Half A Salad with a Full Garden

Last summer I was getting all fancy with the gardening and the fresh stuff and piles and piles of lettuce to show for all my hard work. Thanks to my appaent inability to withold memories I went and planted flowers and herbs on top of where the end of last year’s crop went to seed. So what happened? Rogue lettuce. EVERYWHERE. It was growing out of the drainpipe hole at the end of the garden bed. It was springing up from between the cracks in the sidewalk. It was sort of grow up and through a rock?? And that’s not even the worst part. The worst part is that even with all that crazy ninja lettuce popping up everywhere and messing up my carefully planned out herb garden I’ve gotten about 10 good leaves from the lot of them.

On the bright side (in the back where we get more sun) I’ve had so many tomatoes that the only thing I could think of after a while was to cut them in hlf and throw them in the oven so I could at least have something that still tasted like tomato and would turn to black goo on the countertop. I really hate it when tomatoes go bad. It’s super gross.

But all those poor tomatoes I just didn’t rescue in time aside, I was left with only half a salad since I was strangely without any other ingredients to help make any salad I made be more than just chopped tomatoes with salt. It takes a special tomato to be delicious without some sort of additional lubricant with taste.

Here is a picture of tomatoes.

Here is a picture of tomatoes.

But between work and more work and my entire fammily deserting me for the island homelands I have had very little to eat except vegetables for the last month. It all happened because my dear mother finished her radiation treatments (yay!) and it ended with a really really big last minute party where I tried to grill outside. Thinking I’d try something new for a big crowd I attempted making burgers. Like real burgers. The kind with meat cooked on an open flame. Well over charcoal.

For those of you who don’t know: I was raised vegetarian. At some point the family became pescatarian but even fish is a rare occurence at Chez Tobing. I have left behind those meatless way for almost a decade now but even today I don’t cook meat. So me deciding to try cooking burgers for a party was probably the worst idea. They didn’t turn out awful. Just not great. The black bean burgers I mixed up, however, turned out amazing and I’ve even made this receipe since. I usually make my own aioli with vegenaise, fresh crushed garlic, lime, and sriracha. I had also posted the burger recipe last year in “Keeping it Veggie“:

Black Bean Burgers with a Smoky Red Pepper Spread

Black Bean Burgers with a Smoky Red Pepper Spread

But alongside the semi-successful burger project I grilled about 5 billion pounds of fresh stuff: Eggplane, zucchini, yellow squash, onions, OKRA!, bell peppers, asparagus, baby bell peppers, portabello mushrooms, sweet potatoes, corn… You put the grilled veggies on a toasted bun with the aioli and a still cripsy-on-the-outside black bean burger (or a marinated and grilled portabellow mushroom if you prefer) and that makes for a good party! In the future, though, I think I’ll leave the regular burgers to a professional. The afterparty of this whole affair was me sitting on the sofa eating nothing but roasted vegetable sandwiches for the next week while watching “Chuck” and drinking the remains of my homemade “Make Your Own Juice Bar”. My favorite was the sparkling  Persian Lime with an extra shot of sweetness from the ginger simple syrup.

In honor of the vegetables (and “fruit”. That’s right, I’m looking at you tomatoes!) that kept me alive while living alone for the last month I’m dedicating the next series of posts with all the wonderful ways to eat them!

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers (from SkinnyTaste)

Grilled Portobello Mushroom Burgers

Why Watching Gastroporn Before Bed is a BAD Idea

Laundry, done. Room, clean enough. Plants, not dead (yet). Parents, all tucked into bed….

It’s almost my bed time and I’m ready for bed but not quite there yet. And that’s why I head down the rabbit hole. This image flashes across my computer screen:

Pan-Seared Butternut Squash with Balsamic & Parmigiano Shards

Pan-Seared Butternut Squash with Balsamic & Parmigiano Shards (Links to original recipe on The Kitchn)

Gastroporn… never a god idea if you’re almost ready for bed and you want to go to bed in the near future. Because it starts with the Pan-Seared Butternut Squash and leads to the struggle not to pull out your credit card to buy this book:

"Modernist Cuisine At Home"

“Modernist Cuisine At Home”

To imagining the ability to trot into town and find a cozy place next to a fire with good friends having a Raclette Party. Then you’re thinking about Raclette and you start looking up videos…

And then it’s several hours later and it’s like you’ve just come out the other end of a black hole. So you slam your laptop shut and scramble into bed to calm down with a good erotica novel. You know, to take your mind off the fact that you just realized you haven’t eaten since breakfast.

Good night Foodie Nation!

Eat More Lunches!

Asaltado Vegetariano (Sitr-Fried Vegetable Sandwich)

“Asaltado Vegetariano (Sitr-Fried Vegetable Sandwich)” from Saveur

With school out for the summer and me being the only one that still has to come to campus I’m pretty much on my own for lunches. Usually it’s a much more communal effort to get everyone a packed lunch in the morning but now it’s just me and that means I’m so much less willing to put forth a lot of effort. But food is important and lunch is especially so in my book. After trying to get students through final exams, worrying about the next batch of students on the way in the fall, and only recently getting over the horrible illness of doom that had me practically strapping a box of tissues and a bag of cough drops to my hips for easy access… Well I let a few things get away from me and I gained a few pounds so it’s back to the routine and restarting the fencing training and hopefully the swimming circuit for the rest of the summer to make sure I don’t let the situation get the better of me. And, since having recently eaten and what I do behind closed doors with my earphones on isn’t exactly conducive, I can’t eat dinner until afterwards so lunch is important. I’m sure there are rules about all this stuff but since when have I ever followed the rules knowingly? So sandwiches and salads are on the menu along with my homemade bottles of chilled karkadé(which I talk more about in my previous post “Bug Juice“).

A Green $pring

I may not even need to say it but I spent way too much money last month. Between my friends wedding and all the parties that go along with that, to the birthdays (there are about 5 in my family in March and I’m only counting the ones we celebrated), to the endless stream of house guests and the going out to eat and shopping and oh my gosh there goes an entire paycheck! On top of that, my tithe check finally got cashed and boy was in a heart attack to randomly see $1000 just *POOF!* out of one of my checking accounts. Once I realized it was my tithe check I calmed down but my mom hadn’t told me she had turned it in (finally) and so I wasn’t expected that notification when I got it.

For those of you who weren’t aware: I pay my tithe. It may not be on a regular basis but once a year (if I’ve had any income), I write a check made out to the Middle East Division of Seventh-day Adventists.

“But, Oci,” you might be wondering, “Aren’t you one of those weird free-agent types that disregards and often sarcastically attacks the idea of organized religion?”

Yes. I do. But just because you don’t agree with they governing system doesn’t mean you don’t do your part. God asks for 10%, God gets 10%. That’s how I roll. And, since I was baptized in the Nile in Khartoum, I like sending my tithe to my home church where I feel it can do the most good rather than some of these fancy behemoths with too much money and not “enough” stained glass in their sanctuaries. I used to go to church on a sand dune in the dessert. Who cares about stained glass windows?

But back to my story.

I spent way to much money last month and now I’m really trying to cut down and maybe refocus some energy into my sproutlings. I’ve got a nice little set of garden babies getting their vitamin D in front of my bedroom window. There are several different varieties of tomato, some red peppers, a selection of lettuce, a myriad of herbage, my new lemon tree(!), and several starter pots of Morning Glories. I’ve got some plans to redo the front bit of yard we have and that might involve pulling up some shrubs that have been there since the house was built. I’m gonna miss them but I need space for my herb garden. Including the back yard, we have maybe 150 sq ft to work with and the

Also, I want to buy a house. I have enough to buy a run-down foreclosure in unknown gang-territory in Baltimore and still have several thousand left over to add walls and maybe plumbing but not enough to make it completely habitable so I’d really like to get that in order. I’ve looked closer to DC and it’s like no bang of all your bucks. My mother is really not okay with this plan and tells me to stop browsing slum-houses on the foreclosure apps I downloaded the other day.

Regardless of where I end up or how mugged and raped I get, I know I want to do more gardening. Last summer I had the worst crop of tomatoes ever so I’ve diversified the selection for this year. I found some hybrid-100 seeds in our basement. WARNING: Do no use Hybrid-100. Lousiest tomatoes ever and they came and went like there was nothing to live for. Which, in their case, there wasn’t.

What I’m most excited about is the herbs. I may have mentioned before that I had attempted growing several basil plants indoors over the winter but while I was gone someone who will remain unmentioned decided to try and have the heat on in the house while the rest of us were away and forgot to water the plants for me and they all gave up and are now happily decomposing in our compost heap out back. But I’ve started another round of herbs since then. I’ve got English Thyme, Basil, Lavender (not always considered an herb but it’s my garden so I can call it what I want), Chammomile, and Lemon Verbena. I also have an older Rosemary growing in the back that I want to try and transplant part of in the front if possible. Mint has also spread from our next door neighbor’s garden area and has covered nearly 3/4’s of our back yard and that needs to be reigned in significantly before anything else can be properly planted.

If you’ve checked out my general Pinterest Profile you’ll know that I pin more than just Gastrogasms materials but I also do stuff for a potential slum house or property whenever I manage to get my hands on one as well as gardening stuffs. Here are some of the things I actually plan on trying out in my garden this spring. If I weren’t working this upcoming Sunday I would have tried to do some work on it but we’ll just have to see when things get done.

Herbs

This photo comes from “Art & Appetite” and I absolutely love the boxes. I like things to be neat and orderly just like this garden. I highly suggest looking at the rest of the photos on this blog.

Lettuce

If I get my lettuce to grow properly I hope to do something like this in one of the beds in front of my house where we successful grew lettuce last year. There are still a few leftover from last summer that I’m not sure what to do with…

 

Vertical Garden

I live in a townhouse and our space is incredibly limited. So using the back fence of the back of the house (which gets almost continuous sunlight during the day) for vertical gardening would be great. I’m not sure how my little strawberry seeds are doing after this past week but if they make it I’m also thinking of attaching gutters around the top of our back fence and growing strawberries there.

The Morning After…

Mushrooms & Vegetables with Feta

“Mushrooms & Vegetables with Feta” from KwestiaSmaku

Sooooo…. I’ve kind of been overdoing it this month. The parties, the eating out, the drinking, the not exercising. And the last couple of days I could feel it. I mean sure, I did walk about a bajillion miles  taking my friend around DC but then I also went to Nando’s, Pitango, Cork, and Founding Farmers (click to check out the restaurants).

This morning, I could barely eat my chocolate croissant from Paul. It was horrible. And now, at about 30 minutes to lunchtime I’m hungry but it’s for some serious vegetables and tons and tons of water. And maybe some decent tea. The hot water in my office is seriously far from hot and the steeping ability is far from up to par.

As I finished Excel-ing the list of honors society students (which nowhere near balances out the deficiency students but I love them anyways), I’m also surfing the great internet (for [gastro]Porn!) and seeing all these much healthier-than-I’ve-been-eating things that I sort of wish I’d had time last night to actually try cooking some of them for lunch today. Instead I was making my mom some birthday dinner creativeness and monitoring a couple teenage boys attempting to make peanut butter cookies.

And here’s what I found:

Sweet Potato Fries

“Sweet Potato Fries” from Our Best Bites

Spiced Black Bean, Grilled Avocado, and Goat Cheese Tacos

“Spiced Black Bean, Grilled Avocado, and Goat Cheese Tacos” from Naturally Ella

Creamy Avocado Pasta

“Creamy Avocado Pasta” from the Blissful Blog

Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower

“Parmesan Mashed Cauliflower” from Right@Home

Eggplant Involtini

“Eggplant Involtini” from Alexandra’s Kitchen (Because you know I just can’t help having me some eggplant)