The Backyard

The Backyard

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Summertime Whitegrass Love

Our favorite winter destination, Whitegrass in West Virginia, cooks up some fabulous dishes and puts many of those delectable recipes into two cookbooks. Both have prominent, permanent spots in my kitchen.  Today, I share "Betsy's Tomato Salad" from the first cookbook, "Whitegrass Cafe, Cross Country Cooking."  This salad is scrumptous with any tomato, onions, herbs or vinegar.  But make it with heirloom Black Krim tomatoes, sweet spanish onions, homegrown herbs, and purple basil vinegar and it's through-the-roof incredibly good.  Enjoy!

3-4 ripe summer tomatoes, sliced (I used Black Krim)
1 thin sliced sweet onion ( my choice is sweet Spanish)
1/4 tsp. dried basil (purple ruffles - dried last winter)
1/4 tsp dried oregano (Greek oregano - dried last winter)
1/4 tsp. dried dill (dried last winter)
1/4 tsp. dried chives (I used fresh for this - that's all I had)
1/2 tsp. sugar
2 tsp. red wine vinegar or lemon juice (purple basil vinegar, made last year)
2 Tbs. Olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
1/8 tsp. black pepper

Start a layer of tomatoes in a shallow glass pan.  Then add a sprinkle of seasonings (and sugar) over the top.  Make a marinade by mixing vinegar, olive oil, garlic and pepper.  Sprinkle a little marinade over the tomatoes.  Then add a laery of onion.  Continue the layering process, cover and chill for 2 hours before serving.  The juices and marinade create the most wonderful flavor.  Makes 4-6 servings. 

A summertime delight from our friend, Betsy Reed, Owner of Canaan Realty. 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Dancing Onions

Painting by Pamela Swainson
Each spring  for more than 20 years, a portion of Chili’s backyard is reserved solely for onions – lots of onions.   I can’t recall ever planting less than 400 plants or onion sets in all those years. To keep the rotation going from year to year, I’d get creative and move the onion patch to interesting  locations.  They would circle the birdbath, line walkways, and sometimes would be in traditional tidy rows in the garden.     My entire  family eats onions with everything.    They are fried, baked, boiled and sauteed in big pieces, little pieces, and in perfect rings.   They are thrown in with soups, stews, meats, eggs, and eaten on sandwiches.  Our breath would stink, the house would wreak, and the cellar sometimes has a drip or two of rotting onion if we aren’t careful.  But hey, it’s all part of the onion love process we can’t live without.    This year, was the first time in 20 years, I think we’ve finally perfected the onion harvest, although I can’t take credit for it.  Mom nature cooked up the perfect recipe to grow, harvest, and preserve the optimum onion bounty.    The spring started damp and cool – baby onion heaven.  The rains went well into June and early July, then suddenly stopped – just about the time the onions were getting ready to finish their  growing and were getting a little obese.  As most crops were screaming for water, the onions were basking in the sun, shriveling and drying up with delight, letting me know exactly when they were ready for a little shade by hanging their weary, dried up necks.   That’s when I helped them out of the ground and settled them in under the shade canopy for some air drying for another two-three weeks.  Continuing lack of moisture gave the onions a chance to party a little more, and party they did.   They lost their skin, hair, and feet in the process.    Last night, I started to put about half of them to sleep in the cool 60ish degree cellar.  So far, only three – THREE – were rotted and thrown to the bugs.  I emphasize three because most years from ¼ to ½ of the harvest rots.    I found choice of variety, choice of sets vs. plants, and weather play a huge factor in perfecting the harvest and reducing the numbers of rots.  I found timing the harvesting and watching for dried necks before pulling are critical to preventing rotting necks as a result of pulling too soon and not allowing them to dry completely.  I found plants to be better than sets for storage.  And I found Yellow Sweet Spanish and Red Zeppelin onions to be the absolute best keepers and flavor enhancers.  And Dixondale Farms is my onion plant grower of choice.  Each year, I get my order exactly when I want it and there’s usually a few extra plants with each order.   And mom nature is the absolute best when she’s hot and sunny come onion harvest time.  This year was an  exceptional year and the onions are dancing with delight.  Thanks mom! 

3.5 years Later....

My very first post on this blog in January of 2008 talked about retiring and I mentioned not having time to garden with exercising so much and commuting two hours a day, "So I buy them (vegetables) for now, and dream of the day I retire and get back into it full time again. Its the top of my priority list of things to do after retirement."

And here it is... past that glorious day I was to retire.  BUT, I'm very proud to say the goal has not changed and the garden continues to be top priority after retirement -  probably even more so than when first written.  And when is the official day?  Very soon my friends, soon.  When confirmed, you know I'll be blogging about it!