Category Archives: Recipes

Perfection, c’est impossible.

One thing I love about gardening is that you, the gardener, cannot be held fully responsible for the finished product. Sure, you can prep and plant and prune to your heart’s delight, but ultimately, it is the plant, the weather, the soil, the angle of the sun that determines the final outcome. I conclude that it is impossible to be a perfectionist in the garden.

Which works just fine for me, because perfectionism and I just don’t jive. Take my latest home improvement project.  I decided to paint my son’s bedroom. This was no ordinary paint job. An industrious previous owner of my home decided, I’m guessing sometime in the ’50s, to convert said bedroom into wood paneled den, complete with a wall of custom built book shelves, a built-in desk, and  tv / record player cabinets., all in natural pine.  I removed half of the built-ins, but was left with two walls of knotty pine, one wall of shelving and one wall full of holes where the tv cabinet used to be. Oh, and water damage on the ceiling. So I sanded. I caulked. I mudded. I spackled.  I learned how to patch large holes in drywall.  (Check it out. Brilliant. ) And then, after a violent rain uncovered a serious masonry problem in our chimney, I mudded and sanded some more.

Ugh.

Finally it was time to paint. I realized, as I was rushing through this step, that I was rushing through this step. All that prep work was essential, but would be for naught if I rushed the final steps.  I always start out with the greatest of intentions, but fade when the project drags on longer than my energy burst.  And then it hit me:  this is why I love to garden.  I start out all jazzed up.  I add compost, I dig all the rocks out of the soil, and then toss in  a bulb or some seeds.  But then magic happens. All that prep is just right for the living organism that will turn itself into art.  Heck, I didn’t even plant the grape tomatoes that have graced my table for the last few months. They volunteered in my neglected but very well prepared raised vegetable bed.

When you come to visit, you will stay in the nice looking but decidedly imperfect green bedroom with white trim. You will eat, however, fabulous grape tomatoes. It really is great to share the responsibility. Try this Pico de Gallo recipe from Emiril Lagase. It will make your perfect tomatoes even better.

Ingredients

  • 1  1/2 cups seeded, diced tomatoes
  • 1/4 cup diced red onion
  • 1 tablespoon diced jalapenos
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic
  • Juice of 2 limes
  • 2 tablespoons cilantro, plus extra for garnish
  • Salt and pepper

In a bowl combine all ingredients.

Yum.

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Chefs not allowed to use salt?!?!?

I’m going to take a quick break from spring blooms and tales from my life out of doors to focus on a little indoor politics. And to rant.

Brooklyn Assemblyman Felix Ortiz has proposed a bill banning restaurants in the state of New York from using salt in any food preparation. Bill A. 10129 states, “No owner or operator of a restaurant in this state shall use salt in any form in the preparation of any food for consumption by customers of such restaurant, including food prepared to be consumed on the premises of such restaurant or off of such premises.” Fine: $1000 per infraction.

I’m sorry, but, EXCUSE ME?!?!?!? Has this man no concept of how to prepare a good meal? Salt is an integral part of making food great. Not too much, mind you, but in just the right amounts it actually makes food taste better. Researcher Paul Bresslin wondered why and concluded (in his 1997 article in the journal Nature) that salt masks bitter tastes in foods, but allows sweeter tastes to come through. A tomato fresh out of the garden is great. But a tomato fresh out of the garden with just a dash of salt is something spectacular.

I know too much salt is bad for you. I know too much salt exacerbates high blood pressure. I know that a burrito from Chipotle provides more than 80% of my daily sodium intake. But to take away one of the key ingredients from NY chefs who should actually know how to use salt correctly doesn’t seem to me to be addressing the underlying health risks of salt. Please. I’ve had the great privilege of tasting food prepared by a handful of great chefs who happen to cook in New York City: Tom Colicchio, Bobby Flay, Morimoto, Jonathan Benno. (They’ll be back in Philadelphia for the Great Chefs Event in June).  I assure you, these guys know what they’re doing.  They can put whatever spice they see fit on my food. There is no doubt that salt would be one of them.

Drinking too much caffeine is bad for you. Eating a whole bag of no-salt, low-fat cookies is bad for you. Lying on your couch and watching tv all day is bad for you. Not exercising is bad for you. I admit I have at one time or another been guilty of all of the above. But I don’t see anyone legislating against those unwise choices. I’m sure Mr. Ortiz’ intent (in addition to the buzz that this controversial suggestion is clearly earning for him) was for the health of the people of New York. How about this then? How about an educational campaign to remind people about the benefits of eating fruits and vegetables? Of preparing food from fresh ingredients instead of prepackaged (and salt-laden) options? Of getting off your duff and going for a walk or working in your garden?

Okay. I feel better. I don’t live in New York. I can go get myself a delicious salty Philly Cheese Steak whenever I feel like it. Let’s get constructive. Here are two of my favorite recipes. They are both simple, easy, good for you, and best when you use the freshest ingredients.  Both would be nasty without the salt:

Kelly’s Guacamole

1 ripe avocado (diced or mashed), 1-2 garlic cloves (finely minced), 1/4  to 1/2 t. sea salt, 1 small tomato (seeds removed if you want, diced), lemon or lime juice to taste. Makes one small bowl – I usually double or triple this.

(to add spice, add chopped red onion or jalapenos)

Tip learned from my New Mexican native mother: return the avocado pit to the guacamole after it’s prepared. It keeps the guac from turning brown. Really works, too.

Roasted Beets (Trust me, these will make you like beets, even if you think there is no way. Try them! You might like them.)

Peel beets (3 or 4) with a carrot peeler. Dice them into 1″ chunks. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with 3/4 t.  salt and  1/3 t. pepper, add a teaspoon of your favorite fresh herbs, chopped (rosemary, thyme, oregano). Roast at 400 for 35-40 minutes. Add a touch of yummy vinegar (balsamic, white wine, raspberry, whatever) before serving.

Here’s some great info on knowing how much salt to use in your cooking

Okay. Now I really feel better. I think I’ll go make some guacamole.

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