Sunday, May 8, 2011

First Harvest

The rhubarb has been, like everything, slow in coming in, but I did manage to get four cups of rhubarb picked on Friday for the first dish from the garden. With some remaining frozen strawberries and help from, I made strawberry-rhubarb compote with shortcakes. I didn't really like the orange rind in the biscuits, but I subsituted orange marmalade for some of the jam in the compote recipe and that was delicious.

Last night, which was the first night of eating dinner on the screen porch, I "harvested" the baby arugula from a window box I started back in March when I was planting seedlings, and it was enough for two small bowls of salad-- a squeeze of lemon, champagne vinegar and olive oil and they were good to go. I took photos to mark the occasion, but the CF card wasn't in the camera!

Last night's dinner was a great homemade chicken korma and I did have a few sprigs of cilantro I grew from seed to garnish that as well. It's the time of year I look with interest at the dandelion greens, but I haven't gone there yet. It seems like it would be too close to eating grass! And mostly, I think indoor planting doesn't result in much in the way of food. I have some lovely looking, but quite sparse, kale plants. I put a few seedlings out and instead of "taking off," they got windblown and shriveled. The basil and some other herbs I planted indoors also look weak and I'd diagnose them with "failure to thrive."

Starting peppers and tomatoes makes sense, but I don't see getting a good planter of lettuce going with my current set-up. Some things just need to start in the ground and tough it out.

And so those two meager bowls kind of depleted my indoor veggies. Other than rhubarb, I now will have nothing to eat (a sprig of cilantro and basil here and there) from the garden for probably three weeks. But there is promise out there, including little fields of lettuce and spinach dotting the landscape. There are tiny beet seedlings and snow peas almost ready to reach the first rung of the fence. Most exciting of all, most of the asparagus plants have little stems poking up through the bottom layer of dirt. I can't eat from those plants for three years, but they are alive!

Strawberry Rhubarb Shortcakes

4 cups 3/4-inch-thick slices fresh rhubarb
3/4 cup sugar
2 T water
2 T strawberry preserves
1 tsp minced orange peel (note: I used 1T raspberry preserves and 1 T orange marmalade, which complemented the allspice and gave it a more sharp flavor)

1/4  tsp ground allspice
1 quart strawberries, hulled and thickly sliced

2 1/4 cups all purpose flour
6 T sugar
4.5 tsp baking powder
1.5 T minced orange peel (I would skip this in the future, and maybe use another T sugar)
1/4 tsp salt
9 T chilled butter, cut into pieces
3/4 c plus 3 T whipping cream (or half and half)

whipped cream or ice cream

For compote:
Combine first 5 ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Bring to boil over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover and simmer until rhubarb is tender but some pieces remain intact, about 7 minutes. Remove from heat and add allspice. Cool completely. Stir in strawberries. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled (3 hrs or overnight). This last seems optional to me!

For biscuits:
Set oven to 400 degrees. Combine first 5 ingredients in medium bowl. Add ubber and cut in using pastry blender or rub with fingertips until mixture resembles coarse meal. (In the future I will use my food processor for this step. It's the only way I know to quickly make good "coarse meal" of dough.) Add 3 T cream and stir until dough comes together. (Again, the food processor is good for this, since you can add a little more at a time to make it come together.)

Turn out dough onto lightly floured work surface and knead until smooth, about 6 turns. Flatten dough to 3/4 inch thick round. Cut out biscuits using a cookie cutter. Bake on an ungreased cookie sheet about 20-23 minutes. Transfer to rack and cool slightly. If making ahead, can reward them in 350 degree oven for five minutes before serving.

Cut biscuits in half, load on the compote and top with ice cream. (Garnish with mint, optional.)


Mariterese said...

Dandelion leaves are very labor intensive, especially if small. But I managed to gather some and have a stash in the fridge to add to lettuce salads. I also sauted some and added lemon juice and cottage cheese (feta is good too)for a hot vegetable dish. I'd say during this interim time, go for it! And they are good for you too.

Susan Sink said...

Thanks, Mariterese. I might try sauteeing some with lemon juice and feta... They do look good and green and healthy!