Monday, May 2, 2011

Gardening and Meatless Monday: Curried Egg Salad

I don't know how you approach getting dressed in the morning, but I'm one of those people who doesn't decide until the last minute what I'll be wearing for the day, and my outfits are largely centered around trying to be comfortable in whatever weather Iowa has to throw at me for the day.  (Well, that and accommodating a burgeoning belly these days.)
The first thing I do when I wake up, after taking care of the pup of course, is to check the forecast and see just how many layers I need to put on.  I'm thankful that part of my job includes walking around campus between classes, but leaving the house early in the morning and returning in the afternoon exposes me to quite a range of temperatures throughout the day.
Weekends are another story.  When it's Sunday and I'm in charge, I like to spend as much of my day outside as I can, and I feel no shame in hanging out in the yard wearing yoga pants and a sweatshirt.  We'd been putting off all but the most essential yard work for April thanks to the non-stop rain and cold, and I fully expected's forecast for May 1 to be correct in its prediction of more of the same.  When the day turned out to be not only sunny but even warm, I stepped outside after a big breakfast and didn't look back until my stomach told me it was dinner time.
Since we have a long list of tasks that have been piling up, there was no shortage of things for me to do to stay outside, but I only had so many hours and wanted to address the most necessary jobs first after weeks of neglect.  The seedlings in the basement have started to outgrow their flats, so I decided it was time to repot as many of them as I could, and have the added bonus of hardening them off at the same time.  (To harden off seedlings means to expose them to sunlight and outside air for increasing amounts of time before putting them outside permanently.  This process helps acclimate them to their future environment.)  The wind was a little rough on the fragile stems, but they perked right back up once I brought them inside.  I started all my tomato seedlings in flats this year, rather than in small pots.  I'm glad I did because it was easier and involved less waste, but I should have replanted earlier.  I think I caught them just in time and most will do pretty well.
DSC01585I did a lot of other gardening, too, including planting the strawberries and tending to the radishes and garlic.  My favorite part of digging in the garden is getting a good look at the condition of the soil.  The soil scientist at my Master Gardener's class said it best:  think about the soil as the inside of your home.  We go outside a lot, but the inside rooms are where we spend the vast majority of our time.  The same is true of plants.  There's a lot of action that takes place above the ground, but what's under it is really what's important.  Roots need good soil with good space to grow.
Looking into your dirt while you plant is as important as looking at your food before you put it in your mouth.  I found some interesting stuff while I digging out there.
Scary photo alert:  a grub.  I'm not entirely certain exactly what kind of a grub this is, though it's almost certainly a Japanese beetle, but it doesn't really matter.  You do not want these in your garden.  If you're digging and you find one of these guys, pick him out and crush him immediately.   Aside from the scavenging animals that will tear up your garden looking for these juicy little bites, they themselves will later turn into any number of bugs that you do NOT want to deal with later.  If you're a tough guy you can crush him with your fingers.  If you're me, you'll yell at your husband to come over, take a photo, and then stomp him.
DSC01589These guys, on the other hand, are your friend and you should be very happy to find them in abundance wherever you're growing.  If the soil is the inside of your home, the holes in the soil are the rooms.  Aside from making lots of great poop, worms make lots of holes where the roots can live.  And strong roots=strong plants.
DSC01590The rhubarb I bought at the plant sale isn't looking that great, but I have confidence that it'll pick up soon, and I'll be adding lots of compost to make it extra happy.
DSC01592While I love digging in the dirt and making stuff happen each year with food plants, there's something really nice about perennials which just come back and look gorgeous with no effort.  I look forward to these variegated tulips with their curly leaves, and they're finally up.
Along with the bright red ones.
DSC01596Peonies are starting to bud.  I had these in my wedding bouquet not only because they're one of my top flowers, but also because they're seasonal.  Come early June, we'll be celebrating our fourth year of marriage and enjoying their big blossoms.
DSC01597I also made some food this weekend!  Every spring, the Co-op brings out an egg salad.  I think eggs are the perfect expression of spring, full of fertility and potential for the year ahead.  I decided to make my own spring egg salad, but to spice it up with curry powder and fruit, and lighten it up by using yogurt instead of most of the mayo.  We demolished this, so maybe make extra.
You can sub anything for the fruit and nuts to suit your tastes and what you have on hand.  I think grapes and walnuts would be excellent, for example.

Curried Egg Salad
4-6 eggs, depending on their size.  We ended up using four large eggs.
1/2 c. chopped pecans  (I like salted, but you could get unsalted if you prefer)
1/4 red onion, chopped fine (you can omit this, or sub green onions.)
1 apple, chopped  (I used a Braeburn, but pick anything with good flavor and texture.)
1/2-3/4 c. thick yogurt (use Greek style, or strain your own.)
1 1/2 tbsp. mayo (we used Vegenaise)
1-1 1/2 tbsp. curry powder (I used Frontier, it's local! And it was delicious. It has a bit of a kick, so start slowly and add until you're happy with the flavor)
Juice of half a lime
Salt and pepper to taste
DSC01600Start with some good local eggs.  Boil them this way:
Cover eggs with 1 in. of cold water.  Bring to a boil, remove from heat, cover and let them sit for 7 minutes.  Then plunge them in cold water until they're cool enough to handle.
DSC01602They should be perfectly cooked through with yolks that are wet without being too liquidy and certainly not too dry.
DSC01618Cut in half, then chop into quarters and slice those into big chunks.DSC01620Working in the kitchen at John's Grocery, I made my fair share of egg salad and shelling hard boiled eggs was always a task.  Using older eggs helps because the thin layer between the shell and white is thicker.  I have always used this technique to peel them and it works...fine.  If you have a miraculous method that peels eggs in a flash, share it for the good of humanity. 
I put the eggs on their wide side and roll them, cracking along the center line.  Then I peel from there as best as I can, sometimes under running cool water.
Toast the chopped pecans in a dry pan until you smell them, but keep them moving as they burn very quickly.   Reserve a handful of these to garnish later.
Here's how I prepare apples:
Begin by slicing the apples in half from top to bottom.  Then use a melon baller to remove the core and seeds. 
DSC01610Slice into wedges and then chop.
DSC01611Next, finely dice your onion.
Slice in half from top to bottom, leaving the root end intact on both hemispheres that you just cut.  Slice through the side like this, making the first part of the dice.
DSC01612Then slice across the top, like this.  And then chop away.
Next up take your curry powder.  If you can't smell it from here, you need to find some new powder.
DSC01608Combine the yogurt and mayo in a big bowl.
DSC01603Then add the curry to the creamy stuff.
DSC01622Mix everything, including the lime juice, seasoning well with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust flavoring.
DSC01623We served this on hearts of romaine for good crunch.
DSC01627Sprinkle the reserved pecans on top, and enjoy with sunset, basking in the glow of spring.
DSC01634This would be great as a packed lunch, too.  I'd be looking forward to it all day.
DSC01631Ahh. Hey, are you missing a beach ball? It's in my backyard.
DSC01635For fun, Razi and I pretended we were tall for once.
DSC01639Happy Spring, all!  Get out there and dig a little, and make some spring food!


Karrey said...

Yayyyy, spring!

PJ said...

Just found your site... Beautiful photos and great idea for a blog. I love the creativity of using the romaine leaves instead of bread.

Alicia R. Ambler said...

Thank you, PJ!

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