The First Miriam’s Garden Column of the Season

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on May 15, 2014

Sure feels like spring. The weather changes dramatically in just a few moments.

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My husband captured these photos of the changing sky.

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We expect  in mid-Spring for the weather to  be crazy. Sometimes all in the same day. Still things are beginning to happen in my garden. Right now, there’s a hot bed full of lettuce plus rhubarb that was doing great until I needed it for a pie.

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There are tomatoes, peppers, and herbs are in pots in the laundryroom-greenhouse. Besides that, it’s all about sprouting and waiting in Miriam’s Garden.

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Just before the James Beard Foundation Awards, when I was in New York City. I took a stroll through the Greenmarket with Italian cookbook author Michele Scicolone. Her new book is “The Italian Vegetable Cookbook.” Michele loves leafy greens, which were in abundance. She picked out her favorites and told me how to use them.

She’s featured in my first Miriam’s Garden column of the year, from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Please click to read more:

http://www.post-gazette.com/life/food/2014/05/15/Foraging-for-spring-greens-in-New-York-City/stories/201405150230

 

 

New Knife brings back Old Memories

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on May 14, 2014

On May Day, in New York City, I got to attend the coolest thing: Pie Party Potluck. Held in the GE Monagram Kitchen, it was hosted by many generous sponsors, including Anolon, who gave us a lovely nonstick pie plate, Snapware, who gave us a BPA-free container for leftovers, and Kerrygold USA, who gave us this fabulous butter (my fridge broke the next day!).

Me and Cynthia

This is me and Cynthia Graubart, a friend and pie-party attendee. We were both visiting NYC for the Beards and had to buy pies, but everyone else made their own. One of my faves was this tomato pie.

Savory Tomato PIe

Another thing in our goodie bag was this knife from WÜSTHOF , below, which sparked my memories.

 

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It’s called a bird’s beak knife and I’ve had a few of them though the years.   I looked at this one and it took me back.

When I graduated from the CIA, I went to work at the Four Seasons Restaurant (not the hotel!). While in school you learned many knife skills, but really, some could only be perfected with practice. Lots of practice. With lots of produce to practice with. These knives were mainly used for carving perfect tiny football shapes out of potatoes, turnips and carrots. Called tournee (turned in English) vegetables. I could make those, but what I excelled at was fluting mushrooms. I even bested the other guys — they were all guys — in the kitchen. Fastest mushroom tourner. Sorry for the bad French.

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So did I still have it? I only needed three mushrooms to spark the memory of how to do it. Kids, don’t try this at home.

You hold the knife by the blade, backwards, cutting away from you, carving off curved pieces of mushroom skin. You have to watch someone do this and set yourself down with a few baskets of mushrooms.


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This is what you end up with. I bet I could still beat the guys!

Thanks WÜSTHOF and thanks to Jackie Gordon @divathatateny and Ken @hungryrabbit for putting together this great party. I had a blast!

 

The Art of Soup and Bread

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on March 3, 2014

This is my latest story from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, published just when another round of freezing weather hit us. Soup will save you, bread will keep you happy.

 

Minestrone and Focaccia

This is my Chickpea Minestrone and Sweet-Onion Whole-Wheat Focaccia from the story. The secret to this soup is adding the Parmesan rind to enrich the flavor. Of course, this soup tastes best the day after it’s made. With all those fresh vegetables, it’ll fill you up and satisfy. Plus it fills the kitchen with wonderful aromas. Make it vegetarian if you want. That’s just as delicious.

 

 

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This is one of my favorite breads from the story. It’s Buttermilk Bread, a recipe I adapted from Judith and Evan Jones’ Bread Book. Making bread and soup is a wonderful way to spend a chilly afternoon.

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Above is what it looks like sliced. Creamy and silky. Add a little whole wheat flour if you wish.

 

Read more here:

 

 

 

 

 

Garden Update

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on July 14, 2013

Finally getting to be summer. It’s so beautiful these days. All the flowers are starting to bloom.

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The garlic is ready to pick, we just have to let the soil dry out for another day. It’s been so awfully wet.

Garlic for harvest

 

I trimmed all yellowing and dead leaves from the lower half of the tomato plants. It was a little more than garden housekeeping, it was to keep them healthy. Green tomatoes are starting to get fat!

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I’m using some in a dish I am making tonight for friends, from my new book Tomatoes. Green Tomato and Pork Tenderloin Biscuit Pie. I’m practicing to make it because it’s one of the dishes including in my cooking classes and it will be served at my Tomato Dinner at Legume Restaurant.

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You make it in a big black skillet. Which is waiting for me to get started.

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I also made the first batch of Grandma Rubin’s Dill Pickles, ready for the Pickling class for Slow Food Pittsburgh that I do every year.

Here they are in the crock, all covered up and brining.

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Here’s my latest column, all about blueberries and other delicious things to cook and eat.

Blueberry Days

More Garden Stories!

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on June 12, 2013

Just trying to catch up with my blogging and posting!

Here are some other Miriam’s Garden columns published in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. It’s such a honor to write for the PG and my column is now in it’s 6th year! My garden is in it’s 17th year, which is even more amazing. And guess what, we don’t have the 17-year cicadias yet. That’s next year. This year we have my new book, and traveling around and promoting it has been wonderful. Nice to meet people and sign books, have them taste Heirloom Tomato Jam. I’ve gotten great response and rewarding reviews! Makes me love tomatoes even more.

Here is my book in the shop at the Tryon Palace, a historical site in beautiful New Bern, North Carolina, a little town on a big river. New Bern is also and the home of Pepsi Cola.

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I also toured the Tryon Palace Kitchen Gardens with Janet Loader, who graciously showed me around. Look at these artichokes! I can’t grow them in Pennsylvania.

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Learn more about all this in this story, about the beginning of my garden and some serious garden envy.

Please click on this link: First Glimpse of the Garden

My next story is about onions, the phases of the moon and some words of wisdom from an Old Yankee Farmer. It also contains yet another amazing illustration from my good friend Dan Marsula. He always makes me look good!

It also features a fabulous recipe that I got from the Mario, the chef at the Vegetable Restaurant in Eataly. When I’m in NYC I often go there for a wonderful meal. This was one of the best things ever: Farro with Asparagus and Pea Puree. Excepting, of course, a vine-ripened Tomato!

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To read the story and get the recipe, please click on this link: On the Dark Side of the Moon

A New Miriam’s Garden Story

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on June 12, 2013

Love that Lettuce!

Love that Lettuce

 

Adore those salads. And home-grown lettuce is something to celebrate. Here is my latest Miriam’s Garden column which runs in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. This story is all about Salads and a little lettuce history with help from Southern Exposure Seeds and Lynn Coulter, author of Gardening with Heirloom Seeds.

It includes a recipe for this wonderful salad from Louisa Shafia’s great book “The New Persian Kitchen,”  which was published by Ten-Speed Press.

 

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This is Rhubarb, Radish and Strawberry Salad. It was sweet, tart and amazing. The rhubarb, radishes and lettuce came from my garden. Be sure to use full-flavored organic strawberries here. They’re all in season right now! A picture of our rhubarb is below.

Rhubarb

You’ll find Louisa’s recipe and more in the link below.

Studiously Savoring These Salad Days

 

 

Great Gardens!

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on June 12, 2013

It’s mid-June and things are really happening in my garden. Just about everything is planted and thriving.

This San Marzano Tomato looks really lush, especially because it took some frost damage last month. Now it’s got a flower!

Tall Tomato

This overhead shot shows how fabulous our salads have been, all that lettuce and dill. The beets are still babies though.

Beets overhead

Shrouded in mystery here are the new plantings of summer squash, zucchini and cucumbers. Covering them will protect them from the squash bug and the two types of cucumber beetles: striped and spotted. They love to destroy our crops. Plant early, plant late and cover is our coping method.

Garden under wraps

 

The garlic has scapes! I need to cut them off so the bulbs can fatten. I also want to get in there and do some weeding. You have to be careful no to disturb the garlic however.

Great Garlic

And soon there will be peas. They have thin pods which will swell with sweet June peas, one of the best reasons for having a garden. Besides Tomatoes, of course.

Peas a plenty

 

And potatoes. Here is Ricky the cat guarding them, or looking for a cool, shady spot to nap. He always has a slightly worried look.

 

Ricky Guarding the Garden

 

 

 

Starting tomatoes from seed

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on April 14, 2013

A few days back, I started my tomatoes and basil. It’s early for me, others would consider it late. But often I don’t start them until May. I’m trying to get a jump on things this year. So I was outside, filling pots with soil and pressing in tiny seeds.

Planting tomatoes

Don’t forget the tags! You’ll never remember what these are.

Tagged

 

Planting Basil

I also tried something new. I put a special heat pad under the little pots of seeds and soil to get them to germinate more quickly and keep them warm. It worked out great. They popped up in days. Now I have tiny little basil and tomato seedlings.

Sweet Juliet Sprouts

See how they turn towards the sun. Every, several times, I’ll turn them so they grow straight and strong. And I’ll pull out many of the little babies, leaving only 2 plants to a pot. Only the strong survive, plus, I’m trying not to plant too much this year. It’s hard though to snip off the leaves or pull out the tiny plants. Just be brave.

Babies!

I used plastic pots this year, not peat pots. Peat pots tend to dry out more quickly than plastic and you have to leave space between the pots so air can circulate. Otherwise they mildew. The plastic pots save space. I don’t think I’ll ever go back to peat pots. The plastic ones can be reused until they fall apart but they need to be cleaned with hot water and bleach each year before using.

These will grow strong and stout. In about mid-to the end of May, they’ll go in the ground. The garden’s waiting. So am I.

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Cabbage in a Whole New Way

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on March 18, 2013

What’s new about cabbage? Not too much, or is there?

That’s what I thought as I shredded half a head to make coleslaw to accompany our St. Paddy’s Day dinner of boiled corned beef, carrots and potatoes. Usually for slaw I make an oil-and-vinegar dressing or use a recipe adapted from Lolis Eric Elie’s wonderful book, “Smokestack Lightning.” His recipe dresses the slaw with a mixture of mayonnaise, vinegar and sugar.

This particular head of cabbage was very sweet and firm. New crop instead of the older heads that are “hot” when you take a bite. I started to think about how you go about making sauerkraut. First you rub the shredded cabbage with salt and then you bruise it. I decided to use that as a guide, to soften the cabbage a little and get more flavor into the shreds.

I took a couple teaspoons of kosher salt and rubbed the shredded cabbage — like massaging kale for a salad. Seasoning it before adding the dressing should work better and get it to start wilting earlier. I then added chopped sweet white onion, olive oil, red wine vinegar, a milder white wine vinegar and tasted it. A little sharp. I knew that letting the slaw stand would help to mellow the vinegar bite which my husband dislikes. But I didn’t want it to be bland.

Balance, I thought, adding just a couple teaspoons of sugar. But still, it needed something else.

What goes well with cabbage?  Caraway! I’d read in Melissa Clark’s column in the Times something about caraway imparting sweetness to vegetables.  I put about 1/2 teaspoon into a mortar and bruised it with the pestle (or is it the other way around?) I can never remember. Caraway doesn’t really break up; it’s awfully hard and dense, but I think beating it up brings out something, or it tones my arms.

I added the caraway to the bowl of slaw.

A new favorite was born.

Incidentally, the other half of the cabbage went into the corned beef liquid to simmer with the carrots, potatoes and onions. My husband’s request. We’re having the rest of this wonderful meal tonight.

 

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Is Spring Coming?

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Posted by Miriam Rubin on March 14, 2013

 

Aren’t the crocus cold? 

IMG_1856Yesterday we had all the weather possible, except spring and of course, summer. It snowed, it showered, it iced and it pebbled styrofoam-type stuff. The wind blew hard at times and for only a very few minutes the sun shone. When is it going to be spring?

Snowdrops

The birds believe it’s gonna happen and the buds, see the crocus and the snowdrops, above. The critters and the frogs believe it too.

Each year my husband and I have an unofficial contest: Who will be the first to hear the frogs croaking in our pond on their search for mates?

This year, he was the lucky one. I remember years back taking the portable phone outside to let him hear the joyous cacophony. Those frogs are noisy! He must have been visiting the museums of New York City.

And they’re not just noisy, they’re private. We can hear them clearly from the house, but if you try to walk over to the pond, even carefully, they hear or see you and the frogs scatter and  hide. So it’s neat that we got this shot.

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In some years, after they have mated and the pond is full of egg sacks it freezes over. Even then some seem to survive, to go back into the woods and then find their way to the pond once again.

In a few weeks or less they’ll be gone and we’ll be listening to a new sound.

The tiller. Turning up the soil in the garden.

Soon it will look like this. Early spring with peas and potatoes planted. So much to do!

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