While I feel lucky to have the extra space, it's also really great for him because the best thing you can do to improve soil quality is to grow something in it! The beds are stuffed right now with early crops, including lettuce and radishes. (Note that this is what happens if you don't properly thin your seedlings.) Here's our plot before we dug in.And after. While it doesn't look like much, I hope it will soon. Each side is lined with lettuce and radish seeds, and there are tomato, pepper, and eggplant seedlings running through the middle. This year, we dug up part of of our front yard for an herb garden. We squeezed in about eight basil plants here. Along with some jalapenos, fennel, and a rosemary plant you can't see. The potted oregano is thriving. In one of the two backyard plots we squeezed in 18 tomatoes, four peppers, and four kale plants in with the garlic and radishes already growing in there. Everything in all these photos looks pretty rough because we had a storm earlier in the day, but it meant a lot of rain and heat, and the seedlings managed to survive the winds. It also brought us some after-storm clouds, which are always spectacular. This weekend brought house guests, and luckily one of them is an excellent cook. My friend Julia and I cooked up a frittata with asparagus, leeks, and mushrooms. She fried up all the veggies in the cast iron, starting with the asparagus and removing it once it was just green. She dumped it back into the pan before we cooked the frittata in the oven with a good layer of cheese on top. While Julia cooked, I baked. Baking has a reputation for being fussy, and lacking the freedom to improvise that accompanies regular cooking, but I think this is unwarranted. Some recipes are very forgiving, and modification comes naturally and easily after you've gained a little know-how through practice. I saw rhubarb at the farmer's market and knew I wanted to make a cobbler. Usually I improvise cobblers, but I wanted to give you guys a good recipe to share that is well-tested, so I started with the great Dorie Greenspan. This recipe is modified from her rhubarb crisp recipe in Baking From My Home to Yours, which you should totally own.
Rhubarb Berry Crisp
adapted from Dorie Greenspan
1 c. white whole wheat flour
1 c. unrefined sugar (you can use brown sugar)
3/4 c. old fashioned oats
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. ground ginger
5 chunks crystalized ginger (total around 2 tbsp. minced)
1 stick butter, melted and cooled
1/2 c. nuts, chopped (I used half walnuts and half almonds)
1 c. strawberry jam (or make your own quick strawberry jam, using this technique)
3 tbsp. cornstarch
1/2 c. cold water
1 lb. fruit (use a combination of rhubarb and sweeter fruits, fresh or frozen. I used 5 stalks rhubarb, 1/2 c. frozen sour cherries, and 1/2 c. frozen raspberries.)
Begin by greasing a 9 in baking dish. I used an oval dish. Combine the dry ingredients for the crumble (from the flour to the ginger) Mince the crystalized ginger. Yours might be hard, so boil it or let it sit in warm water for a couple minutes to soften. (The liquid from it makes a great tea if you're having digestive trouble, too.)
Combine the ginger with the melted butter.Mix these and the nuts into your dry mixture with a fork. Press half of this into the bottom of the pan, reserving the other half for topping. Sprinkle your fruit on top. Grab your jam. This has been waiting to be used since I made those peanut butter pancakes. Make your assistant combine the cornstarch and cold water into a slurry and then combine this with the jam in a pan and heat just until it boils and starts to thicken. Pour the jam mixture over the fruit and sprinkle the remaining crumble mix on top. Bake at 350 for 45-60 minutes. The top should be golden and the fruit should be bubbling out the sides.
It's best served warm or at room temperature, and with something cold and creamy like vanilla ice cream or fresh whipped cream.
Finally, we had the big ultrasound this week (I'm 20 weeks into this pregnancy already, can you believe it?) to make sure the baby has everything in the right place and to find out the sex. My mother and sister both had strong feelings that it was a boy, and I really wanted to surprise them when we finally found out. So I made some cupcakes and stuffed them with frosting based on what we saw on the ultrasound and let them dig in at my sister's birthday party this weekend. Here's everybody getting ready to take a bite.
Iphone photo of what they saw when they dug in:
And the reaction shot. Notice Vanessa's excitement at being completely wrong, and that my mother is totally cheating by just ripping hers open instead of taking a bite. (She's Nana though, so she can go what she wants. She eventually ate this cupcake and one more later on, so I wasn't offended.)
And yes, my nephew was quick to voice his disappointment and quickly told my sister that she needed to get pregnant again soon and this time make sure it's a boy, ok?So, now you're up to date with the big news that we're having a little girl. I hope big things are happening in your kitchens and gardens, too, this spring.