Sunday, June 8, 2008

Broccoli from the Garden to the Table

After several days with daytime temps in the 90s and nighttime temps over 70F., the last of the spinach bolted. The lettuce won't be far behind. The cilantro self-seeds so well that I don't expect to lose it completely -- there are always young starts to pick up the slack when the older plants set seed.

The broccoli came and went in about two weeks. DH picked the last of the side shoots today (9 pounds) and plans to prepare that garden bed for sweet corn tomorrow. I have to say the broccoli was outstanding again this year. Very few bugs -- I froze about 15 pounds last week and only had one full-size and two tiny caterpillars out of all that broccoli. This last batch had a few more, about 8 full-size and a couple tiny ones. As always, I soaked it in salt water prior to blanching and freezing.

The last few years I've separated the broccoli into florets with only about an inch of stem and then I chop the stems and freeze them for use in casseroles, cream soup or as an addition to stirfry or fried rice. Even using a vacuum sealer we just didn't care much for the frozen spears -- the tops were overdone and the stems almost limp at times. (We have the same reaction to storebought frozen broccoli spears.) Maybe the difference now is because I don't have to blanch the florets as long when the stems aren't attached. And the stems take less time than normal, too, since they're in smaller pieces. Two minutes in rapidly boiling water and I use an extra large stock pan filled with water so I don't wait for it to come back to a boil.

Most meals around here are prepared fresh from our garden or food preserved from it by freezing, canning or drying. We add fresh eggs from the backyard girls, local (or even homegrown) chicken, beef raised on grass less than 15 miles away, or sometimes venison from this or a neighboring county. Can't get food from much closer than right outside the door or within a 30-minute drive. And it's all handy and available throughout much of the year, especially when considering the ways we preserve it.

Yesterday's lunch was typical. In the morning I partially thawed a piece of venison, sliced it thin and marinated it in an apple cider vinegar, garlic and herb blend until lunchtime. The herbs came from the current garden and included thyme, lovage and oregano plus a couple of garlic cloves and dried Thai bird peppers from last year's garden. Even the vinegar was made here last year with apple cider from a friend's cider mill a few miles away. I don't use it for canning as I haven't bothered to verify its acidity level but it tastes like good cider vinegar should!

When we were ready for lunch, I grabbed a bunch of broccoli from the salt water where it was soaking prior to cooking, and coarsely chopped it. Pulled up a couple of pieces of the walking onion and, after rinsing, cut it into thin rings, including some of the green top. Heated the wooden-handled wok till it was smoking and added a tablespoon or two of peanut oil. Unfortunately that was not local -- haven't had any luck finding a source for local oils yet.

The stirfry process itself went very quickly. First I cooked the onion, adding the broccoli almost immediately. Then removed the vegetables from the pan and tossed in the venison, drained of its marinade. Thinly sliced, the meat cooked quickly and I added the vegetables back in along with a dash of kosher salt and pepper.

To accompany the stirfry I buttered the last of the homemade wholegrain bread (made with wheat harvested locally last year and ground just before baking) and heated it in the toaster oven. For dessert, we had fresh strawberries which DS had just picked from the strawberry bed in the side yard. I had intended to make rhubarb ade to drink but ran out of time and so we all drank water. Since it comes from our well, it can't get much more local.

1 comment:

bspinner said...

You're making me hungry. Sounds like a great meal!!!