“Summer Pie” ~ Heirloom Tomato & Gruyere Cheese Galette

Heirloom Tomato “Summe Pie”

From the gardens of Mike Scott of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms

•      1 12” Pie Crust (store bought or your favorite recipe)
•      4 cups heirloom tomatoes, preferably cherry to small sized
•      1 cup of grated gruyere cheese
•      5 large chopped basil leaves
•      2 cloves minced garlic
•      1 tsp. olive oil
•      ½ tsp. minced fresh rosemary
•      ¼ tsp. sea salt

1.   Place oven rack to the center position and preheat the oven to 375°F.

2.   Slice tomatoes in halves and add to a medium bowl. Add a half cup of gruyere cheese, 4 chopped basil leaves, 2 cloves minced garlic, 1 tsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. minced rosemary, and ½ tsp. sea salt to bowl and toss with hands.

3.   Roll out pie crust and place on parchment paper on a cookie sheet. If you don’t have parchment paper, a greased cookie sheet will do. Spread the other (almost) half cup of grated gruyere cheese over the piecrust. Make sure to save a little cheese for the top of the galette after it has slightly cooled.

4.   Spread mixture over piecrust leaving about 2 inches on the sides.  Fold the sides up and over the mixture. I brushed the sides with an egg mixture and sprinkled a little sea salt on the crust. So good!

5.   Bake until crust is a golden brown. Usually 35 to 40 minutes. Let pie slightly cool. Sprinkle the remaining gruyere cheese and sweet chopped basil on top. Enjoy!

From Mike’s summer garden: heirloom tomatoes, sweet basil, and rosemary. 

Grilled Mahi Mahi Burger with Homemade Smokey Chipotle Aioli

from the kitchen and garden of Mike Scott

Grilled Fish Burger, Mahi Mahi, heirloom tomato, cheddar cheese, arugula, with my smokey chipotle aioli. Served with shoe-string fries tossed with olive oil, crushed garlic, and chopped fresh basil.

To Grill Mahi Mahi –

Brush Mahi Mahi with a light coat of olive oil. Season with salt and pepper and other herbs you might think go well with Mahi Mahi. I used fresh lemon thyme from our garden. Place fish on a hot grill away from coals. Cook the first side of the fish down until the flesh changes to a white color. Turn over carefully and cook the other side. Total cooking time should not take more than ten minutes. Try not to flip the fillets more than once or the fillets make break apart. Squeeze fresh lemon over the top and place on bun.

Smokey Chipotle Aioli
½ cup of mayonnaise
1 clove garlic minced or garlic pressed
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
1 Tbsp. of chipotle chopped fine
salt & pepper to taste

Mix in a bowl and serve on top of the burger. You might want to save some for the fries. :-)

**Fresh Ingredients straight from Mike Scott’s summer garden – heirloom tomato, arugula, basil, and lemon thyme

Meet Mike Scott…

A gardener since childhood, professional garden designer and proprietor of Eagle Rock Backyard Farms. Mike, his wife and 11-year-old daughter enjoy farm living at their house smack in the middle of Los Angeles’ urban sprawl. The Scott’s have a large coop with 7 hens, a free-roaming rabbit, beehives, and vegetable gardens tucked into just about every corner of available sunny space. Mike Scott designs and installs edible gardens, drip irrigation systems and chicken coops and, in his spare time, likes to tool around his own yard and kitchen discovering new ways to use whatever’s fresh in his yard that day. It’s all about growing it yourself.

Mike says, “I am an edible garden designer, not a chef. The most important part of cooking for me is cooking with really fresh ingredients. I’m trying to make people aware that there is such a difference in the way food tastes when you use something just picked. Grow your own!”
Tune in on Recipe Thursdays for more fresh recipes from Mike Scott!

Get Your Diseased & Gnarly Tomatoes OUT!

It’s August and hot, not the most fun time in the garden, but you’ve got to go out and EVICT all the diseased and dying stuff out of your garden.  You’re not doing for this year’s produce…you’re doing to save your garden next year.

In Colorado with our warm winter and early hot Spring, we are inundated with pest problems.  Most on our minds today is the spotted wilt virus on tomatoes which makes pretty concentric circles on the tomatoes, but leaves the fruit tasteless and mealy…and kills the plant long before frost.  As depressing as it is to toss plants you’ve nurtured since they were just baby seeds, they’ve got to go. They aren’t going to get better and the virus will just get spread around your garden.

So get out there with your wheelbarrow and do some decluttering.

Tomato plants with spotted wilt virus or mosaic virus or even some nasty blight:  OUT! And not into your compost pile…they go right in the garbage.

Other plants with serious disease problems:  OUT!  You’re never going to eat those gone to flower broccoli covered with powdery mildew.

Weeds that have grown four feet tall when you weren’t looking are now going to seed.  Somehow huge prickly lettuce and thistles keep appearing out of nowhere with big seed heads.  OUT!

It won’t take long to clean up the big stuff….this is one of those 15-minute projects.  15 minutes now will make a huge difference later. 15 minutes now gives the good healthy tomatoes more light and space and water to make lots of fruit before frost.  15 minutes now means you pull all the diseased fruit and leaves out easily now instead of trying to retrieve dead rotting fruit and diseased leaves after frost has caused leaf drop.

And while you’re at it:  those big huge zucchini bats:  OUT.  Pull ’em off the plant so that nice tender young zucchinis can grow.  You’re just not likely to eat as much giant zucchini as you’re growing.  Let go of the guilt and send them to enrich the compost.

Ignoring what “they” say.

by Sandy Swegel

I visited a garden yesterday tended by my friend Lou.  Lou has gardened for other people for many years and the heavy shade garden I visited has lots of color despite being in shade and the fact that we’ve been in high temperature, drought conditions.

As we walked around and she told me some of the secrets of the garden’s success, I found myself thinking, “But “they” say not to do that.”  Things like “they” say native plants don’t want rich soil and shouldn’t be fertilized like other garden plants.  Hah. Her well-fed natives were twice the size of mine.  Or “they” say dahlias don’t do well in shade and need full sun.  She had twenty magnificent blooming dahlias that begged to differ.  And she used all kinds of plants the opposite of what the labels say:  Euonymous species, sold as shrubs, were tough interesting reliable groundcovers when kept short by pruning.

My favorite gardeners have always been the ones who don’t do what “they” say without thinking about what might actually work.  My first experience was an older gentleman who had grown tomatoes for 70 years by the time I met him.  He had tried all the tomato techniques I ever heard of.  “Epsom salts,” he guffawed…”don’t do a thing except make the tomatoes taste salty.”  “Water has to be consistent.”  He had watered every day with soaker hoses since they had been invented.  So as I watched him fertilize, I expected some down-home advice.  Instead, I watched in horror as he just spooned tablespoons of dry Miracle Grow crystals right next to the tomato stem.  “But, but…” I stammered, “Aren’t you going to burn the plants and kill them?”  Nope….they just got watered in slow-release-like with each soaker hose watering and he had the best tomatoes in town.

That still didn’t match the shock of watching my friend Barbara.  She definitely walks her own path and is agreed by all to be the best gardener we know.  She never fertilized with fertilizers. She composts and mulches and puts goat manure and earthworm compost on everything, but she has never bought a bottle of something and put it on her yard. Geraniums bloomed in containers for fifteen years with only compost and maybe grass clippings in the bottom of the pot for the earthworms to eat. The most startling part of watching her garden was that she never treated pests.  Sawflies came two years in a row and ate every single leaf on her six-foot-tall gooseberries. They looked terrible.  She made sure the plants were watered and had lots of compost, but said the plants needed to figure it out if they wanted to survive. It was up to them to figure out how to defend themselves.  She just made sure the garden environment was good.  To my amazement, the plants survived and put out new leaves, and the third year the beetles didn’t return.  Who knew?

I still do lots of things “they” say because much is based on someone’s research and experience.  But I keep an open mind. Every time somebody gives me a lecture about the right way to garden or what “they” say I should be doing, I ask myself, “Who is this ‘they’?” “And who gave them all the power?”

 

Seeds in the Garden

by Sandy Swegel

Now that we’re at the peak of summer, you’ll start to notice that your garden is likely to have more seeds than it has flowers.  The heat and long days of summer have stimulated seed formation in most plants and this is a good thing.  Don’t just deadhead the seeds and compost them… there are lots you can do with flowers gone to seed.

Collect the seeds to grow again.

Once seedheads have dried a bit (turned brown) and the seeds are loose, you can collect the seed…either to save in paper envelopes for next year or to spread around the garden now where you’d like them to grow next.  When collecting seeds to grow next year, pick the healthiest plants with the best color. You probably know that some plants are hybrid and don’t necessarily come true from seed…but sometimes they do, so I like to risk it.  This year we let a squash grow in the compost pile even though everybody knows squash don’t come true, but it was cute…and now we’ve been eating great acorn squash a month earlier than the garden’s because the plant didn’t know it wasn’t supposed to be good.

Eat the seeds.

This is especially yummy before the seeds mature when they are still green and tender.  Green herb seeds and cool season vegetable seeds are little flavor powerhouses.  It’s time to nibble on broccoli flowers or herb seeds – cilantro, dill, fennel, anise, even basil.  All the flax in my wildflower patch has gone to seed.  I’m gathering them to sprout and either put on salads or dehydrate into crackers.

Gather the dry seeds for birdseed in winter

Sunflower and flax seeds are some of the seeds that birds like, so I gather extra dry seed to put out in January for the chickadees. I leave most of the seed on the ground for them… but sometimes it’s hard for a tiny bird to find seeds through a foot of snow.  Besides, if I put the seeds in the bird feeder, I (and the cats) get the pleasure of watching through the kitchen window.

Let the seeds be.

You can grow perennial beds of annuals.  There’s a phrase to get your head around.  The plants don’t overwinter but by letting the seeds drop, they replant themselves.  Let the cilantro and dill and parsley and leeks seed themselves around and you never have to start those seeds again.  The little seedlings will produce good plants for you this fall and some will wait for Spring to grow.  I love it when Nature does all the work.

Walk on the Wild Side

by Sandy Swegel

Sometime every year mid-summer, when the weather is hot and the weeds so darn big, I start to think gardening is just dumb. Nature creates beautiful gardens all on her own without requiring WORK from me.  Why do I garden? Why does anyone garden?  Can’t we just go back to hunting and gathering?

The quickest remedy for mid-summer malaise is a nice walk on the wild side.  I head out into nature where, in the nearby foothills, I don’t have to pull thistles or cut dead branches.  It’s all part of the beauty of the natural world.  With 150,000 people in our county, there’s really not enough there for all of us to hunt and gather.  We’d mostly be eating a diet of raccoons and thistles…not an appealing lifestyle.

But we can FORAGE!  I now have three favorite foragers I follow online.  Wendy was the first modern-day forager I met at a local foraging dinner. In my urban mind, foragers were the wild men who lived in the swamps of southern Louisiana and hunted opossum and squirrel. Wendy is a city girl who spends every spare moment hiking and exploring nature all in pursuit of exquisite flavors…a delicate mushroom from secret forests, the explosive flavor of a high-bush cranberry at peak ripeness, or tender nettle and dock greens she slips into a goat cheese spread.  Everything about Wendy is a reminder of how voluptuously she regards wild food.  Her website name is Hunger and Thirst and her handle is butterpoweredbike.  This is just the kind of inspiration I need on a tedious summer day. Check out her “Wild Thing of the Month” purslane.  I know you have lots of purslane growing in your garden?  Do you know it’s high in healthy omega oils? http://hungerandthirstforlife.blogspot.com/

I’m a big fan of one of butterpoweredbike’s foraging buddies, WildFoodGirl.  Her website http://wildfoodgirl.com and facebook page has great recipes and her website has awesome links to other foragers. Plus if you sign up on her webpage she’ll send you a Wild Things Edible Notebook every month (or so) highlighting plants that can be foraged and recipes for them.  You too can make Wild Mustard Potato Chips.

Another great forager, on an epic scale, is Hank Shaw who travels the country hunting and gathering and hosting dinners in local restaurants with locally foraged food. Hank’s handle is Hunter Angler Gatherer Cook. His recipes are beyond compare.  Where else can you find recipes for “wild ginger ice cream” or  “barbequed wild turkey.”  Hank published a great book last year, Hunt, Gather, Cook.  Even his website address http://honest-food.net/ tells you about what it is we all crave:  honest food, wild tastes, vibrant living.

So if the tedium of gardening in mid-summer heat is wearing on you, head out to wild roads near you…or surf some great foraging websites.

What to do with Giant Zucchinis

What to do with Giant Zucchini?

by Sandy Swegel

It’s only July and already there is the challenge of the giant zucchini?  I’m remembering last winter when I paid
$2 for a tiny organic zucchini and resolved not to do that again this winter.  One treat I’ve grown fond of are vegetable “chips” and zucchini are great candidates.  Anything to sneak more vegetables into the day.  You can bake zucchini into chips but then you’d have to turn on the oven and heat the kitchen.  That’s why I like the raw food route of dehydrating the chips.  Here’s what I did today with two big zucchini:

I made one batch just plain to see how they taste.  The other batch I briefly marinated in balsamic vinegar.  There are so many other things you can sprinkle on the zucchini slices: salts, oils, ground peppers, and various herbs. But for my first run, I wanted as much zucchini-ness as possible.

I keep the dehydrator on low (about 105) to preserve enzymes and nutrients.  The plain zucchini chips were done to crunchiness in about 5 hours.  The marinated ones will need another 6 hours or so.

And here’s a bowl of simply finished zucchini chips.  Yum.

Mid-Season Garden Report Card

Mid-Season Garden Report Card

by Sandy Swegel 

Here’s the report card for my garden. June had record high temperatures and little rainfall.  Lots of extra watering helped, but plants don’t grow as well without natural rainfall.

Lettuces and Spinach. The heat made them bolt early and they are all bitter or simply scorched and gone to seed. Time to pull them out and replant.

Chards and Kales.  The chards started to bolt but some judicious removal of seed stalks and they are still growing and yummy.  The kales look great.  I didn’t know they were so tough under stressful situations.

Peas.  Pod peas were done early…they went to seed almost instantly. Sugar peas actually were not too bad.  Not as tender as usual, but salvageable….although the season was very short. Like other crops in this heat wave, things just grew really fast and went to seed.

Cilantro. Long since gone to seed.

Dill and Leeks. Leeks have gone to seed but they are beautiful.  Dill has started to seed but still usable.

Beans. My beans are OK, but neighbors have had failures from pests.  There’s still time to replant and have beans this year.

Peppers. The superheroes in our heat.  Lots of irrigation combined with heat have made them flourish.  Tomatillos too.

Tomatoes. The verdict is still out.  They are growing and strong.  Not as many diseases as I feared in a stressful year.  But not so many tomatoes either. They quit flowering in extreme conditions.  The plants themselves are shorter than other years at this time, but I’m hoping a week of cooler temperatures will inspire them to start cranking out tomatoes.

Broccoli. Little heads early this year,  but they are still producing side shoots.

Bugs. Our warm winter enabled too many pests to survive the winter, so there is an abundance of flea beetles and slugs. The greens are ugly and holey….but perfectly good to eat.  Aphids and ladybugs balanced out.  There appear to be lots of young grasshoppers but I’m pretending not to think about them.

So how is your garden faring?  Just like in school, mid-term grades are just an indicator of how things are going…not the final grade.  So get out there and yank out the struggling plants and reseed and replant in their places.  There’s still plenty of time for producing lots of food

The Midsummer Lull

by Sandy Swegel

I was surfing the garden internet last night at Garden Rant http://gardenrant.com/2012/06/grazing-my-way-through-the-lull.html where blogger Michele Owens is lamenting the lull in her vegetable garden.  It’s so true, late June is a difficult time in both the vegetable and flower garden.  There was the wild early June flush of color on roses and spring perennials.  Mid-June brought peas and tons of chard and kale and spinach.  But the intense unusual heat of the last couple of weeks made the spinach and arugula bolt and the peas and fava beans quickly went hard in their shells.  Tomatoes are full of flowers and tiny green tomatoes, but there’s not much for eating.  The one exception is zucchini…The zucchini are pumping out a new zucchini or two a day….but it’s hard to find other vegetables for dinner. How can the basil be so small when I started them months ago?

The flower garden is similar. The hot season rudbeckias are finally starting but there isn’t the lushness the garden of a few weeks ago had.  First of July is a great time to notice what’s in bloom in your (or your neighbor’s) vegetable and flower garden and vow to plant that this year or next.  Ideas I’m stealing that look great in this otherwise lulling time:

Leek seed heads.  I let the leeks perennialize and plant themselves each year….so right now the flower heads are tall and a lovely pink, covered with bees.

Monarda.  Drifts of monarda are abloom…and full of bees and butterflies.

Echinacea.  Although some think of echinacea as a full sun xeric plant, it is at its prettiest with some shade and with irrigation. Some of the nicest echinaceas grow at the edge of apple trees where the extra coolness makes them vibrant.

Daylilies.  Get the camera out so you can document the daylilies you really like (in your yard or your neighbor’s) so you can make divisions next Spring.

It’s great anticipating the bounty that’s about to burst in mid-July.  Hard to believe during this lull that we’ll soon be leaving tomatoes on the vine because there are too many to eat.

Feed Me

by Sandy Swegel

It’s a fact of all young growing things.  They need food.  And while big hungry plants like Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors can loudly demand their food, the young seedlings you have growing on windowsills are no less insistent and starving.  Most potting soils and seedling mixes come with a tiny amount of fertilizer to get seedlings off to a good start the first couple of weeks.  But then comes the day when were vigorous seedlings now no longer look so good.  My pepper plants are making this point to me right now.  I’ve been watching them grow their first true leaves and finally their second set of true leaves. I’m ready for them to get off the windowsill and out of the garden but, until now, growth seemed a little slow.  Then yesterday as I walked in, I noticed how yellowy the peppers looked.  Hmmm. I checked the water and wondered briefly about some kind of fungus when I had the “duh” moment.  I hadn’t fed them at all.  I had switched to a new “organic” seedling mix this year and it probably didn’t have as much nitrogen in the mix, since “organic” mixes can’t just use cheap synthetic nitrogen.

 

Seedlings aren’t all that particular about what you feed them.  Just that they get some food.  Later in the garden, their roots will gather food from the soil and plants growing in good soil will also take in nitrogen in the air.  But right now, they’re just growing in tap water.  So I just mixed in some liquid kelp to make a weak fertilizing solution.  Fish emulsion or any “grow” natural fertilizer will work at a weak concentration level. Don’t need to overwhelm them.  I expect that by my dinnertime tonight (water-soluble fertilizers can work quickly) the tiny pepper leaves will green up with tomorrow’s warm sun, the seedlings will perk up and soon be ready for the move into the nutrient-rich garden soil.