Monday, September 29, 2008

Eaphyllum Hookeri (? Huh ?) and Calendars

Eaphyllum Hookeri (???what???you're asking?) Well, let me tell you, on this, the first day of the new moon....
Tim has had this plant FOREVER, and four years ago on a magical fall night, well after we had taken it indoors for the winter, it bloomed. It had never bloomed before, and hasn't since. We've been trying for some time now to figure out what the heck the plant is, and how to make it bloom again. Recently while on his vacation, Tim found the plant on the web, after a full morning of relentless searching. Apparently there are several versions close to it, but none precisely as this one, so we're pretty sure we've got the right one. In any case, they don't bloom frequently...some people claim yearly, others claim only once in many years (that must be ours). Anywho, the story goes that it will bloom within 48 hours of the new moon. We figured that for so much WHOOEY, but when we looked up the date on our photo we realized it was only a week past a new moon, and it was entirely possible that the photo didn't make it from our camera to the computer for a week 4 years ago, pre-digital camera days for us.
SO....we're waiting patiently to see if this thing is truly going to bloom again. We've got three apparent blooms coming on one leaf and one bloom on another...check back tomorrow for photos of those...I forgot to take them before it got dark out and will try to remember to post them tomorrow so you can follow the progress.
It's sort of like the stinky flower at the UW which nobody goes to see even though it only blooms a few hours, because it is so stinky. Well, ours isn't stinky, but it is unpredictable and it lasts just a very short time. This time due to technology we plan to video it and post it here on Beast's Kitchen for y'all to see.
And now on to Calendars...yes, I know that was about lunar calendars, but I have a new 2009 calendar for purchase on HERE...check it out!


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Apples, Salsa and Pumpkins!

As much as I hate to see summer end, my favorite season truly is fall. Perhaps that's because I'm a Libra, born in October, when the leaves are turning and everything is colorful and change is on the way. I love fall, I love the tiny golden leaves that line the streets like gold thrown by fairies at night. I love apples, salsa, and especially pumpkins!
Today I made green tomato salsa with some of the last of the tomatoes of the year. It wasn't a great year for tomatoes if you enjoy the big, juicy ripe ones, but the green ones make some great salsas, relishes and chutneys, as well as fried green tomatoes!
I look forward to Apple season almost as much as Asparagus season. I say almost as much because Asparagus season is shorter and more dear to us, here in South Central Wisconsin. In spite of the chilly spring and wet weather early in the growing season, the apples in this part of the state seem to be doing well. On Sunday when my computer printer ran out of ink I stopped at the Monona Farmer's Market while trying to find ink on a Sunday morning, and purchased some of Vivian Green's scrumptious apples. Vivian and her husband own Green's Pleasant Springs Orchards in Stoughton. They have some of the best darn apples I've ever had, and are some of the hardest working, most honest people you'll ever meet. Vivian and her husband sell at several farmer's markets around town, and in spite of that Vivian was surprised to see me at the Monona market on Sunday. I told her, I'm everywhere! If there's a farmer's market, I shop there!
On Saturday I worked at the Food for Thought Festival on behalf of Madison Originals. While chatting with people during the festival I saw some pretty awesome pumpkins going by. One was so big it looked like it had taken over the stroller it was riding in. I also saw some adorable youngsters with pie pumpkins, just the right size for little ones to carry home. I was worried about the pumpkins this year, after the late spring, hard rains early and then drought mostly all summer, I didn't know what we'd see for pumpkins. Until I cut into one and prepare it for one of our favorite pumpkin dishes I won't really know the quality, but they look awfully yummy at first glance! I'll keep you posted on what I find as I start cooking and cutting for pies, soups, bars, and yes, cheesecake. My favorite all time cheesecake has always been pumpkin, and after 20 months hiatus from baking them, I'm ready for some pumpkin cheesecake!
Enjoy the fall, bask in the warm afternoons, and enjoy the cool evenings. Roast marshmallows with the kids after dinner and watch for the harvest moon. All too soon it will be cold and we'll be stuck indoors for more hours than we'd like each day, so enjoy the fall and embrace the change of seasons.
Next time...Beast baking fall goodies!

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Farm Photos and Signs

One of the things I love best is taking photos of very ordinary things. Early this summer I went out to Jordandal Farm and photographed the animals on a beautiful, sunny day between the rains. I've finally just now found the time to sort through the photos, edit them and post them, here on the website. It's a somewhat daunting task to go through 400 pictures and decide which are worth keeping, and then crop them, adjust lighting and save them for web use. I would guess that many digital photographers never get around to doing anything with all those photos they collect. I actually enjoy the entire process, from the experience taking the photos through the editing and to the printing or digital posting. Unfortunately time is like money and it doesn't grow on trees, so sometimes I don't get to my collections as quickly as I would like. In any case, Many Thanks to Eric and Carrie Johnson at Jordandal Farm for allowing me the opportunity to take up some of their precious time in order to photograph their wonderful farm in the rolling hills of Southwestern Wisconsin. When I was there Eric asked if I was going to "pick out my lamb", as I had recently ordered a lamb for fall slaughter. The thought of photographing the little darling that would later feed us so well was a bit more than I could swallow, and thankfully Eric explained that it would be nearly impossible to ensure that the one I selected would be the one that came in my packaged bundles--WHEW! They are all adorable and I had great fun chasing them about the field trying to get them to stand still long enough to photograph them. I never knew how many variations of "BLEET" there were. I suppose it's just like humans...we all have our distinct voices too.
On the way back to Madison from the farm I came across something else I enjoy photographing...signs. I'm particularly enamored with old neon signs, and I'm working on that collection to add to the website as well. In any case, I came across the one at the top of this BLOG entry and drove back around the block to photograph it...I couldn't pass it up, nor could Beast's Kitchen! Until next time...

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Roasted Fennel and Garlic, YUM!

When I picked up the CSA this week I noticed a lot of extra fennel in the "share box". The share box is where people exchange an item they don't like, can't eat or won't use for another they prefer. Someone commented to me that it looked like everyone had traded in their fennel. I replied, "Not me! I want more". So I reluctantly parted with a head of cabbage for extra fennel. When roasted fennel has a wonderful sweet caramelized flavor, that is nowhere near what you would expect from the strong scent of the raw veggie. Fennel is yet another of the veggies I have no recollection of eating as a child, but that is a tasty addition to our diet as adults. I can't think of too many root vegetables that I don't like roasted with olive oil and garlic, and fennel is on that list. You can certainly eat it right out of the oven, in all the caramely goodness, but here's another the roasted fennel in the fridge and add it to other dishes, like a frittata with tomato, roasted fennel and cheese for brunch. Here's how to do it--
Roasted Fennel and Garlic:
1 bulb fennel--fronds cut off and root end sliced off the bulb, slice the bulb into 1/2 inch sections and place in an oven proof pan--I use a glass dish for caramelizing veggies. Top with 3-4 cloves minced garlic, then drizzle with 1-2 tbsp olive oil. Season with salt and white pepper, and sprinkle with grated parmesan, asiago, or other hard cheese. Roast in a 350-375° oven for about 45 minutes. If you can keep from eating it all as soon as it comes out of the oven, then store in the fridge for later use.
Place 2 tbsp melted butter or olive oil in glass pie plate, arrange roasted fennel and garlic in pie plate, then pour in 4-6 eggs, whisked. Season with salt and white pepper, and top with grated cheese of your choice. Bake in a 325° oven for 30-40 minutes, or until puffy and slightly browned on top. Serve with your favorite beverage (mine's a Pomosa--recipe below) and side of fruit, toast, bagel, whatever. Enjoy!
Pomosa: (I get credit for the name...I invented the drink!)
Pour 1 oz pomegranate juice in a champagne flute and top with your favorite champagne. Garnish with a twist of lime, enjoy!