheeks, and oysters. Who knew?

I’ve also been reevaluating those vegetables that I turned my nose up at before. Kohlrabi, broccoli, and yes… even asparagus. (There’s no hope for asparagus. It’s disgusting and you know it.) Before, I would never have dreamed of eating kale… in fact, I didn’t even really know that kale existed until a few years ago. It’s not a very yummy-looking vegetable, either. If you really think about it, it basically looks like a wrinkly leaf off of a tree. Ew. But instead of going straight for the time-honored-but-never-really-yummy dish of overcooked garden greens with added flavor from bacon/ham/unidentified-pork-product, I chose instead to try kale in a variety of ways. I tried it in soup, I tried it flash-cooked, in pasta dishes. But out of all the ways I’ve tried eating kale, this is my favorite.

This is the epitome of the food I like to cook – simple, cheap, local food that is dripping with flavor.

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Kale with Lemon and Parm

Adapted from The Kitchn

Serves 4

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 Ingredients:
2 large bunches kale, washed and trimmed of stems/stalks
6 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, grated
4 tbsp lemon juice
4 tbsp olive oil
kosher salt
fresh cracked pepper
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Directions:
Roll the kale leaves together and cut each roll into small strips. Transfer kale to a large bowl.

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Kale with Lemon and Parm

This is me chopping up kale. Notice the stems of the kale in the sink. Also notice my hot pink dishwashing gloves in the background. Sexy!

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Mix the olive oil and lemon juice together, and whisk vigorously to combine and form an emulsion. Drizzle dressing over kale and toss to coat. Let kale sit at room temperature for at least one hour, until the kale has wilted slightly. Toss with cheese and serve.

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Now Playing in the Kitchenette: Dirty Pretty Things / You Fucking Love It – it’s just a punk kind of day! DAMN THE MAN

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