I have an avocado addiction going on. I seriously cannot get enough of them. In fact, more times than I care to admit this month I have gone home after work, cut up an avocado, threw in some fresh cut herbs and a squirt of lime and called it dinner. Is that wrong?
Another addiction I have is fresh tomatoes, which pair wonderfully with my avocado addiction. The problem is, my tomatoes are not quite ready:
And get this... she shallow fries the avocado slices with panko so they get crispy on the outside. Oh my.
There is also a honey-lime dressing and a chili-ranch drizzle to take it way over the top.
Since I have fresh cilantro and parsley growing out back I think I will add those to the lettuce mix, just for fun.
Here is the simplicity of this recipe: coat the avocado slices in a panko mixture and shallow fry to get them crispy, set aside. Assemble the salad greens, tomatoes, a shave or two of parmesan, crispy avocado slices and a couple slices of bacon you cooked & crumbled ahead of time. Throw the dressing ingredients together in a jar and shake-shake-shake and pour over your salad. Drizzle a combo of premade ranch dressing and a squirt of sriracha over the top. Done!
A tiny amount of cooking with a huge flavor payoff. A lot of it can even be prepared ahead of time (the dressing, the drizzle, the bacon). Hungry yet?
The party was this guy's 1st Birthday. He's my little buddy. He loved his smash-cake.
He loved it so much he gave it a big hug then laid down on it. Shortly after, Daddy rolled him and his chair out the backyard and hosed them both down.
The next day I picked approximately 1 lb. of basil from my 4 plants and made 8 cups of pesto. I'm freezing every bit of pesto I can so we will be able to enjoy homemade pesto dishes for at least part of the winter.
I discovered these Padron peppers at Whole Foods and scooped them up not knowing what I would make of them.
What I made of them was a quick roasted salsa. I started by blackening & removing their skins. This process goes so much faster over a gas burner. I usually do it on a cast iron skillet. Effective, but much slower.
I also toasted up some cherry tomatoes, garlic and 1 green onion.
Everything went into the blender with a little S&P then whirl-whirl-whirl, yummy salsa!! On a side note, I hid this salsa from everybody and snacked on it while I prepared other party food. The lucky few that wandered into the house while I was cooking were able to partake but it was so good I wasn't real keen on sharing.
I also purchased this pile of multi-colored sweet peppers. There were overflowing from a big wooden box and I picked out the most colorful ones I could find because I'm still eating my colors!. I was especially drawn in by the light purple ones which tasted the same as all the others but were a tiny bit firmer.
My pile of sweet peppers, along with pencil asparagus and green onions, were grilled up and drizzled with this balsamic sauce from Giada DeLaurentis that I have made over and over. It's a great way to perk up vegetables and might even make a nice dipping sauce for a hunk of focaccia.
So as you can see my weekend, like most weekends, was heavily influenced by food. And it was all good.
I have a thing for feta these days. I started buying a bunch of feta to make my Mediterranean filling but then found myself looking for other dishes to add the salty, crumbly goodness to. Of course, I love to toss it into a salad and will even make a Greek style "wrap" full of veggies and a little feta.
So when I saw this recipe from Saveur that uses feta I was intrigued. After reading how simple the recipe is, both in process and ingredients, I'm quite certain I'm going to give it a try. If you read the ingredients list, you will see that they call for 4 fresh tomatoes grated. I don't remember the first time I saw that technique but it really come in handy, especially now when there is an abundance of sun ripened heirloom tomatoes. It makes a light but flavorful tomato sauce.
I can just imagine using a hunk of crusty bread to mop up that spicy, garlicky sauce! I might try one tiny adjustment if I were to make this in the winter when the fresh tomatoes are not of the best quality: using canned fire roasted tomatoes. The extra hit of smokiness would be divine me thinks.
Shrimp with Tomatoes & Feta, rustic bread, a glass of lightly chilled wine (or Pellegrino if you are so inclined)... that sounds like a perfect summer meal to me!
You rub down boneless, skinless chicken breasts with a yummy blend of spices (paprika, cumin, etc.) then cook it either on the stove or on the bbq (which is what we did). Meanwhile "cook" your couscous (just pour boiling water over it, let it sit a few minutes then fluff with a fork) and add fresh veggies such as snap peas, cherry tomatoes, lemon zest and basil. Slice the chicken and serve over the couscous.
The sun continues to shine and my garden continues to grow! Here's an update on what's happening out in the backyard: As you can see, the strawberries are getting bigger and more plentiful. And they are DE-LI-CIOUS!
I have been anxiously watching my tomatoes, hoping they would ripen soon, but also hoping I would get to the first ripe tomato before any bird or gopher could get it's grimy claws (or beak) on it. For weeks I've had lots of green tomatoes on the vine, but no red. And then while I was watering today, I pushed aside a big leaf and found this little guy: my first ripe tomato! It's a Sweet 100 and it was just that!
And speaking of green tomatoes, look how many Roma's are on the vine! It's very exciting, tomatoes are one of the few foods I crave on a regular basis.
Everyday I water my eggplants and everyday I wonder, "When are those blossoms going to drop?" So I reached down to feel the big flower you see in the front and I discovered a little baby eggplant growing inside! I was so happy, I named him Bert.
And then I realized I had a 2nd "blossom" that also had eggplant fruit growing. I call him Ernie.
But there was one more! A little one that was hidden behind the leaves. I shall call him Kermit. I spend way too much time out in the sun.
These are my little green eggplants, when they are ready to pick they will be just over 2 inches. Just about there! There are too many of them to name.
The Mystery Peppers continue to grow and I am so curious as to what they will taste like. It's kind of like getting the mystery box on Chopped.
There is no longer just one bell pepper, there are many! I used to wonder why they had such weird shapes and now I can see the reason. When they grow, they get lodged in between the stalks, causing them to have weird indentations and lumps. It won't affect the flavor, though!
I lopped off the basil last week and it's already grown back. I will have to do another Basil Harvest soon!
My succulent garden is still surprising me. I found blossoms all over most of my plants last week and this week I found this... stalk... growing out of the Happy hens-n-chicks succulent. I think it might bloom... or it is an alien coming to take over the planet? If so, I hope it kills snails.
Lots of food growing out there, next week should bring a mini-harvest!!
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First it was the untimely weather. Next came the devilish earwigs. Then it was the sneaky slugs. This week I went out to the garden and found this:
SNAILS! Look at those slimy destroyers! They wrapped all the way around the pot and were hiding on 2 other pots. After I woke up from the shock, I did what any self-respecting, backyard gardener would do... I grabbed the salt. And I sprinkled it by the handful all around my pots. And I showered it over the snails that were sticking to the pots. And I had flashbacks of Katherine Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart in African Queen when they killed the leeches...
...anyway... with all that salted mess I made this (this is the point where you squeamish folks should look away. If you revel in the death of garden pests who are attempting to eat your hard-earned crops, you will find this as satisfying as I did):
That's right, I made Snail Lattes. Those slimy fiends didn't know what hit them as they foamed and frothed from the salt. They fell to the ground and my little green tomatoes cheered. I'm not crazy, really. I just hate to see the snails prevail. Hey, they didn't plant those eggplants! They didn't go out every evening and water the basil! They didn't fertilize and prune! They don't get to eat what they didn't work for! I have to admit, it is satisfying to walk out to the garden and now see the graveyard of snail shells.
As for the rest of the garden...
It's hard to believe that just barely 2 weeks ago this plant was down to about 3 leaves and I was worried I would have to toss it and buy all new plants. As soon as the sun came out it exploded. I could almost see it growing, it filled out so fast. Making pesto this week.
I was so enthralled with the blooms on this plant I didn't realize there was a bell pepper already growing on it! It's coming right along, hopefully the gophers won't steal it before I get to pick it.
I am so excited about my cherry tomatoes, they are going to be ripe soon. They are the reason I planted my garden this year. My tummy is growling just talking about it.
I also planted Roma tomatoes this year and I find their shape interesting. I think there are about 4 tomatoes on the plant right now but plenty of blooms so I expect there to be several Romas soon.
Remember the barrel of lettuce I picked last weekend? It's already growing back! Talk about a thrifty crop; I only planted about 1/4 (if that) of the seed packet and I have more loose leaf lettuce than I know what to do with.
I don't see any little eggplants yet but the plant continues to bloom. There will be a bumper crop shortly.
This green onion plant has become a forest. Every time I brush past it to water the other plants I smell like green onions.
This plant was a surprise when I got home from the nursery. I don't know how it ended up in my cart and I'm not completely sure what it is. It is some sort of mild pepper, it will be interesting to find out what it tastes like. Maybe I can throw it in a salad or quesadilla.
Speaking of surprises... I was tending the pole beans and found these peaking out from the dirt: toadstools! Where on earth did they come from?? What do they want?? Are they trying to ruin my beans?? I pulled them up and left them out to die in the hot sun. Hopefully they don't come back.
Things are really picking up in my little garden. It makes me hungry to think of all the yummy, healthy foods I'll be eating soon!
The sun finally came out here in the Sunshine State... hooooray! And the garden just soaked it up. Do you remember this picture?
Look at it now just barely 2 weeks later:
Just 2 weeks later and it has grown enough for this huge bowl of greens plus some:
That whole bowl of mesclun only cost me approximately $.20! A sprinkle of seeds, a little bit of water (mostly rain), a little bit of fertilizer & soil, and I have enough lettuce to last the whole the week! The books all say it will come back after I cut it down, we'll see....
My eggplants, despite the earlier battle with earwigs, are thriving as well:
Those beautiful purple blooms are going to beautiful purple eggplants before you know it!
The green onions rooted well and are ready to be plucked out of the pot whenever I need one.
It's alive, it's alive!! My basil is making a great comeback after all the unseasonal rain and pests. I'm so relieved and I am so looking forward to the first caprese salad of the season.
And speaking of caprese, my first tomatoes are just about 2 weeks from being picked! Look at those little green nuggets, I can hardly wait!
All in all, it's a been a fruitful 2 weeks of sunshine and growing in the garden. Fingers crossed... maybe I'll get to pick a cherry tomato or two next week...
It comes like a thief in the night in the form of slimy slugs:
And they slink their way onto my precious plants and turn my eggplant leaves into lace:
These dark evildoers are hiding under every pot:
They try to scare me with their pinching butts but I have news for them... I have earwig bait. I really hope the neighbors weren't outside while I was in the backyard sprinkling the earwig bait yelling, "Die suckers, die!!!" Oh well.
This morning I walked out to the garden and found this catastrophe:
I have a list of suspects but this guy is on my most wanted list:
He cannot resist the garden. He thinks I planted it for him. He is driving me crazy.
Despite my battle with dark forces, there are some good things going on in the garden.
My cilantro is going crazy! Which is very exciting for me because last time I tried to grow cilantro the bunnies refused to let it grow bigger than nubs. I have already used my cilantro on quesadillas, salads and avocado salad. Love it!
Know what this is? It's a bell pepper! It's growing so fast and already has blooms on it. I can't wait to see tiny peppers growing.
My tomatoes are growing well too. I planted 3 different varieties and the earliest one is blooming already. That yellow bloom is going to be a tomato very, very soon.
Despite the unseasonable rains and cold, I still have tiny strawberries growing. Someday the sun will come out and I will have some full size berries to eat.
I threw some lettuce seeds out a couple of weeks ago, not certain if they would come up. Oh me of little faith! Within 3 days they sprouted and very soon I will be able to go out back and pick my own salad leaves. I'm pretty excited about it!
It has been nothing but rain, rain, rain this past week so my basil is just depressing. I'll be lucky to save any of the plants I already planted. Oh well, I'll just buy more and do my best to revive the rest. Mr. Sun, Sun, Mr. Golden Sun, please shine down on me!!