29 April 2009

salt "cooked" kale

my friend melanie introduced me to the wonders of raw kale salad. she brought it to a brunch at chuck and hank's place, and i fell in love. she explained that the kale was first rubbed with salt, which apparently breaks down the cellular structure just enough to make the leaves tender and delicious, while preserving that fresh taste.

our kale, which had over-wintered in our cold frame, has really taken off this spring. we harvested a bunch, and i made a salad from this recipe:

1 bunch kale
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 teaspoon coarse salt (or more, to taste)
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 grapefruit, sliced and chopped

chop the kale into thin ribbons. drizzle the olive oil onto the kale, sprinkle with salt and then massage the kale with your hands. add lemon juice, vinegar and grapefruit to kale, toss and serve. (recipe adapted from one i found on elanaspantry.com).

the salt massage also releases the juices, and brightens the leaves to a glossy emerald. this one has grapefuit, but you could leave it out. melanie's salad featured pomegranate seeds, sparkling like little jewels, in the rich green ruffles.

17 April 2009

sing a song of arugula

we harvested a second round of arugula from the salad box on the porch, and some from the cold frame/hot box out in the yard. the first round was just thinnings, mostly micro-greens. this time, they were all proper arugula leaves. to celebrate, i had to make the dish that led me to fall in love with arugula in the first place. carl's brother made a version of this for us last year. it was so tasty and so simple, we've been making it every chance we get.

the dish has 3 major ingredients:

pasta(excuse the lack of focus, it's not easy photographing steaming pasta)



once you have your arugula washed and trimmed, peel a few potatoes, cut them in half and slice them about a quarter inch thick. steam them lightly, but don't fully cook. start the pasta water. heat up some oil in a skillet (preferably seasoned cast iron) and brown the potatoes on both sides. when your pasta water boils, pour in the pasta, and cook as indicated on the package. by the time the pasta is done, your potatoes should be nicely browned. drain pasta, and transfer to a large bowl. add the potatoes and arugula. drizzle with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, toss and serve.

the heat of the pasta just barely wilts the arugula, which is all it needs. the pasta and potatoes can stand up to arugula's intensity. if you aren't already a fan of arugula, you will be after this.

13 April 2009

mantis mania

about a month ago, lara brought us an interesting cocoon/pod thing that she found while clearing out a garden bed. she knows we love stuff like that. it looked like a wad of that foamy stuff you spray from an areosol can, to seal cracks in walls. very cool. we poked it, sniffed it, shook it, and wondered, then stuck it in the corner of our kitchen, and kind of forgot about it.

easter morning, i noticed a baby praying mantis walking across carl's cosmas translation. i pointed it out to him, and then started wondering where it might have hatched from. i thought of the pod from lara, and looked over to see hundreds of baby praying mantis flowing out that foamy thing! they were everywhere!

i collected as many as i could, and took them out the garden. it was a bit cold, but i think they did fine. i put some on the seedlings in the office, thinking they could catch some of the tiny bugs flying around there. i misted the plants with water, and one of the mantis went right up to a droplet, and put its face in it. guess he was thirsty! some of them have died by now, but there are still tons in our house. i'll go to grab the scissors, and a mantis will jump off.

i've heard that finding a praying mantis in the house means good fortune. if so, we've got it made.

05 April 2009

easter's on its way

i wet-felted the eggshell using an actual egg as the form. then, i sliced the crack in the egg with an exacto knife. i mostly needle-felted the little chick. i made it for our friend, ida jane, who will be turning 4 in a few days. we did the photo shoot out by the surprise lilies in the front yard.

01 April 2009

closed for the season

this winter, we participated in project feeder watch, through the cornell lab of ornithology. we registered online, (it costs $15) and they sent us a packet of information about attracting, identifying and counting birds at our bird feeders. so, for two days a week, from early november, to early april, we spend time looking out our front window, and recording what we see. then, we enter our data online, at the cornell lab of ornithology website.

(revised photo of finches on our thistle sock. this is simply a better photo)

the biggest commitment is keeping the feeders stocked. we have one feeder filled with mixed seeds, a suet block, and thistle sock hanging from the dogwood. honestly, it can get a bit expensive, but, worth it for us. bird watching is such a pleasant activity for the wintertime.

the biggest challenge has been keeping the squirrels away from the bird food. they are quite crafty. i thought if i put out some food for them (a corn-based squirrel food that i attached to the dogwood) that they would stay away from the other feeders. not so. they do eat their own food, but still enjoy finding ways to get at the bird food too. carl started greasing the pole (which the main feeder hangs from) with crisco. it worked, and it was quite comical to watch a squirrel jump up, then slide down the pole. but, it does wear off, and needs to be applied regularly. they easily access the suet, upside down. though they aren't supposed to be the main attraction, they can be the most entertaining. check out the video of squirrels burrowing in the snow.

squirrel, eating squirrel food, and attacking the suet block

cosmo has learned to identify many of the birds we see regularly, including downy woodpeckers, cardinals, mourning doves, blue jays and gold finches. he helps us count, and, i think by next year, he'll be able to help record data. i've learned how to distinguish a downy woodpecker from a hairy woodpecker, a house finch from a purple finch (i think), i now know what a cowbird looks like (looks nothing like a cow) but i cannot, for the life of me, tell the difference between a black-capped chickadee, and a carolina chickadee. they both have black caps!

in addition to the packet sent from cornell, we have a sibley's bird book, and a small indiana birds handbook, which is organized by colors. this book is great for finding the names for the birds you see. my favorite bird, of the ones that visit our feeder, is the tufted titmouse. not only does it have a great name, but with it's little dark eyes, and tiny grey tuft on top of it's head, it is just too damned adorable for words. it appears only rarely, and always just one at a time. absence makes the heart grow fonder is a phrase that certainly applies to bird watching. though i haven't grown tired of seeing those lovely cardinals, even though they are the most consistent visitors to our feeder.

tufted titmouse (image taken from http://learningeveryday.wordpress.com)

i noticed that as soon as the warm weather came, our watching time decreased significantly. we're too busy working and playing outside, and spending less and less time indoors looking out the window. we decided that last weekend was our last watch day. we used up the last of the birdseed, and this week, carl took down our big feeder. we'll put a humming bird feeder up in the summer, and come november, we'll sign up for another season of project feeder watch.