Breaking Ground

Having been so besotted with the SESNA garden in Salem, one of my big disappointments in moving with Nolan to Colorado was having to leave without ever having participated in a full growing season there. Fortunately for me, this happens to be the pilot year for a community garden being developed by St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church in Littleton, within walking distance of my parents’ house. I contacted the coordinator of the steering committee to find out about participating, and hope to be able to offer them whatever wisdom I gained from my brief time on the SESNA garden board, in addition to renting a 10×15 vegetable plot with my father.

There was a work party this past Saturday, perhaps the very first. We had a good-sized group of people to spread compost over the ground in anticipation of the arrival of a tractor to till the soil; we also benefitted from the expertise of the two surveyors in the group, my father among them, to get the individual plots marked out with stakes, and we spread wood chips on the designated walking paths.

At present, the garden is a simple rectangular grid, a combination of rental plots and larger community beds, from which produce will be donated to local foodshares. One raised bed will be built by an Eagle Scout, and more may well be added when the materials can be bought or donated. The garden is located behind the episcopal church in a huge field, and I was told that eventually, it could expand to fill most of that area, which would be an inspiring sight! Hopefully, I will be here to participate in the steering committee meetings when the options are being considered—the SESNA garden gave me so many great ideas!

We’ve been so busy between the gardening, entertaining two of my cousins who came for a visit, and working on obtaining services for my son, that I haven’t done as much cooking as I would like to, or even weeded out the unusable items from my mom’s pantry and spice cabinet.

The meal you see above, for instance, was made and eaten in an incredible rush, as my mother and cousin were running out the door to Bible study. It is broiled salmon with a Cara Cara orange sauce over brown coconut rice. My mom doesn’t have a rice cooker, and almost every time I have made rice—and even bulgur—in her one fair-sized stainless steel saucepan, it burned to a crisp on the bottom; this time I managed to cook it decently, so here’s hoping I have got the hang of it! The salmon was cooked simply under the broiler, skin side up, as I like to do. The oranges for the sauce were meant to be charred on the grill, but my parents took Nolan on a walk so I could work, and I don’t know how to use their propane grill yet, so I just broiled them instead. I also strained the sauce, which wasn’t specified in the recipe, but I was unhappy with the texture of it straight out of the food processor, and have no blender to use here.

I also finally did a little baking this week. The first order of business was oatmeal chocolate chip cookies to put in care packages for my lonely husband in Oregon and my grandparents. A few days later, I made chocolate whoopie pies in honor of our two guests. I’ve made pumpkin ones before, but this version is the classic, and it turned out very nicely. Many of the recipes out there call for marshmallow fluff with the filling, but I sought out a Swiss meringue buttercream instead, and it was delicious even though the refrigerator had been stocked with salted butter; we gave it a little purple tint for fun.

Charred Cara-Cara Orange Sauce for Salmon

I used scallions in place of both chives and onion. For four adults, I used one charred orange and one for juice, and after straining, had about a cup of sauce, which was just about right.

2 Cara-Cara oranges
1/2 C olive oil
1/4 C citrus juice from lemon and orange
1/4 C red onion, minced
1 T kosher salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp Dijon mustard
2 T chives, minced
2 T Italian parsley, chopped
1 T chervil, chopped (optional)

Preheat grill. In a large sheet of aluminum foil, wrap the oranges, drizzled with olive oil, and seasoned with 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Place on the hot grill and cook until soft and lightly charred, turning often (should take about 15 minutes; you can also use a broiler for this). Remove and let cool slightly, then place in food processor and puree until smooth. Place in bowl and combine with the remaining ingredients; adjust with salt and pepper. Yields 3 cups, unstrained.

Source: The CBS Early Show.

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