This Year’s Harvest

This year’s harvest is quite a disappointment. We had a long winter, then floods, then a very dry spell, all at the wrong times! The potatoes didn’t and couldn’t get water just when they needed them, and thus are quite small. My tomato plants in my balcony haven’t been generous either, though the ones in the garden are doing quite well.

The picture above is the first salad made from this year’s first tomato harvest from my balcony and the garden. Tomato mozzarella salad is a classic of German kitchens, and is normally seasoned with olive oil or balsamic vinegar, salt, pepper, and basil leaves. Since I couldn’t decide between vinegar or oil, I used both!

I also got zucchini and squash blossoms too, and with that the garden sponsored fried zucchini blossoms. Today’s Italian night was magnifico!

Fiori di Zucca

So, as you know, my zucchini plant is in full bloom, and during my personal Italian night, I made Fiori di Zucca, or filled zucchini flowers, battered then deep-fried to a crisp.

Now, I first read about this dish in Eat, Pray, Love. (Yes, I will own up to reading that book and liking it. So there.) When I visited Rome for the first time in September last year in my own Eat, Pray, Love moment, I ordered fried artichokes and zucchini blossoms. I really liked it. It seemed simple enough to make.

anchovyMy kababayan Kuya Francis (my friend, not only from Facebook), who works as a chef, gave me a small jar of anchovies preserved in oil during my second visit last December.

So now that I was all set, I bought mozzarella cheese, fizzy water, and downloaded this recipe. Like their recommendation, I got firm mozzarella chesse. Mozzarella di Bufala, or Buffalo Mozarella, tends to have a creamy/milky interior. I didn’t want oil splatter, so I went for normal mozzarella.

Mixing the egg with fizzy water made the liquid very foamy, to the point that I asked myself is this normal? But it made the crust really crunchy.

As I said, really easy to make, and it is a great appetizer. Think of this as zucchini tempura. However, this has to be eaten quickly. I prepared seven flowers for myself, eating the last ones prepared first. Eating the first flowers at the end, I noticed that the crust had turned soggy. But it was the same taste of sweet, salty, and creamy all at once. I highly recommend this to anyone. Up next, make Fiori di Zucca with chili tinapa!

Cherry season

Sweet, sweet cherries have arrived!

There are two cherry trees in the city that I forage cherries from. One is right next to my son’s kindergarten. I’ve been patiently been watching the cherries turn red, and here they are!  So I took three lunchboxes with me last week, and turned my three-year old son into a criminal by trespassing into someone’s unguarded property to pick some cherries together.

Cherries are normally a pain to turn into jam, since you have to pit them all to work with them.  These cherries were so sweet that it took two packets of citric acid and a dash of extra pectin to get them to jelly.

So basically, the best thing to do with this kind cherries is…to eat them! Though because these are organic cherries, they are bound to have a maggot or two in them every so often. Not for the squeamish, but I don’t mind the extra protein 🙂

I am eagerly awaiting the end of July, during the sour cherry season. They are better suited for jam-making. What I’m  not looking forward to are days of darkened fingernails and stained aprons. Oh well, the product is worth it anyway.

Updates from the Community Garden

Potato plants

The community garden is doing well and going strong. This year’s crops include: onions, potatoes, zucchini, and garlic! Leeks from last year have re-sprouted, and a new potato bed is going strong. I am really happy with the work that we do, even if all I do is water plants and weed.

On my balcony, the strawberries are still in their baby stages, but the pechay (tatsoi) is doing very well, and have all bolted because of the very hot weather we’ve been having lately. I’ve got zucchini growing out of a pot, as well as two varieties of tomatoes and some onion, as well as my usual herbs. My dill hasn’t been doing so well, I think it has a bug infestation, or it doesn’t like the onion next to it. This weird wet/hot/humid weather is making my balcony plants act irrationally. My Thai basil for example have stunted growth and bleached leaves  because of the long cold, then the intense heat of the past few days.

All in all, I am looking forward to a bountiful harvest. I’ve already helped myself to the red beets from last winter. See you at the garden!

Elderberry Jelly

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I wasn’t able to make elderberry products until June because of the prolonged winter this year. I was eager to make elderberry jelly last year, but alas, the flowering season was over by the time I got my hands on a recipe. I tweaked with the recipe this year, and although my jelly is more watery to the satisfaction of some, I prefer my jelly to have less structure for easier spreadability.

elderberry jellyMy first attempt did not turn out so well, and ended up having to make it twice this year. oh well, practice makes perfect!

Ingredients: 1.5 liters water, mixed with the juice of two lemons, a packet of jam sugar, 3:1 proportions (can only be found in Germany), and 30 flower heads of elderberry, and 100 ml of organic apple juice.

Snip the flowers off the stems, and cut away the parts with insects. In a large pot, pour in the water at room temperature and add the juice of two lemons. Very important! The water should not fill more than half the pot!

Place the flowers in the pot and let it steep for one to two days. Remove the flowers, and add apple juice to the mix. Add the jelly sugar and mix until it boils. This is critical since the sugar mixture may overflow in case the heat is too high! Once it has started to boil, turn off the heat (electric, lower the heat if gas) and mix for four minutes. Take off the heat and fill the jelly into warm sterilized jars with pop-up lids. Turn them upside down and wait for it to cool!

I’ll try to replace half a liter of water with apple juice next year, but I’m not sure if that is the solution for a more solid jelly, since the sweeter the mix, the less stable the jelly is. If anyone has time to make another batch before the season is over, let me know!

 

Adobong Pechay

With my new tatsoi harvest coming in, I could again indulge in one of my my favorite simple dishes, Adobong Pechay (tatsoi in Tagalog).

Adobo is something that’s specifically Filipino. It is a way of preserving meat dishes. The basic recipe is a marinade of garlic, soy sauce, and vinegar, though vegetable versions normally leave out the vinegar.

While this is normally made with 100 g of ground meat, it can also be made with tofu or salmon, which I did in this version.

The ingredients are: two tatsoi plants, an onion, a clove of garlic, 100 g minced meat, or cubed salmon or cubed tofu, about 10 ml soy sauce, and pepper.

Finely slice the onion garlic, then wash then slice the tatsoi in thick strips–they will shrink with cooking.The stems are edible and not tough at all, you can throw in everything. Fry the meat/tofu/salmon in a pan with a few tablespoons of oil, and fry them until it turns brown. Then saute the onion and garlic, and add the vegetables until the wilt a bit. Add the soy sauce and pepper. and you’re done!

I love eating this with steamed white rice. Enjoy!

Garden Worries

weather

 

It’s 8 days before the official start of summer, and it’s so cold that I feel that it’s end of February. It’s snowing in the Alps! In May! This time last year I was eating my first strawberries!

I am used to the unpredictability of Germany’s climate, but this winter had been so long, I’m starting to ask myself is it really over?

My Tatsoi (pechay) is doing well. Last year’s experience and research showed that Tatsoi does well in temperate regions, and can be planted well into autumn. What I want to know is what this means for this year’s strawberry harvest. But I guess this means that the strawberry fields will not be open to the public this year.

I Love Me Some Pumpkin

Now that the weather is getting colder and Halloween is around the corner, I’d like to talk about my favorite Fall crop, the pumpkin.

I first encountered pumpkins in Germany, since the Philippines is firmly sqash territory, it being a tropical country. I have learned to appreciate Hokkaidos, and I would like to try carving my own pumpkin either this year or next year.

My favorite squash/pumpkin dish is Guinataang Kalabasa (Squash stewed in Coconut Milk),  a stew with chunks of pork, squash, and string beans. I’ll put up a post when I make one.

In the meantime, I’ve been busy working through the last of my Hokkaidos. On top is a soup I picked up from the book “Growing Vegetables,” one of my TK Maxx finds. It’s just a soup version of the stew I mentioned above. I’ve noticed that pumpkin or squash always goes with coconut milk or heavy cream, ginger, and some meat.

What are your favorite pumpkin recipes? What other ingredients complement pumpkin?

Serendipity, Thy Name is Munggo Guisado

Sometimes, I get the feeling that the universe is telling me to cook something specific. The chances that I actually get to do it without leaving the house is so rare, I tell you!

Last week I attended a wedding and I got to take home some Spanferkel (aka as Lechon or a whole roast pig). I promptly turned that into the goodness that is Lechon Kawali, one of the fattiest Flipino leftover dishes out there. Boiled, then air-dried lechon belly/skin, deep fried to a crisp.

But I still had crispy leftovers. What to do?

Nothing beats a stew in a cold and rainy day, so I made some comfort food: Munggo Guisado. That is Mung bean stew, which basically is our version of lentil soup.

Doesn’t look like much, but that’s Filipino comfort food right here.

I had a pack of mung beans, so I rinsed and then soaked a cup of that in water for an hour. After that, I boiled the beans for 30 minutes.  Sautée two cloves of crushed garlic and one chopped medium sized onion in three tablespoons of oil I saved from the deep fried lechon. I had some pork chops in the fridge, so I took one slab out and chopped it into 1 inch by 2 inch cubes, and put that in too.

Filipinos eat tomatoes slightly underripe because we like our tomatoes sour, and luckily I just saved some of my tomatoes from the cold autumn air on my balcony. I chopped one of them into quarters, stirred it two to three times, and added the drained mung beans into it.

I saved the stock I made from boiling the lechon and put half a cup of the lechon water into the pot and I let it simmer for 10 minutes on medium-low heat.

I still had a single tatsoi plant and a thai basil plant freezing to its death on my balcony. I harvested those, along with some Italian basil and cilantro leaves. Chopped them to shreds, and shredded the leftover pork from the lechon/Spanferkel. Throw them in at the end, add about a tablespoon of fish sauce, et Viola!

I always add salt and pepper all throughout the cooking process, and not just during one specific time, to get a good layering of flavor. Using leftover oil and lechon stock was amazing, as it echoed the pork that was in the stew.

I ate this with steamed rice. And ate it like a Filipino 🙂