Garden update!

I got a melon!!! I didn’t even see it until the other day.

Really tiny melon, maybe because the plant is dying (unknown cause). I’m not sure if it’s ripe — we will see!
The sweet potatoes are super vigorous. The bushiness is convenient for keeping wind-blown trash out. Unclear if I’ll be able to leave them in the ground over the winter. The mint, broccoli, and carrots are hanging on. The remaining kajari melon (care info) is doing well, but I’m not sure if it’s set fruit yet. The tatume squash is just starting to send out vines. I hope there’s enough warm weather left for it to make some squash.

I started the garden pretty late this year, so the plants didn’t have a super long growing season and had to deal with hot weather early on in their lives.

The late start might have also made bug threats worse. The radishes mostly succumbed to some small gray bugs. I was able to harvest three bottoms but the leaves had been sucked dry.

The fence needs some shoring up, especially at the curb. Cars aren’t very careful with their doors and the fence isn’t incredibly sturdy…

Cobbler with streusel

Modified from The Joy of Cooking (1973) “quick cherry crunch”. I made this to use up some really tart apricots and old peaches with a bad texture. Unfortunately, I forgot to take a picture of it, but it was really good!

  • 1 cup rolled oats
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2-2/3 cup sugar (use the smaller amount if fruit is already quite sweet or has added sugar)
  • 1/2 cup melted butter or other liquid oil
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • Some milk (I didn’t measure, maybe 1/3 cup?)
  • (Optional) 1 cup nuts (either soft/oily ones like walnuts and pecans, or thinly sliced if harder, like almonds)
  • 3-4 cups chopped fruit (use the smaller amount if fruit is quite sour)
  1. Mix all ingredients through baking powder. Split in half.
  2. Mix one half with the egg, milk, and nuts. Put in the bottom of baking dish (~9″ x 9″ x 2″).
  3. Add fruit. Top with other half of streusel mixture.
  4. Bake 35 min at 350°F.

The original recipe just put half the streusel below and half above the fruit, no milk, egg, or nuts added.


J and I saw several arepa stands at a street fair. They didn’t look amazingly high quality (at least one stand was just heating up pre-packaged arepas), so J took it as inspiration to make our own!

Arepas are Venezuelan and Colombian, mostly. We made the simplest variety, which is a cornmeal pancake cut in half and stuffed with mild cheese. The cornmeal has to be either pre-cooked (masarepa; the traditional way) or nixtamalized (masa harina; will be slightly less fluffy) to form a dough properly. You can’t just use regular old cornmeal, but instant polenta might work.

  • 2 cups warm water
  • 2 cups masarepa or masa harina
  • If using masa harina, some baking powder to add fluffiness
  1. Mix everything together. Let rest for 10 min. Dough should be moist and able to form balls without cracking, but not stick to your hands too much.
  2. Form into patties (standard thickness is 1/2 in). Deep fry, OR pan fry ~3 min on each side and then bake for 15 min.

Falafel pitas

Falafel with homemade pitas in the background! I used the normal dough for the pitas, but cooked them in preheated cast iron pans in the oven instead. They almost made pockets.

We were following a recipe for baked tofu pitas and I decided to make it more difficult and more delicious by making falafel instead. Buuuut our only chickpeas are old and don’t cook super well even with soaking and an hour of pressure-cooking, let alone being fried. So I substituted with red lentils instead.

I was trying to figure out what legumes are safe/traditional to cook in this manner. Seems like lentils are fine, as are chickpeas of course, urad dal (used in Indian breads like dosa and idli), mung beans (used in Korean bindae-tteok), cowpeas and black-eyed peas (used in akara), and fava beans (used in another version of falafel).

This recipe is pretty good. The cooking notes are useful and the intro has interesting historical info.

Accompanied by homemade yoghurt, mint, lettuce, tahini sauce with lemon, salt and pepper, garlic, and water to thin, and tomato-cucmber-onion salad with vinegar, oil, salt, and pepper.

Ricotta gnocchi + sauces

To use up some leftover ricotta, I combined the ideas and instructions from Cook’s Illustrated’s spinach gnudi and a revision of their ricotta gnocchi.


  • 16 oz ricotta
  • 1/2 cup bread crumbs (panko preferred)
  • 1/2 cup grated parmesan or other aged, salty, hard cheese of that sort
  • 1-2 Tablespoons flour
  • 1 egg
  • pepper
  • salt
  • (optional) 2 Tablspoons fresh minced basil or some dry basil
  • (optional) 1 bunch of kale or spinach or other green
  1. Remove liquid from ricotta. Can strain overnight in a mesh strainer or cheesecloth. Fast way: spread in a thin layer on a kitchen towel (smooth weave, not terrycloth) for 10 min.
  2. If using greens, blanch, squeeze very dry, and chop finely.
  3. Mix all ingredients. Let rest for 15 min in the fridge (cool temps makes the dough stiffer, apparently desirable so it doesn’t fall apart when cooked). Dough should be tacky and stick together.
  4. Form into balls (~1 TB each) — scoop and roll method or log and cut method recommended. Boil 2-4 min, until the gnocchi float.
J wanted wheat pasta in addition to the gnocchi. I wasn’t able to convince him that gnocchi is already pasta (especially since my explanation of it was “ravioli without the pasta”).

Sauce ideas:

  • Classic browned butter with sage, shallots, and lemon juice. Brown butter in a pan (should smell nutty). Remove from heat and add other ingredients, lemon last so other items can cook in residual heat.
  • Tomato confit. Cook garlic in butter. Add large-diced tomatoes or halved cherry tomatoes, salt, red chili flakes, and a splash of vinegar. Cook until tomatoes are “wilted”. Top with fresh basil and grated parmesan.

Trying to buy small-farm beans

After my smashing success buying cornmeal and flour from Castle Valley Mill, a local mill, I want to try getting beans! In the past, I’ve bought some from Rancho Gordo, a California-based company selling heirloom and rare bean varieties. Now that we’re in New York, however, I’d love to find some East Coast suppliers!

The small grain farm and mill map I’ve shared previously has some overlap with beans. I also found a list focusing on bean growers, and an organization and map focusing on small farms near Boston. Some bean suppliers I found mostly in the eastern half of the US:

  • Anson Mills (SC) – heirloom sesame seeds, red field peas, purple cape beans. They also have larger quantities and a wider selection of products available “wholesale” (not sure if you actually need a wholesale license).
  • Meadowlark Organics (WI) – black beans, cranberry beans
  • Mulberry Lane Farm (IL) – various common types of beans, lentils, and peas from the US and Canada. Also sell other dry goods.
  • Ramona Farms (AZ) – tepary beans, chickpeas
  • Rio Del Rey Beans (CA) – tepary beans, anazape beans, rio zape beans
  • Westwind Farm (MI) – kidney beans, cannellini beans
  • Shadyside Farm (MI) – variety of heirloom/rarer beans, sourced from other farmers in area
  • Aurora Mills and Farm (ME) – yellow split peas (can’t buy from directly?)
  • Zürsun Idaho Heirloom (ID) – not-so-small operation, but has a wide variety of beans, peas, and lentils. Works with several hundred farmers in the area (can’t buy from directly?)
  • Baer’s Best Bean (MA, some items sourced from other farms in ME, NY, and the Midwest) – wide variety of heirloom and common beans, and lentils and split peas!! Good East Coast replacement for Rancho Gordo. They also have an Instagram page showing bean-processing steps!

Honorable Mentions!

  • Quality Organics (IL): buckwheat hulls as an agricultural byproduct! Anyone need to make a pillow?
  • Flourist (British Columbia, Canada): wide variety of traceable Canadian beans. Farmers are in Alberta, Manitoba, and Saskatchewan

I’m looking into Baer’s at the moment. I sent a message to ask where the lentils and peas are grown – from a 2007 interview with the owner, lentils and chickpeas don’t do well in New England due to the relatively wet weather.

Brewing project

We use alcohol a lot in cooking, mostly for deglazing things and marinating things. The last batch (not shown, but here’s a prior experiment we tried) is close to running out, and buying alcohol through grocery delivery services is a bit complicated (I’m not sure if they just ask you if you’re 21, or if you have to slide the delivery person your driver’s license under the door and hope they don’t run off with it).

So I’m starting a new batch! I’m vaguely following these instructions.

We used some arborio-style rice we got for cheap from our food rescue grocery delivery service
Add the koji, a culinarily important mold used in making many different Asian fermented food products (miso, sake and other rice alcohols, rice vinegar, soy sauce).
After about 3 weeks.

After a week or so of fermenting, the koji sank, indicating (I hope) reduced density of the liquid due to increased alcohol content! Apparently rice takes longer for the yeast to ferment compared to simple carbohydrates, like sugar, so you’re supposed to let it go for several weeks in total.

Hydroponic garden is going slowly

J received a hydroponic garden system from his parents as a Christmas gift. Gardening is not so much his interest as mine, so I’m glad to play with it.

The promise!
The setup. The light is soooooo bright; this photo was taken in a well-lit room.
So we normally wrap it in foil to keep it from being blinding. Another J family member blocked theirs with construction paper.
The first plants to sprout (7 days in) are the Italian basil and the Thai basil. I hear the other herbs (thyme, parsley, mint, and dill) can struggle.

We’ll see how much output we get from this kit. If these particular seeds don’t do well, I’ll stick my own into the growing medium. It’s some sort of dirt-foam material.

Christmas food!

Chickpea salad
Left to right, front row: chickpea salad, coleslaw, deviled eggs, hummus; second row: roasted cauliflower with raisins, walnuts, and capers, plate of bell pepper, avocado, goat cheese, mozzarella, plate of brie and romano (?), cream cheese, peppadews; back cluster: bacon bits, baba ganoush, artichoke hearts, marinated sun dried tomatoes, olives, zucchini salad, lox.

We also had focaccia and homemade bread. Friend J, the one who does robotics, pointed out that this is a very Greek/Mediterranean meal.