Monday, May 30, 2011

The May Storm

Every Friday night, my sister and I work on getting our parents house ready to sell.  My mom died on May 25 and  my dad didn't make it much longer and he died on November 10th last year.   I just read that June Carter Cash died in May and Johnny died the following September, too.   The elder law attorney warned me this would likely happen.  Once one goes, the other goes soon after.  My parents were married for 48 years, and I don't think they ever got rid of anything in their time together; they both were hoarders.   So on Fridays, I leave my office and head back to Warren to meet up with my sister to sift through almost 50 years of their stuff.  We'd hoped to get the house on the market by June but that's clearly not going to happen as we have just gotten through the upstairs of their 900 sq. ft. house and are now commencing on the basement, which can't be walked through, it's got so much stuff.

It's only fitting that we'd have a huge storm on the 1st anniversary of my mom's death.  My parents house, which was built in a subdivision that sprang up like many did when GM opened the Tech Center in 1956.   I learned as a kid that our subdivision was once part of the Rinke Farm, and our elementary school was named Rinke Elementary.   My mom was a wonderful gardener and the soil was great, however we lived at the end of a gradual decline so when it rained, the water always ran down to our yard and basement.  We spent many hours bailing water out of our basement whenever there was a big rain.   We expected the basement to flood and then that would simplify our housecleaning process - we could just throw everything out.  Oddly, the basement stayed dry.   My sister (who lives a few blocks north in a house on another part of Farmer Rinke's land) had a half foot of water in her basement.  Driving down any Warren street sees a van from flood remediation companies in most everyone's driveway.   But not my parents house - dry as a bone.  Weird.

View from the dam at the lower lake
Here in Ann Arbor, we had the worst flooding I've seen in the almost 20 years I have lived in this house.   Water filled our heat ducts in the basement and almost got to the carpet.  We live on high ground - almost the highest point in our area, so we never flood.  Most of the rest of the subdivision had sump pumps working over time.

Workers trying to divert rain water from the pool at the country club

We drove around and took pictures of it all so we could remember.   Bridgeway was completely washed out as Boyden Creek attempted to become a creek again.

Bridgeway as viewed from Crestline 

The base of Cardiac Hill (famous sledding in winter!)

Our two lakes - Greenook and Bridgeway, were formed in the 20s when a real estate developer dammed Boyden Creek.   There are two spillways in each lake, and they were both almost at the top.  Usually, there's about a 3 ft gap to the water.  

 Boyden Creek had almost reached the top of the Huron River Bridge.  I've never seen it this high.

Boyden Creek runoff 

Here's the view from the path near a place we call "Lane 10".   I think it was supposed to be a road someday, but now it gets storm runoff.

Eagle Bridge

It was the kind of storm my mom would have called to warn me about.  My parents, who watched the news 24/7 like most old people do, were always the first to call about a tornado watch or flood warning.   The weather has been really disappointing this spring...most of moms flowers are not yet in bloom.  I remember last May 25, I picked her a bouquet of rhododendron, roses and flowers from the snowball bush that was at her bedside when it was her time to go.  None of those flowers are in bloom at the old house yet.  There were still blooms on dad's lilac bush, which is really late for lilac.    I've been taking some of her plants home each Friday.   I've got her purple clematis on my mailbox - last year, it was in bloom and so striking that the hospice nurse had to ask me what it was.  This year, there's buds but no flowers yet.   It's been a cold, wet May this year.   Here's to a better June!

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Great Lakes Heirloom Seed Trial

This year, I am participating in Slow Food Huron Valley's Great Lakes Heirloom Seed Trial, where SFHV is giving away heirloom seeds in exchange for information about how these particular varieties do in our gardens.  Many of these were sold through Detroit's D.M. Ferry and Co. Seed Annual from as early as 1894. Since I have lots of critters that live in my woods, it's hard for me to grow a garden, so I am having an all container garden.    I'm hoping the deer decide they don't like the sound of their hooves on the brick patio! 

I got six varieties of seeds....they are:

Green Prolific 'Boston'
57 days until maturity
Smooth, bright-green, 5.5-6 x 2.5-3” blunt ended, seldom too large for pickles, slight taper, black spine, very high yields, bears continually if kept picked, popular old reliable small cucumber for pickling, listed by D.M. Ferry in 1880.  Sow seeds directly into garden soil (outside) 6/1-7/1. Trellis planting: sow seeds 6 inches apart, 1/2 inch deep, in rows and thin plants to 12 inches apart. Sprawling
growing method: sow seeds 4" apart in rows 5' apart and thin plants to 8" apart.  Raised bed planting method: Sow seeds 6" apart in rows 16" apart and thin plants to 12" apart. Keep seeds moist until germination. Cucumber plants normally produce for about 1 month. If you want a longer harvest period plant a second succession planting 1 month after the first planting.

Lettuce, leaf
Sanguine Amerliore' Strawberry Cabbage Lettuce'
45 days to maturity
Old French Butterhead variety w/ deep red-brown  mottling clustered toward the pink center of each tongue shaped leaf, retains color, tender texture, excel quality,  intro to the U.S. in 1906 as Strawberry Cabbage Lettuce by C.C. Morse and Co.

Lettuce, leaf 'Grand Rapids'
42-65 days to maturity
Large erect bright light-green heavily frilled and curled  leaves, for greenhouse or field culture, early, holds well, slow bolting, TB disease & rot resistant, for home gardens or greenhouses, MSU
Sow seeds directly into garden soil (outside) 4/1-6/15.

How to Grow Leaf Lettuce (full size) method: sow 3 seeds every 8" in rows 10-12" apart (cover seeds lightly with no more than 1/8" of soil or leave uncovered; tamp soil lightly with hand). Baby leaf method: broadcast sow 60 seeds/ft in a 2-4ft wide band (cover seeds lightly with no more than 1/8" of soil or leave uncovered; tamp soil lightly with hand ). Keep seeds moist until germination! Seeds may be started earlier inside into containers as early
as 3/20 - be sure to provide adequate light!

Pea, garden "Dwarf Gray Sugar'
60 days until maturity

Described by D.M. Ferry & Co. in 1892. Broad pale green 3-4" pods are stringless and free of fiber, well suited for steaming or stir-fry. Beautiful purple bicolored blossoms. Vines grow 24-30" and do not require staking, quite prolific. Edible podded. Sow seeds directly into garden soil (outside) 3/27-4/20, 1 inch apart, 1/2-1 inch deep, in rows 12-18 inches apart. Keep seeds moist until germination. These are dwarf peas and do not need to be trellised

'Cincinnati Market',
'Long Scarlet'
25-30 days until maturity
Heirloom described in Vilmorin's The Vegetable Garden (1885); now becoming scarce. Deep red radishes are 6" long and tapered (like a carrot). Flesh is tender, crisp, and mild. Medium tops are good for bunching. Sow seeds directly into garden soil (outside) 4/15-8/1, 1 inch apart, 1/2 inches deep, in rows 1' apart. Or, broadcast seeds about 1" apart and thin plants to 2-3" apart. Keep seeds moist until germination.

Bean, pole, snap
Black Seeded
Kentucky Wonder' 84
Kentucky Wonder type with long, large, stringless, fiberless, fleshy pods 6-8" long, 8-10 seeds per pod, good flavor & texture, heirloom from central Ohio.  Original seeds from Tom Knoche's Aunt Marge who maintained this variety for 60 years.  Sow seeds directly in garden soil (outside) 5/15-6/7, 3 inches apart, 1 inch deep, in rows 20-36 inches apart. Keep seeds moist until germination. Support pole bean plants with trellis.

How am I doing?   I haven't planted the cukes or the beans yet - actually, I did plant the beans but my hypertufa planter broke when I tried to move it so I will have to replant them.      I planted the Cincinnati Market radishes with the Strawberry Cabbage lettuce in one planter, but all I see is radishes, no lettuce. 

I planted the Cincinnati Market radishes with the Strawberry Cabbage lettuce on April 10, 2011.  I think those are radish seedlings, 11 days after planting, in the next picture.  At 16 days after planting, the radishes are taking hold - no sign of lettuce - but a critter has burrowed a hole in the right had side of my planter.  On May 1, I think I can barely see some leaves of lettuce in the planter, but I am not sure.  The last picture is today - there may be a few lettuce leaves among the radish plants.  I have more lettuce seeds, so I will plant a planter with just lettuce next.

The peas have been a total delight thus far....I planted them on May 1st, and they have been growing wonderfully.  The bottom picture was taken this morning.   The Grand Rapids lettuce has been interesting - it grows pretty unevenly in it's container.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge June: Mint

Even though this is the Spice Rack Challenge, we often have herbs in our spice rack.  So this month, the challenge ingredient is mint.  Feel free to use it fresh, dried or even as an extract.  My home state of Michigan has a rich and storied mint history, and we have our own mint festival in St. Johns, which is a small town near Lansing.     Since St. Johns is near my inlaws, I may have to pay a visit to this year's festival in August.   I'm inspired by "Minty" the mascot, pictured above.   Aren't you?

So, let's hear about your mint recipes. Start posting June 11, and make sure to have your post up by June 17 to be included in this month's round up.   Post a link in the comments section here and I'll make sure not to miss you!

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge May Roundup: Coriander

It is said that February is the cruelest month, but I think it's actually May.  For me, it's always the busiest month of the year.  Maybe that's why we only had 13 takers of this month's challenge?  

arctic garden studio
Remember Green Goddess dressing - here is her cousin Mexican Goddess dressing.  Great photography in this post, Nicole!

round here at chez hates
Coriander chicken thighs looks like a recipe that would work with chicken breasts, too!

prospect: the pantry
Pickled asparagus with curry spices is a great canning project for this time of year

eating floyd
Rebecca's gone medieval with pullum frontonianum/apicus chicken/chicken a la fronto

snowflake kitchen
A "Bend it Like Beckham" inspired aloo gobi with naan - a bread recipe I have always wanted to try.  Now I will!

thinking out loud
Summer brings us Woodman's BBQ rub

notes from a country girl living in the city
Maybe all the cilantro haters should try the curry coriander shorties?

tracy's living cookbook
Glad to find another way to make tabbouleh in this coriander tabbouleh salad

tales of a house on the corner
What a great flavor combination in this coriander infused butterscotch mousse!

a million grandmas
Another great flavor combo with Mary's coriander lime ice cream with rhubarb swirl

put a lid on it
A savory coriander onion marmalade sounds like a lovely jar to put by.

just another day on the farm
We've got the recipe for the special sauce plus a bonus dill one from last month...I like surprises!

Here's my middle eastern venture mjadara with toum

I guess I will have to pick something nice and easy for June...Any suggestions?  Let me know by Friday in the comments section.....

Friday, May 20, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge: Coriander

What’s on your nightstand? Besides the usual suspects of alarm clock, TV clicker and lamp that most people have, I also have piles of reading material. One pile is books – usually it’s whatever I am supposed to be reading for my neighborhood monthly book club and then whatever other books I happen to be “cheating ” on it with – I have a hard time committing to just one book at a time. When I go to the library to pick up my book for this month, other books often catch my eye, and most often it is cookbooks. I am the only person that I know that reads cookbooks like novels. Currently, I am enjoying Amanda Hesser’s New York Times Cookbook that I checked out of the library last time I was there to pick up Parrot and Oliviera in America, which is still sitting there unopened and we're discussing it soon. What a great cookbook! I can’t wait to buy it. The other pile is magazines – mostly cooking magazines. I am a certified magazine junkie. Oprah’s magazine - love her mag, her TV show not so much. Martha Stewart Living - so much better now that Martha’s out of the slammer - and it’s spawn, Everyday Food. Cooks Illustrated – yes, I know the recipes are a little too clinical and detail oriented, but I am an engineer and I love the idea that they try a recipe out a bunch of times different ways.

The one food magazine I totally adore is Saveur. Each month, I read it cover to cover, lingering over every article and oogling the beautiful food photography in exotic locales. I get so inspired by what they put in that periodical each month. Once, they wrote about making English toffee and peppermint patties at home and it sent me off on a candymaking odyssey that I am still on today. That being said, I’ve only most recipes I have tried out of Saveur were epic failures. Do they not try out their recipes before they publish them? For example, this past Christmas, I followed their recipe for salted caramels that said to cook it until it hits 370 F. Even though I knew better, I figured they knew what they were talking about when they said to cook it way past the normal firm ball stage of 245 F where every other caramel recipes suggests. I ended up with a ruined pot and a kitchen that smelled like an ash bucket for days. And this month, I was looking for a recipe to try that featured coriander, and they had a beautiful photo spread about kabobs from around the world. There was a recipe for kafta, which is a Middle Eastern style meatball that is cooked on a skewer. I work in Dearborn, which probably has the best Middle Eastern food to be found in the United States, so I might be a kofta snob, but Saveur’s kafta tasted like sawdust. Literally – they had the taste and texture of sawdust, with an aftertaste of mint. The final verdict came from my always hungry teenage son (who has been known to eat ANYTHING that’s not nailed down) actually dumped his IN THE TRASH and said “Sorry Mom, but it doesn’t taste good”. I think Saveur needs to contract some recipe testing work to Cooks Illustrated. A mashup of those two magazines would be cooking nirvana for me.

So, I am not sure what’s wrong in Saveur’s test kitchen, but I am thankful that they continue to be my muse. After all, this month they sent me down the rabbit hole of Middle Eastern recipes, and I probably never would have tried to create this side dish and sauce recipe that I have tasted in Dearborn’s restaurants at home to go along with those tasteless meatballs. So skip the kafta all together - the mjadara and toum are just fine as a meal by themselves. Thank you, Saveur!

Mjadara (Lentil and Rice Pilaf)

1 c green or brown lentils, sorted and rinsed
2 T olive oil
2 cups finely chopped onions
1 teaspoon minced garlic
¾ c rice
1 teaspoon salt
¾ t ground cumin
¾ t ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon pepper

Bring lentils and 2 1/2 cups water to a boil. Cover and simmer until al dente, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain. Meanwhile, add oil, onions, and garlic to a skillet over medium heat; stir often until onions are golden, 15 to 18 minutes. Add rice, salt, cumin, coriander and pepper; stir until rice looks opaque, about 3 minutes.

Stir in lentils and 2 more cups water. Bring to a boil over high heat; reduce heat, cover, and simmer, stirring occasionally, until rice is tender to bite and liquid is absorbed, 13 to 15 minutes. Serve with toum.

Toum (garlic sauce)

I head garlic, split into cloves and peeled
Juice of one lemon
½ t. kosher salt
1 large egg white
2/3 cups canola oil

Put the garlic cloves with the salt and the lemon juice in a blender. Blend on medium speed until the garlic is chopped, scraping down the sides as necessary. With the blender still on medium speed, add the egg white and continue to blend. Add half the oil in a slow thin stream. When it starts to emulsify (thicken up) switch to a slow blend, and slowly add the rest of the lemon juice. Add the rest of the oil in the same fashion. At this point you should have a sauce with the consistency of a light mayonnaise. Add more salt if needed.

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Stewed Rhubarb

One of the great things about blogkeeping is that a gal can look back at what she was doing at the same time in years past.   Last year at this time, I was doing the same thing that I am doing today - canning stewed rhubarb at the Ann Arbor Farmer's Market.    Last year, it was like Jupiter outside - very cold and raining sideways.  A florist's display of bouquets blew over and vases shattered all over the concrete.   I was afraid my stove was going to blow over - I was trying to hold it down with one hand and stir the pot with the other.   I couldn't keep the flame lit, and then I turned and there was flame at the connection to the propane tank - carried by the wind I guess!  I was getting a little nervous and frustrated.  The market manager told me I could quit the demo, but I was halfway through and hated to waste the effort because I love rhubarb.  So I tried to soldier on but was wondering how I was going to do it, when all of a sudden Jesus showed up in the form of a forester from northern Wisconsin that just happened to be passing through Ann Arbor for a few hours on his way to somewhere else.  Like an Eagle Scout on steroids, he was prepared. He fashioned a tent for me out of an old tarp and some rope he just happened to have on him and he put some pipe dope on the propane hose connection, and then he blocked the wind with his jacket that was whipping down the market stalls.    There were no shoppers, and many farmers packed up their stuff and left.  Then all of a sudden, just like the sea of Galilee, the sun came out and the winds calmed, and I turned to thank the man for his help and he was gone!  Just like that - he disappeared.  It was the strangest thing I have ever seen happen.    

This year, it's raining again, but not so cold and windy.   So don't let a little rain keep you away from the market this morning - checking out the weather, it says it's only a "chance of a thunderstorm" later and a high of 65F.   I don't think I'll need any miracles today.   And if you are new to canning, you won't need any miracles either if give rhubarb a try.  Canning stewed rhubarb is ridiculously simple - all you need is rhubarb and sugar. 

Stewed Rhubarb
Makes about 9 pints (one canner load) of rhubarb

7 lbs rhubarb
5 cups sugar

Trim off leaves. Wash stalks and cut into 1/2-inch to 1-inch pieces. In a large saucepan add sugar to fruit. Let stand until juice appears. Heat gently to boiling. Fill jars without delay, leaving 1/2-inch headspace. Adjust lids and process for 15 minutes.

Stewed rhubarb is wonderfully versatile - it can be used to make a crisp or a pie, or as a topping for yogurt, or used as a sauce for pork roast.   And it's a great Michigan product - we rank #3 for rhubarb production in the U.S.   I guess you could say rhubarb is a miracle in itself!

Sunday, May 01, 2011

Spice Rack Challenge May: Coriander

Most people don't know about coriander, which is the seed of cilantro.  I've got a jar of ground coriander kicking around in my spice cabinet that I bought to make Orangette's slow roasted tomatoes, which is a great use of the spice.   But I was wondering what else I can do with it....can I substitute it for cilantro in guacamole or salsa?  I don't know but I want to learn!

Reading online, I've learned that the commonest use of coriander seed is in curry powders.  In fact, in Indian cooking, the term "coriander" is used instead of cilantro, which confused me for a while.  The seeds can be used in stews and soups. They blend well with smoked meats and game and like Italian mortadella sausage, which is what we call "bologna" here in the USA.    Coriander is an ingredient of garam masala, pickling spices and pudding spices and is used in cakes, breads and other baked foods. Sugared comfits made from the seeds are a traditional sweetmeat and breath sweetener.  Coriander is a characteristic of  Middle Eastern cookery, used in lamb and meat stuffings. Coriander with cumin is a common combination and features in falafel Coriander goes well with ham and pork, especially when orange is included. It enhances fish dishes and, with other spices, may form a delicious coating for spiced fish or chicken, rubbed  Coriander complements chili and is included in many chili recipes, such as harissa, the hot North African red pepper sauce. It may be added to cream or cottage cheese.

Post your recipes from May 14 - May 20 to be included in this month's roundup, which will happen on May 25.   Maybe spring will have sprung for us by then!  It's been chilly and rainy this week in Michigan.  The river is running really, I watched the fire department rescue a guy who got caught up in the hydraulics near the Mast Rd. bridge in Dexter with his kayak.   The water's still too cold to be in it for very long.   Hopefully he is having a nice hot toddy somewhere tonight by a warm fire, whoever he is.  And maybe spring will get here soon in earnest.