Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Beginning of Bounty, and Scapes

Last night, Joe and I had our first meal entirely from the garden—well, almost.  The meat, a small delicious steak, and the crème fraiche and Greek yogurt were from Thriftway.  After all, this is a garden, not a farm.
But when I was weeding yesterday afternoon (in between ball throwing to Trace), I thought it might be time to begin a little picking.  Because it’s been so cool, everything in the garden seems delayed—except the weeds, of course.  But the recent rain has brought an explosion of growth that seems very promising.  Would I find anything more than lettuce?
Beans, potatoes, squashes all fighting for space behind the strawberries
The potatoes growing in two big pots at the back of the raised beds were looking a little tired, weary of growing so fast. 
Potatoes, keeling over

I dug around just below the surface dirt with my gloved hand and found a treasure trove of new young baby potatoes.  The plants hadn’t even flowered yet, but their first babies were there, just below the surface.  I remember exquisite meals in France that featured tiny young potatoes sautéed in butter.  How delightful that would be as an accompaniment to a small and very tender steak.
What I had thought were onions left from last year turned out to be the Russian garlic that keeps reappearing every year since I planted a few cloves a long time ago.  When stuff comes up in the garden that I don’t remember planting, I get a little confused.  But this was definitely garlic. 
Hard neck Garlic

I picked a few stray shoots that seemed quite spent, the leaves shriveled and brown.  The heads were small but firm and seemed to have several cloves on each head.
Then, I remembered the garlic scapes I had purchased at the farmers’ market last year and how delicious they were.  The scapes only form on hardneck garlic, such as the red Russian garlic I had planted long ago.  I’ve never picked the scapes.  I always thought that was an inedible part of the plant.  But that may be why the garlic keeps coming up every year, since the bulb head has all the seeds for new garlic.
Garlic scapes with seed heads beginning to open

When I went to the internet to find out more, imagine my surprised delight to find out that it’s a good thing to cut the scapes before they open their heads and release their seedlets.  It makes the garlic grow bigger because all the energy is going back into the bulb, rather than the flower.  I guess that’s why tulip growers cut the blooms when they’ve barely opened.
My strawberry plants and the raspberry vines haven’t produced much fruit, but I could gather enough to finish our dessert.  The rhubarb was definitely on steroids now so I could get a few stalks and cook them up—even have enough to give to Stephanie, our neighbor who loves rhubarb.

I picked a fresh batch of lettuce and thinned the beets some more, keeping the young tops for our salad. 
Lettuce, doing fine in this cool summer

The yellow squash is beginning to bloom its sunny giant blossoms so I could add one of those babies to our dinner.  And, of course, there are the turnip tops which are a little bitter compared to spinach but a good strong accompaniment to a rich piece of meat.
Yellow squash, and cucumbers climbing up their cage

This is my favorite part of having a vegetable garden.  I can fashion a simple meal that sings with the fresh flavors of elements just picked.  This is the sort of meal that costs dearly in a restaurant because it requires the immediacy and urgency of taking from a good garden, preparing the freshly picked choices, and then presenting it all at the table, simply and elegantly.
 Steak, mushroom, green peppercorns, new potatoes and squash blossom, turnip greens
Garden salad with raspberries and pine nuts
Our Simple Dinner
1 small boneless New York steak (about 6 oz.)
2 medium crimini mushrooms
6-8 baby potatoes
6-8 small cloves new garlic
1 teaspoon green pepercorns
1 yellow squash with blossom, cut in half lengthwise
2 cups turnip tops (spinach would be even better, but my new crop isn’t big enough yet)
2 tablespoons butter (1 for vegetables, 1 for turnips)
Juice of ½ lemon
4 cups fresh picked assorted lettuces
½ cup fresh raspberries
1 tablespoon pine nuts
2 tablespoons white balsamic vinaigrette (see Kitchen Essentials)
2 cups fresh rhubarb (about four stalks cut in 1” lengths)
½ cup sugar
½ cup white wine
1 tablespoon crème fraiche (for Joe)
2 tablespoons Greek yogurt (for me)
½ cup fresh strawberries
Scrub potatoes, but don’t peel them.  Sauté potatoes and garlic in 1 tablespoon butter, letting them roast slowly.
Wash and cut turnip tops and put in saucepan with 1 tablespoon butter.  Salt and pepper to taste.
Wash and cut lettuces and put in bowl.  Add raspberries and pine nuts.
Cut rhubarb stalks to 1” lengths and put in deep oven proof pan.  Add sugar and wine and roast in preheated 350˚ oven until liquid has become a heavy syrup (about 30 minutes).
Salt and pepper steak and put on medium to hot grill.  Sear one side about 5 minutes.
While steak is grilling on one side, add mushrooms and peppercorns to roasting potatoes in pan.
Turn steak to other side for another five minutes until medium rare.
In last five minutes, while steak is finishing, turn heat on turnips and sprinkle with lemon juice and cover.  Add squash and blossom to potatoes, garlic and mushroom sauté.
Dress salad with 2 tablespoons vinaigrette and toss gently.
Bring steak in from grill, cut in half and plate all on two plates and serve.
For dessert, spoon warm rhubarb into a champagne coupe, add crème fraiche or Greek yogurt and top with strawberries.
I ate dessert before I remembered to take a picture of it.  Oh well...
Garden heaven!


  1. Isn't it ever so nice to grow your own veggies :) I love to throw different things in my salad--fruits, nuts, even coconut. I also like to just cut/chop a little fish or meat to throw on top too--lovely summer meal!

  2. The potatoes look amazing!!! I should do some probing below our soil too :)

  3. This meal looks amazing! I can't wait for the potatoes you gave me to be ready! I think maybe when you have the time you should come over here and give me some gardening layout tips. I'm still a newbie. :o)

  4. I'll bring over some lavender for you too.