Saturday, June 4, 2011

Japanese pizza, CSA week 4, and garden update

Inspired by our overflow of cabbage and leeks in last week's CSA box, I found a recipe using plenty of both in the "leek" index of one of my favorite natural cooking sites, 101 Cookbooks. The author, Heidi Swanson, takes beautiful photos and creates mostly vegetarian recipes using natural, whole ingredients.

Japanese Pizza from 101 Cookbooks

2 cups cabbage, finely shredded
1 cup leeks, well washed and chopped
2/3 cup whole wheat pastry flour (or apf flour)
a couple pinches of fine grain sea salt
2 eggs, beaten
1+ tablespoon olive oil
Garnish: toasted slivered almonds, chives/ herbs (I used cilantro)

Combine the cabbage, leeks, flour, and salt in a bowl. Toss until everything is coated with a dusting of flour. Stir in the eggs and mix until everything is evenly coated.

Heat a large skillet over medium heat and add a generous splash of olive oil. Scoop the cabbage mixture into the pan, and using a metal spatula press it into a round pancake shape, flat as you can get it. Cook for 4-5 minutes, or until the bottom is golden.

To flip the okonomiyaki, slide it out of the skillet onto a plate. Place another plate on top and flip both (together) over. If you need a bit more oil in your skillet, add it now, before sliding the okonomiyaki back into the skillet. Again press down a bit with a spatula and cook until golden on this side - another 3 -5 minutes.

When you are finished cooking, sprinkle with toasted almonds and chives, and slide it onto a cutting board to cut into wedges. Enjoy immediately.

Serves 1 - 2.

My flip was nowhere near as elegant as Heidi's. Instead, it involved putting a dinner plate on top of the cast-iron skillet, wrapping my hands in a towel apiece, and dangerously flipping the skillet and plate combo, then returning the flipped pizza into the skillet. Tricky! But tasty, for sure.

This week's CSA box included lots of wonderful veggies and two special surprises! First, a bag of beautiful and colorful potatoes, two spring onions, one fennel, some Italian broccoli rabe, a bunch of cucumbers, and a handful of beets. Since we still had an overbalance from missing a delivery a few weeks ago, and we're overloaded with veggies from the CSA and the garden, Keenan hooked us up with some cinnamon raisin walnut bread.

And, best of all, Keenan also suggested we take some fish as part of our weekly share! Our fridge is now home to two whole pompano.

I was skeptical at first about preparing whole fish, but we got to chat with the fisherman himself about how to gut and cook these guys, and I think it'll be a manageable yet adventurous project. There will most certainly be plenty of photographing this event! Look out!

The tomato plants continue to grow and grow. There's even the first signs of ripening sungolds!

The celebrity tomatoes are getting sizable too, though there's still only a tomato or two on each plant. I pruned and weeded the tomato area a ton this weekend, so the plants should all be in good shape to really start fruiting over the next few weeks.

There's also the pink girl plants that went in the ground a few weeks after the sungolds and celebrities. They're growing strong, as are the summer cabbages! Two of the pink girls have tomato cages around them, and two have wooden stakes, as an experiment in using twine to hold up the plants. They're not big enough to need the extra support of twine ties yet, but soon I'll tie big branches to the wooden stakes so the plant doesn't fall over from the weight of the tomatoes.

Also, the first tiny little peppers are blossoming. They'll stay green until they get almost to size, when they'll start turning red. Last year I planted yellow peppers, which are apparently the most disease-resistant, and they grew just fine, so hopefully this red variety will make it through the season.

The thai basil sprouted all these beautiful purple flowers, which I promptly cut off after taking this photo, as the flowers inhibit leaf growth. But aren't they lovely?

One important lesson from the garden that I want to keep in mind in upcoming seasons is to harvest early, rather than waiting for the plants to get the size one might see them in the grocery store. I waited quite a while to start harvesting the lettuce and the greens, and in hindsight it would have been better to go ahead and start using them earlier. I read in one of Gayla Trail's books recently that the plants are made to produce their fruits, whether that's the flowers on the basil plants and the greens, or the tomatoes and peppers on plants where the flower itself is what we eat. By harvesting early, you encourage the plant to grow more, so it can flower more and therefore reproduce. It always feels a bit scary to harvest early, as if by taking leaves or vegetables too soon, the plant will get all used up, which is the silly and flawed logic behind my harvesting inhibitions. In actuality, the reverse is true: by harvesting early, the plant will grow more and more. Good gardening lessons to remember.

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