Monday, September 01, 2008

Morning, Glory

Since the Mister and I rented our first apartment together, I've always loved this plant. The apartment was in a rather dumpy location– complete with bus depot and train tracks out back. But along this one wire fence someone, most likely years before, had planted Morning Glory. And I was smitten. Being a morning person myself, I admired a plant that got the major part of its work done in the AM.

It was more than 10 years later before I had my own house and yard. And one of the first things I was determined to do was plant Morning Glory, though many advised against it. It will take over the place, they warned. And it has. It's been two seasons since I've even bothered putting seed down. This year one window box has been completely engulfed by the stuff. But it's the end of the season. Not much else is blooming or looking very pretty so I'm glad I have my Morning Glory.

One Local Summer, Week 13: Crab Cakes

Well this is it, the end of the OLS Challenge. I've enjoyed being a Mid-Atlantic coordinator and am appreciative of Farm to Philly for hosting the event this year. I'd say it was a resounding success. This week's meal consisted of crab cakes, a favorite around here, with CSA swiss chard, squash and potatoes on the side. I also made a salad of our own-grown tomatoes with CSA basil and fresh mozzarella from our local Italian shop.

Reflecting back on the season I am proud of the meals we've made. But there has been a lot more local eating going on here than documented on the blog. Each week I made sure there was always one official meal. And yet because we're committed to keeping our food mileage low, our kitchen has been very well-stocked with local goodness this summer. This has meant Jersey fruit on our cereal. And home-grown tomato sandwiches at lunch. Plus our freezer is stocked with strawberries, green beans and snap peas, spinach, pesto, tomato sauce and watermelon. Summer goodness that will be a welcome taste come winter.

And now that I have a daughter joining us at the table, the stakes are higher and my food choices matter that much more. This summer I watched her taste her first Jersey blueberries, peaches and nectarines– flavors she'll come to look forward to each summer. She gobbled up Jersey potatoes, beets and squash and delighted at discovering the tiny peas hidden inside each string bean pod. She's been slow to warm up to tomatoes, but I can see she's coming around. This is how I want it to be for her. For her to experience food at its very best and appreciate all that it represents. I want her to learn to savor every bite when in the thick of the season so that she also knows the pleasure of waiting, of going without and anticipating the turning of the seasons again. To me that's truly tasting, enjoying and respecting your food.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 12: Steak Frites

This week we were able to create a favorite meal using only local ingredients. With pasture-fed beef from our local meat source and fingerling potatoes from our CSA we were on our way to a bistro classic. The steak was simply grilled then seasoned with salt and pepper. Nothing else was required, and it was divine. I sliced the potatoes, tossed them in some olive oil along with salt, pepper and some of our own rosemary then roasted them in the oven until they crisped up nicely. As good as fries, if not better. Our CSA also supplied some swiss chard which I steamed and some grape tomatoes which I tossed with some olive oil and herbs from our garden.

Though our meal was inspired by France, it didn't seem right to open a bottle of vin rouge. And we didn't have to. Instead we enjoyed a beautiful bottle of Finger Lakes' Merlot which complimented our meal perfectly without adding significantly to its overall mileage.

Friday, August 22, 2008

You say tomato...

We're having a lackluster tomato season it seems. We are getting tomatoes. Almost every day now I'm picking a few off the vines. But the vines themselves seem a little sickly, and for every red, ripe tomato I'm picking, there are tons more green ones left behind. Green tomatoes that don't seem to be going anywhere. Many have even shrunken and dropped. So much potential, wasted.

This picture here is the perfect example of what I mean. There's the beautiful red ripe tomato. Then there are its two companions: underripe, undernourished and underwhelming. Oh well.

We even ripped some plants out. The ones that obviously weren't going to make it. And in their place we planted lettuce. By the looks of things here, we're going into the lettuce business.

I'll be thinning things out this weekend. A job I loathe.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 11: Eggplant

This week our box from the farm came with two eggplants. I peeled and sliced them up. Salted them to get the water out. Then dredged the slices in flour and lightly fried each one. Next I made a quick tomato sauce using CSA onions and garlic, plus a mix of our own tomatoes plus some from the farm. Finally I layered up the sauce, fried eggplant and slices of fresh mozzarella from our local Italian shop. This went into a hot oven until all was steamy and bubbly. It was a definite favorite. If I get more eggplant this week I believe I'll just have to do it all over again.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 10: Sausage + Peppers

Week 10 already. Hard to believe. And I've gotten to that point in the season where I can't seem to manage to post anything but OLS updates. The garden is pretty much taking care of itself. The first tomato of the season came and went without any fanfare. Often when I find myself with the time to document something the sun has already set or it's raining.

But the meals keep on coming. This week we enjoyed a classic: sausage and peppers. Fresh tomato sauce from our CSA tomatoes. Onions and peppers also from the CSA. Sausage from our local meat source. Bread from NYC's Sullivan Street Bakery. And fresh mozzarella made by our neighborhood Italian deli.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 9: Fresh Tomato Sauce

If I had to choose a favorite meal, this might be it. Fresh tomato sauce. I could live on it all summer long.

We came home late one evening from a family picnic still a little hungry. As we rooted around the fridge for something to take the edge off, I realized that with just a little extra effort we could do better than that. A drizzle of oil in the pan. Some onions. Garlic. Tomatoes (of course). And basil. All from our CSA. And we had ourselves the freshest, tastiest, late-night supper ever. We served it over angel hair from our favorite Brooklyn pasta source. And it wasn't until midway through the meal that I realized I had myself an OLS submission.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 8: Potatoes

Much to my delight, this week's CSA box contained red-skinned potatoes. I am a staunch believer that potatoes benefit from the freshness factor. Granted they have a long shelf-life, and I love them for that too. But a potato newly plucked from the earth is a different animal (or vegetable) than one that's languished in storage. So to celebrate the kick-off of potato season I sliced ours, drizzled them with oil and seasoned them with salt, pepper and some springs of our own-grown rosemary. Then I wrapped them in foil and cooked them on the grill. Delicious.

To accompany our taters I defrosted some Cape May scallops from the freezer. In the early weeks of the OLS challenge I came across some at our local Whole Foods. Knowing you can never have too much of a good thing, I bought extra for freezing. I browned some butter, added some sage from the garden then seared the scallops until they were caramel-colored on all sides. Also delicious. We served them with CSA beets, another favorite in this household.

And if that wasn't enough, in an effort make good use of some of our other CSA goodies, the Mister whipped up some gazpacho. Tomatoes, cucumbers, garlic and green pepper pureed perfectly into soup. I enjoyed a bowl almost every day this week. Freshness personified. So crisp and cool and such a welcome antidote to the steamy weather. That's a dollop of Pennsylvania-made yogurt on top, sprinkled with our own chives.

Friday, July 25, 2008


My cone flowers are in full bloom, and they seem to have attracted the attention of a certain yellow butterfly.

At this time last year I was in the home stretch of my pregnancy. On the morning we were heading off to the hospital my neighbor came out to wish us well. Maybe because we seemed a little nervous, she also took the opportunity to mention that she saw a yellow butterfly in our garden just the day before. She said she thought it was a good sign.

Our daughter was born that evening. Our neighbor still calls her "little butterfly."

I'm so glad to finally make its acquaintance.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 7: Pesto

This week our box from the CSA held lots of basil, along with some garlic and a handful of plum tomatoes. I could think of nothing else but pesto. I stopped by our local farmer's market to supplement the basil– it's always worth it to make as much as possible. It freezes well and is a welcome mid-winter meal. I served it over angel hair pasta from our favorite Italian shop in Brooklyn. I found many other uses for it throughout the week as well. Non-local ingredients included olive oil, Romano cheese and nuts.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Red Hot?

So our poblanos are on their way. This one seemed to go from green to this lipstick-red color almost over night. My research has revealed that poblanos do indeed mature to red. This surprises me as my experience with poblanos (as in chiles rellenos) led me to believe I'd be getting a larger, dark green pepper. I'm finding images of both my smaller red version as well as the green version I know on the Web. Anyone care to shed some light on the issue?

Sunday, July 13, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 6: Pizza!

Taking inspiration from some of my fellow OLS participants, I decided to grill up some pizza this week. I became even more inclined after discovering a pint of frozen tomato sauce in my freezer. I thought I had already used up last year's bounty, but fortunately I had not. I sliced up some locally made mozzarella. Then topped it all with some CSA radicchio and basil. I love what radicchio brings to a pizza– both in terms of flavor and texture. Its sharp bitterness plays off of the sweetness of the tomato while its crisp crunchiness is a foil for the melted cheese. And it just looks so darn good piled up on top...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 5: Crab Cakes

I know Maryland likes to claim them, but Jersey has their version too. These crab cakes were available (previously frozen) at my local Whole Foods. I'm having quite the OLS seafood streak, and you'll hear no complaints here. It's been a delicious way to keep our eating close to home.

The photo hardly does it justice, I was rushing against failing light and hungry bellies to get it done. I replicated the basil/garlic scape pesto I had made the week before and served that over some ravioli from our local Italian shop. CSA swiss chard and lettuce completed what was a very green meal.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Potential, part 2

Awhile back I wrote about and documented some flowers in my garden that were on the brink of blooming. Today I wandered around the veggie patch with much the same intent.

Mmmm. Tomatoes. Hard to imagine how those delicate yellow blossoms will ultimately yield such weighty fruit. Even the branches seem hardly prepared for the burden they will bear...

These peppers are a first for me. I'd say so far so good. I almost want to pick them now, but I have to wait for the color to deepen and the fruit to fatten.

This is our second go-round for zucchini. Our first attempt was a resounding failure so as I look at these gorgeous blossoms I feel it's decision time. Do we cut our losses, harvest the blossoms and enjoy them stuffed with cheese and lightly fried? Or do we keep the faith and hold on just a little longer...

Sunday, June 29, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 4: Atlantic Cod

Eating local is becoming a family affair here at chez Seedling. Our 10-month-old daughter's food repertoire is expanding which for us means she can join the challenge. Here she is enjoying some local cod, home-grown swiss chard and CSA broccoli. The kidney beans were the only non-local element of her meal. She practically cleared her plate,
or, in this case, tray.

Our version was a little fancier. We had planned on grilling the cod, but the weather foiled that plan; so instead we broiled it. I improvised a pesto by processing together some basil and garlic scapes from our CSA along with some non-local olive oil. Very tasty, and I made enough so that I was able to use it again later in the week in a pasta salad. The scapes impart a flavor that's definitely reminiscent of garlic, but there's also a quality that's fresher, greener, more like a scallion or chives. The end result was broiled cod on a bed of non-local quinoa and sauteed, home-grown chard, topped with pesto and sauteed CSA zucchini. I'm not a huge fan of cod and this meal didn't necessarily change that for me. Though I did thoroughly enjoy everything else. We toasted our OLS meal with a glass of chardonnay from the Finger Lakes region of New York.

Thursday, June 26, 2008


This cala lily was given to me last summer on the occasion of the birth of our daughter whose middle name just happens to be Lilly. Upon my mother's suggestion I wintered the bulb along with my dahlias in the basement. I planted them all this spring. The dahlias are also just beginning to open. I pass by this lily every day and am struck by how quickly this year is passing. Flowers and babies are such nice ways to mark time.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008


A gift from my sister, this plant is a new favorite. Otherwise known as a flowering maple, there's just so much to love about it. First, those leaves. I just love speckled, variegated leaves and these are almost snakeskin like in their texture. Then that blossom. I love its bell shape, the crepe-paper quality to the petals and that beautiful apricot color. I hope to winter it over indoors because this one's a keeper.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 3: Cape May Scallops

Back-to-back OLS posts as we're just returning from vacation. I wasn't able to blog, but at least I was able to keep up with my local eating...

Anyway, as I've mentioned before, I've noticed a big difference in terms of what local ingredients I'm able to find at my grocery store when comparing this year to last. Whereas before I'd have to do most, if not all, the legwork myself: signing up for a CSA, plus growing my own veggies, and searching the Internet then traveling the state in pursuit of local meat and cheese. Now, in pinch, I know I can find most of what I need at my local Whole Foods. Granted this is Whole Foods. And a lot of what they're doing, I believe, is in response to Michael Pollen's Omnivore's Dilemma and subsequent discussions the CEO had with Pollen. But that's OK by me. And don't get me wrong, I still belong to my CSA, still grow my own herbs and veggies and still prefer to make the trip to meet the people who make my food. But when I was shopping this week I was thrilled to see Jersey scallops in the seafood aisle. And since the nearest shore point for me is still an hour away, this was my moment.

For our local meal we enjoyed Cape May sea scallops sauteed with CSA-grown arugula and home-grown sage. This was served over pasta from one of our favorite pasta-makers in Brooklyn. We grew the lettuce for our salad and baked the bread. I didn't use seasoning beyond salt and pepper (didn't have to), and I used Vermont butter rather than olive oil to keep everything as local as possible. Would love to find a Jersey butter source, but haven't so far.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 2: Strawberry & Sirloin Salad

After coming into a healthy inheritance of strawberries, the challenge for me this week was to make sure nothing went to waste. As I said in my previous post, much of our bounty I froze. What remained was enjoyed thoroughly including this delicious salad. We started with lettuce, something else we have in spades right now thanks to our CSA and our own garden patch. Then we tossed in some CSA radishes and snap peas. We grilled up some more Jersey asparagus from our local supermarket. And sliced up a generous helping of strawberries. At the center of this hearty salad was some grilled, grass-fed sirloin steak. A few times throughout the year we make a point to visit Simply Grazin' farm so we can stock our freezer with local meat. Theirs is out-of-this-world delicious. The dressing was seasoned with our own-grown chives and rosemary. The oil, vingear, salt and pepper were the only non-local ingredients.

Thursday, June 12, 2008


We belong to Honeybrook Organic CSA. For us a CSA is a great option since we can only grow so much on our small plot. In our first distribution we enjoyed seven heads of lettuce. Seven heads! We couldn't come near that. Granted it was a challenge to find uses for that much lettuce, but between neighbors, friends and family and our own love of salad we made short work of that task.

And I love leaving my veggie decisions in the hands of a farmer. Who better qualified? Each week's box holds such mystery and promise– will it be chard? Arugula? Peas? Or, if we're lucky, strawberries! It has been strawberries for the past few weeks. Plus as members of the farm, we're free to avail ourselves of the pick-your-own crops. One hot and steamy Saturday afternoon we headed down to pick quart after quart of strawberries. Much of it I froze, I'll thank myself for that short investment of time come winter. Some of it became ice cream. And the rest has made breakfast a little sweeter this week. I thought my fingers might remain forever strawberry-colored. But they've recovered.

Sunday, June 08, 2008

One Local Summer, Week 1: Frittata

It's hard to believe it's that time of year again. But then again, with the sudden onslaught of heat and humidity, it really isn't that hard to believe at all. The first few weeks of OLS are always the most challenging.

Seconded only by the last few weeks. With less to work with in the pantry, it's hard to create a truly local meal that doesn't leave you hungry. That's where the frittata comes in.

Eggs, a little water and a few swift turns of the whisk and you have a meal. A hot cast iron pan and whatever veggies and herbs you have on hand. . . and your work is done.

Our local Farmer's Market doesn't start up until July so I'm glad I've got the CSA to fall back on. They provided the lettuce for our salad this week. We got SEVEN heads in our first distribution in addition to other treats, plus our own garden plot is brimming with greens. We're up to our ears in lettuce. The asparagus is Jersey born and bred, and I'm happy to report that I found it in our local supermarket. Slowly, but surely, locally grown veggies are appearing in the produce aisle. It's great to see.

My sister supplies me with eggs. Her part of Jersey is more farm-centric, so when OLS rolls around, she picks them up for me. Sadly I'm not able to find Jersey eggs in my own neighborhood stores.

So, behold, the frittata with asparagus and our own-grown sage. Served with a green salad on the side and a loaf of our home-baked bread. . .

It's not coincidence, then, that I ended last year's OLS challenge with a frittata, and now I'm kicking off this year's with one as well. It's one of the most straightforward ways to enjoy fresh-from-the-farm flavors, even when your options are limited. It's proof that eating local needn't be a complicated undertaking. In fact, at its essence it's about enjoying flavors at the absolute peak of freshness (no ripening in the back of an eighteen-wheeler). And to do that you need to do very little which is one of my favorite parts about eating local.

Don't just take my word for it. Read what other locavores are savoring this week...

Friday, May 30, 2008

In Bloom

Very busy and very happy to see that the perennials are doing what they do best. I haven't done a thing to this particular garden this year, and I'm happy to see that I don't have to. This is why perennials are so worth it. Once they're settled in and established, they truly take care of themselves. And with time being of the essence these days, I so appreciate that!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Spring Cleaning

This weekend we made a big push to get the garden in order. It's always this particular time in May that sees us scrambling to get everything potted up or in the ground. Calendar-wise our town's garden club plant sale always takes place in the days leading up to Mother's Day. It's a good cause and they've always got a great selection– it's hard not to do some damage. So I always return with a trunk full of green things in need of a home in my already over-stuffed garden. This year I picked up some hosta (the Mister is so pleased after last year's debacle trying to grow it from seed,) a sedum, some lavender, various herbs and veggies, and some portulaca, cosmos and oxalis for our window boxes. This is the first year I feel somewhat confident about my window box selections. For the first time I've made my choices based on my own personal experience rather than gut. Finally I've actually got some experience to draw upon!

To further complicate things, by this time of year the greenhouse inevitably becomes less hospitable. White fly takes over. Making the trip to check in and water is a hassle. Everything is leggy, overgrown and ready to come home. So all the coleus I'd been wintering over is home again as well. Slowly we're beginning to find some order.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008


I love lupin. The cool star-shaped leaves. And crazy cone-shape blossoms. It blooms from the bottom up, the color slowly climbing higher each day. It's like a natural thermometer marking our daily progress toward warmer weather.

This daisy-to-be is quite deceptive. Inside that tiny little bundle sleeps all those petals, rows and rows of "loves me, loves me not."

And this rose is an even more efficient packer. When it blooms, it'll be like a magician pulling an endless trail of scarves from his sleeve.

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Perrenial Favorites

This is the time of year is all about reuniting with my perrenials. There's the thrill of seeing who's returned. More than that, there's the thrill of seeing which plants are really succeeding.

Take for example our Star of Bethlehem plant. It came to our garden, via another's garden, two years ago right about the time I was starting this blog. I reported on how unpromising its prospects looked.

Then last year I was tickled to discover that it indeed found our little plot worthy of its roots. It not only returned, but also graced us with a few flowers.

And now, be it ever so humble, this year it's decided there's no place like our garden.

I can hardly wait to see what next year will bring.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Baby Lettuce

This would make some salad. Anyway, it's probably worth holding out a bit. But at least we're on our way!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

The cruelest month?

And so it begins. . .

The crocus and daffodils are up. . .

And the first of our seeds are in.

We're planting a variety of lettuce... May Queen, Rouge d'Hiver, Speckled, plus some spinach and swiss chard. Ideally we would have liked to have gotten the seeds in a week or so ago, but as usual we're behind schedule. This year is different, though. I'm home with our baby so my gardening time is no longer relegated to the weekends and whatever I can accomplish racing against the sun post commute. However, now I find myself racing to make the most of an unpredictable nap schedule so whether I actually achieve more gardening remains to be seen. So this afternoon did not find me lovingly placing each seed in its cozy waiting hole, but instead scattering them willy nilly. Though quicker now, I do realize that this will be more time consuming in the end as I'll have to thin everything out. But I'll deal with it then which has been my approach with most things as of late. Meanwhile I've got the promise of May salads to keep me going.