Monday, June 18, 2012

Summer is here!

My first produce of the summer: crookneck squash
Last weekend, we happened up on an urban farm tour given by the farmer herself, Willow Rosenthal. If you recognize her name, it may be because you've read Farm City, visited City Slicker Farms, own a copy of The Essential Urban Farmer, or have heard her speak about food and farming related issues.

The tour lit a fire under our butts because the house on tour has a similar microclimate to our own house, so the next day, the boy and I spent 7 hours building a retaining wall to terrace our hilly front yard. The result is a functional food garden! We carried over a ton of rocks (no exaggeration!) up the hill, severely chopped back some overgrown bushes and trees, and carved out a little space that we hope will provide us with snap peas, blue lake beans, broccoli, beets, carrots, salad greens, and radishes. We already had tomatoes, zucchini, crookneck squash, and limes growing with success, so we hope this will just add more food to the table. (Interesting fact about summer squashes: the first blooms are always male. I thought my squash was defective until I learned that!)

If this garden turns out well, we'll expand it out to other parts of the yard, but for now, our tiny 10' x 5' plot is keeping us busy.

If you have any interest in small footprint food gardens, check out The Essential Urban Farmer. There are ideas in there for maximizing your space that were new to us, and that made gardening in my little foggy microclimate seem entirely plausible. The North Berkeley house we visited had enough eggs and produce to provide weekly food boxes to 6 families. 

Eggs from spent grain fed chickens.
The boy is still brewing delicious beer, and I found a worthy home for the leftover (spent) grains. I posted on a community board to see if any neighbors with chickens would be interested in some grain. One person has 5 chickens who love the stuff, and she was nice enough to give me a dozen eggs and some sweet, juicy limes from her backyard! It's such a sweet deal, and no grain goes to waste. There's only so much spent grain muffins I can make and eat.

Corn, pesto, and zucchini risotto

Last week's hot weather, hot for me being in the upper 80's, meant that I didn't want to spend much time in front of the stove top. This is when my pressure cooker really shines! I got on a risotto making kick because my pressure cooker makes the whole cooking process less than 15 minutes, and not only that, but most of that time my burner is set to simmer - a temperature low enough to melt, but not boil, butter. My first risotto was corn, pesto, and zucchini with a (not so) healthy mound of Parmesan. The pressure cooker is also a champ at making quick stocks for the risotto cooking liquid. I save all the veggies scraps, rough chop an onion, throw in a few peppercorns and a bay leaf into the pressure cooker and let it do its thing for 10 minutes.

Mock paella risotto
My second risotto was a paella inspired risotto. I threw some smoked paprika, chorizo, English peas, saffron, white wine, and more zucchini into the pressure cooker with the arborio rice, and the resulting dish exceeded expectations!  I was really craving paella that day, and this curbed the craving. Sure, there weren't any crispy bits on the side and bottom of the pan, but I fixed that the next day by frying up the leftover risotto in a cast iron pan and adding fried egg to the top.

The boy sat and watched me eat it during breakfast, eschewing the savory dish for his boring peanut butter Puffins with cashew milk. He's a little grossed out by my habit of eating leftover dinner for breakfast, and I'm a little grossed out by eating super sweet cereal first thing in the morning. At least we can agree on strong, black coffee.


  1. We're a leftovers for breakfast kind of household, too! No cereal for me; it doesn't carry me through the whole morning.

    Your risotto looks fabulous.

  2. I'm on your side with the savoury leftovers for breakfast!

  3. Michelle and Foodycat, I knew I liked you two for a reason. :) Savory breakfast lovers unite!!!

  4. And my husband thought I was strange for eating leftover taco meat on lettuce this morning! Glad I'm not the only one:)

    Hope your garden does well! I struggle with anything other than basic tomatoes and peppers and squash during the summer, it's just so hot. But my 'winter' garden was filled with tons of lettuces, cilantro, beets, and peas. Keep us posted, and share pictures of it's progress.



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